Messene (Greek: Μεσσήνη Messini), officially Ancient Messene,
is a local community (topiki koinotita) of the municipal unit
(dimotiki enotita) Ithomi, of the municipality (dimos) of Messini
within the regional unit (perifereiaki enotita) of
Messenia in the
region (perifereia) of Peloponnese, one of 13 regions into which
Greece has been divided. Before 2011 it held the same position in
the administrative hierarchy, according to Law 2539 of 1997, the
Kapodistrias Plan, except that Ithomi was an independent municipality
Messene was a local division (topiko diamerisma) within
Most of the area of Ancient
Messene contains the ruins of the large
classical city-state of
Messene refounded by
Epaminondas in 369 BC,
after the battle of Leuctra and the first Theban invasion of the
Epaminondas invited the return to their native land of
all the families that had gone into exile from
Messenia during its
long struggle with and servitude under the military state of Sparta,
now finished as a conquering state. This new Messene, today's Ancient
Messene, was constructed over the ruins of Ithome, an ancient city
originally of Achaean Greeks, destroyed previously by the Spartans and
abandoned for some time.
Currently the substantial ruins are a major historical attraction.
Much of it has been archaeologically excavated and partly restored or
preserved for study and public viewing, as well as for various events.
The site was never totally abandoned. The small village of Mavromati
occupies what was the upper city around the fountain called klepsydra.
Administrative structure and population figures refer primarily to it.
2.1 Bronze Age Messana
Messene restored by the Thebans
2.2.1 Reconstitution of the city
2.2.2 Fortified wall
2.2.3 Public buildings and monuments
3 Notable people
6 External links
Messene is located 25 kilometres (16 miles) north of Kalamata
and 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of Pylos.
The main ancient source on
Messene is the Guide to
Pausanias, who visited between 155 and 160 AD.
Excavation of the site began in 1828 in connection with the French
Morea Expedition during the Greek War of Independence. The French left
in 1833; meanwhile, only exploratory excavation had been performed.
The current excavator, Petros Themelis, who received permission to dig
from the Council of Athens Archaeological Society in 1986, suggests
that systematic excavation of the site was first undertaken by George
Oikoumenos of the Athens Archaeological Society in 1895. Since then a
number of noted archaeologists have made contributions, not the least
the current excavator. A museum of their extensive finds has been
constructed within the old city walls.
This site was awarded a European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage /
Europa Nostra Award in 2011.
Bronze Age Messana
During the Bronze Age the palace at
Pylos controlled Messenia
politically and economically. A
Linear B tablet from there, PY Cn 3,
mentions a region called Mezana in local
Mycenaean Greek (Linear B:
𐀕𐀼𐀙, me-za-na), from which groups of men named from places in
the Peloponnesus each contributed one ox (Linear B: 𐀦𐀃, qo-o;
also denoted by the BOS ideogram, i.e. 𐀘) to an official, possibly
a priest in the Zeus-sanctuary, named *Diwijeus (Linear B:
𐀇𐀹𐀋𐀸, di-wi-je-we DAT; the word could be, instead of an
anthroponym, an adjective meaning "priest in the Zeus-sanctuary").
These groups were members of the coast-watchers, a military or
quasi-military unit that presumably were stationed to guard various
locations on the coast. Their failure is attested by the burning of
Pylos a few months later by assailants unknown from the sea. The
watchers include some Olumpiaioi (Olympians) from Orumanthos (Mt.
Erymanthos). John Bennet expressed the opinion that by Mezana is meant
Mycenaean Greek form of Messene. He supposed that the
Ithome would already have had that name, to be
Epaminondas a thousand years later.
Messene restored by the Thebans
Reconstitution of the city
The ancient Stadion.
After the defeat of the Spartan army at the
Battle of Leuctra
Battle of Leuctra in
Boeotia, 371 BC, the helots of
Messenia revolted yet again against
their Spartan overlords. This time the victorious general,
Epaminondas, entered the Peloponnesus with an international army of
Argives and Messenians living abroad.
to support an independent Peloponnesus by building three fortified
cities, Megalopolis and
After all due care to obtain omens from the gods, make sacrifices and
invite the spirits of past rulers and heroes to live in Messene,
including Queen Messene,
Epaminondas invited construction engineers
and artisans from anywhere to join him. In 85 days the combined armies
and exiles guided by the engineers and artisans had complete the
walled city of
Messene over the site of the previous Ithome. The city
included within its walls Mt.
Ithome and enough agricultural land and
spring captures to withstand a siege indefinitely. The policy was
justified almost immediately. After the departure of the Theban army
the Spartans attempted to retake Messenia, which then allied itself
with the Macedonians. This time the long struggle with
brought to a final end by the Macedonian conquest of Greece.
