ANCIENT MESSENE

At the centre of the region of Messenia stands Ancient Messene, more specifically on Mount Ithomi. The city celebrates its heroine Messene at the temple of Zeus, is named after her and worships her. As goddess Athena in ancient Athens, apart from the name, she offers identity to the city and its citizens.

During her reign, the maiden Messene introduced the worship of the Great Gods: Artemis, Zeus, Aphrodite and Poseidon. Today we see their mythic images and sanctuaries everywhere in the area. They praise and honour the heroine, the "kore" as if the city is under her command and awaits her first instructions.

Today, archaeologists discover Roman coins which depict Zeus at one side and Messene on the other, wearing a veil and a crown that resembles a wall. On another coin, Messene is accompanied by Asclepius. At this point, literature and archaeological research raise questions: is the town dedicated to Messene or Asclepius? According to Pausanias, there was a special temple dedicated to Messene with a statue made of gold and marble, from the island of Paros. At the back side of this temple the later kings of Messene were portrayed. Apart from the maiden Messene, the city honours all its rulers.

Thus, a city was built from scratch, to become a "city countryside". In other words, a planned, void space inside the city. In contemporary terms, we could say it's an environmentally friendly city that embraces its natural surroundings and is open to them.

Taygetus and light

Messenia is abounding in legends and traditions. Euripides praises it as the "land rich in fruit" due to the exquisite olive groves and its wonderful climate.

Starting point of all its myths is Mount Taygetus: a reference point of ancient and modern inhabitants of Messenia. A natural border and one of the few Greek mountains that have a masculine name, imposing and massive, he separates Laconia from Messenia for centuries now and offers the travellers a wealth of mythical stories. An attraction for trekkers, he teaches them at the same time history, archaeology and folklore. A difficult border to pass, its passages are in an exceptional natural environment with unique flora and constitute a frontier to and from the land of Messenia. Taygetus was worshipped by painters and poets from the time of the first philhellenes up to today, while there are many societies and associations relevant to him.

The name Taygetus originates from Taygete, one of the seven Pleiades, daughter of Titan Atlas and the Oceanid nymph Pleione (Pausanias' Laconia, C 1-9).

Taygetus' alluring powers are permanent until the present day. Thousands of people hike up the mountain every year to visit the chapels on it and stay overnight, to watch a sunset that offers something unique: from its summit, Profitis Elias, a pyramid made of light fades in the Messenian bay – the mountainous volumes form its outline. Greek folklore associates the celebrations on Profitis Elias with celebrations of Sun and Light. Climbing the mountain is the most significant annual event of the region. Each year, on July 19, the faithful from wherever they may come from celebrate their saint at the mountain tops, at the quaint chapels of St. Elias but also Taygetus' power that opens an illuminated gate to culture.

Myth

Messene Virtual Tour

Experience

Messene Virtual Tour

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Delphi

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Eleusina

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Epidavros

Even today’s visitors feel that they are in a sacred place as soon as they set foot in the Asklepieion of Epidavros. The place where healing was a religious mystery. The sick were cured by the god Asklepios in their sleep (enkoimesis) or received from him instructions on the therapy they should follow. From the sixth century BC until the end of antiquity, hosts of people resorted to the Sanctuary of Asklepios in expectation that their prayers for healing would be heard and answered by the god. These were patients and pilgrims who arrived there bringing precious votive offerings from all parts of the then-known world. Visit Virtual Tour

Ancient Olympia

What can be said of Olympia and not sound like a cliché? The significance of the archaeological site is self-evident, even if one is not familiar with the fascinating historical details and the political background, which literally span thousands of years. Known to the world as the cradle of the Olympic ideal, this open-air museum of imposing ruins and unique artefacts tells a story of religious piety, fair play, political ambition, and demonstration of power. All the buildings you can still admire were erected to please the gods and send a message to the thousands of visitors who swarmed to the sacred grounds. Walking around the Stadium, the Gymnasium and the Temples of Zeus and Hera – both instrumental in the ritual and competitive part of the Games – modern visitors will be able to understand why the event remained relevant even when the rest of the Ancient World was long dead. As an added bonus to the splendour of the site, the Museum of Olympia boasts some of the most famous works of art produced in the long course of Hellenic culture. Visit Virtual Tour

Messene

Travelling in the Messenian land from Mount Taygetus to the coast, our glance dives, following the sunlight dipping onto the Messenian plain. From the mountainous volumes to the fertile valley, the olive groves and herbs, we see a landscape of culture, myth, and history, unfold before our eyes. In the heart of the region of Messenia, one town stands out: Ancient Messene. This "blissful plain" as Homer calls it, became a theatre of war and mythical narrations offering a viewpoint on the past and the present. Visit Virtual Tour

Mycenae

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