Sparta’s historical heritage lies in its name: often quoted together with its perpetual rival Athens, both these cities are juxtaposed as exact opposites. Both claim their place in history: Athens is glorified through its monuments and Sparta through its legacy of her name and it’s soldier state. The term “bearing a Spartan existence” alludes to asceticism and austerity. Leonidas and his three hundred countrymen suggest images of heroism and self-denial.
On entering the main road to Sparta from the new highway , one cannot help himself to wonder if this is the right city or if the GPS has gone seriously off track and taken him off road to another one of these nameless cities, scattered across the Greek countryside.
Few sites have been poorly or inefficiently – if at all- restored to provide any kind of insight for the traveler. The Acropolis, literally the top of the city, is overgrown and has no major monumental constructions. Scattered excavations around the city reveal fortified walls that abruptly crumble, Roman villa mosaics buried behind the tall shades of dull modern buildings, overgrown verdure adding to the corrosion of theatre stands. Modern day Sparta has sadly nothing to show for herself, not even ruins that once suggested its past grandeur.
The city, originally built on the old one, lies in the same boundaries as one sees today if he overlooks the city from the hill of the Roman Theater towards Mystras.
How does one then experience the Spartan heritage, if there is nothing tangible? Well, the keen traveler must read. And imagine, possess the history through the texts, to form his perspective.
Some landmarks might serve him well. The small archaeological museum in the center of town offers some interesting artefacts and is definitely worth seeing.
The Byzantine fortress city of Mystras is a definite must-see. An acclaimed UNESCO sight, it makes one feel that time has stopped and the heritage of the Middle ages is one step beyond.
The Byzantine city-state hill was founded in 1249 by the Frankish leader William II de Villeharduin and a reminder of glorious era of power and culture commanding Peloponnese for over two centuries. Its castle fortresses, its churches and palaces maintain their glory and are representative of the Byzantine grandeur and civilization. It was built during the period of the Frankish domination, in 1249 by Villehardouin II, on the top of the eponymous hill.
In the 14th century, it became the capital of Peloponnese and the seat of the Despotate of Morea, Mystras thrived and became a centre of culture.The Neoplatonist philosopher George Gemistos Plethon lived there until his death in 1452. He and other scholars based in Mystras influenced the Italian Renaissance, especially after he accompanied the emperor John VIII Palaeologus to Florence in 1439.
Mystras remained inhabited throughout the Ottoman period. In the 1830s, it was abandoned and the new town of Sparti was built, approximately eight kilometres to the east. In 1989 the ruins, including the fortress, palace, churches, and monasteries, were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, it is occupied by a tiny religious community. The buildings are remarkably well-preserved and a major tourist attraction in the region.
For organised sightseeing tours, please do not hesitate to contact us (applies to groups of 10-12 ps)
The Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive. Located in the city, this unique award winning private museum, exhibits interesting collections dating back to prehistoric times and showing the contribution of olive and olive oil to economy and everyday life, in all stages of our civilization.