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Ancient Methana -

  • Extinct (?) Volcano (last erupted 325 AD).
  • Signs of Minoan settlement.
  • Close to Troezene but dominated by Athens.
  • Naval base of Arsinoe under the Ptolemies.
  • Many artefacts in Poros Museum.
  • Modern Methana has thermal water spa.
  • An easy ferry, bus, or taxi trip from Poros.
  • Crater safe to visit.

Methana Crater from ferry 'Artemis'
Methana Crater from ferry 'Artemis'

Introduction :

Methana looks like the 'Sleeping Woman', viewed in the evening from Poros waterfront, appropriately so for the only semi-active volcano on mainland Greece. There is now no evidence of activity other than for hot sulphurous springs and occasional fues, but in 1922 there was the last of many eruptions from this volcano. It is therefore a surprise to discover that this - the Santorini of Poros - had a couple of settlements back to Minoan times, and in much earlier periods as well. In between disruptions (maybe caused by war or eruptions) settlement seems to have been fairly consistent; the volcanic soil would have been fertile and the coast offers excellent harbours for fishermen and traders.

The city-state of Troezene influenced Methana but could not always hold onto it; the 2,000 soldiers sent to Platees to fight the Persians were partly drawn from Methana. Later on, Athens was at war with Troezene (425 BC) occupying Methana and holding it for four years. The Peloponnesian war lasted until 365 BC, when a final effort of Athens defeated Troezene and forced a peace. However, invasions by the Macedonians in the 320s BC renewed local opposition to the old enemy Athens, as is told by the tale of Demosthenes in Kalavria. The successors of Alexander the Great included the Ptolemies, who seized Methana and fortified it as a naval base named Arsinoe; it was not until the Roman era that Methana recovered its ancient name.

Earthquakes and eruptions were to disrupt settlement for the last time in 230 BC, but the writer has no evidence of major developments; Methana seems to have come again under Troezene's control and remained as something of a backwater until the end of the nineteenth century, when the development of the spa and baths took advantage of both hypochondria and tourism. The volcano, the marina and the spa, remain the three greatest attractions. However, the excavations being made in Methana have produced finds now in Poros Museum.

The Volcano...

Whilst not strictly a historic site, the volcanic parts of Methana are of interest, particularly to vulcanologists. The last recorded eruption was in 230 BC (some say 256 BC, the date is unclear), but in August 1922 there were reports of a 'possible eruption' in the old crater and in 1700 there had been an underwater eruption. Methana also has 'solfataras', high-temperature sulphurous gas fumaroles, which with the hot springs indicate that there is still some igneous activity deep under the peninsula. Methana peninsula is in fact composed of a series of over thirty overlapping volcanic domes, the most impressive being the Malja Khoriou lava dome on the eastern side of the Methana peninsula. For the geologists, the rock is a basaltic andesite to rhyodacite lava dome, of the kind that produces a moderately explosive eruption and rather slow-moving lava flows.

Geologists have established that the last historic land-based eruption took place at Kaimeno Vouno on the north west coast of the Methana peninsula. Although now overgrown, there is still a good deal visible, in particular the volcanic 'dome' that burst like a blister to let out the ash and lava at the time of the eruption. The crater is quite small - 100 meters across by about 50 meters deep. The type of eruption was explosive, with lava extruded from the lava dome and some ash and gas. It is estimated that 60 million cubic meters of lava were erupted in this one incident. The report of the August 1922 incident was of smoke and steam from Kaimeno Vouno but this was not clarified.

Bearing in mind that Poros town stands on the extinct volcano that is Sferia island, there is some indication that the locus of activity has been moving northwestwards towards the Gulf of Corinth.

Visitors can take taxis from the port of Methana or from Galatas, right up to the crater. The writer has been advised to do this, then to walk down into the town to visit the spa baths and take a ferry back to Poros.

Archaeological Sites...

Ancient Methana is about three kilometers over the hill from Methana port and was on the western shore of the peninsula near Vathi. The wall of the acropolis (fortress) remains in good condition (see http://www.volcanodiscovery.com/volcano-tours/1426.htm) and is structurally similar to the lowest masonry of the Diateichisma Tower in Troezene and the remaining foundations of the Naos Poseidon.

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Good Sites on Methana :

The best I have found so far is Tobias Schorr's DecadeVolcano.net. However the Volcanodiscovery.com has more variety. The technical information in the Volcano.Und.Edu website is also excellent. It is suggested that visitors examine all of these sites and their excellent maps before visiting Methana's volcanoes.

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The Spa Buildings at Methana :

The thermal springs at Methana were apparently in use in 240 BC or earlier, according to the historian Pausanius, the eruption at Kammeni Hora having apparently caused the springs to occur. Later writers - Obidius and Stravos (Strabo) in the First Century BC - wrote of the spas as an established matter. Traces of a Roman bath tank still remain at Paleo Loutra (Aghios Nikol.

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© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.