HISTORY IN BRIEF

            

Zakynthos has a turbulent history and has been inhabited since Neolithic Times as archaeological excavations have proven. According to Homer, the first inhabitants of the island was Zakynthos,son of King Dardanos of Troy and his men, who arrived between 1500 and 1600 B.C. In the 5th century during the Persian Wars, Zakynthos remained neutral, but did participate in the Peloponnesian War as it joined the Athenian Alliance. Later, the island became part of the Kingdom of Macedonia. Thereafter it fell under Roman rule and the Zakynthians gained some autonomy having the freedom to establish their own laws, their own municipality, parliament, legislature, and their own currency with a local symbol. This encouraged much cultural development in Zakynthos at the time.

However, an even more turbulent era was ushered in during Byzantine Times. After Constantine the Great included Zakynthos in the province of Illyria the island began suffering many attacks from pirates and later, from the Crusaders. Thereafter, Zakynthos, along with the other Ionian islands, fell under Venetian rule (1084 A.D.), and from the end of the 12th century until 1357, Zakynthos fell under French rule. In the 15th century, the Ionian islands, unlike the rest of Greece, were not occupied by the Ottomans and remained under Venetian rule. The Venetians called Zakynthos Fiore di Levante which means ‘Flower of the East’ and its nobility and fertility made it the jewel of their empire. With the French Revolution in 1789, Zakynthians brought the ideals of social equity and justice to the island. In 1798, the Ottoman fleet besieged Zakynthos. Two years later, Turks and Russians signed a treaty which established the first independent Greek State of the Seven Islands. While Zakynthos was the titular capital of the Ionian State – the British fleet had occupied the island in 1809 – the rest of Greece was under Ottoman rule. With a base in free Zakynthos, the Philiki Eteria (secret society) promoted the rebellion against the Ottomans.

In 1830, Greece became independent, and on 21 May 1864 the Greek flag was finally raised on the island.

Unfortunately, a earthquake in August 1953 destroyed most of the ancient monuments and buildings on the island leaving a devastating trail of destruction in its wake. It was beautifully rebuilt preserving its former grace, with neoclassical public premises, dominating squares, small streets and arcades.