People lived in Mani since very ancient days, which is proved by the finds of fossil human skeletons 300.000 years old and labor tools over 1.000.000 years old.
According to the traveler Pafsania the first inhabitants of Mani were Lelegs, while in the Homeric times it was divided into small city-kingdoms ("polismata"). Homer was the first one to mention the cities of Mani: Messi, Vitilon (Itilo), Kardamili (or Skardamoula), Enopi, Gerinia as well as Pefnos, Avia, Githio, Kotronas etc.
In many areas of Mani inscriptions and archaeological items of old days were found. Quite information on the local history of the first proto-Christian years has been preserved.
Some time later the history of Mani was associated with the history of Sparta when in 207 B.C. Navis, the tyran of Sparta, trying to save the people of Mani made them to leave for the Tainarou peninsula. There a peculiar political organization named "Society of Lakedemons" was founded.
In the Roman days the most southern area of Mani separated from Sparta and founded a Federation under the name of "Society of Lakedemons" which survived until the days of Emperor Dioklitian. Under the name of a "Society of Free Lakedemons" it survived until the middle of the 30-century A.D.
The area acquired a special historical significance in the Franc times. After the Francs conquered Constantinopolis in 1204 for the better supervising of the area they built three castles in Taigeto: one - near Githio under the name of Passava, another - the castle of Megalis Manis or Mainis on the western area of Taygetos and the third one - the castle of Lefktrou near Kardamili.
After the defeat of Prince Wilhelm Villardouinos in 1259 near Pelagonia the three Peloponnesian castles of Mistra, Mani and Monemvasia passed to a new ruler, Emperor Ioannis Paleologue. Very soon the rest castles of Mani followed the same fate.
The Francian invasion of Peloponnese resulted in additional growth of refugees in the mountains of Mani. Most of the inhabitants of Nikliou (Tegea-Amiklion-Nikli) after their surrender to Francs in 1209, or according to other data after the earthquake of 1296 arrived, to Mani and founded two dynamic family clans of "Niklianon" and "Megalogenniton".
In the mediaeval ages in the northern area of Taygetos on the border with Mani some Slavs and later on few Albanic families have settled down. Very soon they got assimilated with the local Greek population. At the same time and later for some more years pirates found shelter on the shores of Mani.
Especially important events took place in Mani after the Turks have conquested Constantinopolis in 1453.
In May of 1460 sultan Mohammed 2-d the Conqueror has occupied the whole of Peloponnese. Being aware of the unbalanced character of the people of Mani the sultan didn’t fight them but tried to make friends with their leader Krokondilo Kladas and to enjoy his support in the fight between the Turks and Venetians. Kladas refused the Turkish offer and took the side of the Venetians. For 16 years from 1463 till 1479 the people of Mani defended their land and prevented Turks from building guarding posts in the area.
The hard Turkish-Venetian war ended shamefully and the Venetians left the Manian people to their fate. Krokondilo Kladas never accepted the clauses of the agreement between the Turks and Venetians and not only refused the new Turkish offers but started the fight against them.
During hard battles and fights the Manian people reflected all the attacks of the Asian invaders. They remained outside the new fights that took place in 1499-1502 and 1537-1540 between the Turks and Venetians but took all the necessary defensive measures.
Later in 1571-1573 they actively supported the Venetians and the brothers Melissinous, Mitropolite Makarios and Bishop Theodoros were the first among these supporters.
In the 17-th century the uprisings of the Manian people became more often. The agreement was achieved with Charles II Gonzalo, the prince of Never who dreamed of restoring the Byzantine state and proclaimed himself an ancestor of the Paleologuses. But these plans failed.
During the Cretean events in 1648-1649 the Manian people have supported the Venetians by offering them their pirate ships.
In order to make Mani surrender the Turks tried their best to flatter the unstable character of a Manian pirate Limberaki Gerakari, the future Bey of Mani. With his assistance they built in Mani three fortresses: Kelefa, Zarnatas and Porto Kaio.
Very soon the Maniot ports weakened and Gerakaris took the responsibilities of a general leader. But some time later his Maniot blood spoke and with his piratic ships he attacked the Turks. In the end he was caught and imprisoned by the Venetians.
As a result of many revolts against the Turkish yoke Mani welcomed new refugees from various areas including Asia the Minor and especially Crete when it changed hands from Venetians to Turks in 1669. The Cretean refugees settled villages with the Cretean names and enriched the Manian dilect with Cretean words and idioms.
Also to the usual endings of Manian names with "eas" and "akos" the ending of "akis" was edded (though to a small extend this ending has been met in Mani still earlier).
