- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Ancient Messene Review
In terms of footprints, this is one of the most awe-inspiring sites of ancient Greece, thanks to mile-long bulwark walls, famed entry gates, and vast theater arenas. If, vertically, this offers a good deal more than the usual ankle-high array of excavated structures, it is horizontally that Ancient Messene is mightily impressive: one temple alone, the Asklepion, was thought to be an entire town by archaeologists until recently (see www.ancientmessene.gr for an excellent scholarly take on the site). The ruins of Ancient Messene, about 20 km (12 mi) north of the modern city of the same name, are set amid a lush landscape of olive groves and pine forests on the slopes of majestic Mt. Ithomi (also known as Voulkanos). Epaminondas, the Theban leader, built Ancient Messene, which today incorporates the village of Mavromati, in 370-369 BC as a defense against the Spartans, whom the Messenians had battled during two Messenian Wars, in 743-724 BC and 650-620 BC.
The most striking aspect of the ruins is the city's circuit wall, a feat of defensive architecture that rises and dips across the hillsides for an astonishing 9 km (5½ mi). Four gates remain; the best preserved is the north or Arcadian Gate, a double set of gates separated by a round courtyard. On the ancient paving stone below the arch, grooves worn by chariot wheels are still visible. The heart of the walled city is now occupied by the modern village, but excavations have uncovered the most important public buildings, including a theater, whose seats have now been restored; the Synedrion, a meeting hall for representatives of independent Messene; the Sebasteion, dedicated to worship of a Roman emperor; the sanctuary to the god Asklepios; and a temple to Artemis Orthia. Outside the walls lie a stadium and a cemetery. The site is a bit confusing, as the ruins are spread over the hillside and approached from different paths; follow the signposts indicating the theater, gates, and other major excavations. Some of the finds are in the village's small museum. After exploring the ruins, enjoy a beverage in one of the tavernas that surround the main square of Mavromati.
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
My husband, one daughter, and I arrived in Athens for a long weekend in the middle of the night. Read more
We had a fantastic trip to Cyprus, Rome and Athens, thanks in large part to the wonderful advice I received from Fodorites. Read more
My boyfriend and I are both wanting to plan a backpacking trip to Europe i want to spend some time everywhere and see everything. Read more
· News & Features
Author and Greek culinary guru Henriette Lazaridis Power peels back the curtain on some of the best Greek... Read more
Honeymoons are the chance to take the adventure of a lifetime.... Read more
These hotels have a problem with commitment.... Read more