Monemvasia History

The history of the town of Monemvasia starts with its name; it derives from the words moni and emvasis that mean single passage. The name comes from the Venetians who saw that the only passage to the Castle Town of Monemvasia was through a paved walkway that they built. Before this walkway was constructed, the only way to go to the town was by boat.

The Castle Town of Monemvasia was constructed in the Medieval Times. From that moment on, the rich history of Monemvasia has been full of prosperity and glory, as well as declination and invasions. From the 10th century, it started to develop in economic terms, becoming an important trade and maritime center. Then, the city bravely resisted the Norman and Arab invasions in the mid 12th century.

However, this was followed by another effort of invasion by William Villehardouin. Unfortunately, this time the town was defeated in 1249, due to the hunger caused by the three-year siege. Ten years after this, Michael Paleologus imprisoned Villehardouin, who recovered his freedom by taking the side of the Byzantine rule, helping them to regain the fortresses of Monemvasia, Mystras, and Mani.

This Byzantine rule benefited the development of Monemvasia in the economic, cultural, and military field. However, this gradual progress attracted the pirates causing the famous raid by the Catalans in 1292. The efforts of keeping the pirates away brought inhabitants in touch with naval resources in terms of warfare. In 1419, the Venetian invasions caused the decline of the Byzantine Empire. In 1460, Mystras was being ruled by the Ottomans, leaving Monemvasia as the only city that kept its autonomy. In the middle 15th century, the Venetians recaptured Monemvasia as it was considered a strategic point in the Aegean Sea.

Eventually, Monemvasia was sold to the Ottomans in 1715. Around 1770, when the Russian-Turkish War occurred, Monemvasia started to fall apart economically. Monemvasia was finally liberated on July 23rd, 1821 and became part of the first Greek State.