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Messenia within Greece
|• Total||2,991 km2 (1,155 sq mi)|
|• Density||53/km2 (140/sq mi)|
|Postal codes||24x xx|
|Area codes||272x0, 276x0|
|ISO 3166 code||GR-17|
Messenia (Greek: Μεσσηνία Messinia pronounced [mesiˈnia]) is a regional unit (perifereiaki enotita) in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese, one of 13 regions into which Greece has been divided by the Kallikratis plan, implemented 1 January 2011. Before 2011 Messenia was a nomos (prefecture). The capital and the biggest city of Messenia in either case has been the city of Kalamata.
Messenia borders on Elis to the north, Arcadia to the northeast, and Laconia to the southeast. The Ionian Sea lies to the west, and the Gulf of Messenia to the south. The most important mountain ranges are the Taygetus in the east, the Kyparissia mountains in the northwest and the Lykodimo in the southwest. The main rivers are the Neda in the north and the Pamisos in central Messenia.
Off the south coast of the southwesternmost point of Messenia lie the Messenian Oinousses islands. The largest of these are Sapientza, Schiza and Venetiko. The small island Sphacteria closes off the bay of Pylos. All these islands are virtually uninhabited.
Climate may vary, in the lowlands, temperatures are a bit warmer than Athens. Snow is not common during winter months except for the mountains especially the Taygetus. Rain and clouds are common inland.
Reorganization of Messenia
Before the 2010 reorganization, Messenia was a nomos (prefecture) containing 29 dimoi (municipalities) and 2 koinotites (communities). The total population, based on the 2001 census was 176,876. Since 2010, Messenia has been a perifereiake enoteta (regional unit) containing only 6 municipalities, but still with a population of 176,876; i.e., Messenia did not change area in the reorganization. Some 25 municipalities and communities were incorporated politically into the other 6 according to the table below.
|New municipality||Old municipalities||Seat|
The main cities and towns of Messenia are (ranked by 2011 census population):
- Kalamata 54,567
- Filiatra 6,791
- Messini 6,287
- Kyparissia 5,784
- Gargalianoi 5,569
- Chora (Nestoras) 3,498
- Pylos 2,767
The economy of Messenia is primarily based on agricultural production although in recent years efforts are being made toward the development of activities in other sectors such as tourism.
Main agricultural products are olive oil, Kalamata table olives, figs, and black raisins (sultanas). The variety of agricultural products is complemented by a small amount of stockbreeding products (beef, milk, sfela cheese, honey) and fish from the Gulf of Messenia.
The tourist development observed is mainly attributable to the promotion of important archaeological sites, such as the Palace of Nestor, Ancient Messene, and the Venetian castles of Pylos, Koroni, Methoni and Kalamata, as well as to the beauty of the landscape. Another key factor for Messenia's economy is Costa Navarino, comprising several eco-friendly luxury resorts and golf courses, which is Greece’s biggest tourist development. 
There are many small- and medium-size firms involved in the processing and standardization of agricultural products as well as a number of enterprises devoted to wood processing, furniture manufacturing, and metal construction. The Karelia tobacco company is based in Kalamata.
The main airport in Messenia is Kalamata International Airport (KLX).
The main highways in Messenia are:
- Greek National Road 7 (Corinth - Tripoli - Kalamata)
- Greek National Road 9 (Patras - Pyrgos - Kyparissia - Pylos)
- Greek National Road 82 (Pylos - Kalamata - Sparti)
The main railways in Messenia are:
- Corinth - Argos - Tripoli - Zevgolateio - Kalamata
- Patras - Pyrgos - Kalo Nero - Kyparissia
- Kalo Nero - Zevgolateio
MESSE´NIA (Μεσσηνία, Herod., Thuc.; in older writers, Μεσσήνη, Hom. Od. 21.15; Μεσσάα, Pind. Pyth. 4.126; shortened Μέσση, Μέση, Steph. B. sub voce Μεσσηνία; Μεσσηνὶς γῆ, Thuc. 4.41: Eth. and Adj. Μεσσήνιος: Adj. Μεσσηνιακός), the south-westerly district of Peloponnesus, bounded on the east by Laconia, on the north by Elis and Arcadia, and on the south and west by the sea. It was separated from Laconia by Mt. Taÿgetus, but part of the western slope of this mountain belonged to Laconia, and the exact boundary between the two states, which varied at different times, will be mentioned presently. Its southern frontier was the knot of mountains, which form the watershed of the rivers Neda, Pamisus and Alpheius. On the south it was washed by the Messenian gulf (ὁ Μεσσηνιακὸς κόλπος, Strab. viii. p.335), called also the Coronaean or Asinaean gulf, from the towns of Corone or Asine, on its western shore, now the Gulf of Koroni. On the east it was bounded by the Sicilian or Ionian sea. The area of Messenia, as calculated by Clinton, from Arrowsmith's map is 1162 square miles. [p. 2.341]
I. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY.
