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Archaeological Sites
Archaeological Site of Mystras
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Mystras is located in Laconia, a few miles northwest of Sparta, on a rocky hill at the foot of Taygetos mountain. The deserted nowadays castle-state was once a brilliant and powerful Byzantine state, the last bastion of Hellenism before the conquest by the Ottomans.

The establishment of Mystras came after the first conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204. After the separation of the Byzantine Empire, the Peloponnese was granted to the Frankish Villehardouins family who founded the Principality of Achaia and a few years later, in 1249, the Frank Prince William II Villehardouin built the Myzithres castle on top of the Myzithres hill, realizing its strategic position to control the valley of Eurotas.

This castle would become the nucleus of the later Mystras castle-state, one of the most important late Byzantine cities. The Myzithres castle, along with the castles of Monemvasia and Maina came under Byzantine rule in 1262, as a ransom for delivering the Franc Prince who was got prisoner in 1259 at the battle of Pelagonia. Since then, Mystras was established as the Byzantine base and seat of the governor of the whole Peloponnese.

The security provided by the Myzithres hill, because of its natural fortification, will cause the movement of citizens of Lacedaemonians around the castle. With time, Mystras evolves into a major urban center. The settlement called Upper Town or Chora and is fortified with a great wall. Over the years, a new district was formed outside of the wall, called Lower Chora and was also fortified.

Aftre 1308, the administrative system changed and the role of Mystras was enhanced even more. By the mid-14th century Mystras became the seat of the Despotate of Morea. For the next 150 years it will spread its authority across all the Peloponnese and will serve as a center of political and cultural life in a general period of decline for the Byzantine Empire.

Intelectuals, artists and scholars gathered in the courtyard of the despot, the most important or the George Gemisto or so called Plethonas. In 1449, the Bishop Konstantine Palaeologos, is crowned within the castle-state of Mystras, as the last emperor of Byzantium. Four years later he will eventually be killed in the siege and fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. In 1460 Mystras itself will be surrendered to the Turks from his brother Demetrios Palaeologos.

Mistras will flourish as well under the Turkish occupation as the headquarters of the Turkish commander and as a center of silk production. It passed into the hands of the Venetians in the period 1687-1715. The next liberation will be for a short time during the revolution of Orlof in 1770, thus looted immediately after Albanians soldiers.

In the revolution of 1821 the participation of Mystras was of high importance. In 1825 it was plundered by the Egyptians of Ibrahim. After that, it got gradually abandoned and the new Mystras was founded; the current village at the foot of the hill.

With the establishment of a free state, provincial authorities of Laconia settled in Mystras ruines, but when in 1834 the new monarch of Greece, King Otto founded the city of Sparta, the residents of Mystras began to move to the new town.

The last residents of the castle will leave in 1953 after the expropriation by the Greek state. A few years earlier, in 1921, the area was declared by Royal Decree as an outstanding Byzantine monument.

In 1989, Mystras is included in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage monuments. The archaeological site of Mystras consists of a medieval castle and the fortified settlement that encloses monasteries, churches, chapels, houses and palaces within its walls.

It is one of the vry few well-preserved Byzantine settlements surviving until today. The restoration work carried out in recent decades by the national archaeological services, gradually add the former prestige into this place.

Contact information
23100, Lakonia Mystras
Tel: (+30) 27310 23315, (+30) 27310 25363
Fax: (+30) 27310 83377

Opening hours
Monday - Sunday: 8:00 a.m. - 3 pm

Tickets (valid for Arch Collection Monemvasia, Mystras Archaeological Museum, Archaeological Museum of Sparta, Museum Tower Pikoulaki)
General admission: 6 €
Concessions: 3 €
Duration: 7 days

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