Learn about the history of Ancient Messini

Ancient Messini, located about 220 kilometers south of Athens, was founded in 371 BC after the Theban general Epaminondas defeated Sparta at the Battle of Leuctra, freeing the Messinians from almost 350 years of Spartan rule. Built on the site of an earlier stronghold, the new Messinian capital was one of a string of defensive positions designed to keep watch over Sparta. 

Today the remains of this vast ancient city are quite extensive. Unlike similar ancient places in the country, Messene was left largely abandoned and undisturbed, with no later settlements being built on top of it. This means that today, visitors are able to appreciate the sheer scale and size of this ancient Greek city, and admire many of its unique architectural aspects.

 Picturesquely situated on a hillside below the village of Mavromati and still undergoing excavation, the site comprises a large theatre, an agora (marketplace), a sizeable Sanctuary of Asclepius and one of the most impressive Ancient Greek stadiums. 

The only feature of the ancient site that was clearly visible and appreciable even before excavations are its massive fortification walls, with a total length of 9.5km. Sections of the walls are among the best-preserved examples of Greek fortifications of their time. According to the historian Diodorus Siculus, the whole fortification was erected in only 85 days.

 One of the first monuments somebody sees when entering is the theatre, built in 3-2 BC and regarded as one of the greatest examples of its kind, reaching almost 100m in length and once seating 10,000 spectators. 

The agora was a huge square marketplace surrounded by stoas (galleries), and was the center of everyday life. Along with the Agora, The Asklepion was also the center of Ancient Messenian life. A 72mx67m area, with four internal stoas opening onto a courtyard. 

The Stadium and Gymnasium -a dedicated place for the training of athletes- are amongst the most impressive and well-preserved buildings on the site. The northern part of the stadium contains 18 stands with 18 rows of seats separated by stairways. Very notable is a semicircular wall built to block the stadium’s race-track: this is a Roman addition, showing how the building’s use was changed in Roman times from athletic contests to gladiator fights. 

The site also houses the Archeological Museum with more than 12,000 findings from the excavations that are kept in the two-storey building by the entrance.

ifly’s Travel Tip:

Depending on which of our helicopters is chartered, Ancient Messini is a 50 to 65 minutes flight from Athens. From Amanzoe the flight time is less between 30 and 45 minutes. With one of our VIP limousines, the distance from Athens is about 2 and half hours.


Ancient Messini
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