SAMOTHRACE

Research campaign 2004

The Greek island Samothrace is of great importance on behalf of our research because due to the ancient tradition the famous sanctuary on this island was founded by the Amazon queen Myrine.

Samothrace is situated in the northeastern Aegean sea between the island Lemnos and the Greek mainland (Eastern Thrace). The island stretches about 21 km in length and about 12 km in width. For the most part Samothrace is mountainous. The highest peak is the Fengari with 1611 meters above sea level. There are numerous springs in the mountains, and there are some nice water-falls.


Kabiroi sanctuary and Mysteries

Throughout the whole antiquity Samothrace was famous for its Kabiroi sanctuary and the associated Mysteries.

the Hieron  the main temple of the Kabiroi sanctuary
the Hieron the main temple of the Kabiroi sanctuary

It was forbidden for the adepts to tell about the content of the Mysteries and the details of the proceedings. That is why the following outline bases on scanty sources: The name »Kabiroi« comes from the Semitic Kabir, pl. Kabirim, which means the »Almighty«. The Kabiroi were simply called »Gods« or »Great Gods«. Only one literary source of the Hellenistic period gives the names of the Samothracian Kabiroi - apparently the secret names of the Great Gods. They are: Axieros, Axiokersa, Axiokersos and Kasmilos (Kadmilos). The Greeks identified them with Demeter, Persephone, Hades and Hermes, and they were associated with death and afterlife. Axieros (or Axiokersa) - the »Great Mother« - was the major figure and very similar to Kybele of Asia Minor. The fourth Kabiros, Kasmilos or Kadmilos, was an ithyphallic fertility god attached to the Great Mother, and was possibly her subordinate spouse. The three god names Axieros, Axiokersa, Axiokersos presumably represent the three aspects of the »Great Mother«, which symbolize the cycle of life - the virgin goddess as huntress and warrior woman, the dominating mother goddess in the prime of life, and the old goddess associated with death. The »Great Mother« was the main goddess of matriarchy that's that level of civilization where women had the predominating position in society. The Amazons represent the last, extreme phase of matriarchy. To save their unique form of civilization which became more and more threatened by neighboring patriarchal tribes they chose a society without men which they defended - very successfully - with warlike means. Their goddess - the »Great Mother« was worshipped at sacred stones where sacrifices were brought to her.

The »Sacred Stone« in the Kabiroi sanctuary
A stone of great importance - in fact a blue-green porphyry - was found in the center of the sanctuary near the foundations of the Rotunda of Arsinoë II.
This stone has never been overbuilt during the long period the sanctuary existed, therefor it must have been of prominent religious significance. The »Great Mother« - the major goddess of matriarchal people - was worshipped at stones, so it is obvious that this stone dates from the very beginnings of this sanctuary - the Early Bronze Age when Samothrace was inhabited by matriarchal people.

sacred stone in the center of the Kabiroi sanctuary
sacred stone in the center of the Kabiroi sanctuary
A rather enigmatic monument is situated in the western part of the sanctuary. Actually, it is a two-part shrine which differs to the surrounding buildings.
The shrine on the left side shows an eye-catching, roughly round monolithic stone in the wall. Again, it is a blue-green porphyry framed by boulders. Obviously, it is a sacred stone - a monument of the pre-Greek period, dating from the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC).
shrine with sacred stone
shrine with sacred stone
sacred stone
sacred stone
Conclusions
The famous Kabiroi sanctuary with its enigmatic Mysteries were dedicated to the »Great Mother« who was the major figure of worship. This goddess has its origin in matriarchal religion. Sacred stones had been the place of worship.
Read our research report:

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