We first hear of the Ionian islands through Herodotus. He refers to them as Scheria and the island of Corfu as Corcyra about 743 BC. The famous warrior and tragic hero Achilles (he who is without lips) is believed to have come from Paxoi island very near by. The name Corfu comes from the Italian corruption of the Byzantine name Korefi meaning peaks from the twin peaks of Corfu town's citadel. Corfu was also known as the Island of the Phaiakes but no direct archeological proof confirms this.
As archeological remains in Aghios Matthaios testify, Corfu was inhabited as early as 70,000 - 40,000 BC.
Colonized first by the Eretrians in 775- 750 BC., and then by the Corinthians, in 734 BC as a trading colony. It prospered so quickly that it soon began to outshine Corinth and entertain its own ideas of independence.
Corinth became upset with Corcyra's new found prosperity and attempted to reassert its dominance resulting in the first ever recorded sea battle between the ancient Greeks, circa 664 BC. It seems the outcome favored the Corcyrians but Corinth wasn't ready to give it up.
The Corcyrians took no part in the Persian Wars which affected the Greek mainland and Aegean islands and consequently seem to have squandered a period of respite. Left to themselves, the islands oligarchs and democrats began feuding for control which resulted in bad blood. The victorious democrats were less than magnanimous and performed atrociously, resulting in an overall weakening of island manpower. The Corfiot democrats naturally felt of kindred spirit with democratic Athens causing them to seek its protection when the next period of Corinthian bronze sword rattling ensued. Athens was, at the time, polarized against Sparta, with whom Corinth was allied, for overall leadership of ancient Greece. This complex pattern of treaties, military alliances, homage, fealty and mutual assistance pledges made the general political and military situation volatile.
The Naval battle off the Sybota islands for Corcyra precipitated the disastrous Peloponnesian War which Athens eventually lost and Corfu fell into the hands of the Spartans. It was then captured by Agathokles, tyrant of Syracuse and then by Pyrrhus, King of Epirus in 281 BC. It was besieged by the Illirains in 229 BC and fell to the Romans the same year.
In 229 BC the Illirian Queen Teuta attacked Corfu. The inhabitants requested the protection of Rome and under the Consul Fluvius successfully defended the island. This inaugurated the Roman occupation.
Loyal to Marc Anthony in the 1st century BC, Agrippa destroyed every civic monument as retaliation. Whatever else can be said of the Romans, they did have the Pax-Romana and offered the island stability and protection from pirates.
The Emperor Octavian assembled his fleet here prior to the Battle of Actium. At various times during the islands Roman occupation, others came as well, including Cato, Cicero and Tibullus. According to Seutonius, in 67 AD, the Emperor Nero made offerings to Zeus at the temple in Kassiopia and later sang and danced before the altar, no mention of his violin is made.
See our Greece hotels for a complete look at accommodations available on this island.
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