Facts about the Peloponnese

Whether you're taking a tour with us or not and would like to learn more details about the popular sites in the Peloponnese feel free to use this resource.

The Peloponnese

Town of Pilos in the Peloponnese

The Peloponnese is located in the southern part of Greece and means 'the island of Pelops'. It received its name from the mythical king Pelopa of Ilida who in legend was fed to the gods by his father Tantalos. During the medieval times it was named Morias and the people who lived there were called Peloponnesians or Moraites. The largest river of the Peloponnese is the Alfios River which is about 68 miles long. The landscape is dominated by forested mountains. The Peloponnese is one of the primary strongholds and battlefields of the 1821 Greek Revolution. It is the kernel from which the modern state grew.

Today the ancient and medieval sites of the Argolida region (to the south of Corinth) contrast with the elegantly Neo-Classical town of Nafplio. In the west lies ancient Olympia the athletic and religious nexus of the ancient world and inspiration for the games revival in ancient times. This enormous peninsula which falls short of being an island by the mere 4 mile width of Corinth canal also has some of the most spectacularly varied scenery and monuments on the mainland. Ancient and medieval ruins are abundant on the Peloponnese and provide the main focus of sightseeing.

Corinth Canal

A ship sailing through the Corinth Canal
The construction of the Corinth Canal began in 1882 and was finished in 1893. It has a length of 20,000ft and width of 82ft. Small ships travel from Piraeus and go to the Ionian Sea after passing first through the Corinth Canal. If there was no canal the ships would have to go around the southern part of Greece and pass through the wavy waters of Cavo Mallia. During the Roman times Nero tried to cut a canal but he did not succeed in doing so. Before the construction of the Corinth canal boats were dragged from one side of the isthmus to the other with the help of Diolkos (this was done up until the 13th century). Diolkos was a road of stones that connected the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth and was built in 6th century BC by the tyrant Periandros. Today the Corinth Canal is a place where thousands of tourists and travelers stop for a while to rest and admire this great construction.

Ancient Corinth

The Temple of Apollo in Ancient Corinth with Acrocorinth in the background

Ancient Corinth is an ancient city of Greece with many ruins to see. The city was built on an important geographical position between the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth. Both ports: Lechaion port in the Gulf of Corinth and Kechrees port in the Saronic Gulf greatly attributed to quickly making Corinth a prestigious naval and commercial center. Small boats were not forced to go around the Peloponnese but instead they would dock in one of the two ports and unload their cargo. After that the shipments were transferred to the port from the isthmus.

Periandros the tyrant built Diolkos (means movable platform) in order to ease the trouble from this transfer. It was a road that connected the two Gulfs. The road was built with hewed stones and was dug in a way so that the rollers of the platforms would easily move the ships they carried. Some of the colonies Corinth founded were in Corfu, Syracuse, Lefkada and Epirus.

The city of Corinth reached its peak during the rule of Periandros the tyrant in the beginning of 6 century BC. Periandros ruled Corinth for 44 years. The city was filled with temples, big constructions and workshops. It was a time when art was blooming. The workshops exported great amounts of their products to the foreign market. Some of the products that the Corinthians made were: elegantly painted amphorae, beautiful knitwork, armory, cupreous utensils and vases with fragrances. All of these products were in demand everywhere. Corinth also had good shipbuilders. They were the first to build the Trireme. During the time of Periandros the Isthmia took place where many people gathered to admire the wealthy city that had developed such a great culture (named Corinthian).

The Corinthians also took place in the Persian Wars and they were the reason for the Peloponnesian War. The last battle between the Romans and the army of the Achaean League (Corinthians) took place in Lefkopetra near the isthmus in the year 146 BC. Lucius Mummius destroyed Corinth following a siege in 146 BC. When Mummius entered the city he put all the men to the sword and sold the women and children into slavery before he torched the city, for which he was given the cognomen Achaicus as the conqueror of the Achaean League. General Diaeos of the Achaean League killed his wife and then killed himself. This battle was the Greeks' last attempt to hold on to their independence. After that the Romans conquered Greece.

Ancient Mycenae

The Lion Gate at Ancient Mycenae

Mycenae is considered to be one of the most ancient Greek cities. It was built on top of a rocky hill. Mycenae became the most important center of Greece and reached its peak during the years of (1100-1600 B.C.). That is why this period is called Mycenean.

