One of the must-see archeological sites in Greece that was awarded a European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage in 2011, the Ancient Messene is located at the South-West part of the Peloponnese region and is located south of the Mt Ithome, the strongest natural and manmade fortress of Messenia. The reason that the areological site of Messene is so popular today is due to the fact that the findings in the site are very well-maintained and it is very clear for visitors to understand where everything was located within this ancient city.
Directions to the archeological site of Messene HERE
(January 7th-February 28th): 8:30am-3:30pm
(March 1st-April 28th): 8:30am-4:00pm
(April 28th-August 31st): 8:00am-8:00pm
(September 1st-September 15th): 8:00am-7:30pm
(September 16th-September 30th): 8:00am-7:00pm
(October 1st-October 15th): 8:00am-6:30pm
(October 16th-October 31st): 8:00am-6:00pm
Good Friday: 12:00pm-5:00pm
Holly Saturday: 8:30am-4:00pm
The first installation of the site was in the Late Neolithic or the Early Bronze Age. All the sacred buildings in the area belong to a town named Ithome. The city of ancient Messene was founded in 369 B.C. by the Theban general Epaminondas. Excavations of the site began on April 10th of 1829 at the end the Greek War of Independence. It is said that so dar only the one third of the original city has been found. Messene became the capital of the free Messenian state following a long period of occupation of the Messenian territory by the Spartans (for about 4 centuries). During the Bronze Age the palace at Pylos that is located 36 kms radius South-West from Messene controlled politically and economically Messinia.
The city and the Mt. Ithome were surrounded by walls with towers and gates. At the site there are public and religious buildings most of them reconstructed. In the middle of the site is the extensive complex of the Aslipieion with a Doric sanctuary of Asklepeios and is surrounded by the Bouleuterion, the Ancient Theatre, a Gymnasium, the Agora and the Stadium.
After the defeat of the Spartan army at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 B.C., Epaminondas resolved to support an independent Peloponnese by building three fortified cities, Megalopolis, Mantineia and Messene. He invited all the engineers and artisans from anywhere to join him and within 85 days the combined armies had completed the walled city Messene over the site of the previous Ithome. The city included within the walls Mt. Ithome and enough agricultural land and spring captures to withstand a siege indefinitely. After the departure of the Theban army the Spartans tried to retake Messenia.
Messene was designed with the Hippidamian style. Hippodamus was an ancient Greek architect and urban planner and is an inventor of the formal city planning. The main elements of Hippodamus design was that in the center of the city there was the public space with the government buildings, agoras, theatres and shrines and then the buildings around them in an organized way with private streets. The Hippodamus city planning is an ancient edition of the zoning that we have nowadays.
Messene was surrounded by a circuit wall 9km long and 9m high. There were total 30 square, horseshoe shaped towers across the walls with doors. There were two main gates at the wall at a rectangular shape with a massive beam of limestone, the Arcadia Gate at the North that runs the main road to Arcadia and on the other side of the walls is the Laconia Gate similar shape as the Arcadia one.
For the full guide with all the important archeological sites in Peloponnese, Greece – click HERE. Find more articles about places in Peloponnese that deserve your time to visit here.
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