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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Zacynthus (Zakunthos: Eth. Zakunthios: Zante), an island in the Sicilian
sea, lying off the western coast of Peloponnesus, opposite the promontory Chelonatas
in Elis, and to the S. of the island of Cephallenia, from which it was distant
25 miles, according to Pliny, (iv. 12. s. 19) but according to Strabo, only 60
stadia (x. p. 458). The latter is very nearly correct, the real distance being
8 English miles. Its circumference is stated by Pliny at 36 M. P., by Strabo at
160 stadia; but the island is at least 50 miles round, its greatest length being
23 English miles. The island is said to have been originally called Hyrie (Plin.
l. c.), and to have been colonized by Zacynthus, the son of Dardanus, from Psophis
in Arcadia, whence the acropolis of the city of Zacynthus was named Psophis. (Paus.
viii. 24. § 3; Steph. B. s. v.) We have the express statement of Thucydides that
the Zacynthians were a colony of Achaeans from Peloponnesus (ii. 66). In Homer,
who gives the island the epithet of woody (huleeis and huleessa), Zacynthus forms
part of the dominions of Ulysses. (Il. ii. 634, Od. i. 246, ix. 24, xvi. 123,
250; Strab. x. p. 457.) It appears to have attained considerable importance at
an early period; for according to a very ancient tradition Saguntum in Spain was
founded by the Zacynthians, in conjunction with the Rutuli of Ardea. (Liv. xxi.
7; Plin. xvi. 40. s. 79; Strab. iii. p. 159.) Bocchus stated that Saguntum was
founded by the Zacynthians 200 years before the Trojan War (ap. Plin. l. c.) In
consequence probably of their Achaean origin, the Zacynthians were hostile to
the Lacedaemonians, and hence we find that fugitives from Sparta fled for refuge
to this island. (Herod. vi. 70, ix. 37.) In the Peloponnesian War the Zacynthians
sided with Athens (Thuc. ii. 7, 9); and in B.C. 430 the Lacedaemonians made an
unsuccessful attack upon their city. (Ib. 66.) The Athenians in their expedition
against Pylus found Zacynthus a convenient station for their fleet. (Id. iv. 8,
13.) The Zacynthians are enumerated among the autonomous allies of Athens in the
Sicilian expedition. (Id. vii. 57.) After the Peloponnesian War, Zacynthus seems
to have passed under the supremacy of Sparta; for in B.C. 374, Timotheus, the
Athenian commander, on his return from Corcyra, landed some Zacynthian exiles
on the island, and assisted them in establishing a fortified post. These must
have belonged to the anti-Spartan party; for the Zacynthian government applied
for help to the Spartans, who sent a fleet of 25 sail to Zacynthus. (Xen. Hell.
vi. 2. 3; Diodor. xv. 45, seq.; as to the statements of Diodorus, see Grote, Hist.
of Greece, vol. x. p. 192.) The Zacynthians assisted Dion in his expedition to
Syracuse with the view of expelling the tyrant Dionysius, B.C. 357. (Diod. xvi.
6, seq.; Plut. Dion, 22, seq.) At the time of the Roman wars in Greece we find
Zacynthus in the possession of Philip of Macedon. (Polyb. v. 102.) In B.C. 211
the Roman praetor M. Valerius Laevinus, took the city of Zacynthus, with the exception
of the citadel. (Liv. xxvi. 24.) It was afterwards restored to Philip, by whom
it was finally surrendered to the Romans in B.C. 191. (Id. xxxvi. 32.) In the
Mithridatic War it was attacked by Archelaus, the general of Mithridates, but
he was repulsed. (Appian, Mithr. 45.) Zacynthus subsequently shared the fate of
the other Ionian islands, and is now subject to Great Britain.
The chief town of the island, also named Zacynthus (Liv. xxvi. 14;
Strab. x. p. 458; Ptol. iii. 14. § 13), was situated upon the eastern shore. Its
site is occupied by the modern capital, Zante, but nothing remains of the ancient
city, except a few columns and inscriptions. The situation of the town upon the
margin of a semi-circular bay is very picturesque. The citadel probably occupied
the site of the modern castle. The beautiful situation of the city and the fertility
of the island have been celebrated in all ages (kala polis ha Zakunthos, Theocr.
