The Greek Legacy is more than Ancient History
Nearly 200 years later
finally your voice
will be heard
The Greek War for
Independence will be known.
Hundreds of years of Ottoman rule gave them a reason to fight.
Marcos Botsaris gave them a leadeR.
The Greek son of a Suliote leader. Reluctant to follow in his father’s footsteps, finds himself faced with the responsibility to lead a nation, and take his place as one of the most revered heroes in modern Greek history.
Ali Pasha assumed the position as the ruler of Ioannina, the most powerful region of Greece, against the wishes of the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan, and was known as the Napoleon of the East for his inhumane ways and dictatorial rule.
Notes on the actual events surrounding 1821…
Beginning with Mani…
Mani Peninsula was never occupied by the Ottoman Empire. It was the real land of the free and this contributed to be chosen as a starting ground for the beginning of the Revolution. The resistance needed a place safe to gather resources and forces to declare war upon the strong Ottoman Empire. This place was meant to be Mani, the place that knows only two kings: Sun and Stone. Below there are some information I gathered about the area and the people who made the foundations of the famous 1821 Revolution. Few men, free men stood against an Empire against all odds. Also, they helped all other regions in Greece to claim their freedom.
1.1 Facts About the Region
The Mani Peninsula (Greek: Μάνη, Mánē), also long known by its medieval name Maina or Maïna (Μαΐνη), is a geographical and cultural region in Greece that is home to the Maniots (Mανιάτες, Maniátes in Greek), who claim descendancy from the ancient Dorians and Spartans. The capital cities of Mani are Gytheio and Areopoli. Mani is the central peninsula of the three which extend southwards from the Peloponnese in southern Greece. To the east is the Laconian Gulf, to the west the Messenian Gulf. The peninsula forms a continuation of the Taygetos mountain range, the western spine of the Peloponnese.
The terrain is mountainous and inaccessible. Until recent years many Mani villages could be reached only by sea. Today a narrow and winding road extends along the west coast from Kalamata to Areopoli, then south to Akrotainaro (the pointed cape, which is the southernmost point of continental Greece) before it turns north toward Gytheio. Another road, that is used by the public buses of the Piraeus - Mani line, which has existed for several decades, comes from Tripoli through Sparta, Gytheio, Areopoli and ends in the Gerolimenas port near Cape Matapan. Mani has been traditionally divided into three regions:
Exo Mani (Έξω Μάνη) or Outer Mani to the northwest,
Kato Mani (Κάτω Μάνη) or Lower Mani to the east,
Mesa Mani (Μέσα Μάνη) or Inner Mani to the southwest.
A fourth region named Vardounia (Βαρδούνια) to the north is also sometimes included but was never historically part of Mani. Vardounia served as a buffer between the Ottoman-Turkish controlled Evrotas plains and Mani. A contingent of Muslim Albanian settlers were relocated to the region by the Ottomans. These settlers formed a large segment of the local population until the Greek War of Independence when they fled to the Turkish stronghold at Tripoli. Following the war Vardounia's Greek population was reinforced by settlers from Lower Mani and central Laconia.
1.2 Brief History
Neolithic remains have been found in many caves along the Mani coasts, including the Alepotrypa Cave. Homer refers to a number of towns in the Mani region, and some artifacts from the Mycenaean period (1900 BC - 1100 BC) have been found. The area was occupied by the Dorians in about 1200 BC, and became a dependency of Sparta. After Spartan power was destroyed in the 3rd century BC, Mani remained self-governing.
As the power of the Byzantine Empire declined, the peninsula drifted out of the Empire's control. The fortress of Maini in the south became the area's centre. Over the subsequent centuries, the peninsula was fought over by the Byzantines, the Franks, and the Saracens.
After the Fourth Crusade in 1204 AD, Italian and French knights (known collectively by the Greeks as Franks) occupied the Peloponnese and created the Principality of Achaea. They built the fortresses of Mystras, Passavas, Gustema (Beaufort), and Great Maina. The area fell under Byzantine rule after 1262, forming part of the Despotate of the Morea.
In 1460, after the fall of Constantinople,
the Despotate fell to the Ottomans.
Mani was not subdued and retained its internal self-government in exchange for an annual tribute, although this was only paid once.
Local chieftains or beys governed Mani.
