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General about Mani

       Mani peninsula lies in the southern Peloponnese  between the Laconian and the Messinian Gulfs and occupies the area from the highest peak of mount Taygetos, (2409 m.) to the turbulent cape «Tainaro», where according to the ancient Greeks were the «gates of Hades». It has a maximum length of 75 km, maximum width of 28 km and an area of 1800 square kilometers.
       Mani is topographically divided into the "Prosiliaki", namely Eastern and the "Aposkieri", namely the Western Mani, or the Outer Mani (northern) and Inner Mani (southern).
       In Mani we find traces of life not only from the mythological times but also from the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages, like in the caves of Diros, near Areopolis. The findings so far are fragments of obsidian blades or flint and volcanic rock, jewelry, shells, pottery, stone tools of Neolithic times, pieces of pottery with linear and embossed decorations, as well as a whole Neolithic human skeleton. Another extraordinary finding of the excavations was a large burial site of the Neolithic period ie the year 3000 BC.
       The name Mani was given to the area in the Middle Ages ie the period between the fall of Western Roman rule (476 AC) until the fall of the Byzantine Empire (1453).
       Different views have been expressed on the origin of the word Mani:
       According to Colonel Leak, who toured Greece in the late 18th century, the name comes from the Italian word "maina", which means lowering the sails.
       According to C. Crisos, from the word "mana", which means the water source.
       According to A. Petrides, from the Latin word "manus", meaning hand, because the country has the shape of a hand.
       Others admit that comes from the Latin word "manes", which means dead souls, as Ancient Greeks believed that the Gates of Hades were in Cape Tainaro.
       Others consider that it comes from the French word "main", ie hand.
       Some accept the Italian word that "ammainare", ie handle the sails in stormy seas.
       Some believe that the word comes from the ancient greek word "mani", ie thin and arid land.
       Currently the prevailing opinion is that the word comes either from the adjective "manos" ie a sparsely populated country, or from the greek verb "mainesthai" (being manic about something) because  people in Mani persist with mania to their traditions and do not accept easily progressive trends which happen to be contrary to the their customs.
       Mani, rugged, tough and isolated, maintained almost unbroken its continuity from the Paleolithic era. The isolation, the unique geomorphology and general historical reasons led to the development of a rich local culture, expression of which is, among other things, the strong traditions of its people, a strong social organization and some of the finest architectural works, tower houses and fortified family dwellings, in Greece.

       More on Mani's history and traditions can be found in John Chapman's excellent site: