Περιφερειακή ενότητα / Δήμος
View of Zakynthos City
Zakynthos within Greece
|Coordinates: / 37.800; 20.750 / 37.800; 20.750|
|• Vice Governor||Eleutherios Niotopoulos|
|• Mayor||Pavlos Kolokotsas|
|• Total||405.55 km (156.58 sq mi)|
|• Density||100/km (260/sq mi)|
|Postal codes||29x xx|
Zakynthos (Greek: Ζάκυνθος [ˈzacinθos] ( listen)) or Zante (/, - , -/; from Venetian) is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. Zakynthos is a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and its only municipality. It covers an area of 405.55 km (156.6 sq mi) and its coastline is roughly 123 km (76 mi) in length. The name, like all similar names ending in -nthos, is pre-Mycenaean or Pelasgian in origin. In Greek mythology the island was said to be named after Zakynthos, the son of a legendary Arcadian chief Dardanus.
Zakynthos is a tourist destination, with an international airport served by charter flights from northern Europe. The island's nickname is To fioro tou Levante (Italian: Il fiore di Levante, English: The flower of the East), given by the Venetians.
|1185||Zakynthos becomes part of the County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos under the Kingdom of Naples|
|1465-1466||Arrival of mostly 10,000 Stradiotes from the Peloponnese|
|1484||Arrival of the Venetians.|
Zakynthos has been inhabited from at least the Paelolithic and later Neolithic Age as some archaeological excavations have proven. The island was important during the Mycenaean period, being mentioned three times on Linear B tablets from Pylos, Messenia. There were also Zakynthian rowers present in the Mycenaean Messenian state. The Mycenaean presence is further attested by the monumental Mycenaean built and tholos tombs that have been excavated on Zakynthos. Most important is the Mycenaean cemetery that was accidentally discovered during road construction in 1971 near the town of Kambi.
The ancient Greek poet Homer mentioned the Zakynthos in the Iliad and the Odyssey, stating that the first inhabitants of it were the son of King Dardanos of Arcadia called Zakynthos and his men. Before being renamed Zakynthos, the island was said to have been called Hyrie. Zakynthos was then conquered by King Arkesios of Kefalonia, and then by Odysseus from Ithaca. According to some sources Saguntum in present-day Spain was founded by the Zakynthians as part of the broader Greek colonisation of the Mediterranean. Some sources claim this occurred 200 years before the Trojan War but this is doubtful. Zakynthos participated in the Trojan War and is listed in the Homeric Catalogue of Ships. In the Odyssey, Homer mentions 20 nobles from Zakynthos among a total of 108 of Penelope's suitors.
Hundreds years after the Trojan War a treaty was signed that made Zakynthos an independent democracy, the first established in Greece, that lasted more than 650 years.The Athenian military commander Tolmides concluded an alliance with Zakynthos during the First Peloponnesian War sometime between 459 and 446 BC. In 430 BC, the Lacedaemonians made an unsuccessful attack upon Zakynthos. The Zakynthians are then enumerated among the autonomous allies of Athens in the disastrous Sicilian expedition. After the Peloponnesian War, Zakynthos seems to have passed under the supremacy of Sparta because in 374 BC, Timotheus, the Athenian commander, on his return from Kerkyra, landed some Zakynthian exiles on the island and assisted them in establishing a fortified post. These exiles must have belonged to the anti-Spartan party as the Zakynthian rulers applied for help to the Spartans who sent a fleet of 25 to the island.
The importance of this alliance for Athens was that it provided them with a source of tar. Tar is a more effective protector of ship planking than pitch (which is made from pine trees). The Athenian trireme fleet needed protection from rot, decay and the teredo, so this new source of tar was valuable to them. The tar was dredged up from the bottom of a lake (now known as Lake Keri) using leafy myrtle branches tied to the ends of poles. It was then collected in pots and could be carried to the beach and swabbed directly onto ship hulls. Alternatively, the tar could be shipped to the Athenian naval yard at the Piraeus for storage.
Philip V of Macedon seized Zakynthos in the early 3rd century BC when it was a member of the Aetolian League. In 211 BC, the Roman praetor Marcus Valerius Laevinus took the city of Zakynthos with the exception of the citadel. It was afterwards restored to Philip V of Macedon. The Roman general, Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, finally conquered Zakynthos in 191 BC for Rome. In the Mithridatic War, it was attacked by Archelaus, the general of Mithridates, but he was repulsed.
The introduction of Christianity on Zakynthos is said to have occurred when either St Mary Magdalene or St Berenice visited the island in the 1st century AD on their way to Rome. In 467 AD, the Vandal King Genseric pillaged Zakynthos and captured 500 Zakynthian members of the local elite. Later in 533 AD, the island was used as a naval station for the troops of Byzantine general Belisarius in his campaigns against the vandals in Italy.
The Ionian Islands including Zakynthos remained largely unaffected by the Slavic invasions and settlement of the 7th century AD; however, they did suffer raids from Arab pirates in 880 AD and the Pisans in 1099. During the beginning of the Middle Byzantine era, Zakynthos formed a base for the re-establishment of imperial control and the re-Hellenization of the mainland coast. Zakynthos became part of the Byzantine Theme of Cephallenia, a military-civilian province located in western Greece comprising the Ionian Islands. It was extant from around the 8th century until partially conquered by the Normans of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1185.
There was a close relationship between the Theme of Cephallenia with Byzantine holdings in southern Italy as the Ionian Islands served as a key communication link with, and staging base, for operations in Italy and defended the maritime approaches of the Ionian and Adriatic seas against Arab pirates. However, Zakynthos was not a central part of the Theme as its strategos was based mostly at Cephalonia. The Theme was also frequently used as a place of exile for political prisoners.
Following the collapse of Byzantine control in southern Italy in the mid-11th century, the Theme of Cephallenia's importance declined and was subsequently headed by civilian governors. Kerkyra and the rest of the Theme except for Lefkada were captured by the Normans under William II of Sicily in 1185. Although Kerkyra was recovered by the Byzantines by 1191, the other islands including Zakynthos remained lost to Byzantium. They formed a County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos under William II's Greek admiral Margaritus of Brindisi.
After 1185 Zakynthos became part of the County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos under the Kingdom of Naples until its last Count Leonardo III Tocco was defeated by the Ottomans in 1479.
The title and the right to rule the Ionian islands of Cephalonia and Zakynthos was originally given to the Greek Margaritos of Brindisi in 1185 for his services to William II, king of Sicily. The County then passed on to a branch of the Orsini family until 1325, when it passed briefly to Angevins and then from 1357 to the Tocco family. The Tocco used the county as a springboard for their acquisition of lands in the Greek mainland. However, facing the advance of the Ottoman Turks they successively lost their mainland territories and were once again reduced to the County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos which they held until 1479 when the Ottoman Turks took the island.
Ottoman Turkish rule lasted only until 22 April 1484; however, the Ottoman Turks did not occupy Zakynthos. Then it was swapped with the Turks by Venetian secretary Giovanni Dario, negotiator of the treaty of Constantinople (1479), against neighboring Cephalonia and the provision of an annual tribute of 500 ducats. From then on Zakynthos remained an overseas colony of the Venetian Republic until its very end in 1797, following the fate of the Ionian islands, completed by the capture of Cephalonia in 1500 and Lefkas in 1684 from the Turks.
Venetian rule protected the island from Ottoman domination but in its place an oligarchy established and maintained. For example, the infamous Libro d'Oro was first compiled on Zakynthos in 1542. It was a formal directory of nobles of the members of the local Community Council. After the Ionian Islands were conquered and annexed by Napoleon Bonaparte's France in 1797, the Libro d'Oro was ceremoniously burned in Zakynthos town.
The civil and military governor of the Ionian Islands was the Provveditore generale da Mar, who lived on Kerkyra. Authority on Zakynthos was divided into the Venetian, occupied by Venetians and domestic authorities. The Venetian authorities represented the sovereign state and its political and military power over Zakynthos. The domestic authorities were appointed by the local Communal Council which was comprised of Zakynthians. (Consiglio della Comunità). The Venetian representatives led by the Provveditore (the title in Zakynthos or sometimes Retore) were appointed by the Great Council of Venice. The Provveditore's responsibilities included security from hostile raids, taxation, religious and other issues and was appointed for about two years. The subordinate Venetian officials were the consiglieri, two on each island, who performed administrative and judicial functions along with the Provveditore of each island. The three Venetian officials constituted the reggimento ("regime") of Zakynthos. The title pf Provveditore in Zakynthos could only be held by a nobleman. The cultural influence of Venice (and of Venetian on local dialect) was considerable. The wealthy made a habit of sending their sons to Italy to be educated. Good examples are Dionysios Solomos, a native of Zakynthos and Greece's national poet, and Ugo Foscolo, also native of Zakynthos and a national Italian poet. However, apart from the wealthy, an overwhelming proportion of the population; particularly, from the Cittadini, Popolari and Villani would have spoken Greek and adhered to the Orthodox faith.
During 1465–1466, around 10,000 refugees from the Peloponnese and mainly from Elis, many of them Stradiotes, settled in Zakynthos following an agreement between Venice and the Tocco family which ruled Zakynthos at that time. It is likely that a good number re-settled back in the Peloponnese at a later stage. Another group of Stradiotes under the leadership of Nikolaos Bochalis and Petros Buas settled on the island during the last years of the Venetian-Turkish wars of 1463–1479. When Zakynthos became a Venetian holding in 1484, the Venetian Republic sought to repopulate the island as the native population had dwindled. The Turkish raids in 1479 are believed to have resulted in many inhabitants hiding in the mountains or escaping the island altogether. Consequently, the Venice attempted to entice settlers and Greek refugees from mostly mainland Greece with parcels of land and fiscal privileges. However, they were expected provide and upkeep their horses and be ready to serve in war. And so began the cycle of emigration of Greeks from the Peloponnese, Crete, Rhodes and Cyprus to Zakynthos. One of the most important groups that were settled on Zakynthos were Stradioti (also known as Stratioti).
Stradioti were mounted troops of Greek and Arvanite-speaking Greek origin. Initially, they entered Venetian military service during the Venetian Republic's wars against the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. Stradioti had previously served Byzantine rulers and were pioneers of light cavalry tactics in European armies. After the dissolution of the Byzantine Empire in the Peloponnese, they found asylum and employment in the Venetian strongholds of Napfaktos, Nauplion, Koroni, Methoni, and Monemvassia. Later, as the Venetian Republic lost these holdings, Napfaktos in 1499, Koroni and Methoni in 1500, Monemvassia and Napflio in 1540, Cyprus in 1570–1571 and later Crete in 1669 to the Ottoman Empire, Stradioti were stationed and resettled in other Venetian holdings such as Zakynthos. One of the most famous groups of Stradiotes were the 400 Stradioti and their families settled shortly after 1485. They were led by Theodoros Paleologos. Shortly after in 1498, 150 Stradioti and their families were settled on the island. Some family names include the Soumakis, Roussianos, Xalkomatas from Napflion, Kapnisis, Commoutos, Minotos, Nomikos from Methoni, Melissinos, Kontostavlis and Skiadopoulos from Mani and Tzibletis, Kumvis, Karreris and Derossis from Cyprus. Other populations also settled on Zakynthos which were not held by Venice but were battlegrounds between Ottoman and Venetian forces such as Mani in the Peloponnese. Even some families from mainland Italy were settled in Zakynthos who were fleeing civil wars going on at that time. They included the less Hellenised at that time of Salviati, Mediki, Valterra, Serra, Bentivolia and Merkati. These waves of Stradiotes and refugees resulted in an island population of mixed classes of soldiers and refugees. By 1621, the settlement of people from certain areas was so dense in certain areas of Zakynthos town that the neighbourhood was named after them like Maniatika given the high proportion of people from Mani.
Stradioti continued to be employed by Venice as capelatti (rural gendarmes) in the Terra Firma well into the 17th century. Stradioti companies also continued to be garrisoned in some of the towns of Cephalonia, Kerkyra and Zakynthos. In Zakynthos, a slightly different company of Stradiotes from those guarding Zakynthos town were given the responsibility to guard the coast from the frequent pirate raids. They were considered the better fighters with the best horses on the island. They generally kept watch from watchtowers (which are still found on the island) during summer when pirate raids were more numerous and organised themselves using fire or smoke signals to gather fellow Stradiotes and defend the island against a raiding party.
Stradioti continued their service into the 18th century but over time they virtually became a hereditary caste. Some of the Stradioti or their descendents became members of the Ionian nobility while others took to farming.
During the early 16th century, the Venetian Republic had refrained from partaking in European campaigns against the Ottoman Turks given its vital interests in the Adriatic and the eastern Mediterranean including Zakynthos. It also tried to remain above the fray when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, ruler of Imperial Spain and Hapsburg Netherlands and the Knights of St John of Malta (recently re-located from Rhodes) attempted seize Methoni (Modon) in 1531 and Koroni (Coron) in 1532 from the Ottoman Turks.
On August 1531, the Knights of St John of Malta led by Fra Bernardo Salviati headed towards Methoni. They were joined by 200 Zakynthians led by Ioannis Skandalis. The Zakynthians traveled as merchants on brigantine ships supposedly transporting wine and timber. Some sources even claim some of them were dressed as Ottoman Janissaries. A few scholars believe that many of these Zakynthians were former inhabitants of Methoni and Koroni and perhaps were moved to Zakynthos by the Venetians when those cities fell to the Ottoman Turks only 31 years before in 1500.
The fleet of the Knights of Malta waited nearby at the island of Sapienza. Skandalis’s father, Nikolaos lived in Methoni as a crypto-Christian, worked in customs and the guard of the port. When the merchant ships arrived Nikolaos Skandalis invited Ioannnis Skandalis and his Zakynthian crew and the Ottoman port authorities to a small celebration for their safe arrival. The Ottoman authorities became heavily drunk and feel asleep. Just before dawn the some of the Knights of St of John of Malta, who were hiding in the lumber, crept out and attacked the port guards, seized the main gate, and fired a cannon to signal to the squadron anchored at Sapienza to help them take the city. The Turkish garrison and their families shut themselves up in the palace. The fleet at Sapienza was late in coming to Methoni and shortly a Turkish relieving fleet arrived. The Knights of Malta and Ioannis Skandalis and his Zakynthians abandoned Methoni shortly after; although, they carried of 1600 prisoners.
When news reached Venice that Zakynthians, who were ostensibly Venetian subjects, were in contravention of Venetian policy they decided to act. On the 14 October 1531, they endeavoured to pursue and punish the Zakynthian leaders and participants of this ill-fated campaign to conquer Methoni. The Ottoman Turks also raised objections to Venice that this campaign by the Zakynthians would endanger the good relations and trade between the Venetian Republic and the Ottoman Empire. In fact, some sources suggest that the Ottoman Turks of the Peloponnese considered the Zakynthians responsible for the attack. However, rather than return to Zakynthos, the 200 Zakynthians sailed to Malta and with their own ships participated in piracy around the Peloponese. Later, they joined the Genoese admiral, Andrea Doria's campaign against the city of Koroni.
Towards the end of 1531, a squadron of ships of Charles V and Andrea Doria s anchored near Keri, Zakynthos. The Sultan threatened to raid Zakynthos in revenge for the participation of the Zakynthians in their attempt to conquer Methoni and because Doria's ships were anchored near Keri. On 22 July 1532, a Turkish fleet arrived in the port of Zakynthos. The Communal Council and other local authorities welcomed the fleet but the Zakynthian people fled to the Castle or into the mountains. The Turkish admiral and his entourage requested a riding tour of parts of the island which members of the Communal Council such as Ioannis Sigouros and others obliged. They also provided a feast for the visiting admiral. The Turkish squadron departed shortly after and to show their appreciation, set free some Zakynthians they had previously taken hostage.
The Turkish naval squadron returned to Zakynthos and anchored near Argassi. The naval forces of Charles V and Andrea Doria were now anchored near Katastari and Venetian galleys arrived and anchored near Skinari. Despite the strict order from Venice, the local Zakynthians assisted the ships of Charles V and Andrea Doria with supplies of food. Some of the 200 Zakynthians who had previously tried to conquer Methoni in 1531 appeared and committed to assist Charles V and Andrea Dorea to conquer Koroni. Venice sent out an order again to capture the Zakynthians leaders of this campaign, hang them and tie their bodies up in chains in Zakynthos town. The participants were to have their property confiscated and exiled from Zakynthos and other Venetian territories.
After the ill-dated attempt at conquering Methoni in 1531, some of the Zakynthians sailed to Malta and then partook in piracy around the Peloponnese before participating in the siege and conquest of Koroni. In 1532, the Hapsburg emperor Charles V ordered the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria to attack it as a diversion to the campaigns of the Little War in Hungary. Doria managed to capture the city in 25 September 1532 after a few days siege with the assistance of Zakynthians and defeating a Turkish reliving force of 500 cavalry. The Turkish garrison asked for terms and was granted safe passage for their wives and children and goods. The Papal and Imperial banners were raised over the battlements. Andrea Doria’s forces then to lay waste to the surrounding coast. Shortly, afterwards he occupied Patras. However, in spring 1533, the Ottoman Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent sent 60 galleys to retake the Koroni. They blockaded the harbour, but they were defeated by Doria, highlighting the weakness of the Ottoman Navy at that time. An Ottoman land army however was successful in laying a siege around the city, forcing its surrender on 1 April 1534. The weakened Christian garrison was allowed to leave the city unharmed.
Venetian made diplomatic overtures to Imperial Spain, concerned the Zakynthians might shift their allegiance with Imperial Spain and the forces of Andrea Doria. The Zakynthian exiles did not stay away from the island for long and by 4 June 1533 many had returned from their campaign at Koroni, were armed and staying in Zakynthos town and rural Zakynthos. Venice again sent out a message that the exiles must leave the island or risk being executed.
