Visit the palace of a Homeric king in Pylos

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Nestor’s Palace (Ανάκτορο Νέστορος) is a central mansion of the Late Greek Age, surrounded by a fortified enclosure and is considered by archaeologists to be related to the heroic King Nestor, who played a key role in the Trojan War. It was an impressive building that included storage rooms, laboratories, baths, skylights, reception areas, and a central drainage system. It is located on the elongated hill of Epano Englianos (Επάνω Εγκλιανός), near the town of Pylos (Πύλος) in Peloponnese (Πελοπόννησος). It is the most well-preserved Mycenaean palace ever discovered.

Nestor was the son of Nileas and Chlorida. Growing up he became a famous warrior. He took part with the Lapiths in the war against the Centaurs, in the Argonaut Εxpedition, in the hunt of the Calydonian Boar, and the Trojan War. Homer presents him as a wise and prudent elder, whose advice was listened to with respect by all the Achaeans. With these qualities he kept the motley Greek army united during the siege of Troy and reconciled situations while maintaining unity. After the end of the Trojan War, Nestor lived in Pylos, to which Telemachus, son of Odysseus, took refuge to ask about his father, who had been missing for years. Homer mentions that Nestor, without knowing who Telemachus was, welcomed the stranger on the beach of Voidokilia (Βοϊδοκοιλιά), led him to his palace and offered him food and hospitality.

The Palace is a two-storey complex of various buildings with a total of 105 ground floor apartments or other spaces. It consists of four main buildings (southwest, central, northeast, wine cellar), as well as some smaller buildings. Its most important compartments are the large rectangular throne room with the circular hearth, the room with the clay bath, and the storerooms with numerous storage vessels. Also impressive is the staircase in front of the throne room which led to the upper floor. From the staircase eight stone steps are still in their place. Many of the rooms of the complex were decorated with colourful murals.

Αll the wooden parts of the roof and the gallery were probably decorated with vivid colours. Frescoes covered the walls on all sides of the throne room. Thus, the royal throne was guarded by two identical face griffins, which were the symbol of Nestor, while near the eastern corner of the room, fragments of a mural depicting a male figure playing lyre sitting on a rock. The Palace was destroyed by a great fire at the end of the 13th century BC or in the early 12th century BC which, however, managed, while baking them, to maintain a plethora of ceramic plates that provide us with important information about the economic, social and religious life during the Mycenaean times. Also, more than 1100 Linear B plates were found in the Palace complex and their study confirmed the correctness of the decipherment of Linear B. 

The burial monuments dating to the period of the 2nd BC millennia, like the vaulted tombs, are intricate buildings that archaeologists say were constructed for the first time in Messenia (Μεσσηνία). From here the vaulted tomb spread throughout mainland Greece and reached as far as Mycenae (Μυκήνες). About 90 metres from the gate of the Palace, to the northeast, passing through an olive grove, the visitors reach a vaulted tomb, whose dome was restored in 1957 by the Hellenic Archaeological Service. Although built of small slabs, it is still a large tomb, with a diameter of 9.35 metres. The dome had collapsed to the top of the lintel and the tomb was filled with soil that was found completely disturbed because it had been looted in antiquity. The robbers, however, were unusually careless, and so valuable finds were left in the tomb. Among the items found were many gold ones, along with a royal seal with a winged griffin, two rings, jewels in the shape of gulls, and a shield.

In general, the archeological site is very well maintained with ramps and corridors that allow visitors to see all the areas of the palace from a higher level. The place is also protected by a large shelter which makes the visit pleasant even on a hot day. There is also a visitor centre with useful information about the site and the history of the excavations. Numerous archaeological finds from the site of Nestor’s palace are kept today in the Archaeological Museum located in Chora (Χώρα), but also the Archaeological Museum of Messinia, located in Kalamata (Καλαμάτα). For more information about the site, tickets and visiting hours you can visit the official site of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Finally, this is a video with a 3D representation of the Homeric palace during its most glorious days.

[Only the locations are written in English and Greek for easy access to the map]


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