Ancient Messene: life in antiquity
Ancient Messene is one of the best-preserved settlements in Greece ever discovered.
Unnoticed until 40 years ago, it is now a destination of a remarkable kind.
The city flourished in the 4th century BC after the defeat of the Spartans. The Spartan rule had lasted for centuries. Ancient Messene provides amazing insight into life in the ancient world.
Immersion in antiquity
To be found are the remains of a theatre that once welcomed 10,000 spectators. It was used for political meetings as well as for entertainment. There are also the ruins of an agora, the marketplace where life took place, and a gymnasium, as well as a number of sanctuaries, temples, statues, springs and residences, not forgetting the imposing walls of ancient Messene, which once stretched for 9 km.
The city was planned according to a symmetrical grid system, the Hippodamian plan. So it is not a typical labyrinth to repel and confuse attackers. Thus, it is considered a precursor of modern urban planning.
Around 60km drive from Gialova, a trip worth making to experience antiquity first hand. On the way, Messini is a good stopover or a detour to a waterfall, such as the Polylimnios Waterfalls.
Ancient Olympia: a journey through time
It’s a day trip to ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games in honour of Zeus and visitors can trace the games back to 776 BC.
These were panhellenic festivals held every 4 years, which took priority even in times of war. Enmities and battles were quieted during the games and associated travel times and this was despite the city states being anything but peaceful with each other. In a thousand years of Olympic Games, this rule was only broken twice.
The Temple of Zeus was also called Altis or “sacred wood” and was the centrepiece.
Experience and feel antiquity
One of the most important archaeological sites in Greece is the ancient stadium of the panhellenic festival, as well as the Hippodrome, where the chariot races took place. The ruins of some later buildings can also be visited: the Temple of Hera, the oldest and best preserved temple in Olympia, public baths and villas such as that of the Roman Emperor Nero, which he had built as his private residence.
There are three museums: the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, the Museum of the History of the Excavations of Olympia and the Museum of the History of the Ancient Olympic Games.
The Archaeological Museum houses one of the greatest marble sculptures of all time, the Hermes of Praxiteles. The god leans against a tree trunk, holding the boy Dionysus in his left arm.
100km is quite a journey, but the route takes you along the coast and there are plenty of opportunities to jump into the sea.