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Samothrace ( , ) is a Greekmarker island in the northern Aegean Seamarker. It is a self-governing deme within the Evros Prefecture of Thrace. The island is long and is 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 . 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 Spartamarker, 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 Samosmarker, 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 Athenianmarker 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 Pydnamarker Samothrace became independent, a condition that ended when Vespasian absorbed the island in the Roman Empire in 70 AD.

Post-Roman Era

Samothrace, with Mt.
Fengari in the background.

St. Theophanes died here in 818. The Byzantines ruled till 1204, when Venetiansmarker took their place, only to be dislodged by a Genoanmarker family in 1355, the Gattilusi. The Ottoman Empire conquered it in 1457 and was called ; 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 Bulgariamarker 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 Alexandroupolimarker and Kavalamarker. 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.


A picturesque view of the Hieron
One of the numerous ponds characteristic of the island.

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 Louvremarker in Parismarker.


  • Alonia (pop. 251)
  • Ano Karyotes (15)
  • Ano Meria (58)
  • Dafnes (11)
  • Kamariotissa (969)
  • Kato Karyotes (37)
  • Katsampas (12)
  • Lakkoma (329)
  • Makrylies (9)
  • Mpaxedes (0)
  • Pahia Ammos
  • Palaiopoli (25)
  • Potamia (3)
  • Profitis Ilias (214)
  • Remboutsadika
  • Samothrace/Samothraki (677)
  • Therma (74)
  • Xiropotamos (39)

Historical population

Year Island population Change Density
1981 2,871 - 16.13/km²
1991 3,083 +112/+3.90% 17.32/km²
2001 2,723 -360/-11.67% 15.30/km²

See also


  • Michel Mourre, Dictionnaire Encyclopédique d'Histoire, article Samothrace, Bordas, 1996
  • Marcel Dunan, Histoire Universelle, Larousse, 1960

External links

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