is located on the north coast of the island, to the west of the ancient city. The earliest religious activity on the site
dates as early as the 7th century BC but the permanent structures were built in the first half of the 4th century BC
and, mainly, in the 3rd century BC, until the early Roman Imperial period. The sanctuary was used for the worship
and performance of the mysteries in honor of the Great Gods, a religious event of great importance during Greek
and Roman antiquity. The identity and nature of the gods worshipped on Samothrace, the so-called "Kabeiroi",
still remains problematic.
The first investigation of the site was conducted in 1863 by the French consul M. Champoiseau, in
the area of the Nike Monument. Two more excavation campaigns, in 1866 and 1891, were undertaken by the
French in the cavea of the theatre. The first systematic excavations on the site were conducted by the Austrian
A. Conze, in 1873 and 1875. Since 1938, the excavations of the sanctuary have been carried out by the University
of New York, under the direction of K. Lehmann and, after his death in 1960, of J.R. McCredie.
Five columns and the central architraves of the facade of the "Hieron" were restored in 1956, with
the financial support of the Bollingen Foundation.
The most important monuments of the site are:
This imposing structure had a commanding position on the site and was actually the centre of the cult of the Great Gods. It was the earliest and largest marble building in the sanctuary and its walls were decorated with a frieze bearing the relief representation of dancing girls.
Dated to ca. 340 BC.
It was the second important building of the sanctuary, after the Temenos. It was used for the initiation into the second, higher degree of the Mysteries, called Epopteia. Dated to 325-150 BC
The Tholos of Arsinoe
It was dedicated to the gods by queen Arsinoe, the wife of king Lysimachos and is the largest circular building known from Greek antiquity. Dated to 288-281 BC.
The Propylon of Ptolemy II
The monument was offered to the Great Gods by Ptolemy II Philadelphos. Dated between 285 and 281 BC.
It was built on the west hill, in order to shelter the visitors of the sanctuary. Dated to the first half of the 3rd century BC.
This building was used for initiation into the first degree of the Mysteries, called the Myesis
(Initiation). It is dated to the early Roman Imperial period (1st century AD).
The Sacred Circle
Circular area with five encircling steps on which the spectators stood, watching or participating in the proceedings. Dated to the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 4th century BC.
The monument of Nike
Rectangular structure facing to the north, where the famous
statue of the winged Nike (Victory) of Samothrace
stood, attached on a ship's prow (the statue is now exhibited in the Louvre Museum
). Dated to the early 2nd century BC.