The Taygetus, (Greek: Ταΰγετος, Taygetos), is a mountain range in the Peloponnese peninsula in Southern Greece. The highest mountain of the range is Mount Taygetus, also known as the "Prophet Elijah". The name is one of the oldest recorded in Europe, appearing in the "Odyssey". In classical mythology, it was associated with the nymph Taygete. During Byzantine times and up until the 19th century, the mountain was also known as Pentadaktylos (Πενταδάκτυλος; Greek for five-fingered, a common name during that period).
The Taygetos Massif is about 100 km long, extending from the centre of the Peloponnese to Cape Matapan, its southernmost extremity. It contains the tallest mountain in the Peloponnese, the Prophet Elijah summit, reaching 2,404 m; this is probably the classical Mount Taleton mentioned by Pausanias. Numerous creeks wash down from the mountains and the Evrotas river has some of its headwaters in the northern part of the range. The western side of the massif houses the headwaters of the Viros gorge, which carries winter snowmelt down the mountain, emptying into the Messenian Gulf in the town of Kardamili.
The slopes of Taygetos have been inhabited since at least Mycenaean times. The site of Arkina, near the village of Arna, contains three beehive tombs and is still unexplored. Taygetos was important as one of Sparta's natural defences. The Spartans threw criminals and "unfit" (weak, sickly, deformed, or mentally retarded) infants into a chasm of Taygetos known as Caeadas (Greek: Καιάδας). In antiquity, male Spartan newborns were abandoned there if deemed unfit after examination for vitality.
During the era of barbarian invasions, Taygetos served as a shelter for the native population. Many of the villages in its slopes date from this period. In Medieval times, the citadel and monastery of Mystras was built on the steep slopes, and became a centre of Byzantine civilization and served as the capital of the Despotate of the Morea. Mystras remains occupied by a tiny religious community. The buildings are remarkably well-preserved and a major tourist attraction in the region. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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