POSITION & GEOGRAPHICAL RELIEF
Samos is a Greek island, situated in the eastern Aegean Sea, about 1200 m off the Asia Minor coast.
Samos is mountainous, having two major mountains: wild and rocky Kerkis, 1443 m high and verdant Ampelos, 1160 m high. Plains are scant.
Lofty mountains are conducive to frequent rainfalls during the winter, which result in profuse vegetation and many and rich springs.
Hence in ancient times, Samos was called “Hydrele”, meaning watery.
The largest bay is the one of Samos town, a big natural harbor. There are also nore smaller ones.
There are no rivers, but there are torrents having water even in the summer.
Samos has an area of 502 square kilometers. It is 44 kilometers long and 19 kilometers wide.
It has about 33,000 inhabitants and four municipalities, Samos town being the capital.
It produces a wide variety of goods and therefore the ancients used to say “even fowl milk is produced in this island”. The main products are the celebrated Samian wine and olive oil. Recently tourism has also started to develop dynamically
SAMOS HISTORICAL REPORT
In ancient times, Samos, although small, played a really significant role in culture and politics not only for the region of Ionia, but for the entire ancient Greece.
THE ANCIENT HISTORY
In the time of Polycrates, Samos became the center of the Ionian civilization. Various important monuments were constructed, such as the Eupalinian Tunnel, the temple of Hera, open-air theaters, as well as palaces which Roman emperor Caligula tried to restore much later. In addition, Polycrates was the first to establish a library containing all significant texts produced by the human spirit up-till then. His royal court used to be a spiritual center offering hospitality to the top intellectuals of the world of his time. He had created a very powerful army and his fleet used to be the leading one in the Aegean Sea being comprised by fast war-ships called Samenas. According to Herodotus, the predominant city-states of the sea were three: Knossos of king Minos (15th century BC), Samos (6th century BC) and Athens (5th century BC). Therefore Polycrates had rendered Samos a leading city-state among the Greeks and the Barbarians. He was also the first who tried to unite all the Greeks against the Persians.
Following Polycrates’ death in 522 BC, many wars took place and Samos was the focal point of the conflicts between the Greeks and the Persians. It was finally devastated by the Athenians under Pericles in 439 BC after a siege that lasted for several months.
In the time of Alexander the Great, and during the Roman period, no significant events took place that were important enough to be mentioned.
THE MIDDLE AGE
During the Byzantine period, Samos, just like all islands, suffered great catastrophes by various invaders and pirates। In the time of the Crusaders, it came under Venetian rule, later it came back to the Byzantines and it eventually fell to the Genovese in 1346. Since Samos was in the focal point of the pirate raids, its inhabitants started to abandon it and in 1476 the last inhabitants fled, along with the Genovese. So Samos became almost desolate with only a few inhabitants living on the mountains.
In 1549 the Turkish fleet came round Samos, commanded by Admiral Khilich Ali Pasha. He was a Frenchman and a former pirate, who after having been captured by the Turks managed to become an admiral because of his abilities. He admired the environment around Samos and when he realized the island was desolate he requested the sultan to cede it to him as a present, a wish that the Sultan granted him. The pasha then intended to have the island repopulated by granting unprecedented privileges to the new inhabitants, who had to be Greek Orthodox Christians. Then new inhabitants started to come along from the nearby islands, Asia Minor and a little later from Peloponnese and Crete and the first villages were formed.
Following Khilich Ali’s death, the privileges began to gradually get abated and so a Turkish commander was established on the island, though the Samians kept being in a more advantageous position than the rest of the Greeks.
NEW GREEK HISTORY
In 1821 Samos was one of the places rising in revolt against the Turks. The few Turks that were, at the time, on the island just had the time to leave and despite many attempts of the Turkish fleet to conquer the island, they never made it.
After the Greek State was established in 1827, the Great Powers of the time England, France and Russia did not include Samos as a part of it, even though it was at liberty. The Samians would not accept it, so in 1834 they were granted a form of political independence, under the patronage of the Great Powers, with the obligation of paying tribute to the Ottoman Empire. This regime remained until 1912, when Samos joined Greece. During this period, Samos experienced a significant economic prosperity.
