The stone bridge at Methoni Castle built over the moat.
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On the small peninsula in the SE end of Peloponnese there has always been a city since ancient times, and renowned for its harbour. It has been identified as the city Pedasus that Homer mentions as the last of the seven cities that Agamemnon offers Achilles in order to subdue his rage. Pausanias names the city "Mothoni" and mentions that it was named after either the daughter of Oineas or after the small fortified islet on which stands the Bourtzi, the name of which was "Mothon Lithos".
During the 4th century B.C. Methoni was fortified more elaborately and remained autonomous until the imperial Roman years, when it enjoyed the favour of some emperors.
During the Byzantine years, it was still an important harbour and one of the major cities of the Peloponnese, and the seat of a bishop. The Byzantine commander Belisarius used it as a base to attack the Vandals of North Africa in the 6th century, and there is reference to a Byzantine port here in 583 AD.
The Venetians had their eyes on the harbour of Methoni from the 12th century, since 'it was in the middle of the route from Venice to the East'. Moreover, in 1125, they launched an attack against the pirates who used it as a shelter, because they had captured Venetian traders on their way home from the East.
When the Franks had Constantinople under siege in 1204, Geoffrey de Villehardouin strayed with his ship to Methoni on his way to Constantinople and had to spend the winter in the area. He then accepted the invitation of the local lord Ioannis Kantakouzinos to help him occupy the Western Peloponnese. The cooperation was successful. When Kantakouzinos died, his son tried to break the alliance, with no success, since Villehardouin had understood that the conquering of the Peloponnese by the Latins would be easy.
In 1206, however, the Venetians occupied Methoni and their domination was established in the spring of 1209 with a treaty signed with Villehardouin, who made all the necessary consents that would guarantee him the help of Venice for the final subordination of the Peloponnese.
The Venetians fortified Methoni, which developed, as well as Koroni, into an important trade centre with great prosperity.
It was only natural that Methoni would attract the attention of the Turks, who, despite the treaties with Venice, were harbouring the notion of conquering the area. Vaghiazit II, in late 1500, gathered his forces against Methoni, the important middle station between Venice and the Holy Lands, where every traveller stopped on their way to the East.
Sultan Vaghazit, despite the long siege, would not have been able to invade it if the inhabitants, thrilled by the arrival of reinforcements, had not deserted the walls, a fact that the yenitsars took advantage of and invaded the tower from the governor's palace.
The city was set on fire, the Catholic bishop was killed while talking to the people, the men were decapitated, the women and children were sold to slavery. On the 9th of August 1500, Methoni fell after having been in the hands of the Venetians for about three hundred years. Happy with his trophy, Vagiazit made the yenitsar who first climbed the walls a santakbei, meaning a provincial commander and on the first Friday after the invasion, when the fire went out, he went to the desecrated cathedral to offer his thanks to the god of battle, to whom, as he confessed, when he was looking into the deep moat, he owed the conquering of this fortified city. The desolation was so complete that he ordered families to be sent from every village of Moreas so that Methoni regained its population again.
The walls were repaired and the period of the first Turkish occupation began. In 1531 the Knights of St John landed at the port of Methoni, planning to occupy the previously Venetian colony. Initially, they managed, with a conspiracy, to disembark and take out the guards. But the occupation of the fortress was not completed because Turkish reinforcements arrived that forced them to leave, after having ransacked the town and arrested 1600 prisoners.
During the whole of the 16th and 17th century, even though the look of Methoni had not changed, the decline in all sectors was obvious. In June 1686 the forces of Francesco Morozini (Commander in Chief of the Venetian expeditionary force), had Methoni under siege. The Turks surrendered on the 10th of July. The walls, that suffered substantial damages during the siege were repaired and new inhabitants were sent to reinforce the population of the town. However, this second period of Venetian occupation did not last for long.
In 1715 the Turks put siege to the castle and the Venetian defenders, deserted it. During this second period of Turkish occupation, the decline was complete. As is apparent from travelers' descriptions, the population was reduced, the battlements were in bad condition and the harbour became shallow.
During the first years of the Greek Revolution (1821), Methoni was one of the few castles that was not taken by the Greeks.