However, a few years later, with the outbreak of the Venetian-Turkish war of 1537–1540, the foreign policy of Venice changed. On 8 February 1538, Venice entered into a treaty with Charles V and the Papacy against the Ottoman Turks. And so on 28 February that same year, Venice invited the Zakynthian exiles back to Zakynthos and gave them their freedom requiring their services to protect the island from possible Ottoman Turkish attacks.
Shortly after the establishment of Venetian rule in 1484, Venice sought to repopulate Zakynthos with the resettlement of many Stradiotes and refugees from mainland Greece to stimulate the production of grain. Not long after, it is reported Zakynthos was exporting grain mostly to Venice to meet the demand by its fleet.
As early as the 1540s, the increase in the cultivation of currants in Zakynthos and Cephalonia attracted the attention of the local Rettore. Even by 1533, there are reports of direct trade in currants between the Ionian Islands and England without the trade being routed via Venice and so avoiding duties. In response, Venice tried to stop the proliferation of currant plantations as they were deemed potentially dangerous for Zakynthos's grain production. The situation had become so dire for Venice that by the early 1580s it is reported that Zakynthos had gone from being self-sufficient in grain to having only 3 months of supplies for local consumption and relying on imports from Ottoman territories. Venice recognised this was not viable in case of war with the Ottoman Empire. However, the farmers and merchants of Zakynthos continued to cultivate more currants – it was reported a field of currants yielded up to 60 ducats of profit, whilst a field of grain yielded around 6.
One of the primary reasons currants became so much more profitable than grain was the increasing demand from the English market and the emerging relationship with English merchants in evading customs duties. In 1545, for the first time, there was some alarm regarding customs evasion, as the local authorities on Zakynthos were concerned that foreign merchants, later identified as English, were exporting out of Zakynthos and Cephalonia with the support of local inhabitants. In 1580, the returning Rettori from Zakynthos and Cephalonia – Gabriele Emo and Alvise Lando – highlighted the increased English presence in the islands. Emo and Lando recommended that an additional levy be raised to offset their encroachment on local trade.
Despite this, currant production continued to grow becoming an important cash crop and a major factor behind economic fluctuations and outbreaks of civil unrest in Zakynthos for the next few centuries. Zakynthos became so synonymous for currants that the product became known as Zante Currant in England and is still called this in many English-speaking countries like the United States. However, as with most cash crops, currants became a wealth and a curse. It injected large sums of money into the local economy which made certain classes, capable of exploiting emerging credit structures, very wealthy which did not always coincide with a change in status. This led to societal tension. In addition, currant production and trade made Zakynthos and Cephalonia almost entirely reliant on one agricultural product making the islands vulnerable to changes in currant prices.
Today, currants are still grown in Zakynthos and were recently recognized as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product by European Union.
The rise of the currant product and trade in Zakynthos spurred the growth of several mercantile families, such as the Soumakis (Sumacchi) and Sigouros (Seguro), which played a key role in not only local but also international affairs. Some Zakynthian mercantile families had become so prominent in the currant trade, that most Venetians present in England in the last quarter of the sixteenth century were Greek subjects of the Republic, and some of them were Zakynthians. These Zakynthian mercantile families not only contributed to the commercial life of the island as merchants and ship captains but several members of those families became notable Stradiotes, poets, chroniclers, diplomats, priests and even a Saint of the Orthodox Church. Their story provides a glimpse into the commercial and political links of elite Zakynthians during the early part of Venetian rule.
The Sigouros family were descendants of the Norman De Segur who had been settled in Zakynthos for many years before the arrival of the Venetians in 1485. At the latest, the family had embraced Orthodoxy before the end of the Tocco family rule. The family escaped the destruction of Zakynthos by the Turks in 1479 and returned a few years later at the beginning of the Venetian rule. They faithfully served the Venetians as Stradioti including service in Italy and Mani, Peloponnese and so was rewarded with Venetian titles as well as inclusion in the Libro d’Oro and managed to regain much of their ancestral land on Zakynthos. They were also allowed to captain warships.
The brothers and Markos (first cousin of St Dionysios) and Agesilaos Sigouros were active as merchants and as shipowners throughout the latter half of the 16th century and 17th century. The extent of their commercial links is exemplified by the fact that vessels belonging to them regularly reached England carrying currants and oil not only for themselves; but, also acting for other merchants from Venice and her territories. in addition, the illegal partnership of Markos Sigouros with some English merchants provides the only surviving trial for smuggling currants in the Ionian islands. The deal between Greek and English merchants involved the delivery of currants in Venice – free of customs – in exchange for textiles – also free of customs – to be delivered ‘at sea’ so the Greeks could sell them in the Ottoman occupied Morea.
From a notable Zakynthian family originally hailing from Crete, Giorgios Soumakis also became one of the most prominent merchants and shipowners in the last third of the 16th century and the early 17th century. Giorgios Soumakis and his almost equally prominent son, Michael divided most of their trading interests between the Ionian Islands and Venice. They were involved in the legal and illegal currant trade with England; and consequently, they were well known as powerful intermediaries in London commercial circles. However, they also traded with Crete where they exported wines to England. There is evidence of problems with Spanish Crown due to the Spanish and English wars going on during that time. Given their influence among the local elites, the Soumakis family also acted as intermediaries for other Venetian merchants trading with the Ionian islands.
In Venice, Zakynthians families like the Soumakis and Sigouros also provided crucial links between northern traders and the Jewish commercial web.
The people of Zakynthos contributed to the famous Battle of Lepanto not only due to the proximity of the battle to the island but also due to the Ottoman Turkish raids prior to the battle and the partipication of a number of galleys from the island. In early 1570, the Provveditore of Zakynthos, Paolo Contarini took active measures for the defense of the island given a new outbreak in the conflict between the Austrians and Ottoman Turks. Throughout spring and early summer of 1571, Ottoman Turkish raiders plundered several monasteries around the island but they were met with fierce resistance by local fighters led by George Minotos and Constantine Vlastos. Many Zakynthians found refuge in the Castle. Shortly after, the Ottoman Turks and Barbary pirates raided and sieged the Castle for 30 days but the islanders bravely repelled the attack – the attackers left for neighbouring Cephalonia. After this historic victory, Paolo Contarini invited the leaders to the Government House in the Castle where young nobles performed, for the first recorded time in modern Greek history, Aeschylus's tragedy, The Persians in Italian translation.
In early October 1571, the united naval forces of Venice, Spain and Pope Pius V under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria gave battle against the Ottoman Turkish fleet at the entrance of the Patras Gulf in the famous Battle of Lepanto (not at Lepanto as is commonly believed). Along with many Greeks from Crete, Kerkyra, Naxos and Cyprus (also Greeks in the Ottoman Turkish fleet), Zakynthian sailors participated in the battle with six galleys financed, equipped and manned by mostly locals. They were led by Andreas Koutouvali, Nicholas Mondinos, Marinos Sigouros (nephew of St. Dionysios), Nicholas Foskardi, Constantine Vlastos, Dimitris Comoutos and Ioannis Montsenigos.
Residents of the Zakynthos watched the battle from the area of Kryoneri and Voidi island where they apparently could hear the cannon and see the ship's sails. After the victory part of the fleet landed in Zakynthos where residents welcomed them with great enthusiasm.
The life of Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos provides a clue as to life during the early period of Venetian rule. Draganigos Sigouros was born in 1547 to a noble family located in the south-east of the island. The family had roots in Venice and the name appears in the Libro D'Oro as they had fought on the side of Venice in the Venetian–Turkish wars. Draganigos was educated by Orthodox priests and became fluent in Greek, Italian, and Latin. He became a monk in 1568 and was given the name Daniel. Two years later he was ordained a deacon and became a priest in 1577. Daniel was raised to Archbishop of Aegina and Poros under the name of Dionysios in 1577; however, shortly after he abdicated and re-settled in Zakynthos as an abbot of the monastery of the Virgin Mary Anafornitria. Not long after he forgave his brother's murderer following a family feud which were common at the time between rich and powerful families of the island, which later led to him being given the epithet of the Saint of Forgiveness. He died on December 17 in 1622. Dionysios was declared a Saint of the Orthodox Church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1703.
St Dionysios is the patron saint and protector of Zakynthos and his feast day celebrated on December 17 and August 24 where the Church celebrates the transfer of his relics to the island from Strofades.
Another key source of Zakynthian refugees and influence on Zakynthian culture including its dialect was The Mani in the southern Peloponese.
After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and Mystras in 1460 the Mani remained the last free area of the former late Byzantine empire. It became a frequent staging point for rebellion by local Maniots and Stradiotes. One of the first major armed insurrections of Stradioti against the Ottoman Empire began in 1463 under the leadership of Krokodilos Kladas and was coincident with the Venetian-Turkish war of 1463–1479. Venice recognised the people from Mani or Maniates as allies in their war against the Ottoman Empire given their military prowess and tactial acumen.
After Venice occupied Zakynthos in 1484, it endeavored to re-populate the island with Stradioti and refugees from regions in mainland Greece which it lost to the Ottoman Empire. Given Maniates had fought as allies with Venice against the Ottoman Empire only a few years before, the Maniot Stradiotes were one of the sources of Zakynthian settlers. They settled primarily in the coastal area of Aigallon around present-day Zakynthos town and surrounding villages. Prominent families to settle in Zakynthos were Voultsos, Gerakaris, Doxaras, Kontostavlos, Kouroumalos, Koutifaris, Melissinos, Messalas, Novakos, Samariaris, Skiadopoulos, Stefanopoulos, Someritis and Foukas. Some of these Maniot families were later registered in the Libro d’Oro. A few of these family names are still prominent in Zakynthos today.
After this initial influx, many Maniot families continued to emigrate to Zakynthos following the almost continual conflicts with the Ottoman Turks and pirate raids on their homeland. On 30 August 1670, the Provveditore, Pizani wrote that 1500 people emigrated to Zakynthos and more would have arrived had the Ottoman Turks not blocked shipping to the island. This chain of emigration also helped to maintain trade contact between the Mani and Zakynthos. Gradually, the people from Mani assimilated into Zakynthian society but not without influencing Zakynthian culture and its dialect. Not surprisingly, Maniots were also active participants in the Rebellion of the Popolari in 1628. Of the four Procuratori that were elected by the Popolari, one of them was a Maniot, Anastasios Rousos. Of the 28 Popolari that took up arms, five were from Mani. Some scholars even contend that the practice of blood feud was imported to Zakynthos from the Mani.
One of the most interesting early Maniot emigrants was Panagiotis Doxaras, the father of the Heptanese School of Painting. His family migrated to Zakynthos from the Mani shortly after he was born in 1664. Another interesting migrants was the maternal ancestors of Dionysios Solomos’s mother, Angelili Niklis.
However, the influence was all one way. During the Morean War (Sixth Venetian-Ottoman War) in 1684, Zakynthian Pavlos Makris led a band of 230 Maniot fighters to relieve the castle of Zarnata in the Mani from an Ottoman Turkish garrison that was established after the participation of Maniots in the earlier Cretan War (Fifth Venetian-Ottoman war).
Venetian rule was anything but peaceful during the period of the occupation. The societal changes and inequalities that developed between the various classes of Zakynthian society: Cittadini or Civili (bourgoise citizens), Popolari (urban lower classes) and the Villani (people of the countryside) resulted in the so-called Rebellion of the Popolari which broke in 1628 and lasted for 4 years.
After the Turkish raids of 1479 and the general neglect of the Tocco family rule, Zakynthos and Cephalonia were underpopulated by the time they became part of the Venetian Republic. Consequently, there was no feudal structures or jurisdictions on both islands. Over time, a steady wave of settlers of Stradiotes and refugees arrived and mixed with the relatively small number indigenous inhabitants of the island. The confluence of these factors created a very unusual property situation for the time, characterised by many small and free landowners, which would also be dramatically affected by the currant boom. In addition, the structure of Venetian rule was heavily dependent on local Zakynthians. Given there was no feudal nobility, the Cittadini, members of the local council had political rights and participated in local administration alongside the Venetian Reggimento, had considerable influence. The Popolari had very few political rights. However, in the early years of Venetian rule there was considerable mobility between the Popolari and Cittadini. Gradually, over the course of time the Cittadini attempted to stifle the entry of Popolari into the local governance structures by attempting to close the communal council by adopting the institution of the Small Council of 150 and also by cleaning up the General Council. With the influx of cash from the boom in currant production and trade, discontent increased among some of the newly wealthy Popolari who in turn sought arouse some of the lower strata of the population to rebel.
It is commonly thought a decision by the Inquisitore Antonio da Ponte in 1623 to change the rosters for night wardens in Zakynthos town by extending these to all Popolari sparked the Rebellion of the Popolari. The leaders of the Popolari interpreted this as an abuse of power by the Cittadini and a formal codification of the Popolari's inferiority as the Cittadini could easily manipulate the wardenships. Therefore, the conflict was primarily between the Cittadini and the Popolari classes. Although, the Cittadini were not entirely Venetian, the dissatisfaction of the Popolari was directed towards the Cittadini as representatives of Venetian rule.
The situation remained at a stalemate until May 1628. Then the Popolari decided to elect four Procuratori as their representatives and one Avvocato of the people. They also elected four ambassadors to go to Venice to plead directly to the Senate. The Rettore accepted these elections to keep the peace. The following August, the Capitano dell'Armata, Antonio Civran brought matters to a head by demanding that everyone sign up on the new rosters. No one did. He arrested the four Procuratori. The population rose up in arms, the flag of St Mark was insulted, Cittadini homes were threatened with fire and the galley of the Capitano was shot at. Calm was brought about by intermediation by the local Orthodox clergy, high ranking Venetians and even the English merchants stationed in Zakynthos. For the next three years the Procuratori were made part of the council, but in June 1631 the Inquisitore Antonio Pisani arrived and started a trial that lasted until February 1632. The sentences for the rebels was extremely severe but a few years later there was a general pardon.
By and large, the rich Popolari did not want to overthrow Venetian rule as is commonly thought. Neither did they want to abolish the social hierarchy. Their demands were simply so they could rise within the social hierarchy. Ultimately, they were not successful. In 1683, marked the strict closure of the Communal Council by restricting its membership to 93 families and took on the unofficial title of Nobles. However, the Popolari were to get their revenge a little more than 100 years later.
Importantly, the Rebellion of the Popolari was documented in a chronicle by Angelos Soumakis who was present during the events. It should be noted he was a member of the Cittadini. The Rebellion of the Popolari is often considered the first social revolt on Greek territory in modern history.
Zakynthos was considered a relatively wealthy island throughout the period of the Venetian occupation, so pirates and corsairs presented a constant threat, compelling Zakynthians to remain vigilant. So much so they developed a relatively sophisticated early warning system using special guards, fires and guardhouses which some survive to this day. However, despite suffering from pirate attacks some Zakynthians also became well-known pirates or corsairs. Although the island was never known as a den of pirates like Mani, Peloponnese or Sfakia, Crete.
Given commerce and trade was the primary concern of the Venetian Republic; particularly, with the Ottoman Empire, they severely condoned corsairs and pirates operating in the eastern Mediterranean. However, they did vary their policy depending on whether they were at war with the Ottoman Empire. For example, the combined Christian fleet which also included many Venetian galleys that fought at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 employed Greek sailors who were previously partaking in piracy against the Ottoman Empire. After 1571, with the Ottoman fleet in disarray after Lepanto, many of these Greek pirates continued their activities with relative immunity. Even Christian corsairs from elsewhere in Europe flocked to the Eastern Mediterranean after 1571. It is reported that many of these corsairs, such as those funded by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, were welcomed in Zakynthos because many of the sailors that served on these ships were Ionian Islanders themselves. During other periods of Venetian-Ottoman conflict, the Venetians urged the Ionian Islanders to conduct espionage and piracy. They not only provided them with protection certificates but sometimes even ships. Of course, after the cessation of fighting it was difficult to control the piratical activities of the Ionian Islanders.
One of the most well-known Greek pirates was Zakynthian, Eustathios Romanos or perhaps better known as Manetas. He was active primarily between 1678-1684 based around the well-known pirate lair of the Aegean island of Milos. Supposedly, he amassed enormous wealth and owned seven galleys with cannons and a large crew. After the outbreak of the Morean War (Sixth Venetian-Turkish war) he joined the forces of Morisini and became a corsair for the Venetians. During the campaign to conquer Preveza by Venice and her allies, Romanos sailed east and captured Arta. For his later services in helping to conquer Chios, he was awarded the title of Colonel by the Venetian Republic. He was also involved in the trade of Turkish slaves. His son, Georgios (Zorzo) also continued the occupation of his father and menaced the coasts of Peloponnese, Zakynthos and Kefalonia. He also employed sailors from these regions and islands. Between 1734-1735, in the service of the Austrians, Zorzo Manetas and his brother Andreas Romanos and their seven galleys and another boat which they had acquired in Trieste with Austrian funds, manned with Zakynthians, Kefallonites, Ithakisians and Lefkadians, captured 15 French ships in the Ionian and Aegean Seas. Manetas and his brother were arrested by the Venetians and taken to Kerkyra. However, a year later they were released and departed for Trieste and Vienna. The Greeks as crews of foreign corsairs gained a reputation for their perseverance, austere lifestyle and hard work. In 1757 Panagiotis Dragos, a captain of an English ship from Minorca equipped 24 cannons and 42 men, mainly from Zakynthos and Kefalonia, and attacked and captured a French ship with a cargo of wheat in the port of Volos. In 1759, Zakynthian Konstantine Kalamatas (some scholars claim he was from Patmos), in the service of England made his presence felt on the Peloponnese coast. His crew consisted of 87 Greeks from the Ottoman Empire and Greek subjects of Venice. Based in Kythera he is known to have seized a French ship, where afterwards they led it to Mani and distributed the spoils.
