Corfu Town

Εικόνα1The Old Town of Corfu, on the Island of Corfu off the western coasts of Albania and Greece, is located in a strategic position at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea, and has its roots in the 8th century BC. The three forts of the town, designed by renowned Venetian engineers, were used for four centuries to defend the maritime trading interests of the Republic of Venice against the Ottoman Empire. In the course of time, the forts were repaired and partly rebuilt several times,Read More...

more recently under British rule in the 19th century. The mainly neoclassical housing stock of the Old Town is partly from the Venetian period, partly of later construction, notably the 19th century. As a fortified Mediterranean port, Corfu’s urban and port ensemble is notable for its high level of integrity and authenticity.


Εικόνα3The stunning appearance of this stately palace takes the visitor back in history to when the palace was inhabited by two great figures from European history whose only common bond was their adoration for Corfu, Greece and its culture, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (known as ‘Sissi’) and Kaiser William II of Germany


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mythologyAt the end of the Trojan War, Ulysses or Odysseus, king of Ithaca (Ithaki), another Ionian island facing Cefallonia, wanted to get back to his home land and especially his faithful wife, Penelope. So he took his fleet and his companions of war and started his trip back to Ithaca. On his way he met a Cyclop, son of Poseidon, god of the sea. They fought and Odysseus broke the eye of the cyclop who became blind! Poseidon wanted to take revenge on his son and decided to punish Ulysses by all means. He leaded him to the sirens, to the island of Calypso, to the Cyclops etc… But Ulysses was clever and always found a way to save himself and his companions. Poseidon then decided to finish with him and made his ship sink. As Odysseus tells us in the epic poem of Homer, the Odyssey, he was saved once more and found himself on a beach, some where in the Mediterranean. A stream was running along that beach and there were some young women washing their laundry and having fun! As soon as they realized that a foreign man, naked was lying there unconscious, they all ran away except for a beautiful young lady. She was Princess Naussica, daughter of king Alkinoos, the king of the Pheacians, a mythical population who must have lived on this island during the period when the Trojan war took place (The Iliad and the Odyssey) in the 12th and 13th centuries B.C. According to the scholars of the 19th century, Corfu is Scheria, the land of the Phaeacians. The mythical founder of that dynasty is PHEAKAS, son of the nymph Corcyra and Poseidon, god of the sea.


The history of Corfu starts in the 8th century B.C. when taken by the “fever” of colonization ,the great city-states of Ancient Greece wanted to make new colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily(the so-called MAGNA GRAECIA).



    • Around 750 B.C. the Eritreans stopped on this island for few years.
    • In 734 B.C. the Corinthians, who were the first naval power in Ancient Greece at the time, replaced the Eritreans and founded the ancient city of Corcyra which ruins could be seen on the peninsula of Kanoni, close to the actual Corfu town.

Corcyra, in the ancient times with the Doric accent, became Kerkyra in modern times. In Greek, it is today the name of both main town and the whole island.

    • The colony had always a bad relationship with its Metropolis, Corinth. In 664 B.C. took place the first naval battle in Greece between both of them. At the end Corcyra was taken under the rule of Periander, a Corinthian tyrant, who together with his vassals founded two colonies in the actual Albania: Apollonia and Anactorium.

Corcyra got rid of its tyrant and dedicated it self to mercantile policy.

