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Peloponnese, traffic lines 2007
The Peloponnese or Peloponnesus ( ; see also List of Greek place names) is a large peninsula and region in southern Greecemarker, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinthmarker. The peninsula is divided among three distinct peripheries of modern Greece: most of the Peloponnesemarker and parts of the West Greece and Atticamarker peripheries.


Early summer seen from space


The Peloponnese covers an area of some 21,549 km² (8,320 square miles) and constitutes the southernmost part of mainland Greece. While technically it may be considered an island since the construction of the Corinth Canalmarker in 1893 - like other peninsulas that have been separated from their mainland by man-made bodies of waters - it is rarely, if ever, referred to as an "island". It has two land connections with the rest of Greece, a natural one at the Isthmus of Corinthmarker and an artificial one in the shape of the Rio-Antirio bridgemarker (completed 2004).

The peninsula has a mountainous interior and deeply indented coasts, with Mount Taygetusmarker its highest point. It possesses four south-pointing peninsulas, Messeniamarker, the Mani Peninsula, Cape Maleamarker (also known as Epidaurus Limera), and the Argolidmarker in the far northeast of the Peloponnese.

Two groups of islands lie off the Peloponnesan coast: the Argo-Saronic Islands to the east and the Ionian Islandsmarker to the west. The island of Kythiramarker, off the Epidaurus Limera peninsula to the south of the Peloponnese, is considered to be part of the Ionian Islands.


The peninsula has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Its modern name derives from ancient Greek mythology, specifically the legend of the hero Pelops who was said to have conquered the entire region. The name Peloponnesos means "Island of Pelops". During the Middle Ages, the peninsula was known as the Morea. According to folk etymology, this is because the Crusaders found it densely planted with mulberry trees (Greek: moreai) used by the flourishing silk industry.

Mainland Greece's (and Europe's) first major civilization, the Aegean civilization, dominated the Peloponnese in the Bronze Age from the stronghold at Mycenaemarker in the north-east of the peninsula. During classical antiquity, the Peloponnese was at the heart of the affairs of ancient Greece, possessed some of its most powerful city-states and saw some of its bloodiest battles. It was the site of the cities of Spartamarker, Corinthmarker, Argosmarker and Megalopolismarker, and was the homeland of the Peloponnesian League. The peninsula was involved in the Persian Wars and was the scene of the Peloponnesian War of 431 BC-404 BC. It fell to the expanding Roman Republic in 146 BC and became the province of Achaea.

The Peloponnese was subsequently ruled by the Byzantine Empire (but some areas were under Slavic rule between 618-805), until the Fourth Crusade in 1204, when it was lost to the Venetiansmarker and Franks. The Franks founded the Principality of Achaea in the northern half of the peninsula in 1205, while the Venetians occupied a number of ports around the coast such as Monemvasiamarker (Benefşe for Ottomans), Pylosmarker and Koronimarker, which they retained into the 15th century. The Byzantines regained control of the southeastern part of the peninsula, centred at the fortified hill town of Mystrasmarker near Sparta. From there, the Greek Despotate of Morea staged a revival from the mid-13th century through to the mid-15th century, until the Ottoman Turks overran the Peloponnese between 1458–1460. The Venetians occupied the peninsula between 1685–1715, after the successful Morean War (1684-1699) but Ottoman control was reestablished in 1715. Morea was a sanjak of Rumelia Province and her center was Gördesmarker between 1458–1687. Morea was divided to 4 provinces: Romania (Centre: Anabolimarker), Laconia (Centre: Malvazyamarker), Mezoniamarker (Centre: Navarinmarker) and Akhaia (Centre: Balyabardamarker) during Venetian rule. Ottoman established Province of Morea in 1715. The province divided to sanjaks of Gördes, Mizistremarker, Ayamavramarker, Karliili (Centre was Prevezemarker and bounded to the province between 1715–1717 and 1800-1821), İnebahtımarker, Balyabarda and Manya. Centre of the Province at first Gördes, after Lontari and Anaboli, at last Trabliçemarker. Throughout the 18th century, Ottoman authority remained relatively solid and opposed only by rebellions in the Mani Peninsula, the southernmost part of the Peloponnese, and the activities of the bands of the klephts. The Russian-instigated Orlov Revolt of 1770 temporarily threatened Ottoman rule, but was quickly and brutally subdued.

The Peloponnesians played a major role in the Greek War of Independence – the war actually began in the Peloponnese, when rebels took control of Kalamatamarker on March 23, 1821. The decisive naval Battle of Navarinomarker was fought off Pylos on the west coast of the Peloponnese, and the city of Napoli di Romania or Nafplion or Mora Yenişehrimarker on the east coast became the seat of independent Greece's first parliament.

During the 19th and 20th century, the region became relatively poor and economically isolated. A significant part of its population emigrated to the larger cities of Greece, especially Athensmarker, and other countries such as the United Statesmarker and Australia. It was badly affected by the Second World War and Greek Civil War, experiencing some of the worst atrocities committed in Greece during those conflicts. Living standards have improved dramatically throughout Greece since then, especially after the country's accession to the European Union in 1981. The rural Peloponnese is renowned for being amongst the most traditionalist and conservative regions of Greece and is a stronghold of the right-wing New Democracy party, while the larger urban centres like Kalamatamarker and especially Patramarker are bastions of the centre-left Panhellenic Socialist Movement. Villages still continue to see a population decline due the lack of economic opportunities, industrial farming, and the aging population.

The 2007 forest fires as seen from space; the north Peloponnese was burnt in 2000

In late August 2007, large parts of Peloponnese suffered from wildfires, which caused severe damage in villages, forests and the death of 77 people. The impact of the fires to the environment and economy of the region are still unknown. It is thought to be the largest environmental disaster in modern Greek history.


The principal modern cities of the Peloponnese are (2001 census):

Archaeological sites

The Peloponnese possesses many important archaeological sites dating from the Bronze Age through to the Middle Ages. Among the most notable are:

See also


External links

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