This large peninsula technically forms an island in southern Greece and resembles a huge mulberry leaf. For this reason, it was called in the Middle Ages Moreas ( from the Greek word for mulberry ).
Its ancient name was Peloponnese or Peloponnissos ( the island of Pelops, the mythical King of Phrygia, who later ruled over Ilia and Arcadia ).
From antiquity, there have been efforts to cut the Isthmus that connected Attica to the Peloponnese. The cutting was eventually effected in the 19th century A.D. when the canal was completed.
This broad peninsula covers an area of 21,439 square kilometers and has a population of about 1,100,000. Its greater part is a region of valleys separated by towering mountain ranges rising to 2,407 meters at Taygetos. Hills are intersected by fast-flowing rivers with historic associations: Alphios, Pinios, and Evrotas. The plains of Ilia, Messinia, and Argolis are among the most fertile in Greece. The region’s 7 provinces are Achaia, Argolis, Arkadia, Ilia, Corinthia, Lakonia, and Messinia.
There is evidence of human activity in the Peloponnese going back to 100,000 B.C. Archaeological remains from the Old Stone Age and the New Stone Age have been discovered at Ilia, Nemea, Lerna, and elsewhere. The Peloponnese reached its most flourishing period during the Mycenaean Age ( 1600-1100 B.C. ), with the growth of such cities as Mycenae, Tiryns, Pilos, and Sparta all of which enjoyed a high level of civilization.
From prehistoric times, the Olympic Games were held in Olympia for peaceful competition between athletes from cities from all over Greece and her colonies.
During the Classical period, the rivalry between Athens and Sparta led to the Peloponnesian War and the start of Ancient Greece’s decline.
With the coming of the Macedonians, the Peloponnese lost their independence and Alexander the Great was recognized as the leader of a “united” Greece. But the region’s decline continued despite a short interval of prosperity under the Achaian Confederation and the efforts towards further improvement by the kings of Sparta, Agis, and Kleomenis.
The final blow came in 146 B.C. when the armies of the Achaian Confederation were defeated by the Roman general Mummius. The Peloponnese together with the rest of Greece became a Roman province. From then onward, the Peloponnese suffered a series of invasions by barbarians.
During those years of desolation and barbarism, the whole of the peninsula lived in obscurity. The Byzantines, following the Romans, made the Peloponnese one of their provinces.
The Frankish rule that followed in 1204 under Godfrey de Villehardouin saw the division of the Peloponnese into 12 fiefdoms governed by Barons from France, Flanders, and Burgundy, which accounts for the region’s several Medieval Frankish fortresses. The three largest castles were at Monemvassia, Main a, and Mistras. This last one became later a Byzantine town and saw many years of glory and splendor.
From Mistras the last Emperor of the Byzantine Empire Constantine Paleologos went to Constantinople in 1453 and he died fighting against the Turks of Mohammed the Second, who then occupied Byzantium and Greece.
For almost five centuries, the Peloponnese and other parts of Greece were under Turkish occupation. In 1821 the Greek War of Independence actually begun in the Peloponnese. Following the Greek liberation, Nafplion was for a few years ( until 1843 ) the capital of Greece.