During the latter stages of the Orlov Revolt, ships captained and manned by Ionian Islanders, including the Zakynthian captain, Padouveros took part in the Battle of Cesme with the Russian fleet against the Ottoman navy in July 1770. The Ottoman fleet was destroyed. After that Ionian Islanders manned large and small ships and conducted operations as corsairs under the Russian flag. Shortly after, the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca of 1774 between the the Russian and Ottoman Empire created even more favourable conditions for the Ionian Islanders allowing them to legally retain the privileges which they had attained as corsairs. In addition, many of the ships the Russians abandoned in the eastern Mediterranean were bought by Greek subjects of the Venetian Republic, namely, Ionian Islanders such as Delikostantis from Zakynthos who operated in an area ranging from the Ionian Sea to the area around Kastellorizo.
Lambros Katsonis was a Colonel in the Imperial Russian Navy, combatant in the Second Russian-Turkish War (1787-1792) and widely considered an early hero of the Greek War of Independence. In the late 1770s he assembled a Greek fleet of 70 ships and harassed the Ottoman Navy in the Aegean and Ionian Islands. Although not Zakynthian, his ships employed many sailors from the island. Later in 1788, in the service of the Imperial Russian Navy, he sailed from Trieste with his fleet manned Greek corsairs to Zakynthos. The Venetian Republic tried to restrict his activities given many of his sailors were Venetian subjects. Later, he tried to organise a pan-Hellenic naval campaign to rebel against the Ottoman Empire but he was ultimately not successful.
The Cretan War or the Fifth Ottoman–Venetian War between the Republic of Venice and her allies against the Ottoman Empire and the Barbary States was largely fought over the island of Crete, Venice's largest and richest overseas possession. The war lasted from 1645 to 1669 and was fought in Crete and the seas surrounding Crete. Although most of Crete was conquered by the Ottomans in the first few years of the war, the fortress of Candia (modern Heraklion), the capital of Crete, resisted successfully until it fell after a more than two-year siege. Many Cretans chose to flee rather than submit to the Ottomans seeking refuge in other parts of Venetian-occupied Greece and Venice itself. The Ionian Islands, primarily Zakynthos and Kerkyra and to a lesser extent, Kythera acted either as a place of refuge or a stopover towards Venice. The demographics, social structure, spiritual and artistic development of Zakynthos was significantly impacted by the Cretan War.
Zakynthos received its first wave of refugees mainly from the areas of Chania and Rethymno during the early years of the Cretan War. The siege and fall of Candia in 1669 marked the beginning of a new refugee wave which lasted until the early 18th century. The demographic changes were significant. A Venetian official, Antonio Bernardo reported to the Venetian Senate on May 25, 1670 that the island's population increased by 3,500 ‘souls’ from an existing population of around 24,000 people.
A significant proportion of the Cretan refugees to Zakynthos were from the upper social strata of Crete and had either Venetian or Cretan titles and cittadini status. The Venetian authorities sought to have these titles recognised where these noble Cretan refugees settled including Zakynthos. Additionally, these refugees sought and joined the Community Council which created tension and engendered strong reactions by the pre-existing Zakynthian upper social strata. Amongst these noble Cretan refugees were the paternal ancestors of Dionysios Solomos. Most the Cretan refugees to Zakynthos came from urban Crete and so primarily settled in Zakynthos town in the Castle and the Borgo della marina (where the central part of Zakynthos town is today) and its surrounds rather than in the countryside. The main settlement in Zakynthos town was the southern edge of the town. This district which was known as Neochori or Benardakaika existed until it was destroyed by the Great earthquake of 1953. Many of the Cretan refugees sought to re-form their guilds in Zakynthos if there were sufficient guild members among the refugees or they joined pre-existing guilds in Zakynthos. This contributed to the preservation of artistic and craft skills from the Cretan Renaissance period to Zakynthos and Kerkyra and later modern Greece.
Zakynthians themselves made important contributions to the war effort throughout period of the Cretan War with donations of food, money, munitions for galleys, sailors in the Venetian navy and soldiers in the Venetian land forces in Crete. For example, in 1659 the Community Council of Zakynthos decided to impose a new tax on those who exported wine and currants, at considerable cost to the producers and merchants of the island, in a move aimed at supporting the Venetian Republic in its long struggle against the Ottomans regarding Crete. Pavlos Gaitas, along with his brothers Ioannis, Dimitrios and Antonios, equipped a galley with a crew of local volunteers and took part in naval and land battles during the war. Gaitas's contribution to the war effort was rewarded by the Provveditore, Francesco Morosini in 1660 with his appointment into the Community Council of Zakynthos. A move that caused intense reactions from many incumbent members of the Community Council. Zakynthian Prokopios Martinego armed a galley and maintained a crew of 50 for many years throughout the conflict including the Siege of Candia. For his services to the defense of the island, the Venetian Republic officially recognized him in 1669 as a hero of the Cretan War. Another Zakynthian Moukas Romas made important contributions to the Cretan War as well as taking part in the last organized operation of transporting inhabitants of the city of Candia to the Ionian Islands.
The Morean War (or Sixth Venetian-Ottoman–War) was fought between 1684–1699 and was part of the ongoing conflict between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire. The war's theatre was very large, stretching from Dalmatia to the Aegean Sea, but the major flashpoint was the Morean (Peloponnese) peninsula. The war was primarily fought by Venice to avenge the loss of Crete in the Cretan War (1645–1669) only 15 years earlier. The Ottoman Turks struggled in this conflict as they were pre-occupied in their northern frontier against the Habsburgs and their allies. Ultimately, Venice was victorious. However, Venice's revival was short-lived – its gains would be reversed by the Ottoman Turks in what is sometimes called the Second Morean War (or Seventh Venetian-Ottoman War) in 1715. The island of Zakynthos did not experience the war on its soil but like most of Venice’s wars, Zakynthians fought on the side of Venice and Zakynthians held key leadership positions.
In January 1684, the Venetian Francesco Morosini, commander-in-chief gathered an expeditionary force to Greece. Apart from her own forces, Venice enrolled large numbers of mercenaries and aid from Italian and German states, and the Ionian Islands. With the exception of sailors and rowers for the fleet, around 2000 Ionian Islands soldiers were recruited. Morosini set sail to Kerkyra where he was joined by Venetian, Papal, Maltese and Tuscan galleys. At Kerkyra, Morosini was united with the local naval and military forces, as well as forces raised by noble Greek families of the Ionian Islands. There were six galleys from the Ionian islands of which three were from Zakynthos. The Zakynthian Agiselaos Sigouros, Nikolaos Logothetis and Constantinos Minotos captained these galleys. Eustathios Logothetis financed his own body of 150 Zakynthian soldiers. Also, Angelo De Negris from Zakynthos offered his services to Venice. In the meantime, the Venetians had sent the Zakynthian leaders, Pavlos Makris and Panagiotis Doxaras to the Mani to ferment revolt.
The Venetian and allied fleet targeted Lefkada. After a siege of 16 days, the fortress capitulated on 6 August 1684. Around 2000 Ionian Islanders participated in this campaign led by, amongst others, Nikolaos Komoutos, Angelos De Negri and Ioannis Koutouvelis from Zakynthos. The latter had armed his own galley of 80 men. The Venetians then crossed onto mainland Greece and captured several towns. In response, Greek leaders from across Epirus, Acarnania and Agrafa had contacted the Venetians with proposals for a common cause. Ottoman rule collapsed across western continental Greece and by the end of the month the Ottoman Turks only held on to the coastal fortresses of Preveza and Vonitsa. The Venetian fleet then launched several raids along the coast of Epirus and even on the north-western coast of the Peloponnese, near Patras. The Preveza castle surrendered after eight days of siege and Vonitsa was captured a few days later.
Venice gathered more forces from allies Saxony and Hanover and in early June 1685, the Venetian and allied forces gathered at Kerkyra, Preveza, and Dragamesto. The force included 37 galleys from various Italian states that includes Italian and German soldiers. A few hundred conscripted and volunteer Greeks from the Ionian Islands including Zakynthos and the mainland were added to this total. Morosini now targeted the Peloponnese where there were signs of revolt by local Greeks helped by several Zakynthians sent by Venice. In particular, the Maniots resented the loss of privileges and autonomy and were ready again to rebel. The Ottomans had recently established garrisons in the fortresses of Zarnata, Kelefa, and Passavas in response to their collaboration with the Venetians in the Cretan War. However, given a lack of proper support by the Venetians the Maniots were forced to submit. Shortly after, the Venetian fleet set sail for the Peloponnese, and on 25 June 1685, the Venetian army with over 8,000 men strong, landed outside the former Venetian fort of Koroni and laid siege to it with hundreds of Zakynthians taking part. The Ottoman efforts to break the siege was defeated and the fortress surrendered shortly after. The Venetians and their allies then set their sights on Kalamata.
In the final stage of the Koroni siege, the Mani again rose up in revolt again, encouraged by Morosini's presence at Koroni. As a result, 230 Maniots and some Zakynthians under the leadership of Zakynthian Pavlos Makris forced the surrender of the fortress of Zarnata in the Mani. By the end of September the remaining Ottoman garrison in Kelafa and Passavas had capitulated and evacuated Mani. The Zakynthians Theodoros Voultsos and Nikolaos Doxaras led the campaigns to conquer the castle of Passavas and Kelefa respectively. These Zakynthians leaders and fighters then joined the campaign to liberate Kalamata. Shortly, after Kalamata also surrendered without a fight. It is interesting that a number of these family names are Maniot in origin and were probably Maniot refugees to Zakynthos. The Venetians in turn installed their own garrisons in Kelafa and Zarnata. By July 7, 1686, Pylos and Methoni surrendered to the Venetians. Shortly after, the Venetians and their allies landed in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos and Napflion, the administrative capital of the Peloponnese surrendered by the end of August. The Ottoman commander, Ismail Pasha withdrew to Vostitsa in the northern Peloponnese after strengthening his garrisons at Corinth which controlled the passage to central Greece. The Ottoman forces elsewhere in the region fell into disarray.
In the meantime, the Ottomans had formed a strong entrenched camp at Patras with 10,000 men under Mehmed Pasha. As the Ottomans were resupplied from across the Corinthian gulf, Morosini instituted a naval blockade of the coast. On 22 July 1687, Morosini landed the first of his 14,000 troops west of Patras. Zakynthians volunteers included Nikolaos Foskardis, Spyrdon Naratzis and Anastasios Kapsokefalos and Konstantinos Kapnisis. Morosini's German ally attacked the Ottoman camp and they were forced to retreat. The defeat forced the Ottoman garrison of Patras Castle to flee to the fortress of Rio. On the next day with Venetian ships patrolling nearby, Mehmed and his troops abandoned Rio as well and fled east. Within a single day the Venetians were able to capture the twin forts of Rio and Antirrio as well as the castle of Nafpaktos (Lepanto). The Ottomans halted their retreat only at Thebes where Mehmed Pasha regrouped. The Venetians tidied up their position in the Peloponnese – Chlemoutsi surrendered to Angelo De Negri from Zakynthos on 27 July while the German-led force marched east towards Corinth. The Ottoman garrison abandoned Acrocorinth.
Morosini now gave orders for the preparation of a campaign across the Isthmus of Corinth towards Athens. After Mystras surrendered the Peloponnese was now under complete Venetian control and only the fort of Monemvasia remained in Ottoman hands. It was placed under siege on 3 September 1687.As long as the Ottomans held onto eastern Central Greece, the Venetian position in the Peloponnese was not secure. Venice and her allies decided on 31 December to abandon Athens and focus on the conquest of Halkida. However, this was ultimately a costly failure and Morosini accepted defeat. The prominent Zakynthian leader, Pavlos Makris died of the plague during this campaign. On 22 October 1687, the Venetian army headed for Argos. Morosini attempted an unsuccessful attack on Monemvasia in late 1689 but his failing health forced him to return to Venice soon after. He was replaced as commander-in-chief by Girolamo Cornaro. This marked the end of Venetian ascendancy. In late 1688, the Turks turned for help to the Maniot leader Limberakis Gerakaris. In spring 1689, Gerakaris attacked and seized some towns and villages in western Greece and later Ottoman forces swept through Central Greece; although, repulsed in an attack on Napfaktos. The Venetians scored a success with Monemvasia falling on 12 August 1690. In 1692, Gerakaris then spearheaded several Ottoman invasions of the Peloponnese but he was largely unsuccessful. He went over to the Venetian camp but after his brutal and savage treatment of the civilian population Gerakaris was arrested and imprisoned. After several naval engagements in western Greece and Chios the Ottomans were encouraged to invade the Morea again, but were defeated by General Steinau and driven back to their base at Thebes. There were several naval clashes between the opposing fleets in the north-east Aegean but they were generally indecisive. The Treaty of Karlowitz, signed in January 1699, confirmed the Venetian possession of Kephalonia, the Morea with the island of Aigina, which became organized as the Kingdom of the Morea. Although the Venetians managed to restore some prosperity they failed to win the trust of their Greek Orthodox subjects.
The Seventh Venetian-Ottoman War (or the Second Morean War) was fought between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire between 1714 and 1718. It ended with an Ottoman victory and the loss of the Venetian Republic's last major possession in the Greek peninsula of the Morea (the Peloponnese). This was the final war between these two powers. Again, there was little activity on Zakynthian soil; however, there was naval activity directly offshore and the island acted as an embarkation point for some of the Zakynthian and foreign sailors and soldiers that participated in the siege of Kerkyra. Like most of Venice’s wars, Zakynthians fought on the side of Venice and Zakynthians held key leadership positions; particularly, during the siege of Kerkyra in 1716.
After the First Morean War, the Ottomans were determined to reverse these losses; especially the Morea. In addition, a large part of the Ottoman queen-mother drew her income from this area. Venice only had a few thousand troops in the whole of the peninsula and they were plagued by supply, disciplinary and morale problems. The local population was also less than friendly. The seizure of an Ottoman ship carrying the treasures of the former Grand Vizier as well as the Venetians granting of sanctuary to the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, after he had launched an abortive revolt against the Ottomans provided the pretext. On 9 December 1714, the Ottoman Empire declared war on Venice.
In early 1715, the Ottomans assembled an army of around 70,000 men in Macedonia and marched south towards Thebes while an Ottoman fleet numbering 80 warships swiftly captured the last Venetian island possessions in the Aegean. The Venetians relied mainly on mercenaries and could only muster 8,000 men and 42 mostly small ships under the command of the Captain General Daniel Delfin. This force was not only insufficient to meet the Ottoman army in the field, but also inadequate to man the many fortifications in the Morea. On 25 June, the Ottoman army crossed the Isthmus of Corinth and entered the Peloponnese. The citadel of Acrocorinth surrendered after a brief siege. The Ottomans then advanced against Nafplion, the main base of Venetian power in the Morea. After only nine days of siege, the Ottomans successfully stormed the fort. The Ottomans then advanced to the forts of Navarino and Koroni which were abandoned by the Venetians. They gathered their remaining forces at Methoni; however, being denied effective support from the sea it capitulated. The remaining Venetian strongholds also capitulated in exchange for safe departure. Within one hundred days, the entire Peloponnese had been re-taken by the Ottomans.
The Ottomans then decided to move against the Venetian-held Ionian Islands. They swiftly occupied Lefkada. On 8 July 1716, a 33,000 Ottoman army landed on Kerkyra, the most important of the Ionian islands for the Venetians. Despite an indecisive naval battle, the Ottoman land army continued its disembark and advance towards the city of Kerkyra. On 19 July, after capturing the outlying forts the siege began. Led by Count Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, the defence had roughly 8,000 men. Among them were over 400 Zakynthians led by Frangiskos Romas and assisted by Nikolaos Kapsokefalos and the brothers Eustathios and Nikolaos Logothetis. The strong fortifications and the determination of the defenders withstood several assaults. After a great storm on 9 August caused significant casualties among the besiegers, the siege was broken off on 11 August and the last Ottoman forces withdrew on 20 August. For his efforts in helping to defend the city of Kerkyra from the Ottoman Turks, the Zakynthian leader, Frangiskos Romas was bestowed honours by the Venetian Republic in 1723.
Shortly after, Pope Clement XI committed to providing financial support and France guaranteed Austrian possessions in Italy. Consequently, Austria intervened and on 13 April 1716, renewing their alliance with Venice. In response, the Ottomans declared war on Austria. The Austrian threat forced the Ottomans to direct their forces away from the Morea; however, Venice was too weak to mount any large-scale counter-attack. With the Austrian victories in the Balkans the Ottomans were forced to sign the Treaty of Passarowitz. Although the Ottomans lost significant territories to Austria, they maintained their conquests against Venice in the Peloponnese except for Preveza.
The Orlov Revolt was a Greek uprising primarily centred in the Peloponnese. It erupted in February 1770 following the arrival of the Russian Admiral Alexey Orlov, commander of the Imperial Russian Navy during the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774) to Mani. The revolt was a major precursor to the Greek War of Independence and was part of Catherine the Great's so-called Greek Plan. Eventually, it was suppressed by the Ottoman Empire. Many Ionian Islanders participated in this war including Zakynthians; however, none of the war was fought on Zakynthian soil. Increasingly, the participation of Zakynthians (who were effectively Venetian subjects) in wars outside of Zakynthos took on a national character which went against the wishes of the Venetian rulers and often resulted in reprisals. In fact, Venice in accordance with their purported neutrality did their best to reduce the participation of Zakynthians in the Orlov Revolt and made overtures of peace to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
Following a long period of peace, on 23 October 1768 the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia in response to supposed aggressive Russian foreign policy and interference in Crimea, an Ottoman vassal at the time. Hoping to weaken the Ottoman Empire and establish a pro-Russian independent Greek state, Russian emissaries had been sent to Mani in the mid-1760s to make a pact with the strongest local military leaders. At the same time, notable Greeks approached various Russian agents discussing the project for the liberation of Greece. In preparation of war, Russian agents promoted Greek rebellion to support military actions in the north. Several Greeks serving in the Russian army were either sent to Mani or worked with other Russian officers to ferment insurrection in the Morea. The organization of the Greek rebellion was put under the command of the brothers Alexei and Grigroy Orlov.
