Modern Pylos is a beautiful small seaside town with glorious history. The heart of the town is the central Square of the Three Admirals, busy all day and all night long. It is a meeting point under tall plane trees and their vast shade. One tree is called the "plane of Lykoudis" bearing the name of the man who planted it in 1880, Petros Lykoudis, the former fort guard of Pylos.
At the centre of the square stands the monument of the Battle of Navarino, a work of sculptor Thomopoulos. It is the epicentre of accounts, celebrations and a meeting point. The monument has three sides and each presents the figure of a fleet admiral of the three powers, Britain, France and Russia that fought against the Turkish–Egyptian navy in the naval battle that took place in 1827, namely: Edward Codrington, Henri de Rigny, and L. Heyden. On the base of statue lie two canons, one Ottoman and the other Venetian, symbolizing the civilizations that existed in the region.
Shopping, trade, cultural events, but above all memory and history. The Barrack of Maison, named after the general, hosts the painting collection of the philhellene painter Rene Puaux with themes of the Greek revolt. In the Archaeological Museum, finds from excavations in the area of Pylos that date back to the Neolithic age until the Roman period. Pottery, jewellery, spearheads, gold objects, reliefs portraying animals, objects from the ancient Hellenistic burial ground at Divari, Gialova. Artefacts that stand out are the beautifully painted glass vessels, a gold belt of exceptional craftsmanship, the statues of the Dioskouri and painted representations on pottery.
On route toward Methoni one meets the old aqueduct with arches. Before it, Sphacteria and the lighthouse, Tsichli Baba, and Chelonaki with its treasures. Lush green and rocky islets, they function as a breakwater of the harbour of Pylos. Each one commemorates one of the countries that participated in the Battle of Navarino. In the summer months, tour boats follow the itinerary of the monuments commemorating those that fell in this naval battle. Islet Sphacteria was the theatre of operations and a strategic location in antiquity. A boat ride around it reveals more monuments: Count Santarosa, the great philhellene and minister of national defence of Italy, of Alexis Malle and Paul Marie Bonaparte.
Legendary Nestor and his origin
The journey on the land of Messenia continues, and reaches a unique destination: Pylos or, if you may, Navarino. An ancient city with significant archaeological, historical, and mythical interest. Later, in the Byzantine era it was conquered by the Pannonian Avars ‒ to be precise by the Neo-Avars who named it "Navarino". The islet of Sphaktiria, with its natural beauty opposite the bay protects the city creating the safest natural harbour of the Mediterranean.
Tradition has it that Pylos was founded by legendary Neleus. From Homer we find out that it is the homeland of Nestor; his name means 'the one who returns, who has 'nostos' (nostalgia)". He was a wise consultant and a prudent king. In the Iliad he stands out for his excellent judgment and persuasion, when he advises Achilles in the Trojan War and in the Odyssey he advises Telemachus upon his quest for his father.
Seen from above the ancient bay of Pylos or Navarino is beneath a ridge, Ano Eglianos, where probably the Palace of Nestor was. On Ano Eglianos there are remains of the Early Helladic civilization. The area has a strategic and administrative character since it overlooks Pylos Bay; the continuity of culture and history of the region is evident. In this journey one travels alongside the eminent archaeologists, as those of the American School of Archaeology that study the area from 1912 until today, since there are sections that haven't been investigated yet. Archaeological records confirm that in 1962 a part of the palace was found dating as back as 3,000 years ago!!! And later, in 1964 the Place of Nestor (1300 - 1200 BCE) was discovered, a palace rich in colours and with a spectacular view.
Nestor: Myth and Homer's Interventions
In this land, legendary Nestor – the king of Pylos – has left his marks. Even today we see his house, his way of life. But who was Nestor? A glorious king and warrior who fought against the Lapiths, against the Centaurs, in the Trojan War, joined the Argonauts on the quest of the Golden Fleece and advised Telemachus in the Οdyssey.
In the Iliad, Homer gives him a consulting role. He is presented as a wise orator and a sweet and gentle old man who advises the Achaeans, through autobiographical narrations. His words are epic and experiential. He respects the heroic morality of the warriors and as he rambles on, in essence he is relieving the tension. At the scene of the dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon, his intervention is a reconciling one. He recounts how in the past he had also fought with famous heroes and fierce adversaries. He was a warrior too.
Nevertheless, this king has remained known in history for his Mycenaean palace that even today resonates opulence and inspires admiration. The excavation research astonishes with its findings and the analysis of the colours in the renowned paintings of the palace. Innovative techniques subvert the artistic status quo: egg tempera instead of wet plaster frescoes, purple instead of blue seas and an impressive variety of colours. For example, in the battle scene, analysts showed that the colour was not blue but reddish purple that symbolizes porphureos thanatos, the glorious death for which Homer talks about, thus the re-examination of the material with the use of modern techniques offered a different symbolism. Purple, green and pink are in the palette of the ancient Greeks, sea is represented with purple and their porphyra is official and regal.