On a rocky headland on the east coast of the south-western peninsula south of Kalamata, stand the walls of the Castle of Koroni. This was originally the site of the Messenian town of Asine, which was built after 740 BC by the citizens who fled from the former Mycenaean city of Ancient Asine in the Argolid. Their own city had been destroyed by the Dorians, so this new town was built on land given to them by their Spartan allies.
The castle was constructed during the Byzantine era and was used as a Byzantine fortress until it was given to the Frankish crusader Geoffrey de Villehardouin, Prince of Achaea in 1205. Then the Venetian fleet sailed in and took it a year or so later. Koroni became a thriving merchant town, famed for its trade in cochineal, used as a fashionable red dye back then, as well as silk.
Around 1500 the Ottoman invaders, led by Sultan Bayezid II, came along and forcibly removed the Venetians from Koroni as well as Methoni in the west. It was reclaimed briefly in 1532, by a Genoese admiral, but by 1534, the Ottoman ruler Suleyman the Magnificent had enlisted the services of the notorious pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa to take it back.
A few generations down the line, in 1685, Venetians managed to move back in, but not for long. Ottomans recaptured it in 1715 and were there to stay for another century. After the famous Battle of Navarino in 1827, this part of the Peloponnese was freed from Turkish rule, and Koroni became part of the modern Greek state in 1828.
Part of the castle is still occupied today, but visitors are welcome to explore the surrounding walls and ruins. Scattered columns from the ancient Messenian temple remain as evidence of the distant past, next to the 4th century AD basilica of Agia Sophia, the 17th century Agios Charalambos, and the church of Panagia Eleistria.
Entrance cost: Free.
Opening days/times: By appointment. Some areas may be closed to public at times.
Tel.: +30 27250 22221
Other: Small car park.
All images copyright Eric CB Cauchi / Eternal Greece Ltd, unless otherwise stated.