Peloponnese Road Trip – Ancient Messene

We left Nafplio and headed to the coast where we stayed in a little town called Marathopoli. One of our first adventures was to the city of Ancient Messene about 60 km North of Kalamata. Ancient Messene was built on the ruins of Ithome around 369BC.

Colleen walks up the steps of a 2300 year old stadium

The modern town of Messene in the background

The Theatre

The first site to see is the Theatre and Theatre Quarters which includes the remnants of a wall that was the Bishop’s house dating from the 3rd or 4th century AD.

The remnants of a Religious house overlooking the theatre
The Theatre is 98m wide and still in use today

Byzantine Church

The Basilica of Messene, built in the 7th Century, was 16m x 38m in size. The Franks also used the Church as a burial site.

A marble seat from the old Church

The Meat Market

Established in 3rd Century BC it was in continual use until the 4th Century AD.

The block stone where animals were slaughtered at market
A decorative carving of an lion
This piece was originally on top of a number of columns. The Lion heads are water spouts and the whole piece is made of limestone.

The Treasury

Subterranean chamber built of rectangular stone blocks firmly fastened with iron dowels and lead. It was hermetically covered over with two super-imposed rows of elaborately worked stones with a 1.2m x 1.2m opening in the middle covered by a 1.5 ton lid. The chamber is mentioned in literary sources as the ‘Treasury in which the renown general of the Achaean League Philopoimen from Megalopolis was imprisioned in 183/2 BC and poisoned by the Messenian general Deinokrates and his followers, fanatic members of the anti-Achaean party. (from the site description)

A safe or a prison – take your pick
The inside of the safe
Ben taking a tactical bound in the Ancient City

The Stadium

The most impressive site of Ancient Messene is the Stadium and Gymnasium which is one large unit.

19 sections of 18 rows of stone seats. The site was used for Greek athletic activities and in the later Roman period for gladiator and animal fights.
Ben sits in the primary seat
Waiting for the games to begin – 2000 years too late
The Western Stoa (columns) is 110m long. Many of the columns would have had statues of eminent citizens and officials.
The Palaestra
The Propylon (Entrance) close to where a statue of the Athenian Hero Theseus was uncovered.
Base of a limestone monument (memorial for fallen warriors) from the 3rd century BC. Each side at the base had a shield in relief.
My Captain Kirk impersonation in front of the Mausoleum of the Saithidae Family (an important family from the 1st to 3rd Century AD who were High Priests and Governors of the Province of Achaia under the Roman rule.
Tiled courtyard
Ben the Thinker
Hannah performs a soliloquy in the Ekklesiasterion. The theatre originally used for cultic performances and political gatherings.
Ruins of the Fountain house and the North Agora (market area)

The Arcadian Gate

The entrance into Messene from Arcadia was through the Arcadian Gate, a fabulous structure consisting of a circular entryway, a long walled extending up the Mountain and two towers.

Ben trying to fix the Arcadian Gate
Hannah poses at the Arcadian Gate
Looking down at the Arcadian Gate and one of the Tower Keeps
The Arcadian Gate which is now a road
The stone columns are huge
Our car at the bottom of the hill on the road
Emma poses for a picture
No I am not in Barcelona – just wearing the T-shirt
Hannah after climbing up to the window of the Fortress Tower – about 30 feet in the air

The Drive Home

Normally Google maps is your friend and the route it chose had us going towards Arcadia. Seems simple enough except the road slowly turned into a dirt road into a sheep track. We drove back the way we came to avoid damage to the car. Once we turned around we made it down to a local village where we hit afternoon rush hour – those sheep just want to get home!

Trying to turn around

Traffic Jam

Ancient Messene – Worth a Visit

Very few tourists and great structures that are still in tact with good signage. We saw, touched and enjoyed the history of this ancient area. If you do go, the Museum closes at 4pm (16:00) so plan your time accordingly – we unfortunately spent so much time walking around that we missed the Museum.

One Reply to “Peloponnese Road Trip – Ancient Messene”

  1. Very cool. That site must have been impressive in its youth. I like the pics and videos. Keep them coming! Ben, were the rocks that heavy? They looked heavy.

    Capt. Kirk indeed!.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *