History & culture

THE VARIOUS NAMES OF CORFU (Korfu)

Corcyra: (Doric dialect) the daughter of the Assopus river. The sea-god, Poseidon, fell in love with her, abducted her, and brought her to this island, giving it her name.
Faikas: the son of Poseidon and Corcyra, from who comes the name ”the island of the Faikes”(also spelt Phaeceans).
Harpi – Drepani: translates as ‘harp’ and ‘scythe’ – names given to Corfu in ancient times due to its shape.
Scheria: 1.)The Homeric island, which was settled by the Phaeceans, descendants of Nausithos, offspring of Poseidon, when they deserted their former homeland, Hyperia: 2. a) ‘en schero’ = long, continuous, endless time b) ‘scheros’ = coast, seashore. According to this interpretation Scheria means the continuous shoreline, the endless coast.
Corfu: .The fortified town, located on two summits, or peaks, established by its inhabitants to defend themselves from attacks. Today this is called the Old Fortress, formerly known however as the town of Corypho (the peaks)
”Korpho” – the name given by the Franks to the gulf and the town , a corruption of the Latin word ”Golfo.”

40.000 BC – 735 BC FROM THE CAVE-DWELLERS TO THE FIRST SETTLETS

Corfu was not always an island: during the Paleolithic Period it was joined with the mainland opposite. Archaeological finds from this period (70,000-40,000 BC) have been made at Ag. Mathaios.

Separation from the mainland occurred during the Neolithic period (10,000-8,000BC) when, with the melting of the ice, the level of the sea rose. Traces of the Neolithic Period are to be found at Sidari. In the north-west of the island, at Kefali, Afionas and Ermones, Bronze Age settlements (2,000 BC) have been found.

Apollonias the Rodian, in the ”Argonautika” refers to the fact that Jason hid here with the Argonauts and Medea, in order to escape the Colchians.

In the ”Odyssey” Homer has Odysseus brought to Corfu, exhausted and naked, to be found by Nausicaa, the daughter of the ruler of the island, King Alkinoos. (The second rhapsody of the Iliad). In those days the inhabitants of the island were of Phoenician descent while, later, immigrants began to arrive from Hyperia – now known as Sicily, from Illyria and even Crete, Mycenae and the Aegean, as verified by Professor Dorpfeld in his excavations of 1914. The first Greek settlers came from Eretria in Euboea, around 775-750 BC. A little later political refugees from Corinth fled to the island, bringing with them their highly developed political outlook.

735-435 BC THE CORINTHIANS IN CORCYRA

Under the leadership of Chersicrates a powerful Corcyra was created, with colonies, economic wealth, and naval power, but political differences divided the Phaiacians into Democrats and Oligarchs, and after 300 years of peaceful co-existence the inhabitants of Corcyra found themselves in conflict with the Corinthians over their jointly-held colony Epidamnos (today known as Durres). The Athenians support for Corcyra gave rise to the start of the Peloponnesian Wars

435-229 BC CORCYRA’S ATHENIAN ALLIES

The alliance lasted for almost a century. In spite of the internal conflict between the aristocratic and the democratic parties the Corcyrans were able to give strong support to the Athenians in many battles, thanks to their powerful navy. But in 338 BC, at Chaeroneia, the Macedonians, under Philip II, won the battle, dissolving the Athenian Alliance and conquering Corcyra. It was then that Alexander the Great visited the island, was enchanted by its beauty and placed it under his protection for almost 35 years. From 300 BC onwards, Corcyra became at various times the temporary possession of the Spartans, the Syracusians, and the Illyrians, who eventually handed the island over to the Romans, in 229 BC.

In occupying Corcyra, the Romans conquered their first Greek territory. From the oligarchic party, they fashioned their own ruling class and thrust the entire island into a state of deep decline. In their time, the first century AD, Jason and Sosipatros, disciples of the Apostle, Saint Paul, brought Christianity to the island. A little later, Nero visited Kassiopi, a plague epidemic struck the island, and the persecution of the Christians began.

337-1267 A.D. THE BYZANTINE PERIOD

In 337 A.D. the Roman Empire was divided into East and West for the first time, with Corfu being included in the Western section. The partition however was finalised in 395 A.D. and Corfu was ceded to the Eastern Roman Empire.Centuries of darkness followed, during which Corfu suffered barbarian raids repeatedly, such as the one in 455 A.D. when the Vandals of Genzerichou laid waste to the island. The sack of Corfu by the Goths under Totila folowed in 550 A.D., an event which led to the adandonment of the ancient city and its relocation for defensive purposes behind the fortifications of the Old Fortress. In the second half of the 7th century A.D. Saracens seized Corfu, ravaged it and then used it as a base of operations.

In 733 A.D. the Byzantines expelled the Saracens, signalling the start of a new era for Corfu, under Byzantine Orthodox rule. In 1081 A.D. the Normans under the leadership of Robert Guiscaud besieged and captured the island. Their rule did not last long, however, since the Byzantines, with the help of Venice, beat them in a naval battle and again took possession. Various Frankish knights conquered the island in subsequent years and in 1204 A.D., when knights of the Fourth Crusade seized Constantinople, Corfu fell into Venetian hands. The next decade was Corfu’s first period under Venetian rule, but in 1214 A.D. Byzantium again took possession of the island, which became part of the Despotate of Epirus, at that time one of three independent Greek states. Half a

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