New Web Site! Created September 2004 - Last Update: April 2006

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Mani History

Journey to the Mandres

The Mandres
(Pirgospita)
Katsoulakos News Letter Links to related sites Other travels and sites of Greece

 

Welcome to the Katsoulakos ancestral website. I created this web page to share what I know about the Katsoulakos origins with the next generation of  Katsoulakos descendants (My children, nieces and nephews) and others around the world. So that they can learn of their Greek roots and that they too may take pride in their Greek Maniate heritage and just maybe someday take the wonderful journey to the Mani and maybe even the Mandres (the home of our Great Great Great grandfather) themselves. 
The Katsoulakos origins are special in many ways. The origins of the family are rooted in a small region of Greece that for many hundreds of years was self ruling and never subdued by foreign powers. This particular region called the Mani earned the reputation for having brave and skilled warriors who fiercely defended their lands, their honor and their Greek heritage. The Mani has the distinction of being the initial driving thrust behind the War of Independence, that would eventually free all of Greece from the tyranny and oppression of the 380 years of Ottoman (Turkish) occupation. There is so much to read about the Greek War of Independence and the history of the Mani that I could not possibly capture it all in my summarized accounts. I have compiled a few good "Mani links" to explore and read further to get a fuller understanding if you so desire. There are also some books that recount the war such as; The Flames of Freedom by David Brewer 2001. If not for the survival of our family hero Captain Thomas Katsoulakos, we would not be here today.

Many clans from Mani and greater Greece have family trees that show their relation to a common ancestor who frequently was semi-legendary. The family tree in these pages is factual and although the tree only begins with Captain Thomas Katsoulakos (1795 - 1877) who is our family hero for being one of the Captains who lead the Maniate Spartan forces into battle against the Turks. But it has been said that the name goes back maybe 20 or more generations. The Maniate clans tracked their ancestry and charted their family relations down to the 20th or even 30th degree of those who descended from a common clan founder however ours only begins with Kapetan Thomas because his youngest brother Yanni, took the initiative to document it from that point. It is his document that I will share here. However it is quite possible that the family is tied deeper in history to the great Nikliani families of centuries past.

Much of my initial information came from my father, Nicholas Thomas Katsoulakos (1923) (Great Grand Son of Capt Thomas (1795)). But since I have traveled to Mani I found a great deal of information and history and many books that I will share in the links. I also have reached out to the remaining older generations of 20th century of the family who recounted and relayed general details and information about the families past and their emigration out of the Mani. 
I would like to also invite the descendants of Thomas Katsoulakos in the Greece, U.S.A., Canada, Australia, and South Africa, to explore these web pages and correspond by sending writings, historical accounts, pictures or anything related to the Katsoulakos ancestry. I am more than willing to allow others to contribute to the content (or link to their web sites). I am not a historian so any corrections are also welcome! 


 

