Messinia, in the southwestern tip of mainland Greece, encapsulates the most symbolic chapters of Greek history. The monuments, witnesses to the area's long history, stand proud, representing a course of 4,500 years.

The many prehistoric sites discovered by archaeological excavations, mainly in the west of the county, show a land that was inhabited throughout the prehistoric period (7000-1000 BC), particularly the areas of Pylia and Trifylia (Chora, Englianos, Malthi, Chandrinos, Koryfasion). The first Messinian inhabitants were Leleges and Kafkones, who were not of Greek origin, and Aeolians who came from Thessaly and settled in ancient Andania, near today's Diavolitsi. It was around the same time that Nileas, father of Nestor, settled in the area of Pylos and founded the homonymous state. The descent of the Greeks is placed at around 1900 BC and the heyday of the state of Pylos must have been between 1600 and 1100 BC, therefore during the Mycenaean era. The Mycenaean finds discovered all over the Peloponnese attest to the great prime that this civilization reached in the area. 

The Mycenaean Bronze Age (1600-1100 BC)

During this period, Messinia was the most populous region of the Peloponnese, as evidenced by rich archaeological finds at fifty sites: tholos tombs, rock-hewn tombs, remains of buildings and settlements, as well as pottery. The most important of these sites were found in the following areas: Volimidia in Chora, Koukounara, Charakopio, Vigla, Koryfasion, Rizomylos, Papoulias, Tragana, Myrsinochori, Ano Englianos, Thouria, Mouriatada, Myro, and Malthi. Easily distinguished from the other sites by its importance, Ano Eglianos is one of the most significant Mycenaean centers in Messinia and all of Greece; it was the seat of the Mycenaean kings of Pylos and the palace of Nestor, the wise king of the Iliad. King Nestor was an example of prudence, gentleness and profound wisdom; in the minds of the people he became the personified expression of the most important virtues of the Greek spirit.

Pre-Geometric (1100 -900 BC) and Geometric period (900-700 BC)

During the so-called “Dorian invasion,” which destroyed the Mycenaean centers, the state of Pylos was attacked by the leaders of the Dorians; Temenus, Cresphontes, and Aristodemos. According to tradition, the fertile country of Nestor was allotted to Cresphontes, who settled in the area of Stenyklaros. Most of the locals chose to seek refuge elsewhere, especially in Attica, rather than capitulate to the Dorians. The Dorians created a new Messinian state in the Peloponnese and those who remained in the area were deprived of their property.

Archaic - Classical - Hellenistic Age / Roman times (7th century BC - 4th century AD)

In the 8th century BC a dramatic adventure began for the Messinian people, when the military state of neighboring Sparta decided to increase its territories by conquering the fertile lands of Messinia. Between the mid-8th century and the mid-5th century BC (743 to 454 BC) the Spartans and Messinians became involved in three major wars that led to the subjugation of Messinia by Sparta. Despite the bleak ending, the Messinian Wars gave rise to a strong national consciousness in the inhabitants of Messinia, as the defenders of their homeland. Messinia remained under Spartan rule until the time of the domination of Sparta by the Thebans. The Theban Epaminondas liberated the country (369 BC) and built the capital of the once more independent Messinia, at the foot of Mount Ithomi, and Messini evolved into an important cultural center. In the following years until the Roman occupation Messini was destroyed twice: by General Philip V Demetrius Faro in 214 BC and by the tyrant of Sparta Navi in 202 BC. The subsequent wars and conflicts between the Greek cities eventually led to the victory of the Romans and Greece was entirely subordinate to them by 146 BC. Messinia then followed the fate of the rest of the country during both the Roman period and, later, the Byzantine period.

Medieval - Byzantine period (4th-15th century AD)

From the 4th century AD until the early 9th century, the Peloponnese was attacked by Goths, Avars and Slavs; Messinia also suffered from their aggression. Fearing such raids, the inhabitants fled towards the sea, eventually founding the cities of Kalamata, Koroni and Methoni. After the conquest of Constantinople by the Latins, Messinia was included in the Principality of Achaea (1205) under the leadership of the Frank Geoffrey of Villehardouin, with Kalamata and its castle as his base; the fortresses of Methoni and Koroni were exceptions to his rule, as they were Venetian possessions. The Frankish rule in the Peloponnese lasted for over 200 years. From the end of the late 14th century, the Turks began the gradual conquest of Messinian cities and regions, which was completed in 1498.

Modern times: Turkish rule - Revolution

From 1769 to 1770 Messinians and Maniots participated in the failed Orlofika movement; a terrible raid by a Turkish-Albanian collaboration ensued, which destroyed Messinia and much of the population was slaughtered. On March 23rd 1821, Petrobeis Mavromichalis, Kolokotronis and Papaflessas, along with other Messinian rebels closed in on Kalamata and thus begun the Revolution, with a declaration to the European royal courts that the Greeks were now an independent nation. Soon all of Messinia was liberated except for the fortresses of Methoni and Koroni. After that, Messinia remained free until 1825, when Ibrahim made his first foray. Despite the heroic resistance of Papaflessas at Maniaki and the devastation caused to the Turkish army by the Maniots at Verga, in Almyros, Ibrahim destroyed the whole of the Peloponnese by burning and felling 150,000 fruit and olive trees and carrying out the systematic massacre of the population. On October 20th 1827, the Turkish-Egyptian alliance was defeated by the allied fleet in the bay of Navarino; the beginning of the end of the Greek Revolution is written on Messinian soil. After the liberation of Greece and the restoration of rule, Messinia followed the fortunes of the other provinces of the Peloponnese.

Source: messinia.gr