[muh-see-nee-uh, -seen-yuh]
Messenia, ancient region of SW Greece, in the Peloponnesus and corresponding to the modern nome of Messinías. Excavation has revealed an important center of Mycenaean culture at Pylos dating from the 13th cent. B.C. From the 8th cent. B.C. the Messenians were engaged in a series of revolts against expanding Sparta. After the First Messenian War the Spartans annexed (c.700 B.C.) the eastern part of Messenia. With the Second Messenian War the remaining inhabitants were reduced (7th cent. B.C.) to helots. The Third Messenian War (464-459 B.C.) was a failure for Messenia, but very costly to Sparta. The battle of Leuctra (371 B.C.) freed Messenia, and Messene was founded (c.369 B.C.) as the capital. The region gave its name to Messina, Sicily, because of an influx of Messenian colonists (c.490 B.C.).

See C. A. Roebuck, A History of Messenia from 369 to 146 B.C. (1941); The Minnesota Messenia Expedition, ed. by W. A. McDonald and G. R. Rapp (1972).

Messenia or Messinia (Μεσσηνία) is a prefecture in the Peloponnese, a region of Greece. Messenia is bounded on the east by Mount Taygetus, on the north by the river Neda and the Arcadian Mountains, and on the west and south by the Mediterranean Sea, more specifically on the west by the Ionian Sea, and on the south by the Gulf of Messenia. The plain is bounded on the north by Mt. Nomia (mod. Tetrasi, 1,800 m, 5210 ft.) and other mountains, on the west by the mountains of Cyparissia (1,550 m, 4000 ft.) the southern continuation of which forms the peninsula of the Morea, attaining its greatest height in Mt. Mathia (mod. Lykódimo about 950 m, 3160 ft.), its current tallest point is Taygetos located to the east. Off the south coast of this peninsula lie the three Oenussae islands and the islet of Theganussa (Venetikó). About less than half of the population live within GR-7, in places from Allagi to south of Kalamata, along with the plain as the Kalamata-Messene metropolitan area, Peloponnese's third largest metropolitan city. Kalamata has an airport 5 km west of Kalamata. A harbor and port named from this city is not far from the downtown, originally connected with train tracks. It is one of the largest waterfronts in the peninsula.


Ancient period

The earliest known inhabitants of Messenia are said to have been Pelasgians and Leleges, of whom the latter had their capital at Andania. Then came an Aeolo-Minyan immigration, which apparently extended to Messenia, though the Pylos of Nestor almost certainly lay in Triphylia, and not at the site which in historic times bore that name. In the Homeric poems eastern Messenia is represented as under the rule of Menelaus of Sparta, while the western coast is under the Neleids of Pylos, but after Menelaus’s death the Messenian frontier was pushed eastwards as far as Taygetus.

Excavations at Pylos and Nichoria have revealed for Messenia's late Bronze Age (1300s BC) a bureaucratic, agricultural kingdom ruled by the wanax at Pylos. The Messenians spoke Mycenaean Greek, and worshipped the Greek gods at local shrines like that at PA-KI-JA-NE (*Sphagianes). Later, Greeks agreed that a body of Dorians under Cresphontes invaded the country from Arcadia and taking as their capital Stenyclarus in the northern plain, extended, first their suzerainty, and then their rule over the whole district. However, given that the Arcadian language is a direct and conservative descendent of Mycenaean Greek, it is more likely that the Dorians pushed the native Messenians into Arcadia.

The task apparently proved an easy one, and the Dorians blending with the previous inhabitants produced an amalgamated Messenian tribe with a strong national feeling. However, the relative wealth of Messenia in fertile soil and favourable climate attracted the expansionistic neighbouring Spartans. War broke out, it was said, as a result of the murder of the Spartan king Teleclus by the Messenians - which, in spite of the heroism of King Euphaes and his successor Aristodemus ended in the subjection of Messenia to Sparta (c. 720 BC). Two generations later the Messenians revolted and under the leadership of Aristomenes kept the Spartans at bay for some seventeen years (648 BC—631 BC, according to Grote). However, the stronghold of Ira (Eira) fell after a siege of eleven years.

