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date: 27 November 2022



  • O. T. P. K. Dickinson,
  • Arthur Maurice Woodward,
  • Robert J. Hopper
  •  and Antony Spawforth


The SW region of the Peloponnese (see Peloponnesus), bounded on the north by *Elis—along the lower course of the river Neda—and *Arcadia, and on the east by *Laconia, where the frontier follows at first the main ridge of Taygetus, but further south runs to the west of it (here lay the ager Dentheliatis, long disputed between *Messene and *Sparta), and terminates at the river Choerius a few miles south of the head of the Messenian Gulf. Western Messenia, dominated by Mt. Aegaleos, is hilly but well watered, with settlements concentrated on the coast. In Classical times the central and eastern region watered by the (partly navigable) river Pamisus was more populous; this area was well known for stockraising (Strabo 8. 5. 6, 366), and the lower plain, Macaria, was famous for its fertility.Survey work (see archaeology, classical) has provided a wealth of information on prehistoric Messenia, demonstrating that for much of the bronze age eastern Messenia was less significant than the western region, where the majority of important sites have been found. Neolithic finds remain scanty, but major early Helladic II buildings have been identified at Akovitika (near mod. Kalamata) and Voïdhokoilia (near Osmanaga lagoon). The later prehistoric sequence is best known from Nichoria, close to Rizomylo at the NW edge of the Messenian Gulf, which was occupied for the middle and most of the late Helladic periods, and again for much of the Dark Age. Middle Helladic Messenia has a markedly local character, without much evidence for contacts with the Aegean civilizations, but several of its more substantial settlements seem to have become the centres of small early Mycenaean principalities, to judge from the distribution of tholos-tombs, a type probably first developed in this province (early examples at .


  • Ancient Geography
  • Greek Material Culture: Bronze Age

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