Gytheio, is a town and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese, Greece. It was the seaport of Sparta, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north. Gytheio used to be an important port until it was destroyed in 4th century AD, possibly by an earthquake. Today it is the largest and most important town in Mani. It is also the seat of the municipality of East Mani. The town center is situated around the port. Pine trees are situated in the west and rocky mountains in the north.
The Mani Peninsula is a geographical and cultural region in Greece. The capital city of Mani is Areopoli. 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 pointy cape which is the most southward soil of continental Greece) before it turns north toward Gytheio. Another road, that is used from the public buses in the line Piraeus - Mani and exists several decades now, comes from Tripoli through Sparta, Gytheio, Areopoli and ends in the Gerolimenas port near Cape Tenaron where used to be Poseidon Sanctuary know as Nekromantion.
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 on behalf of the Ottomans:
Do not miss the traditional settlements of Vathia and Kita.
Areopolis, is a town on the Mani Peninsula, Laconia, Greece. The word Areopolis means "city of Ares", the ancient Greek god of war. It was the seat of Oitylo municipality. Areopolis was called Tsimova by the invading Slavs during the 7th century AD. The Greek War of Independence was started at Areopoli on March 17, 1821 by Petros Pierrakos, also known as Petros Mavromichalis, the last bey of Mani. Now Areopolis has grown into a flourishing town. Its tower houses, constructed with field stones, are distinct from the traditional blue and white buildings that characterize many Greek villages.
Areopoli is situated near the west coast of the Mani Peninsula, 1.5 km from its port Limeni. It is 20 km southwest of Gytheio. There is lively open air market in the main square each Saturday, with a lot of local producers present.
Mani is the southernmost part of the Peloponnese, a great rocky trident of land stretching into the Sea of Crete. Here lies the inhospitable region known as the "deep mani". Nominally part of the prefecture of Laconia, it is really another country, with its own customs, architecture and code of honor. In such fortified towns, their characteristic, Maniot tower - dwellings silhouetted against the clear Peloponnese sky , it is easy to see why the Maniates are considered the true heirs of the bellicose ancient Spartans, known as the Lacedaemonians. View our virtual tour http://youtu.be/oq__7XpwamY?hd=1
This barren, rock - strewn and depopulated region is home to men whose pursuits, throughout history, were neither agricultural nor peaceful. The maniates often have their own law. The women of Mani are as bold as the men. In life and in death. In the wild fastness of Mani the people have clung to such a faith in customs, traditions and the family as to traced the limits of courage.
Throughout the following centuries of treacherous and violent "foreign intervention", it would be the thorny, independent Maniates, fortified in their characteristic, two - and three - stony tower - dwellings far to the south, who would symbolize the Peloponnesian resistance. Though the Ottomans and Venetians took the peninsula in turn; first one then the other seizing control, the Maniates never accepted defeat. Just prior to the outbreak of the Greek war of independence, the Peloponnese was in Turkish hands, administered from Tripolis: the Mani, however, had been a sovereign state within a state for six years, governed by the indomitable Petrobey Mauromichalis.
Today by "Maniates" we mean brave man, stalwarts, heroes. The towers. There are about 800 towers, isolated or grouped in villages, the oldest go back to the 15th c, their height increased with the power of the family that built them. They were constructed of irregularly shaped blocks of stone, about 15m-25m/50ft-80ft high and square in shape, they comprised three or four rooms. one above the other, linked by ladders and trap doors. Windows were small and few in number and the top floor was crenellated so that tower looked like a castle keep. The greatest concentration of towers is to be found in Kita and Vathia in the south.
Mani's history is a loose thread, interweaving itself with the multicolored strands from Sparta, Rome and Byzantium, the Franks, Venetians and Turks, but always creating a unique design of its own on the fringe of the main Greek pattern. It is a land of caves, churches and strange towers, of fortified villages on bare mountainsides, of Byzantine art and architecture of an extraordinary richness and importance, of feuds, fasting and lamentation. Until the present century it was almost a living fossil of the Middle Ages.It was a region of institutionalized civil war and chronic internal disorder, yet its ironic glory was to start the Revolution of 1821 which created the nation-state in which Mani itself became an incongruity.
