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Prefecture: Messinia (Messenia)
Province: Province of Messini
Location: 37° 2′ 53″ N, 22° 0′ 14″ E
Population: (1991)
 - Total
 - Density¹
 - Rank



Messenian Gulf
5 m(centre)
around 200 m
Number of communities: 14
Postal code: 242 00
Area/distance code: 11-30-27220 (030-27510)-2 thru 4
Municipal code: 3822
Car designation: KM
3-letter abbreviation: KAB
Name of inhabitants: Messenian or Messinian sing., -s pl.
Address of administration: 13 D. Karatza St.
Messini 242 00

Messene (Greek: Μεσσήνη) was an ancient Greek city, the capital of Messenia (until the modern prefecture was created). It was founded by Epaminondas in 369 BC, after the battle of Leuctra and the first Theban invasion of the Peloponnese. Today an archaeological site of the ancient city remains, and the modern town has some 10 000 inhabitants.

Ancient city

The town was built by the combined Theban and Argive armies and the exiled Messenians who had been invited to return and found a state which should be independent of Spartan rule. The site was chosen by Epaminondas and lay on the western slope of the mountain which dominates the Messenian plain and culminates in the two peaks of Ithome and Eua. The former of these (740 m or 2,630 ft) served as the acropolis, and was included within the same system of fortifications as the lower city.

Pausanias has left us a description of the city (iv. 3 1?33), its chief temples and statues, its springs, its market-place and gymnasium, its place of sacrifice, the tomb of the hero Aristomenes and the temple of Zeus Ithomatas on the summit of the acropolis with a statue by the famous Argive sculptor Ageladas, originally made for the Messenian helots who had settled at Naupactus at the close of the third Messenian War.

But what chiefly excited his wonder was the strength of its fortifications, which excelled all those of the Greek world. Of the wall, some 5 miles (8 km) in extent, considerable portions yet remain, especially on the north and north-west, and almost the entire circuit can still be traced, affording the finest extant example of Greek fortification. The wall is flanked by towers about 31 ft (9 m) high set at irregular intervals: these have two storeys with loopholes in the lower and windows in the upper, and are entered by doors on a level with the top of the wall which is reached by flights of steps. Of the gates only two can be located, the eastern or Laconian, situated on the eastern side of the saddle uniting Ithome and Eua, and the northern or Arcadian gate. Of the former but little remains: the latter, however, is excellently preserved and consists of a circular court about 20 yd (18 m) in diameter with inner and outer gates, the latter flanked by square towers some 11 yd (10 m) apart. The lintel of the inner gate was formed by a single stone 18 ft 8 in (5.7 m) in length, and the masonry of the circular court is of astonishing beauty and accuracy. The other buildings which can be identified are the theatre, the stadium, the council chamber or Bouleuterion, and the propylaeum of the market, while on the shoulder of the mountain are the foundations of a small temple, probably that of Artemis Laphria.

Modern town

Messene remained a place of some importance under the Romans, but we hear nothing of it in medieval times and then the hamlet of Mavromati occupies a small part of the site. The city has been revived, and is home to over 10,000 people. The present location of Messini is about 2 to 2.5 km S of the archaeological site. Messene is a suburb of Kalamata nowadays. It is no longer the capital of Messenia.

Messini has schools, lyceums, gymnasia, banks, a post office, and squares (plateia) named Kentriki Plateia or Central Square. The square is surrounded with a few pine trees with a building to the southwest, grass with two walkways to the north along with a few palm trees; a famous white clock tower without windows is in the middle of the square.

The town is accessed by Greece Interstate 82 (Pylos - Kalamata - Sparta) which has been bypassed in the south and a road to Efa (Eua) to the north. The nearest beach is in the southwest. The farmlands which used to resemble a wetland are to the southeast.

Messini used to have a railway station from the 1900s with a connection of the SPAP line about 5 km east and the westernmost terminus of this line, until the abandonment in the late 20th century.

Landmarks near Messene today include the airport of Kalamata at its east, and beaches south of the city.

Nearest places

  • Velika Beach, SW
  • Velika, W
  • Mavrommati, NW

Communities and subdivisions

Historical population

Year Communal population Change Municipal population Density
1981 6,854 - - -
1991 6,453 -401/-5.85% 10,493 124.03/km²

External links

North: Voufradon
West: Petalidi
Messini East: Kalamata
Southwest: Petalidi South: Messenian Gulf