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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
Situated at the extreme NW boundary of Greece, the site has often
been identified because of its peripheral position with the fabled Scheria, according
to the Homeric account, seat of the Phaiakian people (Thuc. 1.25). It was originally
inhabited by Illyrian and Apulian populations, until in 734 B.C. it was occupied
by Corinthian colonists under Archias or Chersikrates, both of the Bacchiadai
family. They settled on the E coast and called their city Kerkyra or Korkyra from
a corruption of Gorgon, the demon routed by the Corinthian hero Bellerophon. The
pre-Corinthian name would have been Drepane. Conflicts with the mother country
began soon. In 664 B.C. the revolt of Kerkyra provoked the fall at Corinth of
the Bacchiadai and the ascent of the Kypselids; in 435-431 there were new encounters
occasioned by the war of Epidamnos which brought democracy to power in 425 B.C.
Kerkyra participated in the Peloponnesian War as an ally of Athens, and at the
beginning of the 4th c. fell under the hegemony of Sparta. It later joined the
second Athenian confederation in 373 B.C.; became the prey of Agathokles in 300
B.C.; and finally passed to Epeiros. From 229 B.C. it was under the protection
of the Romans and served them principally as a naval base.
The earliest traces of human settlement are found in the NW zone of
the island. At Sidari and on the small island of Diaplo these go back to the Mesolithic
period and to the first Neolithic age (VI millennium), and show notable similarity
to the Campanian culture in Italy; while in the same places there are Bronze Age
strata that appear, instead, different from the corresponding Italic facies. At
Aphiona an Early Neolithic deposit has been found from the late III--early II
millennia with two types of pottery. One is coarse and red; the other is finer
and brown with black paint and incised decorations of the geometric type, classified
as Molfetta and belonging to the Apulian pottery type. The site has been located
at a village of the Middle and Late Bronze Age (II millennium) excavated at Kapo
Kephali or instead, farther to the S in the zone where, on the hill of Ermones,
500 m from the sea, there has recently been discovered another prehistoric habitation
with fragments of clay slabs that must have served as roofs for mud huts.
The city founded by the Corinthian colonists rose a little to the
S of the modern capital of the island, on the rocky peninsula of Palaiopolis that
projects between the sea and a lagoon. The acropolis was situated on the height
of Analipsis. Here Euboian settlers had already made a way place on the road to
the W. The peninsula narrows to the N into an isthmus barred by walls of Hellenistic
age. At opposite ends are the two ancient ports. That on the W, on the lagoon,
is perhaps the older naval port called the Hyllaiko; while that to the N was connected
with the name of Alkinoos. The inhabited area was between the two ports, but very
few remains of the civil buildings survive. Two gates from the city walls have
been identified, constructed of marble and poros blocks, and partly incorporated
in the Venetian fortifications. A third port was perhaps dug out farther N, in
an inlet near the oldest Venetian fort. In the Monrepos park, on the seaward side
of the Analipsis height, remains of a sanctuary have been found, and recent excavations
permit a reconstruction of its history. At the beginning of the Corinthian colonization
at the end of the 8th c. B.C. there arose a large sanctuary probably dedicated
to a divinity protective of Kekyra and the other cities of W Greece. A century
later, at the end of the 7th, the sanctuary was closed by a peribolos, and a large
temple was built with columns and part of the superstructure in local limestone.
The roof was in terracotta, richly decorated with gutters in the form of leonine
protoma and gorgoneia vividly painted, analogous to those of Thermos and Kalydon.
At the end of the 6th c. other cults were established around the temple to the
great divinity. That of Apollo had a hypaethral enclosure with an altar, and Aphrodite
and Hermes were remembered by two small temples, parts of whose terracotta roofs
remain. Evidence of the cults lasts until the end of the 5th c. when a fire destroyed
the sanctuary. At the beginning of the 4th c. a new temple in limestone with a
marble roof arose on the ruins of the archaic temple. New building activity took
place in the 3d c. Still at Monrepos, near the Kardaki spring, are the remains
of a temple discovered in 1822. This is a Doric building of singular construction,
dating to about 510 B.C., and perhaps dedicated to Apollo (Timaios). The cella,
in crude bricks, was circled by a peristasis of 6 by 11 monolithic columns, amply
and uniformly spaced. The entablature bore no frieze with triglyphs, although
it had an architrave crowned with ovoli, cornice, and kyma. These elements bring
to mind Ionic influence similar to that which is encountered in some architectonic
forms, the so-called achaian of S Italy. Several fragments of a Nike in terracotta
belong to the acroterion of the temple. Not far from the temple a deposit of clay
figurines, coins, tiles, and inscribed fragments from the middle of the 6th c.
