Ancient Messini Messinia Peloponnese - Greece

Published: 09th March 2010
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The ruins of ancient Messini lie scattered in a sheltered valley beneath the picturesque village of Mavromati, 32km northwest of Kalamata in Messinia. Mavromati is a small village built like an amphitheatre up the foothills of the sacred mountain of Ithomi. Today it's called Voulkano and is where the sanctuary of Zeus Ithomatos was located.

One of the legends upheld is that Zeus was born not in Crete or on Olympus, but here at Ithomi, where he was brought up by two nymphs, Ithomi and Neda. Water flows from the heart of the mountain to splash out of a black hole in the rock face in the centre of the village. This is where Mavromati gets its name from. Mavro mati means black eye in Greek.

The Archaeological Site of Ancient Messini

Asklepion complex; is a large complex of shrines and meeting rooms that formed the centre of the city. The Temple of Asklepios and Hygeia was a peripteros, Doric temple. The temple was destroyed and then rebuilt of a local stone.

• A small theatre-odeion belongs to the Asklepion complex. An inscription was found here which informs us that the building was found and called "Decterion". It was a room for rhetorical displays and assemblies.

Bouleuterion: A rectangular almost square room which also belongs to the Asklepieion complex. It was used for meetings of the Messinian

• council, attended by representatives form all towns in the territory. Its dimensions are: 19x18.30m. There are two entrances on the west side of the building.

Temple of Artemis: A small temple of the Ionic style which dates back to the middle of the 3rd century B.C.

Sanctuary of Zeus Ithomatas: The statue of Zeus, designed by the Argive Sculptor named Ageladas, was here. This type of statue, which represented Zeus as a child, is unusual.

Theatre-Stadium: The stadium was used to hold athletics contests in the honour of Zeus and remains largely intact. The lower seats of the stadium on the eastern side was where the judges and priests sat to preside over the games. The stadium is surrounded by the remains of the gymnasium

• The Massive wall fortification which dates back to the 3rd century B.C. is one of the most important achievements of the ancient military architecture. The Arcadian Gate that is on the north side of the wall is still very impressive. It was the main gate of ancient Messini and the main route to Megalopolis.

ï¶ The Museum: A small museum on the main road 200m northwest of the village houses some of the finds from the site.

Mount Ithomi

The main route to the summit of Mount Ithomi (799m) starts approximately 1.5km east of Mavromati along the road to the Laconian Gate. A signpost marks the beginning of a rough track the zigzags up the mountainside. The summit of Ithomi is occupied by the 13th century monastery of Voulkanou which is now abandoned. The new monastery is situated on the eastern side of the mountain beyond the Laconion Gates.

Ancient Messini is one of the largest archaeological sites in Greece and is significant in terms of its size, form and state of its preservation. Excavation of the site began only 25 years ago and artefacts are still continuing to be found - and it's quickly become a significant site. Ancient Messini is one of Messinia's hidden gems and well worth a visit.

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