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Nestor's Palace Review
Nestor's Palace belonged to the king of Pylos, who was the the commander, according to Homer, of the fleet of "ninety black ships" in the Trojan War. Nestor founded the town around 1300 BC. At the time, only Mycenae was larger. However, the palace was burned a century later. It was here, the Iliad recounts, that Telemachus came to ask for news of his father, Odysseus, from Nestor, who welcomed the young man to a feast at the palace. Archaeologists believe the complex, excavated in 1952, was similar to those found in Crete and Mycenae, except that it was unfortified, an indication that surrounding towns had sworn strict allegiance to, and depended economically on, Pylos. Most of the palace rooms are clearly marked, but it's a good idea to buy the guidebook (available at the site) from the University of Cincinnati, whose archaeologists excavated the site. The illustrations will help you imagine the palace in its original glory, which is indicated by the sheer size of the foundations and wall fragments. Even in its ruined state, the palace is highly evocative, and you may well sense the presence of old King Nestor, who allegedly lived to be 100, walking among the rooms.
In the main building, a simple entrance gate is flanked by a guard chamber and two archives, where 1,250 palm-leaf-shaped tablets were discovered on the first day of excavation. The tablets—records of taxes, armament expenses, and debts in Linear B script—were the first such unearthed on the Greek mainland, thus linking the Mycenaean and Minoan (Cretan) civilizations. The writing (like that in Knossos) was definitely Greek.
The entrance gate opens into a spacious courtyard with a balcony, where spectators could watch the royal ceremonies. To the left are a storeroom that yielded thousands of tall-stemmed vases and a waiting room with built-in benches. Beyond the courtyard a porch of the royal apartments and a vestibule open onto a richly decorated throne room. In the middle of the room is a ceremonial hearth surrounded by four wooden columns (only the stone bases remain) that probably supported a shaft. Now completely destroyed, the throne once stood in the center of the wall to the right. Each frescoed wall depicted a different subject, such as a griffin (possibly the royal emblem) or a minstrel strumming his lyre. Even the columns and the wooden ceiling were painted. Along the southern edge of the throne room were seven storerooms for oil, which together with the one on the floor immediately above fueled the fire that destroyed the palace.
Off a corridor to the right of the entrance are a bathroom, where the oldest known bathtub stands, along with jars used for collecting bathwater and steps that allowed Nestor to climb into the tub. Next to it are the queen's apartments. In the largest room a hearth is adorned with a painted flame, the walls with hunting scenes of lions and panthers. Other rooms in the complex include the throne room from an earlier palace, a shrine, workshops, and a conduit that brought water from a nearby spring. Several beehive tombs were also found outside the palace.
- Address: On highway south of Chora, Kalamata, 24001
- Phone: 27630/31437
- Cost: €3
- Hours: Tues.–Sat. 8:30–3
- Location: Ancient Messene
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