- 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.
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Fodor's Go List 2014: Where we are going in 2014
- World Cup Fever: Start planning your trip to Brazil!
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
My film "I Follow Apollo” presents the highlights of Greece, including Athens, Olympia, Meteora, Sparta, the Byzantine Empire, and a cruise to the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, & Rhodes, Read more
Greek Islands in November on Constelation, weather great, should have been memorable for good things.
After sailing on Infiniti last year and really enjoying it we booked this cruise, would have though Read more
Thanks in advance for all your help.
I'm turning 40 in a few weeks and decided I want to head to Europe for two or three weeks. I've been to Turkey, Bulgaria, UK, France. I want to explore some new areas. Read more
· News & Features
Ask around and most people will tell you to spend as short a layover as possible in Athens before booking ... Read more
With the Aegean Sea as its backdrop, Greece serves a heavy hand of magical Mediterranean living.... Read more
A week in the Greek isles?... Read more