The Origins and Evolution of Ancient Spartan Identity in the Mani Peninsula, Greece


  • Chelsea Gardner Acadia University



Mani peninsula, Sparta, European travellers, Greek independence, Golden Dawn


Through a careful analysis of the historical records of travels to the Mani peninsula from the 16th century onward, I argue that the commonly-ascribed identity of the Maniots, as descended directly from the Spartans of Classical Antiquity, is a modern construction that was: a) externally imposed; and b) created largely in the 18th century. In this article, I provide a timeline of Spartan identification in Mani, discuss the historical, military, and political circumstances that led to the formation of this identification, and conclude with a brief examination of the modern re-appropriation of ancient Spartan identity in recent years within the far-right fascist political group, Golden Dawn, whose leading members identified strongly both with Mani and ancient Sparta. Ultimately, in this work I provide context for the progression and evolution of Spartan identity in this small corner of the Greek world.