The walled city of Methoni lies on a rocky headland on the west coast of the Peloponnese around 11 kilometres south of Pylos. It is one of the most important castles in Greece and commanded a strategic position with its exceptional natural harbour being the first port of call for travellers approaching by sea from the south west.
The remains that we see now are of the castle that was built by Venetians in the early 13th century and this was a thriving Venetian city and trading port until the end of the 15th century. However, Methoni’s history goes back much further to ancient times when it was known as Pedasos. It was referred to in Homer’s Iliad as one of the cities gifted to Achilles by Agamemnon to placate him and persuade him to return to battle. The legendary Homeric city was later mentioned by Pausanias and Strabo under the name Mothoni. Pausanias also wrote of a temple of Athena and sanctuary of Artemis here.
In the early Roman Christian period, the city developed as an important trade centre and naval supply port. It then became the seat of bishop under Byzantine rule, and was one of the most important cities of the Peloponnese. Venetians came along in 1125 and attacked the pirates who apparently controlled the port at that time.
The Frankish Geoffrey de Villehardouin, who later became Prince of Achaea and ruled Koroni Castle in the east, was shipwrecked here in 1204 and stayed for the winter. He collaborated with a wealthy local leader, Ioannis Kantakouzinos, helping him to control the area, but was forced to flee north when the latter died.
The Venetians moved in around 1206, and managed to retain the city under the Treaty of Sapienza, an agreement between Venice and the Principality of Achaea.
Around 1499–1500, Methoni became a refuge for Christians and Jews from all over the Peloponnese. But the city was under siege by the Ottoman invaders, led by Sultan Bayezid II until August 1500 when all the residents were killed or sold as slaves at the same time when Koroni was captured. The Ottomans then brought in new citizens from every village in the Peloponnese to repopulate Methoni. Crusaders captured the city, taking quite a few Ottoman prisoners in 1532, only to be thrown out again before long.
As in Koroni, Venetians managed to move back in around 1686 during the Morean War, but only until Ottomans recaptured it in 1715. The city and port flourished again under Ottoman rule until the Greek War of Independence began.
In the aftermath of the famous Battle of Navarino in 1827, the Ottomans handed over the city to the French in 1828, and then it became part of the modern Greek state, the Kingdom of Greece, in 1833.
Access to the fortified city is across the arched, stone bridge across the castle moat, then through the massive Venetian entrance gate, the first of three leading into the interior where there are ruins of Venetians houses, a Turkish bath, and the Byzantine church of Saint Sophia. – To the south lies the impressive sea gate, with a lower stone bridge across to the islet of Bourtzi. This is a two-storey octagonal tower, which was an Ottoman prison from 1500.
Entrance cost: A small admission fee.
May 2-Oct 31, Mon-Sun, 08:30-15:00
Nov 1-Apr 30, Mon-Sun, 08:30-15:00
Tel.: +30 27230 31255
All images copyright Eric CB Cauchi / Eternal Greece Ltd, unless otherwise stated.