Aitoliko / Messolonghi

Aitoliko Port Museum

The Port Museum of Messolonghi-Aitoliko aims at featuring the fishermen’s tradition, the products of the largest lagoon in Greece and all the cultural and natural assets of the area, the land of the “Heroes”.

Messolonghi is one the most historical places in the country! The distinguished and popular poet, Kostis Palamas, in his poem “Glory in Messolonghi” praises the history of this place. Messolonghi is a city of the Western Central part of Greece.

The city, built between the lagoon of Messolonghi and the Kleisova lagoon, is located in 249 km from Athens, about 35km from Agrini and 37km from Antirrio. The name Messolonghi was first mentioned by Paruta, who described the naval battle of Lebanon near Nafpaktos. It comes from the Italian words mezzo (middle, half) and lago (lake). It is a place surrounded by lakes. The name of the area is recorded since 1571. In the 17th century there was great prosperity and a seafarer fleet was developed. With the failed rebellion of the Orlofians in 1770, the city was destroyed, like other settlements in the area, and the population was suffering under the Ottoman occupation.

Historical development of Messolonghi

Originally, a fishermen’s’ district was created, living by the favor of the sea. The natural morphology of the area and especially the fish farms helped develop it. Then new inhabitants appeared -the Dalmatoi pirates and fishermen from Parga, Epirus- who due to their origins brought the elements of evolution, the urge for adventure, the need for wealth. Seafarers from Kefalonia were added and affinities were created.

The first inhabitants settled around the 13th century on three islets, which were unified later on. Their positions correspond to approximately the current positions of the church of Saint Spyridon. In 1650 the area was called (like the neighboring Aitoliko, which existed before), Little Venice and the transportation between the islands was made with small boats and monks. At the same time, ships of the citizens of Messolonghi were carrying on the Mediterranean, having as an anchor the so called “Karavostasi” outside the lagoon, between Tourlidas and Vassiladios. 

Historical development

The smallest ships entered the lagoon to the waterfront that was situated more in the North than it is situated today. The basis for the development of this new small society was, of course, fish farms, but other sources of income, and preferably related ones, were needed. With timber (appropriate and abundant) from Mount Arakinthos (or Zygos) and with the knowledge that existed, shipyards were created. Soon Messolonghi acquired remarkable facilities and a major merchant fleet, which has been able to compete equally with Venice (1735). The 17th and 18th centuries are a period of exceptional maritime development». After the Treaty of Pasarovich in 1718 the trade route between the European and the Ottoman Empire was opened, as the port of Messolonghi constituted from the beginning the hub of a system of Ionian ports with internal interconnection and interdependence in productive activities. And the 18th Century was a period of maritime prosperity and development. The Adiatic Sea trade blossomed as well as the Adriatic Economy.

Historical development

 Terrestrial and maritime trade is developed between the cities of the Western Balkans and the cities of Italy, such as Valetta, Livorno, Trieste, Genoa, Ancona and Marseilles. In 1726 the Venice sub- consulate was established in Messolonghi with the first consul of Spyridon Barotsis. Akakia Kordosi says in a relevant interview: Messolonghi had developed trade, shipyards and a fleet with eighty merchant ships that mainly contacted Italy, since there were also Messolonghi agencies in the ports of Italy. Messolonghi had a shipyard, which received orders from all the Greek islands, but also from Italy. The fact that so many ships, most of which have been built in such a small city as Messolonghi, lead us to the several years ago that Messolonghi was already a dominant maritime and commercial center since the early 18th century.

Cultural identity of the Messolonghi-Aitoliko area

Points of interest