Sa'mos (Σάμος, distinguished), a noted island in the Aegean Sea, near the coast of Lydia, in Asia Minor, and separated only by a narrow strait from the promontory which terminates in Cape Trogyllium. This strait, in the narrowest part, is not quite a mile in width (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 5, 34; Strabo, 14, 634; comp. Leake, Map of Asia Minor). For its history, from the time when it was a powerful member of the Ionic confederacy to its recent struggles against Turkey during the war of independence, and since, we must refer to Smith's Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Geog. s.v. Samos is a very lofty and commanding island; the word, in fact, denotes a height, especially by the seashore: hence, also, the name of Samothracia, or "the Thracian Samos," for another similar island. Samos was illustrious at a period of remote antiquity, and was at one time mistress of the sea, but its greatness was of no long duration. Tradition ascribes the birth of Pythagoras to this island, and Creophilus, said to be the son-in-law of Homer, and himself a poet of no mean pretensions, was also a Samian. The period during which Samos enjoyed the greatest prosperity was that occupied by the government of Polycrates, who made himself master of many among the surrounding islands. The island fell subsequently under the Athenian dominion, and was considered as one of the most valuable dependencies of Athens. The people of Samos were especially worshippers of Juno or Hera, and her temple, called the Hermeon, was enriched by some of the finest works of art known in Greece, particularly statues by Myron, Polycletus, and Praxiteles. The chief manufacture carried on by the inhabitants was that of pottery, the Samian ware being celebrated all over the civilized world. It was made of a fine smooth clay of a deep red color, and many specimens of it remain to adorn the cabinets of archaeologists. It must be borne in mind, however, that the term Samian ware was soon applied to all of a similar character, wherever fabricated, just as at the present time all porcelain is called by the general name of china. The island is sometimes stated to have been famous for its wines, but, in fact, the wine of Samos was in ill repute. Strabo says expressly that the island was οὐκ εὔοινος. It now, however, ranks high for its Levantine wine, which is largely exported, as are also grapes and raisins. Samos, which is still called Samo, contained, some years ago, about 60,000 people, inhabiting eighteen large villages and about twenty small ones. Vathi is the chief town of the island in every respect, except that it is not the residence of the governor, who lives at Colonna, which takes its name from a solitary column (about fifty feet high and six in diameter), a remnant of the ancient Temple of Juno, of which some insignificant remains are lying near. Various travelers (Clarke, Tournefort, Pococke, Dallaway, Ross) have described this island. See also Georgirenes, Description of Samos, etc. (Lond. 1678); Panofka, Res Samiorum (Berlin, 1822); and especially Guerin, Description de l'Ile de Patmos et de l'Ile de Samos (Paris, 1856).
Samos is briefly referred to in two places in Scripture. The Romans wrote to the governor in favor of the Jews, in the time of Simon Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 15:23), and Paul touched there when going to Jerusalem, on his return from his third missionary journey (Ac 20:15). He had been at Chios, and was about to proceed to Miletus, having passed by Ephesus without touching there. The topographical notices given incidentally by Luke are most exact. The night was spent at the anchorage of Trogyllium, in the narrow strait between Samos and the extremity of the mainland ridge of Mycale. This spot is famous both for the great battle of the old Greeks against the Persians in B.C. 479, and also for a gallant action of the modern Greeks against the Turks in 1824. Here, however, it is more natural (especially since we know, as above from 1 Macc. 15:23, that Jews resided here) to allude to the meeting of Herod the Great with Marcus Agrippa in Samos, whence resulted many privileges to the Jews (Josephus, Ant. 16, 2, 2, 4). At that time and when Paul was there it was politically a "free city" in the province of Asia (q.v.). See Conybeare and Howson, St. Paul, 2, 18; Lewin, St. Paul, 2, 87 sq. SEE PAUL.