In return for the supply of men and arms, the Greek rebels expected massive Russian aid of around 10,000 soldiers and military equipment. Russia also planned to incite other Orthodox Christians to revolt and sent agents to Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Crete. Another Orlov brother, Fyodor was sent to coordinate rebels in Morea which was considered the most important strategic area in mainland Greece given some of its important ports. The first Russian fleet contingent (out of two) departed in August 1769 and arrived in the Aegean in December. This expedition of four ships, few hundred soldiers and inadequate arms supplies greatly disappointed the Greeks. Nevertheless, combined Russian-Greek forces attempted a campaign. The arrival of the Russian fleet in Mani in February 1770 saw the establishment of local armed groups in Mani and Kalamata. However, the small Russian expeditionary force could not convince a part of the local Greeks to take arms as the Russian manpower was smaller than expected. Mutual distrust developed between the Greek and Russian leaders. Initially an army of 1,400 men was formed but additional reinforcements from Crete arrived shortly after. In the meantime, many Zakynthians and Kefalonians had crossed over to the Morea. The Zakynthians captain, Palikoukias of the ship Atta furnished with 20 cannon and a paid crew of 80 sailors had lowered the flag of St Mark of Venice and raised the Russian flag. The Zakynthians also chartered two ships and disembarked Lechena, around Gastouni. The Venetian Provveditores of the islands expressed alarm at the fanaticism of the locals for the Orlov Revolt to his superiors in Venice. By early March, the Greek rebels were initially successful and managed to defeat Ottoman forces in Laconia and eastern Messenia in southern Morea. In the north-west of the Morea in Elis, Zakynthian and Kefalonians managed to control the area after a force of around 2,000 Zakynthians led by Vassilieos Makris, Nikolaos Fourtounis, Xanthopoulos and Thrakiotis sieged Pyrgos and then conquered Gastouni and most of Elis. They set up a government administration along similar lines as the Venetian Republic. Nikoalsos Fourtounis was appointed Provveditore of Pyrgos and Gastouni.
Along with a Kefalonian force, the Zakynthians the besieged Patras. The siege last 20 days until the reinforcement of Turk-Albanians arrived. In response, many of the Zakynthians and Kefalonians left the area including Gastouni. When they returned to Zakynthos and Kefalonia many requested a pardon from the authorities as their participation in the Orlov Revolt was considered a crime. Following pressure from the Ottomans, Venice attempted to pursue the Zakynthian and Kefalonian leaders. The leader, Vassileios Makris escaped punishment but was pursued later in 1776 for his leadership of the Zakynythian force in the siege of Patras. However, the case against Makris and others like Nikolaos Fourtounis was finally heard in 1781 and they were eventually pardoned. The broader Orlov Revolt however failed to effectively spread – the fortresses of Navarino, Methone and the administrative center of the Morea, Tripolitsa (modern Tripoli) remained under Ottoman control. Meanwhile, a Greek revolt started in Crete. However, again the support promised by the Russian emissaries never arrived and the Cretan leaders were left to his own devices. They managed to organize a band of 2,000 well armed men who descended from the mountains onto the plains of western Crete. The Cretan uprising was soon suppressed by numerically superior Ottoman army. With the assistance of Greek islanders, the Russian fleet scored a major victory against the Ottoman navy in the Battle of Cesme but this did not help the Greek army in Morea. A Zakynthian ship under the command of Padouveros participated in this battle. The revolt was soon crushed. Greek reinforcements from Macedonia and Olympus region faced opposition in their descent to Morea and were unable to assist the revolutionaries. Given manpower issues arising necessity to fight a major war with Russia on its northern borders, the Ottoman Empire hired Albanian mercenary troops and they defeated the Russo-Greek expedition at Tripolitsa.
Ultimately, the Orlov Revolt was a failure which cost a huge number of lives. The Greeks were effectively forgotten in the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji that followed the cessation of hostilities between the Ottoman and Russian Empires. Consequently, they became increasingly distrustful of the Russians as a result. However, some connections to Russia remained strong in part because of the influence of prominent Greeks in Russia such as Count Mocenigo of Zakynthos that served as Russian Ambassador in Tuscany.
By the time of the French Revolution, the Republic of Venice was already in serious decline given the opening of new sea routes outside of the Mediterranean and the loss of many territories in the eastern Mediterranean. Even in areas under Venetian control like the Ionian Islands, there was discontent given the heavy taxation of the people and aristocratic form of governance and control. Therefore, coinciding with the Neohellenic Enlightenment, the ideas of the French Revolution found fertile ground in places like Zakynthos.
The Treaty of Campoformio dismantled the Venetian Republic awarded the Ionian Islands to France. General Antoine Gentili, led a French expeditionary force of 1500 Frenchmen and 600 Venetians with boats captured in Venice, and took control of the Ionian Islands on 26 June 1797 forming French prefectures under the name of "Départements français de Grèce" (French provinces of Greece). Zakynthos was part of the French départment Mer-Égée. However, it was quite clear early on that the French were not interested in giving the islands self-determination in accordance with the principles of the French Revolution and the desires of the Ionian Islanders; but, occupation as exemplified by the letter Napoleon sent to Gentili:
''You will make every effort to win the sympathy of the people there, since you have to govern them ... If the inhabitants there declare a willingness to be independent, you have to deal with this desire.''
Initially, the French were met with great enthusiasm on the Ionian Islands including Zakynthos. Most of the locals were relieved to be rid of the Venetians, were hoping political and social liberalisation would be ushered in and fear about the Ottoman Empire. In every square, including St Marks in Zakynthos, the locals planted the Tree of Freedom. Locals also ran to the houses and collected wigs, Venetian uniforms, coats of arms, parchments with nobility titles which they gathered in central squares like St Marks and ceremoniously burned with the so-called Libro d'Oro, containing the pedigree trees of local noble families. In Zakynthos, the former nobles locked themselves in their palazzo for fear of retribution from the lower classes. In some sense, the Popolari had finally triumphed after their humiliations in 1628 and 1683. But this was not to last. In addition, the Ionian Islanders adopted the French Revolutionary Calendar in official documents dating back to the 1st year of Freedom and establishing a 4 August national holiday.
The French initially tried to organize the administration of the Ionian Islands according to their own revolutionary standards that included the greater participation of lower classes than Venetian rule. In Zakynthos doctors, lawyers, former so called nobles, Popolari and clerics from the Orthodox and Catholic churches were included in the 40 member governing council. However, the initial enthusiasm was transformed with discontent primarily because of the greater levels of taxation, the method of tax collection and the habit of French authorities borrowing from local merchants and failing to later meet their obligations. But what really bothered the locals was the contempt French had for their institutions, like the Orthodox religion and other traditions.
Ionians Islanders including Zakynthians began to conduct public protests and form political associations to disseminate new ideas against French rule and whose activities was also noticed by the Russians and the English. Following French naval losses in the Mediterranean and mobilization by the Russians and Ottomans, the French were forced to surrender the Ionian Islands under the pressure of siege and assault by Russian and their Ottoman allies.
Following the collapse of French rule, a Russo-Turkish fleet captured the island Zakynthos on 23 October 1798. From 1800 to 1807, the island was made part of the Septinsular Republic which consisted of the islands of Kerkyra, Zakynthos, Cephallonia, Lefkada, Ithaka, Paxos and Kythera. The Republic was nominally under sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire but protected by Russia. Russia appointed the Zakynthian nobleman, Georgios Motsenigos (1765-1836) as commissioner of the Republic and in turn appointed the Kerkyrian and future prime minister of independence Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias as secretary-general. The Zakynthian Spyridon Neranztis (1760-1833) was also recruited to help draft the various Constitutions of the Septinsular Republic and also became financial administrator. The administrative capital of the Septinsular Republic was in Kerkyra. It was the first time Greeks had been granted even limited self-government since the fall of the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire in the mid-15th century. However, despite some hope for the national aspirations of Diaspora Greeks, its constitutional structure were not reflective of the will for self-determination by the peoples of the Ionian Islands.
In 1800–1801, Britain attempted to take control of the Ionian islands after a revolt, under the leadership of James Callander Campbell but these intentions stopped after the Peace of Amiens. In 1807, the Septinsular Republic was ceded to Napoleon's First French Empire, but the islands were not annexed by France, keeping their institutions of government. The British gradually took control of the islands, and following the Treaty of Paris.
The Septinsular Republic was an aristocratic federal republic. Political franchise was restricted to males of legitimate Christian birth on the islands, who did not keep a shop or practise any mechanical art and could read and write. They also required a minimum yearly income which varied between the islands. The official language of the Septinsular Republic was at first Italian. The Constitution of 1803 recognised Greek, along with Italian, as one of the two official languages of the Republic and Eastern Orthodoxy as the state religion. Inadvertently, this was an important step towards ultimate national liberation. The overwhelming majority of the people on these islands during this period were ethnically Greek and Christians, with a small number of Jews on Kerkyra, Zakynthos and an even smaller number on Cephallonia. The majority of the Christians were Eastern Orthodox. However, there was a significant number of Catholics, especially on Kerkyra, Zakynthos and Cephallonia. The Constitution of 1803 recognized Orthodoxy as the dominant faith.
One of the most difficult problems the nascent state has to overcome was the formation of a strong central government. The Zakynthian; and to a lesser extent, the Cephalonian elite had practically seceded from the Septinsuler Republic in 1800 in opposition to efforts by the central government in Kerkyra. This problem was partially resolved with the intervention of Russia which persuaded local elites to elect delegates to the Legislative Assembly and Senate of the Septinsuler Republic. In 1803, the Zakynthian Comoutos became the President of the Septinsuler Republic. Despite the tensions, the creation of a native governing elite helped to create persons and a bureaucracy which aided in the island's smooth final unification with Greece. Even some Ionian Islanders involved in the government of the Septinsular Republic, such as the Kerkyrian Ioannis Kapodistrias, played key roles in the formation and administration of the Greek state in 1832. Outside of narrow government circles, political, literary, medical and scientific associations, including Freemasonry, was helping to create a civic culture.
Another important development around 1803, was the formation of a 1,200 strong militia recruited from all classes of the islands. Some members of the old Ionian Island elite resisted arguing that only peasants should be subject to military obligations. However, it was finally passed in the Ionian Assembly.
The Filiki Eteria or Society of Friends was a secret 19th-century organization whose purpose was to end the Ottoman rule of Greece and establish an independent Greek state. The Society members were mainly young Greek Phanariots from Russia, Serbs, and local chieftains, merchants and scholars from Greece. The Society initiated the Greek War of Independence in the spring of 1821. Fired by their zeal for the liberation of Greece ordinary citizens and prominent members of Zakynthian society were also active members of the Filiki Eteria.
Since the Orlov Revolt in 1770, as had always happened in Zakynthian history, a groups of Peloponnesian refugees had settled on the island. They had retained links with their ancestors in the Peloponnese. When the Peloponnesian chieftain and unofficial leader, Theodoros Kolokotronis, was being pursued by the Ottoman authorities he naturally fled to nearby Zakynthos.
Kolokotronis was initiated into the Filiki Eteria in Zakynthos. Despite the potentially serious consequences it would have to their reputation and social position, several prominent Zakynthians joined and became active in the Filiki Eteria. They were Dionysios Romas, Anastasios Flambouriaris, Frangiskos Karvelas, Nikolaos Kolyvas, Antonios Martelaos, Constantinos Dragonas, Caesar Efstathiou Logothetis and Antonio Martinengo. Some of them were persecured by the British occupiers of the time and had to flee the island. Dionysios Solomos also became a member in 1818. In addition, Nikolaos and Panagiotis Stefanou whose grandfather migrated to Zakynthos after the Orloff Revolt joined the Filiki Eteria and participated in the Greek War of Independence. Panagiotis Stefanou helped in the liberation of the harem of Hirsut Pasha during the fall of Tripoli in 1821.
Giorgios Tsertsetis was another prominent participant in the Filiki Etaria and the Greek War of Independence. After returning from his studies in Italy, he joined the Filiki Eteria and then joined the war in the Peloponnese. He became a professor and judge soon after the Greek state was established and defended Kolokotronis against charges of high treason.
With the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, one of its leaders, Alexander Ypsilanti invited the Ionian Islanders to form a corp to help in the fight. Zakynthian participants included Nikolaos Katanis, Spyridon Daliostros, the brothers Nikolaos and Theodoros Kalamas and Giorgios Avramiotis. Other Zakynthians who were members of the Filiki Eteria helped to arrange shipment of ammunition, food and money to the Peloponnese, while taking care of refugees from the Peloponnese and raise money for the hospital foundation in Nafplion. In addition, many Zakynthians played important roles in key battles.
The Battle of Lala (9–13 June 1821) was one of the first major conflicts of the Greek War of Independence. It was a significant victory for the Greeks against the relieving Ottoman Turkish and the Muslim Albanian forces living in Lalas, Elis which constituted a serious impediment to the liberation struggle in the Peloponnese.
Muslim-Albanians had settled in Lalas, east of Pyrgos for several generations. For many years they raided the nearby farms, burnt houses and livestock of Greek and Turkish landowners on the plains of Gastouni and Pyrgos and even further afield. Consequently, Muslim Albanians of Lalas had become the quasi-sovereigns of Elis.
With the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in late March 1821, some Greek military leaders recognised the Muslim-Albanian menace around Lalas and the possibility of coming to the aid of the coreligionists, the Ottoman Turks. As a result, the local Greeks initially attempted to siege the Muslim Albanians of Lalas but were not successful. Shortlybafter on May 13, a small force of Greek soldiers occupied a mountainous position near Lalas. Their position was vulnerable and likely to fall until the appearance of 500 volunteers of Ionian Islanders from Cephallonia and Zakynthos and their four cannons. The Zakynthian volunteers were led by Dionysios Sembrikos.
On May 30 the Ionian Island force had grown with the arrival of fighters from Elis and Kalavryta. The combined Greek force endeavoured to surround Lalas. The Muslim Albanians of Lalas realised their difficult position and were shocked by the number and organisation of the Ionian Island volunteers. Some of the Ionian Island volunteers are likely to have received training in Western military tactics and organisation. The other Greek rebels were also impressed with the organisation of the Ionian Island force. Despite some disagreement between the Ionian Islanders and the Peloponnesians on the timing of their attack on the trapped Muslim-Albanians, the Ionian Islanders sent a letter to the Muslim-Albanians allowing them to surrender peacefully or be attacked and given over to the Peloponnesians. The letters was signed by Dionysios Sembrikos and the Zakynthian Panagtios Strouzas. However, this attempt at resolving the stalemate was indecisive.
The combined Greek forces decided to attack but were disorganised and it was repelled. The Muslim-Albanians requested assistance from Yousef Pasha in Patra who responded with around 1000–1500 men including 300 horsemen. When Yousef Pasha’s force approached the Muslim-Albanians in Lalas, they attacked the Greek forces, trapping them and allowing Yousef Pasha's fighters to enter Lalas. The Peloponnesians wanted to withdraw at a safe distance but the Ionian Islanders were opposed to this. Yousef Pasha could not wait was he was afraid his main force would be attacked in Patras. Therefore, he took the initiative and attacked first with the aim of breaking the Greek camp, taking their cannons and fleeing to Patras. He met stiff resistance from the Ionian Island force with the Muslims-Albanians sustaining a significant number of casualties. . The Zakynthian leader, Dionysios Sembrikos was also injured in battle along with several other Zakynthians.
On 14 June, the Turkish and Muslims Albanians retreated and fled to Patras without capturing any Greek cannon. The combined Greek forces entered Lalas. Ultimately, the Muslim Albanians left Greece and sailed for Anatolia.
The Greek victory was significant as the Muslim-Albanians of Lalas were considered very good fighters. Their displacement from Lalas meant the surrounding area of Elis and the broader north-eastern and central Peloponnese was less vulnerable to attack. The victory also strengthened the resolve of the Greek forces. For their participation in the battle, the Ionian Islanders including the Zakynthian volunteers were prosecuted by the British rulers upon their return to the Ionian Islands with arrests, imprisonment and confiscation of property.
After a second period under French control (1807–1809) following the Treaty of Tilsit, Zakynthos was occupied by the Great Britain on 16 October 1809 after they defeated a nearby French fleet. It was then made part of the British protectorate of the United States of the Ionian Islands from 1815 to 1864.
The Treaty of Paris in 1815 charged Britain with protecting the 'single, free and independent' United States of the Ionian Islands. However, it rapidly enacted a repressive Constitution in 1817 and requiring the ratification of the Constitution by the Protective Power despite the Ionian Parliament, maintained garrisons in the forts at the expense of each island and kept foreign affairs in the hands of Britain. In addition, the Protective Power showed little sympathy for the refugees from the Greek War of the Independence. These factors created resentment among the Ionian Islanders.
On 30 September 1821, following the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, a Turkish ship carrying Muslim refugees, after having being pursued by Greek naval vessels, tried to dock in the port of Zakynthos to obtain provisions. The local Zakynthians became angered given the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Turks against Christians in the Ottoman Empire resulting in the infamous Events of the Ipsolithos.
A small group of British soldiers and their presiding officer attempted to ensure the refugees received supplies and adhered to the quarantine regulations. However, the local Zakynthians, some of whom some were armed attacked the British soldiers, killing one and wounding several soldiers including the officer. The soldiers retreated and waited for reinforcements. Consequently, the serving Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, Thomas Maitland declared martial law for the second time in two years. The declaration also included a ruling to disarm, with a few exceptions, the local population. Maitland also pursued the ring leaders of the attack including Ioannis Klavdianos, Theodoros Petas, Panagiotis Roumeliotis, Dionysios Kontonis and Antonis Grampsas. They were eventually executed based on controversial testimonies by public hanging near Agios Nikolas to Molou in Zakynthos town. As if that was not sufficient punishment, their homes were also demolished. Other Zakynthians who had agitated against British rule were either imprisoned or exiled.
As a signal to the local Zakynthians to obey the British authorities, the bodies of four of the ringleaders were hung in iron cages on the hill overlooking Zakynthos town. This was a common punishment by the English in their colonies. The body of Yiannis Kavdianos was hung in a cage opposite his home in rural Zakynthos. His mother ultimately went mad at having to view this scene on a daily basis.
