SAMOS (sā'mŏs, Gr. Samos, height). An island off western Asia Minor colonized by Ionians in the eleventh century b.c. . It was notable for metalwork, woolen products, and probably utility pottery, though it is not certain that “Samian ware” necessarily implied a large native industry of this sort. Samos joined the Ionian revolt but was treated generously by the Persians, fought for Xerxes at Salamis, but later joined the Athenian confederacy. With typical fickleness she deserted this union also, and her revolt was crushed by Pericles himself (441). After this she was loyal to Athens, and the Samians were given citizenship by a grateful Athens after Aegospotami, the last battle of the Peloponnesian War in 405. Samos was accepted by Lysander in 404 and regained by Athens only in 365. Samos produced the moralists and poets Aesop, Ibycus, and Anacreon, and the astronomer Conon. Paul touched at Samos on his last voyage to Jerusalem (Acts.20.15).

SAMOS sā’ mŏs (Σάμος, G4904). An island in the Aegean Sea off the W coast of Asia Minor opposite the headlands of Mycale and the city of Ephesus.

It is twenty-seven m. long and fourteen m. wide. It is separated from the mainland by a strait of one m. The entire island is mountainous, but the terraced land is remarkably fertile. It produced olives, unusually fine wine and abundant timber for native shipbuilders in antiquity. Settled by Ionian immigrants from Epidaurus, it enjoyed great prosperity throughout antiquity, but particularly in the 6th cent. Allied with Athens during the 5th cent., it later passed into the hands of Persia, Egypt, and then Pergamum. It was bequeathed to Rome by Pergamum in 133 b.c. and became part of the province of Asia. In the 1st cent. a.d. it became an autonomous city-state.

Paul passed the island on his sea voyage from Troas to Miletus as he returned to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:15).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(Samos, "height," "mountain" (see Strabo 346, 457)): One of the most famous of the Ionian islands, third in size among the group which includes Lesbos, CHIOS (which see) and Cos (which see). It is situated at the mouth of the bay of Ephesus, between the cities of EPHESUS and MILETUS (which see), and separated from the mainland of Ionia by the narrow strait where the Greeks met and conquered the Persian fleet in the battle of Mycale, 479 BC (Herodotus ix.100 ff). The surface of the island is very rugged and mountainous, Mt. Kerki (modern name) rising to a height of 4,700 ft., and it was due to this that the island received its name (see above).


Samos was renowned in antiquity as one of the noted centers of Ionjan luxury, and reached its zenith of prosperity under the rule of the famous tyrant Polycrates (533-522 BC), who made himself master of the Aegean Sea. He carried on trade with Egypt, and his intercourse with that country, his friendship with Amasis, the famous "ring" story and the revolting manner of the death of Polycrates arere all told in one of the most interesting stories of Herodotus (Herod. iii.39 ff).

In 84 BC, the island was joined to the province of Asia, and in 17 BC it became a civitas libera, through the favor of Augustus (Dio Cass. liv.9; Pliny, NH, v.37). Both Marcus Agrippa and Herod visited the island; and according to Josephus (Ant., XVI, ii, 2; BJ, I, xxi, 11) "bestowed a great many benefits" on it. In the Apocrypha, Samos is mentioned among the places to which Lucius, consul of the Romans, wrote, asking their good will toward the Jews (1 Macc 15:23).

In the New Testament, Paul touched here, after passing CHIOS (which see), on his return from his third missionary journey (Ac 20:15). In Textus Receptus of the New Testament, we find in this passage kai meinantes en Trogullio ("and having remained in Trogyllium"). This reading is wanting in the oldest manuscripts, and may be a sort of gloss, or explanation; due to the technical use of paraballein, "to touch land" (compare Josephus, Ant, XVIII, vi, 4), and not necessarily "to make a landing." Trogyllium lay on the mainland opposite Samos, at the end of the ridge of Mycale. Still there is no particular reason why this reading should be supported, especially as it is not found in the earliest of authorities. Soden’s 1913 text, however, retains the reading in brackets.


Tozer, Islands of the Aegean (1890). Herodotus and Pausanias have rather full accounts of Samos, and Encyclopedia Brit (11th edition) gives a good bibliography of works both ancient and modern.

Arthur J. Kinsella