Pythagorio, Samos - The charming town where the Great Ancient Mind Pythagoras was born

Pythagorio, Samos

Samos was a democratic island until 535 BC when the tyrant Polycrates seized power and set his capital where Pythagorio stands today. Armed with a fleet of 100 ships, he pillaged the Aegean until he fell into the hands of the Persians and was crucified in Asia Mainor in 522 BC.

His rule, however, produced what Herodotus described as "three of the greatest building and engineering feats in the Greek world."

The first was the Heraion, the largest temple ever built in Greece and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Next was the ancient mole, the stone pier protecting the harbour hidden beneath the ferry jetty. Lastly, the Efpalinio Tunnel was built as an aqueduct to ensure that mountain spring water would be available even to a besieged Samos.

One of the prettiest towns in Samos, Pythagorio takes its name from the mathematician and philosopher who was born in the ancient capital of Samos. Originally called Tigani, "frying pan", in reference to being a heat trap, it was renamed in 1955.

It is now the premier resort on the island with a core of cobbled lanes and stone mansions with characteristic red tiled rooves. The picturesque harbour is jammed with restaurants and tavernas for romantic waterside dining beside colourful fishing boats.



In the eastern corner of Pythagorio are the crumbling ruins of the Kastro, probably built on top of an ancient Acropolis. Standing proud over them is the Castle of Lykourgos Logothetis, a revolutionary hero whose statue is next door to the church's courtyard.

Built from the remains of archaeological monuments, there is a sign in Greek that reads ‘Christ saved Samos 6th August 1824’ as the island resisted a Turkish assault.

The church is dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ and a moving festival is held every year on August 6th where villages light votive candles that illuminate the castle against the moonlit sky.

Panagia Spiliani

Panagia Spiliani, Samos.

Enter the cave and descend the 95 steps to the small church of Panagia Spiliani, the Virgin of the Grotto. Half chapel-half cavern, the church is also known as Kaliarmenissa, good travels, as it houses an old icon of the Virgin Mary that was supposedly stolen from Samos and carried to foreign shores.

Wishing to remain on the island, the icon miraculously shattered into pieces and fell into the sea where it was washed up on the beach. A pool in the cave, once a Roman sanctuary, is said to have miracle working properties.

Near to the Efpalinio Aqueduct and on the outskirts of town, the views over Pythagorio and over to Asia Minor are worth the climb.

Heraion of Samos

Heraion of Samos

It can be hard to envision the former glory of the ancient temple from the ruins left today, but To Hraio, or the Temple of Hera, rebuilt by Polycrates around 540 BC was four times larger than the Parthenon, the largest Greek temple ever constructed with two rows of columns numbering 155 in total.

Only one column remains and it is half its original height amid a sea of marble blocks as later masons recycled the stones.

The early Samians worshipped Hera, goddess wife of Zeus, believing she was born here next to the Imbrassos stream, and several temples have been built on the site with the earliest dating back to the 8th century BC.

In the ancient celebrations to honour Hera, pilgrims approached from Pythagorio along The Sacred Way which can be seen at the northeast corner of the site. Once flanked by hundreds of statues, a headless group with a chiselled signature announcing ‘ Genelaos made me’ are all that are left.

Heraion of Samos (Tel.:22730 62813,, closed Tuesdays, €6)

Considered by Herodotus to be the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World, the underground aqueduct was built with ancient tools and without accurate measuring equipment.

The ruler Polycrates the Tyrant was concerned that Samos’ water supply could be cut off in attack so he ordered the construction of the tunnel. Efpalinos of Megara, a hydraulics engineer, set 1,000 slaves into two teams, each digging from a different side of Mt. Kastro.

15 years later in 524 BC they met in the middle with just a tiny difference in elevation.

Just over a kilometre long, the tunnel remained in use for over a thousand years. Long gone ceramic water pipe used to line the walls, while it was used as a hiding place during pirate raids.

Today, the tunnel is open to explore, although visitors should be aware the rocky floor can be slippery and that water drips from the ceiling. Efpalinio Tunnel (Tel.:22730 62813,, closed Tuesday, €8).

READ MORE: A Trip to Lousios – the Magical River Where the Nymphs Bathed the Newborn Zeus.

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