Ionian Islands

Ionian Islands
a group of Greek islands including Corfu, Levkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Paxos, and Zante off the W coast of Greece, and Cerigo off the S coast.

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ancient Heptanesos

Group of seven Greek islands (pop., 2001: 214,274) in the Ionian Sea.

They include Corfu, Cephalonia, Zacynthus, Leucas, Ithaca, Cythera, and Paxos and have a combined land area of 891 sq mi (2,307 sq km). Controlled by Venice in the 15th and 16th centuries, they were taken by Russian and Turkish forces in 1799. In 1815 the Treaty of Paris placed them under the control of Britain; the British ceded them to Greece in 1864.

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▪ islands, Greece
Modern Greek  Iónioi Nísoi,  

      island group off the west coast of Greece, stretching south from the Albanian coast to the southern tip of the Peloponnese, and often called Heptanesos (“Seven Islands”). The islands are Corfu (Kérkira), Cephalonia (Cephallenia) (Kefallinía), Zacynthus (Zákinthos, Zante), Leucas (Levkás), Ithaca (Itháki), Cythera (Kíthira), and Paxos (Paxoí), with their minor dependencies. Their combined land area is 891 square miles (2,307 square km).

      With good rainfall and much arable soil, the Ionian Islands produce timber, fruit, and flax and raise pigs, sheep, and goats. Their exports include currants, wine, cotton, salt, olives, and fish, and the islands are largely self-sufficient in grains. Their harbours are superior to those of the west coast of Greece and more conveniently located for international shipping. The islands are subject to severe earthquakes, which in 1953 caused considerable damage to towns and facilities in Cephalonia, Zante, and Ithaca. (For physical description and classical history, see the articles on individual islands.)

      Because of their strategic maritime location between the Greek and Italian mainlands, intervention from outside has affected the islands and their people since classical times. Leo IV the Wise (c. AD 890) formed most or all of the islands into a province of the Byzantine Empire as the theme of Cephalonia. The Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard captured Corfu (1081) and Cephalonia, but his death (1085) prevented the establishment of a dynasty. When the Latin empire (1204–61) was established at Constantinople, the Venetians received Corfu; but in 1214 the Greek despotate of Epirus annexed the first Venetian colony, and a long period of Epirote, Sicilian, and Neapolitan-Angevin rule followed until 1386, when Corfu submitted voluntarily to the Venetian republic. In 1479 the Turks captured the islands of Cephalonia, Zacynthus, Leucas, and Ithaca, annexing them to their empire. The Venetians soon counterattacked and retook them during the 15th and 16th centuries.

      The Venetians won the adherence of the principal local families on the islands by the bestowal of titles and appointments. The Roman Catholic church was established there, and the Italians and Greeks intermarried. Greek ceased to be spoken except by the peasantry, who remained faithful to the Greek Orthodox communion. On the fall of the Venetian republic in 1797, the islands were awarded to France, whose rule was quickly ended by a Russo-Turkish force (1798–99). Reclaimed by France in 1807 and made an integral part of the French empire under Napoleon, the islands were placed by the Treaty of Paris (1815) under the exclusive protection of Great Britain.

      An Ionian senate and legislative assembly began to function in 1818, but real authority was vested in a British high commissioner. Schools of higher learning and a judiciary were set up, but the inhabitants resented the restrictions imposed by the firm British rule. After 1848 periodic insurrections by the peasantry, notably in Cephalonia, had to be put down with force, and the Ionian parliament voted for immediate union with the new Greek kingdom. In 1864 Britain ceded the islands to Greece as a gesture marking the accession of a new Greek king, George I (the former Prince William George of Glücksburg), son of Christian IX of Denmark. Following their annexation, the prosperity of the islands decreased, partly because of the loss of the special tax and trading privileges granted under the protectorate. The islands were occupied by Italy and, later, Germany during World War II. They were liberated with the rest of Greece in 1944. Pop. (1991 prelim.) 191,003.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ionian Islands — • A group of seven islands and a number of islets scattered over the Ionian Sea to the west of Greece Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Ionian Islands     Ionian Islands     …   Catholic encyclopedia

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  • Ionian Islands — group of islands along the W coast of Greece, on the Ionian Sea: 891 sq mi (2,308 sq km); pop. 191,000 …   English World dictionary

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  • Ionian Islands — noun A group of islands in the Ionian Sea one of the 13 peripheries of Greece The main islands are Corfu, Ithaca, Kefallonia, Kythira, Lefkada, Paxoi and Zante …   Wiktionary

  • Ionian Islands — geographical name islands W Greece in Ionian Sea population 191,003 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • IONIAN ISLANDS —    (250), a chain of forty mountainous islands lying off the W. coast of Greece, the largest being Corfu (78), Santa Maura (25), Cephalonia (80), and Zante (44). The climate is good, and there is much fertile soil in the valleys except in… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Ionian Islands — Io′nian Is′lands n. pl. geg a group of Greek islands including Corfu, Levkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia, and Zante off the W coast of Greece, and Cerigo off the S coast …   From formal English to slang

  • Ionian Islands — /aɪoʊniən ˈaɪləndz/ (say uyohneeuhn uyluhndz) plural noun the islands along the west coast of Greece, including Corfu, Levkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia, and Zante, and Cerigo off the south coast …  

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