The Mani lies between the Lakonian and Messenian gulfs, and in a line between Githio (the ancient and modern port of Sparta) on the east coast and Kardhamyli on the west. To north the southern spur of the Tayetos mountain range, rising to a height of 1214meters/3970 feet, forms a promontory ending in Cape Tenaro/Matapan, the southernmost point of continental Greece, and one of the mythical entrances to the underworld.
This peninsular landmass is known as the Mani, and its people Maniots. It is a wild, arid, and rugged region with a wild and violent history, which persisted up till the end of the 19th century. The classic territory of the Mani is called the Mesa (Inner) Mani and is south of a line drawn between Vathy and Itylo Bays (from east to west). The Exo (Outer) Mani is north along the coast from Areopoli to Kalamata (and is largely in Messenia Prefecture).
The Mani , about 30 km in length, is a mountainous region that is mostly treeless and almost completely barren, though the hardy olive thrives there and land is cultivated wherever there is enough soil to shape a terrace. Small villages are often situated on seemingly inaccessible mountain ledges. The area was settled, and extensively so, during Neolithic times, and finds exists from the Myceneaen period as well, up until the 9th century BC. Ships were sent from there to Troy during Homeric times. The Dorians set up small city states which became satellites of Sparta and, with the decline of the latter, became the Confederation of Free Laconians, whose independence was recognized by Augustus while the rest of the Peloponnese was under Roman rule. Their descendants were the Maniots, whose spirit of independence continued. Until the reign of Basil I in the 9th century AD, they clung to paganism.