Ancient Messini-Ithomi. The town was built by the combined Theban and Argive armies and the exiled Messenians (Messenians trace themselves to the Mycenia) who had been invited to return and found a state which should be independent of Spartan rule. The site was chosen by Epaminondas and lay on the western slope of the mountain which dominates the Messenian plain and culminates in the two peaks of Ithome and Eua. The former of these (740 m or 2,630 ft) served as the acropolis, and was included within the same system of fortifications as the lower city.
But what chiefly excited his wonder was the strength of its fortifications, which excelled all those of the Greek world. Of the wall, some 5 miles (8 km) in extent, considerable portions yet remain, especially on the north and north-west, and almost the entire circuit can still be traced, affording the finest extant example of Greek fortification.
The wall is flanked by towers about 31ft (9 m) high set at irregular intervals: these have two stories with loopholes in the lower and windows in the upper, and are entered by doors on a level with the top of the wall which is reached by flights of steps. Of the gates only two can be located, the eastern or Laconian, situated on the eastern side of the saddle uniting Ithome and Eua, and the northern or Arcadian
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Messeni was surrounded by a circuit wall 9 km (5.6 mi) long, 7 meters (23 feet) — 9 meters (30 feet) high. It was fortified by 30 square or horseshoe-shaped guard towers (and probably barracks) with doors admitting passage to a protected walkway on top of the wall. The wall was pierced by two main gates flanked by protective structures and rectangular in shape with a lintel of a single, massive beam of limestone. Through the Arcadia Gate to the north ran and still runs the main road north (to Arcadia), currently from Mavromati. As Mavromati is the location of the major spring capture, klepsydra, it was probably first stop for travelers to the city. From there a road runs over the ridge adjoining Mounts Ithome and Eva to the Laconia Gate, similar to the Arcadia Gate. The wall runs straight up the ridge but does not encompass Mount Eva.
ARCADIAN GATE. Of the former but little remains: the latter, however, is excellently preserved and consists of a circular court about 20 yd (18 m) in diameter with inner and outer gates, the latter flanked by square towers some 11 yd (10 m) apart. The lintel of the inner gate was formed by a single stone 18 ft 8 in (5.7 m) in length, and the masonry of the circular court is of astonishing beauty and accuracy.
The Ithomi was an ancient fort in the region of Messinia, in south-west Peloponnese. At the top of the homonymous mountain at a height of 805 meters. The mountain was dedicated to Zeus the Ithomata because of several lightning bolts that fell there, and was on top of an altar. The fortress of Ithomi played an important role in A' Messinian War in the late 7th century BC, between Messenia and Sparta. The fort was the last bastion of Messinia and was finally leveled after a heroic siege. In the next few years Ithomi had a symbolic role at the heart of conquered Messenia.
Public buildings and monuments
Pausanias has left us a description of the city (iv. 3 1?33), its chief temples and statues, its springs, its market-place and gymnasium, the Asclepieion, its place of sacrifice, the tomb of the hero Aristomenes and the temple of Zeus Ithomatas on the summit of the acropolis with a statue by the famous Argive sculptor Ageladas, originally made for the Messenian helots who had settled at Naupactus at the close of the third Messenian War. The other buildings which can be identified are the theatre, the stadium, the council chamber or Bouleuterion, and the propylaeum of the market.
ANCIENT MESSINI / ITHOMI - ASCLEPIEION
Asklepieion complex: Temple of Asklepios and Hygeia. It's a peripteros, doric temple. It was destroyed by an unknown reason and it was rebuilt of a local though stone. A small theatre-odeion belongs to the Asklepieion complex. An inscription was found and it informs us that the building was found and it informs us that the building was called "Decterion". It was a room for rhetorical displays and assemblies. Bouleuterion: A rectangular almost square room which belongs to the Asklepieion complex too. Its dimensions are: 19x18.30m. There are two entrances at the west side of the building.
ANCIENT MESSINI / ITHOMI - DECTERION
In 464 BC after a devastating earthquake in Laconia enslaved Messenians revolted, fleeing again to Ithomi, rebuilding fortifications and then resisting for many years before surrendering. With the support and assistance of the Athenians they settled in Nafpaktos. After the victory of Athens over Sparta in 426 B.C at Pilos and Sfaktiria a lot of Messenians settled there. Perhaps that was when Nike of Paioniou was devoted to Olympia. The Athenian dominance in Pilos remained until 421B.C and then the Messenians were transported by the Athenians to settle in Kephalonia. In 369 BC the Theban Epaminondas at the Battle of Leuktra, liberated the area from the Spartan influence and chose Ithomi to build a new city, Messini.
After the defeat of the Spartan army at the Battle of Leuctra in Boeotia, 371 BC, the helots of Messenia revolted yet again against their Spartan overlords. This time the victorious general, Epaminondas, entered the Peloponnese with an international army of Boeotian's, Argives and Messenians living abroad. Epaminondas resolved to support an independent Peloponnese by building three fortified cities, Megalopolis and Mantinea in Arcadia and Messene in Messenia. After all due care to obtain omens from the gods, make sacrifices and invite the spirits of past rulers and heroes to live in Messene, including Queen Messene, Epaminondas invited construction engineers and artisans from anywhere to join him. In 85 days the combined armies and exiles guided by the engineers and artisans had complete the walled city of Messene over the site of the previous Ithome.
The city included within its walls Mt. Ithome and enough agricultural land and spring captures to withstand a siege indefinitely. The policy was justified almost immediately. After the departure of the Theban army the Spartans attempted to retake Messenia, which then allied itself with the Macedonians. This time the long struggle with Sparta was brought to a final end by the Macedonian conquest of Greece.
ANCIENT MESSINI / ITHOMI - THEATER
ANCIENT MESSINI / ITHOMI - STADIUM
Stadium and Gymnasium are among the most impressive building blocks of Ancient Messini because of their good condition. The stadium includes 18 bleachers with 18 rows of seats, separated by staircases and surrounded by Doric stoas.
Ancient Messini is excavated and gradually revealed since the time of the Revolution and because of its size, but also of its importance, it gives great information about the glorious past. It is a rare archaeological site, where the visitor is impressed by viewing temples, houses, walls and public buildings, preserved in both high altitude and good condition.
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ANCIENT MESSINI / ITHOMI - GYMNASIUM
Pausanias has left us a description of the city (iv. 3 1?33), its chief temples and statues, its springs, its market-place and gymnasium, its place of sacrifice, the tomb of the hero Aristomenes and the temple of Zeus Ithomatas on the summit of the acropolis with a statue by the famous Argive sculptor Ageladas, originally made for the Messenian helots who had settled at Naupactus at the close of the third Messenian War.
Daily: Visit Ancient Messini or combined with other sites. Please read our Touring/Info*
Sites & Museums: Summer: daily, 8.00 to 20.00 pm. Winter: 8.00 to 17.00 approx. Last entry 30 min before closing.
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Closed on Holidays: January 1st. , March 25th, May 1st, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. On Good Friday, the sites are open 12.00 - 17.00.
Highlights of Ancient Messini/ Ithomi
Arcadian Gate, Walls and Towers