The Katsoulakos family name originates from the Mani region of Greece. Mani is the middle one of the three peninsulas in the Southern most tip of the Peloponnese. Captain Thomas Katsoulakos was born in the Mani in (1795). Thomas became a leader of men, a Captain from Kelefa, in the Mani.  Captains were powerful clan leaders (generally blood related) who provided protection for the lower lying clans people in the neighboring areas. The Maniotes were pure Greek and were not converted to Muslims like some other parts of Greece. They spoke original Greek and retained customs and traditions during the Ottoman occupation of the rest of Greece. One of those traditions happened to be warring (fighting), whether it be against an attempted intrusion by the Turks or a family feud that resulted in Maniot families feuding each other, sometimes for years. It is here in the Mani where the vision for Greek independence over the 380 years of Ottoman rule would be put into action. The Maniotes raised their flag of independence in Aeriopolis, Mani, on March 17th 1821, and soon began their first act of revolt when they marched to Kalamata to siege the Turkish garrison, thus began the war of Independence. At 26 Thomas Katsoulakos and his clan would join generations of strong proud Greek clansmen from the Mani to march against the Turkish-Ottoman occupiers. Thomas Katsoulakos was from Kelefa just outside of Aeriopolis which takes it's name from "Ares" the god of war and translates to "The city of War". The Maniotes changed the name of the town from "Tsimova" to Aeriopolis immediately emphasizing their warlike credentials and laying claim to their primacy of beginning the uprising. It was in Aeripolis that the revolutionaries leaders like Petrobey Mavromichalis, the captains of the Mani and their  bands of warriors were sworn into arms under their revolutionary flag "Liberty or Death". 
 The courage of the Maniotes is legendary. Their ferocity in battle was known throughout the ages and they held this virtue in high regard based on their belief of their Spartan ancestry. Their contribution to the war was immense ranging from the funding and preparations required, the skilled fighters that came forth, and the military leadership. The Maniots were extremely brave and experienced in warfare. Often the men were "klefts" who lived their lives in defiance of the Turkish occupation and gained combat experience while attacking Turkish forces as they tried to move about in the Mani region. Often, and almost solely at the beginning of the war the Maniote regiments were at the spear head of the battles. They, combined with other Greek forces to liberate Kalamata in the first days, won an early and decisive battle at Valtetsi, and laid siege to Tripoli and Monemvassia, catapulting Greece into a no-turning-back revolution. Captain Katsoulakos and his clan were loyal to the Maniote leader and general of all the Spartan armies, Petrobis Mavromichalis. Although it is said that no Mani captain owed more loyalty to anyone other than his own men and were enlarge hard to manage. The Maniotes were and still are admired by all of Greece for their sacrifice, honor and commitment to the Greek Independence.
After 7 years of war the Greek warriors went home to claim their ancestral lands. Conceiving Independence as the freedom to do as they liked without Turkish interference many Maniates including Capt. Thomas returned to his home in the Mani and built a pirgo and walled complex (He called it the Mandres,
seen in photo). He placed it just outside the kelefa village limits on  a strategic mountain side about 6-10km from Aeriopolis. His proposition do build his fortification did not go unchallenged and the local families and other captains tried to discourage him, however Capt. Thomas had a kinship with Petrobey Mavromichalis. During the battle of Valtetsi, Thomas Katsoulakos along with 120 men under the command of Kriakoulis Mavromichalis (brother of Petrobey) were commanded to man the first of the four defensive war towers they built to withstand the oncoming Turkish attack from the Turkish soldiers housed in Tripoli. The remainder of the 2300 Maniate and other forces including Petrobey Mavromichalis and his men manned the remaining three towers and other defensive positions. After an initial attempt by 4000 Turks was driven back successfully by the Maniotes but in the next attack the Turks unleashed 12000 men, and after they offered a truce to the Greeks thinking they were due to be obliterated, the Maniates replied defiantly, so Rubi Pasha ordered his attack and the Turks advanced taking certain positions. It is said that as the Turks began to focus and flank the first tower, the men in and around seeing that they could possibly be cut off destroyed fought hard but began withdrawing from the post. The Turks had broadened their sites covering the escape routes and there was nowhere left to go. There was a stream that ran behind the tower and the Turks were looking to capture the position because it would cut off the water supply to the Greeks.  As Mavromichalis and his remaining men along with Thomas Katsoulakos continued fighting off the advance they realized there was no way out, Katsoulakos said the only way out it to make a run for the stream and swim to the other side to escape. The stream however at this time of year with the snow and rain from the mountains was swelled into into a raging deep current, and as Mavromichalis declared that he cannot swim, Thomas Katsoulakos told him "I will carry you, when we get to the river, I will jump in, you jump in and hold onto my back, I will swim us to the other side". So Kriakoulis followed his instructions and Katsoulakos heroically enable his kapetan to narrowly escape death. It was an act of bravery that was awarded by Kriakoulis' big brother Petrobey Mavromichalis, and he awarded Katsoulakos with a silver star and a command of over 100 men from his village of Kelefa. He was now a kapetan, a centurian. Mavromichalis also offered one more thing in his gratefulness for saving his brother and one of the most illustrious Maniate kapetans. The battle of Valtetsi was eventually won in the next 24 hours and the booty was enormous. The treasure and horses and animals and weapons and supplies were plenty. So Mavromichalis allowed Thomas Katsoulakos to cusp as much gold as his two hand could handle from the booty of gold. Later when Katsoulakos was to put this money to work and build his fortification in Kelefa, the displeasure of the other families was apparent, so Kapetan Thomas went to Mavromichalis and expressed his interest in taking control of the Mandres area. Michaelis supported his intentions and provided 20 men, stone cutters and mason to built the Mandres!  