Around the time of other revolutionary movements in Europe in 1848, the Party of Radicals was formed out of an earlier group called the Liberals to agitate for the end of the British occupation of the Ionian Islands and in favor of union with the Kingdom of Greece. The Party is often labelled the first party of principles in Greek history and a precursor to the socialist movement in Greece. However, the Party not only agitated for union with Greece but also protested against the political and social situation in the Greek state. Not surprisingly, contacts were maintained with key figures of the Risorgimento including Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini.
In late 1850, the Party’s MP Ioannis Typaldos proposed in the Ionian parliament in Kerkyra the resolution for the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece. The resolution was signed by several Zakynthians as well as Kerkyrians and Cephalonians. Britain responded with the closure of newspapers like To Mellon in Zakynthos, persecutions, imprisonment, and even exile. The two major protagonists Elias Zervos and Iosif Momferatos were exiled to Antikythera and Erikousa respectively. In 1862, the Party was split into two factions, the United Radical Party and the Real Radical Party. The former gave priority to Union rather than socio-political reforms, while the latter believed that only through social reform could complete national rehabilitation be achieved. The Real Radical Party struggled as it faced resistance not only from Britain but also from the Kingdom of Greece. In contrast, the United Radical Party under the leadership of Zakynthian politician and doctor, Constantinos Lomvardos, carried on with their struggle for the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece.
Finally, on May 21, 1864, the Greek flag was hoisted on the Ionian Islands to welcome the Greek army and unification with the Kingdom of Greece. The United Radical Party was dissolved immediately.
The first free Parliament of the Ionian Islands declares that it is the unanimous, firm and resolute desire of the Ionian people to acquire their independence and unite with the rest of their Nation, liberated Greece.
A declaration from the Ionian Parliament in late 1864.
And so in 1864, Zakynthos together with all the other Ionian Islands, became a full member of the Greek state, ceded by Britain to stabilize the rule of the newly crowned Danish-born King of the Hellenes, George I. The last British troops left the Ionian Islands on June 2, 1864.
Cultural life continued to blossom in Zakynthos in the years following unification; however, whereas in the years prior to the British occupation, talented and ambitious Zakynthians would be educated in Italy and often return to the island, increasingly they would migrate to Athens. This trend accelerated in the years following unification with Greece. Arguably, over the long term this was detrimental to the cultural life of the island but it also meant that Ionian Island culture was exported to the rest of the Greek world.
The First World War period was dominated by two parties on Zakynthos, the Romas and the Lomvardos party. The Romas party were elected as deputies for the Liberals led by Greek prime minister, Eleftherios Venizelos whereas the Lomvardos party for the Royalists. It was not unknown for key figures in the parties to change sides. Many of the elements of the National Schism were reflected in these two local parties. The clubs situated on the island played a key role as meeting points for these two political poles but there was also rallies, agitation and reports of general tension on the streets of Zakynthos town.
Due to the National Schism and the ongoing First World War, Anglo-French forces fortified the Ionian Islands from 1915 in support of Eleftherios Venizelos and Entente. A French naval squadron landed 600 men on Zakynthos in late 1915 and also another 280 Senegalese (a French colony of the time) in early 1917. A French flag was flown over the Castle. In mid-1917, the French Senegalese soldiers departed and the French flag was lowered from the Castle.
The population of Zakynthos had been reduced dramatically in this period due to emigration and starvation during 1916–1917. From 49,104 inhabitats in 1906, the population was 37,340 in 1920.
Mussolini-led Italy invaded Greece in October 1940 but the invasion was halted after the Greek army pushed the Italians back into Northern Epirus and some of Albania. This forced the allies of Fascist Italy, the Germans to come to the aid of Italy. The combined forces engaged the Greek forces in April 1941, and by the middle of May, Greece was occupied by Nazi Germany. Germany occupied and administered important cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki, the Bulgarians controlled the north-eastern portion of the country, while Italy controlled the majority of the Peloponnese and the Ionian Islands.
The invasion and control of Kerkyra and the Ionian Islands, was part of Mussolini’s strategy to resurrect the Roman Empire. Consequently, the Italians ruled the Ionian Islands as a separate entity from the rest of Greece with the aim of formal annexation after the war. The Italians began to implement political, social, economic, educational and cultural measures to de-Hellenise the islands. For example, the Italian political authorities forbade all communication with mainland Greece, introduced the compulsory learning of the Italian language and limited the teaching of Greek history. Additionally, the economies of the islands were re-orientated towards Italy including a new currency, tax system and application of Italian law. Concentration camps were also established in Paxos and Othoni.
The whole administration of the Ionian Islands was set up by the Central Civil Affairs Office based in Kerkyra with a vice governor on each island including Zakynthos with authority to issue decrees about administrative matters. The head of the Office belonged directly to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, very few of the proposals were implemented as the Germans were concerned of further alienating the Greek population which was already strongly opposing the Bulgarian annexations in the north-east.
On the 14 Sept 1943, after fascism fell in Italy, the Italians surrendered and the Germans took control of the Ionian islands. The German occupation of Zakynthos lasted almost 12 months with the population suffering many depredations. As the British Marines moved in to drive out the Germans, Zakynthos was liberated on 12 Sept, 1944.
During the Nazi occupation of Greece, Mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos refused Nazi orders to turn in a list of the members of the town's Jewish community for deportation to the death camps. Instead they hid the town's 275 Jews in rural villages. Every Jew of Zakynthos survived the war. Statues of the Bishop and the Mayor commemorate their heroism on the site of the town's historic synagogue, destroyed in the earthquake of 1953.
In 1978, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Israel, honoured Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Loukas Karrer with the title of "Righteous among the Nations", an honor given to non-Jews who, at personal risk, saved Jews during the Holocaust. After the war, all of the Jews of Zakynthos moved either to Israel or to Athens.
The island suffered a series of four severe earthquakes in August 1953, resulting in the total destruction of its infrastructure, including most of the state archives. The third and most destructive of these quakes, registering 7.3 on the Richter Scale, occurred at 09:24 UTC (11:24 am local time) on 12 August 1953. It had its epicentre directly on the southern tip of the nearby island of Kefalonia, also causing widespread destruction there. The quake was felt throughout most of the country, and only three buildings on Zakynthos were left standing after the disaster: the St. Dionysios Cathedral, the National Bank building, and the church of St. Nicholas "tou Molou" (of the Quay). Other buildings in outlying areas also managed to avoid complete collapse.
After the earthquakes, the island's roads were expanded and paved along with the GR-35, one of the roads linking with the town and Porto Roma along with Laganas, Keri and Volimes and from Lachans to Keri.
Mining is common on the island. A small mountain located in Zakynthos' west side was mined during the 1990s, though it is no longer in use. Today mining continues, but with two quarries on the mountain range on the western part of the island. Tourism continues to thrive and Zakynthos is currently one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece.
A few earthquakes hit the island from 2000 to 2010, one on Sunday 8 June 2008 at 6.4 on the Richter scale, felt without any damage or injuries. Another less serious tremor occurred four months later on Saturday, 11 October, measured at 4 on the same scale and also causing almost no damage.
Starting in the early morning hours of 4 April 2006, a series of moderate to strong earthquakes occurring on an almost daily basis began shaking almost the entire island. On 11 April, however, the phenomenon intensified in both magnitude and rate of events. At 03:02 local time of that day, a powerful, magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit the area, only to be followed by an even stronger tremor, registering 5.9 on the Richter Scale, at 8:30 p.m. (20:30) EET.
On 12 April, a committee of the nation's most prominent seismologists had an emergency meeting with the Greek Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works, in order to assess the emerging situation. The meeting ended in a scientific consensus that this specific area of the Ionian Sea was simply not ready to produce an even stronger quake, advising the nervous citizens of the island to remain calm. However, at 19:52 and at 19:56 local time of that same evening, two more earthquakes shook the region, sending scores of terrified people into the streets. The earthquakes had a preliminary moment magnitude of 5.8 and 5.4 respectively.
Seismologists at the Athens Seismological Institute were once again taken by surprise by what turned into an unprecedented riddle concerning whether or not these were in fact foreshocks of a major event. The chances are, nonetheless, that this was just a phenomenon known as earthquake swarm, characterized by a pattern of a considerable amount of magnitude-wise similar tremors, all occurring within a limited number of days or weeks. As a result of the recurring jolts, moderate damage was reported to a total of sixty residencies and one library, while a small crack appeared on the eastern part of the capital's port. In addition, several rocks tumbled down onto one of the island's main roads, running through its mountainous areas.
The Ionian Islands are situated upon one of Europe's most notorious faults, capable of producing earthquakes potentially causing both widespread damage and considerable loss of life. However it should be stressed that, following the catastrophe of 1953, the authorities of Zakynthos have enforced a strict program of antiseismic standards, which also applies to the rest of Greece, to be applied in every building to be constructed. All buildings have been built on a swimming slab and enforced with steel, to standards determined by the government, to ensure safety.
On Thursday 18 July 2006, the western portion of the island was hit by a forest fire. The fire spread to the island's forest and ended up spreading by hectares. Firefighters along with helicopters and planes from the mainland arrived to fight the fire's expansion and further deforestation. The fire lasted for several days and on 20 July, much of the area was contained; though it had become unpopular and unattractive scenery. One of the conflagrations appeared as a fiery line visible from as far away as the southern portion of the island and the Ionian Sea.
Zakynthos lies in the eastern part of the Ionian sea, around 20 kilometres (12 miles) west of the Greek (Peloponnese) mainland. The island of Kefalonia lies 15 kilometres (9 miles) on the north. It is the southernmost of the main group of the Ionian islands (not counting distant Kythira). Zakynthos is about 40 kilometres (25 miles) long and 20 kilometres (12 miles) wide, and covers an area of 405.55 km (156.58 sq mi). Its coastline is approximately 123 km (76 mi) long. According to the 2011 census, the island has a population of 40,759. The highest point is Vrachionas, at 758 metres (2,487 feet).
Zakynthos has the shape of an arrowhead, with the "tip" (Cape Skinari) pointing northwest. The western half of the island is a mountainous plateau and the southwest coast consists mostly of steep cliffs. The eastern half is a densely populated fertile plain with long sandy beaches, interrupted with several isolated hills, notably Bochali which overlooks the city and the peninsula of Vasilikos in the northeast. The peninsulas of Vassilikos on north and Marathia on south enclose the wide and shallow bay of Laganas on the southeast part of the island.
The capital, which has the same name as the prefecture, is the town of Zakynthos. It lies on the eastern part of the northern coast. Apart from the official name, it is also called Chora (i.e. the Town, a common denomination in Greece when the name of the island itself is the same as the name of the principal town). The port of Zakynthos has a ferry connecting to the port of Kyllini on the mainland. Another ferry connects the village of Agios Nikolaos to Argostoli on Kefalonia. Minor uninhabited islands around Zakynthos included in the municipality and regional unit are: Marathonisi, Pelouzo, Agios Sostis in the Laganas bay; Agios Nikolaos, near the eponymous harbor on the northern tip; and Agios Ioannis near Porto Vromi on the western coast.
The mild, Mediterranean climate and the plentiful winter rainfall endow the island with dense vegetation. The principal agricultural products are olive oil, currants, grapes and citrus fruit. The Zante currant is a small sweet seedless grape which is native to the island. The Bay of Laganas is the site of the first National Marine Park and the prime nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean. In the early 1980s, the Bay of Laganas was seriously threatened as a nesting habitat, but thanks to the efforts of MEDASSET founder and president Lily Venizelos it could be preserved. Caretta caretta is an endangered species – especially by the deck chairs laid out on their breeding grounds and the inevitable pollution. Every year at the beginning of June, the female turtles come to the southern beaches in order to bury their eggs in the sand.
The incubation period for the nest is approximately fifty-five days, after which time hatchlings emerge from the nest and make their way to the sea. Their survival rate is very small, it is estimated that only one in one thousand hatchlings that enter the sea lives to adulthood. Each nest contains around one hundred to one hundred and twenty eggs, each of which are around the size and shape of a ping-pong ball. Female turtles begin to lay eggs at around twenty to thirty years of age.
|Climate data for Zakynthos (1961–1990)|
|Record high °C (°F)||20.2
|Average high °C (°F)||14.4
|Daily mean °C (°F)||11.3
|Average low °C (°F)||8.1
|Record low °C (°F)||−2.6
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||150.4
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||12.8||11.3||8.2||6.1||2.5||1.1||0.5||0.9||2.8||8.1||11.0||13.2||78.5|
|Average relative humidity (%)||74.3||72.8||72.8||71.7||67.8||62.8||59.3||61.2||66.7||71.7||76.0||75.3||69.4|
The most famous landmark of the island is the Navagio beach. It is a cove on the northwest shore, isolated by high cliffs and accessible only by boat. The beach and sea floor are made of white pebbles, and surrounded by turquoise waters. It is named after a shipwreck (MV Panagiotis), which sunk on the shore around 1980. The ridge area from Anafonitria has a small observation deck which overlooks the shipwreck, and there is a monastery nearby. The unique and stunning visuals of the location are a favourite for BASE jumpers, and each year a major event in the BASE calendar is held at Navagio, around the end of August.
Numerous natural "Blue Caves", are cut into cliffs around Cape Skinari, and accessible only by small boats. Sunrays reflect through blue sea water from white stones of cave bottoms and walls, creating visual lighting effects. Keri is located in the far south of the island. It is a mountain village and has a lighthouse in the south. It includes a panorama of the southern part of the Ionian Sea. The whole western shore from Keri to Skinari contains numerous interesting rock formations, including arches.
Northern and eastern shores feature numerous wide sandy beaches, some of which attract tourists in summer months. The largest resort is Laganas, whose beach stretches around 10 kilometres (6 miles). Small Xigia beach in the north is noted for its underwater springs rich in sulphur, giving a distinct odour. Marathonissi islet (also known as "Turtle Island") near Limni Keriou contains tropical vegetation, turquoise waters, beaches, and sea caves. Bochali hill above the Zakynthos town contains a small Venetian castle and offers panoramic views of the town. Located next to Bochali, Strani hill is the place where Dionysios Solomos wrote the Greek national anthem.
Zakynthos is a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. The seat of administration is Zakynthos, the main town of the island.
As a part of the 2011 Kallikratis government reform, the regional unit Zakynthos was created out of the former prefecture Zakynthos (Greek: Νομός Ζακύνθου). The prefecture had the same territory as the present regional unit. At the same reform, the current municipality Zakynthos was created out of the 6 former municipalities:
In 2006, there were 507 births and 407 deaths. Zakynthos is one of the regions with the highest population growth in Greece. It is also one of the only three prefectures (out of 54) in which the rural population has a positive growth rate. In fact, the rural population's growth rate is higher than that of the urban population in Zakynthos. Out of the 507 births, 141 were in urban areas and 366 were in rural areas. Out of the 407 deaths, 124 were in urban areas and 283 were in rural areas.
The population of Zakynthos suffers from an exceptionally high rate of declared blindness of about 1.8%. That rate is about nine times the average in Europe, according to the WHO and in April 2012 the Greek Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity launched an investigation into disability benefits as out of the 650 receiving them at least 600 were falsely declared blind.
The Ionian Islands never experienced Ottoman rule; however, they were under the rule of the Venetian Republic and to a lesser extent, the French, British and Russians. Consequently, communication with Western culture; including, literary trends was more direct than most other areas inhabited by Greek people. During the 19th century, a school of literature developed that became known as the Heptanesian School of Literature consisting mainly of lyrical and satirical poetry in the vein of Romanticism prevalent throughout Europe of the time. The School also contributed to the development of modern Greek theatre.
Many scholars believe that the Rimada of Alexander the Great was written in Zakynthos in the early 16th century. This is the earliest known work by a Zakynthian to have survived. There is no general consensus on who wrote this poem although some scholars it may have been Markos Defaranas. Given its date of publication in 1529 in Venice by the Zakynthian Dimitrios Zinos and suggestions it was written a numbers of years before publication, then Defaranas would have been quite young when he was suspected to have written this piece. The Rimada was a rhyming poem of 6,133 verses describing the life of Alexander the Great, as a fictional character rather than historical, in the Alexander Romantic literary tradition stretching back to pseudo-Callisthenes in Antiquity via the Byzantine romance of Alexander.
Another very early work was the Andragathemata of Bouas by Tzanes Koroneos. The work dramatised the exploits of Stradioti leader, Merkurios Bouas going as far as to give Bouas a mythological pedigree including Achilles, Alexander the Great and Pyrrhus. Stradioti were mercenary Greek and Arvanites-speaking Greek soldiers in the service of various European powers. Tzanes Koroneos was also a Stradioti and a troubadour. The work is a long epic poem in vernacular Greek consisting of about 4,500 rhyming verses and contains valuable historical information of the period. The work was written in 1519 when Koroneos was in Venice. This poem was found in a manuscript in Italy. Koroneos also wrote and sent to Bouas a smaller poem ("pittakion") of about 125 verses in Greek language.
Nikolaos Loukanis was a 16th-century Renaissance humanist born in Zakynthos; however, little is known about his life except that he was one of the first students to attend the Greek school (Gymnasium) founded by the Medici Pope Leo X in Rome in 1514. This school was directed by Ianos Laskaris, a noted Greek scholar. He worked in Venice and in 1526 he produced a translation of Homer's Iliad into modern Greek which is credited as one of the first literary texts published in modern Greek (as most contemporary Greek scholars wrote in the Koine).
Markos Defaranas (1503–1575) was another early Zakynthian poet that moved to Venice sometime between 1536–1540 and composed several poems thereafter. One composition was a didactic poem titled, Pleas of the Father to the Son consisting of 788 rhymed verses and is essentially a compilation of excerpts from other works. The language is a patchwork of Cretan idiomatic forms and archaic elements. As stated above some scholars believe he wrote the Rimada of Alexander the Great. Pachomios Roussanos (1508–1553), was a scholar and theologian who traveled widely across Ottoman occupied Greece, the Holy Land and Venice. He wrote a copious amount of works on theology but also produced interesting scholia on ancient Greek authors. Rousanos is probably most famously known for his works on Greek grammar and comparative languages and in some ways precedes Adamantios Korais.
