The Theatre - The Arsinoe fountain house
The first monument one encounters on the way from the Museum to the archaeological site is the theatre. The theatre was used for large scale assemblies of political character. In this theatre was held the meeting between King Philipp V Macedon and Aratos the Sikyonian in 214B.C, the day following the revolt of the Messenian people. According to the testimony of Livius (39.49.6-12), many Messenians preceeded to the theatre of Messene and demanded that the great general of the Achaean League Philopoimen from Megalopolis captured by the Messenians in 183B.C. be transferred there and exposed to common view. Stone blocks belonging to the retaining wall of the theatre seem to have been built into the nearby fountain house Arsinoe during its last phase of constructions in the time of Diocletian; thus the theatre must have been abandoned around that time, that is, in the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th c. A.D.
The cavea of the theatre sits on an artificial fill supported by a strong semicircular wall. A large part of the western retaining wall of the cavea survives. The wall is interrupted at regular intervals by entrances with pitched arches which led via stairways to the upper corridor; from there, other stairways provided access to the orchestra and also defined the wedge-shaped divisions of seats. The exterior of the retaining wall is built in exactly the same way as the fortification walls and towers of the city. The fort like impression is accentuated by the arched entrances and ascending stairways. These elements and the fact that the retaining wall of the cavea visible and accessible from the outside make the Theatre of Messene an exceptional building anticipating the theatres and amphitheatres of the Roman period.
THE ARSINOE FOUNTAIN HOUSE
Traveller Pausanias (4.31.6) informs us that the fountain house of the Agora was named after Arsinoe, the daughter of Leukippos (the mythical king of Messenia) and mother of Asklepios. Pausanias also notes that Arsinoe fountain house received the water from the Klepsydra spring. Arsinoe fountain house includes a cistern of 40m. long, located at a short distance in front of the rear wall. Between the cistern and the rear wall was a facade with ionic half columns. A semicircular exedra situated exactly at the centre of the cistern supported a group of bronze statues. Two more cisterns are located at a slightly lower level and symmetrically on each side of a paved court. The facade of the fountain house during its first phase was screened by a doric colonnade which was removed during the monument's second phase in the 1st c. A.D.
The third and final phase of restoration and reconstruction activities that took place at the Arsinoe fountain house including the addition of two identical projections at the two ends at the front side, is dated to the years of Diocletian (284-305 A.D.). The Arsinoe fountain house had the same fate as the other secular and sacred buildings of the city of Messene; they were all abandoned c. 360-70 A.D. due to the economic decline of the Roman Empire and the final disintegration which was aggravated by barbaric raids and earthquakes. The eastern section of Arsinoe fountain house remained standing and was used during the Early Christian period, as suggested by additional constructions on the upper cistern and a building, possibly a water-mill, added in front of the fountain house in the first half of the 6th c. A.D. The discovery of a coin of Leo VI (886-912 A.D.) indicates that after a certain period of abandonment the area is inhabited again in the beginning of the 10th c. A.D. This hypothesis is further corroborated by the large quantities of Byzantine pottery dated from the 10th to the 13th c. A.D.