Outstanding Personalities

Many outstanding figures were born or lived in Messinia, while others were inspired by the region’s alluring beauty.


People who left their mark

Guillaume II de Villehardouin (1246-1278)

The last prince of Achaea, also known as “Kalomatis” or “Kalamatas”, was born in Kalamata

Hayreddin Barbarossa (1478-1546)

A pirate and later Ottoman admiral who in 1534 captured Koroni, Patras and Nafpaktos (Lepanto) from the Spaniards.

Francesco Gasparini (1661-1727)

Baroque composer who wrote the opera Merope inspired by the legendary queen of Messinia.

The Russian brothers Aleksey & Theodore Orlov

During the Russo-Turkish war (1768-1774), landed at Itilo and attempted to stir the Greeks to revolt. They failed to take Methoni and Koroni but made themselves masters of the Bay of Navarino and Neokastro after a siege lasting six days.

Marquis Nicolas Joseph Maison (1770-1840)

Marshal of France and commander of the French expeditionary corps to the Peloponnese, ordered the capture of Koroni, Methoni, Neokastro and Patras.

Sir Edward Codrington (1770-1851)

British admiral who commanded the allied fleet at the Battle of Navarino

Count Lodewijk van Heyden (1773-1850)

Dutch-born Russian admiral who led the Russian squadron in the Battle of Navarino

Henri de Rigny (1782-1835)

French admiral and politician, led the French squadron in the Battle of Navarino

Grigorios Dikeos (1788-1825)

Better known as Papaflessas, was a clergyman, politician, fighter, and a hero of the Greek Revolution. Born in Poliani, Messinia, he was distinguished for his bravery in many battles in the Peloponnese

Paul-Marie Bonaparte

Napoleon’s nephew, died on the Greek frigate Hellas during the Greek War of Independence. His grave is located on the islet of Sfaktiria

George Philip Reinagle (1802-1835)

English marine painter who was present at the battle of Navarino on board HMS Musquito and later published Illustrations of the Battle of Navarino

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

The famous French poet who wrote Les Orientales that includes the poem Navarin inspired by the Battle of Navarino

Johann Strauss I (1804-1849)

Famous Austrian Romantic composer who wrote the Navariner-Galopp polka inspired by the Battle of Navarino

Alexandros Koumoundouros (1817-1883)

Served 10 terms of office as Prime Minister of Greece, was born in Zarnata, Messinia

Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900)

Famous Russian painter, who vividly rendered the Russian squadron in action at the Battle of Navarino

Nikolaos Politis (1852-1921)

A leading folklorist and founder of folklore studies in Greece, was born in Kalamata. His family originated from Yiannitsanika in Mani, where his father was a judge

Christos Tsountas (1857-1939)

Eminent Greek archaeologist who led excavations at Zarnata, Messinia

Kostis Palamas (1859 – 1943)

The celebrated Greek poet who wrote the lyrics to the “Olympic Hymn”, lived for a time (1881) with his brother, Christakis, when the latter was a provincial governor in Messinia. One of the poet’s greatest works, “The Twelve Lays of the Gypsy”, is said to have been inspired by the colorful festival of Kyparissia

Themistocles Sofoulis (1860-1949)

Archaeologist and politician, who was the first to excavate the ancient ruins of Ancient Messene.

Polivios Dimitrakopoulos (1864-1922)

Well-known author, born in Kyparissia

Yannis Kambisis (1872-1902)

Dramatic poet and playwright, born at Vounaria, Pylia

Konstantinos Kourouniotis (1872-1945)

A respected archaeologist who conducted major excavations in Pylos

Alexis Zorbas

Real name Yiorgis, hero of the well-known film “Zorba the Greek,” the screenplay of which was based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957). Zorbas lived in Mani and worked the mines of Prastova, close to Stoupa in Messinia. This location was the inspiration for Nikos Kazantzakis and where he wrote “The Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas”.

Anastasios Orlandos (1887-1979)

Distinguished archaeologist who led major excavations at Ancient Messene

Carl William Blegen (1887-1971)

Famous American archaeologist who discovered a Mycenean palace near Pylos which he attributed to Homer’s legendary King Nestor.

Kostas Tsiklitiras (1888-1913)

Gold medalist in standing long-jump and bronze medalist in standing high-jump at the 1912 Olympic Games, was born in Pylos. He died from meningitis at the age of 24 during the Balkan Wars.

Evaristo de Chirico

Father of Surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), who designed the area’s railway stations

Takis Papatsonis (1895-1970)

Acclaimed poet and writer

Kostas Athanatos (1896-1970)

Prominent journalist, born in Kalamata

Mattias Natan Valmin (1898-1968)

Swedish archaeologist who led extensive excavations in Messinia in the 1930’s

Spyros Marinatos (1901-1974)

Famous Greek archaeologist who conducted major excavations in Pylos and Chora

Maria Polydouri (1902-1930)

Distinguished poet, born in Kalamata

Kostas Kalantzis (1911-1988)

Literary figure, born in Platania, Trifylia

Tassos Alevizos (1914-1985)

Famous engraver, born at Lefkochora, Messinia

Metropolitan Meletios (Karabinis)

of France (1914-1993) was born in Kalamata.

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011)

British travel writer, scholar and soldier. Famous also for his exploits on Crete during World War II, particularly the abduction of the German military commander on the island, Fermor resided in Kardamyli for many years.

Michalis Katsaros (1919-1998)

The famous poet who was persecuted for his ideas from both the left and right of the political spectrum, was born in Kyparissia. His collections of poems have been translated into many languages and some have been set to music by great composers, including Mikis Theodorakis and Maria Callas (1923-1977), famous opera singer whose family house is at Neohori Ithomi, Meligalas.

William Andrew McDonald

Eminent American archaeologist who from 1969 to 1973 led excavations in Messinia and wrote The Minnesota Messinia Expedition.

Epiphanios Theodoropoulos (1930-1989)

Highly respected priest and monk, born at Bournazi, Messinia.

Kiki Dimoula (1931-2020)

Famous poet whose parents were both born in Messinia

Yanni (born 1954)

World famous composer, was born and raised in Kalamata