The ancient city of Samothrace

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In the north Aegean, only the mountainous pyramid of Athos can compete with the dignity of the mountain mass of Samothrace . Both, Samothrace and Athos, have played a similar historical role. Ιn antiquity, Samothrace was the island of the mystery cult of the Great Gods, whose rites of initiation promised protection at sea and moral improvement. In later times, Mount Athos became the "Holy Mountain" of Orthodoxy.

The origin of the name of Samothrace is probably connected with its high mountain Sáos rather than with the Samian origin of the second wave of Greek settlers who arrived in the second quarter of the 6th cent. BC, following the first wave of Aeolians in the 7th cent. BC.

Ancient City

The ancient city of Samothrace was built on the north foothills of the peak Ái-Yióryis, to the northeast of and very close to the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. The city wall dates from the 6th to the 3rd centuries BC. The harbor of the ancient city is mentioned in the literary sources, first in the 4th cent. BC and last in the Acts of the Apostles, on the occasion of the visit of St. Paul in AD 49-50. The earliest occupation of the ancient city dates to the 7th cent. BC.

Ancient City
Ancient City

In the late 6th cent. BC, settlers from the island were established in the Samothracian Peraia (= the Thracian coastal region opposite the island, situated between the river Evros and Mount Ismaros). Τhese settlements became important centers for commercial relations with the Thracian tribes of the hinterland. In the early 5th cent. BC Samothrace belonged to the Persian Satrapy of Thrace, and at the battle of Salamis (480 BC), a Samothracian ship fought on the side of the Persians. Samothrace appears in the Athenian tribute lists originally (452 BC) with an annual sum of 6 talents, subsequently (429 BC) reduced to two . After the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) Samothrace's close relationship with Athens stops, to start again for a short period during the period preceding the King's Peace (386 BC). Samothrace became a member of the Second Athenian confederacy (378-377 BC), and in 340 BC the island was integrated into the kingdom of Macedonia. The mint of the island, which had produced its last known coinage ca. 475 BC, became active again in the late 4th or early 3rd cent. BC . The successive marriages of the first of the famous women of the Ptolemy family, Arsinoe, first with Lysimachos, king of Thrace, then with her own brother Ptolemy lI, are of special importance for Samothrace because of the close religious ties the royal couples had with the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. ln the second half of the 3rd cent. BC, Samothrace came under Ptolemaic control and in the late 3rd cent. BC, the first Roman interest in the Sanctuary began to be felt. The island fell to Philip V after 200-199 BC, then it became the inheritance of his son and successor Perseus, who after the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC sought refuge on Samothrace, where he finally surrendered to the Romans.