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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 29 September 2018
18 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM BILLY COTSIS The historical importance of Samos to Greece remember sitting at the airport waiting to be picked up by a friend, thinking what would Pythagoras make of his island, now filled with tourists and a constant stream of visitors? I wondered if I would find the inspiration to add numbers and philosophise about life as he once did. After being whisked away to a nearby beach followed by taverna food, then a night of dancing, I quickly forgot the intellectual side of the island. I soon became accustomed to the nature and rivers that I was taken to and the picturesque church that greeted me outside my window every day; top that up with a ferry crossing to the immaculately preserved ancient Ephesus in Turkey and you have an island of wonder. This is one of the most inspiring and historical places in Greece, one with a great story of 'independence'! In fact, as a Lesvian, they even have a town called Mytilene. What else could I want? As kids, we had been taught that the Turks had control of Greek speaking lands for four centuries. As young ones, we didn't learn the term 'Ottomans' until my latter high school days, along the same time I discovered that it wasn't just the Ottomans who stayed uninvited in Greece; I soon discovered that Venetians, Catalans, Genoans, Arabs (Crete, Cyprus), Latins, Serbians, Bulgarians, Lombards, Seljuks and more had taken various parts of Greek-speaking lands since at least the 12th century. The Ottomans had been growing in the Balkans since the back end of the 1300s. By the time Sultan Mehmet took Constantinople in 1453, followed by Trebizond in 1460, the area of what is now Greece and Turkey was divided amongst many of those listed above. It was a whose who of the medieval world, joined by the Lusignans in Cyprus and the funky looking Knights of St John in the Dodecanese. Of course, by the 1700s, most of Greece, Cyprus and Asia Minor was taken by the Ottomans, who were at their peak in terms of size and military strength. Yet, just like the mythical village of Asterix and Obelix in ancient Gaul, some Greek territories were 'independent'. The fierce Mani for example were not properly subdued until the 1700s – no Turkish-speaking I Samos, Greece. PHOTO: PINTEREST/NIKOS CHATZIIAKOVOU tax collector or soldier would be stupid enough to enrage the Mani, would they?! The commune of the Zagorisians in Epirus were left to their own devices by the Ottomans for centuries until the early 1800s. It was that era when the power of the Ottomans began to be shaken by the rising Greek forces and an inability of the Sultan to adapt to changes in the new world order with the rise of Russia, Prussia (German) and the growth of Britain and France. As all these powers began wrestling each other for global influence and reach, a small island in the Aegean managed to gain a level of freedom which few other territories controlled by the Ottomans, or indeed other empires, experienced. If you lived in the era before the Greek Revolution, you may have blinked and missed what Samos meant to the islanders and to ancient history; this was a giant of an island. It produced some of the earliest sculptors, philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, philosopher Epicurus, astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, poet Aeschrion, astronomer Conon, writer Agathocles and the list goes on in Samos. This island contains some of the best writers who continued to flourish well into the Hellenistic Era, post-Alexandros. A strong navy and plenty of wealth made Samos a great place to pursue the arts and academia. Samian prosperity only really declined during the Greek-speaking Byzantine era after the 400s AD as more trade routes flowed through Constantinople rather than Samos. During the Greek Revolution in the 1820s, Samos defeated the Ottomans and Egyptians on numerous occasions, however they were forced in 1834 to become a semiindependent tributary of the Sultan by the Allies before final reunification with Greece early 1913. This came after a quick battle led the Hellenic Navy and the brave locals, forcing the Ottomans off Samos. That period between the 1820s to 1913 is incredible; an island that gained a form of independence against the vastly superior Ottomans and maintained its own flag. The people of Samos were famous for destroying a Turkish naval boat in the early stages of the Greek Revolution and halting a naval invasion.
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