Messenia, in its general features, resembles Laconia. The Pamisus in Messenia, like the Eurotas in Laconia, flows through the entire length of the country, from north to south, and forms its most cultivated and fertile plains. But these plains are much larger than those in Laconia, and constitute a considerable portion of the whole country ; while the mountains on the western coast of Messenia are much less rugged than on the eastern coast of Laconia, and contain a larger proportion of fertile land. Hence the rich plains of Messenia are often contrasted with the sterile and rugged soil of Laconia; and the climate of the former country is praised by the ancients, as temperate and soft, in comparison with that of the latter. The basin of the Pamisus is divided into two distinct parts, which are separated from each other on the east by a ridge of mountains extending from Mt. Taÿgetus to the Pamisus, and on the west by Mrt. Ithome. The upper part, called the plain of Stenyclerus or Stenyclarus (τὸ Στενυκληρικὸν πεδίον), is of small extent and moderate fertility, and is entirely shut in by mountains. The lower plain, which opens to the Messenian gulf, is much more extensive, and was sometimes called Macaria (Μακαρία), or the “Blessed,” on account of its surprising fertility. (Strab. viii. p.361.) It was, doubtless, to this district that Euripides referred, when he described the excellence of the Messenian soil as too great for words to explain, and the land as watered by innumerable streams, abounding in fruits and flocks ; neither too hot in summer, nor too cold in winter. (Eurip. ap. Strab. viii. p.366.) Even in the present day, although a part of the plain has become marshy by neglecting the embankments of the Pamisus, it is described by travellers as the most fertile district in the Peloponnesus. It now produces oil, silk, figs, wheat, maize, cotton, wine, and honey, and presents as rich a cultivation as can well be imagined. (Leake, Morea, vol. i. pp. 347, 352.) Besides the Pamisus, numerous other streams and copious perennial springs gush in all directions from the base of the mountains. The most remarkable feature on the western coast is the deep bay of Pylos, now called Navaríno, which is the best, and indeed the only really good harbour in the Peloponnesus.
II. MOUNTAINS, PROMONTORIES, RIVERS, AND ISLANDS.
The upper plain, in which are the. sources of the Pamisus, was the original abode of the Messenians, and the stronghold of the nation. Here was Andania, the capital of the most ancient Messenian kings. Thither the Messenians retreated, as often as they were overpowered by their enemies in the lower plains, for here were their two great natural fortresses, Ithome and Eira, the former commanding the entrance to the lower plain, and the latter situated in the mountains, which rise in the northern part of the upper plain. These mountains, now called Tetrázi, form, as has been already said, the watershed of the rivers Neda, Pamisus, and Alpheius. From this central ridge, which is 4554 feet high, a chain extends towards the west, along the banks of the Neda, and is also prolonged towards the south, forming the mountains of the western peninsula, and terminating at the promontory Acritas. From the same central ridge of Tetrázi, another chain extends towards the east, dividing the Messenian plain from the upper basin of the Alpheius, and then uniting with Mount Taÿgetus, and forming the harrier between the basins of the lower Pamisus and the Eurotas. These two mountain chains, which, issuing from the same point, almost meet about half-way between Mount Tatrázi and the sea, leave only a narrow defile through which the waters of the Pamisus force their way from the upper to the lower plain. South of this defile the mountains again retire to the east and west, leaving a wide opening for the lower plain, which has been already described. Scarcely in any part of Greece have the names of the ancient mountains been so little preserved as in Messenia. Tetrázi was perhaps the mountains of Eira. The eastern continuation of Tetrázi, now named Makryplái, formed part of the ancient Mt. Nomia. (Νομία ὄρη, Paus. 8.38.11.) The western prolongation of Tetrázi along the banks of the Neda was called ELAEUM (Ἐλάϊον), now Kuvela, and was partly in the territories of Phigalia. (Paus. 8.41.7.) The mountains ITHOME and EVAN are so closely connected with the city of Messene that they are described under that head. [MESSENE] In the southern chain extending down the western peninsula, the names only of Aegaleum, Buphras, Tomeus or Mathia, and Temathia have been preserved. AEGALEUM (Αἰγαλέον) appears to have been the name of the long and lofty ridge, running parallel to the western shore between Cyparissia and Coryphasium (Pylos); since Strabo places the Messenian Pylos at the foot of Mt. Aegaleum (viii. p. 359; Leake, Morea, vol. i. pp. 426, 427). BUPHRAS (ἡ Βουφράς) and TOMEUS (ὁ Τομεύς) are mentioned by Thucydides (4.118) as points near Coryphasium (Pylos), beyond which the Lacedaemonian garrison in the latter place were not to pass. That they were mountains we may conclude from the statement of Stephanus B., who speaks of the Τομαῖον ὄρος near Coryphasium. (Steph. B. sub voce Τομεύς.) TEMATHIA (Τημαθία), or MATHIA (Μαθία, the reading is doubtful), was situated, according to Pausanias (4.34.4), at the foot of Corone, and must therefore correspond to Lykódimo, which rises to the height of 3140 feet, and is prolonged southward in a gradually falling ridge till it terminates in the promontory Acritas.
