Excavation works at ancient Messene continued during the year 2021 by Professor Petros Themelis in the great sanctuary of the Egyptian goddess Isis and her consort Serapis located south of the Theater; the campaign was supported financially by The J. F. Costopoulos Foundation.

The aim of the campaign, which took place from September 1 to October 30, 2021, under my direction and the supervision of Mrs. E. Labropoulou, archaeologist representative of the “Ephorate of Antiquities in Messenia”, was the in-depth investigation of the Π-shaped vaulted underground cryptoporticus and especially its northern section (Fig. 1). Due to the great depth (4.30 m) of the underground porticus and the narrowness of the space, a mechanical wheeled loader was used to remove the excavated dump and soil (Fig. 2).

A fair amount of marble fragments deriving from the decoration of the stage building of the Theater came to light; marble architectural members from the same stage building were also brought to light in the underground portico, thrown there after the collapse of its vaulted roof in the late 4th century AD. In the fill of the underground portico, among various objects, the lower right part of a marble stele of representing one of the Dioscuri in relief (the mortal Castor or the immortal Polydeuces) seated on a chair (diphros) came to light. The upper part of the same relief stele which had been revealed some years ago around the Theater was joined to the newly found lower part of the same stele. The head of a horse in a rectangular window frame is depicted in front of the Dioskouros’s face (Fig. 3). The relief belongs to the category of “laconic type reliefs” dated to the 5th century BC and dedicated to a sanctuary of the Dioskouroi which should have been in the agora of the earlier town called Ithome (or Aithaie) that pre-existed in this area before the foundation of great Messenian capital in 369 BC by the Theban general Epaminondas and his Theban allies.

Petros Themelis