At ancient times, Samos pushed forward numerous eminent men and women in all spiritual domains, the leading one being Pythagoras, the greatest philosopher and mathematician through the centuries. Distinguished Samians include Aristarchus, who put forward the heliocentric system several centuries before Copernicus, Agatharchus, a great painter who was the first to deal with scenography and perspective, Theodore, an eminent artist and architect, Aesop, the famous myth-maker, Damo, philosopher, daughter of Pythagoras, Kolaeus, who was the first to travel to the Atlantic and many others
THE SAMIAN CLIMATE
The Samian climate is mild, healthy and pleasant, cool during the summer and warm in the wintertime.
Temperature variations throughout the year, as well as during a day are very limited and minimum temperatures very rarely fall under the freezing point. The absolutely maximum and absolutely minimum temperatures ever recorded at the Samian Meteorological Station were 38,2ο C and -4,3 ο C respectively.
Because of the many and high mountains, there is a lot of rainfall in Samos. The average rainfall is 918,4 mm and the month with the most of it is December when 23 % of the rainfall is recorded.
The most rainy season is of course winter, with 60,1 % of total rainfall, while summer is almost completely dry with a mere 4,1 % of total rainfall. The rest of rain falls in early spring and in late fall. From mid April and onwards until mid October the rainfalls are rare and many times hazardous for agriculture, especially in springtime.
North wind is the prevailing wind in Samos and during summer it blows almost constantly cooling the island. South winds, that carry most of the rain, blow mainly during the winter period along with all sorts of other winds.
As the Northern winds or "meltemia" as the local call them, blow during the summer, they climb on the northern slops of the island, slow and steadily, leaving their moisture on them. When they pass the mountains, dry and furious, they pour down to the Southern side and that 's why this side is dryer that the Northern one and more affected by the winds, thus giving the atmosphere, many times, a crystal clarity.
Sunshine on the island is one of the longest in Greece, since, for a semester and possibly more, during the summer period, there is hardly a cloud in the sky.
All of the above scientific figures are referring to the position of the Samos Meteorological station and are to be considered as indications. But the shape, the different altitudes, the orientation and many other elements contribute to the formation of many different microclimates, from the drier to the coolest ones and within these microclimates there is a major variety of ecosystems that develops.
Villages of Samos
Samian villages in general
Samos was a desert island until the middle of the 16th Century. The people of Samos have emigrated mainly to the nearby Greek island of Chios, to Asia Minor and other nearby areas. This is mostly due to the fact that hundreds of pirates used to use Samos and other Aegean islands as their hide-outs. During this period, the Turkish Navy with their admiral Khilits Ali Pasas, (a French who used to be a pirate himself and became a Turkish admiral after he was captured by the Turks) passed by Samos and decided that he really liked the island. When he returned to Istanbul, he demanded it and the Sultan gave it to him as a present. Kilits Ali Pasas then put the islanders’ repatriation to Samos as his first priority. He made a call for people to settle down in Samos, in return for receiving generous benefits from the Turkish Government. The new inhabitants had to be Christian Orthodox Greeks and they were going to be given the freedom to practice their religion, to be self-administered, as well as the privilege of not paying tribute to the Turkish Government for seven years. Khilits Ali Pasas looked primarily for descendants of people who were originally from Samos and tried to support their repatriation to the island of their ancestors. This is when the first settlements and villages appeared on the island.
Because of the fear of pirate incursions, the new inhabitants of the island were building their houses away from the coast. Their houses were hidden inside forests or up on the hills and mountains, close to each other with very narrow streets in between so that they could defend themselves and their properties when they were in danger from the pirates. It wasn’t until after the beginning of the 19th Century that some villages appeared by the coast. It wasn’t until this time that it was considered that the pirates no longer posed a threat to islanders.
Up until 1998 there were 2 towns and 33 villages on the island of Samos. Since then, it has been a unification of the villages which has ended up comprising the formation of 4 Municipalities:
1. Municipality of Vathi, which incorporated 9 villages on the North-East of Samos, and it is 125.2 sq.km in extent with a population of 11.997.
2. Municipality of Karlovasi (total extent: 100.3 sq.km, population: 8.728) which incorporated 10 villages on the North-West of Samos.
3. Municipality of Pythagorio (total extent: 164.7 sq.km, population: 9.455) which incorporated 11 villages on the South-East of Samos.
4. Municipality of Marathokampos (total extent: 87.3 sq.km, population: 2.859) which incorporated 5 villages on the South-East of Samos.