Of these only four are mentioned by name,--ACRITAS (Ἀκρίτας), now C. Gallo, the most southerly point of Messenia [ACRITAS]; and on the west coast CORYPHASIUM forming the entrance to the bay of Pylus [PYLUS]; PLATAMODES (Πλαταμώδης, Strab. viii. p.348), called by Pliny (4.5. s. 6) Platanodes, distant, according to Strabo (l.c.), 120 stadia N. of Coryphasium, and therefore not far from Aia Kyriaké (Leake, vol. i. p. 427); and lastly CYPARISSIUM [CYPARISSIA], a little further north, so called from the town CYPARISSIA
The PAMISUS (Παμισός) is described by Strabo as the greatest of the rivers within the Isthmus (viii. p. 361); but this name is only given by the ancient writers to the river in the lower plain, though the moderns, to facilitate the description of the geography of the country, apply this name to the whole course of the waters from their sources in the upper plain till they fall into the Messenian gulf. The principal river in the upper plain was called BALYRA (Βαλίρα). It rises near the village of Sulimá, and flows along the western side of the plain: two of the streams composing is [p. 2.342]were the ELECTRA (Ἠλέκτρα) and the COEUS (Κοῖος). Near Ithome the Balyra receives the united waters of the LEUCASIA (Λευκασία) and the AMPHITUS (Ἄμφιτος), of which the former flows from the valley of Bogasi, in a direction from N. to E., while the latter rises in Mt. Makryplái, and flows through the plain from E. to W. This river (the Amplitus), which maybe regarded as the principal one, is formed out of two streams, of which the northern is the Charadrus (Κάραδρος). (On the Balyra and its tributaries, see Paus. 4.33. §§ 3--6.) The Balyra above the junction of the Amphitus and Leucasia is called Vasilikó, and below it Mavrozúmeno, though the latter name is sometimes given to the river in its upper course also. At the junction of the Balyra and the Amphitus is a celebrated triangular bridge, known by the name of the bridge of Mavrozúmeno. It consists of three branches or arms meeting in a common centre, and corresponding to the three principal roads through the plain of Stenyclerus. The arm, running from north to south passes over no river, but only over the low swampy ground between the two streams. At the southern end of this arm, the two others branch off, one to the SW. over the Balyra, and the other to the SE. over the Amphitus, the former leading to Messene and the other to Thuria. The foundations of this bridge and the upper parts of the piers are ancient; and from the resemblance of their masonry to that of the neighboring Messene, they may be presumed to belong to the same period. The arches are entirely modern. The distance of this bridge from the Megalopolitan gate of Messene agrees with the 30 stadia which Pausanias (4.33.3) assigns as the interval between that gate and the Balyra; and as he says immediately afterwards that the Leucasia and Amphitus there fall into the Balyra, there can be little doubt that the bridge is the point to which Pausanias proceeded from the gate. (Leake, Morea, vol. i. pp. 480, 481.)
PLAN OF THE BRIDGE OF MAVROZUMENO. The Mavrozúmeno, shortly after entering the lower plain, received on its left or western side a considerable stream, which the ancients regarded as the genuine Pamisus. The sources of this river are at a north-eastern corner of the plain near the chapel of St. Floro, and at the foot of the ridge of Skala. The position of these sources agrees sufficiently with the distances of Pausanias (4.31.4) and Strabo (viii. p.361), of whom the former writer describes them as 40 stadia from Messene, while the latter assigns to the Pamisus a course of only 100 stadia. Between two and three miles south of the sources of the Pamisus there rises another river called Pídhima, which flows SW. and falls into the Mavrozúmeno, lower down in the plain below Nisí, and at no great distance from the sea. ARIS (Ἄρις) was the ancient name of the Pídhima. (Paus. 4.31.2.) The Mavrozúmeno, after the junction of the Pídhima, assumes the name of Dhipótamo, or the double river, and is navigable by small boats. Pausanias describes it as navigable 10 stadia from the sea. He further says that seafish ascend it, especially in the spring, and that the mouth of the river is 80 stadia from Messene (4.34.1).
