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.
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.
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.
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.