Corfu: A Brief History

“……after the emperor Napoleon’s defeat in 1815 it became a British protectorate and so began 50 years of British rule which saw significant development of the city and the island’s infrastructure, including the prison, roads and the mains water and sewage system in Corfu Town.”

A brief history of Corfu

Legend has it that the island was Scheria or Drepani, home of the Phaeacians – Alkinoos’s people – in Homer’s “Odyssey”. Early settlers from Euboea on the mainland were displaced in about 735BC by a colony from Corinth. These people were very independent and would not obey the rulers of Corinth and around 664BC the first naval battle in Greek history took place just off the Corfu coast. As a result the colony was eventually punished and heavily reduced by the Corinthian tyrant Periander.

Over the next century or so the colony regained its independence and fought hard to become a commercial centre, benefiting from its geographical location. In 435 the island’s government asked Athens to assist in a quarrel with Corinth. This request was granted, and was one of the contributory factors leading to the Peloponnesian War (431-404BC).

Corfu ended its involvement in the war in 410BC, but a further alliance with Athens in 375 caused more hostilities.

After a short period of relative stability the island changed hands many times during the 3rd century BC. In 229BC, Corfu sought help from Rome in sorting out the difficult situation in the Aegean and voluntarily became part of the Roman Empire.

The Romans recognised Corfu’s naval significance and retained the island as a free state. They established an Aristocracy and there are several sites with Roman remains including the castle at Kassiopi. In 31BC Octavian (later to become the emperor Augustus) used it as his naval base against Mark Anthony and founded a new town at Nicopolis on the mainland. Augustus decreed that the population relocate to the new town and so began a period of decline for Corfu.

World UNESCO Heritage Site:
Old Corfu Town

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Old Corfu Town: World UNESCO Heritage Site

Corfu in Pictures