The other rivers of Messenia, with the exception of the Neda, which belongs to Arcadia also [NEDA], are little more than mountain torrents. Of these the most important is the NEDON (Νέδων), not to be confounded with the above-mentioned Neda, flowing into the Messenian gulf, east of the Pamisus, at Pherae. It rises in the mountains on the frontiers of Laconia and Messenia, and is now called the river of Kalamáta: on it there was a town of the same name, and also a temple of Athena Nedusia. (Strab. viii. pp. 353, 360; Leake, Morea, vol. i. pp. 344, 345; Ross, Reisen im Peloponnes p. 1.) The other mountain torrents mentioned by name are the BIAS (Βίας), flowing into the western side of the Messenian gulf, a little above Corone (Paus. 4.34.4); and on the coast of the Sicilian or Ionian sea, the SELAS (Σέλας, Ptol. 3.16.7), now the Longovárdho, a little S. of the island Prote, and the CYPARISSUS (Κυπάρισσος), or river of Arkhadhía. [See Vol. I. p. 728.]
THEGANUSSA (Θηγανοῦσσα), now Venetikó, distant 3700 feet from the southern point of the promontory Acritas, is called by Pausanias a desert island ; but it appears to have been inhabited at some period, as graves have been found there, and ruins near a fountain. (Paus. 4.34.12; Θηναγοῦσα or Θιναγοῦσα, Ptol. 3.16.23; Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 19. § 56; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. ii. p. 172.) West of Theganussa is a group of islands called OENUSSAE (Οἰνοῦσσαι), of which the two largest are now called Cabrera (by the Greeks Σχίξα) and Sapienza. They are valuable for the pasture which they afford to cattle and horses in the spring. On the eastern side of Sapienza there is a well protected harbour; and here are found cisterns and other remains of an ancient settlement. (Paus. 4.34.12; Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 19. § 55; Leake, vol. i. p. 433; Curtius, vol. ii. p. 172.) On the western coast was the island of SPHACTERIA opposite the harbour of PYLUS; and further north the small island of PROTE (Πρωτή), which still retains its ancient name. (Thuc. 4.13; Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 19. § 55; Mela, 2.7; Steph. B. sub voce
The earliest inhabitants of Messenia are said to have been Leleges. Polycaon, the younger son of Lelex, the king of Laconia, married the Argive Messene, and took possession of the country, which he named after his wife. He built several towns, and among others Andania, where he took up his residence. (Paus. 1.1.) At the end of five generations Aeolians came into the country under Perieres, a son of Aeolus. He was succeeded by his son Aphareus, who founded Arene, and received the Aeolian Neleus, a fugitive from Thessaly. Neleus founded Pylus, and his descendants reigned here over the western coast. (Paus. 1.2.) On the extinction of the family of Aphareus, the eastern half of Messenia was united with Laconia, and came under the sovereignty of the Atridae; while the western half continued [p. 2.343]to belong to the kings of Pylus. (Paus. 4.3.1.) Hence Euripides, in referring to the mythic times, makes the Pamisus the boundary of Laconia and Messenia ; for which he is reproved by Strabo, because this was not the case in the time of the geographer. (Strab. viii. p.366.) Of the seven cities which Agamemnon in the Iliad (9.149) offers to Achilles, some were undoubtedly in Messenia; but as only two, Pherae and Cardamyle, retained their Homeric names in the historical age, it is difficult to identify the other five. (Strab. viii. p.359; Diod. 15.66.) With the conquest of Peloponnesus by the Dorians a new epoch commences in the history of Messenia. This country fell to the lot of Cresphontes, who is represented as driving the Neleidae out of Pylus and making himself master of the whole country. According to the statement of Ephorus (ap. Strab. viii. p.361), Cresphontes divided Messenia into five parts, of which he made Stenyclerus the royal residence.1 In the other four towns he appointed viceroys, and bestowed upon the former inhabitants the same rights and privileges as the Dorian conquerors. But this gave offence to the Dorians; and he was obliged to collect them all in Stenyclerus, and to declare this the only city of Messenia. Notwithstanding these concessions, the Dorians put Cresphontes and all his children to death, with the exception of Aepytus, who was then very young, and was living with his grandfather Cypselus in Arcadia. When this youth had grown up, he was restored to his kingdom by the help of the Arcadians, Spartans, and Argives. From Aepytus the Messenian kings were called Aepytidae, in preference to Heracleidae, and continued to reign in Stenyclerus till the sixth generation,--their names being Aepytus, Glaucus, Isthmius, Dotadas, Sybotas, Phintas,--when the first Messenian war with Sparta began. (Paus. 4.3.) According to the common legend, which represents the Dorian invaders as conquering Peloponnesus at one stroke, Cresphontes immediately became master of the whole of Messenia. But, as in the case of Laconia [LACONIA], there is good reason for believing this to be the invention of a later age, and that the Dorians in Messenia were at first confined to the plain of Stenyclerus. They appear to have penetrated into this plain from Arcadia, and their whole legendary history points to their close connection with the latter country. Cresphontes himself married the daughter of the Arcadian king Cypselus; and the name of his son Aepytus, from whom the line of the Messenian kings was called, was that of an ancient Arcadian hero. (Hom. Il. 2.604, Schol. ad loc.; comp. Grote, Hist. of Greece, vol. ii. p. 437, seq.)
