Because of its good preservation, Mystras is sometimes compared to Pompeii in Italy. It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
|One of the Two Entrances to Mystras Site
Entrance is € 5 (in January 2010). There are two entrances: one at the bottom of the site and the other one in the middle. It is about 6 km distant from Sparti. In the modern village of Mystras - situated 1 km or so from the archaeological site, there are a few restaurants and hotels.
In 1249, William II de Villehardouin fortified the site to protect from the attack of Slavs. Lost at the battle of Pelagonia (1259), William was captured by Michael Palaeologos and was released three years later consigning him Mystras, Monemvasia
and Maina. The inhabitants of Byzantine Lakedaimonia (ancient Sparta) moved to Mystras increasing the population. The construction of the Metropolitan church of Agios Demetrios (1265), the Monastery of Brontochion with the church of Agioi Theodori (1290), and the Odigitria, or Aphendiko date back to this period.
Since 1349, Mystras has become the residence of Despots and the capital city of the Byzantine Despotate of Morea. The first Despot to reside here was Manuel Kantakouzenos (1349-80). Constantine Dragatses (or Dragases) of the Palaelogi, Despot from 1443 to 1448, was coronated as Byzantine emperor to be the last one. The population of the Byzantine Mystras is estimated to be 20,000. Geroge Gemistos Plethon, the famous Platonist philosopher, lived in Mystra from 1400 to 1442 and Bessarion, later Cardinal, attended Plethon's lectures here.
In 1460, Mystras was taken by the Ottomans. In 1464, the Venetians attacked Mystras. It failed to capture the castle, but Sigismondo Malatesta, the ruler of Rimini, succeeded to invade the Chora (upper town) and snatched the remains of Plethon, which he placed in Tempio Malatestiana in Rimini. The Venetian attack of 1687, led by Francesco Morosini, succeeded and its rule continued to 1715. During the Venetian period the town peropered as a silk production centre and the population counted as much as 42,000. When it returned to the Ottoman rule, its fortune declined and suffered destructions. After the Greek independence, in 1834, Sparta (Sparti) was reconstructed and Mystras lost importance further. In 1952, a couple of dozens of remaining families was evacuated for the preservation and investigation of the site.
- Robin Barber, Greece (Blue Guide), London- N.Y. 2001 (Revised reprint of the 6th edition of 1995), pp. 263-267.
- Myrtali Acheimastou-Potamianou, Mystras : Historical and Archaeological Guide. Athens: Hesperos, 2003.
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