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Messolonghi
Μεσολόγγι
View of the west part of Messolonghi
View of the west part of Messolonghi
Location
Messolonghi is located in Greece
Messolonghi
Coordinates 38°23′N 21°26′E / 38.383°N 21.433°E / 38.383; 21.433Coordinates: 38°23′N 21°26′E / 38.383°N 21.433°E / 38.383; 21.433
Government
Country: Greece
Periphery: West Greece
Prefecture: Aetolia-Acarnania
Mayor: Ioannis Anagnostopoulos
Population statistics (as of 2001[1])
City
 - Population: 18,354
 - Area: 280.168 km2 (108 sq mi)
 - Density: 66 /km2 (170 /sq mi)
Other
Time zone: EET/EEST (UTC+2/3)
Elevation (min-max): 0 - 9 m (0 - 30 ft)
Postal: 302 00
Telephone: 26310
Auto: ΜΕ

Messolonghi (Greek: Μεσολόγγι, Mesolóngi, older forms Mesolongi, Misolonghi, Mesolongion) is a town of about 18,000 people (2001) in western Greece. The town is the capital of Aetolia-Acarnania and is also its second largest town. It is the seat of the municipality of Hiera Polis Mesolongiou (Sacred City of Messolonghi). Messolonghi is linked to although bypassed since the 1960s by GR-5/E55. The road to Astakos is to the northwest and there is also access to GE-48 to the east. The town had a railway station on the line to Agrinio but this has been abandoned since the 1970s.

Contents

Geography

The town is located between the Acheloos and the Euenos rivers and has 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.

History

Messolonghi was first mentioned by a Venetian called Paruta when he was describing the naval Battle of Lepanto near Nafpaktos. According to predominant historical opinion, its name came from the combination of two Italian words, MEZZO and LAGHI which means "in the middle of lakes" or MESSO and LAGHI (Messolaghi) 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 Messolonghi 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 thirty towers and seven gates. The remains of the theatre and an enormous water tank with four compartments still exist.

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Greek War of Independence

The "Siege of Messolonghi", painted by Theodoros Vryzakis (1855)
George Gordon Byron; died in Messolonghi in 1824, participating in the Greek War of Independence(1821-1830)

During the Orlov Revolt in 1770 the fleet of Messolonghi was defeated and the town passed 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 Reşid Mehmed Pasha 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 Messolonghi decided to leave the beleaguered city in the "Exodus of its Guards" (The Sortie) on the night of April 10, 1826. At the time, there were 10,500 people in Messolonghi, 3,500 of whom 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, the town of Messolonghi 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 in Messolonghi 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 emphasize 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 boosting 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.

Landmarks

  • Museum of the History and the Art of the Holy City of Messolonghi, Website

Persons

The tomb of Markos Botsaris

Historical population

Year City Population Change Municipal population Change
1981 11,375 - - -
1991 10,916 -459/-4.04% 16,859 -
2001 12,225 +1,309/+11.99% 17,988 +1,129/+6.70%

Twin towns

See also

References

External links

Northwest: Aitoliko North: Arakynthos Northeast: Makrynia
West: Messolonghi Lagoon Iera Poli Messolongiou East: Chalkia
South: Gulf of Patras

Simple English

Messolonghi is a Greek city. It is the capital of the Aitoloakarnania prefecture. It is build on the bank of a lagoon. Its population is 14,209 inhabitants. Messolonghi is known because of the Greek War of Independence. During that time the siege of Messolonghi took place. During the siege the residents of Messolonghi fought with the Turks and the majority of them were killed there. During the siege of Messolonghi Lord Byron died, in 1824.


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