A small description of the above villages and towns follows below.
MUNICIPALITY OF SAMOS
Samos (The town of Samos)
Up until the beginning of the 19th Century, Samos town consisted only of warehouses, whereas nowadays, it is the town center of Samos. It was in the 19th Century that gradually some houses were built around the port of Vathi and in 1854 Samos town became the capital of the island, instead of Chora, which used to be the capital up until then.
Samos is built amphitheatrically at the cove of the bay of Vathi, where a large, safe port exists for the boats to moor. There are lovely old wharfs, well-renovated traditional buildings and houses. Samos is the Administrational Center of the island, as well as the epicenter of financial and commercial interactions, as the several bank branches and many shops indicate.
Outside Samos towards east, are two Monasteries. The first one, Agia Zoni Monastery, was built in 1695 in the valley of Vlamari. The second one, Zoodohos Pigi Monastery, was built in 1781 on a hill about 300 meters high. The view from this location is magnificent, since you can see Hellespont and the mountain of Mykali up until Nea Efessos and Chios.
Just outside the town of Samos, at a very small distance is Vathi with 2.903 inhabitants. It is a beautiful village, with old traditional houses, as it is a presevable settlement, and narrow streets. Vathi means ‘deep’ in Greek, a name given to this village most probably because of its location in the deep bay of Vathi.
West of Vathi, a small distance away up on a hill, 100 meters high viewing the gulf is a small village called Moraitohori. Its first inhabitants, as well as Vathi’s, came from Peloponnese.
South-east of Vathi, 150m above the sea, there is Paliokastro, a village that was named after an old Castle there was in the area. The majority of its 654 inhabitants are farmers.
At short distances east and south of Paliokastro are the beaches: Kerveli or Possidonion and Psili Ammos. They are two beautiful beaches with deep blue, clear water facing the coast of Asia Minor. There is the Mertziki cape, the part of Samos’ land which is closer to Asia Minor, about 1120 meters from the opposite coast.
North-West of the town of Samos, inside a small picturesque bay, is Kokkari, one of the most popular for tourists villages on the island. It was first built at the beginning of 19th century and, despite the huge development of the tourist industry there, it remains very picturesque, keeping many of its secrets and traces of the past. There are many places that can offer accommodation for tourists, as well as lots of restaurants and taverns. There are 894 permanent residents in Kokkari and their occupations relate mainly to tourism.
Tsamadou and Lemonakia beaches, outside Kokkari, are really lovely, with crystal clear water and pine trees that almost reach sea water.
West of Kokkari, 300 metres above sea level, is the village of Vourliotes. It was first built at the beginning of the 17th Century and its first inhabitants were people who came from a place called Vourla in Asia Minor, the ancient town of Klazomenes. The majority of the 705 inhabitants of Vourliotes are farmers, especially vine-growers, as the area is full of vineyards and small forests of pine trees.
Outside Vourliotes, by the beach is Avlakia and south of Vourliotes is the Monastery of Panagia Vrontiani. This is one of the oldest Monasteries on the island, which was built around 1566. The Monastery is inside a lovely forest which unfortunately was partially damaged after the big fires of the past few years. These fires have also destroyed part of the Monastery.
Exi Gitonies (meaning 6 neighborhoods)
This is how local people used to call the villages of Agios Konstantinos, Ambelos, Stavrinides, Manolates, Valeontades and Margarites, because they are very close to each other, like six neighbourhoods in one village. All six villages were named after the name of the person who first moved there, with the exception of Agios Konstantinos that got this name from the main church of the village. The old village of Agios Konstantinos, one of the eldest villages on the island, is 75 m up on the same mountain where the rest of these villages are and together with the newer village of Agios Konstantinos, (which is by the coast) numbers 406 inhabitants. The village of Stavrinides is built up on the mountain (380 meters above sea level) and only 93 people live there permanently. Manolates is on the same mountain, 370 meters above sea level, with 167 inhabitants, and Ambeolos is on the same mountain too, 300 meters above sea level, with 351 inhabitants. The majority of the inhabitants of these villages are farmers, especially vine-growers, as the area is full of vineyards.
As a result to their location, all these villages have got a fantastic view of the sea. The vegetation on this mountain is plethoric with lots of pine-trees, huge plain-trees and a big variety of other trees that shade the villages.
