It had been built by the feet of the mountain of Ithomi in 369 B.C., where the prehistoric Ithomi was, by the Theban general Epaminondas with the help of Epitelis from Argos. It was erected as a shelter for the settlement of refugees from Messinia and Arkadia and in order to create a powerful city to counterbalance the sovereignty of Sparta. The city was protected by a circular symmetrical wall built with huge stones which were 2-2,5 m. wide and 4,5 m. high. Its perimeter extended for 9,024 m. and followed the two slopes of Mount Ithomi which was a place of worship for Ithomata Dia (Zeus). In terms of structure the wall is considered to be one of the best examples of architecture and fortification of the fourth century B.C. with two gates; the eastern, the Lakoniki and the northwestern, the Arkadiki. The Arkadiki Gate had two doors and a big circular yard was included inside while the wall had ramparts and overlooking turrets at intervals as well as embrasures on two different levels.
The centre of the town was in the place of the contemporary village Mavromati while in the Agora, according to what has been Knhwn until 1986 and what comes to light with the excavations on the area of ancient Messini by the professor in the University of Crete, Petros Themelis, was the source of Arsinoe or Kallirroi Krini. In the archaeological site there is the Asklaepeio, holy sanctuaries of Poseidon, Aphrodite and Demeter, statues of the Mother of gods (attributed to the Messinian artist Damofondas), Lafias Artemidos, Elitheias, the Dioskouri, a monument to honor Aristomenis, the Gymnasium and the Sevasteio or Kesharion, a building dedicated( from 14 A.D) to the worship of Roman emperors.
Skeletons of Synedrio, Alexandrianis era and Ierothisiou have been found close to the Agora as well as statues of all the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and of the founder of the city, general Epaminondas, and ruins of the theatre, the Vouleftirio and the stadium. It was the capital of the federation of messinian cities (338-191 B.C) and reached its heyday during the Achaic and Aetolic confederacy.
This text is cited March 2003 from the Messenia Prefecture Tourism Promotion Commission URL below, which contains image.
From 1987, that professor Petros Themelis began the excavations, till now, there have been found:
Two sanctuaries on the SW slope of mount Ithome.
The N side of the market-place.
The sanctuaries of Demeter and the Dioscouri.
The sanctuary of Artemis Orthia (standing).
The N wing of the Asclepion.
A public bath.
Two rooms of Roman buildings.
Part of the Hierothesion.
The stadium and the gymnasium.
The shrine of Heracles and Hermes with their statues of worship.
The Heroon, a Doric temple in the stadium.
The ancient theatre.
The water-basin Arsinoe, where the village Mavromati takes water from. Behind the water-basin there was found a sanctuary of Acheloous. (source: Publication of the Prefectural government of Messenia).
It was intended only for the meetings of the 76 members of the congress of the town, for whom there was a stone bench along the three sides, while in the middle of the fourth there was supposed to be the podium of the speaker (Ekdot. Athinon, Pausaniou Periegissis, vol.3, p.124, note 3).
Periods: Classical, Hellenistic, Roman
Type: Fortified city
Summary: One of the best fortified of ancient Greek cities.
Located in the highlands of Messenia on the SW slopes of Mt. Ithome, Messene was among the best fortified of ancient Greek cities. Mt. Ithome was mentioned by Homer and its summit served as a religious center and refuge for the Messenians at least since the Archaic period. From the acropolis almost all of the state of Messenia is visible. The 4th century B.C. fortification walls of Messene (still well preserved) totaled a length of ca. 9 km and enclosed the acropolis as well as large tracts of agricultural land that could serve as a place of refuge for inhabitants from the countryside. A Sanctuary of Asklepios, theater, stadium and other public buildings were also enclosed within the fortifications. The circuit walls (ca. 2.5 m thick and 4.5 m high) included at least 4 well-designed city gates and over 30 towers.
The city of Messene was founded as the new capital in 369 B.C. after the liberation of Messenia from Spartan rule, and the city walls are reported to have been completed in just 85 days. Messene joined and abandoned a number of leagues and alliances during the Hellenistic period and was besieged in 220, 214, 202, and 182 B.C. The city was never politically powerful, but remained prosperous and continued to be inhabited at least into the 5th century A.D.
Minor excavations by T. Sophoulis in 1895; G. Oikonomos in 1909 and 1925. A. Orlandos has excavated from 1957-1964 and since 1969.
Donald R. Keller, ed.
This text is cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains 26 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Site of the University of Minnesota.
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