Mani: My Grandparents’ Ancestral Homeland

Lately, I have been reading about the history of Mani, an area in the far southern Peloponnese now shared by Laconia and Messinia. The Maniates were known to be strong, resilient, clan-oriented people, indomitable in war and ferocious in defending family honor. When I was last in Greece, at the Archives in Sparta, I asked an archivist about the origins of my four grandparents’ surnames: Kostakos, Papagiannakos, Aridas (possibly Mihalakakos) and Eftaxias. He responded that those names most likely originated in Mani, and he proceeded to explain the reputation and temperament of the Maniates.

A chord of pride struck my soul — these are my people! This is the blood that flows in my genes. I, too, can face life’s challenges and overcome obstacles. I am a Maniate.

Reading this book, Mani and the Maniates by Dimos N. Mexis, has led me to further research on the internet. A friend referred me to the blog, Maniatika, hosted by Giannis Mihalakakos and George Athanasakos. This is an outstanding source of history, genealogy, village information and current news. These men are devoted to keeping  alive the traditions of their ancestors and the spirit of their land. They are passionate about this mission and it is evident in the time they devote to their blog and their interest in helping others.

I am so impressed with the commitment of these young men, as well as my friend, Gregory Kontos  ( Their generation will ensure that the glory of Greece is not only remembered, but carried forth.