Myths and Legends


The tale of the ‘ox-belly’ beach

The peculiar name of this enchanting location, Voidokilia (lit. ‘ox-belly’), can be traced to an ancient myth about Hermes, who stole the oxen of his brother, Apollo, and hid them in a cave above the beach. Feeling remorse, Hermes gave Apollo a lyre made from the shell of a sea turtle, which to this day lays its eggs in the bay.






Roots in the past

According to legend, the great hero Heracles brought the olive tree to Greece from the land of the Hyperboreans, planting the first one in the Peloponnese. In ancient Pylos, archaeologists discovered the earliest written forms of ‘olive’ and ‘olive-oil’ on clay tablets inscribed in Linear B script which date to 1300 BC, providing concrete evidence that Messinia was among the first regions to cultivate the sacred olive. One of the oldest recorded olive trees in the world still thrives in Kalamata (photo), where it continues to blossom and produce olives after 17 centuries!




The 'Pyramid'

Due to its shape, this peak of Mount Taygetos is known as the ‘Pyramid’. According to some researchers, the peak was thus shaped by man in very ancient times, while others believe it to be the work of nature. However, question marks remain over whether the distinctive shape could indeed have been caused by the natural processes of erosion and weathering. On July 20, the feast of the Prophet Elias, the peak mysteriously casts a shadow that points directly to Koroni at sunrise and directly to Sparta at sunset




The seabed of Methoni

Methoni stands in a strategic location that gave its occupants control over vital sea routes. So important was the position that the Venetians referred to the castle at Methoni, along with the nearby sea-girt fortress of Koroni as “the eyes of Venice”. A battery of cannon around the impressive octagonal tower of Methoni castle was used to sink any ships that refused to pay the taxes levied by the occupants. This is one of the reasons that the seabed around Methoni is an area particularly rich in underwater archaeology.




Pirate treasure 

Proti, less than one mile off the coast of Messinia, is said to have been used as a hideout by the infamous pirate Katoulias and legends tell of buried treasure on the verdant island. Some believe that the inscriptions on the massive rock ‘Grammeno’ give clues to the location of this treasure, though it has been suggested that the inscriptions were made by sailors who had taken refuge on Proti from raging storms and are prayers for fair winds and a safe voyage.





During the Ottoman occupation of Greece (1453-1821), in the small town of Filiatra in Messinia, a young man named Panagos Lelonis consistently won the annual horse race organized by the community. This irked the local Ottoman authorities who, using an incident that followed a race as a pretext, arrested the young man and convicted him to death by hanging. During the execution, Lelonis’s sweetheart Krinio rode up on a horse, cut the rope around his neck with a sword and fled. The young couple was pursued by the Ottomans and, finding no escape route, chose to drown in a local nearby lake rather than surrender. Following Greece’s independence, an annual horse race, revived by the local church of St. George, was dedicated to the memory of the young lovers and named “Lelonia”.





A particularly tragic event associated with Paleokastro took place in 1825, as the Greek War of Independence raged. The Egyptian forces under Ibrahim Pasha had invaded the Peloponnese the previous year after the Ottomans had asked for assistance in crushing the Greek revolt. As the Egyptians approached, many women from the area of Garantza, along with their children, jumped from the cliffs of Paleokastro, preferring death to being captured.




The first Souvlaki 

It is said that the tradition of souvlaki, or skewered meat, started in Messinia, based on the purpose-made ceramic vessel found in the kitchen of the Palace of Nestor, dating from around 1300 BC. It is believed that lamb, goat and beef chunks were skewered and spit roasted in this vessel over an open fire and then served to guests and strangers seeking sanctuary.





This drinking cup or ‘kotyle’ was found in a grave in the ancient Greek colony of Pithekoussai on the island of Ischia, off the western coast of Italy. Now widely known as Nestor’s Cup, the remarkable clay vessel has been dated to the Geometric Period (c. 750-700 BC) and bears a three-line inscription that is one of the oldest known examples of writing in the Greek alphabet. The inscription has been transcribed as: “Nestor’s cup I am, good to drink from. Whoever drinks this cup empty straightaway, desire for beautiful-crowned Aphrodite will seize”



 SOURCE:   www.costanavarino.com


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