A Short History of the Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands is a chain of Greek islands with an estimated population of 200,000 citizens. The history of the Ionian Islands is a very long and detailed one. The islands were settled by the Greeks as early as 1000BC and there is proof that the Greeks were populating the islands no later than the 9th Century BC.

Rumored to be the home of Odysseus and Penelope, the Ionian Islands are located off the coast of western Greece. There are seven principle islands and many smaller islands. The seven principle islands are Corfu, Paxos, Lefkas, Ithaca, Kefalonia, Zante and Cerigo. All but Cerigo are located in the Ionian Sea. Cerigo is off of Peloponnesus, which is located at the southern portion of the Greek mainland. These islands are often referred to as the Heptanesus or Seven Islands. There are discrepancies as to where the name Ionian came from, but it is believed to be related to an ancient settlement of Ionian colonist.

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The Ionian Islands constantly were overtaken by different empires during the 4th Century BC through the 15th Century AD. At different points in time, the Macedonians, the Byzantines, the Venetians and the French controlled the Ionian Islands. At several points during this tenure, mainland Greece would be controlled under a different empire than the Ionian Islands.

The most detailed history of the Ionian Islands began to emerge after the 10th century AD, while the Ionian Islands were under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Venice took over control of the islands and maintained their rule of the Ionian Islands until 1797 when the Treaty of Campo Formio was signed, giving the control of the islands to the French. In 1799, a fleet of Russian ships overtook the islands and claimed ownership and ruled over the islands for eight years. Eventually Russia gave the islands back to France through the Treaty of Tilsit. During the early parts of the 19th century, the British Navy conquered the French Navy, claiming that the Ionian Islands were now under British protection. Eventually, in 1817, the British crown granted the islands their own constitution, the first type of self governance that the islands had ever experienced. By 1864, the British government ceded control of the islands over to Greece, due to popular demand from citizens of the islands. Since the Ionian Islands were annexed to Greece, they have experienced a fairly calm political history. The islands are exempt from direct taxation from the mainland but do suffer a 202% tax on exported oil, a 6% tax on exported wines and a 12% export duty on agricultural products and articles for manufacturing.

During World War II, the German army occupied much of Greece, yet the Ionian Islands (except for Cerigo) were ruled by the Italians. Currently, all of the islands except for Cerigo are part of the Greek islands called the Ionian Islands. Cerigo is considered part of the Greece region Attiki.

Unfortunately the islands continue to experience a decrease in population. This is mainly due to declining fisheries, agricultural and industrial occupations.

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