Ionian Islands
Overview
 
The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. They are traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e. "the Seven Islands" , but the group includes many smaller islands as well as the seven principal ones.
The seven are, from north to south:
  • Kerkyra
    Corfu
    Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

     (Κέρκυρα) usually known as Corfu
    Corfu
    Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

     in English
  • Paxi
    Paxi
    Paxi or Paxoi is the name given to the smallest group of the Ionian Islands . In Greek it is a plural form and it refers to a complex of islands, the largest of which are Paxos and Antipaxos...

     (Παξοί) also known as Paxos
    Paxos
    Paxos may refer to:* Paxos algorithm, an algorithm for fault tolerant distributed systems* Paxoi, a Greek island...

     in English
  • Lefkada
    Lefkada
    Lefkada, or Leucas or Leucadia , is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea on the west coast of Greece, connected to the mainland by a long causeway and floating bridge. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Lefkada . It is situated on the northern part of the island,...

     (Λευκάδα) also known as Lefkas in English
  • Ithaki (Ιθάκη) usually known as Ithaca
    Ithaca
    Ithaca or Ithaka is an island located in the Ionian Sea, in Greece, with an area of and a little more than three thousand inhabitants. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It lies off the northeast coast of Kefalonia and...

     in English
  • Kefalonia
    Kefalonia
    The island of Cephalonia, also known as Kefalonia, Cephallenia, Cephallonia, Kefallinia, or Kefallonia , is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece, with an area of . It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit...

     (Κεφαλλονιά) often known as Kefalonia, Cephalonia and Kefallinia in English
  • Zakynthos
    Zakynthos
    Zakynthos , also Zante, the other form often used in English and in Italian , is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It covers an area of ...

     (Ζάκυνθος) sometimes known as Zante in English
  • Kythira
    Kythira
    Cythera is an island in Greece, once part of the Ionian Islands. It lies opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is administratively part of the Islands regional unit, which is part of the Attica region , Greece.For many centuries, while naval travel was the only means...

     (Κύθηρα) sometimes known as Cerigo in English


The six northern islands are off the west coast of Greece, in the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
The Ionian Sea , is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Adriatic Sea. It is bounded by southern Italy including Calabria, Sicily and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and a large number of Greek islands, including Corfu, Zante, Kephalonia, Ithaka, and...

.
Encyclopedia
The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. They are traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e. "the Seven Islands" , but the group includes many smaller islands as well as the seven principal ones.

Geography

The seven are, from north to south:
  • Kerkyra
    Corfu
    Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

     (Κέρκυρα) usually known as Corfu
    Corfu
    Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

     in English
  • Paxi
    Paxi
    Paxi or Paxoi is the name given to the smallest group of the Ionian Islands . In Greek it is a plural form and it refers to a complex of islands, the largest of which are Paxos and Antipaxos...

     (Παξοί) also known as Paxos
    Paxos
    Paxos may refer to:* Paxos algorithm, an algorithm for fault tolerant distributed systems* Paxoi, a Greek island...

     in English
  • Lefkada
    Lefkada
    Lefkada, or Leucas or Leucadia , is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea on the west coast of Greece, connected to the mainland by a long causeway and floating bridge. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Lefkada . It is situated on the northern part of the island,...

     (Λευκάδα) also known as Lefkas in English
  • Ithaki (Ιθάκη) usually known as Ithaca
    Ithaca
    Ithaca or Ithaka is an island located in the Ionian Sea, in Greece, with an area of and a little more than three thousand inhabitants. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It lies off the northeast coast of Kefalonia and...

     in English
  • Kefalonia
    Kefalonia
    The island of Cephalonia, also known as Kefalonia, Cephallenia, Cephallonia, Kefallinia, or Kefallonia , is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece, with an area of . It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit...

     (Κεφαλλονιά) often known as Kefalonia, Cephalonia and Kefallinia in English
  • Zakynthos
    Zakynthos
    Zakynthos , also Zante, the other form often used in English and in Italian , is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It covers an area of ...

