Lefkada, or Lefkas, took its name from the white cape at its southeastern
end, Lefkata, which is studded with massive, solid, dazzlingly white rocks.
It is the place where tradition demands that the lyric poet, Sappho, bring an end to her life and to her unfortunate love for the handsome Phaon. According to archaeological research, the first traces of life on the island date to the Neolithic - 8,000 years before the birth of Christ. Important finds close to the area of Nydri bear witness to the existence of a culture which had many similarities to that of Epirus.
The Leleges were the first inhabitants of the island whom the king. Laertes, and the Cephalonians fought against and subsequently conquered, thereby gaining control of the island. According to reliable archaeological evidence from the archaeologist, Dorpfeld, Lefkada shows many indications of being the Homeric Ithaca, the homeland of Odysseus.
Lefkada has made her position known throughout history and never failed to be included in any of the important Greek battles. She was there with her ships and her army in the naval battle of Salamis, at the battle of Plataea, in the Peloponnesian War on the side of the Spartans and during the campaign of Alexander the Great.
In the 3rd century BC, Lefkada defiantly resisted the Romans who wanted to enslave her. During the Byzantine period the island was a part of the domain of Epirus and in 1293 the despot, Nikiforrus IV, gave Lefkada to Ioannis Rossini. Rossini was the creator of the Agia Mavra castle, one of the most significant Frankish castles in Greece.
There followed a long period of Venetian occupation at a time when the rest of Greece was enslaved by the Turks and the continuous conflicts with the Turks resulted in the Ottomans domination of the island from 1503 to 1684.
Lefkada is the only one of the Ionian Islands to have suffered Turkish occupation fro 180 years. In 1684, the island once again came under the control of the Venetians, who gave a rudimentary constitution to the Lefkadians. The liberal ideas of the French Revolution reached Lefkada, which was, for a short while, dominated by the French. In 1810, the island came under British rule and, with the revolution of 1821, the Lefkadians made their presence known in every way possible. Lefkada, like the rest of the Ionian Islands, was annexed to the rest of Greece in 1864, and since then her significant contribution to the development of tourism in recent decades has been growing steadily.
This text (extract) is cited December 2003 from the Lefkada Hoteliers Association tourist pamphlet (1998).
As it appears from excavations, an ancient civilization once existed
W. Derpfeld, who led the excavations, supports the view that Lefkada is the Homeric Ithaca. Homers Niriko is identified with the prehistoric walls discovered on the hill of Aghiou Georgiou in the city of Lefkada. It is likely that Akarnanians resided here prior to the Greeks. Aristotel, in fact, refers to the hero Leleges as a native, and is mentioned in the Televion or Televon tribe. Lefkada existed as a Corinthian colony and the Corinthians greatly contributed to its development and growth. Herodotus called Lefkadians "Nation Doric from Corinth".
490-470 B.C. participated in the Persian Wars.
431-404 B.C. in the Peloponnesian War, initially was in opposition to the Athenians. Later she becomes ally with Sparti and during the Macedonian ascension, against Philip, supports Greek independence.
Hellenistic rule: The island subsides in succession to Kassandros, Agathoklis, Dimitrios the Poliorkitis and to Piros.
197 B.C.: Submission to the Romans.
Byzantine Rule: During the Byzantine Empire Lefkada was enlisted into the Cefalonian issue.
After the temporary abolition of the Byzantine Empire by the crusaders the island is incorporated into the Despotate of Epirus.
1294: Bishop Nikiphoros I grants the island to John Orsini’s daughter as a marriage settlement. In the years following Lefkada lives through a long series of successive rules.
Frankish Rule: 1300-1479
Turkish Rule: 1479-1684
Venetian Rule: 1684-1797
Democratic French Rule: 1797-1798
Russian-Turkish Rule: 1798-1800
The Ionian Islands State: 1800-1807
Autocratic French Rule: 1807-1810
English Protection: 1810-1864
Union with Greece. On the 21st May 1864 Lefkada, with the other Ionian Islands becomes part of the Greek Nation. The long lived history of threats and occupation end here.
This text (extract) is cited December 2003 from the Lefkada Rooms & Apartments Association tourist pamphlet.
Myth and Pre-History
The island possibly took its name from the white (lefko) rocks of Cape Lefkata. Or from some mythical Lefkatas who jumped from the rocks to be saved from his pursuers. Its first inhabitants were the legendary Lelegoi. Finds from excavations at Chirospilia, Asvospilia and Meganisi show signs of life dating back to the Neolithic era. The German archaeologist Dorpfeld has an interesting theory that the Homeric Ithaca is actually in Lefkada, basing this on fragments from the «Odyssey». This is in contrast to famous archaeologist Schliemann who maintained that Homer's Ithaca is the same as the present one.
The ancient world
Colonists from Corinth founded Lefkada in the 6th century BC. They opened the isthmus thereby isolating the island from mainland Greece. The Lefkadites took part in the Persian Wars in the 5th century BC, while they fought on the side of the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War. In the 4th century BC they were subjugated by the Macedonians and took part in Alexander the Great's campaign against the Persians. They were taken over by the Romans at the beginning of the 2nd century BC and, after the Battle of Aktion where Octavius destroyed the fleets of Anthony and Cleopatra, the island became deserted.
During this period, Lefkada successively came under the Byzantine Administration («thema») of Kefalonia and the Bishopric of Epirus. In 1294 the Bishop of Epirus, Nikiforos I, gave it to the Orsini family The Orsinis built the castle of Agia Maura and ruled the island until 1331. Since then, and up until it was conquered by the Venetians, it passed successively under the domination of the Franks, the Florentines and the Turks.
The island was taken by Francisco Morozini in 1684. Between then and 1797 it remained under the dominance of Venice. During that time the island experienced important economic and cultural growth.
The French and the Ionian State
Between 1797 and 1810 Lefkada passed from the domination of the Venetians to the democratic French, and then came under the united Russo-Turkish fleet, constituting a section of the Ionian State. Then again to the imperial French until 1810 when it came under the British. The island made an important contribution to the struggle for the liberation of Greece from the Turks in 1821. The British remained on the island until 1864, when it was united with Greece, together with the other Ionian islands.
Incorporation and more recent times
On the 21st of May 1864 the British formally proceeded with ceding the Ionian Islands to Greece. It was only a short while after the enthronement of the Danish prince as George I of Greece, who had been favored by British politicians in Athens. The act was largely the result of the intense pressure exercised by the people Already, during the British period, a movement aiming towards union had evolved in Kefalonia, whose main exponent was the Radical party. This had been preceded by free elections on the islands in 1850 and the parliament formed had declared with its vote the will of the people for union of the Ionian Islands with mainland Greece. Between the 15/27th of February 1862 the Kefalonian Radical Elias Iakovatos was unanimously elected as head of the Ionian parliament. On April 7th of 1864 the Greek representative Theofilos Zaimis arrived in Corfu and the British Commissioner handed authority over to him.
This text is cited December 2004 from the Ionian Islands Region General Secretariat URL below
The following took part in the war: The Leucadians, who are Dorians from Corinth, with three ships.
Receive our daily Newsletter with all the latest updates on the Greek Travel industry.Subscribe now!