Strung along the shores of Western Greece, the Ionian Islands reveal yet another totally different facet of the Greek landscape. Green and luxuriant, they have been for centuries the crossroads between mainland Greece and Western Europe, and as such, they were able to develop their own culture, literature, art, and music.
Corfu, Paxi, Lefkas, Cephalonia, Ithaca, Zakynthos, and Kythera, known as the “Eptanissa” in Greek, all share a common historical background and offer their visitors an incredible variety of scenery, character, and traditions. Geographically, Kythera is not an Ionian island at all ( see page 48 ), but is counted with the others because for a long time it was ruled with them by Venice.
In ancient times the Ionian Islands were sought after by the mighty city-states of Sparta, Athens, and Corinth. And though they joined in the common struggle against the Romans, they finally fell under Roman overlordship together with the rest of Greece. From then onwards they belonged successively to the Byzantines the Turks and the Venetians until 1797 when they were ceded to France.
There followed a period of Russian occupation until the French took over once again and ruled from 1807 to 1814 when the islands fell under British rule. They were finally conceded to Greece in 1863 under the Treaty of London.
The Ionian Islands were fortunate enough not to have come for a long time under Turkish rule and so they were able, even though they were not free, to develop remarkable achievements in literature and the arts, especially in painting. In many of the churches and museums of the Ionian Islands, some works show, among others, how Greek art would have developed had it not been for the Turkish occupation in the rest of the country.
The Ionian Islands are also the birthplace of many prominent men of letters, among them Andreas Kalvos, Hugo Foscolo, Dionysios Solomos, who wrote the Greek National Anthem, and Aristoteles Valaoritis.