Famous Samians

Famous Samians: The golden age of the Greek island of Samos was during ancient times and many of the famous Greeks come from that era.


The most famous Samian of all is the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras. He lived from 570 BC to 500 BC. Not much is known about his life. The most known fact is that he founded a school and the members were called Pythagoreans. They were taught his philosophy and mathematical principles. His philosophy was that the universe was made up of opposites that were struggling against each other. His philosophy was similar to the Ying and Yang principles that were part of the Chinese Tao beliefs. Part of his mathematical principles was his famous theorem and his principle that there were irrational numbers. His death is not known. The Samians changed the name of one of their cities to Pythagoreion to honor their most famous citizen.


Another famous Samian is Aesop. Samos is one of the many Greek islands that claimed his origin. The one thing that is for sure is that he lived there. He was the slave of Xanthus, a wealthy merchant who lived on the island. It is assumed that he was eventually set free for he conducted a public defense for a Samian demagogue. He also lived at the court of King Croesus. He then went to Athens where he started narrating his famous fables. These fables are read to children all over the world, even until today.


The next famous Samian is the philosopher Epicurus. He is famous for laying down the foundation of modern science and secular humanism. He was born in about 341 BC in an Athenian family that had moved to Samos. At the age of 18, he went back to Athens to do military training. He went back to his family after the Athenian settlers were expelled from Samos, post the death of Alexander the Great. His philosophy became very famous. He was able to start school and get some disciples. He returned to Athens to start a school that he named The Garden after a garden he owned between Stoa and his school. He died at the age of 72 due to kidney stones. Epicurus of Samos had some doctrines that are famous even today. They mostly had to do with the relationship between pleasure and pain.

One doctrine of Epicurus was that the magnitude of pleasure reaches its limit in the removal of all pain. Another doctrine was that continuous bodily pain does not last long. If the pain is extreme, it does not last for many days. The third doctrine is that it is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely, honorably and justly and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Epicurus believed that a person had to have all three characteristics to live a pleasant life. No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures. Epicurus felt that if one followed his doctrines, he would live a good life.


Aristarchus was another famous Samian. He lived from 310 BC to 230 BC and was the first Greek astronomer to declare that the sun is the center of the known universe and not the earth. He is sometimes known as the Greek Copernicus. His heliocentric idea was not popular. Aristotle and Ptolemy eclipsed him. His heliocentric idea was later revived and developed by Copernicus, nearly two thousand years after his death. The greatest honor given to him was that the Aristarchus crater on the moon is named after him.


Herodotus was not born in Samos, but he lived there after he was exiled from his home city of Halicarnassus for participating in a coup against the ruling King. During his exile, he did not only go to Samos. He went to Egypt, Ukraine, Italy as well as Sicily. His writings make it sound like he went to Babylon, but his description of the country is too implausible to believe that he actually went there. He eventually tried to become a citizen of Athens. However, he failed as the city did not make foreigners their citizens.

Herodotus succeeded in becoming a reciter of stories. He amazed his audiences in the Greek cities with his stories about foreign lands. His stories were usually about battles, political incidents and the marvels that he saw in foreign lands. He collected his stories after the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta. His collected stories made history and brought him fame in the future as the father of History.


In its golden age, Samos was famous for its school of sculptors. Rhoecus was part of this school in the 6th century BC. Herodotus says that Rhoecus was an architect as well who helped design and build the temple of Hera at Samos. This temple was unfortunately damaged in a fire. He is known to have sculpted a marble statue of Night that could be found in the temple of Artemis and Ephesus. Rhoecus had a son named Theodorus who became famous in his own right. He is known as an inventor and as a sculptor. With his father, they invented ore smelting and the craft of bronze casting. He is also known for inventing the water level, the carpenter's square, a lock and key, and the turning lathe. Some admired him for his sculptures and others for his inventions.

Pythagoras the Sculptor

Another notable sculptor from Samos is a man named Pythagoras. He became famous in the 5th century BC. He was in stiff competition with his contemporaries Myron and Polykleitos in making statues of athletes. He was born in Samos and moved while he was young to Rhegium, Italy. The sculptures that he is famous for are a statue of Philoctetes that showed Philoctetes in an expression of pain, a statue called Apollo shooting the Python at Delphi, and a sculpture of a man who is singing, accompanied by a lyre. He is also known for introducing improvements to the rendering of muscles, veins, and hair.