Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea and is the second largest of the Ionian Islands. It is a very popular tourist destination that, along with its small satellite islands forms the northwesterly part of Greece. The principal city of the island is also named Corfu, and is home to the Ionian University.
Corfu is bound up with the history of Greece from the earliest tales of Greek mythology. Its Greek name, Kerkyra or Korkyra, is related to two powerful water symbols, Poseidon, and Asopos, an important Greek mainland river. According to Greek myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopus and the river nymph Metope. Poseidon abducted Korkyra and brought her to the hitherto unnamed island and gave it her name, which gradually evolved to Kerkyra. According to legend, Poseidon and Korkyra had a child they named Phaiax. The inhabitants of the island were named Phaiakes, and to this day Corfu’s nickname is “The island of the Phaeacians”.
Corfu’s history is full of battles and conquests. Castles occupy strategic locations across the island and stand as legacies to the island’s struggles. Two of these castles enclose Corfu’s capital, which is the only city in Greece to be fortified in such a way. As a result, Corfu’s capital has been officially declared a Kastropolis, or “castle city” by the Greek government. From medieval times and into the 17th century, the island was the European States’ main line of defense against the Ottoman Empire. As such, it became one of the most fortified places in all of Europe. The fortifications of the island were used by the Venetians to defend against Ottoman intrusion into the Adriatic. Corfu defenders repulsed several Ottoman sieges but fell under British rule following the Napoleonic Wars. Corfu, along with the remaining islands of the United States of the Ionian Islands, was eventually unified with modern Greece in 1864 under the Treaty of London.
In 2007, the city of Corfu’s old quarter was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, following a recommendation by ICOMOS.
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