THE MAN FROM MANI
The word «pirate» derives from the ancient Greek verb «peirao», meaning «I try», «I test». Nikolos Sassaris was one of the most famous pirates in the Mediterranean, during the second half of the 18th century. He was known as the «One-eyed», due to a Turkish pirate who stabbed him in the eye with a sword during a conflict in Andros. Sassaris was born in Mani and was related to the city of Sassari in Sardinia. That, possibly, explains the origin of his name.
During that period, living in Mani was very difficult, so Sassaris decided to become a pirate. His starting point was Mezapos, situated in the Tigani peninsula, (meaning «Pan»), south of Areopolis. He used to put up his pirate flag and start a fight with his ship, which was called «Zargana», (a fish kind). In 1748, Liveri, consul in Kithira, mentions that in Mani there was a pirate ship with black flag. Sassaris, was plundering the ships, towed and drove them to the port of Oitylo, (also known as «the little Algiers»), in order to sell them. At this point, it is worth mentioning that during the years of piracy, Mani was given the name of «big Algiers», which was the biggest centre of slave trade in Africa during that period.
THE HIDDEN TREASURE
Sassaris was moving mainly around Mani, not wishing to share his stolen goods with the inhabitants. It is said, that he used to hide his loot in the «pirate cave», approachable only by him. According to the legend, the treasure is still inside that cave.
THE HIDING PLACE
According to folk tradition, Sassaris, owned a tower- hiding place, 16 meters in height. Today, the ruins, remind us of nothing of that era’s magnificence. In the interior of the tower there were specially structured underground passages, where his men were hiding, ending up to the sea. Inside the caves, Sassaris kept the boats and his ship. The tower had cannons which, later on, were either stolen or got sold. People remember that inside that tower there was a sword nailed in a wall. It was lost when the floor collapsed.
THE PIRATE'S DIRGE
During the end of the 18th century, Sassaris conquered a French ship and while driving it towards Mani, he met with two Turkish ships. A fierce conflict took place. Many of his men got seriously injured, or got killed. Sassaris, himself, was shot on the chest and died. His lifeless body never got buried. His destiny was for him to stay forever in water. The popular Greek song «The Pirate’s Dirge», interpreted by Alkistis Protopsaltis, in 1980, is still remembered in Mani.
THE WOMAN FROM MANI
Sassaris was married to a poor woman from Mani, named Kanella, and together they had a daughter. He did not have a son and that was a very serious matter in Mani. His wife, three years after his death, cut her long hair, wore men’s clothes, took her husband’s weapons and became captain to his ships. She used to attack and sink Venetian and Ottoman ships. Kanella, herself, died while fighting, in the same way the pirate Nikolos Sassaris did.