Monemvasia, also known by the Franks as Malvasia , was separated from the mainland due to a major artquake in 375 BC
Its name derives from two Greek words, mone and emvassia, meaning "single entrance". The rock is 300 m tall and 1.8 km long.
The founding of the town and fortress of Monemvasia most probably occurred in the 6th century CE. The town was founded in 583 by people seeking refuge from the Slavic and the Avaric invasion of Greece. From the 10th century CE, the town developed into an important trade and maritime center. The fortress withstood the Arab and Norman invasions and conquests in 1147. Cornfields that fed up to 30 men were grown inside the fortress.
It was a Byzantine town that existed continuously under the domain of the Empire until 1460, when it was sold to the Pope by the Despot of Morea Thomas Palaiologos (in 1464 the Pope sold it to Venice because the Papal State was not able to protect the city in the upcoming Turkish-Venetian war.) It was successively governed by Venetians and Ottomans in intervals:
* Venetian: (1464 - 1540)
* Ottoman: (1540 - 1690)
* Venetian: (1690 - 1715)
* Ottoman: (1715 - 1821)
The commercial importance of the town continued until the Orlov Revolt (1770) in the Russo-Turkish War, which saw its importance decline severely.
The town was liberated from Ottoman rule on August 1, 1821 by Tzannetakis Grigorakis who entered the town with his private army, on his own expenses, during the Greek War of Independence.
The citadel has been uninhabited since 1920.
In 1971, Monemvassia became linked with the rest of the outside world through a bridge on the western side that connects to GR-86.
In more recent history, the town has seen a resurgence in importance with increasing numbers of tourists visiting the site and the region. The medieval buildings have been restored, many of them converted to hotels.