Ancient Messini is one of the most significant ancient cities in terms of its size, structure and state of preservation and still has much to be discovered. Along with the sanctuaries and public buildings it has imposing fortifications, dwellings and burial sites. It has, amongst other things the rare advantage of never having been destroyed or covered by later settlements and sits in an unspoiled inland site in a natural Mediterranean environment. This natural environment combines the mountain grandeur of Delphi and the low riverside serenity of Olympia, the dominating bare limestone mass of Mount Ithome, the ancient acropolis and the low fertile plain spread below the ancient city.
One can easily reach the site by road from Athens along the Corinth - Tripoli - Megalopolis - Kalamata highway or via the Corinth - Patra - Pyrgos - Kyparissia Meligalas highway. From Olympia the site is about an hours drive.
The Stadium and Gymnasium of Ancient Messina
The Stadium and Gymnasium are amongst the most impressive and well preserved buildings on the site. The northern part of the horseshoe-shaped stadium contains 18 stands with 18 rows of seats separated by stairways. Surrounded by Doric stoas, whose columns are standing mostly in place. The northern arcade is double in form, whereas the east and the west are simple in form. The colonnades belong to the Gymnasium which together with the Stadium formed one single architectural ensemble. The western stoa terminated at the end of the track at a length of 110 meters from the northern end. At this point a Doric peristyle court is located which is identified as the palaistra.
Pedestals with honorary inscriptions, are located between the columns of the western stoa and used to hold the statues of gymnasiarchs (Gymnasium officials). Other inscriptions have also been found bearing lists of ephebes (youths). Behind the western colonnade was the sanctuary of Heracles and Hermes with their cult statues.
The Ancient Theatre of Messina
The first monument to be seen when descending from the museum to the archaeological site is the theatre. It was used for mass political gatherings. In this theatre the meeting was held between King Philipp V Macedon and Aratos the Sikyonian in 214B.C, the day following the revolt of the Messinian people. According to the testimony of Livius (39.49.6-12), many residents of Messina gathered in the theatre of the city and demanded that the great general of the Achaean League, Philopoimen from Megalopolis captured by the Messenians in 183B.C., be transferred there and exposed in plain view. The auditorium is based on an artificial embankment composed of a strong semi-circular retaining wall.
The fort like impression is emphasized by the arched entrances and ascending stairways. These elements and the fact that the retaining wall of the cavea is visible and accessible from the outside make the Theatre of Messene an exceptional building predictive of the theatres and amphitheatres of the Roman period.
A large part of the western retaining wall of the cavea survives. The wall is interrupted at regular intervals (by about 20 meters), by entrances with pitched arches which led via stairways to the upper corridor; from there, other stairways provided access to the orchestra and also defined the wedge-shaped divisions of seats. The exterior of the retaining wall is built in exactly the same way as the fortification walls and towers of the city.
The Palace of Nestor
The agricultural town of Hora, located 50 km from Kalamata, is known to all visitors as the archaeological area where the Upper Egklianou palaces of King Nestor were discovered (many compare them with Ancient Mycenae and Tiryns). Close by is the tholos tomb attributed to Nestor and his heir Thrasymidi. Findings from the palace and surrounding region that came to light by the excavations (approximately 4000 years of archaeological finds) can be found in the Archaeological Museum of Hora.
On the Upper Egklianou hill, 4 kilometres south of Hora, the palace was found that is said to be the Palace of Nestor. The excavations started in 1939, and were completed after the Second World War, brought to light earlier ruins from the Palace. The city and the Palace were destroyed in 1200 B.C., probably during the invasion of the Dorians.
The Palace of Nestor just14 km from Pylos, is among the most important monuments of Mycenaean Greece, because it is the only Mycenaean Palace which is in such good condition. The palaces were built in the 13th century B.C. by King Nestor (son of Neleus) who took part in the Trojan War with ninety ships. Ancient Pylos was the second biggest city of the Mycenaean world, after Mycenae, and King Nestor is portrayed as one of the most respected characters in the Homeric epics. The surrounding landscape was calm and the the Palace was not fortified, unlike the other Mycenaean settlements. The palace was almost completely destroyed in the early twelfth century, by fire and never reconstructed. The fire had an extremely positive result; it baked many ceramic tablets thus saving approximately 1200 texts with rare information on the economy, society, worship etc. of the Mycenaean times.
