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Pylos (Greek Πύλος), formerly Navarino, is the name of a bay and a town on the west coast of the Peloponnese, in the district of Messenia in southern Greece. It is the capital of Pylia Province.

In 1827 the bay of Pylos was the site of the Battle of Navarino during the Greek War of Independence.

Prefecture: Messenia/Messinia
Province: Pylia (capital)
Location: 36° 54′ 38″ N, 21° 41′ 39″ E

143.911 km²
Rank xxth
Population: (1991)
 - Total
 - Density¹
 - Rank


Ionian Sea
3 m (centre)
around 400 to 500 m
Number of communities: 11
Postal code 240 01
Area/distance code: 11-30-27230 (030-27230)-2
Municipal code: 3827
Car designation: KM
3-letter abbreviation: PYL
Name of inhabitants: Pylian sing., -s pl.

The Name of Navarino

In the middle ages, Pylos was named Avarino (Αβαρίνος) or Navarino, perhaps after a body of Avars who settled there, or perhaps a Slavic name. The Venetian name was 'Zonklon', the Turkish name (1498-1821) 'Anavarin', and the Greek 'Neokastron'.

The Bay of Pylos

Pylos' bay is formed by a deep indenture in the Morea, shut in by a long island, anciently called Sphacteria or Sphagia (modern name Sfaktiria), famous for the defeat and capture of the Spartans, in the Battle of Pylos during the Peloponnesian War, and yet exhibiting the vestige of walls, which may have served as their last refuge. This island has been separated into three or four parts by the violence of the waves, so that boats might pass from the open sea into the port in calm weather, by means of the channel so formed. On one of the portions is the tomb of a Turkish saint, or santon, called the Delikli Baba; on the same one is the monument of the French sailors who fell at the famous Battle of Navarino; the monument of the Russian ones died at the same battle is on the island of Sphacteria; and near the centre of the port is another very small island, or rock, where the English sailors' monument is erected. Other monuments or tombs, reminiscents of the Greek War for Independence are on the island of Sphacteria, the most important beeing the monument of the italian philhellene Count Annibale Santarosa.

The Town of Pylos

The Historical Town

Pylos is the supposed birthplace of the venerable Nestor, the king of Pylos—standing upon a promontory at the foot of Mount Temathia, and overlooking the vast harbour of the same name as the town. It is surrounded only by a wall without a ditch; the height commanding the city is a little hexagonal, defended by five towers at the external angles, which, with the walls, were built by the Turks in 1572, but were never repaired till after the war with the Russians in 1770; the Turks having previously taken it from the Venetians in 1499. At the gate of the fortress is a miserable Greek village; and the walls of the castle itself are in a dismantled condition.

"The town within the wall," says Sir W. Gell, "is like all those in this part of the world, encumbered with the fallen ruins of former habitations. These have been generally constructed by the Turks, since the expulsion of the Venetians; for it appears, that till the long continued habit of possession had induced the Mahometans to live upon and cultivate their estates in the country, and the power of the Venetian republic had been consumed by a protracted peace, a law was enforced which compelled every Turk to have a habitation in some one of the fortresses of the country. But the habitatations," says our traveller, "present generally an indiscriminate mass of ruins; they were originally erected in haste, and being often cemented with mud instead of mortar, the rains of autumn, penetrating between the outer and inner faces of the walls, swell the earth, and soon effect the ruin of the whole"—it must be confessed, but sorry structures for the triple fires of an enemy. Sir William, on his visit, found the commandant in a state of misery not exceeded by the lot of his meanest fellow-citizens, except that his robes were somewhat in better condition. He received him "very kindly in a dirty unfurnished apartment," into which he "climbed by a tottering ladder from a court strewed with ruins;" here he gave him "coffee," after which he took his leave. What would a first lord of the Admiralty say to such a reception? and it must have been somewhat uncourtly to our traveller.

The Modern Town

Pylos has a school, a lyceum, a gymnasium, a church, banks, a post office, a port which was expanded in the 1990s and a square (plateia) called the "Three Admirals' Square" (see Battle of Navarino).

The Environs of Pylos

The soil about Navarino is of a red colour, and is remarkable for the production of an infinite quantity of squills, which are used in medicine. The rocks, which show themselves in every direction through a scanty but rich soil, are limestone, and present a general appearance of unproductiveness round the castle of Navarino; and the absence of trees is ill compensated by the profusion of sage, brooms, cistus, and other shrubs which start from the innumerable cavities of the limestone.

The remains of Navarino Vecchio, or ancient Navarino, consist in a fort or castle of mean construction, covering the summit of a hill sloping quickly to the south, but falling in abrupt precipices to the north and east. The town was built on the southern declivity, and was surrounded by a wall, which, allowing for the natural irregularities of the soil, represented a triangle, with the castle at the apex or summit—a form observable in many of the ancient cities of Greece.

The foundation of the walls throughout the whole circuit remains entire; but the fortifications were never of any consequence, though they present a picturesque group of turrets and battlements from below, and must have been very imposing from the sea,—an effect which those of the modern city have recently failed to produce. From the top is an extensive view over the island of Sphacteria, the port, with the town of Navarino to the south, and a considerable tract of the territory anciently called Messenia on the east, with the conic hill, which, though some miles from the shore, is used as a landmark to point out the entrance of the port.

Bronze Age Pylos

Bronze Age Pylos was excavated by Carl Blegen in 1952. It is located at modern Ano Englianos, about 9 km north-east of the bay. Blegen called the remains of a large Mycenean palace found there the "Palace of Nestor", after the character Nestor, who ruled over "Sandy Pylos" in the Homeric poems. Linear B tablets found by Blegen clearly demonstrate that the site itself was called Pylos (Mycenaean Greek Pulos, Linear B Pu-ro) by its Mycenean inhabitants. This site was abandoned sometime after the 8th century BC and was apparently unknown in the classical period.

Classical Pylos

The site of classical Pylos was probably on the rocky promontory now known as Koryphasion at the northern edge of the bay of Pylos. This site is described by the Greek historian Thucydides in his History of the Peloponnesian War. In 425 BC the Athenian politician Cleon sent an expedition to Pylos, to seize and occupy the bay. The Athenians captured a number of Spartan troops on the adjacent island of Sphacteria (see Battle of Sphacteria). Spartan anxiety over the return of the prisoners, who were taken to Athens as hostages, contributed to their acceptance of the Peace of Nicias in 421 BC.


Historical population

Year Communal population Change Municipal population
1981 2,594 - -
1991 2,014 -580/-22.36% 5,340


External links

Northwest: Korynthos North: Chiliochora, Nestor and Papaflessa
West: Ionian Sea
Pylos East: Chiliochora
South: Methoni Southeast: Epia

See also:

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