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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 2, 2003, 16:23
Corfu (ancient and modern Greek ??????a, Kerkyra, Latin Corcyra) is an island of Greece, in the Ionian Sea, off the coast of Albania, from which it is separated by a strait varying in breadth from less than 2 to about 15 miles (3 to 25km).
The name Corfu is an Italian corruption of the Byzantine ????f? (Korypho), which is derived from the Greek ????fa? (Koryphai), meaning "Crests." In shape it is not unlike the sickle (drepane), to which it was compared by the ancients, the hollow side, with the town and harbour of Corfu in the centre, being turned towards the Albanian coast. Its extreme length is about 40 miles (60km). and its greatest breadth about 20 miles (30km). The area is estimated at 227 sq. miles (580 km²). Two high and well-defined ranges divide the island into three districts, of which the northern is mountainous, the central undulating and the southern low-lying. The most important of the two ranges is that of San Salvador, probably the ancient Istone, which stretches east and west from Cape St Angelo to Cape St Stefano, and attains its greatest elevation of 3300 ft (1000 m) in the summit from which it takes its name. The second culminates in the mountain of Santi Jeca, or Santa Decca, as it is called by misinterpretation of the Greek designation ?? ????? ???a (hoi Hagioi Deka), or the Ten Saints. The whole island, composed as it is of various limestone formations, presents great diversity of surface, and the prospects from the more elevated spots are magnificent.
The town of Corfu stands on the broad part of a peninsula, whose termination in the citadel is cut from it by an artificial fosse formed in a natural gully, with a salt-water ditch at the bottom. Having grown up within fortifications, where every foot of ground was precious, it is mostly, in spite of recent improvements, a labyrinth of narrow, tortuous, up-and-down streets, accommodating themselves to the irregularities of the ground, few of them fit for wheel carriages. There is, however, a handsome esplanade between the town and the citadel, and a promenade by the seashore towards Castrades. In several parts of the town may be found houses of the Venetian time, with some traces of past splendour, but they are few, and are giving place to structures in the modern and more convenient French style. The town is as mundane as Rome, looks like Venice and has the flair of Cuba. Of the thirty-seven Greek churches the most important are the cathedral, dedicated to Our Lady of the Cave (? ?a?a??a Sp????t?ssa (he Panagia Speliotissa)); St Spiridion's, with the tomb of the patron saint of the island; and the suburban church of St Jason and St Sosipater, reputed the oldest in the island.
Eclipsed by the foundation of Nicopolis, Corcyra for a long time passed out of notice. With the rise of the Norman kingdom in Sicily and the Italian naval powers, it again became a frequent object of attack. In 1081-1085 it was held by Robert Guiscard, in 1147-1154 by Roger II of Sicily. During the break-up of the Later Roman Empire it was occupied by Genoese privateers (1197-1207) who in turn were expelled by the Venetians. In 1214-1259 it passed to the Greek despots of Epirus, and in 1267 became a possession of the Neapolitan house of Anjou. Under the latter's weak rule the island suffered considerably from the inroads of various adventurers; hence in 1386 it placed itself under the protection of Venice, which in 1401 acquired formal sovereignty over it. Corcyra remained in Venetian hands till 1797, though several times assailed by Turkish armaments and subjected to two notable sieges in 1536 and 1716-1718, in which the great natural strength of the city again asserted itself. The Venetian feudal families pursued a mild but somewhat enervating policy towards the natives, who began to merge their nationality in that of the Latins and adopted for the island the new name of Corfu. The Corfiotes were encouraged to enrich themselves by the cultivation of the olive, but were debarred from entering into commercial competition with Venice. The island served as a refuge for Greek scholars, and in 1732 became the home of the first academy of modern Greece, but no serious impulse to Greek thought came from this quarter.
By the Treaty of Campo Formio, Corfu was ceded to the French, who occupied it for two years, until they were expelled by a Russo-Turkish armament (1799). For a short time it became the capital of a self-governing federation of the Hephtanesos ("Seven Islands"); in 1807 its faction-ridden government was again replaced by a French administration, and in 1809 it was vainly besieged by a British fleet. When, by the Treaty of Paris of November 5, 1815, the Ionian Islands became a protectorate of the United Kingdom, Corfu became the seat of the British high commissioner. The British commissioners, who were practically autocrats in spite of the retention of the native senate and assembly, introduced a strict method of government which brought about a decided improvement in the material prosperity of the island, but by its very strictness displeased the natives. In 1864 it was, with the other Ionian Islands, ceded to the kingdom of Greece, in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants. The island has again become an important point of call and has a considerable trade in olive oil; under a more careful system of tillage the value of its agricultural products might be largely increased.
Corfu contains very few important remains of antiquity. The site of the ancient city of Corcyra (Kerkyra) is well ascertained, about 1 1/2 miles (2km) to the south-east of Corfu, upon the narrow piece of ground between the sea-lake of Halikiopoulo and the Bay of Castrades, in each of which it had a port. The circular tomb of Menekrates, with its well-known inscription, is on the Bay of Castrades. Under the hill of Ascension are the remains of a temple, popularly called of Poseidon, a very simple dome structure, which still in its mutilated state presents some peculiarities of architecture. Of Cassiope, the only other city of ancient importance, the name is still preserved by the village of Cassiopi, and there are some rude remains of building on the site; but the temple of Zeus Cassius for which it was celebrated has totally disappeared. Throughout the island there are numerous monasteries and other buildings of Venetian erection, of which the best known are Paleokastritsa, San Salvador and Pelleka. The Achilleon is a palace commissioned by Elisabeth of Austria and purchased in 1907 by Wilhelm II of Germany; it is now a popular tourist attraction.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.
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