Finding out the family history and compiling a genealogical tree is not an easy task for Maniots, particularly for the periods before the foundation of the modern Greek state. At that time there were few official documents, and family archives were kept only by village leaders and merchants. These archives contain little information about the social activities and inter-territorial relations. This void is partially filled by historical knowledge. We know the important events between Greece and other states of each period, and in particular the course of diplomatic relations, the wars and the treaties with other countries. This kind of information gives us an idea of the social actitivies and the life in the areas that were affected by these events. Historic events define mass migrations and eventually the demographics of a particular area. During the pre-revolution era in particular, the demographics of Mani were greatly influenced by the historic events of that period. Maniots immigrated to other areas, but Mani also received a great number of people who came there from other areas. (On page 2 of every issue of our newspaper, MANIOT SOLIDARITY, you can find a lot of information on these mass migrations. The information relating to the historic events that caused these migrations has been classified in the first volume of our book PAGES FROM THE HISTORY OF MANI, and will be completed in the forthcoming second volume). 

   The main cause for the migration of many population groups in Mani, particularly in the pre-revolutionary era, was its strategic geographic location, as well as the combat readiness of its people and the good performance of Maniots in diplomacy. Mani’s geographic location was advantageous, because its coast was near the route of the merchant ships coming from ports in the West and heading towards the large urban centres of the East. Western European states were looking for alliances with Mani, which would protect their ships in case of adverse weather conditions and against pirate attacks. The excellent fighting skills and the combat readiness of the Maniots constituted a centuries-long tradition . The constant updating of these war skills and the familiarity with modern warfare made the Maniots sought-after allies, both in times of war and peace. Maniot priests and warlords were both equally competent negotiators, who examined the political situation of each period in a realistic and objective way, and then sided at the right time with the appropriate allies.

   The important events that influenced mass migrations during the two centuries before the foundation of the modern Greek state were the Ottoman invasions in Mani during the 17th century, the 30-year Venetian occupation that followed, and then the second Turkish occupation, which together with the period of “autonomous leadership” (αυτόνομη ηγεμονία) in Mani, lasted until the Greek war of independence in 1821. These historic events brought demographic changes in Mani, the effects of which continue to the present day. We will try to give here a brief account of these events. The invasion of strong Ottoman and Algerian forces in Kotronas Bay during the second decade of the 17th century resulted in the occupation of 80% of the territory of Mani and caused the first mass wave of immigration of Maniots to the West.  A second strong wave of immigration of Maniots occurred during the 1670’s, when, immediately after the occupation of Crete by Ottoman forces, the Turks built three forts in Mani (in Zarnata, Kelefa and Passava), and reinforced them with military and administrative personnel. The 30-year Venetian occupation that followed (1685-1710) led some Turks who had settled in the area to convert to Christianity and become permanent residents of Mani. The same happened to many Venetians who had settled in the area, after the new  Ottoman occupation of Mani, during the middle of the second decade of the 18th century. Finally, the last strong immigration wave towards Mani occurred in the eighth decade of the same century  by refugees from other regions, who were forced to leave their homes due to the Albanian terrorism[1] in the Peloponnese, after the suppression of the Orlov uprising by the Turks and the subsequent withdrawal of the Russian troops.

In most cases, the Maniot immigrants abroad got assimilated into their new countries. The same applied, even more strongly, to the immigrants who settled in Mani. They quickly got assimilated into the culture, customs and religious practices of Mani, and in some cases they strenthened with their talents the contribution of Mani to the Greek independence war. Traces of these mass movements can be still found today…

[1] This terrorism was caused by the Albanian mercenaries who had been hired by the Ottomans to help suppress the Orlov uprising; the Turkish authorities were unable to pay them their promised wages, and the mercenaries were left ravaging and plundering the villages of the Peloponnese.