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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Discover the Island of Corfu, Myth Through History

Discover the Island of Corfu, Myth Through History

Legend has it that the first to discover the island of Corfu weren’t humans, but mythological beings depicted in Homer’s Odyssey. It’s said that the god of the sea, Poseidon, fell in love with the nymph Korkira, made love with her on the island, and gave birth to the Phaeacean race.

Artifacts on what’s now a Greek island go back as far as the Paleolithic period (30,000 BC to 7,000 BC), and the picturesque 229 square-mile island in the Ionian Sea, as near in places as two miles to the Albanian shoreline, has a history of being ruled by many outside forces. They include the Corinthians, Romans, Byzantine Empire, Venice, and Napoleon’s France.

Facts about Corfu, called Kerkyra in Greece, include:

* In Greek mythology, Odysseus, helped by the Goddess Athena, arrives on Corfu, and is aided by King Alcinous only to have Poseidon turn Odysseus’s desired boat to escape the island into stone

* In Greek mythology, Jason and the Argonauts visit Corfu with the Golden Fleece

* Paleolithic period artifacts, 30,000 BC to 7,000 BC

* Evidence of habitation; Mesolithic, then Neolithic (6,000 BC to 2,500 BC) periods

* Prior to 800 BC, occupied by Illyrians of Albanian descent

* 734 BC Under Corinthian rule

* 664 BC Corfu and Corinth conduct first Greek sea battle

* 500 BC Corfu has second strongest naval fleet in that part of world, next to Athens

* 431 BC Corfu sides with Athens, Corinth with Sparta in Peloponnesian War, won by Sparta

* 40 AD Disciples of Paul, Jason and Sossipatros, introduce Christianity, build first church there

* 229 BC-336 AD Under lax rule of Romans, relatively autonomous Corfu gives Rome access to harbors and becomes vacation home for Roman aristocrats

* 336 AD-1267 Part of Byzantine Empire, yet was raided many times by Goth, Vandal, and Saracen pirates

* 1204 AD-1214 Venice gains ownership as part of Fourth Crusade, but Byzantine Empire soon regains control

* 1402 Venice buys Corfu from Naples, which received ownership as partial bridal dowry; becomes haven for scholars and artists escaping Turkish-controlled Greek mainland

* 1797 Napoleon’s France occupies island, imposes heavy taxes

* 1815 Becomes capital of United States of the Ionian Islands

* 1864 Corfu becomes part of Greece

* World Wars I & II, heavily damaged while fighting on allied side

Now renowned as being one of the most beautiful places on earth, Corfu is the second largest Ionian island, next to Kefallinia, and a tourist destination for many. Its tallest peak, at nearly 3,000 feet, is Mt. Pantokrator, and its fertile soil produces olive oil, currants, figs, wine, and citrus fruit.

Known as Scheria in Homer’s The Odyssey, the island of Corfu is shaped somewhat like a seahorse, is about 40 miles long, and ranges between 2.5 and 17 miles in width.

Those fortunate enough to discover the island of Corfu will find that tourism and agriculture are its biggest sources of revenue.

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