27 nd of July 2020

Welcome to the Peloponnese, classical Greece: mythology and history

Your first trip to the Peloponnese? Welcome to classic Greece! Below is a lightning fast guide in mythology and history, Elias and I wish you a pleasant journey and stay. The text was previously published on, Elias and min guide to the Peloponnese.

Peloponnese - Pelop's island - classical Greece (it was certainly not an island but a peninsula until the Corinth Canal was completed in 1893). This peninsula is full of history and the places are close to each other. It was here that a large part of ancient history began and in the Iliad more than 20 places from the Peloponnese are mentioned. And some say that "Peloponnese (Peloponnese) is the material from which legends are made". Watch video below from Visit Greece.


Pelops (Greek Πέλοψ) was a hero in Greek mythology and grandson of Zeus. He became a powerful ruler and extended his rule over a large part of the Greek peninsula Peloponnese, which is said to have been named after him. Pelops went to Pisa in Elis, where he defeated the cruel king Oinomaos in a race. As a prize he won the king's daughter, the beautiful Hippodameia and her father's kingdom. At Olympia then held a competition every four years to commemorate this race. This was later further developed for the Olympic Games. Together with Hippodameia, they had at least 12 children. Two of his grandchildren were Agamemnon, who became king of Mycenae and Menelaus, who became king of Sparta. Menelaus married Helena, who was then abducted to Troy and this was the cause of the Trojan War that the Iliad is about.


In the 1400th century BC, Minoan Crete was conquered by a people from the Greek mainland who belonged to the Mycenaean culture. They were the first known to speak Greek and their culture flourished around 1600-1200 BC. The Mycenaeans were more warlike than the Minoans and they built castles with thick stone walls around the Greek mainland. Most famous is Mycenae in the northeastern Peloponnese, which has given this culture its name. The castles probably belonged to various small kings who ruled the surroundings. The peasants paid taxes to the king and the landowners. In the castles there were specialized craftsmen who made exquisite objects in bronze, silver and gold. Some of these were exported together with the usual agricultural goods.

  • The defeat of the Mycenaeans

Towards the end of the 1200th century, the Mycenaeans were defeated. Mycenae and many other castles were destroyed and the kingdoms collapsed. It is not known who destroyed the Mycenaean culture, but the 1200th century BC was a turbulent time in the eastern Mediterranean world. The Hittite Empire in Asia Minor perished and the Egyptians fought some of the so-called "seamen". Probably a factor as to why they're doing so poorly. During the 1200th and 1100th centuries, the Dorians invaded the Peloponnese with Sparta and Corinth as their capitals.

  • Greek Middle Ages

The period between about 1600-750 BC is called the Greek Middle Ages or the Dark Ages. The reason is partly because you do not know much about the time period. In general, the ancient world went through a period marked by small state formations that had no major connections with each other.

  • The archaic period

The period 750-480 BC is counted as the archaic period. In the eighth century, relations with other countries improved and it was during this time that the Greek alphabet was introduced and writing began, with Homer's Iliad and The Odyssey as the earliest known works. During the period, power shifted dramatically in many city-states when power was taken over by tyrants (one-man leaders in Greek). The tyrant system (which was more popular than today) lasted until approx. 700 BC

  • A form of nationalist sentiment emerged

On the Peloponnese completed Sparta its society and culture, and it entered into alliances with other city-states on the peninsula. It was during this era that the Greeks came closer to each other and a form of nationalist feeling emerged. Although the city-states were very independent, they realized that they shared the same culture, history, language and even games. And it was the Olympic Games that showed the solidarity between all Greeks around the Mediterranean. All Greek-speaking people were allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. These were held in Olympia in the Peloponnese every four years and the first Olympic Games are said to have taken place in 776 BC. This four-year cycle became so important to the Greeks that they used it as a basis for their common chronology. The four-year period between the competitions in Olympia was called an Olympiad.

  • Classic time

The period 480-322 BC is called the Classical period. During this period, the mainland is invaded by the Persian king Xerxes. After the war, the Delian League was formed in defense of the Greek city-states and islands against future Persian attacks. Athens will be the leading city-state in the union. In the Peloponnese, a similar alliance is created with Sparta as the leading city-state. Throughout the 400th century, conflicts arose between these alliances, which eventually culminated in the Peloponnesian War and weakened both Athens and the Peloponnesian city-states. This leads to the Thebans first becoming the leading city-state and then being replaced by Macedonia.

  • The Hellenistic period

The period 323-31 BC is called the Hellenistic period. Then Alexander the Great conquers the entire Greek mainland and Asia Minor all the way to the Indus River. After his death, the territories are divided between his generals, with Macedonia, the Ptolemaic Empire (Egypt) and the Seleucid Empire (Syria and the east) becoming the new leading states. The countries fall under the Roman Empire from about 146 BC and the last Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra dies in 31 and Egypt also falls under Roman supremacy. From 146 BC, the Peloponnese became a province of the Roman Empire under the name Achaea. 31-395 AD is called the Roman period when Rome conquered the entire mainland.

  • Byzantine times

395-1460 is called the Byzantine period. During the 600th century, the area was invaded by Slavic tribes. During the 1200th century, the Peloponnese was conquered by the Franks during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. In the middle of the 1300th century, the Peloponnese was reconquered and named Morea. In 1460, Morea was conquered by the Turks as the last fragment of the European Byzantine Empire.

  • Turkish time

1460-1829 is called the Turkish period. During the period, present-day Greece, including the Peloponnese, was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. After the American and French revolutions, different nationalist currents emerged in the 1800th century. This led to the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s and led to Greece becoming independent in 1830.

  • The time of state-building

The period 1830-1922 is called the time of state building. The first capital (already during the War of Independence itself) became Nafplion on the Peloponnese (1821-1834). Listen below to Rick Steves taking you through the Peloponnese in 25 minutes!

Useful links