During the archaic and the historical period in the Peloponnese, tough city states were growing, such as Sparta, Argos, Corinth, Messini and other smaller ones, which developed great prosperity. The frequent wars between themselves and the internal political contradictions have often been the cause of colonization of much of the Mediterranean, with particular preference in southern Italy and Sicily, southern France and Spain to the west, Asia Minor and the Black Sea to the east.
In spite of the tough wars, the inhabitants, conscious of their common origins and common language, felt the need for a ceasefire which they proclaimed during the athletic races that started from the Peloponnese. The right to participate in them was for athletes who spoke the Greek language, both from Greece and from the colonies. More prominent among the sports games were the Olympic Games, Nemea, Isthmia and Pythia in Delphi.
For the beginning of the Olympic Games, there is a great deal of controversy between the ancient writers. Among the views, the founder of the Olympic Games was also Hercules. However, according to the prevailing view, the Olympics were organized by Iphitos in 776 BC, and since then the races were held uninterrupted until 393 AD when they were abolished by the Byzantine emperor Theodosius.
During the Persian wars (5th century BC), the Peloponnese actively participated in the defeat of the enemy with the spirited strength of Sparta, which was later the winner of the thirty-year Peloponnesian war against Athens (431-404 BC ). The Peloponnesian war and the constant rivalry of Sparta and Athens, with different political systems, have been key points for the development of global political thinking and the shaping of modern political systems.
The Peloponnese had a prominent presence throughout the Greek history during the centuries that followed. In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, with the arrival of Apostle Paul in Corinth, during Byzantine times, culminating in the period of the domination of the Despotate of Mystras, which enabled the last reign of the emperor of Byzantium (Konstantine XA Palaiologos).
During the Ottoman domination the most rebellious area of greece was the Peloponnese, and eventually the liberal revolution of 1821 was to begin in this area.
Geomorphologically the Peloponnese is characterized by the large central massifs of Mainalon, Kyllini, Aroania, Erymanthos, Lykaion, Taygetos, Parnonas and other smaller mountain formations.
Mountain volumes and central plateaux form a large water catchment area. The water flows through gorgeous canyons and transforms into rivers that make the coastal lowland areas fertile. The larger rivers of the Peloponnese are Alfios, Ladon, Erymanthos, Pinios, Neda, Pamisos and Evrotas. The mountains and rivers of the Peloponnese have always been a natural border between the prefectures of the Peloponnese. They have always been a source of inspiration for Greek and foreign writers, combined with a myriad of mythological and historical elements. It is no coincidence that seven of the twelve of Heracles’ labors have a reference point in the Peloponnese, while the rest of them refer to distant mythical countries.
Arcadia occupies the central mountainous Peloponnese and in ancient times its area was even larger, since Arcadia was considered to be the whole mountainous Peloponnese. According to mythology, the founder of Arcadia was Lykaon, son of Pelasgos and the nymph Kyllini, who founded the first city that the sun “saw” on earth, Lykosoura, at the foot of Lykaion, the holy mountain of the Arcadians. This mountain, the Arcadians, faced with awe. They believed that in Lykaeon the matter was losing its shade by overthrowing every reasonable explanation of the natural phenomena. They also believed, along with many other Greeks, that Zeus was born on the mountain of light, Lycaeon, and that the nymphs Neda, Thiesoa and Agno, nursed him and washed him on the river Lousios.
In the rugged mountains of Arcadia, Pan was born, the god of nature and fertility, protector of the shepherds, constantly wandering in the forests and rivers of the Peloponnese, chasing Arcadian nymphs with intense erotic mood or playing his souravli.
In a cave of Mount Killini the shy Pleiad Mea, one of the seven daughters of Atlas, gave birth to god Hermes, as a result of her union with Zeus.With these peculiar mythological beliefs, Arcadia became synonymous with a wealthy utopia, a place of peace and harmony, a dream country where a man could live without worries, meditating in the midst of a hedonistic dream. This bucolic archetypal has passed into the history of Western art and the world of ideas in many forms and expressions and became a theme of Baroque and neo-classical painters, with the most characteristic work that of the paintings of Nicolas Poussin “The shepherds of Arcadia” with the mystical inscription ET IN ARCADIA EGO.
The Peloponnese has a long coastline, 1400 km long, with large sandy beaches mainly on its western side, with many small bays in the east and south, steep rope-ends of Taygetus and Parnonas in the southern regions. The ever-improving road network and good hotel infrastructure make ” A Circular Tour around the Peloponnese ” an extremely interesting route.
Many modern visitors, avoiding the so-called mass tourism, increasingly prefer contact with nature, agrotourism, contact with the authentic man of non-tourist areas, adventure, culture.
The Peloponnese can cover many of the quests of today’s demanding visitor.