The Messenian wars with Sparta are related in every history of Greece, and need not be repeated here. According to the common chronology, the first war lasted from B.C. 743 to 724, and the second from B.C. 685 to 668; but both of these dates are probably too early. It is necessary, however, to glance at the origin of the first war, because it is connected with a disputed topographical question, which has only recently received a satisfactory solution. Mt. Taÿgetus rises abruptly and almost precipitously above the valley of the Eurotas, but descends more gradually, and in many terraces, on the other side. The Spartans had at a very early period taken possession [p. 2.344] of the western slopes, but how far their territory extended on this side has been a matter of dispute. The confines of the two countries was marked by a temple of Artemis Limnatis, at a place called Limnae, where the Messenians and Laconians offered sacrifices in common and it was the murder of the Spartan king Teleclus at this place which gave occasion to the First Messenian War. (Paus. 3.2.6, 4.4.2, 4.31.3; comp. Strab. vi. p.257, viii. p. 362.) The exact site of Limnae is not indicated by Pausanias; and accordingly Leake, led chiefly by the name, supposes it to have been situated in the plain upon the left bank of the Pamisus, at the marshes near the confluence of the Aris and Pamisus, and not far from the site of the modern town of Nisí (Νησί, island), which derives that appellation from the similar circumstance of its position. (Leake, Morea, vol. i. p. 361.) But Ross has discovered the ruins of the temple of Artemis Limnatis on the western slope of Mt. Taÿgetus, on a part of the mountains called Vólimnos (Βώλιμνος), and amidst the ruins of the church of Panaghía Volimniátissa (Παναγία Βωλιμνιάτισσα). Vólimnos is the name of a hollow in the mountains near a mountain torrent flowing into the Nedon, and situated between the villages of Sitzová and Polianí, of which the latter is about 7 miles NE. of Kalamáta, the ancient Pherae. The fact of the similarity of the names, Βώλιμνος and Λίμναι, and also of Παναγία Βωλιμνιάτισσα and Ἄρτεμις Λιμνάτις, as well as the ruins of a temple in this secluded spot, would alone make it probable that these are the remains of the celebrated temple of Artemis Limnatis; but this is rendered certain by the inscriptions found by Ross upon the spot, in which this goddess is mentioned by name. It is also confirmed by the discovery of two boundary stones to the eastward of the ruins, upon the highest ridge of Taÿgetus, upon which are inscribed Ὅρος Λακεδαίμονι πρὸς Μεσσήνην. These pillars, therefore, show that the boundaries of Messenia and Laconia must at one period have been at no great distance from this temple, which is always represented as standing near the confines of the two countries. This district was a frequent subject of dispute between the Messenians and Lacedaemonians even in the times of the Roman Empire, as we shall see presently. Tacitus calls it the “Dentheliates Ager” (Hist. 4.43); and that this name, or something similar, was the proper appellation of the district, appears from other authorities. Stephanus B. speaks of a town “Denthalii” (Δενθάλιοι, s.v. others read Δελθάνιοι), which was a subject of contention between the Messenians and Lacedaemonians. Alcman also (ap. Athen. 1.31), in enumerating the different kinds of Laconian wine, mentions also a Denthian wine (Δένβις οῖνος), which came from a fortress Denthiades (ἐκ Δενθιάδων ἐρύματός τινος), as particularly good. Ross conjectures that this fortress may have stood upon the mountain of St. George, a little S. of Sitzová, where a few ancient remains are said to exist. The wine of this mountain is still celebrated. The position of the above-mentioned places will be best shown by the accompanying map. But to return to the history of Messenia. In each of the two wars with Sparta, the Messenians, after being defeated in the open plain, took refuge in a strong fortress, in Ithome in the first war, and in Eira or Ira in the second, where they maintained themselves for several years. At the conclusion of the Second Messenian War, many of the Messenians left their country, and settled in various parts of Greece, where their descendants continued to dwell as exiles, hoping for their restoration to their native land. A large number of them, under the two sons of Aristomenes, sailed