In ancient Greece, this was the principal region of the
Spartan state. Throughout classical antiquity, the Spartan sphere of influence
expanded to Messenia, whose inhabitants (the Helots) were permanently enslaved.
Significant archaeological recovery exists at the Vaphio-tomb site in Laconia.
Found here are advanced Bronze Age art as well as evidence of cultural
associations with the contemporaneous Minoan culture on Crete. Laconia was at
war with the Kingdom of Macedonia and saw several battles; at the end of the
Mycenaean period, population of Laconia sharply declined. From the early-2nd
century BC until 395, it was a part of the Roman Empire.
In the medieval period, Laconia formed part of the
Byzantine Empire. Following the Fourth Crusade, it was gradually conquered by
the Frankish Principality of Achaea. In the 1260s, however, the Byzantines
recovered Mystras and other fortresses in the region and managed to evict the
Franks from Laconia, which became the nucleus of a new Byzantine province. By
the mid-14th century, this evolved into the Despotate of Morea, held by the
last Greek ruling dynasty, the Palaiologoi. With the fall of the Despotate to
the Ottomans in 1460, Laconia was conquered as well.
With the exception of a 30-year interval of Venetian rule,
Laconia remained under Ottoman control until the outbreak of the Greek War of
Independence of 1821. Following independence, Sparta was selected as the
capital of the modern prefecture, and its economy and agriculture expanded.
With the incorporation of the British-ruled Ionian Islands into Greece in 1864,
Elafonissos became part of the prefecture. After World War II and the Greek
Civil War, its population began to somewhat decline, as people moved from the
villages toward the larger cities of Greece and abroad.
In 1992, a devastating fire ruined the finest olive crops
in the northern part of the prefecture, and affected the area of Sellasia along
with Oinountas and its surrounding areas. Firefighters, helicopters and planes
battled for days to put out the horrific fire.
The Mani portion along with Gytheio became famous in
Greece for filming episodes of Vendetta, broadcast on Mega Channel throughout
Greece and abroad on Mega Cosmos.
In early 2006, flooding ruined olive and citrus crops as
well as properties and villages along the Evrotas river. In the summer 2006, a
terrible fire devastated a part of the Mani Peninsula, ruining forests, crops,
and numerous villages.