has been found. The same formal characteristics may be recognized in the temple
at Kardaki as in the most prestigious monument of Kerkyra, the Sanctuary of Artemis,
discovered near the Monastery of St. Theodore in the region of the Garitza. In
the sacred area, enclosed by a peribolos wall, rose the stone temple measuring
ca. 47.9 x 22.4 m, with 8 by 17 columns. It is the most archaic pseudoperipteral
Doric temple, datable to about 585 B.C. The cella was very narrow and divided
into three naves by two rows of columns. The original gutter was in terracotta,
replaced during the second half of the 6th c. by marble elements. The importance
of this temple is above all centered on the decoration of the tympanum, where
for the first time there appears in that position a mythical representation, although
the thematic unity which later becomes the norm is lacking. On the 21 slabs in
poros stone of the W pediment (of which 12 remain), a gigantic Gorgon was shown
at the center in high relief. Her function was clearly to keep away malign influence,
and she was flanked by her two offspring, Chrysaor and Pegasos, between two panthers.
On the sides there were two groups: to the left Priam being killed by Neoptolemos,
and to the right Zeus battling a giant, while a fallen warrior filled the corner
of the pediment. An analogous scene, but of uncertain identification because of
the meager remains, occupied the E pediment. The figures are carved according
to the archaic scheme, through parallel planes, in the ornate taste common to
all orientalizing production. These are in the Corinthian tradition, but show
strong Doric influence. Also preserved are several fragments of a frieze from
a metope with Achilles and Memnon. Before the temple, and joined to it by a ramp,
rose the altar (25.4 x 2.7 m), decorated with a frieze, metopes, and trygliphs.
In the Palaiopolis zone, before the entrance of Monrepos park, is
the Church of Haghia Kerkyra. It is a large Early Christian basilica with five
aisles, double narthex, and transept. On the mosaic pavement is inscribed an epigram
of Archbishop Govianus from the middle of the 5th c. A.D. Soundings made under
the pavement have brought to light the remains of an apsidal building, a Hellenistic
bouleuterion or ecclesiasterion. Below that level have been found sherds ranging
from the pre-Corinthian and Geometric periods up until the end of the 4th c.,
fragments of sculpture from the middle of the 5th c., and remnants of a foundation
wall from the 8th c. Leaning against the N side of the basilica is a small building
constructed of reused material from the 5th c. B.C. To the W, near the apse, is
another small building with a mosaic pavement a meter higher than the floor-level
of the basilica. It was probably constructed after the period of Vandal destruction
in the 6th c. A.D. The basilica arose on the site of the ancient city, which also
included Hellenistic habitations in the neighborhood, and on which a Roman bath
was built in A.D. 100. Between the basilica and the point of Kanoni, at the extreme
SW of the peninsula, a house has been discovered that preserves traces of two
building periods; that is, of the 4th c. B.C. and of the Middle Helladic age.
The recovery at Kanoni of a deposit of terracottas ranging in date from the 8th
to the 5th, with the figure of Artemis, leads to the supposition that here was
another sanctuary dedicated to that deity. A little farther to the N, near the
cloister of Panaghia Kassiopitra, there remain traces of a temple of the 6th c.
B.C., possibly to Poseidon. The ancient necropolis is near the region of the Garitza,
to the N and NW of the city. Among the more notable monuments is that of Xenvares,
which is formed of a Doric column with a capital of the so-called Achaian type
(see the capitals of Paestum), datable to the middle of the 6th c. B.C. by reason
of a dedicatory inscription; and the cenotaph of Menekrates on a round base, that
bears a metric inscription in Corinthian characters, of ca. 600 B.C. Next to it
has been found a life-size statue of a lion in limestone on a quadrangular base,
stylistically and chronologically close to the felines on the pediment of the
Temple of Artemis. Its immediate precedent is represented by the plastic lions
of the pre-Corinthian aryballoi from the middle of the 7th c. Recent excavations
have turned up numerous fragments of archaic ceramics.
