Sanctuaries and sites within the walls

The ancient and Early Christian city has been revealed piecemeal by archaeological soundings at many points within and outside the present inhabited area. The areas of interest fall naturally into two groups: a first group fol lows a line west from the harbour, along the road towards the Heraion, roughly following the course of the Sacred Way; the second group is further inland, scattered on the slopes of the hill of Spiliani­ to the north, and along the first 100 m of the main road to Vathi. This omits only the remains of the Roman villa and Early Christian churches beside the castle of Lycourgos Logothetis on the south shore of the town, with which we begin here.

   The oldest settled area along this sector of the south coast of Samos , of which we have evidence going back to the 4th millennium bc, is the low hill to the west of the port, referred to in Antiquity as Astypalaia and today known as ‘Kastro’. The hill served as an acropolis for the early city, and may have become traditionally the seat of later rulers’ and governors’ palaces. Today it is crowned by a restored Byzantine castle (see p. 43); the visible ancient ruins here are from the last phases of the site’s development in Antiquity. These lie within the circuit of the castle walls, to the east of the modern church of the Metamorphosis; they comprise the foundations of two patrician, Hellenistic villas of the 2nd century bc, which appear to have been modified substantially in the course of the 1st century ad and united into one large Roman villa, looking south out to sea and north across the city. The wealth and importance of the building are clear not only from the number of portrait busts and statues of the Imperial families found at this site, but also from the rich polychrome marbles used for decoration—especially the two exquisite, broken columns of –Iasos Jasper, framing an entrance of the north peristyle; other columns in Euboean ‘Cipollino’ marble can be seen to the east. The villa comprises a series of colonnaded courts. Water, as often with Hellenistic and Roman villas, was an important feature: the peristyle court closest to the sea has a complex of water channels within its perimeter, and there is a cistern below an impluvium to east of the centre of the area. Sa mos was a favoured resort by the early Roman Imperial families, many of whom may have stayed here. Antony and Cleopatra are said to have chosen to honeymoon on Samos , perhaps in a conscious and propagandistic emulation of Zeus and Hera whose nuptials were celebrated on the island.

   Superimposed on the centre of the area are the rough stone walls of a small, apsed, 5th century, Early Christian church, whose entrance through the north side of its narthex is marked by a monolithic threshold of dark stone (cf. Aghios Ioannis at Melitsacha on Kalymnos); elements of its decorated stonework lie around. At the northern end of the site, sections of the Hellenistic walls are clearly visible; spolia from a temple-building of large dimensions are to be seen all around the site.

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

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