According to mythology the city of Mycenae was established by Perseus. The city was fortified with a powerful wall which was called "Cyclopean Walls" this wall still exists today. In reality Mycenae was inhabited from 2500 B.C. Two dynasties ruled Mycenae: a) the house of Persidon b) the house of Atreus. During the rule of king Agamemnon the city developed with glory and wealth. Ancient Greek poet Homer characterizes the city as "Golden Mycenae". The Trojan War gives us a clear view of the city's military power. The Lion Gate at Mycenae and the towering fortified wall were constructed at about the presumed date of the Trojan War. At that time wealthy Myceneans were laid to rest outside the citadel walls in beehive-shaped tombs covered by enormous earthen mounds.

The best preserved of these is the so called Treasury of Atreus which was believed to be the repository of the treasure of Atreus, father of Agamemnon. The Treasury of Atreus had been looted long before its modern re-discovery but spectacular grave goods have been found elsewhere at Mycenae. Just inside the Lion Gate Schliemann came across what archaeologists now designate as Grave Circle A. Schliemann excavated six deep shafts that dad served as tombs for kings and their families. The dead were laid to rest on the floors of these shaft graves with masks covering their faces. Women were buried with their jewelry and men with their weapons and golden cups. Among them most spectacular of Schliemann's finds is the golden mask of Agamemnon.

Due to the fact that the Egyptians had friendly relationships with the kings of Mycenae many support the fact that the gold found in the city came from Egypt. During the kingdom of Tisamenou, son of Orestis, Mycenae comes to a halt but still has its independence. The Myceneans fought in the Persian Wars against the Persians. In 468BC troops from Argos besieged and destroyed the city. Today one can still see the Cyclopean Walls, the Lion Gate, the floor of Agamemnon's palace as well as the tombs.


View of Nafplio with castle Palamidi

Nafplio is one of the most historical and picturesque cities of Greece. It is built on the north side of the Argolic Gulf on a rocky peninsula (this is where ancient Nafplio was also positioned). It is the capital of Argolida and has about 10,000 residents. It is a remarkable commercial and industrial center focused mainly on canning plants and fruit. A visitor can easily be impressed from the many monuments that state its glorious past.

The most important sites are: castle Bourtzi, castle Palamidi (it has a staircase made of stone with 999 stairs), Acronafplia with its ancient cyclopean walls and the big and historic Square with the Venetian buildings surrounding it. According to mythology ancient Nafplia received its name from its founder: Nafplio, son of Poseidon. Nafplia was an important city during the prehistoric times. It was later renamed to Nafplio and Anapli.

During the Byzantine years Nafplio did not play an important role, it became great when the Franks took over (it had 13,299 residents). The Venetians handed it over to the Turks in 1715. During the Turkish domination and up until 1715 Nafplio was the capital of the Peloponnese. It was released on December 3rd 1822. It became capital of the Greek country and welcomed its first governor of liberated Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias. This man was also assassinated in Nafplio.

Castle Palamidi

Castle Palamidi lit up at night in Nafplio
Palamidi is a well known hill in Nafplio and rises at 216 meters (708 feet). It is climbable only from the east side because the other sides are steep. In order to reach the top you have to climb a staircase of 999 stairs. The name Palamidi comes from the mythical hero Palamidi. In the year 1687 the Venetians built a fortified castle with lots of armory that are preserved till today. The Turks later on used it as a fortress. During the Greek Revolution of 1821 the Turks of Nafplio were imprisoned there. The Greeks besieged Palamidi and re-occupied it on November 30th 1822. Palamidi was also used by the Greek government as a prison for convicts. Theodoros Kolokotronis one of the most important figures of the Greek Revolution was imprisoned here in 1833 because he dared to judge the tyrannical way by which the Bavarians of Otto governed the country.


The ancient theater of Epidavros
Epidavros, is a famous ancient city of Argolida which is located near the Saronic Gulf. Greek poet Homer mentions Epidavros in his writings. Epidavros was well known during antiquity because of the Sanctuary of Asklipios where ill people from around the world would go to cure themselves. The Sanctuary of Asklipios was located 9 kilometers from the city in a valley with healing springs. Here you will find the ancient theater of Epidavros with its amazing acoustics. Ancient Greek Tragedies are played in this theater this present day. There was also a stadium near the theater where the Games were held during holidays. Epidavros also has a museum with priceless findings.

Ancient Nemea

The temple of Zeus in ancient Nemea
North-west from the actual town of Nemea is the valley Nemea well known since ancient times. Archaeologists found a prehistoric town here from the Neolithic era. During the ancient times one could find the sanctuary of Zeus which was worshiped. A Temple of Zeus along with a theater and a stadium were built in 4 BC (this is where the Nemean Games were held). The Nemean Games were one of the four Pan-Hellenic Games of Ancient Greece. The Games were held in the valley of Nemea in honor of Zeus. According to mythology Adrastos is the man responsible for this event. It is said that Hercules accomplished his first labor here in Nemea by killing the Nemean Lion.