The monumental sculpture and the other finds from the pre-Christian
era are in the archaeological museum of the modern city.
L. Vlad Borrelli, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Perseus Project index
Corcyra, Corfu, Korkyra, Scheria
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Corcyra (Kerknra, Herod., Thuc.; Korkura, Strab. and later writers,
and always on coins: Eth. Kerkur,--nros,, Alcman. ap. Etym. M.; usually Korkuraios,
Korkuraios, Corcyraeus: Corfu), an island in the Ionian sea, opposite the coast
of Chaonia in Epeirus. The channel, by which it is separated from the mainland,
is narrowest at its northern entrance, being only about 2 miles in width; it then
expands into an open gulf between the two coasts, being in some places 14 miles
across; but S. of the promontory Leucimme it again contracts into a breadth of
4 or 5 miles. The length of the island from N. to S. is about 38 miles. Its breadth
is very irregular; in the northern part of the island it is 20 miles; it then
becomes only 6 miles; widens again near the city of Corcyra to about 11 miles;
south of which it contracts again to about 3 or 4 miles, terminating in a high
narrow cape. The island contains 227 square miles.
Four promontories are mentioned by the ancient writers: 1. Cassiope
(Kassiope, Ptol. iii. 14. § 11; C. St. Catherine), the NE. point of the island.
2. Phalacrum (Phalakron, Strab. vii. p. 324; Ptol. l. c.; Plin. iv. 12.
s. 19; C. Drasti), the NW. point. 3. Leucimme or Leucimna (Leukimme, Thuc.
i. 30, 47; Leukimma, Strab. vii. p. 324; Ptol., Plin. ll. cc.: C. Lefkimo), a
low sandy point on the E. coast, about 6 or 7 miles from the southern extremity
of the island. 4. Amphipagus (Amphipagos, Ptol. l.c.: C. Bianco), the southern
extremity of the island.
Corcyra is generally mountainous. The loftiest mountains are in the
northern part of the island, extending across the island from E. to W.: the highest
summit, which is now called Pandokratora by the Greeks, and San Salvatore by the
Italians, is between 3000 and 4000 feet above the sea, and is covered with luxuriant
groves of olive, cypress, and ilex. From these mountains there runs a lower ridge
from N. to S., extending as far as the southern extremity of the island. The position
of Mt. Istone (Istone), where the nobles entrenched themselves during the civil
dissensions of Corcyra, is uncertain. (Thuc. iii. 85, iv. 46; Polyaen. Strat.
vi. 20; Steph. B. s. v.) It was evidently at no great distance from the city;
but it could hardly have been the summit of San Salvatore as some writers suppose,
since the nobles, after their fortress on Mt. Istone had been captured, took refuge
on higher ground. (Thuc. iv. 46.) Istone has been identified by Cramer and others
with the hill mentioned by Xenophon (Hell. vi. 2. § 7) as distant only 5 stadia
from the city; but this is purely conjectural. The only other ancient name of
any of the mountains of Corcyra, which has been preserved, is Meliteium (Meliteion,
Apoll. Rhod. iv. 1150, with Schol.); but as to its position we have no clue whatsoever.
Corcyra was celebrated for its fertility in antiquity, and was diligently
cultivated by its inhabitants. Xenophon (Hell. vi. 2. § 6) describes it as exeirgasmenen
men pankalos kai pephuteumenen; and one of the later Roman poets celebrates it
as Corcyra compta solum, locupleti Corcyra sulco. (Avien. Descr. Orb. 663.) These
praises are not undeserved; for modern writers celebrate the luxuriance and fertility
of its numerous vallies. The chief production of the island now is oil, of which
large quantities are exported. It also produces wine, which, though not so celebrated
as in antiquity (Athen. i. p. 33, b.; Xen. l. c.), is still used in the town of
Corfu and in the adjacent islands.
The most ancient name of the island is said to have been Drepane (Drepane),
apparently from its [p. 670] resemblance in shape to a scythe. (Apoll. Rhod. iv.
983, with Schol.; Callimach. ap. Plin. iv. 12. s. 19.) It is further said that
its next name was Scheria (Scherie), which Homer describes as a fertile and lovely
island, inhabited by the Phaeacians, an enterprizing seafaring people, the subjects
of king Alcinous. (Od. v. 34, seq.) Although the Corcyraeans identified their
island with the Homeric Scheria, and prided themselves upon the nautical fame
of their Phaeacian ancestors (Thuc. i. 25), yet it is very doubtful whether the
Homeric Scheria ought to be regarded as an island, which ever had any real existence.
