zakynthos history

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Zakynthos history: Learn about the history of the famous island of Zakynthos Greece

  The first presence of human life on the island of Zakynthos Greece dates back to the Neolithic Times.

The island was first mentioned in the Homeric plays, the Iliad and the Odyssey. According to Homer, the first inhabitants of the island were the son of the King Dardanos of Troy, Zakynthos, and his men, who came on the island around 1500-1600 B.C.

The years that followed, the Zakynthos history was marked with the conquest of the island by King Arkeisios of Kefalonia.

The island subsequently fell under the hands of the famous Ulysse from Ithaka. A treaty that gave to Zakynthos its independence was signed.

During the Peloponnesian War, Zakynthos was a part of the Athenian Alliance.
After the defeat of the Athenians in the expedition against Sicily, the Athenian Alliance was dissolved and Zakynthos fell under the reign of the Lacedaemonians.

The Lacedaemonians established an oligarchy and altered the democratic principles of the island. The inhabitants of Zakynthos revolted and restored their traditional democracy.

During the Macedonian Wars, Zakynthos did not hold a neutral stance and as a result, was subjugated by the Macedonians and later by the Romans.
Christianity spread on the island around 34 A.D. Constantine the Great created the Byzantine Empire and the new religion became dominant in the second half of the 3rd century A.D.
Zakynthos and the other Ionians islands got then captured successively by the Venetians, the Franks, the Kings of Naples and the Princes of Florence.


Then, democracy was established, the first in the Hellenic area. The democratic era on the island of Zakynthos lasted more than 650 years.

Due to the location and the fertility of the island, the inhabitants became quite wealthy and started establishing colonies in Crete, Paros (in the Cyclades), and even in Spain.

During the Persian Wars of the 5th century, Zakynthos maintained a neutral position up to the battle of Plataea, during which it chased the Persians to Asia along with the Lacedaemonians.

Zakynthos history was marked by the Roman Domination.

During the first years, Zakynthos was administrated by a proconsul according to the Roman law.

Later, the island acquired a degree of autonomy with the obligation to pay an annual tax to the Romans and to offer soldiers to their legions.

The island, then, had the possibility to establish its own laws. It had its own municipality, parliament, and even its own coins.

During the period of Roman occupation, the island developed both materially and culturally.

When in the 15th century, the rest of the Greek territory was dominated by the Turks, the Ionian islands remained under the rule of the Venetians. The Venetians established on the island their harsh aristocratic oligarchic political system.

Later around 1797, the French republicans arrived on the island but did not manage to solve the social and economic problems and the island fell again under the rule of Russians and Turks.

They were succeeded another time by the French and finally by the British for the period between 1814 and 1864. The British modernised the administration and the public works but during those years, Greece’s independence from the Turks created a strong nationalist feeling which leaded to the unification of the Ionians islands with the newly built Hellenic Republic, on 21 May 1864.

The loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta-Caretta) is an endangered species and can only be found today in the Mediterranean... more
Zakynthos architecture adopted elements from the culture of Western Europe... more

All the majors festivals are related to religious ceremonies... more
There is a wealth of Zakynthos churches on the island. The most famous is the Church of Agios Dionyssios... more






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