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Messenia borders on Eleia; and for the most part it inclines round towards the south and the Libyan Sea. Now in the time of the Trojan War this country was classed as subject to Menelaüs, since it was a part of Laconia, and it was called Messene, but the city now named Messene whose acropolis was Ithome, had not yet been founded;1 but after the death of Menelaüs, when those who succeeded to the government of Laconia had become enfeebled, the Neleidae began to rule over Messenia. And indeed at the time of the return of the Heracleidae and of the division of the country which then took place, Melanthus was king of the Messenians, who were an autonomous people, although formerly they had been subject to Menelaüs. An indication of this is as follows: The seven cities which Agamemnon promised to give to Achilles were on the Messenian Gulf and the adjacent Asinaean Gulf, so called after the Messenian Asine;2 these cities were “"Cardamyle and Enope and grassy Hire and sacred Pherae and deep-meadowed Antheia and beautiful Aepeia and vine-clad Pedasus;"
3and surely Agamemnon would not have promised cities that belonged neither to himself nor to his brother. And the poet makes it clear that men from Pherae4 did accompany Menelaüs on the expedition; and in the Laconian Catalogue he includes Oetylus,5 which is situated on the Messenian Gulf. Messene6 comes after Triphylia; and there is a cape which is common to both;7 and after this cape come Cyparissia and Coryphasium. Above Coryphasium and the sea, at a distance of seven stadia, lies a mountain, Aegaleum. [2]

Now the ancient Messenian Pylus was a city at the foot of Aegaleum; but after this city was torn down some of its inhabitants took up their abode on Cape Coryphasium; and when the Athenians under the leadership of Eurymedon and Stratocles8 were sailing on the second expedition to Sicily, they reconstructed the city as a fortress against the Lacedaemonians. Here, too, is the Messenian Cyparissia, and the island called Prote, and the island called Sphagia that lies off the coast near Pylus (the same is also called Sphacteria), on which the Lacedaemonians lost by capture three hundred of their own men, who were besieged and forced to surrender by the Athenians.9 Opposite this seacoast of the Cyparissians, out in the high sea, lie two islands called Strophades; and they are distant, I should say, about four hundred stadia from the mainland, in the Libyan and Southern Sea. Thucydides10 says that this Pylus was the naval station of the Messenians. It is four hundred11 stadia distant from Sparta. [3]

Next comes Methone. This, they say, is what the poet calls Pedasus,12 one of the seven cities which Agamemnon promised to Achilles. It was here that Agrippa, during the war of Actium,13 after he had taken the place by an attack from the sea, put to death Bogus, the king of the Maurusians, who belonged to the faction of Antony. [4]

Adjacent to Methone14 is Acritas,15 which is the beginning of the Messenian Gulf. But this is also called the Asinaean Gulf, from Asine, which is the first town on the gulf and bears the same name as the Hermionic town.16 Asine, then, is the beginning of the gulf on the west, while the beginning on the east is formed by a place called Thyrides,17 which borders on that part of the Laconia of today which is near Cynaethius and Taenarum.18 Between Asine and Thyrides, beginning at Thyrides, one comes to Oetylus (by some called Baetylus 19); then to Leuctrum, a colony of the Leuctri in Boeotia; then to Cardamyle, which is situated on a rock fortified by nature; then to Pherae,20 which borders on Thuria and Gerena, the place from which Nestor got his epithet "Gerenian," it is said, because his life was saved there, as I have said before.21 In Gerenia is to be seen a temple of Triccaean Asclepius, a reproduction of the one in the Thessalian Tricca. It is said that Pelops, after he had given his sister Niobe in marriage to Amphion, founded Leuctrum, Charadra, and Thalami (now called Boeoti), bringing with him certain colonists from Boeotia. Near Pherae is the mouth of the Nedon River; it flows through Laconia and is a different river from the Neda. It22 has a notable temple of Athena Nedusia. In Poeäessa,23 also, there is a temple of Athena Nedusia, named after some place called Nedon, from which Teleclus is said to have colonized Poeäessa and Echeiae24 and Tragium. [5]