     (Ζάκυνθος) sometimes known as Zante in English
  • Kythira
    Kythira
    Cythera is an island in Greece, once part of the Ionian Islands. It lies opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is administratively part of the Islands regional unit, which is part of the Attica region , Greece.For many centuries, while naval travel was the only means...

     (Κύθηρα) sometimes known as Cerigo in English


The six northern islands are off the west coast of Greece, in the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
The Ionian Sea , is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Adriatic Sea. It is bounded by southern Italy including Calabria, Sicily and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and a large number of Greek islands, including Corfu, Zante, Kephalonia, Ithaka, and...

. The seventh island, Kythira
Kythira
Cythera is an island in Greece, once part of the Ionian Islands. It lies opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is administratively part of the Islands regional unit, which is part of the Attica region , Greece.For many centuries, while naval travel was the only means...

, is off the southern tip of the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

, the southern part of the Greek mainland. Kythira is not part of the region of the Ionian Islands, as it is included in the region of Attica.

Etymology

In Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 the adjective Ionios was used as an epithet for the sea between Epirus and Italy in which the Ionian Islands are found because Io
Io (mythology)
Io was, in Greek mythology, a priestess of Hera in Argos, a nymph who was seduced by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer to escape detection. His wife Hera set ever-watchful Argus Panoptes to guard her, but Hermes was sent to distract the guardian and slay him...

 swam across it. Latin transliteration, as well as Modern Greek
Modern Greek
Modern Greek refers to the varieties of the Greek language spoken in the modern era. The beginning of the "modern" period of the language is often symbolically assigned to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, even though that date marks no clear linguistic boundary and many characteristic...

 pronunciation, may suggest that the Ionian Sea and Islands are somehow related to Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

, an Anatolian region; in fact the Ionian Sea and Ionian Islands are spelled in Greek with an omicron
Omicron
Omicron is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 70. It is rarely used in mathematics because it is indistinguishable from the Latin letter O and easily confused with the digit 0...

 (Ιόνια), whereas Ionia has an omega
Omega
Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the Greek numeric system, it has a value of 800. The word literally means "great O" , as opposed to omicron, which means "little O"...

 (Ιωνία). In Modern Greek this is purely a spelling distinction, but the different pronunciations in Ancient Greek would have eliminated the risk of confusion between the two areas. Furthermore, Ionian is accented on the antepenult (iˈoɲa), and Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

on the penult (ioˈɲa); also the proper adjective for Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

 is Ionic, not Ionian.

The islands themselves are known by a rather confusing variety of names. During the centuries of rule by Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, they acquired Venetian
Venetian language
Venetian or Venetan is a Romance language spoken as a native language by over two million people, mostly in the Veneto region of Italy, where of five million inhabitants almost all can understand it. It is sometimes spoken and often well understood outside Veneto, in Trentino, Friuli, Venezia...

 names, by which some of them are still known in English (and in Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

). Kerkyra was known as Corfù
Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

, Ithaki as Val di Compare
Ithaca
Ithaca or Ithaka is an island located in the Ionian Sea, in Greece, with an area of and a little more than three thousand inhabitants. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It lies off the northeast coast of Kefalonia and...

, Kythera as Cerigo, Lefkada as Santa Maura and Zakynthos as Zante.

A variety of spellings are used for the Greek names of the islands, particularly in historical writing. Kefallonia is often spelled as Cephallenia or Cephalonia, Ithaki as Ithaca
Ithaca
Ithaca or Ithaka is an island located in the Ionian Sea, in Greece, with an area of and a little more than three thousand inhabitants. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It lies off the northeast coast of Kefalonia and...

, Kerkyra as Corcyra, Kythera as Cythera, Lefkada as Leucas
Leucas
Leucas may refer to:* Leucas is a genus of plants from the family Lamiaceae.* Leucas, an English transliteration of the ancient Greek place name, Leukas ....

 or Leucada and Zakynthos as Zacynthus or Zante. Older or variant Greek forms are sometimes also used: Kefallinia for Kefallonia and Paxos
Paxos
Paxos may refer to:* Paxos algorithm, an algorithm for fault tolerant distributed systems* Paxoi, a Greek island...

 or Paxoi for Paxi.

