Finally some time to answer my quiz question, I am copy/pasting from Wikipedia part of the chapter on the Maniots
(the history of Maniots from Mycenaean to Medieval times, records prove that the inhabitants of the area remained faithful to the old Gods until at least the 9th century AD):
The Maniots (or Maniates; Greek: Μανιάτες) are the Greek inhabitants of the Mani Peninsula (the middle leg of the Peloponnese) located in the southern Peloponnese in the Greek prefecture of Laconia and prefecture of Messinia. They were also formerly known as Mainotes in English and the peninsula as Maina. Etymologically, the name "Maniot" means "one who comes from Mani". Geographically, the peninsula itself is an extension of the Taygetus mountain range. Modern Maniots claim descent from the ancient Lacedaemonians (Spartans). Throughout history, the Maniots have been known by their neighbors and their enemies as fearless warriors who practice blood feuds.
As early as Byzantine times, the Maniots were also known as pirates, as a result of lack of raw materials and resources, and insufficient capital for trade. For the most part, the Maniots lived in fortified villages (and "house-towers") where they defended their lands against the Ottomans and even against the armies of William II Villehardouin.
Homer's "Catalogue of ships" in the Iliad mentions the cities of Mani: Messi (Mezapos), Oetylus (Oitylo), Kardamili (or Skardamoula), Gerenia, Teuthone (Kotronas) and Las (Passavas). Under the Mycenaeans, Mani flourished and a temple dedicated to the Greek god Apollo was built at Cape Tenaro. The temple was of such importance that it rivaled Delphi which was then a temple dedicated to Poseidon. Eventually, the temple of Tenaro was dedicated to Poseidon and the temple at Delphi was dedicated to Apollo. According to other legends, there is a cave near Tenaro that leads to Hades. Mani was also featured in other mythological tales such as the one where Helen of Troy and Paris spent their first night together on the island of Cranae, off the coast of Gytheio.
In the 12th century BC, the Dorians invaded Laconia. The Dorians originally settled at Sparta, but they soon started to expand their territory and by around 800 BC they had taken over Mani and the rest of Laconia. Mani's inhabitants were given the social caste of Perioeci. During that time, the Phoenicians came to Mani and were thought to have established a colony at Gythium. The Phoenicians built the colony at Gythium in order to collect murex, a sea shell that was used to make purple dye and was plentiful in the Laconian Gulf.
While the Spartans ruled Mani, Tenaro became an important gathering place for mercenaries. Gythium became a major port under the Spartans as it was only 27 kilometres away from Sparta. In 455 BC, during the First Peloponnesian War, it was besieged and captured by the Athenian admiral, Tolmides, along with 50 triremes and 4,000 hoplites. The city and the dockyards were rebuilt and by the late Peloponnesian War, Gythium was the main building place for the new Spartan fleet. The Spartan leadership of the Peloponnese lasted until 371 BC, when the Thebans under Epaminondas defeated them at Leuctra. The Thebans launched a campaign against Laconia and managed to capture Gythium after a three day siege. The Thebans only briefly managed to hold Gythium, which was captured by 100 elite warriors posing as athletes.
During the Hellenistic period of Greece, Mani remained under Spartan control. The Macedonians under the command of Philip V of Macedon invaded Mani and Laconia (219 BC - 218 BC) and unsuccessfully besieged the cities of Gythium, Las and Asine. When Nabis took over the Spartan throne in 207 BC, he implemented some reforms. One of these reforms entailed making Gythium into a major port and naval arsenal. In 195 BC, during the Roman-Spartan War, the Roman Republic and the Achean League with assistance from a combined Pergamese and Rhodian captured Gythium after a lengthy siege.
The allies went on to besiege Sparta and forced Nabis to surrender. As part of the terms of the peace treaty, the coastal cities of Mani were liberated. The cities formed the Koinon of Free Laconians with Gythium as the capitol under Achean protection. Nabis not content with losing his land in Mani, built a fleet and strengthened his army and advanced upon Gythium in 192 BC. The Achean League's army and navy under Philopoemen, tried to relieve the city but the Achean navy was defeated off Gythium and the army was forced to retreat to Tegea. A Roman fleet under Atilius managed to re-capture Gythium later that year. Nabis was murdered later that year and Sparta was made part of the Achean League. However, the Spartans, while searching for a port, attacked Las and captured it. The Acheans responded by seizing Sparta and forcing their laws on it.