to Rhegium in Italy, and afterwards crossed over to the opposite coast of Sicily, where they obtained possession of Zancle, to which they gave their own name, which the city has retained down to the present day. [MESSANA] Those who remained were reduced to the condition of Helots, and the whole of Messenia was incorporated with Sparta. From this time (B.C. 668) to the battle of Leuctra (B.C. 371), a period of nearly 300 years, the name of Messenia was blotted out of history, and their country bore the name of Laconia, a fact which it is important to recollect in reading the history of that period. Once only the Messenians attempted to recover their independence. The great earthquake of B.C. 464, which reduced Sparta to a heap of ruins, encouraged the Messenians and other Helots to rise against their oppressors. They took refuge in their ancient stronghold of Ithome; and the Spartans, after besieging the place in vain for ten years, at length obtained possession of it, by allowing the Messenians to retire unmolested from Peloponnesus. The Athenians settled the exiles at Naupactus, which they had lately taken from the Locri Ozolae; and in the Peloponnesian War they were among the most active of the allies of Athens. (Thuc. 1.101-103; Paus. 4.24.5, seq.) The capture of Athens by the Lacedaemonians compelled the Messenians to quit Naupactus. Many of them took refuge in Sicily and Rhegium, where some of their countrymen were settled; but the greater part sailed to Africa, and obtained settlements among the Euesperitae, a Libyan people. (Paus. 4.26.2.) After the power of Sparta had been broken by the battle of Leuctra (B.C. 371), Epaminondas, in order to prevent her from regaining her former influence in the Peloponnesus, resolved upon forming an Arcadian confederation, of which Megalopolis was to be the capital, and at the same time of restoring the Messenian state. To accomplish the latter object, he not only converted the Helots into free Messenians, but he despatched messengers to Italy, Sicily, and Africa, where the exiled Messenians had settled, inviting them to return to their native land. His summons was gladly responded to, and in B.C. 369 the new town of Messene was built. Its citadel or acropolis was placed upon the summit of Mt. Ithome, while the town itself was situated lower down on the slope, though connected with its acropolis by a continuous wall. (Diod. 15.66; Paus. 4.27.) [MESSENE] During the 300 years of exile, the Messenians retained their ancient customs and Doric dialect; and even in the time of Pausanias they spoke the purest Doric in Peloponnesus. (Paus. 4.27.11; comp. Müller, Door. vol. ii. p. 421, transl.) Other towns were also rebuilt, but a great part of the land still continued uncultivated and deserted. (Strab. viii. p.362.) Under the protection of Thebes, and in close alliance with the Arcadians (comp. Plb. 4.32), Messene maintained its independence, and the Lacedaemonians lost Messenia for ever. On the downfall of the Theban supremacy, the Messenians courted the alliance of Philip of Macedon, and consequently took no part with the other Greeks at the battle of Chaeroneia, B.C. 388. (Paus. 4.28.2.) Philip rewarded them by compelling the Lacedaemonians to cede to them Limnae and certain districts. (Plb. 9.28; Tac. Anns. [p. 2.345]4.43.) That these districts were those of Alagonia, Gerenia, Cardamyle, and Leuctra, situated northward of the smaller Pamisus, which flows into the Messenian gulf just below Leuctra, we may conclude from the statement of Strabo (viii. p.361) that this river had been the subject of dispute between the Messenians and Lacedaemonians before Philip. The Messenians appear to have maintained that their territory extended even further south in the most ancient times, since they alleged that the island of Pephnus had once belonged to them. (Paus. 4.26.3.) [PEPHNUS] At a later time the Messenians joined the Achaean League, and fought along with the Achaeans and Antigonus Doson at the battle of Sellasia, B.C. 222. (Paus. 4.29.9.) Long before this the Lacedaemonians appear to have recovered the districts assigned to the Messenians by Philip; for after the battle of Sellasia the boundaries of the two people were again settled by Antigonus. (Tac. Ann. l.c.) Shortly afterwards Philip V. sent Demetrius of Pharus, who was then living at his court, on an expedition to surprise Messene; but the attempt was