History

The islands were settled by Greeks at an early date, possibly as early as 1200 BC, and certainly by the 9th century BC. The early Eretrian settlement at Kerkyra was displaced by colonists from Corinth
Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

 in 734 BC. The islands were mostly a backwater during Ancient Greek times and played little part in Greek politics. The one exception was the conflict between Kerkyra and its mother-City Corinth in 434 BC, which brought intervention from Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 and triggered the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

.

Ithaca was the name of the island home of Odysseus
Odysseus
Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

 in the epic Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 poem the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

by Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

. Attempts have been made to identify Ithaki with ancient Ithaca, but the geography of the real island cannot be made to fit Homer's description but archeological investigations have revealed interesting findings in both Kefalonia and Ithaca.

Roman and Byzantine rule

By the 4th century BC, most of the islands, were absorbed into the empire of Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

. Some remained under the control of the Macedonian Kingdom and until 146 BC, when the Greek peninsula was gradually annexed by Rome
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

. After 400 years of peaceful Roman rule, the islands passed to the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. Under Byzantine rule, from the mid-8th century, they formed the theme of Cephallenia
Cephallenia (theme)
The Theme of Cephallenia or Cephalonia was a Byzantine theme located in western Greece, comprising the Ionian Islands, and extant from the 8th century until partially conquered by the Kingdom of Sicily in 1185.-History:...

. The islands were a frequent target of Saracen raids and from the late 11th century, saw a number of Norman
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 and Italian attacks. Most of the islands fell to William II of Sicily
William II of Sicily
William II , called the Good, was king of Sicily from 1166 to 1189. William's character is very indistinct. Lacking in military enterprise, secluded and pleasure-loving, he seldom emerged from his palace life at Palermo. Yet his reign is marked by an ambitious foreign policy and a vigorous diplomacy...

 in 1185. Although Corfu and Lefkas remained under Byzantine control, Kefallonia and Zakynthos became the County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos
County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos
The County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos existed from 1185 until 1479, as part of the Kingdom of Sicily.The title and the right to rule the Ionian islands of Cephalonia and Zakynthos was originally given to Margaritus of Brindisi for his services to William II, king of Sicily, in...

 until 1357, when this entity was merged with Lefkada and Ithaki to become the Duchy of Leucadia under French and Italian dukes. Corfu, Paxi and Kythera were taken by the Venetians in 1204, after the dissolution of the Byzantine Empire by the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

. These became important overseas colonies
Stato da Màr
The Stato da Màr or Domini da Màr was the name given to the Republic of Venice's maritime and overseas possessions, including Istria, Dalmatia, Negroponte, the Morea , the Aegean islands of the Duchy of the Archipelago, and the islands of Crete and Cyprus...

 of the Republic and were used as way-stations for their maritime trade with the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

.

Venetian rule

From 1204, the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 controlled Corfu and slowly all the Ionian islands fell under Venetian rule. In the 15th century, the Ottomans
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 conquered most of Greece, but the islands remained Christian thanks to the Venetians. Zakynthos passed permanently to Venice in 1482, Kefallonia and Ithaki in 1483, Lefkada in 1502. Kythera had been Venetian since 1393.

The islands thus became the only part of the Greek-speaking world to escape Ottoman rule, which gave them both a unity and an importance in Greek history they would otherwise not have had. Corfu was the only Greek island never conquered by the Turks.

Under Venetian rule, many of the upper classes spoke Italian (or Venetian in some cases) and converted to Roman Catholicism, but the mass of people remained Greek ethnically, linguistically, and religiously.

In the 18th century, a Greek national independence movement began to emerge, and the free status of the Ionian islands made them the natural base for exiled Greek intellectuals, freedom fighters and foreign sympathisers. The islands became more self-consciously Greek as the 19th century, the century of romantic nationalism, neared.

Napoleonic era


In 1797, however, Napoléon Bonaparte
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 conquered Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, and by the Treaty of Campo Formio
Treaty of Campo Formio
The Treaty of Campo Formio was signed on 18 October 1797 by Napoleon Bonaparte and Count Philipp von Cobenzl as representatives of revolutionary France and the Austrian monarchy...

 the islanders found themselves under French rule, the islands being organised as the départments Mer-Égée
Mer-Égée
Mer-Égée was a one of three short-lived French départements in present Greece. It came into existence after Napoleon's conquest in 1797 of the Republic of Venice, when Venetian Greek possessions such as the Ionian islands fell to the French Directory.It included the islands of Zante , Kythira and...

