Ancient Messene is a major historical and archaeological site located in the Peloponnese region of Greece. Often overlooked by people intent on visiting Olympia, Corinth, and Mycenae, Ancient Messene is a vast complex you should definitely consider adding to your list of places to see in Greece.
Ancient Messene, Greece
Ancient Messene is one of a number of places in Greece where no one can quite agree on its Latin spelling. Is it Messini or Messene? Who knows! Whatever you do though, don't get it confused with the rather bland market town of Messini, because you will be disappointed!
Ancient Messene is a 30km drive from Kalamata, and isn't particularly well sign posted. Even the sat-nav struggled at times! When you do get there though, you will be rewarded with the opportunity to explore one of the largest and best preserved archaeological sites in Greece.
Walking around Messene archaeological site
Settled since ancient times, Messene came to prominence in 369 BC after the defeat of the Spartans by the Theban General Epaminondas. The walls constructed at this time then protected the settlement for nearly 500 years, although the Romans among other people did move in and change a few things.
Excavations of Ancient Messene started in 1828, and since that time, there have also been some reconstructions. To the visitor, it provides an interesting glimpse upon not only ancient architecture, but also to how people may have lived their lives.
As far as ancient sites go (and over the years I have visited hundreds such as Tikal, Easter Island, and Markawamachuco), this was one of my favourites. It had just the right combination of preservation, restoration, history, and mystery.
The most interesting part of the complex to me, was the Messene stadium area. Standing inside, it was easy to imagine how gladiators may have fought there during the Roman era. I actually felt it would have been a great place to fight, with the audience so close you could have seen their faces. Perhaps I used to be a gladiator in a previous life. Or a King. I look quite at home on that throne!!
Pro travel tips for visiting Ancient Messene, Greece
The archaeological site of Messene is very badly signed. Yes, there is information when you find a significant building on the site, but you have to find that significant building first! So, read about Ancient Messene before visiting, and when there, explore every track and pathway…. You never know where they may lead!
Ancient Messene is a vast site. Allow at least three hours there to give it the justice it deserves.
Other Peloponnese Tourist Attractions
The Peloponnese is packed full of things to see and do. One great way to see them, is by planning a Peloponnese road trip. There are many ‘must-sees' when there, but I strongly recommend you visit Methoni castle before you leave!