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According to archaeological researches to the territory of Mani, it was populated and occupied since the Palaeolithic period. This event can be easily proved and testified by the prehistoric cavern of «Αlepotripa», where the Petrochilos couple discovered human skulls, tools made of stone, jewellery and conchs etc.. G. Papathanasiou in 1970 discovered in the same cavern and under layers of stalagmite that convey and belong to human beings that lived there during the Palaeolithic period. More important occupation in this territory can be dated since Neolithic period. Such organised settlements were kept up to the copper Age with the most significant those of Itylo, Kardamili, and Gytheio. Homer refers to those areas in his works. During the descent of Doriis race in Peloponniso, Mani had the same destiny as Sparti and the rest of Lakonia territory (was defeated and was occupied and conquered by Doriis) and during Roman times Mani took part in a Public bloc with other cities forming a confederation known as «Kino Eleftherolakonon».
During early centuries of Byzantine period the wide region of Mani integrated and conformed to its provincial administrative system of Byzantine Empire. Constantine the Great embraced and maintained the principles of the new administrative system and Mani as well as other regional areas in Peloponnesus belonged to the broader prefecture of Achaia. What was implemented after 6th century AC was the gradual and peaceful penetration of Slavic tribes mostly in mountainous region of Taygetus, which moved to the south of Peloponnesus so as to ensure the tribes’ settlement, living and organising quietly. This penetration continued till the 7th and 8th without troubles or any dispute with the aboriginals, since they moved to isolated and mountainous areas without causing any disturbance to the local inhabitants around the area.
The region of Mani assumed significant power after the fourth crusade in 1204 AC and the settlement of Franks in Peloponnesus. The Franks were forced to build there three fortresses and castles in strategic points in order to control their territory and push back and repel the attack raids of Mani’s fighters. These castles are:
1) The castle of Passava (originating from pas avant, which means don’t move forward), is placed in Gytheum region, in order to control the narrow passage that linked Mani with Gytheum.
2)The Lefktrou castle which was built in the region of Kardamyli for the purpose of controlling the west coast and
3) the castle of the Grand/Great Mani, located in the territory of Tigani (cape).
After the defeat of the Ahaia’s Frankish archon Gulielm Vileardouinos in Pelagonia in 1259, the Byzantine reign was restored across the region of Mani. The Franks were forced to abandon and give in the three marvellous castles located in Mistra, Mani and Monemvasia to The Byzantine’s emperor Michael the ‘H Palaeologos which established the organisation of the Mistra’s Byzantine seigniory. All other castles were seized by Mani’s natives and integrated into the Mistra’s seigniory.
After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, Mani became instantly the centre of leading considerable and substantial events. The Sultan Moameth B’ turned to Peloponessus the capture of which would complete consolidation of his dominance andsway over Greece. In May 30th 1460 his troops conquered Mistra. This event would be the starting point for a new historical course for Mani. During combats between Turks and Venetians, Mani’s natives did not cease revolting and struggling against Turkish subjection, aiming at a collaboration with Venetians even though their offering of help was usually meagre if not absent.
In 17th of February 1770 Theodore Orlof arrived in Itilos and from there he was sending letters to all warlords and sea-captains of Mani. Shortly after, in February 28th of 1770, Russian ships reached Limeni. As soon as people of Mani saw the ships, they realised that their revolt would be disastrous. Furthermore, in the content of Orlof’s letters it is expressed that Mani’s natives realised that Russian forces were quantitatively minimal and qualitatively inefficient and started protesting and doubting against those who incited them to involve to a struggle with objectionable results and would seem to end ineffectually. The Turks had already become aware of such movements of the Peloponnesians and were prepared for action as soon as they found out that Russian ships reached Mani. Being in the middle of de facto state of events, the natives of Mani had to take action and be ready to battle. But they were in the middle of almost accomplished facts as the capture of Kalamata was effortless. After this event, the fighters of Mani proceeded to the castles of Methoni and Koroni but did not succeed in conquering them. This failure led into dispute between Russians and the natives of Mani. Later on, an overflow of Turkish-Albanians streamed into Peloponnesus. Fighters of Mani made desperate efforts to withhold the precipitate and violent troops, so that their fellow countrymen could flee to the Russian ships or to any other direction. The Turkalbanians finally took over managed to rule Peloponnesus and started at once the slaughtering and looting of people and country.
In 1776 what is considered as major success for Turks is the separation of Mani from Peloponnesus and falls under the authority of the captain Pasha, which is the chief of the naval force. Mani was proclaimed to be a Turkish reign under a local sovereign who would be titled Maniatbey. His obligations and duties would include, preventing the staying, hunt down and pursue those who would refuse to abide by Turkish authority and rules to keep them off and discourage them from piracy. Moreover, he was responsible for collecting the taxes that should be paid by his subjects to the Turks. If people of Mani would accept such terms, then the Turks wouldn’t invade Mani. If so, the Bey along with Mani’s chieftains would govern the country and the Turks would chaperon the observance of the rules. So it was done and was resolved and settled in this way which means that Mani was never utterly submitted to the Turks but sustained its independence and was under an autonomous governance.
Kolokotronis, Anagnostopoulos-Nikitaras, Papaflessas and many other captains of Morea and deputies of Filiki Eteria (a conspiratorial organisation established to kick over the traces and fight against turkish subjection), had initiated since January of 1821 the visits and consultations in Limeni with the chieftains and the potentate of Mani Petros Mauromichalis. These influential personas were awaiting for the official commencement of the war against Turkish seizing of Mani, where you could find among these people many skilful chieftains and brave men fit for battle. The salvation and liberation of the Greek nation had always been their one and only life objective and goal for the already autonomous and independent Greeks of Mani. Thus, the barren land of Mani became the meeting point where members of Filiki Eteria and guerrilla soldiers held consultations and general assemblies, but also the place where their army was raised and set/for war. It was in March 17th of 1821 when the Greek people of Mani officially declared war against the Turks, but also it was considered to be the commencing day of Greek rebellion for all Greek nation. The formal initiatory doxology for this struggle took place in Areopolis’ church of Taxiarches, where people of Mani all-together declared war against the Turks in order to deliver the motherland from Turkish slavery and subjection. Kalamata was the first city that was liberated rather easily without causing any bloodshed. After all these facts then we understand given that Mani managed to stand out against Turkish conquerors and sustain its autonomy, but at the same time obtained to preserve its militant morale with the unique goal of freedom. This spirit continued to exist and reveal itself through some smaller uprisings across the enslaved country and the constant perpetual fighting against the Turks. It is featured as the fire-lighter for the spreading and formed the great uprising of all the Greek nation which Kolokotronis together with Mani’s fighters fired up.
The name of Mani
There are many versions concerning of the origin of the name Mani (derived from).
Presumably one of the explanations is related with the building of the castle there and the broader area was named after by this. Such scenario is supported by the established name Brazzo di Maina (ancho ,sail) arm of Mani – given by Venetian seamen. Other theories mention:
• Mani derives from marine word Maina that was used, meaning to strike sails, something that seamen were obliged to do because of the winds that usually blew strongly there.
• Mani came from the latin word manes meaning souls of the dead because of the underworld/Hades portal/gate that was claimed/believed to be there.
• By the word mania (furiousness/frenzy), which describes and defines the way people of Mani were fighting and were preserving their freedom.
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