Corfu


CORFU   KÉRKIRA; Kerkyra.

The second largest and northernmost of the Ionian Islands, except for some very small ones;  its northeasternmost shores are separated by a narrow channel from Albania. It forms a nome or department in present-day Greece.

The island was generally held by the Byzantine Empire until its fall in 1204, though the Norman rulers of southern Italy, twice controlled it, Robert Guiscard in 1081-5, and King Roger II, 1147-9. Briefly Venetian after 1204, it became part of the Greek Despotate of Epirus. In 1257 the island, with places on the Albanian shore, was seized by Manfred, King of Sicily. The following year Michael II of Epirus allied himself with Manfred, whose conquests remained in his hands as the dowry for his new wife, Michael’s daughter Helena.

When Charles of Anjou took Manfred’s life and kingdom in 1266 he kept Corfu, and inherited the ambitions of the Kings of Sicily for Balkan dominion. In 1386 Venice took possession of the island. The Kingdom of Naples having become feeble, the Venetians invited the islanders to invite them to protect them; the islanders took the hint and did so. Corfu remained part of Venice’s possessions until the demise of the Republic in 1797, as did the nearby mainland port of Butrinto, acquired at the same time.

Corfu became French from 1797 until the fall of Napoleon.   Though there was the possibility that the Knights of St John of Jerusalem would be compensated in 1815 for their loss of Malta in 1800 with Corfu, nothing came of it.   Like the rest of the Ionian Islands, Corfu was under British protection until 1864 when it was handed over to the Kingdom of Greece.

Corfu, together with the small nearby islands, forms the nome of Kérkira in the Ionian Islands region.

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