Samothrace

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Samothrace (Greek: Σαμοθράκη, [samoˈθraci]) is a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. It is a self-governing deme within the Evros Prefecture of Thrace. The island is 17 km (11 mi) long and is 178 km2 (69 sq mi) 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. Samothrace is one of the most rugged Greek islands, with Mt. Fengari rising to 1,611 m.

Contents

History

Antiquity

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: Mount Fengari (Mount Moon) rises to 1,611 m (5,285 ft). 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 Sparta, 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 (similar 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 Samos, 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.

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