the maniots

look who else builds tower houses!:

the maniots are peloponnesian greeks who live — or, up until pretty recently, lived — in a clannish society (or so says wikipedia — ctrl+f for “clan” on this page). the mani peninsula is the middle of the three peloponnese “fingers” that stick southwards into the med — and up until modern times it was hard to get to (or into):

“The terrain is mountainous and inaccessible…. Until recent years many Mani villages could be reached only by sea.”

the explanation given for these tower houses is that they were built to protect the maniots from the ottomans, but look what else characterized maniot society — vendettas (see also here)!:

“Another important aspect of Maniot culture were the vendettas which frequently plagued Mani. Usually, the decision to start a vendetta was made at a family gathering. The main aim of a vendetta was usually to wipe out the other family. The families involved locked themselves in their towers and whenever they got the chance murdered members of the opposing family. The other families in the village normally locked themselves in their towers in order not to get in the way of the fighting.

“Some vendettas went on for months, sometimes years. In vendettas, the families could have a truce or treva, if one family needed to attend a religious ceremony or when it was time to harvest the crops. As soon as the treva ended, the killing could resume. Vendettas usually ended when one family was exterminated or when the defeated family left the town. Sometimes families came to terms, and vendettas stopped when the Turks invaded…. Vendettas continued after the liberation of Greece even though the Regency tried to demolish the towers. The Maniot vendetta is considered the most vicious and ruthless. One of the last vendettas on record required the Greek Army with heavy artillery support to force it to a stop.”


the maniots eagerly joined the fight for greece’s independence, but then they didn’t want to be governed from athens — or anywhere else. they wanted rid of the ottomans and didn’t want anyone to govern them but themselves. here’s what happened (from here and here):

“The last bey of Mani, Petros Mavromichalis, was among the leaders of the Greek War of Independence. He proclaimed the revolution at Areopoli on March 17, 1821. The Maniots contributed greatly to the struggle, but once Greek independence was won, they wanted to retain local autonomy. During the reign of Ioannis Kapodistrias, they violently resisted outside interference to the point of killing Kapodistrias….

“After the revolution, Petrobey [petros] became a member of the first Greek Senate, under the leadership of Ioannis Kapodistrias. The two men soon clashed as a result of Kapodistrias’ insistence on establishing a centralized regional administration based on political appointees, replacing the traditional system of family loyalties. Petros’ brother Tzanis led a revolt against the appointed governor of Lakonia; the two brothers were invited to meet Kapodistrias and negotiate a solution but when they showed up, they were arrested. From his prison cell, Petros tried to negotiate a settlement with Kapodistrias; the latter refused. The crisis was then settled by more traditional means: Petros’ brother Konstantinos and his son Georgios assassinated Kapodistrias on October 9, 1831.”

mountain people just want to be left alone.

the maniots, btw, are rumored to be the descendants of the spartans. if true — cool!

and, speaking of tower houses and inbreeding and clannishness and tribalism and all that: shibam!

previously: more on albanians and the flatlanders vs. the mountain people and ελλάδα and more on greece

(note: comments do not require an email. woman from mani. cover your neck!)


  1. cool info

    thinking aloud on the practical aspects – on the face of it courtyard compounds would be easier to build and have the same effect but with guns (or even crossbows i guess) anyone with a tower could shoot down into your courtyard so i wonder if they used to have courtyard compounds and they switched to towers at a later date?

    although on the other hand if a society was that exceptionally violent you might have to worry about raids from other settlements as well as vendettas inside your own settlement in which case maybe the path of least resistance in that case is having a small settlement – to minimize the length of walls needed to protect from external violence – combined with a vertical familial building to protect against the internal violence.


  2. @g.w. – i wonder if you can get away with courtyard houses in a place where you have a state that will enforce at least some laws against … well … lawless behavior (like china for millennia), whereas you might need the tower where there is no state to back you up (balkans, this area of southern greece, the scottish borders)? not sure where the arabs fit into that picture, though.


  3. “the scottish borders”

    ah yes, well reminded, solitary towers there.

    no need for complicated explanations. towers are generally more defensible so probability of tower architecture ~ level of violence


  4. these tower houses are really cool if you ask me. i would love one in a rural hilly woods.

    Usually, the decision to start a vendetta was made at a family gathering.

    what should we do about these people that invade our neighborhoods?
    let’s start a vendetta!


  5. no house on a hill for hbd, it has to be a castle.

    it’s very nice. rooms seems so cozy and secure. a place where you would want it to be blustery outside sometimes just so you could sit inside in front of a fire.

    and it is very remote. huge plus. good choice.


  6. @rjp – “no house on a hill for hbd, it has to be a castle.”

    but of course! (~_^) it is a rather modest castle as castles go, actually. (^_^)

    and anyway — i defy you to find any chick who hasn’t dreamt of living in a castle. it’s that whole princess-fantasy thing. (~_^)

    @rjp – “and it is very remote.”

    yes. remote is good.


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