SAMOS



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Samos - ANCIENT SAMOS - The Port, Walls and city - The ancient port

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The ancient port

The modern harbour of Pythagoreio (c. 36,000sq. m) is considerably smaller in area than the ancient port (c. 66,000sq. m), owing to subsequent silting and sedimentation on the north and west sides. The original harbour walls on these two sides can be traced today, some way inland of the present water-front. In Antiquity, the wealth of any city in the Greek Islands depended on its ability to manage or dominate sea-trade. Samos had a larger fleet of military and commercial ships than any island city, even Aegina, in the 6th century, and it needed to house them and protect them from the frequent and destructive south winds. Herodotus mentions ‘boat-sheds’ at Samos (III. 45), and these were probably built by Polycrates in the decade between 535 and 525 bc during the same period in which he upgraded the port. But what caught the historian’s attention most was the long artificial protecting mole, which ran out to sea across the south side of the harbour, for almost half of a kilometre from its back (west) wall, into a depth he claims of 20 fathoms of water. Laying foundations at such a depth, and building securely on top of them underwater, was an extraordinary feat for those times. It must have been the first example of an endeavour of this kind, on such a scale, and like the first colossal temple of Hera, it was a clear change in thinking from anything that preceded it. The present-day mole dating from 1862, where the ferries dock, is of considerable length; but the Polycratean one was longer and began from further west. It now lies under water, further south out to sea: it is a stone structure made of rubble and re-used architectural material, running for 480m. Only its base exists today, submerged at a depth of 3m near the shore, and at almost 14m at its eastern end, where it begins to turn north and goes beneath the modern mole shortly before its eastern terminus.

   In addition, underneath the present north mole of the harbour (which runs north–south), lies a further 6th century bc structure: this was an extension of the land fortifications, and closed the harbour to the east. It is estimated it was about 175m long and 20m wide.

   Today’s breakwater, enlarged and extended in 1862, would seem to be based on a later (and less ambitious) Hellenistic mole. A 30m stretch of its neatly cut masonry, with compact surface and finely-edged borders and paving, is preserved in the space between the taverna, Varka, and the houses that front the west of the present harbour. From this point it is possible to follow the projection of its line west for over 150m, past elements of it which are incorporated into recent buildings along the way, until it becomes no more than a cut line in the bedrock towards the end. It terminates in the base of a bastion to the west, where there is a deep hole, as big as a small gateway, cut down through the rock below. Interestingly, Herodotus mentions a secret passageway, leading from the citadel to the sea, in Book III, 147, of his Histories. From here the line of the west harbour walls runs inland to the north, parts of which are visible as far as Kanaris Street, beside the Stratos Hotel, in the third block back from the water front. Tracing these lines gives a vivid sense of the much greater area of the Archaic harbour by comparison with today’s much smaller port.

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


access

Samos Island, Greece.

By air: Domestic flights are frequent from Athens – four to five times daily with Olympic Air and twice a day in summer with Aegean Airlines.
There also direct flights by charter from destinations outside Greece.
By boat: Sea access to Samos is also plentiful, but a little confusing because it is split between three separate ports: Karlóvasi and Vathy, on the north coast, for the larger ferries plying the northern and western routes to Piraeus, Chios, Lesbos, Ikaria, Thessaloniki etc;
and Pythagóreio, on the south coast, for the Dodecanese and southern routes,
i.e. the F/B Nisos Kalymnos (4 days per week)
and hydrofoils (daily in summer) to Patmos, Lipsi, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, and on to Rhodes , with the Nisos Kalymnos stopping at Agathonisi and Arki in addition, before calling at Patmos.
The summer hydrofoil service to Fourni and Ikaria (4 times weekly) also leaves from Pythagóreio. Crossings to Turkey (Kus¸adasi) run daily from Vathy, during the summer season only (Easter to mid October); thereafter more infrequently.

Samos Travel Guide

eating

Samos Island, Greece.

In Vathy, Christos (two blocks in from the water-front, and north of the main square) serves Asia Minor specialties, interesting salads, and good, fragrant wine.
The village of Vourliotes has several tavernas offering good mountain food in its picturesque plateia: less contrived, and more popular with islanders, is Pera Vrysi, at the entrance to the village. On the shore below, at Avlákia, the Mezedopoleío "Doña Rosa" has a pleasing touch of eccentricity, but nonetheless prepares excellent Greek dishes with localredients and good presentation.
Further west at Palaio Karlóvasi, the Oinomageireío "Dryousa", in the plateia where the paved road ends, is family run, providing fresh, home cooking.
The last true tavernas in Pythagóreio closed some time ago; the best remaining eatery there, with a pleasant view from its position at the beginning of the harbour mole, is Varka. For sunset views, however, few can match Balkoni tou Aigaiou at the south end of Spatherei;
while the taverna at Koutsi, up and west from Pyrgos, though not remarkable for food, is an unforgettable and cool refuge on a hot day, beside a spring below plane trees in the hills of central Samos .
Pure comb honey of high quality can be found at Melissa – a small supply-shop, a few metres up the main street of Pythagóreio from the harbour.

Samos Travel Guide

further reading

Samos Island, Greece.

Graham Shipley, A History of Samos 800-188 BC (Oxford University Press, 1987); Hermann Kienast, The Aqueduct of Eupalinos (Greek Ministry of Culture, Athens, 2005).

Samos Travel Guide

practical info

Samos Island, Greece.

831 00 Samos & 832 00 (Karlóvasi): area 477 sq. km; perimeter 163 km; resident population 33,999; maximum altitude 1,434 m. Port Authority: T. 22730 27890, 27318 (Vathy); T. 22730 61225 (Pythagóreio); T. 22730 32343, 30888 (Karlóvasi). Travel and in formation: www.samos.gr ; By Ship Travel, T. 22730 25065 (Vathy), 61061 (Pythagoreio), 92341 (Kok- kari), 37100 (Marathókambos) & 35252 (Karlóvasi).
Samos Travel Guide

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