  • During the Persian invasion of Greece in 480 B.C.Corfu manned the second greater fleet with 60 ships but took no active role in the conflict.
  • In 435 B.C. a new quarrel took place between Corcyra and Corinth during which Corcyra sought assistance from Athens (battle of SIVOTA). That was one of the main causes of the Peloponnesian war!
  • During the Peloponnesian war, Corcyra became a naval station for Athens but its fleet did not give assistance to their allies. Also the oligarchic faction on the island made two failed attempts to affect a revolution against the polular party, who won each time (427 and 425 B.C.) and bloody revenge was taken against the oligarchic.
  • During the Sicilian campaigns of Athens Corcyra served as a supply base.
  • In 410 B.C. Corcyra faced another abortive rising of the oligarchs, after which it withdrew from the war.
  • In 375 B.C. Corcyra joined once more the Athenian alliance. Two years later it was besieged by the Lacedeamonian force and held out successfully until relieved.
  • In the Hellenistic period, Corcyra was always exposed to attacks from all sides. In 303 B.C. it resisted to the vain siege of Cassander. Then was occupied for a short time by general Cleonymos and was freed. Furthermore it was conquered by Agathocles, who gave it as a dowry to his daughter Lanassa on her marriage to Pyrrhus, king of EPIRUS .The island became a member of the Epirotic alliance. It seems that Cassiope (Kassiopi, N-E of Corfu) was founded at that time to serve as a base for Pyrrhus’ expeditions. Corcyra remained in the Epirotic alliance until 255 B.C. at the death of Alexander, last king of Epirus.
  • It subsequently fell into the hands of Illyrian corsairs.
  • In 229 B.C. Corfu was occupied by the Romans and became one of the Roman provinces, a free state and naval station. One could find, from that period and on, ruins of the roman agora and also roman baths with beautiful mosaic just at the entrance of Kanoni peninsula. On a part of the Agora was built during the 5th century A.D. the Early Christian basilica dedicated to St Kerkyra. From 5 naves’ basilica, it became a 3 naves’ one and finally got only one nave like most of churches on Corfu .It was still in use till the middle of the 19th century.
  • In 31 B.C.Corcyra served Octavian as a base against Mark Anthony .The foundation of Nicopolis, close to Actium, forced the light of Kerkyra to fade.
  • After the decree of Theodosius the Great(392-393 A.D.),the Roman empire became Christian and paganism was abolished .The Empire was divided in to two small empires: one was the Western Roman Empire and the other one was the Eastern Roman Empire, called later on by the historians Byzantine Empire or Byzantium (after a little town close to the new capital of the whole Empire, Constantinople). Corfu became a part of the Eastern Roman Empire and that is why we call that period on Corfu, Byzantine period.
  • People actually lived in that ancient town (today PALEOPOLIS) from 734 B.C. until at least the 6th century A.D., after the Gothic invasion. After the looting and the burning of their town, the remaining inhabitants decided to leave their ancient town Corcyra and find a better situation for their new town. They have chosen further to the North another peninsula, more rocky where they could protect themselves against any other foreign invasion. It consists of two hills where they founded their new town called CORIFO (from the word CORIFES which means peeks). This is the place where the so-called Old Fortress (Palaio Frourio) lies today. Later on, the Venetians transformed that name into CORFU which is today the name given by foreigners to both island and main town.
  • On a period of 70 years, Kerkyra will be attacked several times by the Norman kingdom of Sicily (1081-1085 by Robert Guiscard and 1147-1154 by Roger II of Sicily).
  • In 1197 until 1207 it was occupied by the Genoese privateers, who where later be expelled by the Venetians.
  • 1214-1259 it became a part of the Greek Despotate of Epirus.
  • In 1267 it became the possession of the Neapolitan house of Anjou. During the weak rule of the Anjou house Kerkyra will be attacked many times by various adventurers, including a short moment under Roma Fiefdom.
  • In 1386, Kerkyra placed itself under the protection of Venice which in 1401 acquired formal sovereignty over it.
  • Kerkyra remained under the dominion of the Venetians from 1401 until 1797.
  • Starting 1431, after conquering Epirus and Macedonia, Ali Bey with his Turkish troops attacked Kerkyra, but was repulsed by the Venetians.
  • In 1537(12 days of vain siege), 1571, 1573 and finally in 1716(22 days of siege), the Ottoman Turks attempted to get Kerkyra, but were always repulsed by the Venetians and the inhabitants of the island. The causes of their failure where: their poor logistics and epidemic, that decimated their ranks and also the great military genius of the Venetians and the sacrifice of the Corfiotes to protect their island and last is the network of fortresses of great engineering skills, displayed all around the island: Angelokastro, Kassiopi, Gardiki, the renovated Old fortress, the building of the so-called New fortress (fortress of St Mark) and others. Kerkyra was considered as the last free bastion standing against the Ottoman tide in Southern Balkans after the fall of Constantinople and the only part of Greece never conquered by the Ottoman Turks! Unfortunately, today this fact is relatively unknown or ignored!
  • By the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, Corfu was ceded to the Republican French, who stayed only two years.
  • In 1799, Russia and Turkey, although they were enemies but now facing a common enemy, Napoleon , constituted a common fleet lead by Admiral USHAKOV and attacked the French in Corfu.
  • The Russians became protectors and used to pay taxes of suzerainty to the Ottoman Turks. With the help of the Russians a new “independent “state was founded in the Ionian Islands: The federation of Heptanesos. Corfu became its capital with the parliament, senate, etc…
  • In 1807, after the Treaty of Tilsit, the French Imperial administration got back the Ionian Islands. In 1809, the British fleet attacked them on Corfu after having taken all the other Ionian Islands.
  • By the Treaty of Paris, November 5th 1815, the Ionian Islands became a protectorate of the United Kingdom as the United States of the Ionian Islands and Corfu became the seat of the British High Commissioners (governors). They were autocrats and in spite of the retention of the native senate and assembly, they had a strict method of government, which improved very much the material prosperity of the island but displeased the natives.
  • On the 28th of May 1864, by the Treaty of London signed by The United Kingdom, Greece, France and Russia, the Ionian Islands were united to the rest of Greece (Enosis).
  • During the First World War, the Serbian army whose homeland was occupied by Austrians and Bulgarians retreated on French force ships and took refuge on Corfu. Unfortunately, many Serbian soldiers died from exhaustion, food shortage and diseases. Most of their remains were buried in the waters around Vido Island, a small island facing Corfu Town, where later on they erected a monument to thank the Greek people for their hospitality.
  • During the Greco-Italian war, the 10th infantry regiment, consisting mainly of Corfiot soldiers, had the task of defending Corfu. During the operation Latzides, their heroic attempt to stem the Italian forces was unsuccessful. Greece surrendered to the AXIS. The result was that, since April 1941 until September 1943, the Italians occupied and ruled the Ionian Islands as a separate entity from Greece and as a part of the Kingdom of Italy.
  • On the 1st Sunday of November 1941, the High school students all over Corfu protested against the Italian Occupation. It was the first act of popular Resistance in occupied Greece and a rare phenomenon even by wartime European standards. A great number of Corfiots escaped to the mainland, in Epirus and joined the Resistance in both ELAS and EDES.
  • On the 14th September 1943, after fascism fell in Italy, the Nazis wanted to take control of Corfu and bombarded the island. They destroyed homes, churches, monuments such as the Ionian parliament, the Municipal Theatre ,the Municipal Library ,etc…and whole city blocks especially the Jewish quarter, EVRAIKI.
  • The Italians capitulated and the Germans occupied Corfu. At that time, the mayor of Corfu, who was a German collaborator, executed the anti-semitic laws passed by the Nazis.
  • In early June 1944, while the Allies bombed Corfu as a diversion from the Normandy landings, the Gestapo rounded up the Jews of the city and temporarily incarcerated them in the old fortress. On the 10th of June they sent them to Auschwitz where very few survived. Out of a population of 1900, two hundred came back and were helped by many locals, who gave them shelter and refuge. Today there are only 60 members of the Jewish community living in the city as a part of the Corfiot population. They have an active Synagogue.
  • On 14 October 1944 Corfu was liberated by the 40th British Royal Marine Commando while the Germans were evacuating Greece.
  • During 1944 and 1945 the British swept the Corfu Channel for mines and found it free.
  • Shortly after, the newly-communist popular republic of Albania laid a large minefield in the Corfu Channel which led to the Corfu Channel Case, case opened by the United Kingdom against Albania at the International Court of Justice.
  • After the end of the war, between 1945 and 1949 Corfu as well as all Greece was shook by the Civil war, dark page of the contemporary history of this country!
  • After the Civil War, Corfu was rebuilt under the general program of reconstruction of the Greek Government while saving many elements of its classical architecture. Although economy grew, many inhabitants left their island seeking for better life else where in Greece and abroad.
  • In 1956, was elected the first woman mayor in Greece as Mayor of Corfu, Maria Desylla Capodistria, relative of the first governor of Greece, Ioannis Capodistrias.Corfu Hospital was constructed and in the 1950s, electricity was introduced to the villages and in 1957 was inaugurated the substation of the Hellenic Radio in Corfu. In the 1960s, television was introduced and Internet connections started in 1995. In 1984, the Ionian University was established.
  • Corfu is a part of Greece and Greece is a part of EUROPE. It is one of the first countries to join the EUROPEAN COMMUNITY since 1986.
  • In June 1994, took place the European Summit in Corfu. To prepare the island for that great event, Corfu received subsidies from both the European Community and the Greek government to restore and renovate the historical centre of Corfu town, important monuments as parts of the Old and the New Forts, the Palace of St Michael and St George (ASIAN ART MUSEUM), the Municipal Archives and Library in the Old Fortress, the Achillion Palace (Sissy’s Palace) etc…
  • In 2002 Greece joined the common currency zone and since then the DRACHMA was replaced by the EURO.
  • In April 2007, Corfu Old Town (Historical centre) joined the World Heritage of the UNESCO, thanks to the architectural style of that town which is the Venetian style.

