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Scotland-Mani: Similarities and Differences


Scotland-Mani: Similarities and Differences

by Dr. Nikos Vasilatos, lawyer e.t.-writer.

Scotland is located in the northwest of Europe, while Mani on its southeastern border of the Old Continent. These two historical areas are separated by about 3,000 km, in a straight line. The first area, Scotland, has been for centuries a powerful kingdom. The second one, Mani, has been for a few decades a small semi-autonomous hegemony within the boundaries of Ottoman Autocracy at the end of the 18th century and in the early 19th century. In the 18th century, Scotland had a population of about 1,500,000 inhabitants, while Mani had 40,000 to 70,000 inhabitants.

Scotland is divided into Highlands and Lowlands, while Mani in Exo (Outer) and Mesa (Inner) Mani.

During the Cold War era, Scotland was the largest base of the so-called "free world" and provided Europe with soldiers and supplies. At the same time, in the wider sea area of Mani in the international waters there was permanently a large anchorage for the Soviet fleet.

Scotland is surrounded by many islands, while Mani is not. The capacity of the societies of these two places gave both Great Britain and Greece a significant number of prime ministers. In Great Britain let us remember only the last three ones: Antony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, were all Scottish.

In Greece, Alexandros Koumoundouros, who set a record in his election as a Prime Minister, Kyriakoulis and Stylianos Mavromichalis, and Tzannis Tzannetakis came from Mani.

In Scotland, ancient Greek was taught in schools until 1919, while Latin was taught until the 60s. It was not possible until the end of World War I to introduce a student to Scottish Universities if they did not know ancient Greek and this is because it was believed that a scientist should have wider cultivation and not just a specialization that would facilitate him in his professional life.

So what else could these two places that are so far apart have in common?

First of all, the organization of their societies in “patries”. Patries are called “clans” in Scotland, and the word is derived from the ancient local dialect Gaelic. This word means child.

The Scottish clans (today there are about 300) are based on the close ties between their members, which are denoted by the word "clan-child". Many of the Scottish clans claim to be of a legendary origin. Several Scottish clans have leaders, but some others do not. The members of the same clan use the same emblem and the same distinctive colors that are imprinted on their clothes. These are the well-known textiles with colorful square designs which are called "tartan". This means that each clan has its own distinct "tartans". Moreover, the land of each Scottish clan is separated from the land of the others and it is protected by its male inhabitants who are all familiar with the art of war. Even the female population of the Scottish clans, which was quite emancipated, was familiar with the use of weapons.

In Mani, the social organization was also based on armed rural “patries” (clans) which consisted of people who had common origins and maintained close ties among them, with the aim of protecting each other while increasing armed force as well. Each “patria” (clan) maintained its autonomy, and the protection of its members was ensured by armed force, if necessary. The most powerful “patries” (clans) were called "Megalogenetes" or "Nyklianoi". According to some, the first "Nyklianoi" came from the medieval location "Nykli". According to others, "Nykli" has taken its name from the vail and Protostrator of the Franks of the Despotate of Morea, Nicolas de St. Omer, a very powerful and wealthy Frankish ruler whose palaces in Thebes were famous and impressive. The rest of Maniots were called “ahamnomeri” or “fammelians” and were under the protection and in the service of the Nyklians. They were obliged to work for them and be members of their army. They had no right to build towers and had to live in lower buildings around Nyklians’ castles for control purposes. A humble family in Mani could rise to the rank of “megaliogenites”, if it could prevail over a strong family of the Area. For this reason, the acquisition of many male children was of great importance in Mani, where a common wish for newlyweds was to have nine sons and a daughter. Nine sons who would be used as fighters and a daughter to continue the future generations of Maniots, giving birth to nine sons and a daughter too.

Another common social element between Mani and Scotland is the violent conflicts of powerful “patries” or clans, reminiscent of real wars as well as the unwritten primordial law of vendetta." Feud" in Scotland, "gdikiomos" in Mani. The vendetta was a very powerful and generally accepted unwritten rule of administration of justice. We find it intensely in the Mediterranean, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Crete, Mani, Albania. We also find it in the Arabian Peninsula. Aside from these areas, it is also strongly presented in Scotland.

