The Ionian Islands - Living History
Greece is widely considered as the ‘birthplace of democracy’. It’s a nation steeped in history, mythology and cultural significance. It’s the homeland of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle; three of the most famous philosophers and scientists of all time. It’s also the nation of Homer, and the source of the inventions, ideas and innovations that have shaped the modern world as we know it.
Just off the west coast of Greece lie the Ionian Islands, which have been occupied since the Palaeolithic era situated in the Ionian Sea. Settled by Greeks as early as 12,000 BC, they play a significant part in the culture of the country. The name of the islands is thought to be derived from Io, one of Zeus’ mortal lovers who swam across the sea. Read on to find out more about the cultural and historical significance of two of the Ionian Islands.
Although Greece gained her independence in 1830, the Ionian islands was only annexed to the new nation in 1864
The Magic and Myths of the Ionian
It was here that Greece’s first university opened, and Corfu is also the only Greek island to have never fallen under Ottoman rule. Dominated instead by Western powerhouses like Venice, Britain, and France, Corfu’s culture has a distinctly cosmopolitan flavour.
According to legend, Poseidon, god of the sea, broke paxos off from the southern tip of Corfu, to provide a place to live that was worthy of a god.
Fun fact: Corfu has 37 churches, on an island of just 585km. That’s one church every 15km.
Colonised by the Corinthians in the late 7th century BC, Lefkada’s geographical position means the island has played an important role in shaping Greek history, taking part in the Peloponnese War (431- 404BC), and being variously conquered by the Macedonians, Romans, Franks, Sicilians, Turks and Ventetians. After Napoleon conquered Venice, the island passed hands between the French and British before finally annexing in 1864.
The Battle of Actium, which led to the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire under Octavian, took place just off the coast of Lefkas in 31BC, changing the course of history.