Methoni (Greek: Μεθώνη) is a town on the southwestern coast of the prefecture of Messinia, Greece. It is located 9km south of Pylos and 9km west of Foinikounda. It is also a municipality with the seat being this town. Nearby villages include Tapia, Kokkinia, Kritika, and the islands of Sapientza and Schiza, both part of the municipality. The town is also known with the Italian name Modon, as it was called by the Venetians.
Methoni has been identified as the city Pedasus, that Homer mentions under the name "ampeloessa" (of vine leaves), as the last of the seven "evnaiomena ptoliethra", that Agamemnon offers Achilles in order to subdue his rage. Pausanias named the city Methoni, named after either the daughter of Oineas or a small islet. The Oinoussai complex of islands protected the port of Methoni and at the same time stopped the large sea turbulence. Along with the rest of Messenia, the town gained its independence from the Spartans in 369 BC. During the 4th century BC, Methoni was elaborately fortified and continued to remain autonomous well into the Imperial Roman era, when it enjoyed the favor of some emperors. During the Byzantine years it continued to remain a remarkable harbor and one of the most important cities of the Peloponnese, seat of a bishopric.
The Venetians had their eye on Methoni since the 12th century, due to its location on the route from Venice to the Eastern markets. In 1125, they launched an attack against pirates, who had captured some Venetian traders on their way home from the east, and who were inhabiting Methoni at that time.
The Venetians fortified Methoni, which developed into an important trade center with great prosperity. Methoni became the important middle station between Venice and the Holy Lands, where every traveler stopped on their way to the East. A pilgrim who went by in 1484 admired its strong walls, the deep moats and the fortified towers.
But the Ottoman Turks wanted to conquer Methoni. In the 1490s, Sultan Bayezid II gathered his forces against Methoni. Bayezid, despite the hard siege, would not have been able to capture it if the inhabitants, thrilled by the arrival of reinforcements, hadn't deserted the walls, a fact that the janissaries took advantage of, invading the fortress from the governor's palace. On the August 9, 1500, Methoni fell, after having been in the hands of the Venetians for about three hundred years. The city was given to the flames, the Catholic bishop was killed while talking to the people, the men were decapitated, the women and children were sold to slavery. The walls were repaired and the period of the first period of Turkish rule began.
The Venetians returned under Francesco Morosini in the 1680s during the Great Turkish War, but the second period of Venetian rule did not last for long. In 1715 the Turks launched a siege again, but during this second period of Turkish rule the decline was complete. As is apparent from the travelers' descriptions, the population was reduced, the battlements were in bad condition and the harbor became shallow. The most important trade conducted was that of slaves. In February 1825, during the Greek Revolution, Ibrahim Pasha landed at Methoni and settled in the commander's residence, over the entrance of the castle. In the same building, the French general Maison, who freed the town together with others in the Peloponnese, settled in 1829.
Nowadays the walls of the fortress, even though in ruins, continue to be impressive. The castle of Methoni occupies the whole area of the cape and the southwestern coast to the small islet that has also been fortified with an octagonal tower and is protected by the sea on its three sides. It's north part, the one that looks to land, is covered by a heavily fortified acropolis. A deep moat separates the castle from the land and communication was achieved by a wooden bridge. The Venetians built on the ancient battlements and added on and repaired it during both periods that they occupied the castle.
Its entrance is accessed by a stone bridge of 14 arches, that was built over a moat by the technicians of Expedition scientifique de Moree, that accompanied general Maison. The entrance gate ends in an arch framed on the right and left by pilasters with Corinthian capitals. It is considered to be the work of Venetians after 1700. On the right and left of the entrance two large battlements can be seen. One battlement is the one built by general Antonio Loredan, during the second period of Venetian occupation.
Right after the central gate, a domed road opens up that leads through a second gate and then a third in the interior of the castle, where the habitable part was and which was separated from the north part with a vertical low wall (approximately 6 meters), fortified with five towers (four square and one octagonal) is dated to the period after 1500, when the Turks tried to reinforce the population and the fortification of the caste. In the interior there are ruins of the houses where the venetian lords lived during the period of rise, the paved street that led to the sea gate, the ruins of a Turkish bath, the Byzantine church of St. Sophia, close to which a slate with Latin lettering was found (dating back to 1714), parts of Doric pillars, a monolithic granite pillar (1493/4), unlined, with a capital on the top of byzantine style, which is supposed to have supported either the winged lion of Venice or the bust of Morozini. That is why it is called "Morozini's stele". There was an inscription on the capital that has not survived to this day. On the left of the entrance are the ruins of the building which originally Imbrahem used as a residence in 1826 and later general Maison. The French of the liberating corps remained in the area till 1833 and the construction of the church of Santa Sotira, which is still attributed to them. In the interior of the castle there are also a few cisterns and the remains of the British prisoner's cemetery during the World War II.
On the south part of the walls rises the spectacular sea gate which has recently been restored. A stone-paved stretch leads over a small bridge to the small fortified islet of Bourtzi. This is the place where many soldiers and inhabitants of Methoni were slaughtered, when the Turks occupied the fort in 1500.
The Bourtzi is dated back to the period after 1500 and has been used in various instances as a prison. It has a two-floor octagonal tower. The tower finishes in a round dome. On the lower floor there was a cistern and the whole works, with small defensive value, and is dated during the first period that the Turks occupied the fortress.
The west part of the walls is not as well constructed as the others. It was here that during the 2nd World War, after an explosion, parts of well constructed stones from the ancient walls of Methoni were found. In the interior of the walls, ruins of Turkish military establishments are preserved.
The east side of the walls also reached initially to the sea. Nowadays, a long strand of beach lies in front of a large part of it. Parallel to the east wall, up to the Bourtzi, there was a pier and this is where the small fortified harbor was formed (mandrachio), while the big one was to the northeast where ships could be pulled. The long east side has suffered many repairs, performed on the initial venetian battlements of the 13th century, mainly during the second venetian occupation and the Turkish occupation. In one of the towers parts of the byzantine fortification are preserved.
On various parts of the fortification there are Venetian emblems with the winged lion of St. Mark and inscriptions. This is the case on the north part of the Loredan battlement, where there is an inscribed plaque from the time when general Loredan was in command in the Peloponnese. On the north wall, on the right of the main entrance, there is also a plaque with the coat of arms of the families of the Foscarini, Foscolo and Bembo, to which the inscription denotes the construction of the Bembo battlement, just before 1500.
The castle of Methoni rises deserted and isolated today. When the winter winds hit its walls the locals say that you can hear the screams of the prisoners and the unjustly killed in the Bourtzi.
The best time to enjoy Methoni is the late afternoon, from the hill opposite. Then the light of the sun that is ready to sink on the side of the Ionian, glides over the large walls crowning them with dull tones. A sweet tranquility dominates everything.
|Year||Communal population||Change||Municipal population||Change|
|North: Kainourgio Chorio and Pylos||Northeast: Evangelismos|
|West: Ionian Sea
|South: Ionian Sea|