Corfu Greece - History

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Corfiot History in Chronological order.
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The Perama ferry & Pontikonisi (copper engraving 1821)

 Prehistory of Corfu (Corcyra)

 The island has always been of strategic importance. Various flint tools were discovered, indicating that the island was inhabited during the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages.


 Greek Antiquity and Corcyra

History of Corfu begins ca. 750 B.C. First inhabitants of Corfu were Illyrians. In 734 B.C. Corinthians made Corcyra important and prosperous city. The island became the second naval power in Greece after Corinth, and established a number of colonies. Corcyra was the first maritime city, which builds a fleet of triremes, in about 492 B.C., and often fought on behalf of Athens. In 375 B.C. Corcyra joined the Athenian Confederation. Later the island was taken over by many states and it become independent in 255 B.C. when Alexander, the last powerful King of Epiros died.



 Corfu Under Romans

 In the summer 229 B.C. Romans took over the island and thus Corcyra became the first Greek city to place itself under Rome. Romans governed the island for more than five centuries from 229 B.C. to ca. 337 A.D. Corcyra remained to a certain degree a free state with its own laws and magistrates. The island was used as a naval station for Roman activities in Eastern Mediterranean and various military campaigns.

 Byzantine Corfu

 In 395 Corcyra was included in the Eastern Roman, and later Byzantine Empire, and remained so until the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204. It was during the Byzantine dominion that the feudal system was first introduced to Corfu.

 Corfu Under the Despots of Epiros (1214-1267)

 From 1214 until 1267 the island was taken over by the Despotate of Epiros, an independent Greek State under a prince of Byzantine House of Angeloi Comneni who assumed the title of ‘Despot’.

 The Angevins in Corfu (1267-1386)

 During Angevin rule, the island of Corfu was divided into four bailiwicks, called the Circle, the Mountain, the Center and Lefkimmi. Corfu was a valuable possession for the Angevins, mainly because of the island’s economic sources, such as its vineyards, olive-trees and saltpans. The Angevin occupation ended in 1386 with the death of Charles III. of Anjou.

 The Venetian Domination (1386-1797)

Corfiots accepted the rule of Venice who took formal possession of Corfu on the 9th of June 1386 and ruled the island for more than four centuries. The Venetians showed a keen interest in agriculture, especially in the cultivation of olive-trees. To this Venetian policy Corfu owes its countless olive groves, which cover almost the whole island. The long Venetian domination had a marked influence on local Greek language, which absorbed into itself a wide range of Italian and Venetian words. In spite this fact; the Greek language was almost universally used in all legal documents.

 The Republican French (1797-1799)

 Venetian rule ended in 1797 when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered and abolished the Republic of Venice. By the Treaty of Campoformio, between France, Austria and the other Ionian islands were ceded to the French Republic, which occupied them for two years from 1797 to 1799.

 The Russians and Turks

 After the defeat of the French at the “Battle of the Nile” (1st of August, 1798), Russia and Turkey formed an alliance and declared war on France, conquering all the Ionian Islands except Corfu. The French authorities, realizing that the enemy would soon attack the island, took all possible defensive measures. The fights lasted until 3rd of March 1799 when French authorities finally delivered the city of Corfu to Russians and Turks. One of the first official acts of the Russians was the reinstatement of a Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Corfu.

 The Septinsular State (1800-1807) and John Capodistrias

 Following the Treaty of Constantinople between Russia and Turkey a semi-independent State of Seven Ionian Islands, the so-called Septinsular State, was constituted in 1800. It was the first Greek State to be established after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The executive body was called the Senate, its Prince being Count Spyridon-George Theotokis, who appointed Count of John Capodistrias as his General Secretary of State. John Capodistrias (1776-1831) was a statesman and diplomat of European stature. In 1827 the Greek Assembly unanimously elected him the President of Independent Greece. He laid the foundations of the regenerated State and organized public education as well as political and agricultural structures. He was assassinated in 1831.

 The Imperial French (1807-1814)

 Following the Treaty of Tilsit (1807) between the Emperor Napoleon I, and Czar Alexander I, the Russians ceded their rights over the Ionian Islands to the French, who sent to Corfu General Cesar Berthier. The French Imperial administration founded in 1808 the Ionian Academy for the advancement of Letters, Arts and Sciences. In 1811 the first school of Fine Arts in Corfu was founded.

 British Protectorate (1814-1864)

 On the 30th of May 1814, soon after the fall of Napoleon, the British occupied the island. There were ten High Commissioners ruling on the island and each of them changed Corfu. The Ionian Islands were finally, on the 21st of May 1864 united to Greece, which already in 1833 had become a sovereign independent Kingdom under King Otto.

 History of Corfu, from ancient times down to present day, has been a particularly chequered one under a long succession of foreign rulers, good or bad, yet never obscuring the fundamental Greek character of the island and its inhabitants.

 Bibliography: STAMATOPOULOS, N.: Old Corfu, History and Culture,
K. Mihalas s.a., Athens, 1993

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