unsuccessful, and Demetrius himself was slain. (Plb. 3.19; Paus. 4.29. §§ 1--5, where this attempt is erroneously ascribed to Demetrius II., king of Macedonia.) Demetrius of Pharus had observed to Philip that Mt. Ithome and the Acrocorinthus were the two horns of Peloponnesus, and that whoever held these horns was master of the bull. (Strab. viii. p.361.) Afterwards Nabis, tyrant of Lacedaemon, also made an attempt upon Messene, and had even entered within the walls, when he was driven back by Philopoemen, who came with succours from Megalopolis. (Paus. 4.29.10.) In the treaty made between Nabis and the Romans in B.C. 195, T. Quintius Flamininus compelled him to restore all the property he had taken from the Messenians. (Liv. 34.35 ; Plut. Flamin 13.) A quarrel afterwards arose between the Messenians and the Achaean League, which ended in open war. At first the Achaeans were unsuccessful. Their general Philopoemen was taken prisoner and put to death by the Messenians, B.C. 183; but Lycortas, who succeeded to the command, not only defeated the Messenians in battle, but captured their city, and executed all who had taken part in the death of Philopoemen. Messene again joined the Achaean League, but Abia, Thuria, and Pharae now separated themselves from Messene, and became each a distinct member of the league. (Paus. 4.30. §§ 11, 12; Liv. 39.49; Plb. 24.9, seq., 25.1.) By the loss of these states the territory of Messene did not extend further eastward than the Pamisus; but on the settlement of the affairs of Greece by Mummius, they not only recovered their cities, but also the Dentheliates Ager, which the Lacedaemonians had taken possession of. (Tac. Ann. 4.43.) This district continued to be a subject of dispute between the two states. It was again assigned to the Messenians by the Milesians, to whose arbitration the question had been submitted, and also by Atidius Geminus, praetor of Achaia. (Tac. l.c.) But after the battle of Actium, Augustus, in order to punish the Messenians for having espoused the side of Antony, assigned Thuria and Pharae to the Lacedaemonians, and consequently the Dentheliates Ager, which lay east of these states. (Paus. 4.31.2, comp. 4.30.2.) Tacitus agrees with Pausanias, that the Dentheliates Ager belonged to the Lacedaemonians in the reign of Tiberius; but he differs from the latter writer in assigning the possession of the Lacedaemonians to a decision of C. Caesar add M. Antonius ( “post C. Caesaris et Marci Antonii sententia redditum” ). In such a matter, however, the authority of Pausanias deserves the preference. We learn, however, from Tacitus (l.c.), that Tiberius reversed the decision of Augustus, and restored the disputed district to the Messenians, who continued to keep possession of it in the time of Pausanias; for this writer mentions the woody hollow called Choerius, 20 stadia south of Abia, as the boundary between the two states in his time (4.1.1, 4.30.1). It is a curious fact that the district, which had been such a frequent subject of dispute in antiquity, was in the year 1835 taken from the government of Misthra (Sparta), to which it had always belonged in modern times, and given to that of Kalamáta. (Ross, Reisen im Peloponnnes, p. 2.)
1. In the plain of Stenyclerus.
ANDANIA the capital of the Messenian kings before the Dorians. OECHALIA, at the distance of 8 stadia from Andania, the reputed residence of Eurytus, occupied, according to Pausanias, the grove of cypresses called Carnasium. AMPHEIA in the mountains on the borders of Arcadia. Two roads led into Arcadia: the more northerly ran along the river Charadrus past Carnasium (Paus. 8.35.1); the more southerly started from Messene, and was a military road made by Epaminondas, to connect more closely the two newly founded cities of Messene and Megalopolis. (Paus. 8.34; comp. Leake, Morea., vol. ii. p. 296.) STENYCLARUS the capital of the Dorian conquerors, and which gave its name to the plain, was also on the borders of Arcadia. IRA or EIRA where the citizens maintained themselves during the Second Messenian War, was situated upon the mountain of this name, to the north of the plain above the river Neda. At the extreme south of this plain, commanding also the entrance of the plain Macaria, was MESSENE with its citadel Ithome. To the west part of the plain, on the road from Andania to Cyparissia, were POLICHNE and DORIUM 2. In the plain of Macaria.
