"Samothraki, the island of the Great Gods" Samothraki Island by StefanosS
Samothraki Island Travel Guide: 86 reviews and 131 photos
Samothraki, referred by Homer as "Thracian Samos", is the northest island in the Aegean Sea, a vigilant guard of Greek traditions through the centuries, 29 nautical miles south of the mainland city of Alexandroupolis. This island of elliptical shape covers an area of 180 sq.km with a shoreline of 32 km. It's terrain is mountainous and the highest peak of Mount Saos (or Saoki) is "Fengari" at 1648 m (tallest peak of the Aegean, next to those of Crete). According to Homer, Poseidon (Neptune) was watching from this peak the development of the Trojan War.
Samothraki became world-wide known, mainly because of the beautiful statue Victory of Samothraki, which today decorates the Louvre Museum of Paris, as well as of the Temple of the Great Gods, which in ancient times was famous as a Panhellenic Religious Centre.
Today Samothraki is a very quiet island, ideal for relaxing vacations close to nature. The island has only a few small sandy beaches and a lot of pebbly beaches, but the most exciting thing is the mainland, the mountain, the rivers, lakes and waterfalls where you can swim. It is one of the last truly virgin islands of Greece, where modern civilisation has made an exception and hasn’t ruined its natural beauty. The most important site of Samorthaki is the mountain itself. There you will find lots of waterfalls and beautiful gorges. Ghria Vathra and Fonias (meaning Killer) are two different rivers and gorges with series of waterfalls and small natural pools ("vathres") surrounded by very dense foliage. You can spend the night out in the mountain in sleeping bags, watch the sunrise and then continue towards the top. The nature of Samothraki, the perennial plane trees, the dense greenery, the crystal waters, the impetuous waterfalls, the mysterious "vathres" offer the visitor an exotic unforgettable holiday. Concerning leisure time activities, visitors can go swimming, fishing and diving in the crystal - clear seawater.
Samothraki does not have great and beautiful beaches, especially on the north side of the island. Nevertheless, the beaches of Pachia Ammos and Kipi are highly recommended for swimming. These two beaches are the two ends of the small asphalt road net of the island. On the southernmost side the beach Pachia Ammos (="thick sand") is very nice and uncommon for the island. To the east point of the island, at Kipi cape, there is a nice beach with black gravel. The wild beauty of the scenery with the huge mountain towering above the beach and the vast blue sea with Imvros (Imroz) island on the horizon is awe-inspiring.
Another interesting beach is Vatos sandy beach to the south, accessible only by boat. Vatos beach has a gorge and a stream with plane trees, waterfalls and "vathres", sea-caves, tall rocks and the waterfall Kremastos near it. It is also a good place for underwater fishing.
Apart from the natural beauties the visitors will have the opportunity to satisfy their gastronomic wishes. The tasty semi-savage goat on the spit is something that the visitors have to try, as well as the fish and vegetable soup named kakavia.
According to the latest discoveries, the island was inhabited at least since the Neolithic Era. The oldest findings at Mikro Vouni on the west seaside of the island are dating before the end of the 6th millennium BC. Herodotus says the Pelasgians are considered the island's original inhabitants. The first known inhabitants are Kares. Later, the presence of Thracians and Minoans has also been proved. The island’s most ancient names, Saonissos and Saokis, are attributed to Thracians. It is to the local pre-hellenic population that the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, the most ancient site of worship, is also attributed. Samothraki stayed an important religious centre, respected and protected all the way to Roman times, even up to the end of the 4th century AD, when Christianity had become firmly established.
Between 800 and 700 BC Greek speaking settlers established themselves on Samothraki, but their origin is not clear. Inscriptions and artefacts are found in both Ionian and Aeolian dialects and styles. The important geographical location of Samothraki for trade and the rich natural resources rendered it a prominent city-state during ancient times, with its own currency and naval fleet.
It is important to mention that even in the 4th century BC, an unknown today language was still in use at Samothraki for ritual purposes, and many ritual inscriptions have been found in this language, using the Greek alphabet.
