Samos is an island with a rich and proud history but one not without its fair share of turmoil. With periods of independence, invasion, dictatorship, abandonment and finally becoming part of modern Greece in 1912 the story of this island and its people are told in its many museums. Traditions, skills and wildlife are also recorded to make an interesting backdrop to a fascinating island.
UNESCO World Heritage Site. The South East coast of Samos was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. This covers the Heraion (discussed above) and the settlement of Pythagoreion.
The new Pythagoreion Archaeological Museum houses exhibits showing the history of this ancient deepwater port and provides a pamphlet which details the location of ruins around this ancient settlement. The pamphlet is entitled, rather confusingly, “The Ancient City of Samos”.
The famous Tunnel of Eupalinus said to be “8th wonder” of the ancient world is one of the most astonishing sites in Greece. The architect Eupalinus constructed it in 550 BC under the reign of the tyrant Polykrates.
Famous historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who wrote his works on Samos, said:
I have written at such length of the Samians, because the three greatest works of all the Greeks were engineered by them. The first of these is the tunnel with a mouth at either end driven through the base of a hill nine hundred feet high; the whole tunnel is forty-two hundred feet long, eight feet high and eight feet wide; and throughout the whole of its length there runs a channel thirty feet deep and three feet wide, through which the water coming from an abundant spring is carried by pipes to the city of Samos (modern day Pythagoreion). The designer of this work was Eupalinus son of Naustrophus, a Megarian. This is one of the three works; the second is a breakwater in the sea enclosing the harbour, sunk one hundred and twenty feet, and more than twelve hundred feet in length. The third Samian work is the temple, which is the greatest of all the temples of which we know; its first builder was Rhoecus son of Philes, a Samian. It is for this cause that I have expounded at more than ordinary length of Samos.
Herodotus of Halicarnassus, Histories volume 3 chapter 6
The Natural History and Palaeontological Museum of Mytilini, is unique within Greece and exhibits bones of fifty different species of proboscidean mammals that had come from Asia when the island was still a part of the continent. The “beast of Samos” the literal translation of Samotherium was a short necked giraffe whose fossil skulls were often found protruding from the softer rock which surrounded them as natural erosion wore it away. Some historians believe this gave rise to the legend of the griffin; half eagle, half lion that lived underground protecting a huge treasure of gold. Also of interest is the stuffed Kaplani, a wild cat known as the “Tiger of Samos” (though it has spots). The animal swam to Samos from Asia Minor in the 1900s and caused chaos killing several local farmers. The story is written down in the museum.
The Archaeological Museum in the town of Samos is one of the most important in Greece. The rare archaeological findings exhibited there include the statue of the Kouros (young man), the largest 'Kouros' statue in Greece. This sculpture, which is three times life-size, consisted of a single piece of marble, weighing 4.5 tonnes, though it was in fragments when it was found. Local legend is that the thigh was being used as the front door step for a house! Herodotus tells us that the Kouros was dedicated to Apollo.
History should not only be about kings and queens, the rich and the famous but about the lives of every day people. To show this the Kerveli Village hotel has made a small “Folklore Museum” in the basement of Kerveli Luxury Villas
displaying mainly objects from the beginning of the last century which the owner’s family ancestors used in their home, fields, olive groves and vineyards. Farming tools, household utensils together with old pieces of furniture, clothing, antique cameras and miscellaneous objects give an insight into the lives of ordinary Samos people.