Messolonghi was first mentioned by a Venetian called Paruta when he was describing the naval battle of Nafpaktos. According to the predominant historical opinion, its name came from the combination of two Italian words, MEZZO and LANGHI (Mezzolanghi) which means "in the middle of lakes" or MESSO and LANGHI (Messolanghi) which means "a place surrounded by lakes".
Messolonghi was first mentioned by a Venetian called Paruta when he was describing the naval battle of Nafpaktos.
According to the predominant historical opinion, its name came from the combination of two Italian words, MEZZO and LANGHI (Mezzolanghi) which means "in the middle of lakes" or MESSO and LANGHI (Messolanghi) which means "a place surrounded by lakes".
Until 1700, Messolonghi was under Venetian domination. Its inhabitants were mostly fishermen. They lived in cabins which were made of a kind of waterproof straw and reed and stood on stilts above sea water so that they did not get in contact with it. These cabins or stilt-houses have always been called "pelades".
During the Orlov revolution in 1770 the fleet of Messolonghi was defeated and came to the Turks. Messolonghi revolted against the Turks on 20th May 1821. It was besieged twice by them. The first siege lasted from 25th October to 31st December 1822 and the enemy suffered great casualties. The second siege started on 15th April 1825 by Kioutachis whose army numbered 30,000 men and was later reinforced by another 10,000 men led by Ibrahim. After a year of relentless enemy attacks and facing starvation, the people of Messolonghi decided the Exodus of its Guards on the night of 10th April 1826. At the time, there were 10,500 people in Messolonghi 3,500 of which were armed. Very few people survived escaping the Turkish pincer movement after the betrayal of their plan.
Messolonghi was named " Sacred City " by a government regulation in recognition of its people's sacrifice during the struggle for freedom.
Messolonghi is the hometown of five Prime Ministers of Greece, the most eminent of which was Charilaos Trikoupis, and literary figures such as Kostis Palamas, Miltiades Malakasis and Antonis Travlantonis. It is also Lord Byron's loved place in which he died while contributing in the struggle of the "Free Besieged". In December 1989 Messolonghi was fraternized with Gedling, Lord Byron's hometown, since both towns were marked by his life, literary work, struggle and sacrifice.
Messolonghi, which is the capital of the prefecture of Aitoloakarnania and numbers 15,000 inhabitants, lies at the entrance of Patraikos Bay between the estuaries of the rivers Acheloos and Evinos. Silt, deposited by these two rivers through the years has created a significantly large system of shallow waters which form three lagoons; the first of Messolonghi, the second of Aitoliko and the third of Klissova, all separated from the Ionian sea by sand dunes.
Messolonghi is built at the inlet of the lagoon of Messolonghi and is unique in Greece thanks to the nearby wetlands where rare species of fauna and flora live. Mountains such as Varasova, Arakynthos, Taxiarchis and the numerous hills of the Echinades (islands) are reflected in the clear waters of the lagoon. The existence of such diversity in the landscape creates ideal conditions for the variety of plant and animal species found here.
Messolonghi is renowned for its fish production and a lot of pisciculture units are based near Messolonghi.
Fishing is mainly done with traditional methods by local fishermen, both professionals and amateur, in fish-pools called «divaria».
The town itself is very picturesque but also modern with functional, regular urban planning. Some very interesting buildings representative of traditional architecture can be seen here. People whose names were related to modern Greek history once lived in some of them. The mansion of the Trikoupis family, Palamas' House, Valvios Library, Christos and Sophia Moschandreou Gallery of Modern Art emphasize the fact that Messolonghi has always been a city of grandeur and intellectuality. Additionally, the Center of Culture and Art, Diexodos, which hosts cultural events and exhibitions as well as the Museum of History and Art which is housed in a neo-classical building in M. Botsaris Square and hosts a collection of paintings indicative of the struggle of Messolonghi further boost the city's cultural and artistic profile.
Today, the Entrance Gate remains intact and so does part of the fortification of the Free Besieged which was rebuilt by King Otto. Past the Gate, there is the Garden of Heroes where several famous and anonymous heroes who fought during the Heroic Exodus were buried. The Garden of Heroes is the equivalent of the Elysian Fields for modern Greece . It is undoubtedly the most impressive park in the country. Every year the Memorial Day for the Exodus is celebrated on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter). It is the most important local festivity in which the Greek State is represented by high rank officials and foreign countries by their ambassadors.
North-west of Messolonghi are the remains of Plevrona (Asfakovouni), a town mentioned in Homer's works. It participated in the Trojan expedition and was destroyed in 234 BC by Demetrius the Aitolian. The new town which was built on the remains of old Plevrona was one of the most important towns in Aitolia. Its monumental fortification comprised 30 towers and 7 gates. The remains of the theatre and an enormous water tank with 4 compartments still exist.
Green parks, recreation areas, the lagoon, its history but also local pubs, taverns and fishmonger's shops make Messolonghi an attractive place to its visitors as well as to the 5.000 students who decide to study at the T.E.I. of Messolonghi giving a new life to the city.