'The first of these rulers, Liberakis Yerakaris, reigned in the middle of the seventeenth century. By the age of twenty he had served several years as an oarsman in the Venetian galleys and made himself the foremost pirate of the Mani. Captured by the Turks and condemned to death, he was reprieved by the Grand Vizier---the great Albanian Ahmet Küprülü---on condition that he accepted the hegemony of the Mani. He undertook the office in order to avenge himself on the strong Maniot family of the Stephanopoli with which he was in feud. He at once besieged them in the fort of Vitylo and captured thirty-five of them whom he executed on the spot. For the next twenty years he used his power and influence with the Sublime Porte to campaign all over Greece at the head of formidable armies, siding now with the Turks, now with the Venetians, marrying the beautiful princess Anastasia, niece of a Voivode of Wallachia (a member of the Duca family), ending his life, after adventures comparable to anything in the annals of the Italian condottiere, as Turkish Prince of the Mani and Venetian Lord of the Roumeli and Knight of St. Mark. The Turks did not repeat the experiment for a hundred years. [Later,] during the forty-five years from 1776 to 1821, when the War of Independence broke out, the Mani was ruled by eight successive Beys, all except one of whom played the dangerous game of maintaining the interests of the Mani and of eventual Greek freedom while trying to remain on the right side of the Turks. [These were:] Zanetos Koutipharis (3 years), Michaelbey Troupakis (3 years), Zanetbey Kapetanakis Grigorakis (14 years), Panayoti Koumoundouros (5 years), Antonbey Grigorakis (7 years), Zervobey (2 years), Thodorbey Zanetakis (5 years) and Petrobey Mavromichalis (6 years).'
As Ottoman power declined, the mountains of the Mani became a stronghold of the klephts, bandits who also fought against the Ottomans.
There is also evidence of a sizeable Maniot emigration to Corsica sometime during the Ottoman years. Petros Mavromichalis, the last bey of Mani, was among the leaders of the Greek War of Independence. He proclaimed the revolution at Areopoli on March 17, 1821. The Maniots contributed greatly to the struggle, but once Greek independence was won, they wanted to retain local autonomy. During the reign of Ioannis Kapodistrias, they violently resisted outside interference, to the extent of Mavromichalis killing Kapodistrias.
In 1878 the national government reduced the local autonomy of the Mani, and the area gradually became a backwater; inhabitants abandoned the land through emigration, with many going to major Greek cities, as well as to western Europe and the United States. It was not until the 1970s, when the construction of new roads supported the growth of the tourist industry, that the Mani began to regain population and become prosperous.
1.3 The Maniots & the 1821 Revolution
Maniots are described as descendants of the ancient Dorian population of the Peloponnese and as such related to the ancient Spartans. The terrain is mountainous and inaccessible (until recently many Mani villages could be accessed only by sea), and the regional name "Mani" is thought to have meant originally "dry" or "barren". The name "Maniot" is a derivative meaning "of Mani". In the early modern period, Maniots had a reputation as fierce and proudly independent warriors, who practiced piracy and fierce blood feuds. For the most part, the Maniots lived in fortified villages (and "house-towers") where they defended their lands against the armies of William II Villehardouin and later against those of the Ottomans.
An old saying of the area :
"As a passerby you need three days to see Mani, as a visitor you need three months, but to see her soul you need three lifetimes. One for her sea, one for her mountains and one for her people"
1.4 The Declaration of the Revolution in Areopolis , 17thMarch 1821
Throughout the period of the Turkish Occupation, the region of Mani in actual fact remained unassailable, despite repeated attempts by the Turks to subdue it. In fact, in 1776 and after the Orlofika the region declared semi-independence, tributary payments, under the direct jurisdiction of Kapoudan Pasha. Its administration was assumed by one of the “kapetaeous” in the region, where a Bey was assigned, and who was responsible for maintaining law and order Mani had become the “greatest terror” for the Turks and the “Greek Sanctuary”, since due to its singular status there were permanent armed groups of men within the region, consisting of experienced fighters from the Peloponnese. The reputation of its residents in conjunction with the relevant independence of the region and the suitable peninsula land which could be used as a base of operations, and at the same time as a sanctuary, had place Mani in the conscience of both Greeks and foreigners,as the most suitable region for beginning this great struggle.And in fact, despite the differences and the disagreements between the noble families of the region, quite a few revolutionary movements arose during the last decades of the Turkish Occupation Period and the catholic participation of the Maniates in the revolution was completely organised. In October 1819 the leaders assembled in Kitries, at the house of Petrobey Mavromichalis (the last Bey in Manis),and signed an agreement of understanding and mutual preparation. In addition, many Maniates, “kapetanei” and Petrobey himself rushed to mimic the Filiki Eteria (=Friendly Society), reinforcing their convictions that any catholic uprising by the Greeks must be supported in Mani. In fact, the initial plan by Ypsilanti was to travel there himself to proclaim the revolution, but this did not take place due to theimpending dangers that his traveling to European soil would incur. The cancellation of this plan probably raised the revolutionary feelings of the Maniates instead of disappointing them. And by the beginning of 1821, military sentiments seethed through the region, as well as throughout the remaining regions of the Peloponnese. Following orders from the Filiki Eteria, Papaflessas and other significant chieftans traveled to Mani, including Anagnostaras and Theodoros Kolokotronis, who traveled around the villages and recruited the residents. All preparations were pointedly carried out in Eastern Mani where the presence of those in power was essentially non-existent, with much milder activities in Western Mani, where the Bey was based. Petrobey had successfully managed to conceal the presence and actions of the chieftans, as well as to avoid traveling to Tripoli at the end of February, when the Turkish Administrator of the Peloponnese -in order to lessen the possibly of insurrection in his dominion- invited all the high priests and dignitaries of the Peloponnese with the pretence of a meeting. But in actual fact he wanted to detain them. Pretending to be ill, Petrobeys sent his son Anastasios, and thus appeased the Turkish Authorities and at the same time he secured the unhindered actions of the captains.