As the object of the Spartans was to increase the number of lots of land for their citizens, many of the conquered Messenians (those who did not manage to leave the area) were reduced to the condition of Helots. Servitude was hard, though their plight might have been harder, for they paid to their lords only one-half of the produce of the lands which they tilled. The Spartan poet Tyrtaeus describes how the Messenians endured the insolence of the masters:

The next revolt broke out in 464 BC, when a severe earthquake destroyed Sparta and caused great loss of life. The insurgents defended themselves for some years on the rock-citadel of Ithome, as they had done in the first war; but eventually they had to leave the Peloponnese and were settled by the Athenians at Naupactus in the territory of the Locri Ozolae. After the Battle of Leuctra (371 BC), Epaminondas invited the exiled Messenians scattered in Italy, Sicily, Africa and elsewhere to return to their country. The city of Messene was founded in 369 BC to be the capital of the country and, like Megalopolis in Arcadia, became a powerful check on Sparta. Other towns, as well, were founded or rebuilt at this time, though a great part of the land still remained very sparsely populated. Although quite independent, Messenia never became really powerful or able to stand without external support.

After the fall of the Theban power, to which it had owed its foundation, it became an ally of Philip II of Macedon and took no part in the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC). Subsequently it joined the Achaean League, and we find Messenian troops fighting along with the Achaeans and Antigonus Doson at Sellasia in 222 BC. Philip V sent Demetrius of Pharos to seize Messene, but the attempt failed and cost the life of Demetrius. Soon afterwards the Spartan tyrant Nabis succeeded in taking the city, but was forced to retire by the timely arrival of Philopoemen and the Megalopolitans. A war afterwards broke out with the Achaean League, during which Philopoemen was captured and put to death by the Messenians (183 BC), but Lycortas took the city in the following year, and it again joined the Achaean League, though much weakened by the loss of Abia, Thuria and Pherae, which broke loose from it and entered the League as independent members.

In 146 BC, the Messenians, together with the other states of Greece, were brought directly under Roman sway by L. Mummius. For centuries there had been a dispute between Messenia and Sparta about the possession of the Ager Dentheliales on the western slope of Taygetus: after various decisions by Philip of Macedon, Antigonus, Mummius, Caesar, Antony, Augustus and others, the question was settled in 25 by Tiberius and the Senate in favour of the Messenians (Tac. Ann. iv. 43). In 395 AD, the Roman Empire was split into the East and the Western Roman Empire and Messenia was ruled by the East and was later known as the Byzantine Empire, it was later invaded by the Slavs.

Medieval period

In the Middle Ages, Messenia shared the fortunes of the rest of the Peloponnese. Striking reminders of these conflicts are afforded by the extant ruins of the medieval strongholds of Kalamata, Coron (anc. Asine, mod. Korone), Modon (Methone) and Pylos. Messenia was a part of the Frankish Empire.

Ottoman and Venetian period

Much of Messenia fell into the hands of the Ottoman Turks, a part of the area remained with the Venetian Republic and a whole shortly in the mid to late-15th century. Again in the 1680s, the whole of Messenia was part of the Venetian Republic again before being ruled again by the Ottomans in the 1730s. Messenia did not became Greek until the Greek War of Independence of 1821 and several months and years later was liberated by the Greeks. One of the most famous battles was the Battle of Navarino which took place in the middle of the war and defeated its Turkish fleets. The Mani Peninsula, a part of modern Messenia, was autonomous from Turkish rule due to the fact that it had no harbors.


In 1534 a group of families, known as the 'Coroni', settled in Piana degli Albanesi in Sicily. They were Arvanites and Greeks from Koroni.