Antonios Katiforos (Antonio Catiforo) (1685–1763), born from an aristocratic family in Zakynthos, was one of the key figures in the early Neohellenic Enlightenment. After studies in Padua and Rome, he was invited by the Greek community of Venice to teach at the Flanginian School. Katiforos wrote an important book on Greek grammar in 1734, satirical verse in archaic Greek, vernacular Greek and Italian, and a biographical work titled, The Life of Peter the Great of Russia. He also wrote works on theology, biblical history, hymns and translations in Latin.
Despite the literary activity above, it is only really towards the end of the 18th century that the production of literature reaches maturity in the Heptanese School of Literature (also known as the Ionian School). Often the island of Zakynthos was at the centre of this school. In fact, the role played by Zakynthian poet, Dionysios Solomos was so important to the development of this school and Greek literature in general that its periodic divisions are conventionally divided as follows: Pre-Solomian poets, Solomian poets, Post-Solomian poets, Minors and Descendants. Probably the most famous representatives of the pre-Solomonian period (1750–1820) were Antonios Martelaos (1754–1819) and Nikolaos Koutouzis (1741–1813), who also figures prominently in the Heptanese School of Painting.
Other Zakynthian representatives of the Pre-Solomonian period include Stefanos Xanthopoulos (c. 18th century), often considered the first representative; however, sometimes Andreas Sigouros (1665–1747) who was also a teacher and translator of ancient Greek and theology is also included in this group. Xanthopoulos's poetry was influenced by Cretan and Italian poetry, notably Petrarch and included erotic themes and was written in an early form of demotic Greek with few idioms. One group of poems was composed when Xanthopoulos was in prison for murder. Thomas Danelakis (1775–1828) wrote patriotic and lyrical verse in a form of demotic Greek on the liberation of Greece. Nikolaos Kourtsolas (c. 18th century) wrote in a similar vein. This group of poets were opposed by a more conservative group consisting of Nikolaos Koutouzis and Nikolaos Logothetis-Gouliaris (c. 18th century). Despite opposing the more progressive group of poets, their work has a strongly satirical flavour
Antonios Martelaos (1754–1819) was the most prominent representative of the Pre-Solomonian poets in Zakynthos. Although from a noble family, Martelaos developed anti-Venetian views supported by Enlightenment and French Revolutionary ideals. This was no uncommon for young men of his generation in Zakynthos. Apparently, he was also instrumental in burning the Libro 'Doro in the Zakynthos town square. Martelaos mostly wrote patriotic verse which caused intense reactions by the conservative classes of Zakynthos. He largely avoided using dialect and Venetian vocabulary in favour of an early form of national demotic language. Martelaos also wrote epigrams, hymnography, ecclesiastical works and a translation of Torquato Tasso. Critics believe Dionysios Solomos read Martelaos which were reflected in parts of the Hymn to Liberty. Today, Martelaos is probably best known as a founder of a school which included some of the most prominent poets and playwrights of 19th century Zakynthos and Italy. He counted Foscolo, Matesis, Tertsetis and perhaps the children of Kolokotronis amongst his pupils. There have also been suggestions that Solomos himself was a student of Martelaos. Sources suggest he often taught poorer children without pay. Martelaos also became a member of the Filiki Etairia and was later hounded by the British occupiers which led to a deterioration of his health and ultimately his death.
The most prominent pre-Solomonian exponent of satirical poetry was the priest, Nikolaos Koutouzis (1741–1813). This extraordinary individual was also a key figure in the Heptanese School of Painting. His poetry was also written in a form of demotic Greek characterised by its immediacy which often had a political character. Koutouzis represented the more conservative group of pre-Solomonian poets who often satirised the arrival of the French in 1797 and their naïve supporters such as Antonios Martelaos. Despite his conservative tendencies, his poetry was not only directed towards the French but also towards the bourgeoisie and aristocracy for not setting an appropriate example for the other classes. Like many young men from the so-called nobility, he furthered his education in Italy by studying painting in Venice but returned quite young to Zakynthos in 1766. Many of his poems ran afoul of the local nobility and he often found himself in trouble. However, he remained unrepentant until his death.
Undeniably, there is no greater figure in Zakynthian and perhaps Greek literature than Dionysios Solomos (1798–1857). He is best known for writing the 158 stanza Hymn to Liberty which was inspired by the Greek War of Independence of 1821. The first two stanzas were set to music by Nikolaos Mantzaros and became the Greek national anthem in 1865. He was the central figure of the Heptanese School of Literature and is considered the national poet of Greece. This is not only because he wrote the national anthem, but also because he contributed to the preservation of earlier poetic tradition of Crete and the Ionian Islands of the Pre-Solomonian poets, highlighted its usefulness to modern literature and made vernacular Greek, also known as demotic Greek, a vehicle for high literary expression. Solomos also incorporated the popular songs of Zakynthos into his poetry. His role in raising demotic Greek to this level is often compared to Dante in the Italian language. Other notable poems by Dionysios Solomos include Τhe Cretan, The Woman of Zakynthos and The Free Besieged. Interestingly, no poem except Hymn to Liberty was completed, and almost nothing was published during his lifetime. Solomos also wrote prose and poems in Italian. A statue of Dionysios Solomos sits in Solomos Square, Zakynthos. Additionally, the international airport and a square in Nicosia, Cyprus, are named after Dionysios Solomos.
Some of Dionysios Solomos’s well-known friends in his early years in Zakynthos included Antonios Matesis (the author of Vasilikos), Georgios Tertsetis, Dionysios Tagiapieras (a physician and supporter of the demotic Greek and friend of Ioannis Vilaras) and Nikolaos Lountzis. Interestingly, there is little evidence to suggest that he was personally acquainted with the second great Greek poet of Zakynthian origin, Andreas Kalvos (1792–1869); although, Kalvos worked under Foscolo’s patronage for a number of years in Italy. Like Solomos, Kalvos was a Greek poet of the Romantic school but their style of poetry and sources of inspiration differed. Under the influence of Foscolo, but in contrast to Solomos, Kalvos took up neoclassicism and archaizing ideals. He is often categorised as among the representatives of the Heptanese School of Literature but many critics believe he is set apart given his influences. Kalvos published only two collections of poems – the Lyra of 1824 and the Lyrica of 1826. Kalvos died in England but in June 1960 the poet George Seferis, who at that time was Greek ambassador to Britain, arranged for Kalvos's remains to be transferred to Zakynthos.
Arguably, the most famous poet from Zakynthos was writer and revolutionary soldier, Ugo Foscolo (1778–1827); however, he did not write poems or prose in Greek but in Italian. Foscolo was born in Zakynthos to Venetian nobleman father, Andrea Foscolo and Greek mother, Diamantina Spathis. Despite his noble background, Foscolo campaigned vigorously for the overthrow of the Venetian oligarchy by Napoleon. His early works such as The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis reflected early Romantic sentiments similar to Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. However, his crowning achievement was his poetry book, Dei Sepolcri published in 1807. He also wrote a sonnet dedicated to his island home titled, A Zacinto. Forty-four years after his death his remains were brought to Florence, at the request of the King of Italy, and found their final resting-place beside the monuments of Niccolò Machiavelli, Vittorio Alfieri, Michelangelo and Galileo, in the church of Santa Croce. Foscolo is often considered the Italian national poet.
Elisavet Moutzan-Martinengou (also known as Moutza or Moutsan) (1801–1832) was born into a wealthy family in Zakynthos Town. She is widely considered to be the first woman prose-writer in demotic Greek, despite the fact that none of her writings were published during her lifetime. Tragically, most of these works were lost or destroyed in the fire that followed the earthquakes of 1953 in Zakynthos. Only some letters, a few fragments and excerpts, some poems, and her famous autobiography, My Story survived this fate. Written in 1826, Moutzan-Martinengou’s autobiography is considered the first case of protest against subjection and social exclusion imposed on women by Greek culture and society. She is often considered an early Greek feminist.
Georgios Tertsetis (1800–1873) is a figure in Zakynthian and Greek history that is hard to define given his enormously varied pursuits and output. Very simply, he was a Greek War of Independence fighter, lawyer, jurist, politician, poet, historian and writer of memoirs. He was one of the most prominent members of the Solomonian circle. After studying law and Italian philology in Bologna and Padova he became enamoured with the ideas of the Enlightenment. Shortly after he was inducted into the Carbonari movement. When he returned to Greece he became a member of the Filiki Etairia and joined the struggle in the Peloponnese. On his return to Zakynthos, he came into contact with the Dionysios Solomos. Later he joined the fight in western Roumeli. After the declaration of Greek independence he became a professor. He was one of Theodoros Kolokotroni's judges at the Nafplion trial in 1834 that refused to condemn and sign his execution despite enormous government pressure. He was in turn put on trial and acquitted after his famous apology. However, he resigned and left for Paris where he stayed until 1844. There he was associated with Francois Guizot and others.
Shortly after his return to Greece in 1847, he published the poetic collection Simple Language which included poems by himself and others and in 1856 he published two large-scale poems titled, The Marriages of Alexander the Great and Corina and Pindar. The influence of Solomos and Greek folk song was evident. Other works included dramas, a comedy, novels, essays, lectures and translations of ancient authors. From 1861, he was part of several diplomatic missions to Italy and the rest of Europe. Tersetis is best known for his memoirs of Kolokotronis, Nikitaras and other fighters of the Greek War of Independence.
Historically, the Zakynthian people have had a very close relationship with the theatre exemplified by the contribution of important local playwrights to the history of Greek theatre and the presence of a large number of theatre buildings on the island. However, most remarkable is the production of the outdoor people’s theatre called Omilies that stretch back several centuries until the present day.
In Zakynthos, formal theatrical activity seems to have begun as early as the 16th century with the small scale production of Persians by Aeschylus in 1571 in the Castle overlooking Zakynthos Town to celebrate the victory of the Battle of Lepanto. In 1637, Erofili by the Cretan writer, George Hortatsis was performed in Zakynthos. Several other plays from the Cretan Renaissance such as Erotokritos and the Sacrifice of Abraham by Vintsentzos Kornaros were performed in Zakynthos are documented to have been performed after the fall of Candia (Irakleio) in 1669.
From around 1647, the religious drama Evyena (Eugena) was written by Zakynthian Theodore Montseleze. It showed few influences of the Cretan Renaissance and contained elements of Zakynthian dialect. However, after the conquest of Crete by the Ottoman Empire in 1669, the intellectual centre of the Greeks moved to the Ionian islands; and as a consequence, many of the theatrical elements of the Cretan Renaissance were transferred to islands like Zakynthos. In 1682 or 1683 there is evidence of a performance of the tragedy, Zeno written in Zakynthos. Although, it was initially thought to be a product of the Cretan Renaissance, scholars now generally believe it was written in Zakynthos by an unknown author; perhaps by a Cretan refugee given its mixed Cretan and Heptanesian dialect. In contrast to some of the well-known plays of the Cretan Renaissance it displays more Baroque and Jesuit influences. More evidence of the popularity of theatre on the island is that in 1658, Zakynthian Michael Soumakis wrote a Greek verse translation of Giambattista Guarini’s pastoral tragicomedy set in Arcadia, Il pastor fido.
Savoyas Rousmelis (c. 18th century) wrote the five act play,The Comedy of the Quack Doctors in 1745. It satirises pseudo-doctors that came to work on the island from Ioannina. The play resembles an Omilia in its use of a form of early demotic Greek and local idioms but also has influences from the Cretan Renaissance via the transmission of this literary culture to the Ionian Islands. However, it is more high brow but without losing its comedic character. He also wrote the short moral comedy, Intermedium of Lady Olive. This piece was almost definitely written before the 1780s. Rousmelis also wrote a number of other plays and poems which have not survived. Ioannis Kantounis (1731-1817) translated several theatrical works, which included detailed instructions for scenes, of Pietro Metastasio further attesting to the popularity of theatre on Zakynthos. Kantounis used a mix of Katharevousa and demotic Greek with few local idioms. Unfortunately, his original poetry does not survive.
The first theatre building was constructed in the Kastro in 1728. It had 300 seats and was funded by Venetian officials and Zakynthian nobles. Performances were held until 1790 when many buildings in the Kastro were abandoned for Zakynthos Town below. In 1780, a second theatre was constructed and stood in front of today's National Bank of Greece building. The Nobile Societa Fillodrammatica del Zante was founded in 1813 which later requested the British administration permission for land to build the fourth theatre in Zakynthos, the Teatro dei Filopatrii. It was built near the prewar Nomarchia building. Given this theatre often served the patriotic purposes of the Greek War of Independence it was dissolved immediately after the Greek revolt of 1821. Importantly, this theatre starred a female actress, Aikaterini Viagini.
Another Zakynthian theater was constructed by a group called the Company of Nobles and it was called, Theater Ada. It was demolished in 1834 for unknown reasons. In 1836, the Italian Giuseppe Camilieri with the assistance of wealthy locals created the another Zakynthian theater called Apollo. The theatre building was situated in front of the present-day Phoenix Hotel and staged many important theatrical and operatic premieres.
In 1875, the Municipal Theatre Foskolos was built and was designed by the famous German architect, Ernst Ziller. It was destroyed by the 1893 earthquake and rebuilt again using a very similar blueprint. It was finally destroyed in the Great earthquake of 1953.
Dimitrios Gouzelis (1774–1843) is a fascinating example of a so-called noble Zakynthian swept up by the new ideas of his time. Gouzelis was from an old and noble Zakynthian family and the nephew and student of the poet, Antonios Martelaos. As was the norm for someone of his class, Gouzelis was very well educated having studied Latin, French, Italian and his native language, Greek. Although he best known for his play, O Hasis he also wrote other forms of literature.
Gouzelis was deeply influenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and so became an ardent supporter of liberal and progressive values throughout his extraordinary life. With the arrival of the French in 1797 he became an enthusiastic supporter and went so far as to become a captain in the French Civil Guard. However, with the surrender of the French garrison in the castle of Zakynthos; and the subsequent occupation by the combined Russian-Ottoman army, he was tried and sent to prison in Constantinople. Gouzelis was released shortly after the signing of French-Ottoman treaty and returned to Zakynthos. However, the newly resurgent nobility of old forced him to leave again. He traveled onto Trieste and then to Milan where he became a lieutenant in Napoleon's army. In 1801, he traveled to Paris and took the rank of captain. It is suspected he sustained injuries in 1810. After the end of Napoleonic rule, Gouzelis left for Venice and then Trieste again where he translated texts and taught Greek to the Hellenic community in that city.
In 1819, he was introduced to the Filiki Etairia and not surprisingly became an enthusiastic participant. With beginning of the Greek War of Independence, he recruited fellow Zakynythians and crossed over into the Peloponnese. He fought at Tripolitsa, the siege of Methoni and Neokastra (Pylos) and was recognised by the leaders, Dimitrios Ypsilanti and Theodoros Kolokotronis. For his brave actions, he was prosecuted by the British occupiers of Zakynthos and sentenced to exile in absentia and the confiscation of his property. After the creation of the independent Greek state in 1830, he assumed judicial offices and actively participated in political developments. However, he resigned after being given land in Pyrgos, Elis as recognition for his services in the liberation struggle. He spent the rest of his life in retirement on his property until his death in 1843.
Dimitrios Gouzelis wrote a varied body work consisting of poetry, heroic poetry, translations (namely Torquato Tasso), and patriotic dramas throughout most of his life but increasingly using Katharevousa after the beginning of 1821. However, he is most well known for his comedic satire, O Hasis which was first published when he was very young in 1790. It was the revised and completed in 1795 when he was 21 years old. Sources claim that is was first shown during Carnivale in 1800. O Hasis is considered one of his most important works in modern Greek theater. The play centres on a typical Zakynthian braggart, Thodoros Katapodis and his noise wife, lazy son and his girlfriend. He used Zakynthian dialect extensively in political verse and adhered to a somewhat episodic structure resembling Omilies or street theatre which remain popular on Zakynthos today.
Antonios Matesis (1794-1875) was part of the circle of writers, scholars and intellectuals that surrounded Dionysios Solomos. Apart from writing erotic and patriotic elegiac poetry, an unpublished treatise on language and a number of translations of Foscolo, Milton, Boccaccio, Sappho, Euripides and Cicero, Matesis is best known for his five act play, the Vasilikos (the Basil Plant) first published in 1859 but written and performed around 30 years earlier. It became one of the most emblematic pieces of the Heptanesian School of the Literature. In accordance with the principles of the Solomonians, Vasilikos was written in demotic rather than the puristic Greek often popular at the time. Often categorised as a drama it is interspersed with a number of comedic episodes. Interestingly, it was probably the first Greek drama to contain social content, satirising the Old Regime of the upper social classes of Venetian-occupied Zakynthos. Matesis initially studied Italian philology and philosophy and later was a student of Antonios Martelaos. Under his influence, Matesis became enamoured with the ideals of the Enlightenment and French Revolution popular on Zakynthos in the late 18th and early 19th century. He later learnt French and English. Unsurprisingly, and like many of his liberal contemporaries, he joined the Filiki Etairia hoping to assist in the liberation of Greece.
Gregorios Xenopoulos (1867–1951) came to prominence towards the end of the 19th century. He was one of the most prominent playwrights from Zakynthos and a towering figure in modern Greek literature. He was also a novelist and journalist. As well as being a writer he was lead editor in the now-legendary magazine The Education of Children during the period from 1896 to 1948 and he was also the founder and editor of the Nea Estia magazine, which is still published. He became a member of the Academy of Athens in 1931, and founded the Society of Greek Writers together with Kostis Palamas, Angelos Sikelianos and Nikos Kazantzakis. Although born in Constantinople. His father, Dionysios, hailed from Zakynthos and his mother, Evlalia came from Constantinople. The family moved to Zakynthos soon after, where Gregorios spent his youth until 1883, when he enrolled in the University of Athens. Xenopoulos's most famous theatrical plays are The Secret of Countess Valerena (1904) and Stella Violanti (1909). The most common subject of his plays was love but often cloaked with a social message. He attempted to balance between the Ionian School and the New Athenian School. Many of his early plays were set in Zakynthos and are regularly revived in theatres across Greece and several have been adapted for the cinema and television. Xenopoulos also wrote many novels and short stories which were also set in Zakynthos. They are covered above.
