The ancient city of Messini

The ancient city of Messini is located about 1 hour drive away from infinity blue villas on the way back to kalamata (you ll see a sign 10 kilometers before kalamata saying to go left for ancient messina and then its about 15 minutes more drive)

The remains of this vast ancient city are as extensive as those of Olympia and Epidavros, yet Ancient Messini receives only a fraction of their visitors. Picturesquely situated on a hillside below the village of Mavromati and still undergoing excavation, the site comprises a large theatre, an agora (marketplace), a vast Sanctuary of Asclepius and the most intact and impressive of all ancient Greek stadiums

Ancient Messini 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. Epaminondas himself helped to plan the fortifications, which were based on a massive wall that stretched 9km around the surrounding ridges and completely enclosed the town.

Apart from its defensive potential, Ancient Messini was also favoured by the gods. According to local myth, Zeus was born here – not Crete – and raised by the nymphs Neda and Ithomi, who bathed him in the same spring that gives the modern village its name.

The first construction you come across is the large amphitheatre, reconstructed for contemporary use. The path leads past the Fountain of Arsinoe building, which supplied the ancient city with water. The extensive columned remains next to it are the agora with the treasury in its southwest corner. The Greek general Philopoemen was held prisoner by the Messinians here in 183 BC and dispatched to the other world with poison.

Beyond is the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the spiritual centre that lay at the heart of the ancient city, consisting of a rectangular courtyard fringed with Corinthian columns. This extensive complex was centred on a Doric temple that once housed a golden statue of Ithomi. The modern awning west of the temple protects the artemision, where fragments of an enormous statue of Artemis Orthia were found. The structures to the east of the asclepion include the ekklesiasterion, which looks like a small amphitheatre but once acted as an assembly hall. Nearby are the remains of a Roman villa, the steel roof protecting the mosaic remains.

Head downhill to the large stadium, which is surrounded by a forest of columns. You can see where the Romans closed off part of the athletics track, turning it into a gladiator arena. On the left-hand side, near the arena, are the VIP seats – the ones with backs and with lion paws for legs. On the right-hand side, near the intact gate of the enormous gymnasium, are round holes in stone slabs – ingenious Roman public toilets positioned over a now dry stream.

The cube-like building near the toilets is a grave memorial to an important Messinian family, and the Doric temple at the far end of the stadium is a mausoleum of the Saithidae, a prominent Roman family.

Excavations and improvements are ongoing – including partial recreations of buildings – so you might be lucky enough to have a more expansive experience.

PRICE
adult/concession €12/6
HOURS
8am-8pm
CONTACT
http://www.ancientmessene.gr
27240 51201
LOCATION
Ancient Messini (Mavromati), Greece