The main reasons for triggering a vendetta, or the law of the circle of blood, both in Scotland and Mani, were the abduction of land, the abduction of women, and the dishonor of a family. In Mani, moreover, the “xarmatoma” which means the disarmament of a clan, was also a form of dishonor.

I will refer to two of the most historic vendettas (feuds) in Scotland.

One of the most ancient feuds was the one between Gunn and Heith's clans in the 15th century and the history of which reads as follows: One day, while one of the leaders of the Gunn clan was not in the tower, people from the Heith clan tried to kidnap his beautiful daughter, killing many people that guarded the Gunn tower. The girl was taken to the castle of Heith, where she committed suicide, jumping from the tower into the void. The Gunn family had to take revenge. There were two battles between the Gunns and the Heiths, which were deadly for many people but without a final winner. As a consequence, the clans decided the place and time of the last battle between them: 12 horses with the riders of each clan would fight to death. After that last battle in the group duel, their feud would be over, whatever the result. On that particular day and time, the 12 horsemen of the Gunn family and the 12 Heith horses with 2 horsemen on each, i.e. 24 fighters reached the meeting point. In the face of this deception, Gunn fighters could both denounce the opposing clan and leave, but they fought and succumbed to everyone.

Later, in a small town of Scotland, one ruler of the Gunns who had survived the previous fights, killed the leader of the Heith clan, as well as his eldest son.

Another feud that lasted for centuries was the one between the McDonald and Cambell families. The Mc Donalds had kicked the Vikings out of Scotland and had been thought of as the bravest of heroes. However, this honor made them uncontrollable and unruly. The Cambells, also a significant family of the Highlands, were their rivals and they made sure that they were always loyal to all forms of authority. In the 17th century, the Attorney General of Edinburgh took advantage of this feud and persuaded an army officer from the Cambell clan to exterminate the unruly Mc Donald’s leader. This was not achieved but many people from the McDonald clan lost their lives.

In Mani, two families of megalogenetes from the same village were arguing about which of the two would dominate. As result, a feud erupted in a form of a small war. Frequently, the beginning of hostilities was denoted by the ringing of the church bells, resembling the official declaration of war. Consequently, people were leaving their fields and going to the towers of the opposing “patries”- clans to prepare for the conflict. It is said that during a feud, the women of the warring “parties” were not in danger. However, this is not true. The diary of the doctor Papadakis, in the 18th century, proves the opposite because among the injured there are many women, proving that they actively participated in the battles too. Most of the vendettas in Mani had the element of personal retribution for a murder that took place and insulted the entire “patria”- clan. The offender had to pay with his blood and their punishment had to come from the close relatives of the victim.

If the offender could not be found, e.g. because he left Mani, the head of the “patria”- clan had to take the blame and pay with his blood. This means that the council of the leaders of the “patria”- clan, that was called "senile", decided who had to be punished on the part of the perpetrator. So the circle of blood was difficult to close. It closed only with the monetary compensation of the victim’s family or with the merging of the two families, where the perpetrator was responsible for the protection of the youngest children of the victim.

The feud in Mani had taken on such an extent that Maniot poet Nikitas Nefakos describes it in a quatrain of his:

αν αποθάνει και κανείς

ασκώτοτος τον κλαίσι

ασκώτοτο, αρμάτωτο

αγδίκιωτο τον λέσι

Another social phenomenon that occurs both in Scotland and in Mani is piracy, which emerges on the rise in the 18th century in both areas.

In Scotland, the piracy appears after the defeat and persecution of the followers of Vonnye Prince Charlie who sought his ascension to the throne of Great Britain. After the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the persecution of his followers took the form of ethnic cleansing and many of them resorted to piracy. One of the most famous Scottish pirates was Peter Lyle, who after converting to Islam, also became the admiral of the Pirate Navy of Tripolis (Barbarias).

Another famous sailor from Scotland was John Paul Jones, who fought in the War of Independence with the Americans and considered a hero and the father of the American navy. He was also a slave trader for the British and a pirate. In Mani, a very famous pirate was Nikolos Sassaris from Sassarian, who was considered ‘the horror of the East Mediterranean’, and was killed in a shipwreck in the Black Sea with three Turkish ships. Every time he was about to rob merchant ships, his wife waited anxiously for him on the beach in front of his tower to return. When she saw his ship returning without him, she composed a lament in his honor.

