Ancient Mende is referred to by Thucydides as a colony of Eretria, founded on Pallene (modern Kassandra), the most westerly of the three prongs of the Chalcidiki peninsula. We do not know the date of its foundation, but the presence of Eretrians and Chalkideans in Northern Greece goes back generally to the time of the second colonisation in the 8th c. BC.
The city owed its name to the aromatic minthe plant, a type of mint, which still grows in the region. Its great economic prosperity as early as the beginning of the 6th c. BC is shown by the wide circulation of its coins and was chiefly owing to its export of the famous 'Mendean wine'. Mende was also the birthplace of the well-known sculptor, Paionios, who made the statue of Nike at Olympia. In the 5th c. the city was one of Athens' most powerful allies, but during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) it defected, which resulted in its siege and pillage by the Athenians. In the mid 4th c. the city was captured by Philip II and thereafter steadily declined.
The site of the ancient city in the district of the village of Kalandra was identified by Leake in the 19th century. It is confirmed by the topographical descriptions in Thucydides and Livy, by the survival of the toponym 'Poseidi' on the neighbouring headland, and by excavation results.
Excavation of ancient Mende was carried out between 1986 and 1994 by the 16th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities under the direction of Ioulia Vokotopoulou.
The main archaeological zone, 1200 x 600 m in area, is on the flat summit and sides of a pine-covered hill which slopes gently down to the sea.
On the Acropolis, known as Vigla, which extends to the highest, NE point of the hill, groups of depository pits were excavated, which had originally been for storage. Their chief contents were pottery from the 12th to the 7th c. BC. A trial trench dug on theflat hilltop, also known by the name of Xefoto, revealed part of the wall.
In the 'Proasteion' (suburb), which is mentioned by Thucydides, and which occupies the seashore district of the ancient city, amongst other things, successive parts of dwellings and streets dating from the 9th to the 4th c. BC came to light.
In the cemetery, located on the seafront of the Mende Hotel, a total of 24 burials were excavated, mainly urn burials of babies and small children, dating from the end of the 8th - early 7th c to the end of the 6th c. BC. The vases were chiefly painted, with foliate and geometric decoration, and/or incised, and are typical examples of the 'Chalcidian' style.
The sanctuary of the ancient city was finally located on the flat, sandy headland of Poseidi, 4 km west of Mende. Among the buildings that have been excavated is the early 5th c. Temple of Poseidon, which was identified by a series of incised inscriptions on vases. A double apsidal building was also discovered, built in the 2nd quarter of the 6th c. and repaired at the end of the 3rd c. BC, a rectangular ancillary structure from the end of the 6th c. BC and a 10th c. BC Protogeometric apsidal building. Inside and to the south of this building stood a sacrificial altar with ashes, which was in use from the end of the 12th-early 11th to the 5th c. BC.
The apsidal Poseidi building is one of the earliest sanctuaries in Greece and the only one with an exclusively cult function dating to the 'Dark Ages' in Northern Greece.
The results of the excavation at ancient Mende are of great importance since they show that a permanent settlement with a strong Euboean influence was already in existence at the end of the 12th - early 11th c. BC. The nature of this very early settlement cannot yet be fully assessed, but it has added to our knowledge of Euboean colonising activities on the Chalkidiki peninsula and of the trade relations in general which developed during the course of the 'Dark Ages'.Wikidata ID: Q3305786
(Odysseus, Greek Ministry of Culture)