It is not unlikely that the Phaeacians are only a creation of the poet, to whom
he assigns a place in the far distant West, the scene of so many marvels in the
Odyssey. (Comp. Welcker, Ueber die Homerischen Phaeaken, in Rheinisches Museum,
vol. i. pp. 219--283.)
The first historical fact recorded respecting Corcyra is its colonization
by the Corinthians; for we may pass over the earlier Eretrian colony, which rests
upon the authority of Plutarch alone. (Quaest. Graec. c. 11.) Archias, the founder
of Syracuse, is said to have touched at Corcyra on his way to Sicily, and to have
left behind him Chersicrates, one of the Heraclidae, who expelled the Liburnians,
then inhabiting the island, and built the city of Corcyra, which he peopled with
Corinthian settlers. (Strab. vi. p. 269; Timaeus, ap. Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. iv.
1216.) This event we may place in B.C. 734, the date usually assigned to the foundation
of Syracuse. Corcyra rapidly rose to be one of the first maritime powers in Greece.
We are told that it was at variance with the mother country almost from the very
time of its foundation (Herod. iii. 49), which was no doubt owing to its being
the commercial rival of Corinth in the western seas of Greece. The dissensions
between the two states broke out into open hostilities as early as B.C. 665, when
a naval engagement took place between them, which is mentioned by Thucydides as
the first sea-fight on record. (Thuc. i. 13.) In B.C. 617 the Corcyraeans founded
Epidamnus on the Illyrian coast; but notwithstanding their hostility to the mother
country, they so far complied with Grecian usages as to choose a Corinthian as
the Oekist or founder of the new colony. (Thuc. i. 24.) Periander, who ruled at
Corinth from B.C. 625 to 585, reduced Corcyra to subjection in the course of his
reign; but of the details of its subjugation we have no account. Herodotus tells
an interesting story of the murder of Lycophron, the son of Periander, by the
Corcyraeans, and of the cruel way in which Periander attempted to take revenge.
(Herod. iii. 49, seq.) It was during the time that Corcyra was subject to Periander,
that Apollonia and Anactorium were founded by the two states conjointly.
After the death of Periander the Corcyraeans seem to have recovered
their independence; but in the Persian wars they made use of it in a manner little
creditable to their Hellenic patriotism. Having promised their aid to the confederate
Greeks, they sent a fleet of 60 ships, but with orders to advance no further than
the promontory of Taenarus, there to await the issue of the struggle between the
Persians and the Greeks, and to join the victorious party. (Herod. vii. 168.)
Of their subsequent history till the time of the Peloponnesian war, we know nothing.
Having quarrelled with the Corinthians respecting Epidamnus, a war ensued between
the states, which was one of the immediate causes of the Peloponnesian war. As
the history of this quarrel and of the war which followed is related at length
in all histories of Greece, it is only necessary in this place to mention the
leading events, and such as chiefly serve to illustrate the geography of Corcyra.
The first fleet, which the Corinthians sent against the Corcyraeans,
was completely defeated by the latter off Cape Actium, B.C. 435. (Thuc. i. 29.)
Deeply humbled by this defeat, the Corinthians spent two whole years in preparations
for retrieving it; and by active exertions among their allies, they were in a
condition in the third year to put to sea with a fleet of 150 sail. The Corcyraeans,
unable to cope single-handed with so formidable an armament, applied for aid to
the Athenians, who concluded a defensive alliance with them, fearing lest their
powerful navy should fall into the hands of the Peloponnesians. Soon afterwards
the war was renewed. The Corinthian fleet of 150 ships took up its station at
Cape Cheimerium on the coast of Epeirus, a little south of Corcyra. The Corcyraean
fleet of 110 sail, together with 10 Athenian ships, were posted at one of the
islands called Sybota (Subota), now Syvota, which lie off the coast of Epeirus
to the north of Cape Cheimerium, and opposite the coast of Corcyra, between Capes
Leucimme and Amphipagos. Their land force was stationed at Leucimme. The engagement
took place in the open sea between Cape Cheimerium and the Sybota; the Corcyraeans
were defeated; and the Corinthians were preparing to renew the attack in the afternoon,
but were deterred by the arrival of a fresh Athenian squadron, and sailed away
home. (Thuc. i. 44, seq.) Each party claimed the victory. The Corinthians erected
their trophy at the continental Sybota (en tois en tei epeiroi Subotois), and
the Corcyraeans set up theirs at the insular Sybota (en tois en tei nesoi Subotois,
Thuc. i. 54). We learn from Col. Leake that there is a sheltered bay between the
two principal islands, called Syvota, and another between the inner island and
the main. The continental Sybota was probably the name of a village on the inner
strait. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iii. pp. 2, 3.) Shortly afterwards the island
was distracted by civil dissensions between the aristocratical and democratical
parties, in which the latter finally gained the upper hand, and massacred all
their opponents with the most frightful atrocities, B.C. 425. (Thuc. iv. 46-48.)
