The Byzantine castle of Maini is the oldest castle of Mani and some researchers locate it at Cape Tigani near the bay of Mezapo.
It was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian, and developed into a large military and religious center. The Vandals tried to invade this castle with their king Gezerichus in 467, but in the battle of Tainarus (in Cainipolis) the Maniates crushed the invaders with their brave resistance.
The first Christian diocese of Tainaros, the so-called diocese of Maini, took its name from this fortress. The inhabitants of the area embraced Christianity during the reign of Emperor Basil of Macedonia (867 - 886 AD). 950 AD is mentioned in a text of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. The castle has been associated with the name of Mani, it was the administrative center of the region and contributed to its reorganization, while it belonged to the "Theme of the Peloponnese".
During the Crusades it changed its name and took the name "Castle of Nikleitos or Niklos" from Nikleitos or Niklos who owned the fortress and successfully resisted against the raiders. The castle faced raids by Arabs and Slavs and its desolation began after the 13th century, like the wider area, probably due to an earthquake. However, it must not have been preserved after 1570.
Today, the castle's reservoirs and parts of the walls are preserved, a half-demolished part of the wall with a tower to the west, an ancient wall with cyclopean masonry to the SW, while to the east is the best-preserved part of the fortification with Justinian characteristics.
Ruined towers and Byzantine churches can also be seen in the area, as well as remains of the necropolis of the city of Main, at the "Kentrokolospito" site, opposite Mezapo. An important Byzantine monument is the 7th century three-aisled royal church with three apses, while west of the church many tombs dating back to before the 7th century were found.
Editor: Fotini Anastasopoulou