Mani ‘s peninsula (Greek: Mani, Latinized: Mánē), known for a long time by its medieval name of Maina or Maini, is a geographical and cultural region in southern Greece that is home to the Maniates, who claim to be descended from the ancient Spartans. The capital of Mani is Areopolis. Mani is the central peninsula of the three that extend south from the Peloponnese into southern Greece. To the east is the Laconian Gulf and to the west the Messinian Gulf. The Mani peninsula is a continuation of the Taygetos mountain range, the western backbone of the Peloponnese.
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The etymology of the word Mani is open to many interpretations:
1. The name Maine appears in 877 AD in the Tactics of Leo the Wise and is later repeated in the writings of Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus.
“We must know that the inhabitants of the castle of Mani are not of the generation of the Slavs spoken of before, but are descended from the older Romans, who are hitherto called Greeks by the natives, because in very ancient times they were idolaters and worshipped idols like the ancient Greeks, and who, having been baptized in the reign of the unjust Basil, became Christians. And the place where they dwell is arid and uninhabited, but it has olives from which they live”. – Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus
The main etymological interpretation of the word is that which refers to the building of the famous castle of Maini at the beginning of the 10th century.
The castle is built on the Tigani peninsula of Mezzapou, and looks like a stretched arm with an open palm, from this shape it was said Manus = hand and, in a misnomer, Mainus. The geographical term brazzo di Maina (arm of Mani) was established for the whole Mani area by the Venetian sailors on maps and other documents of the time.
2. The name Mani is said by some to be related to the naval command maina = maina (gathering) of the sails, which sailors were forced to do when sailing the sea area of Tainaros due to strong winds.
3. The name mani some say is related to the word mania (revenge-vengeance), held by the inhabitants of the region or from the martial mania occupied by the inhabitants of the Tainar region.
4. The toponym Mani according to others is etymologically derived from the feminine of the adjective manos which means sparse, bald, treeless “To the ships alongside,… the paratainarian region, its bare mountains gave the image of a mani, treeless country and from this mani the toponym Mani was formed.
5. From the father of Cronus and grandfather of Zeus “Mani is the second name of the god Uranus” [Theogony of Apollodorus]. 6. From the Latin word manes (soul), and in connection with the region with the psychopomp and temple of Poseidon at Akrotinaero.
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In May 1460 A.D. Muhammad II entered the Peloponnese, knowing the peculiar character of the Maniates, he did not launch a campaign against them, but tried to win over their leader, Crocodile Cladas, to have his support in the foreseen conflict between the Turks and the Venetians. The Maniates rebuffed the Turkish conqueror’s offers and allied themselves with the Venetians. The Maniates fought the Turks in every way possible. Mani did not submit to the Ottomans. At the same time, the unassailable nature of the region made many inhabitants from Turkish-occupied areas take refuge in Mani. In the liberation struggle Mani offered a lot to the liberation struggle. The flag of Mani The Society of Friends considered Mani as the safest starting point for the uprising and events did not contradict them. The battle of Verga in June 1826, where Ibrahim the Pasha lost two thirds of his army, and was defeated by the women of Dyros, who defended themselves with sickles and sticks and thwarted his attempt to land.