The most remarkable feature of Zakynthian (and Cephallonian) theatre history is the outdoor people’s theatre called Omilies that stretch back several centuries until the present day. Gradually, with the influx of Cretan refugees and gathering influences from Italian Commedia dell’Arte, Omilies began to be performed during Carnival in public places on temporary stages by amateur male actors and singers. Almost all of the Omilies were written and spoken in political verse couplets with significant improvisation during the performance. Omilies also acted as a vehicle for the common people to satirise and lampoon the upper classes. Omilies were primarily original productions but there was also shortened versions of more learned theatre including some well-known plays of the Cretan Renaissance like Erotokritos, the Sacrifice of Abraham and Erofili. Some of the best surviving historical examples of more learned theatre using elements of Omilies include the People of Yannina by Nikolaos Kantounis (1731–1817) and The Comedy of the Quack Doctors written in 1745 by Savoyas Rousmelis.
Probably the most famous play resembling an Omilia is O Hasis (The Loser) which was written Dimitrios Gouzelis in 1795. Gouzelis also wrote for the more 'learned theatre' later with less success.The unbroken tradition of Homilies continues to the present day; and like they have done for centuries, Zakynthians continue to lampoon local and nationwide figures.
Reputedly, the first film in Zakynthos was shown in 1912 at a coffee shop on the waterfront in Zakynthos town. A couple of years later, the Municipal Theatre of Foskolos began to show films and in 1925 the open-air cinema Pantheon opened with an orchestra comprised of local musicians accompanying the films. A few years later, Attikon opened followed by Titania. After the Great earthquake, the open-air cinemas Loux, Akropol, Pantheon. Astron and Rex operated mostly along the seafront of Zakynthos town.
One of the most important cinematic events for Zakynthos and Greek cinema, was the release of the social drama and romantic film, Stella Violanti in 1931. The film was directed by Ioannis Loumos and was based on the theatrical adaptation of the play by the same name and another piece titled Crucified Love written by Zakynthian, Gregorios Xenopoulos. Xenopoulos also wrote the screenplay. The play was set in Zakynthos around 1880. This film is widely considered the first serious literary adaptation in Greek film history. In 1948, the melodrama O Kokkinos Vrahos (The Red Rock) was filmed in Zakynthos town and released in 1949. The film was directed by Gregoris Gregoriou and was based on another Xenopoulos novel titled, Foteini Sandri. This movie is also significant as it shows parts of Zakynthos town before the Great earthquake of 1953.
Another landmark in Greek cinematic history which was also filmed and set in 19th century Zakynthos was the period social drama, O Epanastatis Popolaros (The Revolutionary Commoner). Many scenes were also filmed in Kerkyra given much of Zakynthos town was destroyed following the Great earthquake in 1953. The film was directed by Giannis Danialidis and released in 1971. This film is often included in film critic's lists of best Greek films of all time. Once again the film was based on the theatrical adaptation of the novel, O Popolaros by Gregorios Xenopoulos.
Sokratis Kapsaskis (1928–2007) was a highly regarded film figure born and raised in Zakynthos. He was not only a director but a published poet, essayist (including works on Zakynthians Dionysios Solomos and Andreas Kalvos), historian (again some works on Zakynthian local history), translator of James Joyce and WWII resistance fighter. Kapsaski made 13 mostly highly regarded films between 1956 and 1966 ranging from neorealist dramas to comedies. His films include the One Street Organ, One Life (1958) and The Hot Month of August (1966). He spent the last years of his life in his home village on Zakynthos.
Tonis Lykouressis is a feature and short film director, film writer and documentary maker. He was born in 1945, Athens from Zakynthian parents but has spent a good part of his professional life working in and on Zakynthian-related subjects and the Ionian Islands.
Lykouressis directorial debut feature film, Chrysomallousa (Golden Haired) was set in a village in Zakynthos and was about a teacher's struggle to stage an Omilia in the face of conservative reaction. Lykouressis also co-wrote the screenplay. It was awarded four awards by the Thessaloniki Film Festival in 1978 and was Greece's official entry in the 1979 Cannes Film Festival's Director's Fortnight. A subsequent film, Alcestis released in 1982 was also filmed in Zakynthos.
Lykouressis's most recent film, Slaves in their Bonds was released in 2008 and was based on the novel by Kerkyrian Konstantinos Theotokis. The film documents the decline of an noble Kerkyrian family; and although, filmed and set in early 20th century Kerkyra, it deals with many of the same issues of social upheaval that Zakynthian society was experiencing during this time. It was bestowed with 10 awards by Thessaloniki Film Festival and was the official Greek entry for the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards – it was not accepted as a nominee. Lykouressis also contributed to the screenplay.
Lykouressis has also directed several documentaries in co-operation with the Greek state television, ERT. In 2002, he made the documentary, Song of Life which told the famous story of how the people of Zakynthos saved all of its Jewish population during WWII.
Very recently, Lykouressis also directed a musical performance to celebrate the 150 year anniversary of the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece as part of the 2014 Athens and Epidauris Festival. The performance included extracts from works by the most celebrated representatives of the Heptanesian School of Music and Literature such as the Zakynthian Pavlos Karresis, Dionysios Lavrangas and Spyridon Samaras, along with the Dionysios Solomos's Hymn to Liberty, which was set to music by Nikolaos Mantzaros. The performance included the City of Athens Orchestra, several opera singers and a choir ensemble comprised of singers from the Ionian Islands.
Zakynthos has a venerable histiographical tradition. One of the first documented historians (or probably more accurately chroniclers) on the island was the nobleman, Angelos Soumakis probably born very late in the 16th century. He was contemporary to the events of the Rebellion of the Popolari that began in 1628. His chronicle is the main document used to understand those events.
Ermannos Lountzis (1806–1878) was an important intellectual, social and political figure of 19th century Greece and a native of Zakynthos. He was also a member of the Greek parliament. Most of his historical works cover the period of Venetian, French and Septinsular Republic. Working during the same period but largely covering a different historical period, Panagiots Hiotis (1814–1896) was a teacher, historian and supervisor of the Library of Zakynthos shortly after the unification of the island with Greece. He wrote a number of works documenting the history of Zakynthos and the Ionian Islands more generally; particularly, the period leading up to the unification with Greece. Unfortunately, he died without completing his work on the biographies of prominent Ionian Islanders.
Leonidas Zois (1865–1956) was one of the most important Zakynthian historians that followed Lountzis and Hiotis. He was also the principal of the Zakynthian Archives and publisher of journals. Zois was instrumental in rescuing numerous folkloric and historical information based on primary sources and an important donor to the Library of Zakynthos after its books were burned and damaged in the fire that followed the Great Earthquake of 1953. His most important work was the Dictionary of Zakynthian History and Folklore.
Another historian of the 20th century who contributed greatly to our knowledge of Zakynthian history and an important modern successor to the Zakynthian intellectual tradition was Dinos Konomos (1918–1990). He was also a poet, researcher and archivist. Konomos created the folkloric, historical and literary magazine, Eptanasiaka Phylla which he directed until his death and which was continued by Dionysis Serra. Unfortunately, many documents and other materials he had collected were destroyed in the fire that followed the Great Earthquake in 1953. His greatest work was the multivolume, Zakynthos (Five Hundred Years). He also wrote important works on Nikolaos Koutouzis, Spyros Gouskos, Dionysios Solomos, Giorgios Tsertsetis, Crete and Zakynthos and Zakynthians and the Filiki Eteria.
The Archives of Zakynthos were founded by the Venetians in the late 15th century and continued to operate throughout the period of Venetian, French, the Septinsuler Republic and British rule; and, finally the unification with Greece. The archives were largely destroyed by the fire that followed the Great earthquake of 1953; however, some archives were saved by Leonidas Zois and some of the information and data contained in the archives has since been restored with the collection of archives and books found in the homes, churches and monasteries on the island. Today, the Archives of Zakynthos are housed in the basement of the Municipal Cultural Center.
There are a number of works that survive prior to the Heptanese School of Painting; however, they are exclusively in the Byzantine tradition of icon painting. Most of these works are housed in the Post-Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos.
The Heptanese School of Painting (also known as the Ionian Island School) succeeded the Cretan School as the leading school of Greek post-Byzantine painting after the fall of Candia (Irakleio) to the Ottoman Empire in 1669. Like the Cretan School it combined Byzantine traditions with increasing Western European influences such as Mannerism, Italian Baroque and Flemish styles including three-dimensional perspective and the use of oil painting on canvas. The School also saw the first significant depiction of secular subjects such as bourgeois portraiture emblematically emphasising class, professions and psychology. Other subjects from the Heptanese School include genre scenes, landscapes and still lifes.
Shortly after the fall of Candia in 1669 and the subjugation of all of Crete to the Ottoman Empire, a number of artists working on the island fled to Zakynthos – such luminaries of the Cretan School as Emmanuel Tzanes and Leo Moschos were working in Zakynthos before the end of the 17th century. Shortly after, their younger Cretan contemporaries like Panagiotis Doxaras and even native Zakynthians began to produce works in the early decades of the 18th century. Consequently, Zakynthos became an important centre of the Heptanese School of Painting as some of the key exponents of this school were born and worked for long periods of time on the island or spent key parts of their working lives on the island. Some of the first generation of native Zakynthian artists were Nikolaos Kallergis (1675–1734) and Hieronymous Plakotos (1680–1728). Subsequent generations included Stylianos Stavrakis (1729–1786), his son Dimitrios Stavrakis (1772–1801), Ioannis Korais (c. 18th century–1799), painter and Panagiotis Doxaras (1700 or 1706 – 1775). Some of these artists increasingly moved away from the Byzantine tradition; and some, like Hieronymous Plakotos, Ioannis Korais and Panagiotis Doxaras (under the influence of the Venetian masters, Paolo Veronese and Giovanni Tiepolo) and his son, Nikolaos made a radical break with tradition and heavily incorporated Western European influences in their works. Panagiotis Doxaras was also a prominent theoretician of art publishing On Painting in 1726 which addressed the need for Greek art to move away from Byzantine strictures. He also translated other works of art theory by Italian masters.
Nikolaos Doxaras (1700 or 1706 – 1775), son of Panagiotis Doxaras continued the artistic legacy of his father. Between 1753 and 1762, Doxaras worked in Zakynthos and in 1753–1754 he painted the roof of Faneromeni Church in Zakynthos town that unfortunately was destroyed in the earthquake of 1953. Only a part of it has been saved and is exhibited today at the Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos. An original work, The Birth of the Mother of God, is also displayed in the Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos.
Nikolaos Koutouzis (1741–1813) received lessons from Nikolaos Doxaras and continued to the move towards western European standards of painting. He was particularly known for his realistic portraiture (including a self-portrait) that emphasised the emotional background of the subject. He also reputedly painted a portrait of a baby Dionysios Solomos. After living for a period in Venice, he traveled back to Zakynthos in 1766, and painted the famous Procession of St Dionysios. Several of his other paintings are displayed in the Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos. Koutouzis also wrote satirical poems on local affairs and scandals which often landed him in strife.
It is believed Koutouzis's most famous pupil was Nikolaos Kantounis (1767–1834), one of the most prominent members of the Heptanese School of Painting. In 1786, he was also ordained a priest and later became a member of the Filiki Eteria (Friendly Society), a secret society instrumental in organising the Greek War of Independence of 1821. As a result of his subversive actions, the British occupiers of Zakynthos exiled him to the island of Kyra, near Cephalonia. He was able to return home after the recognition of Greek independence in 1832. A number of his portraits (including a self-portrait) survive but some of his most important church decorations in Zakynthos were destroyed by the earthquake of 1953. Some of his icons have been preserved in some local churches and the Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos.
Several Zakynthians followed in Nikolaos Kantounis's path representing the last painters of the Heptanese School of Painting. One of Kantounis's students on Kyra was Dionysios Tsokos (1814–1862). Although of Epirote parentage, he was born and spent his early years on Zakynthos. Tsokos is mostly known for portraits and historical scenes which combine elements from the Heptanese School and Italian styles. Another student of Kantounis was Dionysios Kallivokas (1806–1877). After initial training with Kantounis he spent many years in Rome and Florence before returning to Zakynthos to teach and paint. He primarily painted portraits and religious scenes. Konstantinos Iatras (1811–1888) also studied in Rome and later returned to teach in Zakynthos and then later Kerkyra and Smyrna. He was mostly known for his portraiture. He also wrote poetry
Like literature, theatre and painting, Zakynthos has a long musical tradition. For example, in 1815 it saw the establishment of the first Music School in Greece. And during the first Olympic Games (Athens 1896), the Music Band of Zakynthos took part in the event. There are two musical traditions in Zakynthos which sometimes interact and overlap.
The first is the Heptanese School of Music (also known Ionian Island School) which denotes the musical production of a group of composers from the early 19th century until the mid-20th century. Initially, the major inspiration for the Heptanese School was the Italian musical tradition. However, as early as the 1820s composers began forging a path towards a 'national music' initially using the Greek vernacular language, and later by incorporating folkore elements using melodies, modes and metres from local tradition and mainland Greece. Although the Heptanese School of Music was centred in Kerkyra (Corfu), Zakynthian composers and musicians made significant contributions to the movement.
Possibly a student of Kerkyrian composer, Nikolaos Mantzaros (also composer of the Greek national athem), Pavlos Karrer (or Karreris in Greek) (1829–1896) was one of the most representative figures of the Heptanese School of Music and he was also one of the most popular and widely performed composers in 19th-century Greece. He also achieved success in Italy where his first operas and ballets were performed on the stages of the Teatro Carcano and the Teatro alla Canobbiana in Milan. He was first Greek music composer to put forward a collection of vocal works on national subjects, Greek-language libretti and melodies inspired by the folk and urban popular tradition of Greece. More than anyone, Karrer is believed to have attempted the creation of Greek national opera. He was especially influenced by Verdi and the Belcanto. However, over time and like the rest of the Heptanese School of Music, Karrer's compositional signature became more personal.
Despite success in Milan and Athens, Karrer was unable to secure the performance of his opera, Markos Botsaris in his native Zakynthos because the British occupiers feared the subject of the opera (the Greek War of Independence) would inflame pro-independence sentiments among Zakynthians. In mainland Greece, Markos Botsaris was first performed in Patra in 1861. The opera includes the well known demotic song, The Old Man Demos. The opera Markos Botsaris was the most popular Greek opera of the 19th and early 20th century with more than 45 stagings. Other notable operatic works include Despo (1875) and I Kyra Frossyni (1868). The last of his operas, the neoclassical Marathon-Salamis (1888) had its world-premiere in 2003. Karrer also composed secular and vocal music and instrumental pieces. Apart from composition, Karrer was also a teacher and conductor.
Another student of Mantzaros was Zakynthian, Frangiskos Domeniginis (1809–1874). He composed several patriotic works as well as the Royal Hymn for the visit of King George I in Zakynthos after the unification of the Ionian Islands with Greece. Domenginis was not only a well-known composer but also a key member of the Party of the Radicals.
Suzanna Nerantzi (c. 19th century) was another Zakynthian student of Mantzaros. Nerantzi is the earliest known female Greek composer (in which her works were published) and an accomplished pianist. Several piano compositions were published in 1839 by Francesco Lucca in Milan.
Alekos Xenos (1912–1995) after leaving Zakynthos studied at the Athens Conservatory. During this time and shortly after the completion of his studies, he played trombone in a number of orchestras in Athens. A man with intense Leftist beliefs from an early age, he played a key role in establishing, amongst others, the Athens State Orchestra. He was active in the resistance against the Nazi occupation which inspired the composition of his Symphony No. 1 ‘Of the Resistance in 1945. Xenos also wrote several revolutionary songs for various resistance groups during this time. Later Xenos composed the symphonic ballet Digenis did not Die in 1952 and Spartakos in 1963. In 1964 he wrote Cyprus-Our Greece in honour of the liberation struggle on the island. Xenos’s dedication and compositions to the resistance and Leftist cause resulted in Xenos being given the moniker, The Composer of the Resistance.
One of the most significant musical figures of Zakynthos and all of Greece in recent times was Dimitris Lagios (1952–1991). He made great strides in preserving traditional Zakynthian urban, rural and ecclesiastical music by studying, teaching and recording it extensively after spending years touring the houses, monasteries and taverns of Zakynthos town and the rural towns and villages. Some of this music has references the times of Venetian rule and provide a valuable document of the concerns and aspirations of ordinary Zakynthian people which was often overlooked by historians relying on official texts. Also, some of the music; particularly, Arekia also records the prevailing anti-colonial sentiment of the period of British rule and yearning for unification with Greece. Lagios even recorded a song often sung by men in jail after being incarcerated for offences related to a vendetta which were quite numerous in 19th century Zakynthos
Lagios also organised the arts and literature festivals, established the group Musical Hermitage and founded the Musical Studies Centre of Kalvos and the Music School of Kalvos in Zakynthos. He is better known in the rest of Greece for his compositions most notably setting Odysseus Elytis's The Sovereign Sun to music which was later performed by Giorgios Dalaras and Eleni Vitali. He also set to music the poetry of Andreas Kalvos and Kostas Karyotakis and wrote more popular music for Sotiria Bellou and Antonis Kalogiannis. Later, he lived for a while on Cyprus and was greatly captivated with the Cypriot struggle for freedom. He set to music the poetry of Greek Cypriot's Evagoras Pallikaridis and Dimitris Lipertis. Sadly, he died early at only 39 years old.
