Zakynthos is the southernmost and third largest in both size and population of the Ionian Islands. It is situated 8,5 nautical miles south of Kefalonia, 9,5 nautical milew west of the Peloponese and approximately 300 kilometres west of the capital of Greece, Athens. Its geographical position ensures easy travel to the other islands and even the mainland of Greece. A short journey across the Peloponese brings one to the ancient city of Olympia, the birthplace and original venue of the Olympic Games. Due to the islands location, it is an ideal base to link up to the larger cities of Greece such as Patras, Athens and Thesaloniki.
An island full of contrasts, Zakynthos consists of mainly woodland, with an abundance of pine tree covered mountains and fertile plains. In the north, east and south numerous picturesque beaches can be found, whereas in the west the imposing, rocky landscape has a number of sea caves such as the famous Blue Caves on the north-west of the island. The climate in Zakynthos is mild mediterranean with both heavy rainfall during the winter monthw and brilliant sunshine in the summer. The rich vegetation is probably due to this, and has resulted in the nicknames of Fior di Levante (Flower of the East) and Iliessa (full of woods) by the Venetians and Omiros respectively.It is productive island agriculturally, supported mainly by the cultivation of olives, raisins, citrus fruits. Apart from this, the main source of local income is from the recently developed business of tourism. The island has a wealth of history as for many centuries it was the crossroads for numerous nations and cultures.
This text is cited Oct 2003 from the Prefecture of Zakynthos URL below, which contains images.
The island of Zacynthus belonged to the Cephallenian state, which was under the rule of Odysseus. It participated in the Trojan War and is listed in the Homeric Catalogue of Ships (Il. 2.634, Od. 1.246, 9.24, 16.123).
Of the islands classified as subject to Odysseus, Zacynthos remains to be described. It leans slightly more to the west of the Peloponnesus than Cephallenia and lies closer to the latter. The circuit of Zacynthos is one hundred and sixty stadia. It is about sixty stadia distant from Cephallenia. It is indeed a woody island, but it is fertile; and its city, which bears the same name, is worthy of note. The distance thence to the Libyan Hesperides is three thousand three hundred stadia.
During the era of Homer and the Trojan War, the island of Zakynthos
formed part of the kingdom of Odysseus, king of Ithaca.
The prevailing view now is that its founder was Zakynthos, son of Dardanos, King
of Troy. The modern historian
P. Chiotis, having investigated the work of past historians, came to the conclusion
that the settlers who went to Zakynthos were Arcadians from the Arcadian town
of Psophis and argued that Dardanos was of Arcadian origin but had migrated to
Asia Minor. From there, his
son went to Zakynthos, gave his name to the new city, and called its citadel Psophis.
The special talent of the ancient inhabitants in music and their cult of the goddess
Artemis were characteristic features of the Arcadians and testify to this link.
After the Trojan War, the Zakynthians gained independence from the kingdom of Ithaca and established a democratic political system. The island was ruled democratically for about 650 years. During this period, Zakynthos flourished, its population grew and its first colony, named Zakantha, was established in Spain. During the Persian Wars, the Zakynthians maintained a neutral stance, but in the Peloponnesian War, they were on the side of the Athenians. Zakynthos was then subjugated by the Macedonians and later by the Romans who gave them some autonomy.
Christianity was propagated on the island in 34 AD either by Mary Magdalen who landed there on her way to Rome or, according to another tradition, by St Beatrice. During the Byzantine period, the island suffered many raids by pirates, aspiring conquerors, and barbarians. The Ionian Islands likewise endured many hardships during the Crusades. Zakynthos, together with the other islands, was captured successively by the Venetians, the Franks, the Angevins, the kings of Naples, and the Tocco family, who were princes of Florence. When the rest of Greece was conquered by the Turks, Zakynthos and the other Ionian Islands were ruled by the Venetians (1484).
During the period of Venetian rule, Zakynthos (which the Venetians called Zante) came under the influence of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. The Venetians settled and organized the island's capital, constructed the citadel (Castro), and built infrastructure works; thus the new town began to spread beyond the walls of the Castro, outside the ancient settlement of Psophis and down to the coast, where in time a large commercial port came into being. But the Venetians brought with them the typical aristocratic oligarchic political system and the population was divided into nobles, citizens and common people (popolari). This was why, when French republicans arrived on Zakynthos in 1797, they were welcomed enthusiastically. But the French could not solve the island's social or economic problems either, so the Zakynthians sought new protectors. In 1798 the oligarchy returned under the Russians and the Turks (1799-1807). They were succeeded by officials of the French Empire (1807-1814) and finally by the British (1814-1864). The English conquerors took care to modernize the administration and public works. The new ideas of the times and Greece's independence from the Turks created a strong radical movement, whose activity contributed to the union of Zakynthos and the other Ionian islands with Greece on 21vMay 1864, at which time the Greek flag was definitively raised over the island.
This text is cited May 2003 from the Prefecture of Zakynthos URL below, which contains image.
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
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
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.
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 law.
This text is cited March 2004 from the Prefecture of Zakynthos URL below, which contains images.
The ruined monastery of Our Lady 'Skopiotissa', built at the top of mountain Skopos. According to archaeologists , it was build around 1400 A.D. on the ruins of the ancient temple of goddess Artemis.
, 1547 - 1622
Patron Saint of Zacynthos
Tel: +30 26950 48400
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