The Archaeological Museum of Messene was inaugurated in March 2000 in Mavromati, a village in Ithomi, with the purpose of housing all the findings brought to light by the archaeological research that had started in the late 19th century in ancient Messene. The excavations that have continued up to our days have revealed an enormous wealth of findings, so much so that now the relevantly small museum cannot exhibit all of them simultaneously.
As regards the history of the excavations, they started in 1895 by Themistocles Sofoulis and were continued in 1905 and 1926 by Georgios Oikonomou. Anastasios Orlandos then took over (1957-1975) and after him Petros Themelis, who started in 1986 and continues up to the present day.
The museum was built on a plot donated to the Archaeological Association by Greek expatriate D. Latzounis. It is a simple small two-storey building containing more than 12,000 findings, most kept in storage in the basement. Several exhibits are also on display in the museum’s atrium and under shelters. Its most important exhibits are sculptures, some of them of particular artistic value. The Messenian sculptor Damophon is adequately represented in the museum, where several fragments of his works are on display. Damophon was the most important sculptor of the Late Hellenistic period, and thanks to Pausanias we can be certain of at least 15 of his works. He specialized in sculptures representing gods and heroes, which is why his creations were usually of colossal dimensions. Apart from his homeland, Messene, his works have also been found on Aegean islands, in Megalopolis and Lykosoura.
In addition to Damophon’s works, the visitor can also admire the Doryphoros of Polycleitus, a Hermes of the Andros-Farnese type, and an Artemis Lafria. The Doryphoros was discovered in 1995 at the Gymnasium of Messene, and belongs to a series of faithful copies of the Polycleitus-type Doryphoros, which can be found today dispersed in various museums worldwide. It is a work of excellent quality, dating to the reign of Emperor Augustus. With regard to the person it represents, some say it is Achilles while others claim it is Theseus. The Hermes of the Andros-Farnese type is a marble statue found in 1996 in the west gallery of the Gymnasium, which faithfully follows a sculpture type seen elsewhere. The Artemis Lafria was discovered earlier, in 1986. It represents the goddess with her right hand raised, ready to draw an arrow from her quiver.