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At the foot of the Taygettus range on the northeastern edge of the Mani, Gythion seems terribly cosmopolitan, compared to the stark countryside that surrounds it. Graceful pastel 19th-century houses march up the steep hillside and line the busy harbor, where a fishing fleet bobs alongside ouzeri and little shops. As Laconia's main port, Gythian is the region's gateway to the Mani peninsula.
It claims Hercules and Apollo as its founders, and survives today by exporting olives, oil, rice, and citrus fruits. Kranae, a tiny islet at the eastern end of the harbor, is where Paris and Helen (wife of the Mycenaean king Menelaos) allegedly consummated their love affair after escaping Sparta, provoking the Trojan War described in the Iliad. A causeway now joins Marathonissi to the mainland.
West of the isthmus, the countryside opens up into a low-lying coastal plain around the head of the gulf of Corinth. Modern Corinth, near the...