Id. iv. 32; Strab., Plin., ll. cc.). It no longer deserves the epithet of woody,
given to it by Homer (l. c.) and Virgil ( nemorosa Zacynthos, Aen. iii. 270);
but its beautiful olive-gardens, vineyards, and gardens, justify the Italian proverb,
which calls Zante the flower of the Levant.
The most remarkable natural phenomenon in Zante is the celebrated
pitch-wells, which are accurately described by Herodotus (iv. 195), and are mentioned
by Pliny (xxxv. 15. s. 51). They are situated about 12 miles from the city, in
a small marshy valley near the shore of the Bay of Chieri, on the SW. coast. A
recent observer has given the following account of them: There are two springs,
the principal surrounded by a low wall; here the pitch is seen bubbling up under
the clear water, which is about a foot deep over the pitch itself, with which
it comes out of the earth. The pitch-bubbles rise with the appearance of an India-rubber
bottle until the air within bursts, and the pitch falls back and runs off. It
produces about three barrels a day, and can be used when mixed with pine-pitch,
though in a pure state it is comparatively of no value. The other spring is in
an adjoining vineyard; but the pitch does not bubble up, and is in fact only discernible
by the ground having a burnt appearance, and by the feet adhering to the surface
as one walks over it. The demand for the pitch of Zante is now very small, vegetable
pitch being preferable. (Bowen, in Murray's Handbook for Greece, p. 93.) The existence
of these pitch-wells, as well as of numerous hot springs, is a proof of the volcanic
agency at work in the island; to which it may be added that earthquakes are frequent.
Pliny mentions Mt. Elatus in Zacynthus ( Mons Elatus ibi nobilis, Plin. l. c.),
probably Mt. Skopo, which raises its curiously jagged summit to the height of
1300 feet above the eastern extremity of the bay of Zante. (Dodwell, Tour through
Greece, vol. i. p. 83, seq.)
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 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
Now Zante; an island in the Ionian Sea, off the coast of Elis,
about forty miles in circumference. It contained a large and flourishing town
of the same name upon the eastern coast, the citadel of which was called Psophis.
Zacynthus was inhabited by a Greek population at an early period. It is said to
have derived its name from Zacynthus, a son of Dardanus, who colonized the island
from Psophis in Arcadia. It was afterwards colonized by Achaeans from Peloponnesus.
It formed part of the maritime empire of Athens, and continued faithful to the
Athenians during the Peloponnesian War. At a later time it was subject to the
Macedonian monarchs, and on the conquest of Macedonia by the Romans passed into
the hands of the latter. It was said to have colonized the Spanish city of Saguntum.
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)
The Catholic Encyclopedia
Diocese of Zante
This Greek diocese, the only suffragan of the Archdiocese of Corfu,
is permanently united with the Diocese of Cephalonia.
The diocese includes the Islands of Cephalonia,
Zante, Ithaca, Santa Maura
or Leucas, and Cerigo or Cynthera.
As early as the fourth century the Island of Zante was the see of
a Catholic bishop, whose successors fell away to the Greek Schism. About 1200
a Catholic Latin diocese was again established in Zante, and in 1222 this was
united with the Diocese of Cephalonia,
which is also mentioned in the fourth century and later became schismatic. In
1386 both dioceses wee made suffragans of the Archdiocese of Corfu.
Joseph Lins, ed.
Transcribed by: Thomas M. Barrett
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.
- Prefecture of Zakynthos WebPage
Zakynthos is particularly rich in terms of flora and fauna. The high
rainfall haw created a verbant environment of trees and forests, with a wide range
of rare flowers and plants.
The Zakynthos environment haw become an object of international interest
because the loggerhead turtle Caretta-caretta, an endangered species protected
by international conventions and by Greek legislation lays its eggs on the island’s
southern shores. Already, Greece
is going ahead to create a National Marine Park in the Laganas
Bay with the sole purpose of protecting this rare species.
Also, on the steep western shores of the island the Mediterranean
monk seal Monachus-monachus lives and breeds, a species also protected by Greek
This text is cited March 2004 from the Prefecture of Zakynthos URL below, which contains images.