Sparta

SPARTA - Distance from Ermioni: 195 kms/3 hours

Sparta is the capital of the Laconia region of the Peloponnese, it lies in the Eurotas River valley under the Eastern foothills of Mount Taygetos.  The new city was constructed in 1834 upon the site of ancient Sparta, when young King Othon issued a decree on the construction of the new city.  Bavarian city planners designed the city based on the neo-classical architectural model, with large open squares and wide streets lined with trees, even today the original buildings remain in good condition.  Until then, the inhabitants of the area had lived in the ruins of the nearby Byzantine city of Mystras.  A modern bronze statue of Leonidas, King of Sparta, who with his 300 Spartan warriors fought the mighty Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, is located near the entrance to the archaeological site of ancient Sparta, with the famous reply MOLON LAVE on its marble plinth.

Sparta was one of the prominent city-states in ancient Greece from the Mycenaean bronze age period through to the Classical period. The 'Menelaion' palace of King Menelaus and Helen, Queen of Sparta, overlooks modern Sparta today as it did during the times of the Trojan War circ 1194-1184 BC.  Due to its powerful military organisation, Sparta became the leader of the combined Hellenic forces during the Greco-Persian Wars around 480 BC, however, it later became the prime enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, in which it emerged victorious. The defeat at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC against the rival city-state of Thebes ended Sparta's prominent military role in mainland Greece, but even then, neither Philip II of Macedon, or his son Alexander the Great, ever attempted to invade Sparta itself.  Following the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC, the Spartans continued their way of life and the city became a 'tourist attraction' for the Roman elite, who came to observe exotic Spartan customs.  Sparta then underwent a long period of decline and by the Middle Ages the political and cultural centre of Laconia transfered to the nearby Byzantine settlement of Mystras, due to the raids of marauding tribes which caused the inhabitants of Lacedaemon (ancient Sparta) to abandon their exposed city and settle in a new fortified town, with a castle garrison for protection.

The archaeological Acropolis of ancient Sparta is very close to the modern city centre, located at its Northern point, behind the statue of Leonidas and the modern sports and football stadium.  Not much of the site relates to the period of Leonidas, as most of the acropolis of Sparta was built or renovated by the Romans, including the ancient agora, temples and theatre.  However, you can still feel its presence as you walk around and explore the ruined city.

The Archaeological Museum of Sparta is located in the centre of the modern city.  Originally constructed in 1874, the neo-classical museum building was enlarged in 1907 to accommodate finds from excavations at the archaic acropolis site.  It is not a large museum, but holds many exhibits from the Mycenaean period up to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.  Its most famous torso sculpture is of an ancient Greek hoplite warrior, fondly known to everyone as 'Leonidas'.  The museum is closed on Mondays. Admission: 2 Euros.

Sparta has many affordable hotels and apartments within the city limits, ideal as a 'stop-over' centre to explore the city itself or nearby historic Byzantine sites of Mystras and Monemvasia.  The night life of the city is worth experiencing as well, with many good cafes, bars. restaurants and tavernas all found within walking distance of the main street that offers the latest in shopping venues.

The annual Spartathlon ultra-distance foot race has been held, starting on the last Friday of September, since 1983.  Spartathlon athletes starting the foot race from Athens and finishing the 246km distance at the statue of Leonidas in Sparta.  The race traces the footsteps of Pheidippides, the Athenian runner who ran this distance in 490 BC to ask for Spartan military assistance, before the historic Battle of Marathon.

Location

Sparta
Greece
37° 4' 28.5168" N, 22° 25' 48.3096" E
Picture Gallery
Sparta - Statue of Leonidas located in front of the stadium Sparta - Statue of Leonidas was built in 1968 Sparta - Spartathlon memorial Sparta - Typical city streets lined with palm trees  Sparta - Neo-classic City Hall constructed in 1909 Sparta - Statue of Spartan Warrior opposite City Hall Sparta - 'Menelaion' - Mycenaean palace of Menelaus and Helen Sparta - City of Sparta and Mount Taygetos Acropolis of ancient Sparta - The circular Rotunda building Acropolis of ancient Sparta - Highest point of the acropolis Acropolis of ancient Sparta - The Rotunda stone blocks Acropolis of Ancient Sparta Acropolis of ancient Sparta - The early Imperial Roman theatre Acropolis of ancient Sparta - Built between 1st & 3rd Centuries AD Acropolis of ancient Sparta - Theatre and modern Sparta Acropolis of ancient Sparta - The theatre held 16,000 spectators Acropolis of ancient Sparta - Archaeological remains Acropolis of ancient Sparta - Archaeological remains Acropolis of ancient Sparta - Basilica of Christ the Saviour - 7th Cen. Acropolis of ancient Sparta - Archaeological remains Sparta - Ruins of Roman villas around the city Sparta - The so-called 'Tomb of Leonidas' in the city Sparta Archaeological Museum - Exterior lion sculpures Sparta Archaeological Museum - Main entrance Sparta Archaeological Museum - 'Leonidas' torso Sparta Archaeological Museum - Museum interior Sparta Archaeological Museum - Various ancient busts Sparta Archaeological Museum - Display of ancient stele's Sparta Archaeological Museum - Bearded man - 2nd Century AD Sparta -Archaeological Museum - Hellenistic sculpture Sparta Archaeological Museum -  Roman artwork Sparta Archaeological Museum - Hellenistic Roman mosaic