Ionian Islands (Modern Greek: Ιόνια νησιά,
Ancient Greek, Katharevousa: Ἰόνιοι Νῆσοι, Ionioi Nēsoi;
Italian: Isole Ionie) are a group of islands in Greece. They are
traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e. "the Seven Islands" (Greek:
Ἑπτάνησα, Heptanēsa or Ἑπτάνησος, Heptanēsos;
Italian: Eptaneso), but the group includes many smaller islands as
well as the seven principal ones.
As a distinct historic region they date to the centuries-long Venetian
rule, which preserved them from becoming part of the Ottoman Empire,
and created a distinct cultural identity with many Italian influences.
Ionian Islands became part of the modern Greek state in 1864.
Administratively today they belong to the
Ionian Islands Region
Ionian Islands Region except
for Kythera, which belongs to the Attica Region.
3.1 Roman and Byzantine rule
3.2 Venetian rule
3.3 Napoleonic era
3.4 British influence
3.5 Union with Greece
3.6 World War II
3.7 1953 earthquake
7 Major communities
8 See also
10 External links
The Ionian islands (Heptanes).
A view of Lefkada.
The seven islands are; from north to south:
Kerkyra (Κέρκυρα) usually known as
Corfu in English and Corfù
Paxi (Παξοί) also known as
Paxos in English
Lefkada (Λευκάδα) also known as Lefkas in English
Ithaki (Ιθάκη) usually known as
Ithaca in English
Kefalonia (Κεφαλλονιά) often known as Kefalonia, Cephalonia
Kefallinia in English
Zakynthos (Ζάκυνθος) sometimes known as
Zante in English and
Kythira (Κύθηρα) usually known as Cythera in English and
sometimes known as
Cerigo in English and Italian
The six northern islands are off the west coast of Greece, in the
Ionian Sea. The seventh island, Kythira, is off the southern tip of
the Peloponnese, the southern part of the Greek mainland.
not part of the region of the Ionian Islands, as it is included in the
region of Attica.
Ancient Greek the adjective Ionios (Ἰόνιος) was used as an
epithet for the sea between
Epirus and Italy in which the Ionian
Islands are found because Io swam across it. Latin transliteration,
as well as
Modern Greek pronunciation, may suggest that the Ionian Sea
and Islands are somehow related to Ionia, an Anatolian region; in fact
Ionian Sea and
Ionian Islands are spelled in Greek with an omicron
Ionia has an omega (Ιωνία), reflecting a
classical difference in pronunciation. In
Modern Greek omicron and
omega represent the same sound, but the two words are still
distinguished by stress: the western "Ionia" is accented on the
antepenult (IPA: [iˈonia]), and the eastern on the penult
(IPA: [ioˈnia]). In English, the adjective relating to
Ionic, not Ionian.
The islands themselves are known by a rather confusing variety of
names. During the centuries of rule by Venice, they acquired Venetian
names, by which some of them are still known in English (and in
Kerkyra was known as Corfù,
Ithaki as Val di Compare,
Kythera as Cerigo,
Santa Maura and
Zakynthos as Zante.
A variety of spellings are used for the Greek names of the islands,
particularly in historical writing. Kefallonia is often spelled as
Cephallenia or Cephalonia,
Ithaki as Ithaca,
Kerkyra as Corcyra,
Kythera as Cythera,
Lefkada as Leucas or
Zacynthus or Zante. Older or variant Greek forms are sometimes also
Kefallinia for Kefallonia and
Paxos or Paxoi for Paxi.
The statue of
Achilles in the gardens of the Achilleion (Corfu).
The islands were settled by Greeks at an early date, possibly as early
as 1200 BC, and certainly by the 9th century BC. The early
Eretrian settlement at
Kerkyra was displaced by colonists from Corinth
in 734 BC. The islands were mostly a backwater during Ancient
Greek times and played little part in Greek politics. The one
exception was the conflict between
Kerkyra and its mother-City Corinth
in 434 BC, which brought intervention from
Athens and triggered
the Peloponnesian War.
Ithaca was the name of the island home of
Odysseus in the epic Ancient
Greek poem the
Odyssey by Homer. Attempts have been made to identify
Ithaki with ancient Ithaca, but the geography of the real island
cannot be made to fit Homer's description. Archeological
investigations have revealed interesting findings in both Kefalonia
Roman and Byzantine rule
By the 4th century BC, most of the islands, were absorbed into the
empire of Macedon. Some remained under the control of the Macedonian
Kingdom until 146 BC, when the Greek peninsula was gradually
annexed by Rome. After 400 years of peaceful Roman rule, the
islands passed to the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire.
Under Byzantine rule, from the mid-8th century, they formed the theme
of Cephallenia. The islands were a frequent target of Saracen raids
and from the late 11th century, saw a number of Norman and Italian
attacks. Most of the islands fell to
William II of Sicily
William II of Sicily in 1185.
Corfu and Lefkas remained under Byzantine control.
Zakynthos became the County palatine of
Zakynthos until 1357, when this entity was merged with
Ithaki to become the Duchy of Leucadia under French and Italian dukes.
