Methoni, Messinia, Greece

The coastal town of Methoni is 10 kilometres from Pylos and 61 kilometres from Kalamata. It has approximately 1200 permanent residents. During Homeric times it was called Pedasos, while Homer characterises it as "ambeloessa". 
Some argue that Pidasos corresponds to today's Koroni, while Methoni corresponds to the Homeric Aipeia. Traveller Pausanias mentions that the city was also called Mothoni, from the mythical Mothona’s stone, on which the city's castle was located or from Oeneas’ daughter, Mothoni.
Methoni (Greek: Μεθώνη, Italian: Modone, Venetian: Modon) is a village and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality of Pylos-Nestor, of which it is a municipal unit. The municipal unit has an area of 97.202 km2. Its name may be derived from Mothona, a mythical rock. It is located 11 km south of Pylos and 11 km west of Foinikounta. The municipal unit of Methoni includes the nearby villages of Grizokampos, Finikouda, Foiniki, Lachanada, Varakes, Kainourgio Chorio, Kamaria, Evangelismos, and the Oinnoussai Islands. The islands are Sapientza, Schiza, and Santa Marina; they form a natural protection for Methoni harbour. The town is also known by the Italian name Modone, which it was called by the Venetians.

Its economy is dominated by tourism, attracted by its beaches (including Tapia, Kokkinia and Kritika) and its historical castle.

The municipal unit of Methoni is subdivided into the following communities (constituent villages in brackets):

Methoni (Methoni, Kokkinia, Kritika, Sapientza (island), Tapia)
Evangelismos (Evangelismos, Dentroulia, Kamaria)
Foinikounta (Foinikounta, Anemomylos, Chounakia, Grizokampos, Loutsa, Schiza (island))
Kainourgio Chorio (Kainourgio Chorio, Varakes)
Lachanada (Lachanada, Nerantzies)
Antiquity and Byzantine era
Methoni has been identified as the city of Pedasus, which Homer mentions under the name "ampeloessa" (of vine leaves), as the last of the seven εὐναιόμενα πτολίεθρα (eunaiomena ptoliethra) (well-peopled cities) that Agamemnon offers Achilles in order to subdue his rage. Pausanias knew the city as Mothone, named either after the daughter of Oeneus or after the rock Mothon, which protects the harbour, and mentioned a temple to Athena Anemotis there.[4] The Oinoussai complex of islands protected the port of Methoni from the turbulent sea. Along with the rest of Messenia, the town gained its independence from the Spartans in 369 BC.

Like other Mediterranean coastal settlements, Methoni was probably heavily affected by the tsunami that followed the earthquake in AD 365. Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus wrote that as a result of the earthquake some ships had been "hurled nearly two miles from the shore", giving as an example a Laconian vessel that was stranded "near the town of Methone".
During the Byzantine years Methoni retained its remarkable harbor and remained one of the most important cities of the Peloponnese, seat of a bishopric.
First Venetian era
The Republic of Venice had its eye on Methoni (Modon) since the 12th century, due to its location on the route from Venice to the Eastern markets. In 1125, they launched an attack against pirates based at Methoni, who had captured some Venetian traders on their way home from the east.

In the mid-12th century, the Muslim traveller and geographer al-Idrisi mentioned Methoni as a fortified town with a citadel.

At the time of the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade, one of the Crusaders, Geoffrey of Villehardouin, was shipwrecked near Methoni, and he spent the winter of 1204/5 there. He came into contact with a local Greek magnate—identified by some scholars with a certain John Kantakouzenos—and aided him in subduing much of the region. Villehardouin's sojourn there was brief, however, since the Greek magnate died, and his son and successor turned against Villehardouin, who was forced to flee Messenia, and made for the Argolid, where a Crusader army under Boniface of Montferrat had arrived. From there, Villehardouin and another Crusader, William of Champlitte, led the conquest of the Peloponnese from the local Greeks and the establishment of a Crusader principality, the Principality of Achaea.[8] In the treaty of partition of the Byzantine Empire by the Crusaders, the Partitio Romaniae, most of the peninsula had been assigned to the Republic of Venice in the treaty of partition, but the Venetians did not take action to pre-empt or hinder Champlitte and Villehardouin. It was not until 1206 or 1207 that a Venetian fleet under Premarini and the son of the Doge Enrico Dandolo arrived in the Peloponnese, and captured Methoni, along with Koroni. Venice and the Principality of Achaea quickly came to terms, recognizing each other's possessions in the Treaty of Sapienza (1209).
Koroni was fortified, but Methoni was, for the time being, left without walls. Roman Catholic bishops were installed in the two local dioceses, who were both suffragans of the Latin Archbishopric of Patras; and in 1212 the Pope placed the Latin Bishopric of Modon under his personal protection. Under Venetian rule, the town experienced its zenith, becoming an important center for trade with the Levant and enjoying great prosperity. Methoni became an important staging point on the route between Venice and the Holy Lands, and many descriptions of it survive in pilgrims' accounts.