Corcyra remained in the Athenian alliance till the close of the Peloponnesian
war. It was the place of rendezvous for the fleet of the Athenians and their allies,
which was destined to invade Sicily, B.C. 415. (Thuc. vi. 42.) Whether Corcyra
was enrolled a member of the Spartan confederacy after the downfall of Athens,
we are not informed; but in B.C. 375 Timotheus brought the island again under
the dominion of Athens. (Xen. Hell. v. 4. 64; comp. Corn. Nep. Tim. 2; Diod. xv.
36.) Two years afterwards, B.C. 373, a large Peloponnesian force, under the command
of the Lacedaemonian Mnasippus, was sent to wrest the island from the Athenians.
The Athenian fleet had already quitted Corcyra; and the inhabitants, having been
defeated in battle by the invaders, were obliged to take refuge within the walls
of their city. Xenophon, in a passage already referred to, describes the country
at that time as in the highest state of cultivation, abounding in beautiful houses,
the cellars of which were stored with excellent wine. After ravaging the country,
Mnasippus laid siege to the city, which soon began to suffer from want of provisions;
but the Corcyraeans availing themselves of the negligence of the besiegers, who
had become careless, through certainty of success, made a vigorous sally from
the city, in which they slew Mnasippus, and many of his troops. Shortly afterwards
news arrived of the approach of an Athenian fleet, whereupon the Peloponnesians
quitted the island in haste. (Xen. Hell. vi. 2. 3-26; Died. xv. 47.)
After the death of Alexander the Great the Corcyraeans appear to have
taken an active part in opposition to Cassander. In B.C. 312, they expelled the
Macedonian garrisons from Apollonia and Epidamnus. (Diod. xix. 78.) In B.C. 303
Cleonymus, the Spartan king, who had collected a body of mercenaries in Italy,
invaded the island and became master of the city. (Diod. xx. 104, 105.) Cleonymus
appears to have quitted the island soon afterwards; for it was again independent
in B.C. 300, when Cassander laid siege to the city. From this danger it was delivered
by Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracuse, who burnt the Macedonian fleet. (Diod.
xxi. Eclog. 2. p. 489, ed. Wesseling.) But Agathocles only expelled the Macedonians
in order to appropriate the island to himself, which he is recorded to have laid
waste, probably in consequence of the opposition of the inhabitants to his dominion.
(Plut. de Ser. Num. Vind. p. 557.) Shortly afterwards Agathocles gave Corcyra
as a dowry to his daughter Lanassa upon her marriage with Pyrrhus, king of Epeirus.
It remained in his hands for some years; but Lanassa, indignant at being neglected
by Pyrrhus for his barbarian wives, withdrew to Corcyra, and offered her hand
and the island to Demetrius, king of Macedonia. Demetrius accepted her proposal,
and, sailing to Corcyra, celebrated his nuptials with her, left a garrison in
the island, and returned to Macedonia. This happened shortly before he was expelled
from Macedonia by Pyrrhus, B.C. 287. (Plut. Pyrrh. 9, 10; Diod. xxi. p. 490.)
Pausanias says (i. 11. § 6) that Pyrrhus conquered Corcyra soon after he had recovered
his hereditary dominions; but as Pyrrhus began to reign some years before he deprived
Demetrius of the Macedonian throne, it has been conjectured that he may have invaded
Corcyra, while it was in the possession of Agathocles, and that the latter was
contented to cede to him the island, together with his daughter Lanassa. At a
later period, probably after his return from Italy, B.C. 274, Pyrrhus recovered
Corcyra by the energy of his son Ptolemaeus. (Justin, xxv. 3.)
