Ancient Messene. The less well known diamond of Peloponnese


Messene, a very significant city in antiquity named after a mythical queen and local deity, daughter of Triopas, the king of Argos, was established in the winter of 370 BC-369 BC and according to Diodorus, it was built in only 85 days. It was the 2nd largest state of Peloponnese and the capital and cultural center of Messinia.

The main ancient source on Messene and the whole area isPausanias, who describes the city in details (155-160 AD). He writes that its walls were stronger than the famous walls of Byzantium and of Rhodes, he represents the Asklepieion as a museum of art works, and he mentions of theatres, temples, sanctuaries, statues, public buildings, springs, tombs, agora, gymnasium…

Let him guide us through the city and the area:

…A road turns to the left from the springs, and after some forty stades is the city of the Messenians under Ithome. It is enclosed not only by Mount Ithome, but on the side towards the Pamisos by Mount Eva. The mountain is said to have obtained its name from the fact that the Bacchic cry of “Evoe” was first uttered here by Dionysus and his attendant women. Round Messene is a wall, the whole circuit of which is built of stone, with towers and battlements upon it. I have not seen the walls at Babylon or the walls of Memnon at Susa in Persia, nor have I heard the account of any eye-witness; but the walls at Ambrossos in Phocis, at Byzantium and at Rhodes, all of them the most strongly fortified places, are not so strong as the Messenian wall….

Read the whole description: 

The ruins of the city today are a very impressive archaeological site, which is spread out across a small peaceful and full of olive-trees valley of the region of Messinia. It is backed by high mountains, dominated by the summit of Mount Ithomi. With the impressive mountains on one side and the valleys down to the sea on the other, the beauty of the scenery is amazing and the view breathtaking.

The site, which is one of the best preserved in Greece, includes a theatre -one of the biggest in antiquity- and the Arsinoe fountain house, an agora surrounded by stoas, which covers an area of about 40 acres with Temples of Zeus and Poseidon and the sanctuaries of Demetra and Dioskouroi, an Asclepieion, a stadium and a gymnasium, a funerary monument, public buildings, houses, the monumental fortifications of the city etc. It also includes an early Byzantine Vasilika.

We should also mention that in 2013, the theatre of ancient Messene, after 2 millennia of silence, opened its doors to the public.

Ancient Messene is included in the Greek list of monuments submitted to UNESCO in order to be part of the World Heritage Site Catalogue.

Epidaurus, Olympia, Nafplion… Peloponnese is full of important archaelogical sites. Seize the chance to be guided by our qualified guides during our Classic Cultural Tour.

Take a short tour in the archaeological site of ancient Messini:

European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2011:



Photo:By Rossignol Benoît CC-BY-3.0