Thursday, October 1, 2009

Seven Things To Do On Ancient Samos, Greece

“As the Sun God Helios charges his fiery steeds from the eastern horizon, setting the heavens ablaze, Samos is first to feel his glory.” –Anonymous Greek Poet

The Island of Samos, one of Greece’s eastern-most Aegean treasures, was indeed noted as being “first of all cities” by Herodotus. One of the most fertile islands in the Aegean, Samos was known to be rich in natural resources and even richer in intellectual resources. The most famous persons connected with the island were Pythagoras, Epicurus, Aristarchus- the astronomer whom history credits with the first recorded heliocentric solar system model, Theodorus- the great sculptor and inventor, and Aesop (of Aesop’s Fables). Herodotus even called the fair Samos home for a spell.
The first king of Samos was King Ancaeus, who played a role in Jason’s mythical voyage to claim the Golden Fleece. Many centuries later, the mythical tales of Caenus, Son of Kranos, crown prince of Iolkos, are recounted in the novel Caenus and The Quiver of Artemis, Christopher S. Ledbetter’s Greek mythology based novella.
The role of Samos in the tales of Caenus is worth noting. In Book I, Caenus falls for a girl from the enchanted island of Samos who is widely regarded as being the most beautiful in the ancient known world.
“From birth, while she possessed no divine powers, Kalliste always garnered a wealth of attention.  Slender with reddish-blonde hair, and eyes the color of emeralds contrasting her pale skin, her intense beauty and striking physical features drew scornful eyes from even jealous goddesses. One in particular.  And, of those emeralds she looked through, enchanted they were. Their base coloring hued more toward the bluish-gray of storm clouds when at rest or angry. However, when elated or whenever she looked into the sun, that is when her eyes shone a sparkling green. Given her physical attributes, she became regarded as a minor goddess on the island of Samos and began receiving marriage proposals when she turned thirteen years of age, many of which Dimitri dismissed out of hand.” -excerpt from Caenus And The Quiver of Artemis.
In Book II of the trilogy, title not yet released, Caenus makes his first voyage to the island, which becomes the scene for a grand celebration.
Following are Seven Things To Do On The Ancient Island of Samos:

1.Visit the Tunnel built by Eupalinos:The tyrant Polycrates commissioned the engineer Eupalinos to dig a tunnel through Mount Kastro to supply the ancient capital city of Samos (modern Pythagoreio) with fresh water. The tunnel is the second known tunnel that was excavated from both ends, meeting in the middle, quite an engineering feat. As the tunnel was of utmost defensive importance, Polycrates was not likely to allow visitors to enter the tunnel, but you could still admire the engineering wonder from either end.

2. Visit The Royal Family of Samos: The sumptuous royal palace of Samos, surrounded by forty-foot walls, perched solidly on the lush slopes of Mount Ampelos, in the center of the island, provided superior defenses for the royal family. It could, in dire times, also be used as a citadel for the protection of citizens from the port city. Within the royal palace walls, were the most beautiful gardens since Babylon, with exquisitely exotic flowers, both home-harvested and imported.
The royal family did not extend tours to every citizen, but if your standing was high enough, you could at least get through the gates to see the glorious palace. Book II in the Of Kings And Gods trilogy has an event that everyone in the Aegean of noble standing will surely attend.
3. Visit Heraion: The temple honoring Hera, queen of the Greek Gods, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the ancient world. Heraion was located approximately six kilometers west of the capital city of Samos at the end of The Sacred Way, a paved road with statues and other offerings along either side. 356 feet long, 180 feet wide and 82 feet high, the temple was a gargantuan structure by anyone’s measurements. Prepare your offering, for you would definitely want Hera on your side.

4. Go To A Wine Tasting: If there was one thing that Samos was known for, it was her wine. Vineyards covered a great portion of the island. And the combination of the most fertile soil in the Aegean, the Sun God Helios’ brilliance, and the perfect amount of rain contributed to a collection of wines that even Dionysus could be proud of.
Along a side street snaking away from the agora in the capital port city of Samos was a taverna, Kalliste’s Fire, named for the island’s most notable resident. In this establishment on every fourth sunset, was a wine tasting of the most celebrated of Samian wines.

5. Hike To The Summit of Mount Kerkis: This hike was not for the faint of heart. The path wound through heavily wooded areas and encountered rocky, sheer faces. But, to the victor went the spoils. Not only the highest peak on the island, it was also the highest point in the entire Aegean. The summit pierced the heavens at 1,434 metres. It was said that anyone who reached the summit could hear the voice of Zeus, himself.

6. Relax In The Thermes (Roman-Style Baths): In the section of the capital city of Samos, near the athletic facilities, the Thermes greeted one and all. The floors were covered in tiled mosaics and the walls were made of marble. There were cool baths, baths that could be warmed by stoking fires beneath the stone, and an octagonal pool. There was even a domed room that was used like a modern sauna. This was THE place to relax after a hard day’s work.

7. Visit the Waterfalls: West of a small fishing village at the northern edge of the island (modern Karlovasi) a secluded, crescent shaped beach enchanted all who happened upon her. When visiting the beach, make sure to add a walk by the river up to the waterfalls. The walk would have taken you through lush foliage and tree cover and eventually ended at a small lake where you could take a swim… the magnificent falls were then straight ahead.

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