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Greek War of Independence Began in the Mountain Stronghold of Mani

Mani Greek revolution
“Victory or death” reads the sign over the cross in the Greek revolutionary flag of Mani. Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969/pixabay

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, who 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.

However, none of the written testimonies recorded mentions an actual official gathering in Mani at which the proclamation of revolution took place.

Impregnable Mani

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 against 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 he alone was responsible for keeping law and order.

Previously, 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.

Hardened warriors of Mani

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 and rugged terrain of the area, 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 allies alike.

Despite rivalries and disputes which cropped up between the large clans of the region during the last decades of the Turkish occupation, several revolutionary movements were able to take root and the Maniates participation in the great revolution began to take shape.

The leaders assembled at Kitries, at the home of Petrobey Mavromichalis, the last Bey of Mani, and signed an agreement on conciliation and joint preparation in October of 1819.

In addition, many Maniates chieftains, and Petrobey himself, rushed to become initiated in Filiki Eteria, reinforcing the belief that any universal Greek uprising had to be supported by the Mani people.

In fact, Filiki Eteria founder Alexandros Ypsilantis’ original plan was to go there himself to declare a revolution; however, that ultimately did not come to pass because of the dangers entailed by his move into European territory.

Portrait of Petrobey Mavromichalis
Portrait of Petrobey Mavromichalis, the last Bey of Ottoman rule.

The cancellation of the Ypsilantis plan, instead of frustrating the Maniates, only intensified their revolutionary fervor. Military unrest in the region, as in the rest of the Peloponnese, had been growing since early 1821.

Proclamation of the revolution

Following the orders of Filiki Eteria, Grigorios Dimitriou Dikaios, known by the nom de guerre “Papaflessas,” along with great chieftains such as Christos Papageorgiou (who took the war name of Anagnostaras) and Theodoros Kolokotronis, came to Mani, and traveled around the villages to recruit fighters.

Preparations were carried out in secrecy in East Mani, where the presence of Ottoman forces was virtually non-existent.

Petrobey Mavromichalis had somehow successfully managed to cover up the presence and movements of the chieftains in that area.

He had also avoided going to Tripolis in late February, when the Ottoman governor of the Peloponnese – in order to weaken the insurgency in his territory – had summoned all the local leaders of the Peloponnese on the pretext of conferring with them, but in reality planning to detain them there.

To cover his tracks, Petrobey Mavromichalis sent a message that he was ill and sent his son Anastasios to Tripolis to represent him.

In this way he successfully reassured the Turkish leadership of his loyalty while at the same time buying important time for the chieftains.

The proclamation of the revolution at the Areopolis of Mani took place on March 17, 1821 according to local oral tradition. There are no written testimonies of this monumental event, but nevertheless, on March 17 every year in Mani, a ceremony attended by the President of the Hellenic Republic commemorates the auspicious beginning of the Greek War of Independence.

Real Greece in Mani

Recorded live, watch a tour of one of the most historical and beautiful towns in Greece, Areopoli, as we are visiting the area of Mani to discover the rich history, gastronomy and wonderful proud people known as Maniates. Also visit Limeni and Oitilo and all the other traditional villages of the Mani Peninsula. #Uknown #Spectacular #Greece

Posted by Greek Reporter on Friday, 6 July 2018

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