Messenia (mĕsē´nēə), ancient region of SW Greece, in the Peloponnesus and corresponding to the modern nome of Messinías. Excavation has revealed an important center of Mycenaean culture at Pylos dating from the 13th cent. BC From the 8th cent. BC the Messenians were engaged in a series of revolts against expanding Sparta. After the First Messenian War the Spartans annexed (c.700 BC) the eastern part of Messenia. With the Second Messenian War the remaining inhabitants were reduced (7th cent. BC) to helots. The Third Messenian War (464–459 BC) was a failure for Messenia, but very costly to Sparta. The battle of Leuctra (371 BC) freed Messenia, and Messene was founded (c.369 BC) as the capital. The region gave its name to Messina, Sicily, because of an influx of Messenian colonists (c.490 BC).
See C. A. Roebuck, A History of Messenia from 369 to 146 BC (1941); The Minnesota Messenia Expedition, ed. by W. A. McDonald and G. R. Rapp (1972).