The Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothrace was a renowned center of religious life in the eastern Mediterranean from the seventh century B.C. until the fourth century of the Christian era, and the mysteries practiced there rank in age and historical importance with those of Eleusis. Volume 10 of the records of the Samothrace excavations focuses on the elaborate Propylon dedicated by Ptolemy II, which was, from early Hellenistic times, the entrance to the Sanctuary. Among ancient Greek gatehouses, only the Propylaia of the Athenian Akropolis matched the Samothracian Propylon in precipitousness of site and number of unusual features.
The Propylon was a large, marble, temple-like buildingamphiprostyle and hexastyle. Its massive substructure was penetrated by a wide, vaulted tunnel, through which flowed the waters of the torrent that formed the Sanctuary's eastern boundary. This courageous feat of Hellenistic engineering had its counterpart in the artistic audacity of the superstructure, which exhibited an Ionic facade facing the road from the city of Samothrace and a Corinthian facade facing the causeway between the Propylon and the sacred precinct. The narrow stairway to the building's attic suggests that the Propylon may have had a role in the mystery cult's liturgy.