Mystra is a late Byzantine (medieval) city. Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and its most important city. Thesaloniki was the 2nd most important, and Mystra was third. It was a regional capital until the fall of the Byzantine Empire.
The castle is high on the hill; the town below. It was a flourishing city, with a good water supply and revenue from silk production. The double-headed eagle was the symbol of the Byzantine Empire, and is also the symbol of the Orthodox Church.
The 4th Crusade departed in 1204 and was supposed to be liberating the Holy Land, but they diverted to Constantinople, looted and sacked the city, deposed the emperor, and divided up the spoils. The crusaders also came to Mystra and fortified it. You can hike between the castle at the top of the hill and the ruins of the town at the bottom if you are in good shape. It is steep, and it can be slippery after a rain. The convent on the side of the hill is still in use by a small group of nuns, and it can be visited.
For less active people (like me) there is still a lot to see.
The Mitropolis cathedral, a couple of other churches and the small museum can be reached with a moderate climb, and you can see the castle and convent from a distance.
Admission to the site is 5 euro.
It is located in a park, next to the road that leads to the famous byzantine state of Mistras, which is only 5 km far away from Sparta (you can also see my page about it).
The name of the church is "Evangelistria", over 100 years old, but the patron saint of the city is Agios (Saint) Nikon.
It is one of the most important buildings of the city, which represents the rich cultural life of Sparta (in all arts, even in sports: e.x. Spartathlon, the mythic ultra distance race, about 250 km, the distance between Athens-Sparta, which first took place in 1983).
There are simple exhibits inside the museum, but you can get many information about the role of oil in the economy in every historical period.
It was (and still is) too important about health, nutrition, lighting...
The museum, unique of its kind in Greece, was founded in 2003. It is housed at a nice building, 10' on foot from the centre of Sparta.
You can learn there everything about the production of olive oil in the country at different historical times (since antiquity), its uses and production techniques.
Don't miss it!
It happened to be there on Holy Friday, when Jesus Christ is represented to have died as a human...
Later in the night, the procession of the "epitafios"("sepulchral") was going to take place on the streets of Sparta, the same happens in every church of Greece that day...
Sparta is the capital of the prefecture of Laconia, it started to be built in 1834 and so on.
There are still many neo-classical buildings, nice squares and parks. You can visit the Archaeological Museum (except the Arc/al Museum in Athens, it was the first such museum that was built in Greece), the Koumantaros Art Gallery (branch of the National Gallery), the public library, the new museum about... olives and olive oil (!) etc.
It is located at the site of ancient Sparta. Traces of this theater (2nd or 1st century BC) can be seen there, but much of the marble that formed the seats was removed to use it for the building of Mistras...
These poppies give more colour to the whole image of the theater...
Behind the theater stood a temple of Athena.
You can also visit the sanctuary of Artemis, the Menelaion, the sanctuary of Apollo of Amyclai (8 km south of Sparta) and the Archaeological Museum, which is housed in a neo-classical building in the centre of the city.
Leonidas was the Spartan king and general (5th c. BC) who still is an incarnation of the universal ideal of patriotism.
He is well-known for his decision to fight the Persians in Thermopylae with only 300 soldiers, although he knew that he could leave and be saved.
"Molon lave" (="Come and take it") is the phrase that he used to tell the Persians that he and his soldiers would all die, sacrificing their lives for the good of Sparta, as it happened.
This distraction gave enough time for the rest of the greek army to retreat into southern Greece.
You can't see a lot at this archaeological site, which is located at the one side of the modern city.
The lives of Spartans were organized by the state-city, even by the age of seven. They were trained all the time in both military and athletic abilities, they could live only with a few necessary things... Men were living in barracks until they were sixty.
"Laconism" means the unique way to express dense meanings, similar to the spartan way of life...
Until the time of Alexander the Great, Athens and Sparta were the biggest cities in ancient Greece.
Sparta has been built next to this historical river (82 km), near Taygetos mountain (2.405 m, there are numerous footpaths for hiking).
Nikiforos Vrettakos (1912-1991, a poet who was born in the prefecture of Laconia, in Krokees) has written about Taygetos:
"And a mountain
is a poem
that asks from you to listen to it"...
He was a Spartan king (7th c. BC), more famous for being the lawgiver of Sparta. He exiled himself in many countries to avoid a civil war. When he finally returned back to his city (after asking the oracle in Delphi if his suggestions were right), he legislated in a way to make the Spartans be orderly and hardened.
Plutarch wrote a "Life" of Lycurgus, valuable for its description of spartan ways.
Inside the same museum, on the ground floor, you can see machinery, copies and models of various production techniques.
Also, a small cafe and the museum's shop.