After the death of Pyrrhus Corcyra again enjoyed a brief period of
independence; but the Illyrian pirates, in the reign of their queen Teuta, conquered
the island after defeating the Achaean and Aetolian fleets which had come to the
assistance of the Corcyraeans. Almost immediately afterwards a Roman fleet, which
had been sent to punish these pirates, appeared before Corcyra; whereupon Demetrius,
the Pharian, who had been left in charge of the island with an Illyrian garrison,
surrendered it to the enemy without striking a blow, B.C. 229. (Pol. ii. 9-11.)
From this time Corcyra continued in the hands of the Romans, and was an important
station for their fleet in their subsequent wars in Greece. The Romans made the
capital a free state (Plin. iv. 12. s. 19); but its inhabitants were so little
liked even at this period, as to give rise to the proverb eleuthera Korkura, chez
hopou theleis (Strab. vii. p. 329). It is unnecessary to follow further the history
of the island. In the reign of Justinian it was still called Kerkura (Procop.
B. G. iv. 22). It is now one of the seven Ionian islands under the protection
of Great Britain, and the seat of government.
Corcyra, the capital of the island, was situated upon the eastern
coast, upon a peninsula a little S. of the modern town of Corfu. This peninsula
is formed on the one side by a small gulf or lagoon, called the Peschiera, or
Lake of Calichiopulo; and on the other side by a bay, which separates the pe.
ninsula from the promontory occupied by the modern citadel. The peninsula is called
Palaeopoli, but the only ancient remains which it contains are the ruins of a
small Doric temple on the eastern shore, facing Epeirus. Of the two ports mentioned
by Thucydides (ii. 72), the Peschiera seems to be the one which he calls Hyllaicus
(Hullaikos); and the bay between the peninsula and the modern citadel to be the
one which he describes as lying towards Epeirus. Scylax speaks of three harbours,
one of which was most beautiful: hence it would appear that the present harbour,
although at some distance from the ancient city, was also used in ancient times.
The small island of Vido, in front of the present harbour, is probably the island
of Ptychia (ptuchia), where the leaders of the aristocratical party were placed
after their surrender in B.C. 425. (Thuc. iv. 46.) We learn from Thucydides (ii.
72) that the Acropolis was near the portus Hyllaicus, and the agora near the other
harbour. The ancient Acropolis is the long undulating promontory south of the
modern town, and did not occupy the site of the modern citadel, which is a nearly
insulated rock, with its summit split into two lofty peaks. These two peaks must
have been always a striking object from the ancient town, and are probably the
aerias Phaeacum arces of Virgil (Aen. iii. 291), a passage from which Dodwell
and others erroneously concluded that they were the Acropolis of Corcyra. In the
middle ages these two rocks, which then became the citadel, were called Korupho
or Koruphoi, from whence has come, slightly corrupted, (Korphoi) the modern name
of the town and of the island. We have no further information respecting the other
localities of the ancient city. Among its public buildings mention is made of
temples of Zeus, Hera, Dionysus, the Dioscuri, and Alcinous. (Thuc. iii. 70, 75,
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
Kerkura, later Korkura. An island in the Ionian Sea, off the
coast of Epirus, in which Homer is thought to have placed the fabled gardens of
Alcinous. It is said to have been first known under the name of Drepane, perhaps
from its similarity of shape to a scythe. To this name succeeded that of Scheria,
always used by Homer, and by which it was possibly known in his time. From the
Odyssey we learn that this island was then inhabited by Phaeacians, a people who,
even at that early period, had acquired considerable skill in nautical affairs
and possessed extensive commercial relations, since they traded with the Ph?nicians,
and also with Euboea and other countries. Corcyra was in after-days the principal
city of the island, and was situated precisely where the modern town of Corfu
stands. Scylax speaks of three harbours, one of which is depicted as beautiful.
In the Middle Ages, the citadel obtained the name of Korupho, from its two conical
hills or crests, which appellation was, in process of time, applied to the whole
town and finally to the island itself. Hence the modern name of Corfu, which is
but a corruption of the former. The following is a sketch of the history of this
island. Its earlier periods are enveloped in the mist of uncertainty and conjecture.