Of the seven cities25 which Agamemnon tendered to Achilles, I have already spoken about Cardamyle and Pherae and Pedasus. As for Enope,26 some say that it is Pellana,27 others that it is some place near Cardamyle, and others that it is Gerenia. As for Hire, it is pointed out near the mountain that is near Megalopolis in Arcadia, on the road that leads to Andania, the city which, as I have said,28 the poet called Oechalia; but others say that what is now Mesola,29 which extends to the gulf between Taÿgetus and Messenia, is called Hire. And Aepeia is now called Thuria, which, as I have said,30 borders on Pharae; it is situated on a lofty hill, and hence the name.31 From Thuria is derived the name of the Thuriates Gulf, on which there was but one city, Rhium32 by name, opposite Taenarum. And as for Antheia, some say that it is Thuria itself, and that Aepeia is Methone; but others say that of all the Messenian cities the epithet "deep-meadowed"33 was most appropriately applied to the intervening Asine, in whose territory on the sea is a city called Corone;34 moreover, according to some writers, it was Corone that the poet called Pedasus. “"And all are close to the salt sea,"
35Cardamyle on it, Pharae only five stadia distant (with an anchoring place in summer), while the others are at varying distances from the sea. [6]

It is near Corone, at about the center of the gulf, that the river Pamisus empties. The river has on its right Corone and the cities that come in order after it (of these latter the farthermost towards the west are Pylus and Cyparissia, and between these is Erana, which some have wrongly thought to be the Arene of earlier time),36 and it has Thuria and Pharae on its left. It is the largest of the rivers inside the Isthmus, although it is no more than a hundred stadia in length from its sources, from which it flows with an abundance of water through the Messenian plain, that is, through Macaria, as it is called. The river stands at a distance of fifty37 stadia from the present city of the Messenians. There is also another Pamisus, a small torrential stream, which flows near the Laconian Leuctrum; and it was over Leuctrum that the Messenians got into a dispute with the Lacedaemonians in the time of Philip. Of the Pamisus which some called the Amathus I have already spoken.38 [7]

According to Ephorus: When Cresphontes took Messenia, he divided it into five cities; and so, since Stenyclarus was situated in the center of this country, he designated it as a royal residence for himself, while as for the others—Pylus, Rhium, Mesola, and Hyameitis—he sent kings to them, after conferring on all the Messenians equal rights with the Dorians; but since this irritated the Dorians, he changed his mind, gave sanction to Stenyclarus alone as a city, and also gathered into it all the Dorians. [8]

The city of the Messenians is similar to Corinth; for above either city lies a high and precipitous mountain that is enclosed by a common39 wall, so that it is used as an acropolis, the one mountain being called Ithome and the other Acrocorinthus. And so Demetrius of Pharos seems to have spoken aptly to Philip40 the son of Demetrius when he advised him to lay hold of both these cities if he coveted the Peloponnesus,41 "for if you hold both horns," he said, "you will hold down the cow," meaning by "horns" Ithome and Acrocorinthus, and by "cow" the Peloponnesus. And indeed it is because of their advantageous position that these cities have been objects of contention. Corinth was destroyed and rebuilt again by the Romans;42 and Messene was destroyed by the Lacedaemonians but restored by the Thebans and afterward by Philip the son of Amyntas. The citadels, however, remained uninhabited. [9]

The temple of Artemis at Limnae, at which the Messenians are reputed to have outraged the maidens who had come to the sacrifice,43 is on the boundaries between Laconia and Messenia, where both peoples held assemblies and offered sacrifice in common; and they say that it was after the outraging of the maidens, when the Messenians refused to give satisfaction for the act, that the war took place. And it is after this Limnae, also, that the Limnaeum, the temple of Artemis in Sparta, has been named. [10]

Often, however, they went to war on account of the revolts of the Messenians. Tyrtaeus says in his poems that the first conquest of Messenia took place in the time of his fathers' fathers; the second, at the time when the Messenians chose the Argives, Eleians, Pisatans, and Arcadians as allies and revolted—the Arcadians furnishing Aristocrates44 the king of Orchomenus as general and the Pisatae furnishing Pantaleon the son of Omphalion; at this time, he says, he himself was the Lacedaemonian general in the war,45 for in his elegy entitled Eunomia he says that he came from there: “"For the son of Cronus, spouse of Hera of the beautiful crown, Zeus himself, hath given this city to the Heracleidae, in company with whom I left windy Erineus, and came to the broad island of Pelops."
4647 Therefore either these verses of the elegy must be denied authority or we must discredit Philochorus,48 who says that Tyrtaeus was an Athenian from the deme of Aphidnae, and also Callisthenes and several other writers, who say that he came from Athens when the Lacedaemonians asked for him in accordance with an oracle which bade them to get a commander from the Athenians. So the second war was in the time of Tyrtaeus; but also a third and fourth war took place, they say, in which the Messenians were defeated.49 The voyage round the coast of Messenia, following the sinuosities of the gulfs, is, all told, about eight hundred stadia in length. [11]

However, I am overstepping the bounds of moderation in recounting the numerous stories told about a country the most of which is now deserted; in fact, Laconia too is now short of population as compared with its large population in olden times, for outside of Sparta the remaining towns are only about thirty in number, whereas in olden times it was called, they say, "country of the hundred cities"; and it was on this account, they say, that they held annual festivals in which one hundred cattle were sacrificed.

