Ancient Messene, also known as Ithomi, is located in southern mainland Greece, in the south west Peloponnese prefecture of Messenia. It is 32 kilometres northwest of Kalamata.
Situated on the fertile foothills of Mount Ithomi, just below the stone houses of the charming traditional village of Mavromati, Ancient Messene was founded in 369 B.C as the capital of liberated Messenia by the Theban general Epaminondas, who defeated the Spartans two years earlier at the battle at Leuktra.
It is said the city was built in 80 days and it follows the Hippodamian system in town planning.
The vast archaeological site has been largely excavated and restored to a point by the Archaeological Society of Athens and is one of most impressive sites in Greece; however it’s not very well known to most travellers in the region.
Highlights are the wonderfully restored Theatre, the Stadium and Gymnasium architectural complex, the 2nd century BC Hellenistic Sanctuary of Asclepius, the political and religious heart of the city and the 9 kilometres long circuit wall, made of enormous limestone blocks and with battlement towers built during the 4th century BC to protect the city.
The archaeological site of ancient Messene is on the UNSECO Tentative List, which consists of properties considered to be cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription on the World Heritage List.
All text, images and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.