1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Maina and Mainotes

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MAINA (or Mani) and MAINOTES, a district and people of the Peloponnesus, the modern Morea. Maina is the country occupied by the mountain range of Taygetus from Sparta to Cape Matapan, the ancient Taenarum. It is now divided between the modern districts Oetylos and Gythion. Before the organization of the present kingdom of Greece, Maina was subdivided into Ἔξω Μάνη, Outer Maina, from the frontier of Kalamata, on the Gulf of Messenia, to Vitylo (Oetylos) and inland to the summit of Taygetus; Κάτω Μάνη, Lower Maina, from Vitylo to Cape Matapan; and Μέσα Μάνη, or Inner Maina, on the east, and on the Gulf of Laconia as far as the plain of Elos. It contained over a hundred villages. The country is mountainous and inaccessible, a formation to which it owes its historical importance. The Mainotes claim to descend from the Spartans, and probably represent the Eleuthero, or free, Laconians who were delivered by Rome from the power of Sparta, as is suggested by the traces of ancient Greek in their dialect and by their physical type. Their country being a natural fortress, they were able to defend themselves against the Byzantine emperors, the barbarians who broke into the empire, the Latin princes of Achaea of the house of Villehardouin, and the Turks. As their country is also poor and maritime, they were early tempted to take to piratical adventure. Gibbon says that “in the time of Constantine Porphyrogenitus they had acquired the name of Mainotes, under which they dishonour the claim of liberty by the inhuman pillage of all that is shipwrecked on their rocky shore.” Their neighbours gave their country the name of “Kakaboulia”—the land of wicked counsels. The passes of their mountains were elaborately fortified and their villages were full of fortified towers (pyrgoi) from which they formed their own favourite epithet, Maina Polypyrgos—many-towered Maina. On the western side it also contains the remains of feudal keeps, erected by William II. de Villehardouin (1245–1278) and other Latin princes of Achaea. The Mainotes did not become Christians till the 9th century. From the 15th till the 17th century they recognized a family which claimed to belong to the Comneni of Trebizond as head chiefs. But the real power was in the hands of the chiefs of the different families and villages, who formed a turbulent and martial aristocracy. Enduring and ferocious feuds were common among them. In the course of the 18th century the family of Mavromicheli (Black Michael), which belonged to lower Maina, established a general headship over the Mainotes after much strife and many murders. When Russia endeavoured to promote a rising against the Turks in the Morea in 1770 the Mainotes acted with her, and the strength of their country enabled them to escape the vengeance of the Turks when the Christians were cynically deserted by the Russians. In 1777 their practical independence was recognized by the sultan’s officers. During the Greek war of independence the Mainotes were chiefly led by Petros (Petro Bey) Mavromicheli, known to his countrymen as the king of Maina, who undoubtedly cherished the hope of establishing a principality for himself. The freedom of Greece, for which he had fought in his own way, proved the ruin of his ambition. He found the new order less compatible with his schemes than the Turkish dominion. Petro Bey was imprisoned by the Greek president Capodistrias (see Capo d’Istria, Count), who was in revenge murdered by the Mavromichelis. The family were finally content to become courtiers and officials in the reign of King Otto I. In the 19th century Maina was but little affected by civilization, except in so far as the efficiency of modern navies debarred the Mainotes from their old resource of piracy.

See W. Martin Leake, Travels in the Morea (1830); M. E. Yemeniz, “La Maina,” in Revue des deux mondes (March 1, 1865); and Philipson, “Zur Ethnographie des Peloponnes,” in Petermanns Mittheilungen, vol. 36 (Gotha).