PHERAE the modern Kalamáta, situated about a mile from the sea, on the left bank of the river Nedon, was in antiquity, as it is at present, the chief town in the plain. Three roads lead from Pherae: one southwards along the coast to ABIA said to be the Homeric Ira; a second up the valley of the Nedon, across Mt. Taÿgetus to Sparta, one of whose gates was hence called the gate towards Pharae ( “porta quae Pharas ducit,” Liv. 35.30); while the third road ran across the Nedon in a north-easterly direction to CALAMAE, the modern Kalámi, where it divided into two, the one to the west going across the Pamisus, and the other to the north leading to THURIA, of which there were two towns so called, and from thence to the sources of the Pamisus. To the east of Pherae was the mountainous district called the Ager Dentheliates, and containing LIMNAE which has been already described. 3. In the western peninsula and on the western coast.
CORONE and ASINE were on the Messenian gulf, and consequently on the east coast of this peninsula. The situation of COLONIDES is uncertain, some placing it on the Messenian gulf, and others near the harbour Phoenicus, NW. of the promontory Acritas. At the extreme southern point [p. 2.346]of the western coast stood METHONE supposed to be the Homeric Pedasus. North of Methone, on the W. coast, was PYLUS on the promontory Coryphasium, opposite to which was the island Sphacteria. Further north, was the small town ERANA and then the more important CYPARISSIA; beyond which was a place Aulon, at the entrance of the defile of this name, through which flowed the river Cyparissus. (On the geography of Messenia, see Leake, Morea. vol. i. pp. 324, seq.; Boblaye, Récherches, p. 103, seq; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol ii. p. 121, seq.)
COIN OF MESSENIA.
1 Of the other four parts Strabo mentions Pylus, Rhium, and Hyameitis; but the passage is corrupt, and the name of Mesola should probably be added to complete the number. (Müller, Dorians, vol. i. p. 111, transl.) Stephanus B. calls Mesola, a city of Messene, one of the five (s. v. Μεσόλα); and Strabo in another passage (vii. p. 361) describes it as lying towards the gulf between Taÿgetus and Messenia; and as the latter name can only apply to the western part of the country, Mesola was probably the district between Taÿgetus and the Pamisus. Pylus apparently comprehended the whole western coast. Rhium is the southern peninsula, opposite Taenarum. (Strab. viii. p.360.) The position of Hyameitis, of which the city was called Hyameia (Ὑάμεια, Steph. B. sub voce is quite uncertain.
In the Middle Ages, Messenia shared the fortunes of the rest of the Peloponnese. Striking reminders of these conflicts are afforded by the extant ruins of the medieval strongholds of Kalamata, Coron (anc. Asine, mod. Korone), Modon (Methone) and Pylos. Messenia was a part of the Byzantine Empire.
Ottoman and Venetian period
Much of Messenia fell into the hands of the Ottoman Turks, a part of the area remained with the Venetian Republic. In 1534 a group of families, known as the 'Coroni', settled in Piana degli Albanesi in Sicily. They were Arvanites and Greeks from Koroni.
During the 1680s, the whole of Messenia was regained by the Venetian Republic in the Morean War, and formed part of the "Kingdom of the Morea" until recovered by the Ottomans in 1715. The Mani Peninsula, a part of modern Messenia, was autonomous from Turkish rule due to the fact that it had no harbors.
Messenia became part of independent Greece as a result of the Greek War of Independence (1821-1832). The famous naval Battle of Navarino took place near present Pylos in 1827, and was a decisive victory for Greece and its allies. The population in the area of Kalamata and Messene increased from 30,000 before World War II up to nearly 80,000 in the present day. Messenia suffered damage from the 2007 Greek forest fires.
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- Hellenic Interior Ministry (18 March 2001). "Δείτε τη Διοικητική Διαίρεση" (in Greek). Hellenic Interior Ministry.. The previous Kapodistrias organization of all the communities in Greece. The populations are from the Census of 2001.
- η Βουλή (11 August 2010), "ΤΕΥΧΟΣ ΔΕΥΤΕΡΟ", NOMOΣ ΥΠ’ΑΡΙΘ. 3852: Νέα Αρχιτεκτονική της Αυτοδιοίκησης και της Αποκεντρωμένης Διοίκησης − Πρόγραμμα Καλλικράτης (in Greek), ΕΦΗΜΕΡΙΣ ΤΗΣ ΚΥΒΕΡΝΗΣΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑΣ. Part 2 of the Kallicratis Plan law, No. 3852, by the Hellenic Parliament (Βουλή), publishing a table of all the official communities of Greece arranged in hierarchical order. The lowest-level populations are from the Census of 2001. All higher-level populations are the sums of the appropriate lower-level populations.
- Kontogiannis, N.D. "Settlements and countryside of Messenia during the late Middle Ages: the testimony of the fortifications," Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 34,1 (2010), 3-29.