At the end of the 6th century BC Samothraki came under the rule of the Persians and later, in 477 BC, it became a member of the First Athenian Alliance. Following the termination of the Peloponnesian war (431-404 BC) the Spartans conquered Samothraki. According to Plutarch, general Lyssandros came to the island and was initiated the Kabeirian mysteries. During classical times the reputation of Samothracian mysteries, mentioned by Herodotus, Aristophanes and many other ancient authors, was great, and the Temple of the Great Gods became an important international religious centre. In 340 BC Samothraki came under the rule of the Macedonians. According to tradition, it was on Samothraki, at the temple of the Great Gods, that the King of Macedonia Philip II (father of Alexander the Great) met with his wife Olympiada. The Greek kings of Macedonia, and later in the Hellenistic Times, the kings of Thrace and Egypt placed the Temple under their protection and enriched it with marble constructions and offerings, the ruins of which have been preserved to the present day.
During the Roman period Samothraki was free; the island was considered sacred and the Temple of the Great Gods, an asylum. In 86 BC under Roman caesar Syllas, Samothraki was plundered by pirates who desecrated the rich sanctuary of the Cabeiri; the Romans, though, restored it.
Apostle Paul passed through Samothraki in the fall of 49 AD on his way to Macedonia. It is possible that the early Christian church at the edge of the ancient port, found in 1938, which had been built a few centuries following the Apostle’s visit, wished to commemorate this great event.
The Roman caesar Hadrian visited the island in 123 AD and was met with great honour.
Later, while the island was part of the Byzantine Empire, Samothraki was still significantly populated. Of course there are not exact seismic data, but historical information describes a high seismic activity in the North Aegean Sea during the 6th and 7th centuries AD, causing great damages and human losses. In addition, from the 8th century and on, Slavs and Saracens raided the island often; as a result the population began to decrease and it fell into decay. After the disrupt of the Byzantine Empire by the Crusaders, in 1204, Samothraki after the "Partitio imperii" was given to the "Latin Emperor of Constantinople" Baldwin of Flandre.
Nevertheless, the Byzantine Empire survived, as it was proved later, making Nikaia (Iznik of Turkey) its new capital, and Emperor Ioannis Vatatzis liberated Samothraki in 1222. In 1261 Constantinople was captured again by the Byzantines and Samothraki stayed under them.
In the 14th century the Turkish raids against the island began. In 1430, the Byzantine Emperor Ioannis VIII Paleologos, unable to protect it, entrusted the island to the Gattilusi family of Genoa, who were already rulers of Lesvos. As witnessed by the towers at Paleopoli, Chora and Fonias, the sovereign Palamedes Gattilusi fortified the island. When Ciriaco d’ Ancona visited Samothraki in October of 1444 and saw the Temple’s fallen Doric columns, he named it "Temple of Poseidon". Samothraki declined during the Middle Ages, and many of its monuments were destroyed in order to serve as building materials. The construction of the Gattilusi fortifications was the final blow to the remains of the ancient monuments.
After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, changeovers followed from Genoan to Turkish to Venetian rulers, until the Turks finally subjugated Samothraki in 1479.
The island was abandoned. On the eve of the Greek revolution, Samothraki population numbered 4.000 inhabitants. During the National Revolution of 1821 the Turks landed on Samothrace resulting in the plunder and pillage of the island. They slaughtered hundreds of inhabitants who did not manage to flee to the mountains and many others of both sexes were sold off as slaves. The great massacre of Samothraki took place on Tuesday, September 1st, 1821. According to data left by the famous doctor N. Fardes, only some members of 33 families were the survivors.
Samothraki was finally liberated by the Greek fleet during the First Balkan War, in October 19, 1912, and its annexation to Greece was ratified in February 1914.
Between 1918-1922 many refugees from the coast of Asia Minor settled on Samothraki.
Please have a look at my pages of specific locations on the island:
Samothraki or Chora
Kamariotissa, the port
Paleopoli and the Sanctuary of Kabeiri
- In a nutshell:... a divine island ...
This is a strange geological formation on the rocks, just next to the Kremastos waterfalls. A legent says that a poor... more travel advice
Accessible only by boat, to the east of Pachia Ammos, is Vatos, a beach of unique beauty, surrounded by high rocks with... more travel advice
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