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date: 18 January 2021


  • Arthur Maurice Woodward,
  • Robert J. Hopper
  •  and Antony Spawforth


Messene (Μεσσήνη Mod. Mavromati), *polis founded in 369 bce by *Epaminondas as part of a Theban strategy (see Thebes(1)) to contain Sparta; named after the eponymous heroine (LIMC ‘Messene’), recipient of a temple in the agora (newly identified) and lively cult. Situated on the western slopes of Mt. *Ithome in the lower plain of *Messenia, its natural strength was reinforced by exceptionally fine city walls, largely preserved. The excavated remains, all aligned on a ‘Hippodamian’ plan (see Hippodamus), include a stadium (3rd cent. bce) associated with a gymnasium, a theatre, mausolea continuing into the 2nd cent. ce, and an elaborate cult-complex (2nd cent bce) centred on a temple of *Asclepius, with statuary by *Damophon. Surviving attacks by Hellenistic dynasts and capture by the *Achaean Confederacy (182 bce), the city remained a prosperous regional centre of Roman *Achaia.

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