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Η Κέρκυρα είναι το βορειότερο νησί των Επτανήσων και αποτελεί αναπόσπαστο γεωγραφικό, ιστορικό και πολιτιστικό στοιχείο τους. Στο μυχό της Αδριατικής Θάλασσας και του Ιονίου Πελάγους, η Κέρκυρα, με κομβική γεωγραφική θέση στη Μεσόγειο, αποκτά έναν ιδιαίτερο χαρακτήρα ως γέφυρα συνάντησης και ανταλλαγής. Σε συνδυασμό με τη θάλασσα και τη σπάνια φυσική της ομορφιά η πολιτισμική φυσιογνωμία του νησιού συνδυάζει με περίσσια χάρη τα στοιχεία τόσο της ευρωπαϊκής Δύσης όσο και της ευρωπαϊκής Ανατολής.


The first archaeological testimony for the presence of Corfu’s original inhabitants in the Middle Paleolithic Era (50,000-40,000 B.C.) has been found in caves. However, the first traces of habitation proper date to a er the Ne-olithic and the early Bronze Age (2nd millennium B.C.). In Homer’s Odyssey, Corfu is referred to as Schería. It was inhabited by the Phaeacians, a seafaring and hospitable people descended from the mythological ancestor Phaeakas (Phaeax), who was born on the island from the erotic union of Poseidon, god of the sea, and the nymph Kerkyra or Korkyra. In the course of his wanderings a er the Trojan War, Odysseus arrived on Corfu/Kerkyra, where he enjoyed the hospitality of King Alkinoös and his daughter Nausikaa. Odysseus’s encounter with Nausikaa is one of the Odyssey’s most lyrical episodes.

The ancient city of Kerkyra was situated at modern-day Palaiopolis, the narrow strip of land that begins from the suburb of Garitsa and ends on the peninsula of Kanoni. It was a colony of the Corinthians, who settled in the area in the second half of the eighth century, probably in 734 B.C., led by the leader-founder Chersikrates. Its geographic loca-tion at a key strategic point on the trade route from and to the West made it possible for the city to grow quickly and independently. It thus planned for gaining its independence from the mother-city of Corinth, which it succeeded in obtaining with the seabattle of 664 B.C., the earliest such battle between Greeks according to Thucydides, the grate historian. Later, Corfu would gradually acquire such great financial power that it commanded ancient Greece’s largest fleet a er that of Athens. During the same period (7th-6th century B.C.), its economic power naturally gave rise to tremendous artistic growth. The large temples, monu-ments, and works built then were visible proof of the city’s power. Characteristic examples of this cultural flowering at Palaiopolis include the archaic temple at Kardaki and the temple of Artemis Gorgo, with the largest known pediment of the Archaic Age, housed today in the city’s Archaeological Museum.

At the same time, however, continual competition with Corinth for dominance in this vital sea region, as well as the friendly disposition of Corfu’s inhabitants towards Athens, frequently called forth military conflicts. The most important of these were the great sea battle at Sivota (Sybota) in Epirus (433 B.C.), and later, the equally catastrophic involvement of the island in the Peloponnesian War (432-404 B.C.), of which it was also the cause. The civil wars that followed essentially signaled the beginning of a gradual weakening and collapse of the island’s power at every level. Thus, while it was wavering between the Athenian alliance and Spartan hegemony, in 375 B.C. Corfu experienced yet another catastrophic siege by the Lacedaemonian general Mnessipus, as narrated by Xenophon. Next, the gradual increase in power of the Greeks of the North, the Macedonians, who replaced the Southern Greeks, the Athenians and Spartans, in the leadership of Greek affairs, once more found Corfu forming alliances with various camps, including the Illyrians, Athenians, Epirotes, and Syracusans, and involved in a succession of sieges and occupations. In the midst of this generally un-certain political situation in the Adriatic over the following decades, and under threat of hostile invasions and raids, Corfu in 229 B.C. went over of its own accord to Rome, the first Greek city to do so.