MALVASIA (Gr. Monemvasia, i.e. the " city of the single approach or entrance "; Ital. Napoli di Malvasia; Turk. Mengeshe or Beneshe), one of the principal fortresses and commercial centres of the Levant during the middle ages, still represented by a considerable mass of ruins and a town of about 550 inhabitants. It stood on the east coast of the Morea, contiguous to the site of the ancient Epidaurus Limera, of which it took the place. So extensive was its trade in wine that the name of the place became familiar throughout Europe as the distinctive appellation of a special kind Ital. Malvasia; Span. Malvagia; Fr. Malvoisie; Eng. Malvesie or Malmsey. The wine was not of local growth, but came for the most part from Tenos and others of the Cyclades.
As a fortress Malvasia played an important part in the struggles between Byzantium, Venice and Turkey. The Byzantine emperors considered it one of their most valuable posts in the Morea, and rewarded its inhabitants for their fidelity by unusual privileges. Phrantzes (Lib. IV. cap. xvi.) tells how the emperor Maurice made the city (previously dependent in ecclesiastical matters on Corinth) a metropolis or archbishop's see, and how Alexius Comnenus, and more especially Andronicus II. (Palaeologus) gave the Monembasiotes freedom from all sorts of exactions throughout the empire. It was captured after a three years' siege by Guillaume de Villehardouin in 1248, but the citizens retained their liberties and privileges, and the town was restored to the Byzantine emperors in 1262. After many changes, it placed itself under Venice from 1463 to 1540, when it was ceded to the Turks. In 1689 it was the only town of the Morea which held out against Morosini.and Cornaro his successor only succeeded in reducing it by famine. In 1715 it capitulated to the Turks, and on the failure of the insurrection of 1770 the leading families were scattered abroad. As the first fortress which fell into the hands of the Greeks in 1821, it became in the following year the seat of the first national assembly.
See Curtius, Peloponnesos, ii. 293 and 328; Castellan, Lettres sur la Moree (1808), for a plan; Valiero, Hist, della guerra di Candia (Venice, 1679), for details as to the fortress; W. Miller in Journal of Hellenic Studies (1907).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)