From the port to the ancient theatre

The Archaeological Museum of Pythagoreio is, at the time of writing, moving from a small town-house just behind the harbour, to a newly designed building, 200m to the north, at the junction of Eupalinou Street and the main road which climbs out of Pythagoreio towards Vathi; nearly all of the collection is currently in storage. It is not comparable with the museum in Vathi for the wealth of sculpture and votive pieces, but it has nonetheless three areas of strength: funerary art, from the finely carved Archaic grave stelai, surmounted by Ionic scrolls and palmettes, or anthemia, to the later marble sarcophagus, with Ionic pilasters in low relief; the graceful terra cotta figurines and votive objects from the excavations undertaken at the Sanctuaries of Artemis and of Demeter in the west of the city; and Roman statuary from the area of the villa beside the castle of Lycourgos Logothetis— amongst them portrait busts of Augustus and Claudius, and a standing figure of Trajan, with a particularly fine portrait head and traces of under-painting for the purple colour of his deeply folded toga.

   The New Museum building itself stands in an area of recent excavation, which has revealed the foundations of a number of Hellenistic houses. Almost abutting the museum building in the southwest corner is the peristyle of a large house, marked by standing column stumps: the edges of the central impluvium are clearly defined, and the fine mosaic floor which surrounds it on all four sides is well preserved. The design with octagonal lozenges on the north side, is particularly beautiful.

   Fractionally further up the main road, a turning to the left (north), leads towards the slopes of Spiliani­ north of the city, on which lie the sites of the ancient theatre and the Tunnel of Eupalinos (1km). The road traverses a wide area which was densely inhabited in antiquity and now awaits systematic excavation. One example of the wealth of material to be uncovered is the patrician Hellenistic villa which has been brought to light, south of the paved road, before the junction leading up to the theatre and to the monastery of Spiliani­ (600m). (Currently closed, but can be viewed from outside.) The house has a long history, stretching from the construction of its water fountain and cisterns (fed by waters from the aqueduct of Eupalinos) in Archaic times, through to repairs and additions made in Roman times. The body of what is seen, how ever, is Hellenistic—a series of airy rooms facing a central atrium, and areas of floor mosaics of exceptional refinement and detail, with a decorative theme of waves and griffons’ heads.

   The ancient theatre, 100m to the north of the villa, is covered by a semi-permanent, modern superstructure for musical performances: little remains of its 4th century bc cavea, and only the vaulted, Roman, substructure of the stage has survived to any recognisable degree.

   The left branch of the road continues 300m further west to the most interesting and significant site of the city, the aqueduct of Eupalinos.

Samos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.

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