Samothrace

Samothrace

[sam-uh-threys]
Samothrace or Samothráki, island (1991 pop. 3,083), c.71 sq mi (184 sq km), NE Greece, in the Aegean Sea. The main town is Samothrace, or Samothráki, located on the northwest shore. The island is largely mountainous, rising to c.5,575 ft (1,700 m) on Mt. Fengari. In ancient times Samothrace was an important center of worship. There are ruins of a religious sanctuary, some of which date to the 6th cent. B.C. The famous statue of the winged Nike (or Victory) of Samothrace, built c.200 B.C. to adorn a ship and later transferred to the island, was discovered on Samothrace in 1863 and is now in the Louvre in Paris. The island was ceded to Greece by the Ottoman Empire in 1913.

Samothrace (Σαμοθράκη) is an island municipality in Greece, in the northern Aegean Sea. The town is locally called Chora. It is a self-governing deme in the prefecture of Evros and is the westernmost in the prefecture of Evros and the southernmost in the province of East Macedonia and Thrace. It is the southernmost island and point in Greek Thrace. It is only a few kilometres west of the maritime boundary between Greece and Turkey. The island is long and is in size and has a population of 2,723 (2001 census). Its main industries are fishing and tourism. Resources on the island includes granite and basalt.

History

Antiquity

Samothrace was not a state of any political significance in Ancient Greece, since it has no natural harbour and most of the island is too mountainous for cultivation: Oros Fengari (Mount Moon) rises to . It was, however, the home of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, site of important Hellenic and pre-Hellenic religious ceremonies. Among those who visited this shrine to be initiated into the island cult were King Lysander of Sparta, Philip II of Macedon and Cornelius Piso, father-in-law of Julius Caesar.

The ancient city, the ruins of which are called Palaeopoli ("old city"), was situated on the north coast. Considerable remains still exist of the ancient walls, which were built in massive Cyclopean style, as well as of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, where mysterious rites took place which were open to both slaves and free people (in contrast to the Eleusinian Mysteries).

The traditional account from antiquity is that Samothrace was first inhabited by Pelasgians and Carians, and later Thracians. At the end of the 8th century BC the island was colonised by Greeks from Samos, from which the name Samos of Thrace, that later became Samothrace; although Strabo denies this. The archaeological evidence suggests that Greek settlement was in the sixth century BC.

The Persians occupied Samothreace in 508 BC, it later passed under Athenian control, and was a member of the Delian League in the 5th century BC. It was subjected by Philip II, and from then till 168 BC it was under Macedonian suzerainity. With the battle of Pydna Samothrace became independent, a condition that ended when Vespasian absorbed the island in the Roman Empire in 70 AD.

Post-Roman Era

St. Theophanes died here in 818. The Byzantines ruled till 1204, when Venetians took their place, only to be dislodged by a Genoan family in 1355, the Gattilusi. The Ottoman Empire conquered it in 1457 and was called Semadirek; an insurrection against them by the local population during the Greek War of Independence (1821-1831) led to the massacre of most of the population. The island returned to Greek rule in 1913 following the Balkan War. It was shortly occupied by Bulgaria during the Second World War.

Today

The modern port town of Kamariotissa is on the north-west coast and provides ferry access to and from points in northern Greece such as Alexandroupoli and Kavala. There is no commercial airport on the island. Other sites of interest on the island include the ruins of Genoese forts, the picturesque Chora (old town), and several waterfalls.

Landmarks

The island's most famous site is the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, Greek Hieron ton Megalon Theon ; the most famous artifact of which is the 2.5-metre marble statue of Nike, now known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace, dating from about 190 BC. It was discovered in pieces on the island in 1863 by the French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, and is now in the Louvre in Paris.

Communities

Historical population

Year Island population Change Density
1981 2,871 - 16.13/km²
1991 3,083 +112/+3.90% 17.32/km²
2001 2,723 -360/-11.67% 15.30/km²

See also

References

  • Michel Mourre, Dictionnaire Encyclopédique d'Histoire, article Samothrace, Bordas, 1996
  • Marcel Dunan, Histoire Universelle, Larousse, 1960

External links

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