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Samos - the Island of Pythagoras

02 June 2010 / 08:06:47  GRReporter
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Perhaps all those who have bothered with the Pythagorean Theorem would be interested to learn more about the island of Samos – the birthplace of its discoverer. The island is located in the utmost East of Aegean Sea. Only 1500 m separate it from the narrowest part of the Mycale Strait and the Turkish side of Asia Minor. Just in the opposite is the Kuşadası resort. The coast of Asia Minor had been the natural hinterland of the island for a long time and till the Anatolian disaster in 1922 these lands were the place for commercial and similar activities for the residents of Samos.

The legend tells that the island was the birthplace of the goddess Hera. The temple sanctuary of the goddess – Heraion – was the largest one in the ancient times. Everyone could find refuge in it. It is said in the myth that the sanctuary was erected by Ancaeus after his coming back from the journey with the Argonauts. Samos is the birthplace not only of Pythagoras, but of the philosopher Epicurus and the mathematician Aristarchus too. In antiquity, the favourable location of the island at the most important sea routes of commerce connecting continental Greece with the East and Pontos Euxeinos with Africa and Egypt had assigned it a major role compared to the other Greek city-states. The capital city Vathy situated along the coast of a wide bay is remarkable for its local picturesqueness, for the numerous beautiful and well renovated buildings in neo-classical style from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. The city is well-known for its archeological museum and its rich exposition of different epochs. There are several monasteries in good condition keeping valuable frescoes.

Close to Panagia Vrondiani monastery is one of the most impressive technical achievements of the ancient times which is in a state of good preservation and opened for visitors. Known as the “Tunnel of Eupalions” after the name of its “engineer” from Megara, it is like an underground tunnel with two entrances dug through a more than 1000 m long rock and used in antiquity as water supplying installation.

Made by order of the tyrant Polycrates this aqueduct is a true masterpiece of the engineering thought having in mind the primitive technical devices used for its construction. One of the most popular souvenirs on the island is the “bowl of justice”. Polycrates assigned Pythagoras the task to find a way for fair apportionment of potable water for the slaves building the fortifying walls of the city. Pythagoras made a container that overflows as the water exceeds certain level. This “waterline” was the consumption limit of the insufficient liquid. The Pythagorean cup follows the principle of communicating vessels and hydrostatic pressure on a water column, formulated by Pascal in the 17th century.

In 1950s the International Pythagorean Order has proposed the small town with the prosaic name Tigani to be renamed to Pythagorion. Its importance as the probable birthplace of the philosopher-mathematician was recognized by UNESCO and it was proclaimed a world heritage site.

In 1834 Samos was completely self-governing independent principality but without own foreign policy. This statute was due to the refusal of its residents to obey the decision of the Great Powers that excluded the island from the independent Greek state after its liberation from the Ottoman Rule. The favourable international conditions after the Balkan War allowed the island to unite with Greece in 1913.

Its economic and commercial boom was in the last quarter of the 19th century. The Samian wine was famous back in antiquity. The vineyards and the white Muscat wine with sweet flavour were main resources of income for Samos. In the 19th century the Samian wines were exported to Trieste, Rotterdam, Bremen, Marseilles, Havre, and Bordeaux as well as to the ports of the Ottoman Empire like Izmir, Thessalonica, Cesme, and Alexandria.

The Roman Catholic Church has granted the island the privilege to make the wine for the Holy Eucharist. The Samena, Selena, Samos Nectar have gained recognition on international exhibitions and markets. The other drink known as the “trade mark” of Samos is the Ouzo Yokarinis. In 1910 Eleni Yokarinis started to make ouzo known as the “ouzo of the widow” and the original recipe for its distillation has been kept by three generations.

The island was occupied by the Italians in 1941 during the World War II and many of the island’s residents immigrated to the Near East. At the time of this migration the rest of the residents powerfully opposed to occupiers. The opposition to the colonels’ regime has brought to Samos a person of great significance for the Greek and world poetry.

Although he wasn’t born there but in the medieval town Monemvasia in Peloponnesus, a long time span of the creative life of the popular poet Yannis Ritsos is connected with this Aegean island. He lived under strict house arrest during the war dictatorship established in 1967. He was transferred to Samos in 1968 from the island Leros where he was first exiled. Some of his most popular works like Iconostasis of Anonymous Saints were written in Karlovasi. Due to the ambition of the Greek government to decentralize the educational institutions, the Mathematics Department of the Aegean University today is located in the former industrial and trade center of Karlovasi.

Because of the professional opinion that the region of Aegean Sea is an inexhaustible palaeontological treasure there is a Museum of Natural History in the village of Mitilinii since 1992. Fossils of mammals that had been living 8-10 million years ago, some of which unique, are the real proofs of the natural history of the European continent. The picturesque gulfs with calm as well as lively beaches, the greenery that the several fires could not devour and the glassy sea water fascinate with their natural beauty.





Tags: Samos Pythagoras IslandsTravel
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