Another famous Maniot pirate was Baliaris. He had some special techniques while he was robbing. His base was in a cave in the rocky area of Areopolis, and from there he observed the sea with his monocle. If there was a merchant ship that he could rob, he would send very fast boats with pirates to catch up with it. If there was a storm, he would drive the endangered ships with lights to the rocks of the area and after their crush, he would rob the survivors.

The Greek islands were not excluded from the piracy of Maniots, and more specifically the Aegean islands, Kythira, and even the strong Hydra.

The members, both male and female, of these societies that were organized in armed “patries”- clans were familiar with weapons and generally with violence, either because of defending their property or attacking other families. As a consequence, it was common for them to lean towards military professions. Thus, the Scots had a distinguished position in the British army, while the Maniots excelled in the Greek army.

The well-known painting of the woman artist Mrs. Lady Butler titled "The Royal Skotts Grey", depicting the onslaught of Scottish cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo, is characteristic of the artistic depiction of their bravery. Unfortunately, there are not similar samples of art commemorating the Maniot bravery. There are only a few paintings and some engravings. However, there are several songs that praise the militancy of Mani, for example, the folk song "What have of Manites mountains moore Arapi" and "the eighth Constitution passes, is of the Maniot children".

Architecture is the art that is related to the living of people. In places such as Scotland and Mani, survival itself is of primary value. In addition, the size, volume and height of the buildings were indicative of the area’s strength and wealth. For this reason, we find a large number of castles and towers in both Scotland and Mani.


Tower in Scotland (left) and Tower in Kita, Mesa Mani - 'Inner' Mani (right).

The main characteristics of defense towers are their height, the perimeter turrets, from where the surrounding area is sighted, their impressive gates and their ability to protect the inhabitants. In Scotland, towers usually have larger dimensions than those of Manis. They are often connected to other buildings, while their windows are large, due to the lack of sunshine, thus lack of lighting.

Defense tower in Scotland.

In Mani, the war towers are rarely connected to other buildings and the windows are small, whereas many have an extra protective element, the "petromachos" (stone-fighter) to prevent ambushes. At the same time, the “petromachoi” provided each tower with better defense. Similar architectural defensive elements in the towers are common in other European countries as well. However, they are not found in countries outside Europe, e.g. in Yemen with the high-pitched towers and in Zanzibar.

In Scotland, in Mani, as well as in the most countries of the world, in order for trade to develop, accessible roads are necessary for the easy and fast transition of products from place to place. As a consequence, if there are deep folds of the ground or rivers, there is a need for bridges.


Bridge in Kardamili, Messinian Mani (left), «Hermitage Bridge» in Scotland (right).

In Scotland the main trading products were textiles, whiskey, preserved fruits, and silver jewelry.

In Mani, except for other agricultural products, oil was the gold of Mani. Maniot oil was famous in the rest of Europe and was mainly distributed by French and Germans, while salted quails were an important means of income, especially for “Mesa” Mani (“Inner” Mani).

Due to the morphology of the ground, the residents had to build bridges, single-arched or with more arches, impressive architectural works which facilitated communication between different places. The arch was an invention of Roman architecture, from where it spread throughout Europe and then throughout the world.

Finally, the technique of “xerolithies”- “dry-stone walls” is worth mentioning. Constructions with dry-stone walls can be found all over the world. However, they are only found in Mani, in the Cyclades Islands, and in Scotland with such a density.

The dry-stone walls are very important masonry works. They separate privately owned areas, while they also retain the ground, creating steps, where is needed. They usually are many kilometers long. If someone thought about how challenging is for a human being to gather all these countless stones and place them in the appropriate way, they would realize how venerable these monuments are. Some of these dry-stone walls are many centuries old.

So, what is it that makes these two places "Scotland-Mani" have so many similarities in their social organization, customs, and architectural monuments?

What is it that makes Scotland the ‘Mani of the North’ and Mani the ‘Scotland of the South’?

The answer lies in the unity of European culture which starts from the ancient Greek civilization, proceeds to the Roman, is reshaped in the Middle Ages, makes a great leap during the Renaissance era, moves on to Enlightenment and then to the Industrial Revolution and modern times.

This culture is based on common cultural, social and philosophical values. These values give it homogeneity and duration through time.