6th  Workshop on "Current trends in Molecular and Nanoscale Magnetism"

Pylos, Greece 9-13 October 2016

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History of Pylos

Pylos is a small town situated on the south coast of Navarino bay in the South-West of Peloponnese. Its stunning natural beauty, wide range of cultural and tourist attractions,  rich local history, and a distinctive architecture which brings the Greek islands to mind, make this part of Greece a blessed land.

Places of particular interest and beauty include Navarino bay, the Divari lagoon,  and the Voidokilia beach.


                         Map of Pylos environs                             Navarino bay (year 1943 RAF photo) [1] 

Pylos is associated with many historical events from the depths of the past where truth and myth are tangled.  With the creation of Neutrino Astroparticle Physics Nestor Institute [2] at Pylos, we travel even deeper into the past, to the creation of the universe.

               City of Pylos                                                             Palaiokastro

Pylos, and its king, Nestor, is referred to by Homeros in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. It has been occupied continuously from the prehistoric to the modern era, mainly as a result of its port, one of the biggest and safest natural ports of the Mediterranean, making it a strategic location from ancient times [3].

           Pylos ,  “Πλη-Pyle=Gate”                                       Sphacteria-Navarino Bay

The name Pylos comes from the Greek word “Πλη-Pyle” which means gate. This name is linked with three locations in the nearby area: Ano Englianos (where Nestor’s palace is situated), Cape Koryfasio (which flourished under Frankish Rule) and the contemporary town itself.

Homeros in the Iliad refers to Nestor, king of the kingdom at Pylos (From book-I , lines 245-250):


“But then soft-spoken Nestor rose, the clear-voiced orator of Pylos, from whose tongue speech sweeter than honey flowed” [5]

and also in Rhapsody A from Odyssey (lines 90-95):

 “Then I will lead him to Sparta and sandy Pylos to gain news of his loyal father’s return, if he can,”[7]

In 1939 during the excavation of the palace of Nestor [8] at Ano Englianos, by Carl Blegen [9], a large collection  (more than 1000) of well preserved tablets were found, with the incised marks of  Linear B scripts. The clay tablets, simply dried in their original form, would have disintegrated long ago had they not been preserved by baking when the palace was destroyed by a fire.  This collection of tablets, together with those  found at Knosos at Kreta, earlier helped Michael Ventris decipher the Linear B script in 1952. The decipherment of Linear B is often considered for linguistics to be the equivalent of DNA decipherment for biology [10]. The most important conclusion from his work is the fact that Linear B is a Greek script:

“Hitherto the general assumption had been that the Greeks had invaded Greece in the Dark Ages in a series of invasions bringing with them the different dialects of Greek. Suddenly this was all wrong. The Greeks were already in Greece, and Greek becomes the world’s prime example of a long lived language. There was also the further implication that Minoan Linear B was not essentially Minoan at all but Mycenaean, and represented a Mycenaean takeover of the Minoan palaces in their final stages and that Minoan Linear A, which is still undeciphered but is generally considered to be non-Greek, represents the original Minoan language.” [11]

The decipherment of word tripod [12] fromTablet P641 [13] found at Pylos, which is considered by Ventris as the roseta stone for Linear B [14]

 Word copper in Linear B [15]                            



During the Peloponnesian war (431–404 BC), a conflict between Athens and Sparta, Demosthenes an Athenian general built a fort at Pylos.  The naval battle that took place in the bay (425 BC) is known as the Battle of Sphacteria.  The Athenians had besieged the Spartan troops. The Spartans sued for peace, but this was rejected on the advice of Cleon, who lead new forces which captured 300 Spartans who surrendered at Pylos. This event demolished the Spartan myth that they would never surrender.










Bronze Spartan shield  (425 BC). Ttrophy of Athens after the victory in Sfaktiria. Athens Stoa Attalos [16]

In the Middle Ages, during the fourth crusade, Pylos was conquered by the Crusaders (1204) and later by the Franks. A castle was erected in 1284, the Palaiokastro at the north side of the bay, and during this period the place was known as Navarino. In 1423, it was occupied by ottomans, as was the rest of Peloponnese, and was used as a naval base. After the defeat of Ottomans at the battle of Lepanto 1571, its importance as a naval base increased and a new castle was built at the entrance to the gulf, the Neokastro (1572/1573).    Throughout these years the area was occupied and reoccupied by Venetians and Ottomans in their continuing power struggle, points to its strategic importance being located on the sea route to the east used by Venetians [17, 18].


