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Temple of Hera with its altar on the island of Samos in GreeceToday, during our Cruising the Dodecanese trip, we explored the ancient history and key archaeological of the great island of Samos in the Dodecanese in Greece. This island was one of the most powerful Greek city-states in the Aegean, especially during the sixth century BC, when it was a place of great wealth and unusual sophistication and innovation.

We presented a place of immense importance in terms of history, archaeology and art in one day, to our guests. What that means in reality is that we took our guests to four key places today: the Heraion, the Tunnel of Eupalinos, the Archaeological Museum of Pythagoreio and the Archaeological Museum of Vathy.

The Heraion of Samos (our picture shows the altar and the surviving column of the temple) is the central  sanctuary of the goddess Hera, and thus one of the most significant religious sites in ancient Greece. It was said to be the place of Hera's birth and of her wedding to Zeus, the king of the gods, an event that was repeated annually as a major religious festival. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country and, set in swampy terrain close to the sea, it is very atmospheric. The massive foundations and the single standing column allow us to appreciate the lost grandeur of this vast structure. It also featured the first of the monumental temples of Ionia.

The ancient Eupalinos Tunnel on Samos in GreeceThe Tunnel of Eupalinos is a masterpiece of ancient engineering. Dating to the mid-6th century BC, it is a 1.036km-long (that's 0.64 miles) tunnel dug through sheer bedrock, its purpose being to supply the polis (city-state) of Samos with water from a spring separated from the city by a mountain chain. Rediscovered in the 19th century, it has only been made fully accessible over the last few years, to be reopened for the public in 2017. We were able to make our way to the very mid-point, where two tunnelling teams, one from either end, finally met at some point about 2550 years ago.

The Archaeological Museum of Pythagoreio (the town occupying the place of the ancient city of Samos) is one of the newest in the region and it is superb. It is dedicated to presenting the ancient city as a whole: its history, its cemeteries, its sanctuaries, its economy, its art and its daily life. Our guests were excited to see a state-of-the-art museum exhibit, presenting one of the most important ancient cities in the region in all its aspects.

After a lovely village lunch, we finished with the Archaeological Museum at Vathy, housing the finds from the Heraion, in other words one of the most extraordinary collections of Ancient Greek (and more) material in the world. It includes items dedicated to Hera throughout many centuries, and originating from Greece and the Greek World, but also from the Middle East, North Africa, the Black Sea, the Balkans, Italy and Spain.

The museum houses some of the best surviving pieces of Archaic Greek sculpture, including a Giant Kouros worth a post for himself, an astonishing array of bronze (and other metal) votives (objects dedicated to Hera), a unique collection of items carved in wood (having survived because of the swampy conditions), and a surfeit of ancient carved ivory.

If you'd like to discover Samos and its incredible ancient history and archaeological remains, take a look at our Dodecanese islands cruise in Greece.

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