The island of Sámos (Turkish Sisam) is a green, well wooded island which has only recently become a target for mass tourism, with the site of one of the most important sanctuaries and cultural centers of the ancient world, the Heraion.
Geographically an outpost of Asia Minor, from which it is separated by a strait only 1.9 km/1.25 mi wide, it rises in the center to 1,140m/3,740ft in Mt Ampelos and in the west to 1,440m/4,725ft in Mt Kerkis.
The island's main sources of income from time immemorial have been farming, boatbuilding and fishing.
The first inhabitants of Sámos, probably Carians, were displaced at an early stage by Ionians, who used the island as a base for the conquest and settlement of the nearby coast of Asia Minor. In the second half of the sixth century B.C., under the tyrant (sole ruler) Polykrates, the island grew wealthy and powerful. Like other tyrants of the period, Polykrates erected magnificent buildings and fostered the arts. Although allied with Persia, he was executed by the Persian satrap Oroites about 522 B.C. and succeeded by his brother Syloson, ruling subject to Persian overlordship, and then by other tyrants. The island took part in the Ionian rebellion, achieved independence and became a privileged member of the first Attic maritime league, the Confederacy of Delos. After a rising in 440 B.C. Sámos was conquered by Perikles, and until the end of the Peloponnesian War became a base for the Athenian fleet. Thereafter it was alternately under Spartan, Athenian and Persian influence. It did not join the second Attic maritime league. Its history in the period after Alexander the Great is obscure, though it seems to have belonged to the empire of the Ptolemies in the third century B.C. Hostile to Rome but forced to submit to it, the island achieved independence in the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 17).
In subsequent centuries Sámos was held by Byzantines, Arabs (from 824), Venetians and Genoese. After being plundered by the Turks at the end of the 15th century the island - then depopulated and devastated - came under Turkish rule in 1509. In 1562 it was resettled, and thereafter was granted considerable privileges. During the war of Greek independence, in 1821, the islanders held out against the Turks, and under the London Protocol of 1832 Sámos was declared a principality required to pay tribute to the Ottoman Empire, ruled by a prince who was to be appointed by the Sultan but who must be a Christian. Its flag was to bear a Greek cross.
During the Tripolitanian war of 1912 Italian troops drove out the Turkish occupying forces, and after further military action the island was reunited with Greece later in that year. In the great fire of 1990 the southeastern part of the island lost as much as 80% of its trees.
Sámos was the home of the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras.
In the summer of 2007 Samos was affected by forest fires.