The other urban musical tradition of Zakynthos is Kantades and Arekia. In contrast to the more formal music of Pavlos Karrer and the like, Kantades and Arekia are considered popular forms of music. Kantades are also an important musical tradition in Cephalonia; and to a lesser extent, Leukada and Kerkyra. Given that the Ionian Islands were under Venetian occupation for a considerable period the Italian influence on the music of the Ionian Islands is evident in the use of western harmony compared to many other parts of the Greek world. In addition, the influx of Cretan refugees after the fall of the island to the Ottomans in 1669 also influenced the music of the Ionian Islands.
Arekia is a folk song native to Zakynthos but it is also encountered on other Ionian Islands under different names and slightly different forms. Its name comes from the Italian phrase a orecchio (by ear) suggesting a song sung 'by ear' i.e. without reading a musical score. Arekia usually begins as a solo and then more singers join. Musical instruments rarely accompany the performers. The lyrics of Arekia are often love songs but they also describe scenes of everyday toil, immigration, and social struggle in a satirical way. Some songs even reference bitterness about the British occupation. As for the Arekia share many common elements with the traditional Cretan songs known as Mantinades.
Kantades are a related but different musical form to Arekia. The name originates from the Latin cantare meaning "to sing". Kantades is characterized by western type polyphony, consisting of two or more independent melodic voices. In Zakynthos, the Kantada is a four-voice song (canto, seconde, tertsa, bass) accompanied by guitars and mandolins similar to Kerkyra and Cephalonia. Like Arekia, the lyrics of Kantades are often love songs but they also describe toil, immigration, social struggle and the British occupation. However, Kantades in Zakynthos are also sometimes even sadder and pessimistic resembling Italian melodrama. Several songs of this type were created by composers of the Ionian Conservatory and the Greek National Conservatory like Dionysios Lavragas while the poems of prominent poets like Dionysios Solomos have sometimes been adapted. Some of the most important composers of Kantades include Zakynythians Georgios Kostis and Panayiotis Gritzanis. However, there are many songs by artists unknown to us.
Today, Kantades and to a lesser extent, Arekia are still performed throughout the taverns of Zakynthos. Also, the local group Tragoudistes Tsh Zakynthos (Singers of Zakynthos) have toured many parts of the world as far away as the United States, Canada and Australia.
Inaugurated in 2009, Zakynthos has also its own Zante Jazz Festival.
The novel Among the Olive Groves by Chrissie Parker is primarily set on the island of Zakynthos.
Although Western-style dances such as polka, waltz, tango, mazurka, quadrille were historically popular in the salons of the upper classes and the squares of Zakynthos town, in the villages; especially in the mountains, traditional forms of culture such as dance were maintained among the Popolari and Villani.
Today, Zakynthos has a number of traditional dances which are unique to the island whereas panhellenic dances such as the Kalamatiano or Tsamiko were unknown on the island until the early 20th century. Among the many Zakynthian dances one of the most popular is the Zakynthian Syrtos (Strotos) which is danced in 2/4 time. It is performed with small variations from village to village – it tends to be danced quicker in the southern part of the island compared to the villages in the mountains. The Criscross Dance (Stavrotos) which has its origins in the northern part of the island around Katastari and the Levantikos is closely related to it. The Syrtos (Tsakistos) is a variation of the Zakynthian Syrtos and originates around the village of Maries whilst the Women's Syrtos is danced more slowly and exclusively by women. The Kynigos is a dance with origins in the village of Keri and is danced in parallel rows rather than a circle. Dance of Volimes (a mountainous village in the north) is a fast tempo dance whilst the Galariatikos is also popular and originates from the village of Galaro.
The Geranos or Great Zakynthian Dance is a traditional dance often danced by the higher classes in the past. Giargitos or Dance of Theseus is danced in 3/4 or 6/8 time and is a very old interactive dance primarily performed by men during equestrian events. There is also the Amiri which is a pantomime dance originally performed around the village of Agios Leon during Carnivale time.
Many of these dances are performed during the various festivals of the island and are often accompanied by the "tampourloniakaro" (a type of wind instrument and drum), violin, accordion and guitar.
Zakynthos is unusual for a Greek island as its traditional cuisine comprises a large number of meat and poultry dishes. This is because it has a large and verdant agricultural plain and gently sloping highlands in which animal can graze. Like other Ionian Islands the primary influences include Byzantium and Venice. In fact, like many ordinary everyday objects some of the local dishes have taken on names in the language of an old occupier; namely Venice, although those dishes are not made in Venice or the Veneto. Additionally, many ingredients such as sage, anchovy and rosemary which make Venetian cuisine distinctive are absent from Zakynthian and Ionian Island cuisine. Zakynthian traditional cuisine is somewhat distinguished from its Ionian Island neighbours by its more intensely flavoured thick sauces that accompany many of the meat and poultry dishes.
Some notable Zakynthian dishes include garlic and vinegar seasoned eggplant Skordostoumbi while Skartsotseta is veal wrapped around peppers and cheeses and baked in tomato sauce. Sgatzeto comprises meat and liver in sauce. Rabbit Stifado and Stuffed Rooster and Pasta are again strongly flavoured meat dishes in a tomato based sauce. Pancetta is cured breast of pork seasoned with peppercorns, garlic and bay leaf and Sofigadoura is lamb or goat cooked in wine and potatoes.
One of the best known and most treasured cheeses unique to Zakynthos is Ladotyri which literally means "oil cheese". Although, it shares the same name with Ladotyri from Lesvos it differs in texture, flavour and colour. Zakynthian Ladotyri is similar to feta but which is first steeped in brine to ripen for about three to four weeks before being drained, dried and submerged in Zakynthian olive oil. It is one of the more pungent and peppery cheeses made in Greece. Ladograviera is another Zakynthian cheese made using a similar method as Ladotyri but is based on a harder graviera style cheese.
Pretza is a type of cream salt cheese spread or dip made in Zakynthos and Cephalonia and is often eaten for breakfast. It is made by mixing the remains of feta in brine barrels with mizithra (resembling ricotta), oil and thyme. Other common Greek cheeses are made in Zakynthos.
Zakynthos also specialises in a salty cured meat resembling prosciutto called Hoiromeri. The pork is salted, dried under the sun and then spiced with pepper, bay leaves and garlic. Traditionally, Hoiromeri is eaten on Easter Sunday.
There are a number of traditional local sweets of Zakynthos made from recipes passed down through the generations.
Mandolato is nougat made with egg whites, honey, sugar and almonds and beaten into a meringue. It is produced and eaten all year but is especially consumed at Carnival time. It is considered to be one of the most traditional sweets on the island and was also the favorite sweet of the Venetians. The Pasteli is made with sesame seeds, honey and almonds. It is produced and consumed all year but is made fresh on the streets of Zakynthos Town for the celebration of the island's patron saint, St Dionysios. Fytoura is a pan fried semolina cake that is covered covered in sugar and cinnamon. Fytoura is only produced on the street and eaten during the great island celebration for St Dionysios. Frygania of Zakynthos is consumed at the end of a meal and is particularly popular during summer. It is made placing a syrupy trifle on a crushed rusk or bread base.
The climate and topography of Zakynthos, consisting of a mountainous plateau to the west and flat, fertile plains fed by streams from the mountains and interrupted by isolated hills in the east, are ideal conditions for many types of agriculture including viticulture. There is a long history of wine production on the island – the Comoutos winery was established in 1638 and is reputedly one of the oldest continuous running businesses in Greece.
Undoubtedly, Zakynthos's most famous wine is Verdea, a Traditional Designation PGI (since 1992) dry white wine produced on the island at least since 19th century. In fact, there are only two Greek wines entitled to the PGI category: Verdea and the better known Retsina. The name Verdea is thought to be derived from verde, the Italian word for green. Verde probably describes the color of the grapes and an indication that under-ripe grapes were often used to produce this wine.
Traditionally, Verdea was very acidic and extensively aged in oak barrels leaving the wine amber in color and oxidized. More recently, Verdea is produced in a more moderate style while maintaining the oxidized taste. Verdea can be made from a variety grapes but they must be grown on the island of Zakynthos and it must be produced on the island; however, it may be bottled off the island. All of the white grapes planted on the island are permitted to be used in making Verdea, the majority (minimum 50%) must be of the Skiadopoulo variety. Skiadopoulo is a vigorous, high-yield vine capable of producing very sweet, ripe grapes. It is grown throughout the Ionian Islands and used in a range of white wine styles. Other grapes that are most often a part of the Verdea blend include Pavlos, Robola, Asproudi, Areti and Goustolidi.
Despite the small size of Zakynthos, many dozens of native, or near native, grape varieties have been cultivated on the island for centuries with very few French grape plantings. An old poem written in 1601 refers to the existence of as many as 34 varieties on the island – most of which have survived to this day. Prominent wines include the dry red wine, Avgoustiatis so named because it was often harvested in August. Lianoroidi or Lianoroggi, a sweet white wine made from a range of local grapes is another highly regarded specialty of the island. Other grape varieties noted stated above include Violento, Moschatela, Mavrorobola and Tourkopoula.
There are many wineries in Zakynthos including Art and Wine, Grampsas, Callinico, Solomos, Oinolpi and Comoutos.
There are two museums located in Zakynthos town: the Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos, featuring renaissance paintings, Byzantine icons and more; and the Museum of Solomos and Eminent People of Zakynthos, hosting the mausoleum of Dionysios Solomos and Andreas Kalvos, as well as works by many eminent Zakynthians.
Various festivals punctuate the year on Zakynthos. Carnivale is the biggest event on the Zakynthian festival calendar with many unique Carnivale customs date back to 15th century. It is thought the first Carnival began in 1490 when the local Venetian administrator, Petros Foskolos remininiscing about the event in Venice, decided to celebrate Carnivale in his palace situated in the Castle above present day Zakynthos town. He invited both Catholic and Orthodox luminaries of the island. Gradually, the Carnivale took on the character which it somewhat resembles today. Importantly, the use of masks during Carnivale time gave the opportunity for men to meet women and for Nobili, Civili and Popolari social classes to mix in the gardens and streets; however, the Nobili rarely invited the Popolari to their dances in their palazzi.
In contemporary times, the duration of Carnivale is two weeks and starts every year on the fifth Sunday before Lent where town criers go through the streets of Zakynthos town and announce the beginning of the Carnivale. This is immediately followed by the Bicycle Carnival where riders start from Solomos Square and ride out into a village. On the following Thursday, Meat Thursday, the King of Carnivale officially opens the Carnivale. Zakynthians from around the island barbecue meat and various musical and artistic events follow over the next few days. On the Sunday, there is the Piccolo Carnival in Zakynthos town with children participating from schools around the island.
Omilies, street theatre a tradition stretching back 400 years are also staged in the following days in Zakynthos town and villages throughout the island. The following Saturday the Venetian Wedding, a bridal procession passes through the town's historic center, accompanied by musical ensembles from Zakynthos and the neighboring islands. Locals also dress in Carnivale attire for the occasion. The next day, the Great Carnivale procession is held in Zakynthos town. The Carnivale ends later that night with the Povero Carnivale or the surreal Burial of the Mask where revelers dressed as mourners hold a mock funeral, where the Carnivale King is burnt. This marks the end of the Carnival period. With the Carnival season over, Zakynthians hang lettuce and onions from the belfry of Zakynthos Cathedral, symbolizing the beginning of the fasting period of Lent.
The following day, called Clean Monday, people fly kites and have a picnic in preparation of the upcoming 40 days of Lent.
Giostra, an equestian event is one of the oldest known and most popular event which also takes place during the Zakynthian Carnivale. It is not exactly known when the Giostra actually started but it was first officially mentioned in 1656 when on January 29, the authority of the Ionian Islands, Lazaros Motsenigos on passing through Zakynthos recorded it.
Historically, Giostra in Zakynthos had two different types of competitions. The first being that of the rings, where the local and visiting knights had to try and collect the small rings which were hanging from a specially designed wooden post. The second was that of Mascaron Moro. The idea was for the knights to cut a feather from the head of a replica of a colored man, it was for this reason they named it Giostra of Sarakino. Following the event there would always be a celebration at the winner's home and his name would be printed in a book of honours. Participating in Giostra was restricted to the families of the nobles registered in the Libro d'Oro. However, although only the nobles took part in the event it was watched by crowds of people from all walks of life. Giostra first took place around Bochali. Later, when the capital of Zakynthos moved to its present location the Giostra was then held along the main road of Rougas Square (today known as Alexander Roma).
The Giostra of Zakynthos has been revived in the last few years. The Giostra takes place on the last Saturday of Carnival. The parade of people in traditional costumes starts at the historical square of St Paul and then it continues through the centre of the town and finally ending up in the main square of Dionysios Solomos where the equestrian competition is held. Participating in the parade are Zakynthians, visitors from other Ionian Islands and Italians, San Marinans and Slovenia. Zakynthians have also participated in Giostra events in the Ionian Islands and overseas.
Like the rest of Greece, Easter is the most important religious celebration of the year but like many other secular traditions, the Ionian Islands and Zakynthos itself, adhere to traditions which are unique.
Holy Week starts the Saturday of Lazarus when at 11am the church bells ring and people hang the Vayi on the bell-towers of churches in Zakynthos town and the villages around the island. Unlike the rest of Greece, Vayi in Zakynthos is not laurel but the yellowish fresh palm leaves with which worshipers use to knit crosses. The next day on Palm Sunday, after the Divine Liturgy, knotted crosses are handed to worshipers to be taken to their houses and hang them on their icons. The Passion begins on Holy Monday whereas Holy Tuesday the Hymn of Kassiani is sung by choirs in the traditional Ionian Island idiom at the Church of St Dionysios, the Metropolitan Cathedral Agios Nikolaos and Phaneromeni. On Holy Thursday all the churches of the island are open early in the morning to greet the faithful, Vespers are sung while the bells ring for the last time before the Resurrection.
On Good Friday, Zakynthos town and villages of the island people hang black cloths from their balconies. Therein begins the Litany of the Crucifix, where priests dressed in simple black vestments start from the church of Saint Nicholas of Molos and carry the Crucifix and the famous image of Mater Dolorosa around the streets of Zakynthos town. The Litany of the Crucifix ends at Solomos Square where the Bishop blesses the clergy and worshipers and then takes the Crucifix back into Saint Nicholas of Molos and places it on the Epitaphion. That night all the churches of the island follow the Lamentation of the Epitaph again sung in the Ionian Island musical idiom but without a procession of the Epitaph like the rest of Greece.
At dawn on Holy Saturday, a service is held at 2 am in the morning and the Epitaphios is paraded through the town followed by mournful music by the local philharmonic. At 5 am the first Resurrection occurs where hundreds of the faithful break clay pots in St. Mark's Square as the first manifestation of joy for the Paschal event. In the evening of Holy Saturday through to Sunday the Great Resurrection is celebrated in St Mark's Square with readings from the Gospel and later accompanied by singing hymn Christ is Risen and the sounds of bells. After the Resurrection, Zakynthians gather in their homes to celebrate and eat stew which was prepared earlier in the day.
On Easter Sunday, lambs are roasted on the spit in the streets of Zakynthos town and the villages of the island according to the custom which prevails all over Greece. In the afternoon local Panygiria start in the villages.
One of the earliest and greatest sportsmen Zakynthos has produced was Miltiadis Gouskos (1877–1903). Born in Zakynthos in an old and prominent family from the village of Katastari, Gouskos became a national medallist in shot put and discus and competed at the highest national level in Greco-Roman wrestling. He competed at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens and won the silver medal in the Panathinaic Stadiou by placing second to Robert Garrett of the United States. Gouskos's best throw was 11.03 metres short of Garrett's 11.22 metres. He died early from food poisoning while working for the Rallis company in the British Indian Empire.
Zakynthos F.C. is the football club of the island.
The island also offers exceptional attractions for scuba divers. Caves around the island attract numerous divers. A wide range of marine life can be found, common amongst being moray eels, monk seals, octopus, and loggerhead turtles (caretta caretta).
The island is covered by a network of roads, particularly the flat eastern part, with main routes linking the capital with Volimes on north, Keri on the south, and peninsula Vassiliki on the west. The road between Volimes and Lithakia is the spine of the western half of the island.
The island has one airport, Zakynthos International Airport, "Dionysios Solomos" (on former GR-35) which connects flights with other Greek airports and numerous tourist charters. It is located 4.3 km (2.7 mi) from Zakynthos and opened in 1972.
Zakynthos also features two ports: the main port, located in the capital, and another in the village of Agios Nikolaos. From the main port there is a connection to the port of Kyllini, which is the usual route for arrivals to the island by sea from the mainland. From the port of Agios Nikolaos there is a connection to the island of Kefalonia.
Since 2003 Zakynthos possesses two academic departments belonging to the Technological Educational Institute of Ionian Islands. The first of which is the department of Environmental Technology and Ecology, where environmental technologies, atmospheric physics, chemistry, climate dynamics, renewable energy sources, environmental management, biodiversity, and ecosystems dynamics are developed from the basis of natural sciences and mechanics. The department's sections have developed significant laboratory and field station infrastructures along Zakynthos and the Strofades islets. The second department is that of Protection and Conservation of Cultural Heritage.
The freshwater resources on Zakynthos are limited, and as a result a Greek-Norwegian educational collaboration is being established on the island. The Science Park Zakynthos is a collaboration between the Technological Educational Institute of the Ionian Islands (TEI), The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB), and the Therianos Villas and Therianos Family Farm on Zakynthos.
Among the most famous Zakynthians is the 19th-century poet Dionysios Solomos whose statue adorns the main town square. The Italian poet Ugo Foscolo was also born in Zakynthos.
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Administrative division of the Ionian Islands Region
|Regional unit of Corfu||
|Regional unit of Cephalonia||
|Regional unit of Ithaca||
|Regional unit of Lefkada||
|Regional unit of Zakynthos||
Subdivisions of the municipality of Zakynthos
|Municipal unit of Alykes||
|Municipal unit of Arkadioi||
|Municipal unit of Artemisia||
|Municipal unit of Elatia||
|Municipal unit of Laganas||
|Municipal unit of Zakynthos (city)||
Prefectures of Greece