, Ithaque
Ithaque
Ithaque was one of three short-lived French départements in present Greece. It came into existence after Napoleon's conquest in 1797 of the Republic of Venice, when Venetian possessions such as the Ionian islands fell to the French Directory...

 and Corcyre
Corcyre
Corcyre was one of three short-lived French départements in present Greece. It came into existence after Napoleon's conquest in 1797 of the Republic of Venice, when Venetian possessions such as the Ionian islands fell to the French Directory. It consisted of the island of Kerkyra , and its...

. In 1798, the Russian Admiral Ushakov evicted the French, and established the Septinsular Republic
Septinsular Republic
The Septinsular Republic was an island republic that existed from 1800 to 1807 under nominal Ottoman sovereignty in the Ionian Islands. It was the first time Greeks had been granted even limited self-government since the fall of the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottomans in the...

 under joint Russo-Ottoman protection—the first time Greeks had had even limited self‐government since the fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

 in 1453. However, in 1807, they were ceded again to the French in the Treaty of Tilsit and occupied by the French Empire
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

.

British rule

In 1809, the British defeated the French fleet in Zakynthos (October 2, 1809) captured Kefallonia, Kythera and Zakynthos, and took Lefkada in 1810. The French held out in Kerkyra until 1814. The Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1815)
Treaty of Paris of 1815, was signed on 20 November 1815 following the defeat and second abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte. In February, Napoleon had escaped from his exile on Elba; he entered Paris on 20 March, beginning the Hundred Days of his restored rule. Four days after France's defeat in the...

 in 1815 turned the islands into the "United States of the Ionian Islands
United States of the Ionian Islands
The United States of the Ionian Islands was a state and amical protectorate of the United Kingdom between 1815 and 1864. It was the successor state of the Septinsular Republic...

" under British protection (November 5, 1815). In January 1817, the British granted the islands a new constitution. The islanders elected an Assembly of 40 members, who advised the British High Commissioner. The British greatly improved the islands' communications, and introduced modern education and justice systems. The islanders welcomed most of these reforms, and took up afternoon tea, cricket
Cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 and other English pastimes.

Once Greek independence was established after 1830, however, the islanders began to resent foreign rule and to press for enosis
Enosis
Enosis refers to the movement of the Greek-Cypriot population to incorporate the island of Cyprus into Greece.Similar movements had previously developed in other regions with ethnic Greek majorities such as the Ionian Islands, Crete and the Dodecanese. These regions were eventually incorporated...

- union with Greece. The British statesman William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

 toured the islands and recommended that they be given to Greece. The British government resisted, since like the Venetians they found the islands made useful naval bases. They also regarded the German-born king of Greece, King Otto
Otto of Greece
Otto, Prince of Bavaria, then Othon, King of Greece was made the first modern King of Greece in 1832 under the Convention of London, whereby Greece became a new independent kingdom under the protection of the Great Powers .The second son of the philhellene King Ludwig I of Bavaria, Otto ascended...

, as unfriendly to Britain. However, in 1862, Otto was deposed and a pro-British king, George I
George I of Greece
George I was King of Greece from 1863 to 1913. Originally a Danish prince, George was only 17 years old when he was elected king by the Greek National Assembly, which had deposed the former king Otto. His nomination was both suggested and supported by the Great Powers...

, was installed.

Greek rule

In 1862, Britain decided to transfer the islands to Greece, as a gesture of support intended to bolster the new king's popularity. On May 2, 1864, the British departed and the islands became three provinces of the Kingdom of Greece though Britain retained the use of the port of Corfu. Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark was born in Corfu in 1921 and grew up to become Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

.