The mass movement of refugees caused new problems in Mani. The limited area of good aribal lands led to a rough fight for obtaining a "place under the sun" and not just quarrels but real local wars took place between families, clans and different villages.
The era of vendetta started in Mani. It seemed that only a new Turkish invasion could save the country. Many Manian people began to serve as hirelings in the army of the Doge while some others became pirates. They were not simply pirates, they tried to fulfill their patriotic duties and it should be mentioned that for example to a great extend the Turkish fleet near Hania was destroyed by the Manian pirates.
The example of two Manian families is mostly characteristic. One family of Yatrianon from Itilo in 1670 moved to Livorno in Italy and the another one the family of Stefanopoulos in 1675 settled in Corsica in Cargese. They kept their language, ethnical customs and until nowadays are called "Greeks".
In 1715 after the Venecians left Peloponnese Mani remained a free land. The Turks decided to leave the situation in Mani unchanged and the area would have been ruled by a bay, as the case was in Moldovlakhia. The people of Mani were told to pay 4.000 groshes a year which they rarely did.
After the experience with the first bay of Mani, the energetic, vain and impudent Limberaki Gerakari, who once faught on the Turkish side and once on the Venetian, the clauses of the agreement mentioned above were neglected and only hundred years later, that is after the Orloff campaign, they were restored again.
After 50 years of peaceful life in 1770 the Manian people took part in the Orloff campaign and after its failure were forced to pay to the Sultan 15.000 groshes.
From 1776 till 1821 eight Beys consequently ruled Main. They were: Tzanetos Koutifaris (1776-1779), Mikhailbeis Troupakis (1779-1782), Tzanetbeis Kapetanakis Grigorakis (1782-1798), Panagotis Koumoundouros (1798-1803), Antonbeis Grigorakis (1803-1808), Constantinos Zervakos or Zervobeis (1808-1810), Theothorobeis Grigorakis (1811-1815), Petrobeis Mavromikhalis (1815-1821). The most outstanding among them were: Tzanetbeis Grigorakis and Petrobeis Mavromikhalis.
The name of the first of them was associated with the weakening of the Turkish fortress of Passava, the extention of south-eastern Mani area, the restoration of the city of Githiou, the meetings with the Greek armed men and Lambro Katzoni and the negotiations first with the Russians and then with Napoleon on the subjects concerning the liberation of Greece.
Before the uprising of 1821 Mani was the place where "klefts" and armed men found their shelter. In this area such heroes as Zakharia, Khrisospathis, Kolokotronis, Androutzos, Katzonis found shelter and had their head quarters.
Maniots known for their martial qualities were the first to join the liberation movement of 1821. The society «Feliki Eteria» sent their representatives Perrevo and Xrisospathis to organize the Maniots.
On the 17-th of March 1821, eight days prior to the official date of the rebellion, 12000 Maniots gathered in the church of Taxiarchs (Archangels) of Areopoli and declared war against the Ottoman Empire.
The flag of the revolution was white with a blue cross in the centre. On top of the flag there was a sign: «Victory or Death». Mind, Maniots wrote «Victory» not «Freedom» because Mani was always free. On the bottom of the flag was an ancient inscription: «With the shield or on the shield».
On the 22-d of March 1821 the Maniot rebells gathered at Kardamili and together with other Greeks moved to Kalamata.
Most soldiers of the army that on the 23-d of March 1821 fought for the liberation of Kalamata were Maniots. Generally speaking, the financial and military assistance of Maniots during the liberation movement was very significant and handsome. Quite a number of famous leaders and heroes such as the family of Mavromichalis, for example, were Maniot.
Historical significance had a battle at Vergas where the Egyptian leader Ibrahim got absolutely demorilised after he heard the proud words that once the ancient predesendants of Maniots said to their enemy: «Come and take it». He lost 2/3 of his army and his deafeat was really very disgraceful when women of the village Dirou armed only with sickles and cudgels managed to throw the rest of his army into the sea.
Another battle that happened in August of 1826 near the village Poliaravou completed the defeat of the Egyptian leader and practicall saved the course of the Revolution.
The first Greek leader Kapodistria as well as the first king Otton made an attempt to unite the liberated lands and found one indivisible state. The Maniots refused to submit to the centrilised administration and the Bavarian troops that were sent to supress them left Mani without any good result. Later though a certain compromise was reached and after 1863 the Maniots gradually submitted.
The history of Mani that suffered so much and fought so bravely is reflected in the architecture of its castles, villages and house-towers (Pirgospita). Their Orthodox churches of the 9-th, 10-th and 11-th centuries are the most ancient on the Peloponnese.
Most of these simple structures were built of stone and are part and parcle of the wild Maniot landscape.
In short, these are the golden pages of the Maniot history.