The city of Messene (Μεσσήνη) was built under the command of the Theban general Epameinondas, to serve as one of the heavily fortified cities that together with Megalopolis and Mantineia in Arkadia had to restrain the Spartans, after centuries of suffering and oppression of the (Doric) Messenians. According to the historian Diodoros Siculus, the walls were completed in 85 days. In 214 Messene was besieged by the Macedonian freebooter general Demetrios of Pharos, who was also killed there. In 202, the Spartans under their tyrant Nabis made a futile attempt to take the city. When the Messenians decided to leave the Akhaian League, the allied army under Philopoimen attacked the city, on which occasion Philopoimen was captured and died in prison. The city was still of some importance in the Roman imperial period, and remains of an early Christian basilica testify to the city’s survival. Where ecclesiastical archives from the 10th century still mention Messene, it is no longer mentioned in the 15th century. The present-day village of Mavromati [“The Black Eye”, so named after the local source, the Klepsydra of Pausanias, which fed the great Arsinoe fountain in the city] occupies part of the remains of the ancient city. The center of the ancient city was the important Asklepios sanctuary situated on the agora, while the Odeion and the gymnasion still give a good impression of the ancient beauty of the city. A visit to the museum of Messene is certainly worthwhile.
Above: the Klepsydra spring in Mavromati, and an overview of the city. Right: the great source of Messene, reconstruction and aerial photo.