Leaning on the cyclopean stones of a tower in the Mani an old woman watches the day come to a close. Today the towers are mostly deserted. Byzantine churches of great beauty, often magnificently frescoes, are collapsing through neglect... Watch our Video http://youtu.be/oq__7XpwamY?hd=1
Pyrgos Dirou is most famous for its caves, the Diros Caves, located approximately 12 miles south of Areopolis. They form part of an underground river. About 5,000 meters have been exposed and are accessible by small boats and through narrow passageways. One is surrounded by formations of stalagmites and stalactites. Archaeological research has shown that the caves served as places of worship in Paleolithic and Neolithic times and their inhabitant believed that the caves were the entrance to the underworld
Cape Tenaron - Necromantion - Poseidon Death Oracle
At the southernmost tip of the peninsula is Cape Tainaron (Mattapan). In ancient times this was thought to be one of the entrances to the underworld, where Heracles descended in quest of the dog (Kerberos).
The word Necromanteion means "Oracle of the Dead", and the faithful came here to talk with their dead ancestors. Although other ancient temples such as the Temple of Poseidon in Taenaron as well as those in Argolis, Cumae, and Herakleia in Pontos are known to have housed oracles of the dead, the Necromanteion of Ephyra was the most important. It belonged to the Thesprotians, the local Epirot Greek tribe. According to Herodotus' account, it was to the Necromanteion that Periander, the 6th century BC tyrant of Corinth, sent legates to ask questions of his dead wife, Melissa. In Homer's Odyssey, the Necromanteion was also described as the entrance by which Odysseus made his nekyia
Under the Byzantine Empire, the temple was converted into a Christian church, and Christian rites are conducted there to this day. Cape Matapan was once the place where mercenaries waited to be employed.
At Cape Matapan, the Titanic's would-be rescue ship, the SS Californian, was torpedoed and sunk by German forces on 9 November 1915. In March 1941, a major naval battle, the Battle of Cape Matapan, occurred off the coast of Cape Matapan, between the Royal Navy and the Italian Regia Marina, in which the British emerged victorious in a one-sided encounter. The encounter's main result was to drastically reduce future Italian naval activity in the Eastern Mediterranean.
More recently a lighthouse was constructed, but it is now in disuse.
As the southernmost point of mainland Greece, the cape is on the migration route of birds headed to Africa.
Cape Matapan has been an important place for thousands of years. The tip of Cape Matapan was the site of the ancient town Tenarus, near which there was (and still is) a cave that Greek legends claim was the home of Hades, the god of the dead. The ancient Spartans built several temples there, dedicated to various gods. On the hill situated above the cave, lie the remnants of an ancient temple dedicated to the sea god Poseidon.
NETWORK OF MANI MUSEUMS-AREOPOLIS - PIKOULAKIS TOWER MUSEUM
This Museum is located south of the 17th March Square and the Church of the Taxiarchon (Archangels). It is housed in the tower that was previously owned by the Pikoulakis family one of the most prominent families in Mani before the War of Independence. The Pikoulakis family distinguished itself in the struggle against the Turks. This complex is a typical example of the fortified residences found in the area and consists of a defensive tower and residential quarters arranged round a small central courtyard. It has been designated a historic, listed building.
Daily: Visit Mani/Areopolis or combined with other sites. Please read our Touring/Info*
Sites & Museums: Summer: daily, 8.00 to 20.00 pm. Winter: 8.00 to 17.00 approx. Last entry 30 min before closing.
Entrance fees: Read TouringInfo
Closed on Holidays: January 1st. , March 25th, May 1st, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. On Good Friday, the sites are open 12.00 - 17.00.
Highlights of Mani LACONIA
Vathia,, Kita, Gerolimenas