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.
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 Basilica of Messene, built in the 7th Century, was 16m x 38m in size. The Franks also used the Church as a burial site.
The Meat Market
Established in 3rd Century BC it was in continual use until the 4th Century AD.
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)
The most impressive site of Ancient Messene is the Stadium and Gymnasium which is one large unit.
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.
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!
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.