In 1825, the forces of the Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha landed in Methoni (invited by the Turks to fight the Greeks during the Greek War of Independence). The headquarters of Ibrahim was the command building of Methoni, above the entrance of the castle. In the same building, the French general Maison who freed the town together with others in the Peloponnese, settled in 1829.
The fortress was also occupied by the Germans and the Italians during World War II.
The castle of Methoni occupies the whole area of the cape and the south-western coast to the small islet that has also been fortified with an octagonal tower and is protected by the sea on its three sides.
Its north part, the one that looks to land, is covered by a heavily fortified acropolis. A deep moat separates the castle from the land and communication was achieved by a wooden bridge. The Venetians built on the ancient battlements and added on and repaired it during both periods that they occupied the castle.
The entrance to the castle is in the middle of the north side and is accessed by a stone bridge of 14 arches, that was built over the moat by the French engineers that accompanied general Maison in 1829.
The entrance gate ends in a curviform arch framed on the right and left by pilasters with Corinthian capitals. It is considered to be the work of Venetians after 1700. On the right and left of the entrance, two large battlements can be seen. On the east part is the one built by general Antonio Loredan, during the second period of Venetian occupation.
That is when the moat that surrounded the battlements was expanded towards the land and work was done on the bank of soil, that bears a plaque with a relief of the Lion of St. Mark.
On the west edge is the Bembo battlement, which was built during the 15th century. The north side of the walls had reached its final form in the beginning of the 18th century and it retains it to this day. The north part of the walls reach 11 meters in height and the two battlements communicated through a passage.
The wall is fortified with square towers on the NE side and a large round one on the NW. In order to build that, they used well worked stones that were lined with mortar. In some parts they used ancient construction material, easily seen nowadays in one of the north side towers as well as on the south part of the walls.
Right after the central gate, a domed road opens up that leads through a second gate and then a third in the interior of the castle, fortified with five towers which are dated to the period after 1500, when the Turks tried to reinforce the population and the fortification of the castle.
In the interior there are ruins of the houses where the Venetian lords lived during the period of rise, the paved street that led to the sea gate, the ruins of a Turkish bath, the Byzantine church of St. Sophia, close to which a slate with Latin lettering was found (dating back to 1714).
Along the central path of the castle survive two Ottoman baths which consist of several vaulted rooms, each of which had different uses (changing room, warm room, hot room). Dated to the first period of Ottoman rule.
On the left of the entrance are the ruins of the building which originally Imbrahem used as a residence in 1826 and later general Maison. The French of the liberating corps remained in the area till 1833. In the interior of the castle there are also a few cisterns and the remains of the British prisoner's cemetery during the World War II.
On the south part of the walls rise the spectacular sea gate which has recently been restored. It is comprised of two tall square towers (16 meters) that are linked with a platform (about 18 meters long and 6 wide) that is crowned with bastions. The gate opens in the centre and it ends up in an arch on the top. The towers are built with large porous stones and had rooms in their interior.
A stone-paved causeway leads over a small bridge to the fortified islet of Bourtzi. This is the place where many soldiers and inhabitants of Methoni were slaughtered, when the Turks occupied the fort in 1500.
The Bourtzi is dated back to the period after 1500 and has been used in various instances as a prison. It has a two-floor octagonal tower.
The tower finishes in a round dome. On the lower floor there was a cistern and the whole works, with small defensive value, and is dated during the first period that the Turks occupied the fortress.
The west part of the walls are not as well constructed as the others. It was here that during the Second World War, after an explosion, parts of a well constructed of stones from the ancient walls of Methoni were found. In the interior of the walls, ruins of Turkish military establishments are preserved.
The east side of the walls reached initially to the sea. Nowadays, a long strand of beach lies in front of a large part of it. Parallel to the east wall, up to the Bourtzi, there was a pier and this is where the small fortified harbor was formed (mandrachio), while the big one was to the northeast where ships could be moored.
The long east side has suffered many repairs, performed on the initial venetian battlements of the 13th century, mainly during the second Venetian occupation and the Turkish occupation. In one of the towers parts of the Byzantine fortification are preserved.
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The French of the liberating corps remained in the area till 1833 and the construction of the church of Santa Sotira, which is still in the castle is attributed to them.TOP