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History of Samos island, Greece

Samos had been inhabited as early as in the 3rd millennium b.C, but what we know about the island until the 6th century comes mainly from mythology and tradition.

It is during the period of the tyranny of Polycrates in the 6th century that Samos became a commercial and marine power of the epoch. Also it was one of the most important centers of the Ionian civilization with excellent technical works and monuments, among which the Eupalinos’ tunnel, the temple of Hera, theaters and palaces.

In the same period it had been established the famous library of the island, which housed all the important written sources of the time; it was frequented by the most important scholars and its courtyard soon became the center of intellectual activity.
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Polycrates also took care of the military affairs and soon Samos had had a strong army and fleet. “Samaina”, the Samian ships, very well built and rapid, dominated the Aegean for long, until the period that the Athenians built and used the more developed triremes. As it is characteristically stated by Herodotus, he had known three states that had dominated the Aegean Sea: Knossos of king Minos in the 15th century b.C., Samos of Polycrates in the 6th century b.C. and the Athenian democracy of Pericles in the 5 th century b.C. Samos was considered as the first city-state among Greeks and the barbarians and tyrant Polycrates was the first Greek to conceive the idea of unity of all the city-states of the period in order to effectively oppose to the threat of the Persians, the great power of the period.

After Polycrates died in 522 b.C, Samos was involved in the Persian wars, which resulted to its decline and finally to its collapse in 493 b.C. by the Athenians. The island surrendered to its most important rivals after a long siege.

Many important thinkers, philosophers and artists of ancient times were of Samian origin; the most famous among them are the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras and Aristarchus, the mathematician and astronomer who introduced the heliocentric theory. Also, we should not miss to mention the painter Agatharchos, the famous architecture Theodoros, the navigator Kolaeos, who is said to be the first to sail in the Atlanctic Ocean, Aesop, the author of the well known tales, who lived in Samos and the great philosopher Damo, the pride of Samos, who was the daughter of Pythagoras.
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In the next centuries Samos, already in decline, just followed the destiny of the rest of Greece: it passed, successively, to the domination of Macedonians and Romans and then to the Byzantines; in this latter period it suffered a lot from the pirates’ raids, as it had happened to the rest of the Aegean islands.

After Constantinoupolis was occupied by the Francs of the 4th Crusade in 1204, Samos was given to the Venetians; the Byzantines took it back for a while, but in 1346 it passed to the Genovese. Due to the successive wars and invasions the island had gradually been abandoned by its residents, even by the conquerors; from 1476 it was inhabited only by a few shepherds who lived on the mountains, a situation that lasted for some 100 years. In 1549, the admiral of the Ottoman fleet Kilitz Ali Pasha, an ex-captive of French origin who achieved to raise to the highest rank of the Ottoman hierarchy, passed from Samos, was attracted by the excellent environment and asked the Sultan to give the island to him. The new governor of Samos worked a lot to populate the island again and offered many privileges to those who would come and stay there; the only condition he set was that the newcomers should be of Greek origin and Orthodox Christians.

It is in this period that many people from the neighboring islands and from Asia Minor came to settle on the island, whereas later on Samos received settlers also from Peloponnese and Crete. The older villages of the island go back to these times. After the death of the admiral who adored the island, a governor took his place, but the residents achieved to maintain many of their privileges which gave them an advantageous place among the occupied populations of the area.
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During the Greek National Revolution of 1821 the few Ottoman residents of Samos abandoned the island which remained independent until the end of the revolution, thanks to the efforts of the Greek fleet which successively fought the continuous attempts of the Ottoman and Egyptian fleet to take possession of it. Although almost independent for some 10 years, Samos was not included in the territory of the newly founded Greek state. However, thanks to the strong reactions of the locals, Samos became autonomous, set under the protection of the great powers and tributary to the Ottoman state. This status was preserved until 1912, when during the Balkan wars, the revolted residents of Samos achieved to fight the Ottomans and declare their incorporation to the Greek state on the 11th of November 1912.

Ever since, Samos followed the destiny of Greece. During the German occupation in the World War II it suffered a lot, because of the resistance of the people. The hard days continued after the end of the war, due to the civil war that followed, and it is only after mid 1950s’ that peace returned to the island. After 1974 tourist development started and despite the fires of late 1990s’, the island is in a process of development and prosperity and attracts more and more visitors every year.
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The Myth of Angaeos
According to Mythology Angaeos, the governor of Samos was one of the heroes who participated to the campaign of the Argonauts. The most well known myth about him states that one of his slaves, suffering from the hard conditions of working in the vineyards of Angaeos cursed at him not to be able to drink the wine he would produce. When the wine was ready and Angaeos was going to taste it, he laughed at the malediction of the slave. But the servant told him: “from the glass to the mouth it is a long time”. In fact, at this very moment and before Angaeos had tasted the wine, he was informed that a wild boar destroyed his cultivations. He left immediately and never came back. So, the malediction of the slave had been realized.

Agapenor, one of the sons of Angaeos became king of the Arkadians in Peloponnese, whereas the other one, Samos, became the king of the island and named it after him.
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