President of the Greek Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou paid an official visit to Areopolis to attend the celebrations for the Bicentennial of the Greek War of Independence on Wednesday, March 17.
Sakellaropoulou attended the memorial service for the departed warriors of the Mani peninsula at the Holy Temple of the Greatest Brigadiers, presided over by the Metropolitan of Mani, Chrysostom III.
After laying a wreath in the Square of the Immortals, the President of the Republic went to the square of March 17, where she unveiled a relief titled “The swearing in of the Mani Fighters of March 17, 1821”.
President Sakellaropoulou made the following statement immediately after she commemorated the fighters in the Square:
“I am here today, in the heroic Areopolis, to honor the memory of the people of the Mani, who 200 years ago began the struggle for the liberation of the nation from the conqueror, raising a banner with the slogan “Victory or death.”
“To honor the spirit of the ruthless Mani, who were never trampled by the Turk but were ignited by the spark of the great uprising. Their flag was irrefutable proof of the historical continuity of Hellenism in this place – they offered themselves unanimously to the supreme purpose.
“Our debt to the brave men and women who swore to give the last drop of their blood in favor of faith and homeland, is great. Their example awakens our national mindset and is transformed into responsibility for our present and future.”
President Sakellaropoulou also met with the mayor of Eastern Mani, Petros Andreakos, the Peloponnese Regional Governor Panagiotis Nikas and the local authorities of the region.
War of Independence started with Mani uprising
Mani was the place where the Greek uprising against Ottoman rule actually started and not in Kalavryta on March 25th, 1821 – as is often believed.
Although that date was later designated as the day of revolt and the beginning of the War of Independence, revolutionary acts took place in several areas across the Peloponnese as early as March 17th of that year.
Mani was the first area on the Peloponnesian Peninsula to declare open revolution, and they did so on March 17, 1821.
According to written testimonies, the elites of the region – which had been granted privileged status by the Ottomans — including the appointment of the Bey — asked their leader to be the very first to declare war against the Ottomans.
Their bold declaration was in line with the plans of the secret revolutionary society Filiki Eteria.
At the call of Petrobey (Petros Bey) Mavromichalis, all the Maniates chieftains gathered in Tsimova, today’s Areopolis, and decided to begin fighting against Ottoman rule.
This led to the lightning-quick liberation of Kalamata and the creation of the Messinian Senate.
Impregnable Mani Peninsula
Throughout the period of Ottoman rule in Greece, Mani remained virtually impregnable, despite repeated attempts by the conquerors to enslave it.
The area enjoyed a kind of independence through its alliance with Venice.
Its mountainous, barren terrain made it easy to defend it from attacks. It was only in 1776 that the area was declared a semi-independent tribal hegemony under the direct jurisdiction of Kapudan Pasha.
One of the area’s chieftains was appointed Bey and it was only he who was responsible for keeping law and order.
Hardened warriors were ready for War of Independence
Previous to that, Mani had become “the biggest bully of the Ottomans and the refuge of the Greeks,” as local folklore has it.
Due to its peculiar status, there were continuous armed conflicts in the area between the Maniates and the Ottomans.
In fact, this was why the Maniates were also the only experienced, hardened warriors in the Peloponnese.
The fierce reputation of the locals, combined with the relative independence of the area and its terrain, which could serve as a base and at the same time as a refuge, had made Mani the most appropriate place to start the revolution, in the eyes of Greeks and their foreign friends alike.
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