Over its long history, Samos has been given various names, while for the origin of the name Samos itself, there are many possible versions. The most basic one argues that the term comes from the Ionian dialect and the word “sama”, meaning height, probably due to the bulges of the island. In similar fashion, Stravon mentions the Phoenician dialect as a potential origin, giving a definition bound to the height of the mountains. A different point of view supports that the fist colonist, Angaeos, coming from Sami in Kefallinia, gave to the island the name of his daughter, “Sami”. Finally, the geographer Meletios, mentions that the name originates from the son of the God Mercury and of Rinis, “Saos”.
Pelasgians, who first brought the worship of the virgin Hera onto the island, named it Parthenia, meaning virgin land. However, the name Samos is quoted for the first time by Homer, in an ode towards the god Apollo “… and Samos, full of water, the humble daughter of Mykales”. Owing to its dense vegetation and its natural beauty, Samos has been dubbed by many names and poetic adjectives, such as: Anthemis, Dryoussa, Doryssa, Kypparissia, Imvrassia, Melamfylos, Fyllas, Stefani, Melanthemos and Pityousa!
The first inhabitants of Samos are considered to be from the Saei tribe, who were replaced by the Pelasgians. A settlement dating back to the Neolithic era (6000-2800b.C.), bears great resemblance to the first civilizations in Thrace, Macedonia and Sterea Ellada. The thematic content of the earliest jordans that have been unearthed, the Samian Civilization seems to date before the Cycladic one. According to Thucydides, Cares and Leleges, tribes that used to dwell on the island, actually instrumented the flourishing of the Cycladic Civilization. After the fall of the Cycladic Civilization follows the Minoan one, while the Mycenaean Civilization prevails later on. The first Mycenaean (Achaean?) settlers appear in 1360bC. The first king was Angaeos, son of Apollo (and of the Nymph Astypalaea), who received the order to go to Samos “Angaeos, I command you to inhabit the island of Samos, instead of Samis. Its name is now Fillis”. He is succeeded by his son, Samos. Then follows some information about Ippassos from Peloponnesus (1176bC) and Kydrolaos from Lesvos Island (1140bC), while some of the most known kings of old were Leogoras, Amficratis, Sylosontas, his son Aeakis and Dimotelis. Up to that point, historical resources contain mythological elements, and as a consequence we have no way of knowing the precision of the dates or of the kings themselves. In 900bC, we have the advent of the Ionians, and in the 6th century B.C the tyrant Polycratis becomes sovereign, an era during which Samos blooms.
Herodotus characteristically mentions Samos as “…the first amongst all cities, be it Greek or barbaric”. Polycratis organizes a powerful navy, conquers part of Asia Minor and dominates throughout the Aegean Sea, having formed an alliance with the tyrants of Athens (Pisistratus), and of Naxos Island, Lygdamis, as well as with the king of Egypt, Amasis. During this era we have the construction of Samaena, a new type of vessel, bearing 50 oars, which thrives in the Aegean Sea. The various technical constructions built – the Efpalinion Trench, the Temple of Hera, the walls and the ancient harbor of Pythagorion, which Herodotus refers to as “the very greatest crafted by any Greek”, all betray the great prime of the island. There is also an equally noteworthy cultural prime, represented by the mathematician Pythagoras, his sister Theoclaea, and the architects and sculptors Rikus, Theodorus and Teleclis. The acme of that era ends after the assassination of Polycratis by the Persian tyrant Orsitis, when sovereignty passes on to the Persians.
During that period, Darius crosses to Europe, by constructing a bridge made of battleships, designed by the architect Mandroclis from Samos. In 479bC, the people of Samos, aided by the Athenian fleet, defeat the Persians in the naval battle of Mykalis, and thereon become a member of the Athenian Alliance. People of Samos make great efforts to gain their independence from Athens, they enforce their naval and commercial strength, and that is why Pericles decides to intervene. In 439bC, after a siege that lasted nine and a half months, the Athenians manage to take hold of the island, which starts to decay.