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Lakonia » The Towers of Mani

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Lakonian Mani Towers
Mani Towers

The Towers of Mani are military hallmarks of a glorious era. These fortifications are an expression of the fighting spirit of the region and are to be found all over Mani.

The first fortification towers in the architectural history of Mani appear in the second half of the 13th century. When the Byzantines took Mystras and Nikli of Arcadia, many Frank officials settled in the regions of Koitas and Nomia and built their fortifications. Tower forts were also built by the Maniates soldiers returning from the West, where they had taken part in the wars of the Venetians. The towers are definitely established as a local means of defense in the region in the era of Ottoman occupation, when they take their final form, radically changing the architectural scene of Mani and setting it apart from the rest of Greece.

The main reason for the imperative need of fortifying the Mani home with a tower was the centralization and at the same time the segregation of Mani society into clans or families, and the need of the clan chief to obtain and safeguard a means of livelihood for his famIly. The building of the family tower was the great dream and final goal of the men of Mani, and the common obligation of all the male members of the clan.

The tower was the center of life in the world of Mani, and enclosed in its walled-in courtyard a small society with a strictly patriarchal hierarchy. The tower was the bastion of freedom but also the fort of the warring parties in the terrible Mani feuds. Everyone was assured of a safe refuge in the tower in times of trouble, and from the tower the fighters of the family successfully defended themselves in times of vendetta.

In hard times of external enemy attacks the tower was their impregnable castle, and in peaceful times it was the guaranty for a quiet life. In the terrible, bloody and vengeful wars between the clans, they were the protagonists of those merciless clashes. But when the Bavarians of King Otto tried to tear them down by taking an army of thousands into Mani, the people of Mani united and forced them to retreat shamefaced from their land.