Kythera were taken by the Venetians in 1204, after the
dissolution of the
Byzantine Empire by the Fourth Crusade. These
became important overseas colonies of the Republic and were used as
way-stations for their maritime trade with the Levant.
Ionian Islands under Venetian rule
The Lion of St. Mark, symbol of the Venetian Republic, at the New
Fortress of Corfu, the longest-held of Venice's overseas possessions.
From 1204, the Republic of
Corfu and slowly all the
Ionian islands fell under Venetian rule. In the 15th century, the
Ottomans conquered most of Greece, but their attempts to conquer the
islands were largely unsuccessful.
Zakynthos passed permanently to
Venice in 1482, Kefallonia and
Ithaki in 1483,
Lefkada in 1502.
Kythera had been in Venetian hands since 1238.
The islands thus became the only part of the Greek-speaking world to
escape Ottoman rule, which gave them both a unity and an importance in
Greek history they would otherwise not have had.
Corfu was the only
Greek island never conquered by the Turks.
Under Venetian rule, many of the upper classes spoke Italian (or
Venetian in some cases) and converted to Roman Catholicism, but the
majority remained Greek ethnically, linguistically, and religiously.
In the 18th century, a Greek national independence movement began to
emerge, and the free status of the Ionian islands made them the
natural base for exiled Greek intellectuals, freedom fighters and
foreign sympathisers. The islands became more self-consciously Greek
as the 19th century, the century of romantic nationalism, neared.
Main article: Septinsular Republic
See also: French departments of
Greece and Siege of
Ioannis Kapodistrias from
Corfu island, first governor of the modern
In 1797 Napoléon Bonaparte conquered Venice. By the Treaty of Campo
Formio the islanders found themselves under French rule, the islands
being organised as the départments Mer-Égée,
Ithaque and Corcyre.
In 1798, the Russian
Admiral Ushakov evicted the French, and
Septinsular Republic under joint Russo-Ottoman
protection—the first time Greeks had had even limited
self-government since the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In 1807,
Ionian Islands were ceded again to the French in the Treaty of
Tilsit and occupied by the French Empire.
Main article: United States of the Ionian Islands
In 1809, the British defeated the French fleet in
2, 1809) captured Kefallonia,
Kythera and Zakynthos, and took Lefkada
in 1810. The French held out in
Corfu until 1814. The Treaty of Paris
in 1815 turned the islands into the "United States of the Ionian
Islands" under British protection (November 5, 1815). In January 1817,
the British granted the islands a new constitution. The islanders
elected an Assembly of 40 members, who advised the British High
Commissioner. The British greatly improved the islands'
communications, and introduced modern education and justice systems.
The islanders welcomed most of these reforms, and took up afternoon
tea, cricket and other English pastimes.
Once Greek independence was established after 1830, however, the
islanders began to resent foreign colonial rule by the British, and to
press for Enosis, i. e. union with Greece. The British statesman
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone toured the islands and recommended that having
already Malta, giving the islands to
Greece wouldn't hurt the interest
of the British Empire. The British government resisted, since like the
Venetians they found the islands made useful naval bases. They also
regarded the Bavarian-born king of Greece, King Otto, as unfriendly to
Britain. However, in 1862, Otto was deposed and a pro-British king,
George I, was installed.
Union with Greece
Postal card from 1914 on the 50th anniversary of union with Greece,
featuring the flags of
Greece and the British protectorate, and the
emblems of the seven islands: ancient ship (Corfu), trident (Paxi),
Odysseus (Ithaca), Venus (Cythera), Cephalus (Cephalonia)
In 1862, Britain decided to transfer the islands to Greece, as a
gesture of support intended to bolster the new king's popularity. On
May 2, 1864, the British departed and the islands became three
provinces of the Kingdom of
Greece though Britain retained the use of
the port of Corfu. On 21 May 1864 the
Ionian Islands officially
reunited with Greece. Prince Philippos of
Greece and Denmark was
Corfu in 1921 and grew up to become Britain's Prince Philip,
Duke of Edinburgh.
World War II
Further information: Axis Occupation of Greece
In 1941, when Axis forces occupied Greece, the
Ionian Islands (except
Kythera) were handed over to the Italians. In 1943, the Germans
replaced the Italians, and deported the centuries-old Jewish community
Corfu to their deaths. By 1944, most of the islands were under the
control of the EAM/ELAS resistance movement, and they have remained a
stronghold of left-wing sentiment ever since.