The Maniots lived in peace until 146 BC with the advent of the Battle of Corinth. The conflict resulted in the destruction of Corinth by the forces of Lucius Mummius Achaicus and the annexation of the Achaean League by the Roman Republic. Even though the Romans conquered the Peloponnese, the Koinon was allowed to retain its independence. The Maniots suffered from pirate raids by Cretan and Cilicians who plundered Mani and pillaged the temple of Poseidon. The Maniots were delivered from the pirates when Pompey the Great defeated them. Most probably in gratitude, the Maniots supplied Pompey with archers in his battles against Julius Caesar during Caesar's civil war (49 BC - 45 BC).
During the Civil war between Antony and Octavian (32 BC - 30 BC), the Maniots and Laconians assisted Augustus by sending him men to join his navy. Augustus defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII of Egypt at the Battle of Actium (September 2, 31 BC) and in gratitude, he officially recognized the Koinon and visited Psamathous and it became a semi-independent state. This signified the beginning of the Golden Age of the Koinon.
Mani flourished under the Romans. The Koinon consisted of 24 cities (later 18), of which Gythium remained the prominent. However, some parts of Mani remained under the also semi-independent Sparta, the most notable being Asine and Karymili. The Mani became the center of the purple dye, which was popular in Rome as well as being well known for it's rose antique marble and porphyry. Las is recorded to have been a comfortable city with Roman baths and a gymnasium.
Pausanias the geographer left us a description of the town as it existed during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161 - 180). The agora, the Acropolis, the island of Cranae (Marathonisi) where Paris celebrated his nuptials with Helen of Troy, the Migonium or precinct of Aphrodite Migonitis (occupied by the modern town), and the hill Larysium (Koumaro) rising above it. Nowadays, the most noteworthy remains of the theatre and the buildings partially submerged by the sea all belong to the Roman period.
The Koinon remained semi-independent until the provincial reforms of Roman Emperor Diocletian in 297. With the barbarian invasion affecting the Roman Empire, Mani became a haven for refugees. In 375, a massive earthquake in the area took its toll on Gythium which was severely devastated.
From Theodosius I to the Avar invasion
On January 17, 395, Theodosius I who had managed to unite the Roman Empire under his control died. His eldest son Arcadius succeeded him in the Eastern Roman Empire while his younger son Honorius received the Western Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had split for the last time and Mani became part of the Eastern or Byzantine Empire. Between 395 and 397, Alaric I and his Visigoths plundered the Peloponnese and destroyed what was left of Gythium. Alaric captured the most famous cities, Corinth, Argos, and Sparta, selling many of their inhabitants into slavery. He was at last defeated by Stilicho and then crossed the Gulf of Corinth towards the north.
In 468, Genseric of the Vandals, trying to conquer Mani, with the purpose of using it as a base to raid the Peloponnese and then conquer the Peloponnese. Genseric tried to land his fleet at Kenipolis but as his army disembarked the inhabitants of the town attacked the Vandals and made them retreat after they suffered heavy casualties. Byzantine general Belisarius on the way to his campaign against the Vandals, stopped at Kenipolis to get supplies, honor the Kenipolians, for their victory and to recruit some soldiers. According to Greenhalgh and Eliopoulos, the Eurasian Avars (along with the Slavs) attacked and occupied most of western Peloponnese in 590. However, there is no archaeological evidence for any Slavic (or Avaric) penetration of imperial Byzantine territory before the end of the 6th century. Overall, traces of Slavic culture in Greece are very rare.
During the Macedonian dynasty
There is a description of Mani and its inhabitants in Constantine VII's De Administrando Imperio:
“ Be it known that the inhabitants of Castle Maina are not from the race of aforesaid Slavs but from the older Romaioi, who up to the present time are termed Hellenes by the local inhabitants on account of their being in olden times idolaters and worshippers of idols like the ancient Greeks, and who were baptized and became Christians in the reign if the glorious Basil. The place in which they live is waterless and inaccessible, but has olives from which they gain some consolation. ”
The area inhabited by the Maniates was first called by the name "Maina" and was associated with the castle of Tigani. The Maniots at that time were called "Hellenes", that is, pagans (see Names of the Greeks), and were only Christianized fully in the 9th century AD, though some church ruins from the 4th century AD indicate that Christianity was practiced by some Maniots in the region at an earlier time. The Maniots were the last inhabitants of Greece to openly follow the pagan Hellenic religion. This can be explained by the mountainous nature of Mani's terrain, which enabled them to escape the attempts of the Eastern Roman Empire to Christianize Greece by force.
Also see: Grand Magne
, Mani Hellas
, Mani on Wiki
, Photos of Mani