Heinrich Schliemann had made inquiries in the area in 1888, but didnt manage to find the palace of Nestor. In 1912 and 1926 the archaeologist Kountouriotis discovered two Tholos tombs that Carl Blegen felt were royalist. In 1939 Kountouriotis identified the location of the prehistoric royal Palace and the excavation was continued and completed by the American archaeologist Carl Blegen. For 10 days they made excavations in 8 locations and found Mycenaean vases. On the 4th of April they had already found parts of murals, tablets with Linear B (these tablets, which are reminiscent of palm leaves, 1250 in total, were decoded in 1952 by the architect Michael Ventris and the classical scholar John Chadwick, giving us practical information on life in prehistoric Pylos), and one meter thick walls This stage of the excavations continued until 10th May, revealing much of the Palace.
By studying the texts of more than 1100 tablets of Linear B, that were found in the palace complex, the decryption of the Linear B script by Michael Ventris gave abundant evidence of the strong industrial and commercial activity of the area with the Palace at its centre.
The excavations were stopped at the start of the Second World War until 1952. The palace complex consists of four main buildings, which have dozens of partitions. After the discovery of the throne room, Blegen called the site the Palace of Nestor. Gradually the ruins of a wealthy 2 floored edifice came to light and other two auxiliary buildings, spread half way over the plateau of Egkliano. Around the Palace Tholos graves have been excavated with remarkable objects, the closest being found at a distance of 80 metres from the Central Palace.
The Palace is a complex of buildings with a total of 105 ground floor apartments and other public spaces. It consists of four main buildings (western, central, northeast & wine warehouse), as well as some smaller buildings. The most important part is a large rectangular Crown Room" with a circular hearth, also the bathroom with its clay bathtub and warehouses with numerous storage vessels.
Temple of Apollo Epikourios
On the bare rocky slopes of Mount Kotilio stands one of the most important and imposing temples of antiquity, dedicated to Apollo Epikourios ("Apollo the Helper").. The temple is situated in a prominent position and is on the U.N.E.S.C.O. list of World Cultural Heritage sites along with the Egyptian Pyramids, the Parthenon and other monuments worldwide.
The Temple of Apollo Epikourios is one of the best surviving monuments of classical antiquity. In particular, it is the best preserved after the Temple of Hephaestus's in Athens. Of all the temples in the Peloponnese, after the Temple of Tegea, it could take first place for the quality of its marble and its harmonious ensemble.
The temple was dedicated to Apollo Epikourios by the inhabitants of Figalia because they overcame a plague epidemic. The inhabitants of Figalia had erected a temple in honour of Apollo Vassita in the 7th century B.C., and worshipped him with the name Epicure supporter in war or illness. He was given the name Epicurean during the wars against the Spartans around 650 B.C. The final Temple was built during the second half of the 5th century BC (420-410) by Iktino who was also the architect of the Parthenon and for this reason is sometimes referred to as the Parthenons Twin.
The construction managed to combine many iconographic characteristics that showed the conservative religious tradition of the Acadians embracing the new features of the classical era. Characterised by a multitude of both original outer and internal fittings which make it a unique monument in the history of ancient Greek architecture. Is has a Doric pavilion from local limestone. The columns combine the harmony of all the known styles of antiquity (Ionic, Corinthian, Doric) and the frieze of the temple is a real masterpiece, with plain metopes and triglyphs (part of which was broken up in 1814 and is now exhibited at the British Museum in London) is the work of the sculptor of antiquity, Alkamenes.
The temple has been preserved since the beginning of the century by the department of Archaeology. Since 1965, and systematically since 1982, the Ministry of culture has taken on the difficult task of maintenance and protection of the monument. The canopy, which protects the sensitive building materials from the extreme weather conditions in the region, the anti-seismic scaffolding and other facilities are intended to be temporary but will stay in place as long as required by the rescue work.
The imposing temple measuring 2,075m lies in the centre of the Peloponnese, in the mountains between Ilia, Messinia and Arkadia. Situated 14 km south of Andritsena and 11 km northeast of Perivolia. The archaeological area of the temple can be easily reached:
-From the provincial road that connects Kalamata with Diavolitsi (after Diavolitsi you come to the village Kato Melpia, where signs show that the temple is a further 40km. Following a captivating journey you are directed to the village of Sklirou near the temple.)