Messini, Greece

Ancient Messene, located in Messenia, Peloponnese, is renowned for its ruins of a classical city-state. Initially founded as Ithome by Achaean Greeks, it later fell under Spartan control before being rebuilt by Epaminondas in 369 BC. The extensive ruins, including Hellenistic and Roman structures, attract many visitors. 

The city of Messene flourished also in the postclassical times and a settlement at the site continued until modern times. Late Roman Messene suffered much after the major AD 365 Crete earthquake that hit hard also the entire SW Peloponnese. From the beginning of the 5th century AD Messene is being reconstructed as a Christian city and the seat of a local bishop. It will be in the so called Byzantine 'Dark-Ages' during the 7th and 8th centuries that the city once again experienced a deep crisis with the settlement of new populations in the region, probably of Slavic origin.


Strong fortification walls with towers and gates are preserved along a course of 9.5 km, surrounding the city and Mt Ithome, where the sanctuaries of Zeus Ithomatas (9th-8th century BC), Artemis Limnatis and Eileithyia (3rd-2nd century BC) stood.

On the site of the city are preserved public and religious buildings, many of them reconstructed to a large degree. The extensive complex of the Asklepieion (3rd-2nd century BC) stands out, with the Doric sanctuary of Asklepios, which is surrounded by stoai of buildings of a religious and secular-funerary nature. A series of reconstructed monumental structures, such as the Ecclesiasterion-Odeion, the Bouleuterion, the Theatre, the Arsinoe Fountain, the Agora and the Stadium, as well as an extensive group of funerary monuments and heroons, including the reconstructed monumental Saithid Mausoleum (1st c. BC-1st c. AD), bear witness to the size of the city and its political, religious, economic and social importance.

Particularly luxurious Roman villas with mosaic floors complete the urban plan, while a multitude of inscriptions sheds light on hitherto unknown facets of the historical events that took place during the period of the Alexander’s Successors, the Macedonian Kingdom, the Achaean League, the Koinon of the Arcadians and the Aetolians, and Roman interference in Greek affairs. A plethora of statues, vessels and other moveable finds is on display at the nearby Archaeological Museum, testifying to the thriving society of Messene.


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Messini, Greece
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Founded: 369 BCE
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Greece

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