From Diakofto of Achaia, on the north side of the Peloponnese, start the last of the most interesting parts of the European path E4. Walking along the cog railway and the shores of Vouraikos, bathers in the waters of Styx, you discover the springs of Ladon river, you pass through the Arcadian highlands to the springs of Evrotas river and following the cloudy Taygetus mountain, you end up at Cape Tainaron,
at the cave of Hades which was guarded by Cerberos the three headed dog. The proposed route, with slight discrepancies, gives the opportunity to those who choose it as a whole or parts of it to come in contact with general or special interest searches that the nature and the different phases of Greek history have generously depicted in the Peloponnese.
Along the way, you will find the unique Cave of the Lakes, Kapsia, Diros in Mani and Kastania in Kavo Malia, all with intense stalactite and stalagmite decoration and with hydrogeological and paleontological interest.
Another popular route is the diagonal entrance to the Peloponnese from the isthmus of Corinth. Along with this route, the visitor can experience some of the most important archaeological sites and monuments, unique examples of the world’s cultural heritage. Ancient Corinth, Nemea, Sikyon, Mycenae, Tiryns, Epidavros, Argos, Epicurean Apollo, Ancient Messini, Pylos and finally Olympia.
Whichever route you follow, depending on your interests, the today’s Peloponnese will compensate you well.
An adventurer can also enjoy a range of dynamic sports in nature such as:
- Rafting on the rivers Lousios, Alfeios and Erymanthos,
- canoe-kayak on the Ladon River
- exploring the canyons of the Peloponnese with the impressive waterfalls with the most popular ones of Lousios and Alfeios in Arcadia, Neda, Ridomo, Koskaraga and Viros in Messinia, Vouraikos in Achaia, Fonissa in Corinthia, the gorge of Vothila in Epidaurus and the Katathiki in Ermioni.
- Horse riding (in various locations of the Peloponnese-Sofiko, Arcadia, Parnonas, Ilia)
- Mountaineering and climbing in Ziria, Erymanthos, Parnon, and Taygetos mountains
- Parapente-paragliding in Kalamata, Epidaurus, West Peloponnese and Patras
- Bungee jumping in the Isthmus of Corinth
Ski enthusiasts can enjoy their favorite sports at the ever-modernized ski resorts of Ostrakina and Helmos.
Along the coast, experts can enjoy diving sailing, kite and windsurfing and other dynamic water sports.
The various phases of Greek history have left their traces throughout the Peloponnese. The gradual prevalence of Christianity created the first Christian churches, admiring Byzantine temples, steep monasteries and ascetics, enclaves of Christianity and Orthodoxy throughout the centuries.
The Franks and Venetians who occupied Byzantium in 1204, appreciating the strategic position of the Peloponnese in the Mediterranean, built castles on old or new different places. Many of them are kept in good condition to date.
During the Ottoman domination, many traditional settlements developed mainly in the interior areas of the Peloponnese and in Mani with the main building stone.
In the inaccessible Mani, in the southern Peloponnese, the peculiar social organization until recently and the fortification of the area led to the construction of family towers and tower-houses, which constituted an important deterrent to the aspiring conquerors, pirates, Turks and other invaders who vainly attempted to understand. The importance of the tower and the value of its family depended on its height. Many times, powerful families did not allow other, less important, erection of a tall tower and sometimes required lowering or demolition.
In the narrow streets of the traditional settlements you still find women kneading and baking bread in the ovens of their homes.
The main products of the Peloponnese are olive oil, wine, raisins, figs and citrus. Olive oil and wine are traditional agricultural activities of the Peloponnese, while the properties of these products have been mythological since the ancient years. As the philosopher Theophrastus states in his work “About Plants History”, the local wine of Irea in Arcadia when drunk by men makes them excited while when drunk by women it makes them pregnant (according to Theofrastus)
Peloponnese winegrowers, aware of their product dynamics, improved the traditional varieties of Agiorgitiko in Nemea and Moschofilero on the Arkadian Plateau, Rhoditis, Moschato, Malvasia and the Mavrodaphne variety, created visiting wineries and vineyards and put them in the “wine roads of the Peloponnese”, a special tourist route for wine friends.
In the summer the Peloponnese is rich in cultural events.
• In the ancient theater of Epidavros, ancient theatrical works are presented every friday and suturday, as well as modern foreign prominent productions.
• In Kalamata, in July, the International Dance Festival is held, one of the Mediterranean leading dance events.
• In Nafplio, in June, the Musical Festival of Nafplion is organized.
• In Corinth, the Opera Festival of Ancient Corinth,
• In Sparta the cultural events of the Municipality, in Patras, the famous city festival.
• Almost every Municipality of the Peloponnese creates its own “cultural summer” in cultural centers, squares and theaters.
With this wonderful combination of an unbeatable natural and built environment, myths, legends and history and with six unique UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Peloponnese is a popular destination where the visitor can combine ideal relaxation and recreation with an exciting encounter with its historical past.