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Brief history of the Mani

About the Mani

It is believed that, from about the 10th century onwards, the term "Mani" referred to a small area where the residence of a bishop was located. The name soon came to refer to just one castle: Megali Maini (Grand Magne Castle), probably the remains of Kelefa, a fort built by the Franks during the last decades of the Byzantine Empire. Later on, Mani came to be known as the area where free people lived during the period of the Turkish Ottoman occupation, for although the region around the Taygetos is green and lush with vegetation, the lands further south are waterless, barren and rough, with cold winters and hot summers: situated in one of the most inaccessible areas of the southern Peloponnese, the proud Maniots thus never submitted to the invading forces of any foreign conqueror, and so it is the remote location of the Mani (and its particular geomorphology and certain historical events) that have helped foster the development of its local civilization – a unique culture based on folklore, complex social systems and deeply-rooted traditions.

About the Maniots

The Maniots are the Greek inhabitants of the Mani. Etymologically, the term "Maniot" means "one who comes from Maini". The Maniots are deemed an ancient Greek people who descend from the Spartans. Throughout history, they were known by their neighbours and enemies as fearless warriors who practiced blood feuds. As early as Byzantine times, the Maniots were also known to have conducted acts of piracy – this being a result of the lacking of raw materials and resources, as well as not possessing sufficient capital for overseas trade. For the most part, they lived in fortified villages and tower-houses, where they successfully defended their lands against numerous armies.

Famous figures in the Mani

Achilles (1300-1200 BC) » Achilles 
Agamemnon (1300-1200 BC) » Agamemnon 
Homer (800 BC) » Homer
Pausanias (100-200) » Pausanias
Prince Guillaume II de Villehardouin (1246-1278) » William II Villehardouin
Theodoros Kolokotronis (1770-1843) » Theodoros Kolokotronis
Petros Mavromihalis (1765-1848) » Petros Mavromichalis
Mihalis Troupakis-Mourtzinos (1765-1848)
Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) » Nikos Kazantzakis
Sir Steven Runciman (1903-2000) » Steven Runciman
Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989) » Bruce Chatwin
Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) » Patrick Leigh Fermor