A History of the Greek Colony of Corsica by Nick Nicholas - migration of clans from Mani, Greece

The article "A HISTORY OF THE GREEK COLONY OF CORSICA" by Nick Nicholas was published by the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Year 2005, Issue 1.

"1. MIGRATIONS FROM MANI The peninsula of Mani in the Southern Peloponnesus enjoys renown within Greek culture disproportionate to its size. Mani to this day has the reputation of being a wild, lawless place, ridden with vendettas between the region's conflicting clans and bristling with guns. Since the clan rather than the village has been the central component of Maniot social identity, especially in the more conservative Inner (South-western) Mani (Alexakis 1980), conflict between clans has long been a characteristic of the region. Mani remained fiercely autonomous during the periods of nominal Venetian and Ottoman overlordship. In fact, even the newly established Greek state found it difficult to establish centralised control over the area: King Otto's regency was obliged to use bribery where regiments failed, and the Greek state was obliged to intervene militarily in local feuds as late as 1870 (Fermor 1956:97; Greenhalgh & Eliopoulos 1985:36). Feuds between clans were often resolved through the migration of the vanquished; Fermor (1956:93) estimates over fifty Maniot villages were founded this way. Both migration and clan conflict were tied up with the lack of arable land in Mani (Alexakis 1980:103)—although this was more the case in Inner Mani than elsewhere, and the villages of Outer (North-western) Mani  have remained prosperous into modern times (Alexakis 1980:26). Another significant factor promoting migration away from Mani was warfare. When Maniots were unsuccessful in military ventures, particularly when their Venetian allies abandoned them, migration became a preferable option.

Migration from Mani has been attested throughout modern times, and there is an extensive history of colonies or proposed colonies well into the eighteenth century. It cannot be ruled out that the Greek population around Himara in Southern Albania is an early Maniot colony (Vayacacos 1983a); and we even have records of a Polish Maniot, Anthony Stephanopoli, who had gone to Rome in 1759 and was pleasantly surprised to meet his Corsican kin there (Vayacacos 1970a:98ff). Migration from Mani reached its peak in the late seventeenth century (Vayacacos 1983a:25; Blanken 1951:4), at the time of the Veneto-Ottoman wars culminating in the fall of Crete in 1669. Fearing that Mani would also fall to the Ottomans (Comnene 1999 [17841:128- 129), 2 and mistrustful of the Ottomans' guarantees (La Guilletiere 1675:46),3 Maniots negotiated with several Italian states through much of the 17th century to allow refugees to settle in their dominions. There was also much migration to Greek-speaking dominions (Mexis 1977:298), including Zante, Cephallonia, Corfu, and Epirus. The participation in 1768 of around 500 Maniots in the New Smyrna plantation in Florida was triggered by similar concerns about hostilities with the Ottomans, which were to culminate in the Orloff uprising of 1770 (Panagopoulos 1965:31, 36). 

Known migrations from Mani in the 1670s included: 

• Tuscany (Moustoxydes 1965 [1843-531; Lambros 1905; Fermor 1956:100-101): several hundred of the Iatrani/Medici clan from Vitylo (Oitylon), 1671. 

• Leghorn (Livorno)/Malta (Kalonaros 1944:133; Vayacacos 1949:152): 120 in 1673, 250 in early 1674, and 200 in late 1674. 

• Naples (Hasiotis 1969): an unknown number in 1679, apparently associated with the Iatrani/Medici of Vitylo. 

• Brindisi (Tozer 1882:355; Vayacacos 1949; Hasiotis 1969:135; Coco 1921:12-13; Tsirpanlis 1979): 340 from 34 JOURNAL OF THE HELLENIC DIASPORA Adrouvista/Prastios in late 1674 and February 1675. (The travellers Spon and Wheler, who visited Mani in the summer of 1675, report that Maniots had recently fled to Puglia.) 

• Corsica: around 700 of the Stephanopoli clan from Vitylo, late 1675; in 1764 400 more colonists bound for Genoa were captured and enslaved by the Ottomans near Zante (Kalonaros 1944:135), and in late 1675 another ship headed for Corsica, with 440 colonists, was captured off Corsica, with the colonists enslaved and sold in Algiers (SdC 1:9).