After the departure of the allies the new city and the fate of
Messenian independence were left in the hands of the Messenian exiles,
who had returned primarily from Sicily and North Africa. Apparently
they had maintained a transitory community in exile, or diaspora, for
some 300 years. They spoke a Doric dialect. Pausanias reports, "even
to this day they preserve it in its purity better than anywhere else
in the Peloponnese." As the Arcadians are known to have spoken a
dialect closely related to Mycenaean Greek, the exiles restored were
not from the original Achaean refugees of the return of the
Heracleidae, but were the Doricised population that developed in the
7th century BC under the subsequently dispossessed Heraclid dynasty of
A watchtower in the circuit wall
Messene was surrounded by a circuit wall 9 km (5.6 mi) long,
7 metres (23 feet) — 9 metres (30 feet) high. It was fortified by
30 square or horseshoe-shaped guard towers (and probably barracks)
with doors admitting passage to a protected walkway on top of the
wall. The wall was pierced by two main gates flanked by protective
structures and rectangular in shape with a lintel of a single, massive
beam of limestone. Through the
Arcadia Gate to the north ran and still
runs the main road north (to Arcadia), currently from Mavromati. As
Mavromati is the location of the major spring capture, klepsydra, it
was probably first stop for travellers to the city. From there a road
runs over the ridge adjoining Mounts
Ithome and Eva to the Laconia
Gate, similar to the
Arcadia Gate. The wall runs straight up the ridge
but does not encompass Mount Eva. Today the next stop on the road is
the monastery, Mone Voulkanou, set into the lower southeast flank of
Public buildings and monuments
View of the Odeon.
Pausanias has left us a description of the city (iv. 3 1?33), its
chief temples and statues, its springs, its market-place and
gymnasium, the Asclepieion, its place of sacrifice, the tomb of
Aristomenes and the temple of
Zeus Ithomatas on the summit of
the acropolis with a statue by the famous Argive sculptor Ageladas,
originally made for the Messenian helots who had settled at Naupactus
at the close of the third Messenian War.
The other buildings which can be identified are the theatre, the
stadium, the council chamber or Bouleuterion, and the propylaeum of
the market, while on the shoulder of the mountain are the foundations
of a small temple, probably that of Artemis Laphria.
Alcaeus (3rd century BC), author of epigrams
Aristocles (1st century AD), peripatetic philosopher
Damophon (2nd century BC), sculptor
Euhemerus (4th century BC), mythographer
^ a b c "Απογραφή Πληθυσμού - Κατοικιών
2011. ΜΟΝΙΜΟΣ Πληθυσμός" (in Greek). Hellenic
^ η Βουλή 2010, p. 17436
^ Hellenic Interior Ministry 2001, Line 6819.
^ Themelis & 2009/2010, p. 29.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-06-01. Retrieved
^ "BOS". Raymoure, K.A. "di-wi-je-u". Minoan Linear A &
Mycenaean Linear B. Deaditerranean. "PY 3 Cn (1)". DĀMOS:
Database of Mycenaean at Oslo. University of Oslo.
^ Bennet, John (1998), "The
Linear B Archives and the Kingdom of
Nestor", in Davis, Jack L, Sandy Pylos: an Archaeological History from
Nestor to Navarino, Austin: University of Texas Press,
^ a b This section relies heavily on Pausanias, Guide to Greece, Book
IV, Sections 4.27.5-9, as elucidated by Alcock, Susan E (1998),
"Chapter 7 Liberation and Conquest: Hellenistic and Roman Messenia",
in Davis, Jack L, Sandy Pylos: an Archaeological History from Nestor
to Navarino, Austin: University of Texas Press,
^ Warfare in the Classical World by John Warry
^ Pausanias, IV.27.11.
^ Sideris A., Roussou M. and A. Gaitatzes, "The virtual reconstruction
of the Hellenistic Asclepieion of Messene", Imeros 4, 2004, pp.
Hellenic Interior Ministry (18 March 2001). Δείτε τη
Διοικητική Διαίρεση (in Greek). Hellenic Interior
Ministry. . The previous Kapodistrias organization of all the
communities in Greece. The populations are from the Census of 2001.
η Βουλή (11 August 2010), "ΤΕΥΧΟΣ ΔΕΥΤΕΡΟ",
ΝΟΜΟΣ ΥΠ’ΑΡΙΘ. 3852: Νέα Αρχιτεκτονική
της Αυτοδιοίκησης και της
Αποκεντρωμένης Διοίκησης − Πρόγραμμα
Καλλικράτης (PDF) (in Greek), ΕΦΗΜΕΡΙΣ ΤΗΣ
ΚΥΒΕΡΝΗΣΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ
ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑΣ . Part 2 of the Kallicratis Plan law, No.
3852, by the Hellenic Parliament (Βουλή), publishing a table of
all the official communities of
Greece arranged in hierarchical order.
The lowest-level populations are from the Census of 2001. All
higher-level populations are the sums of the appropriate lower-level
Themelis, Petros G (2010) . "Ancient Messene: An Important Site
in SW Peloponnesus" (PDF). The Australian Archaeological Institute at
Athens Bulletin. 7: 28–37.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Messene.
Wikisource has the text of the 1913
Catholic Encyclopedia article
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
"Ancient Messene" (in Greek and English). Society of Messenian
Archaeological Studies. Archived from the original on 28 February
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"Ancient Messene". Messenia.
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Messene". Panoramio. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
Messene Map". Planetware. 1995–2011.
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This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Messene".
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Subdivisions of the municipality of Messini
Municipal unit of Aipeia
Municipal unit of Androusa
Municipal unit of Aristomenis
Municipal unit of Ithomi
Municipal unit of Messini
Municipal unit of Petalidi
Municipal unit of Trikorfo
Municipal unit of Voufrades