General information on the Municipality of Samothrace
Source: CETI/ Athena R.C.
© Prefecture of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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Samothrace is located in the northeastern Aegean and has been known since antiquity as the "sacred mountain" because this is the site of the Kaveirian mysteries, which rivalled the Eleusinian mysteries. The island is largely mountainous and barren. Human presence is limited to 12 small rural villages on the narrow coastal belt that surrounds the island. The Kares and the Pelasgoi may have been the island?s first inhabitants, along with the Cretan Minoans. Later the island was settled by Thracians. Homer mentions Samothrace and describes how Poseidon sat at the peak of its highest mountain and watched the battle at Troy between the Achaeans and the Trojans. After the Persian wars, it became a member of the Athenian League. The successors of Alexander the Great, the Kings of Egypt, created luxurious buildings, whose ruins can be still admired today. At the same time, the island also developed culturally. Aristarchus of Samothrace was the greatest scholar of the Alexandrian period; he established the fundamentals of Grammar and was the first person to identify the first 8 parts of language. During the Roman period that ensued, Samothrace was regarded as a sacred place and a sanctuary and its population continued to develop and prosper. Apostle Paul passed through Samothrace in 49-51 AD. The island's decline started in the Middle Ages and continued during the Turkish domination. In the period between the Byzantine period and the Turkish occupation, Samothrace was dominated by the Genoese, who left their mark on the island. The island took part in the revolution of 1821.
Chora is the capital of the island and seat of the Municipality. Towards Therma to the north of the island, there are sulphurous, radium, mineral and alkaline springs. Visitors will find modern spa facilities, hotels and hostels situated in the shade of large sycamores. At the mountain villages of Xiropotamos and Profitis Ilias visitors may take in the wonderful view while savouring traditional dishes. The island's best beach is situated at Pachia Ammos. The small church of Krimniotissa is also located nearby. The archaeological site?s most important monuments and architectural complexes are: the Temenos, (the temple's largest marble building), the sanctuary where the Mysteries were held, the Rotunda of Arsinoe, the Propylon of Ptolemy II, the Stoa, the Anaktoron (palace), the Sacred Circle and the Monument of Niki.
A folklore museum was founded and operates in Chora, where the cultural heritage of the municipality is preserved. The archaeological museum at Paliapoli hosts a large section of excavation finds. A copy of the statue of the Victory of Samothrace, whose original is presently exhibited at the Louvre Museum, is also on display.
The people of Samothrace have preserved many customs and traditions. Particularly their religious faith is demonstrated in a number of religious fetes. On 18 January, it is the feast of the church at Alonia, which is a metochion (dependency) of the Monastery of Iviron. On Easter Thursday the entire island flocks to Kamariotissa in order to honour the Panaghia. On St Thomas Day (the Sunday that follows Easter), they honour the memory of the 5 neomartyrs of Samothrace. On 20 July, the feast of Prophet Elias, the small church in the village of Profitis Ilias also celebrates. On 26 July it is the feast of the country church of Aghia Paraskevi at the archaeological site of Paliapoli.
The traditional architecture of Chora stands out. Its ... houses with their earth-floored rooms and their external staircases alternate with the tiled two-storey houses of the interwar period. Some of the island's old mills and olive presses, examples of its economic prosperity one hundred years ago, survive to date. The Metochion, a monastery dependency of the Monastery of Iviron that Ionas Dragoumis wrote about in his masterly book "Samothrace" is situated at Aloni village.