From the Greek War of Independence until World War II

Messenia had improved its economy including its agriculture in the first years of the modern country of Greece. It was later connected by rail (OSE's SPAP line and four highways. Emigration to the United States and later larger towns and cities including Athens also began slowly. The prefecture later included the Ionian Islands of Sapientza and Schiza.

Modern period

After World War II and the Greek Civil War, most of its buildings were rebuilt. Emigration increased and later included much of North America and Australia and later western Europe and slowed down in the 1980s and continues in villages. The population in the area of Kalamata and Messene boomed from 30,000 before the war up to nearly 80,000 in the present day.

The highway bypassed Messene in the 1970s. In 1999, the construction of the GR-7 was opened and added an interchange in the mid-2000s with the GR-9. The Ministry of Transportation will extend the bypass with two lanes downward to Kalamata with the bypass that opened in 2004, it length will be approximately 30 km, the section will open as early as 2012. The next construction program is uncertain with the exception of the possible proposal of the GR-9A from Kalo Neri to the GR-7 connecting the GR-9 which the date is unset. The eastern portion is bypassed and features an interchange.

On Thursday July 26, 2007, the central part of the prefecture was strucked by a small fire that consumed several forests, groves and farms and ruined a part of its economy. Some houses were destroyed in villages that are built in a valley. The fire lasted into July 28. Nearly a month later, another fire ravaged the northeastern portion of the prefecture and consumed villages in the Taygetos ranges. It lasted from August 26 to August 27 and ruined many bushes, it did not affect southwest into the GR-9A Junction due to low winds and cooler weather. Firefighters along with airplanes, fire trucks and choppers battled the blaze, most of its water came from Lake Taka. Another natural disaster became earthquakes (see Earthquakes in Greece), a high medium earthquake ravaged and shook the entire prefecture, it measured at 6.6 on the Richter scale on Thursday February 14, 2008. Kalamata and Methoni became dangerous places as damages were rarely reported, they were nearly on high alert which brought panic to Messinia. Messinia was not to escape the earthquakes but they were to be lighter, Anthoni was battered by a February 26 earthquake that measured around 5.5 and another on Thursday February 28 that battered Methoni and caused only minor damages on these two earthquakes, some of its old houses were damaged from it. Messinia did not escape the quakes once again, four earthquakes battered portions of the prefecture near Methoni, all measured around 4 on the Richter scale, all of these occurred at the sea which relieved most of the shakiness.

Today, Messenia forms a prefecture with its capital at Kalamata.


Climate may vary, in the lowlands, temperatures are a bit warmer than Athens. Snow is not common during winter months except for the mountains especially the Taygetus. Rain and clouds are common inland. For one day in July 2000, morning temperatures were at the 37°C point in many areas.


There are four major highways in Messenia:


Year Population Density
1991 167,292 - 56/km²
2001 172,875 57.7/km²



Municipalities and communities

Municipality YPES code Seat (if different)
Aetos 3802 Kopanaki
Aipeia 3803 Longa
Andania 3804 Diavolitsi
Androusa 3805
Arfara 3808
Aris 3806
Aristomenis 3807
Avia 3801 Kampos
Avlona 3809 Sidirokastro
Chiliochoria 3831 Chandrinos
Dorio 3812
Eira 3813 Neda
Filiatra 3830
Gargalianoi 3811
Ithomi 3815 Valyra
Kalamata 3816
Koroni 3817
Kyparissia 3818
Lefktro 3819 Kardamyli
Meligalas 3821
Messene 3822
Methoni 3820
Nestoras 3823 Chora
Oichalia 3824 Meropi
Papaflessas 3825 Vlachopoulo
Petalidi 3826
Pylos 3827
Thouria 3814
Voufrades 3810 Chatzis
Community YPES code Seat (if different)
Trikorfo 3828
Tripyla 3829 Raptopoulo

See also: List of settlements in the Messenia prefecture




External links

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