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One Comment


    Kόρκυρα: (Δωρική διάλεκτος) κόρη του Aσωπού ποταμού την οποία αγάπησε ο Ποσειδώνας, την έκλεψε και την έφερε σ’ αυτό εδώ το νησί δίνοντας του το όνομά της.

    Φαίακας: γιος του Ποσειδώνα και της Kόρκυρας από τον οποίο προέρχεται η ονομασία “το νησί των Φαιάκων”.

    Άρπη-Δρεπάνη: δρεπάνι. Oνομασίες της Kέρκυρας λόγω του σχήματος της.

    Σχερία: 1. Oμηρικό νησί το οποίο κατοίκησαν οι Φαίακες, που κατάγονταν από το γόνο του Ποσειδώνα Nαυσίθοο, όταν εγκατέλειψαν την προηγούμενη πατρίδα τους την Yπερεία: 2. α) εν σχερω= ο αέναος, συνεχής, ατέλειωτος χρόνος β) σχερός= ακτή, αιγιαλός (σχειν, έχω). Σύμφωνα μ’ αυτά Σχερία είναι η συνεχής παραλία, η εκτεταμένη ακτή.

    Corfu: 1. η οχυρωμένη, ανάμεσα σε δύο λόφους-κορυφές, πόλη που δημιούργησαν οι κάτοικοι για να προφυλαχθούν από τις επιδρομές. Πρόκειται για το σημερινό “παλαιό φρούριο” γνωστό τότε ως πόλη των Kορυφών.
    2.“Kόρφο” ονόμασαν οι Φράγκοι τον κόλπο και την πόλη της Kέρκυρας ως παραφθορά του λατινικού Golfo.

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