Fodor's Expert Review Ancient Messene

Ancient Messene Ruins

In terms of footprints, this is one of the most awe-inspiring sites of ancient Greece, thanks to its impressive walls, famed entry gates, vast theater arenas, and temples. One temple alone, the Asklepion, was thought to be an entire town by archaeologists until recently (see www.ancientmessene.gr for an excellent scholarly take on the site).

The most striking aspect of the ruins is the city's circuit wall, a feat of defensive architecture that rises and dips across the hillsides for an astonishing 9 km (5½ miles). Four gates remain; the best preserved is the north or Arcadian Gate, a double set of gates separated by a round courtyard. On the ancient paving stone below the arch, grooves worn by chariot wheels are still visible. In the main site, excavations have uncovered the most important public buildings, including a theater, whose seats have now been restored; the Synedrion, a meeting hall for representatives of independent Messene; the Sebasteion, dedicated to worship of... READ MORE

In terms of footprints, this is one of the most awe-inspiring sites of ancient Greece, thanks to its impressive walls, famed entry gates, vast theater arenas, and temples. One temple alone, the Asklepion, was thought to be an entire town by archaeologists until recently (see www.ancientmessene.gr for an excellent scholarly take on the site).

The most striking aspect of the ruins is the city's circuit wall, a feat of defensive architecture that rises and dips across the hillsides for an astonishing 9 km (5½ miles). Four gates remain; the best preserved is the north or Arcadian Gate, a double set of gates separated by a round courtyard. On the ancient paving stone below the arch, grooves worn by chariot wheels are still visible. In the main site, excavations have uncovered the most important public buildings, including a theater, whose seats have now been restored; the Synedrion, a meeting hall for representatives of independent Messene; the Sebasteion, dedicated to worship of a Roman emperor; the sanctuary to the god Asklepios; and a temple to Artemis Orthia. One of the more unusual finds is the "treasury," a rather grim crypt-like hole where the captured general Philopoemen, of the Achaean Confederacy, a collection of states that banded together against Roman control, was imprisoned and later poisoned in 183 BC. The most impressive sights are the large stadium, wrapped by a collar of Doric columns, and the gymnasium where the Messinian youth were schooled in both fighting and the arts. The site is a bit confusing, as the ruins are spread over the hillside and approached from different paths; follow the signposts indicating the theater, gates, and other major excavations. Guides hang around the entrance offering their services, though these don't come cheap and bargaining starts at around €50 for an hour, so it's better to arrange a tour beforehand. Some of the finds are held in Mavromati's's small museum, which is included in the ticket price.

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Ruins

Quick Facts

Mavromati, Peloponnese  24002, Greece

27240-51201

www.culture.gr

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: €10

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