We follow my characters to Messene as they zigzag across the Peloponnese so they may reach Delphi. The city was founded in the 4th Century BC but before then, and according Pausanias, the region of Messenia had small settlements.
‘…I do not believe any city called Messene ever existed; I rest this opinion largely on Homeric epic.
…there is a line in the Odyssey which shows the Messenians were a nation and not a city.’
Pausanias, Guide to Greece, Book 4
This is not Messene’s only claim to historical fame; the region was coveted by the Dorians, familiarly known as Spartans, because largely it was a fertile plain. This led to a war, regarded as the longest running war in Ancient Greece. 30 years of fighting but unfortunately for the Messenians the Spartans eventually won. They were subjugated by the Spartans; ‘helots’, slaves without the ball and chain. They were forced to toil the land, growing produce and looking after farm animals for them. The Spartans were the overlords and the Messenians the serfs. The Spartans also had introduced a way to keep them under control with a force called the ‘Krypteia’. They were young Spartan men encouraged to ‘hunt’ helots in order to hone their fighting and killing skills.
The Messenians did revolt against their oppressors and the city of Messene was later founded. It was named after the queen from whom the region was named after.
There is also a connection with Italy: Ancient Messenia was the ‘mother-city’ to Messina in Sicily, which also lends its name to the strait between the island and mainland Italy.
There is an extensive archaeological site with fortification walls still visible and parts standing. It is my hope one day to visit.