Air view of Palaiokastro [19]

During the Greek War of Independence which began in 1821, the region was alternately under the authority of the Greeks or Ottomans till 1827 when an historic event took place at the bay, the battle of Navarino (20-October-1827).  On this day the combined Ottoman–Egyptian fleets were defeated by the allied navies of the United Kingdom,

           The battle of Navarino [20]

Navariner-Galopp polka inspired by the Battle of Navarino. By Johann Strauss (father ) [21, 22]                     



France and Russia. The Allied victory, was a major factor in the ultimate victory of the Greek fighters during the Revolution against Turkish rule and it was a historic event with impact throughout the world. Due to this event Johann Strauss (the father) had inspired and a written a polka [21, 22]. Victor Hugo, the famous French poet, in his collection of poems Les Orientales, has included the poem Navarin [21]. In  Mozart’s Opera "The abduction from the Seraglio" , which was produced at Convent Garden in London, two months after the battle [23], had included the "The Navarino Quadrilles". These Dances are named after the British ships: Albion, Genoa, Dartmouth and Asia and the  French one The Syren  [24].   The framework of the modern town of Pylos, outside the Neokastro walls, was built by the troops of General Maison during the subsequent French Morea expedition of 1828–1833. The Battle of Navarino was the last sea battle fought entirely with sailing ships. Today, Pylos is an administrative and tourist centre for South West Messinia, 52 Km from Kalamata, with excellent hotels, restaurants, and marinas.


[1] http://www.csad.ox.ac.uk/mellon/LSAG/tour-page07.html

[2]  http://www.inp.demokritos.gr/nestor/       

[3] Pylos, Navarino-Neokastro Nestor’s Palace Memories and colours. K. Drimtzias, H. A. Baltas, Y. Goumas and Y. Lekkos. 1997, Publisher D.N. Papadimas Athens

[4] Iliad, Homer, translated by N. Kazantzakis & I. Kakridis(http://users.uoa.gr/~nektar/arts/tributes/omhros/il.htm)

[5] http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Greek/Iliad1.htm#_Toc328052749

[6] Odyssey, Homer, translated by A. Eftaliwti

[7] http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Greek/Odyssey1.htm#_Toc90267060

[8] http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact?name=Pylos&object=site

[9] http://www.varchive.org/nldag/pylos.htm

[10] Searls D., Nature, 426 (2003) 391

[11] http://www.civilization.org.uk/minoans/linear-b

[12] http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/4/eh430.jsp?obj_id=5487

[13] http://apuntesdehistoriauniversal.blogspot.gr/2013/02/sistemas-de-escritura-cretenses-parte-2.html

[14]  The man who deciphered Linear B. The story of Miachael Ventris, Andrew Robinson,  Thames & Hudson London 2002. Greek Translation by Patakis publisher 2004 (p. 143).

[15] http://www.projethomere.com/ressources/linearb.pdf

[16] http://aristomenismessinios.blogspot.gr/2014_01_01_archive.html

[17] Pylos-Pylia : a journey through space and time : Nestor's Pylos, Navarino, Methone, Corone G. Papathanasopoulos, Th. Papathanasopoulos and D. A. Hardy. 2000, Publisher  Athens : Archaeological Receipts fund.

[18] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pylos

[19] http://www.elliniko-panorama.gr/articles/86/6,21,7,24,8,49/palaiokastro.html

[20] http://www.boostdam.net/1963TOUR/Navarino.html

[21] http://www.costanavarino.com/outstanding-personalities

[22] http://www.sakketosaggelos.gr/Article/4483/

[23] The Orient on the Victorian Stage, by Edward Ziter, Google Books, 2003. Page  72

[24] http://www.barrelorgan.org/sg_userfiles/General_Catalogue_2014.doc