The Peloponnese or Peloponnesus is a peninsula and geographic region in southern Greece. It is separated from the central part of the country by the Gulf of Corinth. During the late Middle Ages and the Ottoman era, the peninsula was known as the Morea , a name still in colloquial use in its demotic form.
The peninsula is divided among three administrative regions: most belongs to the Peloponnese region, with smaller parts belonging to the West Greece and Attica regions.
In 2016, Lonely Planet voted the Peloponnese the top spot of their Best in Europe list.
The Peloponnese is a peninsula that covers an area of some 21,549.6 square kilometres (8,320.3 sq mi) and constitutes the southernmost part of mainland Greece. While technically it may be considered an island since the construction of the Corinth Canal in 1893, like other peninsulas that have been separated from their mainland by man-made bodies of waters, it is rarely, if ever, referred to as an "island". It has two land connections with the rest of Greece, a natural one at the Isthmus of Corinth, and an artificial one by the Rio–Antirrio bridge (completed 2004).
The peninsula has a mountainous interior and deeply indented coasts. The Peloponnese possesses four south-pointing peninsulas, the Messenian, the Mani, the Cape Malea (also known as Epidaurus Limera), and the Argolid in the far northeast of the Peloponnese. Mount Taygetus in the south is the highest mountain in the Peloponnese, at 2,407 metres (7,897 ft). Οther important mountains include Cyllene (2,376 metres (7,795 ft)) in the northeast, Aroania in the north (2,355 metres (7,726 ft)), Erymanthos (2,224 metres (7,297 ft)) and Panachaikon in the northwest (1,926 metres (6,319 ft)), Mainalon in the center (1,981 metres (6,499 ft)), and Parnon (1,935 metres (6,348 ft)) in the southeast. The entire peninsula is earthquake prone and has been the site of many earthquakes in the past.
Mythology and Early History
The peninsula has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Its modern name derives from ancient Greek mythology, specifically the legend of the hero Pelops, who was said to have conquered the entire region. The name Peloponnesos means "Island of Pelops".
The Mycenaean civilization, mainland Greece's (and Europe's) first major civilization, dominated the Peloponnese in the Bronze Age from its stronghold at Mycenae in the north-east of the peninsula. The Mycenean civilization collapsed suddenly at the end of the 2nd millennium BC. Archeological research has found that many of its cities and palaces show signs of destruction. The subsequent period, known as the Greek Dark Ages, is marked by an absence of written records.
In 776 BC, the first Olympic Games were held at Olympia, in the western Peloponnese and this date is sometimes used to denote the beginning of the classical period of Greek antiquity. During classical antiquity, the Peloponnese was at the heart of the affairs of ancient Greece, possessed some of its most powerful city-states, and was the location of some of its bloodiest battles. The major cities of Sparta, Corinth, Argos and Megalopolis were all located on the Peloponnese, and it was the homeland of the Peloponnesian League. Soldiers from the peninsula fought in the Persian Wars, and it was also the scene of the Peloponnesian War of 431–404 BC. The entire Peloponnese with the notable exception of Sparta joined Alexander's expedition against the Persian Empire. Along with the rest of Greece, the Peloponnese fell to the expanding Roman Republic in 146 BC, when the Romans razed the city of Corinth and massacred its inhabitants. The Romans created the province of Achaea comprising the Peloponnese and central Greece. During the Roman period, the peninsula remained prosperous but became a provincial backwater, relatively cut off from the affairs of the wider Roman world.