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History of Corfu

Corfu (Kérkyra) is the second largest island of the Ionian Sea. It has a population of 111,975, according to the 2001 census and, together with Paxi and the Diapontian Islands (Othoni, Erikoussa and Mathraki), constitutes the Prefecture of Corfu. Corfu Town is the prefecture’s political, administrative and commercial centre.

The Venetian rule period starts in 1386, when the community living in Corfu Town asked to be placed under the protection and the rule of the Venetian State.

Venice had expressed her interest in Corfu in the past, since the island is at a crossroads of strategic importance to Venice, in terms of her trade and geopolitical interests in the East. This reality renders the island the key area of military dispute in almost each Ottoman - Venetian War, with consequences that may be traced throughout the island’s long history, both in the landscape and in the composition of its population.

Corfu experienced three Ottoman sieges, which did not succeed in defeating its powerful fortifications nevertheless, they were followed by pillaging, raiding, looting and destruction of the countryside, as well as by enslavement of the locals. The first siege took place in 1537 and led to extensive devastation of the unfortified town and the rural areas. These destructions played a decisive role in the in the way that the landscape of Corfu was subsequently shaped, with the replacement of destroyed vines with olive trees. The siege made evident the problems in the Venetians’ defence policy on the island, which left the town and its inhabitants virtually defenceless and resulted in new, major interventions on the Old Fortress (1557), during which new fortification practices were applied, as dictated by the needs created in fortress architecture by the use of new weapons (cannons). The new siege of 1571 by the Ottoman forces, made Venice decide to effectively fortify the entire city.

The fortification included building the surrounding walls, the New Fortress and the creation of the Spianada square, integrated into the defence design of the Old Fortress. New fortification works were undertaken after the third siege (1716), during the fourth Ottoman - Venetian War, proof of the interest that Venice had for Corfu, particularly after the loss of Crete in 1669.

Source: ETIN SA

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