Ottoman era
With the Ottoman conquest of the Despotate of the Morea, the town came under threat; Christian and Jewish refugees from the rest of the Peloponnese flocked to its walls, while the Turks raided its environs. In 1499–1500, Ottoman ships raided the town from the sea, while Sultan Bayezid II in person arrived to supervise its siege. After 28 days, on 9 August 1500, Methoni fell. The populace was either massacred or sold off as slaves. In 1532, the Knights Hospitaller briefly recaptured the fortress and left with reportedly 1,600 Muslim prisoners.

Then Sultan Bayezid came inside; he entered and prayed in the Frankish church which he converted into a mosque, as it remains to the present day. [Other churches were burned.] They butchered the pitiable Christians. They say that the slaughter was so great that blood ran into the sea and stained it red. From there, after Bayezid had prayed, he… ordered all Methonians captured alive, young and old, to be brought before him. He ordered the execution of all those who were ten years or older; and so it happened. They gathered their heads and bodies, put them together, and built a big tower outside the city, which can still be seen nowadays. This happened in 1499.

The Venetians returned under Francesco Morosini in 1686 during the Morean War. A Venetian census shortly afterwards lists Methoni with only 236 inhabitants, indicative of the general depopulation of the region during that time. The second period of Venetian rule lasted until 1715, when the Grand Vizier Damad Ali Pasha invaded the Peloponnese. Although strengthened by the garrisons of Navarino and Koroni, who fled their fortresses, Methoni surrendered quickly once the Ottoman army arrived and began to besiege it. Nevertheless, the Grand Vizier ordered his troops to kill all Christians in the town, and as a result many chose to convert on the spot to Islam to save themselves.

Following the Ottoman recapture of the town, the pre-1684 owners were allowed to claim their former property. A period of recovery followed, particularly after 1725, when the town once more became a hub of trade with the Ottoman provinces of North Africa. In 1770, during the Russian-sponsored Orlov Revolt, the castle was besieged for a long time by the Russians under Prince Yuri Vladimirovich Dolgorukov. Unable to storm the castle, the siege was dominated by artillery duels until Turks and Albanians from the interior of the Peloponnese came to the aid of the garrison and drove away the Russians after a fierce battle in May 1770. The Russians suffered heavy casualties, and were forced to abandon most of their guns. They fled to their base in Navarino, which they also abandoned soon afterwards.
Greek War of Independence
By the time of the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, the town was inhabited by Turks, some 400 to 500 fighting men, who also owned most of the land in the area. Outside the walls, the region was populated almost exclusively by Greeks. When the Greek revolution broke out, Methoni was put under siege, along with Koroni and Navarino. In July 1821, the Ottoman fleet succeeded in reprovisioning the town, but not Navarino, which on 8 August capitulated to the Greeks. The garrison of Methoni had set out to aid them, but were stopped by the Greek rebels en route. Thereafter, the Greek pressure on Methoni slackened, and the town remained in Ottoman hands throughout the conflict, albeit only thanks to frequent reprovisioning by the fleet. Consequently, the town was one of the main bases for Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt's expedition against the Greeks in 1825–28. The fortress surrendered to the French Morea Expedition on 8 October 1828, and in 1833 the departing French turned over its control to the newly established Kingdom of Greece.

The castle of Methoni
The castle of Methoni is a magnificent archaeological site surrounded by the sea. In fact, the natural harbor close to the castle meant that the castle actually became a source of contention among those who wanted the area for their own diplomatic interests.
The castle was built by the Venetians in 1209 A.D. and is separated from the land by an artificial moat. 

The fortress has been left to decay, but even so, it’s still a mighty fortress. It is amazing to know that there are a number of buildings inside the castle – the Church of Metamorfosi of Sotiros,  a gun powder room, some Ottoman baths, some homes of Venetian masters as well as a building where a General Maison lived. 

The castle occupies the entire area of the cape and the south-western coast and is protected by the sea on its three sides. 
There is a deep moat that separates the castle from the land. The castle’s entrance is in the middle of the north side and there is a stone bridge of 14 arches, that was built over the moat. There is also the remains of the British prisoner´s cemetery during the 2nd World War. 
In Methoni there is a co-educational school, which was one of the first schools built in the newly founded Greece (in March 1830), by the decision of Kapodistrias. It was the first school in the Peloponnese that was built to be co-educational. Its construction site was indicated by Kapodistrias himself, when he visited Methoni in the spring of 1829. The Kapodistrian school operated until 1935/6, when it was abandoned, and in 1940 it was sold to a private person. It was classified as a historical monument in 1951 and its expropriation was completed in 2001. In 2015, its restoration was completed. On Kapodistria Street there is an arched bridge, which was built at the beginning of the 20th century. It has been classified as a historical monument and a work of art.