From the beginning of March the whole of Mani was on war alert. Residents had left their jobs, congregating in the squares of the villages and preparing “buckshots” and collecting food supplies for the warriors, while the chieftans went to great lengths to secure lead and powder, assemble warriors and form groups or units. Petrobey was very worried over this animated and open preparation, in combination with the existing differences between the powerful families in Mani, as he realized that a premature uprising could lead to internal clashes and to retaliatory actions by the Turks who would implement strong measures against the Maniates. His letter sent on 11th March 1821 to the Grigorakides (leaders in Eastern Mani) is characteristic, in which he recommended that they avoid taking hasty actions that may harm the struggle and understandings that were “for the common good”. As can be seen in documents preserved in the archives of prominent Maniate families, at the beginning of March all the captains were communicating between themselves and with Petrobey, either through coded letters or personal contacts, in order to prepare the common mode of action. Around the middle of March all final decisions that had been taken since the meetings and exchanges of letters were stopped completely. The leaders were now completely and exclusively absorbed in preparing their forces.
It can be seen from written sources that on the eve of the Revolution, the high priests and dignitaries of Achaia who had also avoided being detained in Tripolitsa, requested from Petrobey that Mani should be the first region to begin the insurrection. Petrobey subsequently invited all the Maniate chieftans to a meeting in Tsimova (today called Areopolis), the capital of the Mavromichaleon, on 17th March 1821. There they “agreed to raise their weapons against the Turks”, as witnessed byIoannis Kolokotronis and Theodoros Kolokotronis -who was present- undertook to convey this decision to the Chieftans in Messinia, Arkadia and Achaia. Local traditions has preserved this event as a legend, in accordance with which all the chieftans assembled in the square of the city, in front of the Church of Taxiarchon,and they raised the first revolutionary flag in Kotroni. The makeshift flag was a pieceof white material with a sky blue cross in the middle. The words “Νίκθ ι Θάνατοσ”(Niki or Thanatos =“Victory or Death”) (and not “Freedom” as Mani was considered to be free) were inscribed in the upper part, and in the lower part were the words «ταν ι επί τασ» (tan or epi tas = “with this or upon this”). The flag was blessed by the priests and all the leaders, together with Petrobey, swore that they will fight unitedfor the liberation of the nation.
The new proclamation of the revolution spread from Mani to the remaining parts of the Peloponnese. This was followed a few days later by the assembling of the warriors and their organisation into units, followed immediately by two raids launched by the Maniates. The first carried out by the leaders of Eastern Mani under the Grigorakides, against Monemvasia and Mystra on the afternoon of Saturday 19thMarch, as verified by a letter from Canon Gerasimos to Panagiotis Kosonakos, making known the beginning of the war and exhorting him to spread the news. The leaders of Western Mani, under Petrobey, moved towards Kalamata. The first to enter the city on 20th March was Petrobey’s son, Ilias, leading a unit of Maniates, with the pretext that he was to reinforce the local Turkish Guard. All the other chieftans followed on the following day, and on 23rd March they occupied the city without spilling a drop of blood. They then attended the first official doxology. They subsequently drew up the proclamation that was signed by Petrobey Mavromichalis with the honorary title “Commander in Chief of the Spartan Forces”, by which they made known the decision by the Hellenic Nation to the European Powers to overthrow the Turkish yoke and asked for their assistance.
Historical Contributions from: Konstantinos Michalopoulos
MORE COMING SOON…