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Monemvasia is a well-known medieval fortress with an adjacent town, located on a small peninsula off the east coast of the Peloponnese in the Greek prefecture of Laconia. The peninsula is linked to the mainland by a short causeway 200m in length. The ruins include the defensive structures and many Byzantie churches. The town's name derives from two Greek words, mone and emvassia, meaning "single entrance". Many of the streets are narrow and fit only for pedestrians. The bay of Palaia Monemvassia is to be found to the north. Monemvassia's nickname is the Gibraltar of the East or The Rock. The rock is 300 m tall and 1.8 km long.


The founding of the town and fortress of Monemvasia most probably occurred in the 6th century AD. The town was founded in 583 by people seeking refuge from the Slavic and the Avaric invasion of Greece. From the 10th century AD, the town developed into an important trade and maritime centre. The fortress withstood the Arab and Norman invasions and conquests in 1147. Cornfields that fed up to 30 men were grown inside the fortress.

It was a Byzantine town that existed continuously under the domain of the Empire until 1460, when it was sold to the Pope by the Despot of Morea Thomas Palaiologos. It was successively governed by Venetians and Ottomans in intervals.

The commercial importance of the town continued until the Orlov Revolt (1770) in the Russo-Turkish War, which saw its importance decline severely. She was known as "Benefşe" ("Violet" in Turkish) during Ottoman rule and was a sanjak centre in Mora province.

The town was liberated from Ottoman rule on August 1, 1821 by Tzannetakis Grigorakis who entered the town with his private army, on his own expenses, during the Greek War of Independence.

In more recent history, the town has seen a resurgence in importance with increasing numbers of tourists visiting the site and the region. The medieval buildings have been restored, many of them converted to hotels.