World War II

In 1941, when Axis forces occupied Greece, the Ionian Islands (except Kythera) were handed over to the Italians, who in their three years of rule attempted to Italianize
Italianization
Italianization or Italianisation is a term used to describe a process of cultural assimilation in which ethnically non or partially Italian people or territory become Italian. The process can be voluntary or forced...

 the population of Corfu (as has happened with the Corfiot Italians
Corfiot Italians
Corfiot Italians are a population from the Greek island of Corfu with ethnic and linguistic ties to the Republic of Venice. Their name was specifically established by Niccolò Tommaseo during the Italian Risorgimento...

). In 1943, the Germans replaced the Italians, and deported the centuries-old Jewish community of Corfu to their deaths. By 1944, most of the islands were under the control of the EAM/ELAS resistance movement, and they have remained a stronghold of left-wing sentiment ever since.

The 1953 earthquake

The islands were struck by an especially powerful earthquake
Earthquake
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...

, of 7.1 magnitude
Richter magnitude scale
The expression Richter magnitude scale refers to a number of ways to assign a single number to quantify the energy contained in an earthquake....

, on August 12, 1953. Building damage was extensive and the southern islands of Kefalonia and Zakynthos were practically levelled. The islands were reconstructed from the ground up over the following years, under a strict building code. The code has proven extremely effective, as many earthquakes since that time have caused no damage to new buildings.

Today

Today, all the islands are part of the Greek region of the Ionian Islands (Ionioi Nisoi), except Kythera, which is part of the region of Attica. Kerkyra has a population of 113,479 (including Paxoi), Zakynthos 38,680, Kefallonia 39,579 (including Ithaca), Lefkada 22,536, Ithaki 3,052, Kythera 3,000 and Paxi 2,438.

In recent decades, the islands have lost much of their population through emigration and the decline of their traditional industries, fishing and marginal agriculture. Today, their major industry is tourism. Specifically Kerkyra, with its harbour, scenery and wealth of ruins and castles, is a favourite stopping place for cruise liners. British tourists in particular are attracted through having read Gerald Durrell
Gerald Durrell
Gerald "Gerry" Malcolm Durrell, OBE was a naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author and television presenter...

's evocative book My Family and Other Animals
My Family and Other Animals
My Family and Other Animals is an autobiographical work by naturalist Gerald Durrell, telling of the part of his childhood he spent on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. It describes the life of the Durrell Family on the island in a humorous manner, and also richly discusses the fauna...

(1956), which describes his childhood on Kerkyra in the 1930s. The novel and movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Captain Corelli's Mandolin, released simultaneously as Corelli's Mandolin. in the United States, is a 1994 novel written by Louis de Bernières which takes place on the island of Cephallonia during the Italian and German occupation of World War II. The main characters are Antonio Corelli, an...

are set in Kefallonia.

Major communities

  • Argostóli (Αργοστόλι)
    Argostoli
    Argostoli is a town and a former municipality on the island of Kefalonia, Ionian Islands, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Kefalonia, of which it is a municipal unit...

    , in Kefalonia
  • Kérkyra (Κέρκυρα)
    Corfu (city)
    Corfu is a city and a former municipality on the island of Corfu, Ionian Islands, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform, it is part of the municipality Corfu, of which it is a municipal unit. It is the capital of the island and of the Corfu regional unit. The city also serves as a capital...

    , in Corfu
  • Lefkáda (Λευκάδα)
    Lefkada (city)
    Lefkada is a city and a former municipality on the island of Lefkada, Ionian Islands, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Lefkada, of which it is a municipal unit. It is the capital and main town of the island of Lefkada, located in the northern and...

    , in Lefkada
  • Lixouri (Ληξούρι)
    Lixouri
    Lixouri is the main town on the peninsula of Paliki in the island of Kefalonia, one of the Ionian Islands of western Greece. Lixouri is the second largest community in Kefalonia after Argostoli and before Sami and is the capital of the small peninsula...

    , in Kefalonia
  • Zákynthos (Ζάκυνθος)
    Zakynthos (city)
    Zakynthos is a city and a former municipality on the island of Zakynthos, Ionian Islands, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Zakynthos, of which it is a municipal unit. It is the capital of the island of Zakynthos. Apart from the official name Zakynthos,...

    , in Zakynthos
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