Messolonghi Explained

Name Local:Μεσολόγγι
Periph:West Greece
Population As Of:2001
Lat Deg:38
Lat Min:23
Lon Deg:21
Lon Min:26
Postal Code:302 00
Area Code:26310
Mayor:Ioannis Anagnostopoulos
Elevation Min:0
Elevation Max:9

Messolonghi (Greek, Modern (1453-): Μεσολόγγι, Mesolóngi, older forms Mesolongi, Misolonghi, Mesolongion) is a town of about 18,000 people (2001) in central Greece. The town is the capital of Aetolia-Acarnania and is also the third largest town. It is the seat of the municipality of Hiera Polis Mesolongiou (Sacred City of Mesolonghi). Mesolonghi is linked to although bypassed since the 1960s by GR-5/E55. The road to Astakos is to the northwest and is also accessed to GE-48 to the east. The town had a railway station which used to link the railway line linking to Agrinio and became abandoned in the 1970s.


The town is located between the Acheloos and the Euenos rivers and contains a port on the Gulf of Patras. It trades in fish, wine, and tobacco. The Arakynthos mountains lie to the northeast. The town is almost canalized but houses are within the gulf and the swamplands. The Messolonghi-Etoliko Lagoons complex lies to the west and is also a swampy area. In the ancient times, the land was part of the gulf.


Mesolonghi was first mentioned by a Venetian called Paruta when he was describing the naval Battle of Lepanto near Nafpaktos. According to the predominant historical opinion, its name came from the combination of two Italian words, MEZZO and LANGHI which means "in the middle of lakes" or MESSO and LANGHI (Messolanghi) which means "a place surrounded by lakes". Until 1700, Mesolonghi was under Venetian domination. Its inhabitants were mostly fishermen. They lived in cabins which were made of a kind of waterproof straw and reed and stood on stilts above sea water. These cabins or stilt-houses have always been called "pelades".

North-west of Mesolonghi are the remains of Pleuron (“Asfakovouni”), a town mentioned in Homer's works. It participated in the Trojan expedition and was destroyed in 234 BC by Demetrius the Aitolian. The new town, which was built on the remains of old Pleuron, was one of the most important towns in Aitolia. Its monumental fortification comprised 30 towers and 7 gates. The remains of the theatre and an enormous water tank with 4 compartments still exist.

Greek War of Independence

See also: Greek War of Independence.

During the Orlov Revolution in 1770 the fleet of Messolonghi was defeated and came to the Turks. Messolonghi revolted against the Turks on May 20 1821 and was a major stronghold of the Greek rebels in the Greek War of Independence. Its inhabitants successfully resisted a siege by Ottoman forces in 1822. The second siege started on April 15, 1825 by Kioutachis whose army numbered 30,000 men and was later reinforced by another 10,000 men led by Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt. After a year of relentless enemy attacks and facing starvation, the people of Mesolonghi decided to leave the beleaguered city in the "Exodus of its Guards" (The Sorty) on the night of April 10, 1826. At the time, there were 10,500 people in Messolonghi 3,500 of which were armed. Very few people survived the Ottoman pincer movement after the betrayal of their plan.

Due to the heroic stance of the population and the subsequent massacre of its inhabitants by the Turkish-Egyptian forces, that followed, the town of Mesolonghi received the honorary title of Hiera Polis (the Sacred City), unique among other Greek cities. The famous British poet and philhellene Lord Byron, who supported the Greek struggle for independence, died there in 1824. He is commemorated by a cenotaph containing his heart and a statue located in the town.

Modern Era

The town itself is very picturesque but also modern with functional, regular urban planning. Some very interesting buildings representative of traditional architecture can be seen here. People whose names were related to modern Greek history once lived in some of them. The mansion of the Trikoupis family, Palamas' House, Valvios Library, Christos and Sophia Moschandreou Gallery of Modern Art emphasise the fact that Messolonghi has always been a city of some wealth and refinement. In addition, the Centre of Culture and Art, Diexodos, which hosts cultural events and exhibitions as well as the Museum of History and Art is housed in a neo-classical building in Markos Botsaris Square and hosts a collection of paintings indicative of the struggle of Messolonghi further boost the city's cultural and artistic profile.

Today, the Entrance Gate remains intact and so does part of the fortification of the Free Besieged which was rebuilt by King Otto. Past the gate, there is the Garden of Heroes where several famous and some anonymous heroes who fought during the Heroic Sortie are buried. The Garden of Heroes is the equivalent of the Elysian Fields for modern Greece. Every year the Memorial Day for the Exodus is celebrated on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter); the Greek State is represented by high-ranking officials and foreign countries by their ambassadors.



Historical population

YearCity PopulationChangeMunicipal populationChange

Twin towns

See also


External links

Northwest: AitolikoNorth: ArakynthosNortheast: Makrynia
West: Messolonghi LagoonIera Poli MessolongiouEast: Chalkia
South: Gulf of Patras