Samothrace Attractions Samothráki
Area of island: 178 sq. km/69 sq. miChief place: Samothráki (Khóra)Samothrace, lying 40km/25mi off the Thracian coast, is the most northeasterly outpost of the Greek island world. From its highest peak, Mt Fengári (1,640m/5,380ft), according to Homer, Poseidon watched the fighting at Troy. Lying by itself in a sea without any neighboring islands, it is an island of great scenic beauty with a regular coastline but no sheltered anchorages. The inhabitants live by arable farming, growing fruit and vegetables (particularly onions).As its name ("Thracian Samos") indicates, Samothrace was originally populated by Thracians, who founded the sanctuary of the Great Gods. About 700 B.C. the first Greeks arrived on the island, and thereafter the sanctuary grew and developed; until the first century B.C., however, Thracian remained the cult language. In the fourth century B.C. Philip II of Macedon was initiated into the mysteries, and it is said that he met his wife Olympias here. From the early third century, when Ptolemy II and his sister Arsinoe erected splendid new buildings in the sanctuary, the cult spread widely through the Hellenistic world. Under the Romans (from 168 B.C.) the cult of Kybele, which had originated in Asia Minor, became associated with that of the Great Gods. Only the spread of Christianity put an end to the cult, about A.D. 400, but the town of Palaiopolis, immediately west of the sanctuary, was inhabited until the 15th century.Excavations by French and Austrian archaeologists in the 19th century and more recent American investigations (Karl and Phyllis Lehmann, 1939 and 1948 onwards) have thoroughly explored the site and thrown some light on the mysteries practiced there, but our knowledge of the cult remains imperfect, partly because of the secrecy maintained by the adepts and partly because the remains have been overlaid by the deposits of many subsequent centuries.The Kabeiroi, to whom the sanctuary was formerly thought to be dedicated, were not the only objects of worship there. A central position among the Great Gods who are referred to in inscriptions was occupied by the Thracian mother goddess Axieros as mistress of nature. Associated with her were Axiersos and Axiersa, two divinities of the underworld who were identified by the Greeks with Pluto and Persephone, the youthful vegetation god Kadmilos and the two Kabeiroi. They were revered as the protectors of nature, and later increasingly as the patrons of seafarers and rescuers of those in peril on the sea. Initiation into the mysteries, which took place in two stages, was open to both Greeks and non-Greeks, men and women, free men and slaves - a factor which no doubt promoted the later spread of the cult.After the fall of the Roman Empire Samothrace alternated between Byzantine, Venetian and Genoese rule until it fell to the Turks in 1457. It was reunited with Greece in 1912 after the Balkan War. During the World War II the island was occupied by Bulgarian troops.Samos is on the shipping route from Athens (Piraeus) to Lemnos, Samothrace and Alexandroúpolis. Daily ferry service from and to Alexandroúpolis.
Samothraki Town (Khora), Greece
The chief place on the island of Semothrace, the picturesque little medieval town of Samothráki (Khóra), lies in the hills 3km/2mi east of the tiny port of Kamariótissa (ruined castle).
The Sanctuary of Kabeiroi, which functioned until the 4th C, sits above ancient Palaiopolis. The site was used as a quarry in the Middle Ages for the building of the castle.