It includes five small villages, one of them is the old Karlovasi which is a bit higher than the rest of the villages which are at a lower altitude, or closer to the coast. Before the Second World War there used to be many tanneries that were very profitable. Now there are only their ruins in the area. A lot of well-preserved buildings from the beginning of the century have remained in the area, such as the building of the School of Commerce which is now part of the University of the Aegean, the building of Porfyriada and the building of the primary school. The people of Karlovasi, around 5357, are engaged in tourism, commerce and agriculture. Karlovasi is the commercial center of the west part of the island.
A few kilometers further south is situated the Monastery of Profitis Ilias , which was built in 1739. West of Karlovasi is the lovely beach of Potami. Hot water springs have been found there, as well as the oldest chapel of Samos which was built in the 11th Century. The vegetation is wild and gross in this area and a bit further up where the chapel there are cascades. West of Potami there are the two beaches of Mikro Seitani and Megalo Seitani. These are both protected areas because of the seals which live there.
It was named after the church in the village. It is located in a ravine, 280 metres above sea level. Its 135 inhabitants are mainly engaged in agriculture.
It was named after the first family that settled there. The villages of Drakey and Kallithea are the westernmost on the island. Although the land over there is fruitless and rugged, the few inhabitants (148) have agriculture as their main occupation. Their olive crop is especially fruitful.
It is a village situated in an area 350 meters above sea level, full of chestnut trees, olive trees and vineyards. Its 257 inhabitants are occupied mainly in agriculture.
This village is located 300 metres above sea level and its 297 inhabitants have got agriculture as their main occupation, growing olive trees and vines.
It is situated in an area which is 180 metres above sea level and its population is 888. In this area there is a fertile valley and the villagers here are engaged in agriculture and keep many greenhouses with a big variety of vegetables. Olive trees and vineyards are the biggest part of their cultivation.
This village is up on a mountain, at about 600 metres above sea level. Its 215 inhabitants are mainly occupied with agriculture and cattle-raising. The view from this village is magnificent, one can look at the Aegean sea and even see the mountains of Chios and Asia Minor.
Following a pathway from this village towards the Monastery of Zoodohos Pigi (or Kakoperato, as local people call it), one can enjoy the wild beauty of the mountains and the variety of the scenery. The Monastery is situated in a gorge in-between the sides of the mountain Kerki. On a very steep mountainside of Kerki, the cave Kaloperato is situated. Inside the cave, one can find a little chapel and a spring, since hermits used to live there. The only way to reach the cave is through a very narrow pathway (1m wide), where the visitor has got the rock of the mountains on one side and a deep gorge on the other.
It is located in an area 200 meters above sea level and its 560 inhabitants are engaged in agriculture, mainly cultivating vineyards and olive trees. Further north of Lekka, there is a small settlement, Agios Panteleimon, which is inside a deep gorge with plethoric vegetation
It was named after the village Platanos in Peloponnese where the first inhabitants of the village came from. It is situated up on a mountain, 520 meters above sea level and its 440 inhabitants are mainly engaged in growing vines. Towards the southwest one can obtain a perfect view of Marathokampos Bay, some of the islands of Dodekanissa and Karlovasi
This village is located in an area which is 230 metres above sea level and its 413 inhabitants are farmers, mainly occupied with cultivating vineyards, and growing olive trees and vegetables. The water is plentiful in the area and the vegetation profuse.
This is the smallest of the Municipalities in extent and population. The area of Marathokampos is 250m above sea level, dry, infertile and stony. The main crop grown is olive trees. People of Marathokampos, around 1892, are mainly occupied with fishing, trade and tourism.
Marathokampos is popular for its long, sandy beaches with crystal clear water. Psili Ammos beach, with golden like sand and pine trees that almost reach the sea water, is one of the loveliest on the island. West of Marathokampos, 350m above sea level, is Pythagoras’ cave, where the great philosopher was hidden in order to avoid his enemies. Further up, about 700m above sea level, is the Monastery of Evangelistria and situated 1170m above sea level is a small church of Profitis Ilias. 1000m towards northwest is the peak of mountain Kerkis, called Vigla, at about 1445 m height. One can reach Vigla on foot and from there one will have a perfect view of the Aegean sea and Asia Minor. At the southwest end of the island, close to the cape of Agios Ioannis, the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Eleimonas is situated inside a gully, which ends at a small picturesque bay which is facing a small rocky island (called Katergo).
