The port of Samothrace
|Island Chain:||North Aegean|
|Area:||177.977 km² (69 sq.mi.)|
|Highest Mountain:||Mt. Fengari (1,611 m (5,285 ft))|
|Periphery:||East Macedonia and Thrace|
|Population:||2,723 (as of 2001)|
|Density:||15 /km² (40 /sq.mi.)|
|Postal Code:||680 02|
Samothrace (Greek: Σαμοθράκη, IPA: [samo̞ˈθɾakʲi]) is a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. It is a self-governing deme within the Evros Prefecture of Thrace. The island is 17 km (11 mi) long and is 178 km2 (69 sq mi) 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. Samothraki is one of the most rugged Greek islands, with Mt. Fengari rising to 1,611 m.
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 1,611 m (5,285 ft). 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 Samothrace 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 Turkish: 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 briefly occupied by Bulgaria during the Second World War.
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.
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 - headless - in the Louvre in Paris.
Samothraki is a small island that is basically the conical tip of a mountain rising out of the sea. There are two main towns; Kamariotissa and Chora; between them they provide most of the facilities one small town would normally have. There are two campsites. The island is surprisingly lush and green for an Agean Island, due to the rainfall caused by the central mount 'fengari'. The goat population (estimated at approx 100,000) outnumbers the inhabitants by 33 goats to every person. Due to the fact that the land rises steeply out of the sea, there are not many large beaches with the possible exception of the beach known as 'Fat Sand' which is located at the far end of the island from the main centers. Samothraki is an ideal place for a rural retreat, it is very unsophisticated and lacks almost all tourist infrastructure (there is no nightlife, except during the annual music festival). The inhabitants are extremely warm, friendly people who will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. It is the location of the annual (Greek) music festival.
There are buses connecting the different locations.
The major archeological site of 'the Sanctuary of the Great Gods' centre of a mystery cult that rivaled Delphi. there is a small, excellent museum that has a plaster cast of the famous'winged victory of samothrace' as a consolation that the original was looted from the site by the Louvre in Paris.
Some goat bells.
Almost anywhere, the food is delicious with a hint of the hot peppers used in northeastern greece.
Retsina - seriously it is one of those drinks that tastes fantastic in its native environment but doesn't travel at all.
As there are no hotels, you have three options.
It can be difficult getting the bank to part with any cash on the island, make sure you have enough for a while as few places take cards or travellers cheques.
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