A colony of Colchians is said to have settled there about 1349 years before our
era. In process of time, Corcyra, enriched and aggrandized by its maritime superiority,
became one of the most powerful nations in Greece. The Corinthians, under Chersicrates,
formed a settlement here in B.C. 753, and 415 years afterwards it was captured
by Agathocles of Syracuse, who gave it to his daughter Lanessa upon her marriage
with Pyrrhus of Epirus. It was occupied by the troops of the Illyrian queen Teuta,
about fifty-eight years after its seizure by Agathocles, but was soon after taken
from her by the Romans, under the consul Cn. Flavius; and, although it had the
privileges of a free city, it remained under the Romans for many centuries. In
the time of Strabo it was reduced to extreme misery.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Beazley Archive Dictionary
The Catholic Encyclopedia
Archdiocese of Corfu
Corfu is one of the Ionian Islands, at the entrance of the Adriatic,
opposite the Albanian coast, from which it is separated by a narrow channel. Its
modern name is an Italian corruption for Korphoi (pronounced Corfu), the Byzantine
Greek name for the chief town of the island. The ancient name for both island
and city was Cercyra or Corcyra. This has been identified with the Homeric Scheria.
In 735 B.C. the island received Corinthian colonists led by Chersicrates.
Its navy and trade increased to such an extent that as early as 664 B.C. it could
wage war upon Corinth. During
the Peloponnesian War, when allied with the Athenians, Corfu fitted out 120 ships
and overcame its suzerain. But internal strife soon caused the decay of its power;
while the people sided with the Athenians, the aristocracy were helped by the
Corinthians. From the rule of the Macedonians Corfu passed to that of the Romans.
Under the Byzantines it became practically the capital of the Ionian
Islands and of the neighbouring cities in Epirus
etc.), and signalized itself by courageous conflicts with Dalmatians, Bulgars,
and Saracens. About the end of the twelfth century it formed a duchy under the
despots of Epirus. Charles
of Anjou, King of Naples,
conquered it in 1274. After the capture of Constantinople,
Mohammed II sent an army which laid unsuccessful siege to Corfu to punish it for
having helped Buthrotum.
Solyman II was equally unsuccessful, though he took away 16,000 prisoners. In
1716 Ahmed III was also driven back, the inhabitants being helped by the Saxon
general Matthias Schulenburg and inspired by a monk who led the way bearing an
For a brief while, together with Venice
(1791), Corfu came under French rule, and was then successively conquered by the
Turks and the Russians (1799). The Seven Islands were united in a republic under
a Turkish and Russian protectorate. The Treaty of Tilsit gave them again to the
French in 1807, but in 1809 the islands, with the exception of Corfu, fell into
the power of England. In
1815 the United States of the Ionian Islands were put under the protectorate of
Great Britain, with Corfu
as capital and residence of the governor. On 8 March, 1864, the islands were annexed
to Greece, and since this time
Corfu (Gr. Kerkyra), with Paxos,
Santa Maura (Leukas), and
Ithaca, etc. have formed a
nomarchy or province of the kingdom.
The island has a mild, salubrious climate. It is hilly, with rather
barren valleys, and produces corn and oil. Brimstone and marble are among its
exports. Italian is still much used, together with Greek, chiefly among the Catholic
population. The city of Corfu
is situated on the eastern coast and boasts of a broad and good port. It exhibits
ruins of a temple of Poseidon, a cenotaph of Menecrates, and a statue of Schulenburg.
In 1861 the late Empress Elizabeth of Austria
built there, in the purest Greek style, her magnificent palace, the Achilleion,
named after a colossal statue of Achilles on one of the terraces of the park;
this palace has been bought by the Emperor of Germany.
According to legend the Church of Corfu was founded by St. Jason,
a disciple of St. Paul, but the first known bishop is Apollodorus, present at
Nicaea in 325. It was at
first a suffragan of Nicopolis
in Epirus Vetus, but in the
Middle Ages was made a metropolis. The island honours as its patron the celebrated
St. Spyridon, whose relics lie in the Greek cathedral. Since the thirteenth century
Corfu has also been a Catholic archiepiscopal see. The archdiocese includes Paxos,
Antipaxos, other islets, and
several localities in Epirus,
between Parga and Sasino;
the Catholics, however, have almost completely disappeared except in Corfu.
S. Petrides, ed.
Transcribed by: Diane E. Dubrule
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.