It is the westernmost village of Samos, situated 300m above sea level. From this village, the view to the islands of Ikaria and Chios is fantastic, as well as the sunset in the Aegean. Its population is 220 and their main occupation is agriculture, mostly growing olive trees. East of Kallithea, up on the mountain, 700m above sea level, is the area where ascetic monks used to live, some of them inside caves.
It is a small village with 417 inhabitants who are mainly occupied with growing olive trees. 1000m south there is the picturesque beach of Balos.
This is a small village, 180m above sea level, with 202 inhabitants who are mainly occupied with growing olive trees. Southwest of the island, there are some small, but picturesque beaches.
It started developing at the beginning of 19th Century and it was built at the ruins of the ancient town of Samos. Ruins from the ancient port have been found at the port of Pythagorio, as well as ruins of the ancient wall surrounding the ancient town of Samos, ruins from the ancient palace of Polykratis, and from the Roman Baths of the ancient town of Samos. The most spectacular of all of its archaeological findings is a trench, called Efpalinio Origma. This trench is 1026m long and it has broken through the closest to Pythagorio mountain of 246m high. It was designed by Efpalinos, an architect from Megara in Peloponnese, and it was constructed between 538-522 BC, so that the town of Samos could get drinkable water. The amazing for this remarkable for its era construction is that the workers started digging from both sides of the mountain and they were met in the half way inside the trench with only a small deviation.
At a small distance inside a big cave, there is the church of Panayia Spyliani. Outside the same cave there is the church of Agios Georgios and some cells. In the village of Pythagorio close to Samos Airport, there is the Castle of Lykourgos, which was constructed during the years of the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire (1821 - 1832).
Nowadays, Pythagorio is one of the most visited areas by tourists in Samos and its 1579 inhabitants are almost totally engaged in tourism.
It used to be the capital of the island up until 1854. It is located in the south part of the island inside a valley and its 1349 inhabitants are occupied with agriculture and tourism.
It is named after the island of Mytilini (Lesvos), since the first people who settled there came from Mytilini. It is surrounded by hills so it is invisible from the sea. Its 2602 inhabitants are mainly occupied with agriculture. There is an interesting museum here with findings of fossilized animals and bones from the area. Towards the southeast there is the Monastery of Agia Triada which was built in 1824.
When Samos was a deserted island, there were some people who lived in isolation on the mountains. These people then settled down in the area of Myli, which consequently was the first village on the island. It is located to the west of the valley of Hora and its 295 inhabitants are engaged in agriculture, mainly growing olive trees and citrus trees. There are many watermills in the area.
It is located in an area which is 260m above sea level and its 1406 inhabitants are engaged in tourism and agriculture, mainly in growing olive and citrus trees. Nearby Pagonda, by the coast, there is a settlement called Ireon where in ancient times there was a big temple dedicated to the ancient Greek Goddess Ira. The whole Temple (height: 108.73m, width: 54.8m, height: 25 m) was supported by 133 columns, of which there is now only one remaining. That Temple was the beginning of the Sacred Way, a way that used to lead into town in ancient times
It is a village, 300m above sea level, with 398 inhabitants who are engaged in growing olive trees. A long time ago there were many pottery workrooms in this area. Nowadays there is only one potter left who sells his art and crafts to the tourists. To the south of the village there is the Monastery of Timios Stavros, which is one of the richest and most beautiful on the island. The building of the monastery began in 1592 and was completed in 1606.
This village is 350m above sea level and its 190 inhabitants are mainly occupied with tourism and growing olives. To the south there is the Monastery of Megali Panayia, which was built in 1593, one of the most admirable Monasteries in Samos.
It is situated in an area 390m above sea level and it is surrounded by hills, so it is invisible from the sea. It is a lovely, traditional village full of vineyards. Its fertile land has turned the 653 inhabitants of the village to agriculture, especially growing vines and olive trees as well as apiculture.
It is located in an area which is 575m above sea level and has got a view of the Bay of Marathokampos, part of the Dodecannese and the mountain of Kerki. Its 600 inhabitants are mainly occupied in growing olive trees, although the fires over the past few years have caused lot of damage in the area.
These two villages are on a mountain at 560m and 630m above sea level. Its inhabitants are engaged in agriculture, mainly cultivating vineyards.