Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
The Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos are the remains of two impressive classical architectural structures.
The Pythagoreion was an ancient fortified port with Greek and Roman monuments. It holds the Tunnel of Eupalinos, of 1,036 m length and built in the 6th century BC. The tunnel is the second known tunnel in history which was excavated from both ends, and the first with a methodical approach in doing so.
The Heraion of Samos was a sanctuary originating from the 8th century BCE. A temple stood opposite the cult altar of the goddess Hera. It was the first of the gigantic Ionic temples. It stood for only about a decade before it was destroyed, probably by an earthquake. After that, an even larger one was built approximately 40 m to the West. This temple has the largest known floor plan of any Greek temple.
Map of Pythagoreion and Heraion of SamosLoad map
I stayed for 3 nights in Pythagoreio start of December 2021. The weather was rather unstable. I walked the 6 kilometers from Pythagoreio to The Heraion along the sea. The road runs along the back of the airport and is very quiet, later there is a bicycle track all the way to The Heraion which is more pleasant to walk than the pebble beach.
Entrance in winter is 3€ (€6 in summer) and I was accompanied by three kind stray dogs on my visit. There is not so much left but the explanations are good and with some attention the stones started to 'live'. There is just one pillar standing but to imagine the full temple consisted of 155 columns twice as high as the current one, one could imagine the awe Herodotus must have felt when he first saw this temple.
I got soaked on the way back and after changing clothes I went to the archeology museum in Pythagoreio, just a few hundred meters from my apartment. It is a modern museum (2005), full with objects found in Pythagoreio, and the exhibitions are well organized. Part of the museum are open air excavations with the remains of the Roman settlement and the start of the Sacred Way which led all the way to The Heraion. Even walking back from the museum for a few hunderd meters, I got soaked again and got wet shoes from wading through the water running through the streets. But of course, this is but a small price to pay for the noble cause of visiting a world heritage site.
Despite the well organized museum in Pythagoreio, I was more impressed with the old-fashioned museum in Vathy, which I visited next day by taking the bus. This museum is entirely dedicated to the finds from The Heraion, and costs €2 (€4 in summer). I spent over 2 hours here, closely followed by the friendly attendant who switched on and off the lights as I went through the exhibitions and the rain poored down from the black thunderclouds outside. I was particularly impressed by the wooden artifacts which apparently survived 2600 years of these rains and thunderstorms.
On Sunday morning the sun shone brightly and I climbed to both entrances of the tunnel of Eupalinos. I got soaked again, but this time from the sweat and humidity. The tunnel is only open until the end of November but I could peer through the fences, on the south side it seemed to be possible to see the aquaduct proper, on the north side the service tunnel, but perhaps this is a modern entrance, I could not be sure.
In Pythagoreio there are scattered remains in many places, Roman baths, early Christian basilicas and cemetries, the Agora, the castle and tower, the fortifications and walls on the hills but there is just an occasional sign, no explanations, so it is more or less just heaps of stones and it is hard to make out what was what. There are many signposted hikes on Samos, mostly on the more lush north side of the island, but hike number 31 focuses on Pythagoreio and passes past the entrances of the tunnel. Unfortunately I did not have enough time for the full 11 kilometer hike, but I saw signs pointing to an ancient quarry and the Roman aquaduct which seemed interesting too.
The Pythagoreion is named for the mathematician Pythagorous, whose birthplace is nearby. Other remains inbcluse the castle and Temple of Thermes, the Spiliani Monastery and the Eupalinos Tunnel (currently closed for restoration).
The Heraion is named for a Temple dedicated to Hera, wife of Zeus. However this has since been overlaid by other Greek, Roman and Christian constructions, none of which appeared readily identifiable.
I visited Samos in August 03 with my wife and 7 year old son. Samos in general is a particularly welcoming island; the people are warm and friendly and not jaded overmuch by tourism. It is, in general a 'quiet' island, avoiding the youthful excessess currently occurring on Rhodes.
This is a great island for families, especially those who like to experience breathtaking mountain scenery, beautiful bays, olive and pine groves, magnificent honey and of course, the renowned Samian wine.
The site of Hera's temple, just outside of Pythagoreion and a kilometre from the coastal resort of Iraion (brimming with delightful Tavernas along the waterfront) is quite stunning. The ruins are particularly ruined! Only one column survives (and I believe that was re-erected at some previous point) but the size and grandeur of the place are unmistakeable.
Open on Sunday and throughout the week, you will pay 8 euros at current prices for the priviledge of entering (about £ 5.60 sterling) which is a bit pricey for a family, but it is worth the wander around the stones. Every so often a holiday plane roars above taking you back to the 21st Century. You can grab a good photo or two through the railings if you dont want to pay the entrance fee. Take water and refreshments with you - none are to be had on site.
Although a spectacular area, I felt there were others more so on other islands and in particular on the mainland. However, if your visit is not merely academic, I commend Samos to you!
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