Main article: 1953 Ionian earthquake
The 1953 Ionian islands earthquake occurred with a surface wave
magnitude of 7.2 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of X (Extreme) on
August 12, 1953. Building damage was extensive and the southern
Zakynthos were practically levelled. The
islands were reconstructed from the ground up over the following years
under a strict building code. The code has proven extremely effective,
as many earthquakes since that time have caused no damage to new
Today, all the islands are part of the Greek region of the Ionian
Islands (Ionioi Nisoi), except Kythera, which is part of the region of
Kerkyra has a population of 103,300 (including Paxoi),
Zakynthos 40,650, Kefallonia 39,579 (including Ithaca), Lefkada
Kythera 3,000 and
In recent decades, the islands have lost much of their population
through emigration and the decline of their traditional industries,
fishing and marginal agriculture. Today, their major industry is
tourism. Specifically Kerkyra, with its harbour, scenery and wealth of
ruins and castles, is a favourite stopping place for cruise liners,
Corfu is known for its old town, which features Baroque and
Renaissance architecture.  British tourists in particular are
attracted through having read Gerald Durrell's evocative book My
Family and Other Animals (1956), which describes his childhood on
Kerkyra in the 1930s. The novel and movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin
are set in Kefallonia, in which Captain Corelli is part of the Italian
occupation force during the Second World War.
The Ionian Islands' official population, excluding Cythera, in 2011
was 207,855, decreased by 1.50% compared to the population in 2001.
Nevertheless, the region remains the third by population density with
90.1/km² nationwide, well above the national of 81.96/km². The most
populous of the major islands is
Corfu with a population of 104,371,
Cephalonia (35,801), Leucas (23.693) and
Ithaca (3.231). The foreign-born population was in 2001 19,360 or
9.3%, the majority of which was concentrated in
Corfu and Zante. Most
of them originate from
Albania (13,536). The fertility rate for
2011 according to Eurostat was 1.35 live births per woman during her
Further information: Cuisine of the Ionian islands, Music of the
Heptanese, Ionian School (music), Heptanese School (literature), and
Heptanese School (painting)
Zante currant on Zakynthos.
The regional Gross Domestic Product for 2010 was 4,029 million
euros. The GDP per capita for the same year was 18,440 euros per
capita which was lower than the national median of 20,481. However,
the GDP per capita of
Cephalonia and Zante, 23,275 and 24,616
respectively, was much higher than the national figure.
Additionally, unemployment for 2012 was 14.7, the lowest among all
Greek regions, and much lower compared to the national unemployment of
Kerkyra by Charalambos Pachis.
The region is a popular tourist destination. The airports of Corfu,
Cephalonia were in the top ten in
Greece by number of
international arrivals, with 1,386,289 international arrivals for
Corfu being the sixth airport by number of arrivals
Cephalonia also being in the top ten. While
Cephalonia Airport had the biggest increase nationwide by 13.11%
compared to 2011, while
Corfu had an increase of 6.31%.'
Argostóli (Αργοστόλι), in Kefalonia
Kérkyra (Κέρκυρα), in Corfu
Lefkáda (Λευκάδα), in Lefkada
Lixouri (Ληξούρι), in Kefalonia
Zákynthos (Ζάκυνθος), in Zakynthos
^ LSJ, A Greek-English Lexicon s.v. Ἰόνιος.
^ Μεγάλοι Έλληνες, τόμος Ά, του
Παναγιώτη Πασπαλιάρη, Ιωάννης
Καποδίστριας, σελ. 45, ISBN 978-960-6845-32-1
^ "ΚΕΡΚΥΡΑ, ΜΝΗΜΕΙΟ ΕΝΩΣΕΩΣ". Ionian U. Ionian
^ "From secluded beaches to Odysseus' home: A photo essay of the
Ionian Islands". The Business Report. 7 December 2017. Retrieved 7
^ ΔΕΛΤΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ (PDF) (in Greek). Retrieved 18 July
^ Πίνακας 3: Αλλοδαποί κατά υπηκοότητα,
φύλο και λόγο εγκατάστασης στην
Ελλάδα Σύνολο Ελλάδος και νομοί (PDF) (in
Greek). Retrieved 18 July 2014.
^ "Eurostat – Tables, Graphs and Maps Interface (TGM) table".
epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
^ "PAGE-themes". statistics.gr. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
^ "EUROPA – PRESS RELEASES – Press release – Unemployment in the
EU27 regions in 2012 Regional unemployment rates ranged from 2.5% in
Salzburg and Tirol to 38.5% in Ceuta and 34.6% in Andalucía".
europa.eu. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
^ "Greek Tourism: Facts and Figures 2012" (PDF) (in English and
Greek). Retrieved 18 July 2014.
^ "INTERNATIONAL TOURIST ARRIVALS AT THE MAIN AIRPORTS, JAN-DEC
2012/2011- PROVISIONAL DATA" (PDF) (in English and Greek). Retrieved
18 July 2014.
Find more aboutIonian Islandsat's sister projects
Definitions from Wiktionary
Media from Wikimedia Commons
Texts from Wikisource
Travel guide from Wikivoyage
Data from Wikidata
Ionian Islands The Official website of the Greek National Tourism
Ionian Islands at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Diapontia (Largest islands: Othonoi, Ereikoussa, Mathraki)
Echinades (Largest islands: Petalas, Oxeia, Drakonera)
Oinousses (Largest islands: Schiza, Sapientza)
History of the Ionian Islands
Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic period
Despotate of Epirus
United States of the Ionian Islands
Union with Greece
Ionian Islands region
Geographic regions of Greece
Coordinates: 38°30′N 20°30′E / 38.500°N 20.500°E /