1 The city was founded by Epameinondas in 369 B.C. (Diod. Sic. 15.66).

2 Now the city Koron, or Koroni. See Frazer's note on Paus. 2.36.4, 4.34.9

3 Hom. Il. 9.150

4 Hom. Il. 2.582, where Homer's word is "Pharis."

5 Hom. Il. 2.585; now called Vitylo.

6 The country Messenia is meant, not the city Messene.

7 In Strabo's time the Neda River was the boundary between Triphylia and Messenia (8. 3. 22), but in the present passage he must be referring to some cape on the "ancient boundary" (8. 3. 22).

8 But according to Diod. Sic. 12.60 Stratocles was archon at the time of this expedition (425 B.C.); and according to Thuc. 4.3, it was Eurymedon and Sophocles who made the expedition. Hence some emend "and Stratocles" to "in the archonship of Stratocles," while others emend "Stratocles" to "Sophocles." It seems certain that Strabo wrote the word "Sophocles," for he was following the account of Thucydides, as his later specific quotation from that account shows; and therefore the present translator conjectures that Strabo wrote "Eurymedon and Sophocles, in the archonship of Stratocles," and that the intervening words were inadvertently omitted by the copyist.

9 For a full account, see Thuc. 4.3 ff

10 4. 3.

11 Thucydides says "about four hundred."

12 Hom. Il. 9.152, 294 So Paus. 4.35.1.

13 31 B.C.

14 Strabo means the territory of Methone (as often).

15 Now Cape Gallo.

16 The Hermionic Asine was in Argolis, southeast of Nauplia (see Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. "Asine").

17 See footnote on "Thyrides," 8. 5. 1.

18 See Map IX in Curtius' Peloponnesos at the end of vol. ii.

19 Or "Boetylus" (see critical note on opposite page.)

20 Now Kalamata.

21 8. 3. 28.

22 "It" can hardly refer to Pherae, for Pausanias appears not to have seen, or known of, a temple of Athena there. Hence Strabo seems to mean that there was such a temple somewhere else, on the banks of the river Nedon (now River of Kalamata). The site of the temple is as yet unkown (see Curtius, Peloponnesos ii., p. 159).

23 "Poeässsa" is otherwise unknown. Some of the MSS. spell the name "Poeëessa" in which case Strabo might be referring to the "Poeëessa" in the island of Ceos: "Near Poeëessa, between the temple" (of Sminthian Apollo) "and the ruins of Poeëessa, is the temple of Nedusian Athena, which was founded by Nestor when he was on his return from Troy" (10. 5. 6). But it seems more likely that the three places here mentioned as colonized by Teleclus were all somewhere in Messenia.

24 Otherwise unknown.

25 For their position see Map V in Curtius' Peloponnesos, end of vol. ii.

26 Hom. Il. 9.150

27 Also spelled Pellene; now Zugra.

28 8. 3. 25.

29 See 8. 4. 7.

30 8. 4. 4.

31 "Aepeia" being the feminine form of the Greek adjective "aepys," meaning "sheer," "lofty."

32 See 8. 4. 7.

33 "Deep-meadowed Antheia," Hom. Il. 9.151

34 Now Petalidi. Paus. 4.36.3 identifies Corone with Homer's Aepeia.

35 Hom. Il. 9.153

36 See 8. 3. 23.

37 The MSS. read "two hundred and fifty."

38 8. 3. 1.

39 i.e., common to the lower city and the acropolis.

40 Philip V—reigned 220 to 178 B.C.

41 This same Demetrius was commissioned by Philip V to take Ithome but was killed in the attack (see Polybius 3.19, 7.11).

42 Leucius Mummius (cp. 8. 6. 23) the consul captured Corinth and destroyed it by fire in 146 B.C.; but it was rebuilt again by Augustus.

43 Cp. 6. 1. 6.

44 On the perfidy of Aristocrates, see Paus. 4.17.4

45 Tyrt. Fr. 8 (Bergk)

46 Tyrt. Fr. 2 (Bergk)

47 Erineus was an important city in the district of Doris (see 9. 4. 10 and 10. 4. 6). Thuc. 1.107 calls Doris the "mother-city of the Lacedaemonians."

48 Among other works Philochorus was the author of an Atthis, a history of Attica in seventeen books from the earliest time to 261 B.C. Only fragments are extant.

49 Diod. Sic. 15.66 mentions only three Messenian wars.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (15):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.60
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.66
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.36.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.17.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.35.1
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