In Syngrou Square, on the main road, near the entrance to the castle, there is a Venetian well. The well was built in the 2nd Venetian period (1686-1715), it has a diameter of 2.6 m, a depth of 4 meters and three steps with a diameter of 3.10 m made of sandstone slabs around the perimeter. This well, together with another one near the bridge at the entrance of Methoni, have been classified as historical monuments.
The Girls' School building, known as the "Sygrou" School, donated by Andreas Sygrou, built in Sygrou Square, is a school building of the so-called Kallia type and has been classified as a monument. It is the smallest variant of this type of school building – one-story – and was built in 1901. It continued to be used as a Methoni Primary School building until December 1941. Then it was requisitioned by the Occupation Forces. After the occupation it was abandoned and in January 1953 it was used by the church as a Parish Library until 1959. From 1959 to 1970, 2 classes of the Methoni High School were housed there. Again it was abandoned. In 1980, it was housed and operated as a kindergarten until 2004. From 2004 until today, it is used by the cultural association of Methoni. The building has been included in the E.S.P.A. program. for restoration and will be used for cultural purposes.
The construction of the cathedral of Methoni, dedicated to the city's patron Saint. Nikolaos, began in 1833. The temple was completed and inaugurated in 1839. Its imposing bell tower was erected in 1912.
The church of Agios Nikolaos has been classified as a monument, as a remarkable example of ecclesiastical architecture of the years after 1830. In the courtyard of the church there is the tomb of the priest Dim. Griva (1790-1863), fighter of the 1821 revolution, politician and soldier of the then Methoni District. In 1825 D. Grivas was captured by Ibrahim's troops in April 1825 and was released in September of the same year. D. Grivas was a member of the Philiki Etairia and a member of parliament in the period 1823-1824. The wood-carved hollow carved ceiling of the temple is exceptional. In its caves have been placed, after conservation, icons which were crafted by the monk G. N. Andronikos in the period 1872-1833. According to local tradition, the monk died in Methoni immediately after the completion of the painting of the church. Inside the church there are also icons created in the 1930s by the local painter and iconographer E. Gabriel.

The early Christian teacher cemetery of Agios Onofrios, unique of its kind for the whole mainland Greece, is located on the slope of the mountain of Agios Nikolaos north of Methoni. It was probably founded in the 4th century and was in use until the 6th, while much later (12th-13th centuries) its space was used as a hermitage and frescoed. The early Christian cemetery is carved out of the natural porolite rock, consists of six chambers and encloses on the one hand arcosoli, which open on the sides of the chambers and on the other hand pit graves that have been dug on the ground. At the height of the genesis of the arches of the arcosols small niches are opened for the deposit of lamps, and on the sides of the chambers there are seats and banks of offerings, structures connected with the funerary cult. The roof of the chambers is horizontal and the arcosoles have the form of relatively high blind arches. The walls were originally covered with frescoes, few examples of which are visible today. During the late Byzantine times, the cemetery had been turned into a hermitage. Then a wall was built in front of the first chamber, which was additionally decorated with new frescoes, only a few parts of which survived. Characteristics such as the rapid arrangement of the chambers, the types of tombs and the presence of religious structures connect the cemetery of Agios Onufrios with the early Christian catacombs of Milos, as well as of Lower Italy and Sicily.
Methoni in art and literature
One of the possible interpretations of Vittore Carpaccio's Young Knight in a Landscape identifies the knight as the Venetian patrician Marco Gabriel, who was rector (governor) of Methoni during the Ottoman siege of 1500. His family would have commissioned the painting as a tribute to his memory. Being the only Venetian survivor of the siege, he had been accused of cowardice; taken by the Ottomans to Constantinople, he was beheaded there on 4 November 1501.

About seventy years later, after the Battle of Lepanto (7 October 1571), Miguel de Cervantes was taken to Methoni as a prisoner and spent some time in the Turkish tower. He might have conceived a few pages of the Don Quixote while there.

On 10 August 1806, François-René de Chateaubriand disembarked at Methoni and started his Grand Tour across Greece and the Middle East, an account of which he published in 1811 as the Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem (Itinerary from Paris to Jerusalem)

Έρωτας τον καιρό του Ιμπραήμ. Μιά αληθινή Μεσσηνιακή ερωτική ιστορία του 1826. Αρχειοθετήθηκε 2021-01-17 στο Wayback Machine. Επιμέλεια κειμένου: Γιώργος Βασ. Κολλάτος, Γεν.Γραμματέας ΣΣΙΛΤΕ (Σύλλογος Συνταξιούχων Ιονικής - Λαϊκής Τράπεζας Ελλάδος)
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