 Thomas married and had four children with two wives, and lived till 1877 (82yo). Subsequently several generations have spawned to now include a couple of hundred (maybe hundreds?) of descendants. See the family tree as it was in 1979 below.

After the war of Independence the Maniates were recruited for the new Greek army because of their martial qualities. They were allowed a unique uniform that distinguished Maniates from other Greek regiments. This is a picture of a Maniate soldier circa 1837.   

                LINKS:

Brief history about the Mani, the historical significance of the region. The Maniots contribution to the War of Independence in 1821. The Mandres, Kelefa, Mani, Greece
 
My Great Great Grandfathers home
See pictures of Kapetan Thomas Katsoulakos Home, and read about my trip to find the Mandres.

Katsoulakos Family Tree: Created by my late Great Uncle John, Yanni Nicholas Katsoulakos (1908),  my Grandfathers brother. I imagine there were several made and handed out to different family factions.

                             Other travels of Greece and other places:

 

Other points of interest from my Greece vacation in 1999.   
AZORES Vacation 2004 : Discovering the Azores Islands where my ex-wife's family emigrated from in the 1970s.  

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About the Author, Stephen Nicholas Katsoulakos: I have always had an interest in my heritage. My brothers and I grew up as 2nd generation Americans. My parents were both the first born in this country, my father from my Greek immigrant grandparents and my mother from my Italian immigrant grandparents. My grandparents left their countries for hardship reasons. They came to America for opportunity in the early 1900s. Some of my great aunts and uncles went to Australia and South Africa and I know my father has cousins there. My grandparents passed on the traditions of their countries, the food, the Holiday celebrations, family values and the old country pride. My father, a proud Greek/American is the great grandson of Captain Thomas and being the eldest son, carries his namesake. He had 6 sons, which was a huge thrill to my Great Uncle John from Greece, "you know what 6 Maniate men are capable of doing?" We can be seen in the family tree near the top under Thomas Katsoulakos 1882 (my Papou). Carrying on traditions we were all baptized Greek Orthodox and take great pride in our Greek heritage. We celebrate Greek Easter by baking lamb or roasting one over a spit and all sorts of Greek food that my Italian Mom (and Dad) mastered in cooking. We had Sunday spaghetti dinners and my Italian grandmother would make Sicilian pizza and manicotti and fresh raviolis. My mom cooked great Italian too, the food was a huge benefit, and my house always smelled of food. There were things we noticed as kids like, our tree fort was called Sparta, and we were the "Little Spartans". Of course as a kid you listen to them talk about your heritage but it doesn't really resonate until you grow older. Now I am intrigued just as many 2nd generation Americans, grand children of immigrants seeking out their heritage. I love these countries traditions and ways of life, the food the culture (they're very similar; Greek and Italian) and the history. Greece is particularly interesting though, the history, the land, the culture and food all strike intrigue...and knowing I have a direct lineage to a Greek revolutionary war hero inspires me to learn more about it. However, I am also half Italian...and if I don't want the black glove (Mafia) after me, I'm must pay my respects to my Italian/Sicilian heritage.  My mothers parents came from Abruzzi (Papa) and Sicily (Nana) and there is no lack of history, culture, landscape and  food there! I can't wait for the day I leave for Rome, whenever that may be, to go to Italy and visit the places of my ancestors, but I promise I will and you'll find the trip on this web site.

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