History & Culture
Corfu has the ability to incorporate each new element without significantly altering its cultural physiognomy. In Corfu one can meet – even today – intact elements of the ancient Greek civilization like placenames, customs, vices etc.
The events and ceremonies that take place in villages on the Tyrofagos Sunday and Shrove Monday are remnants of the ancient Greek cult worshipping Dionyssos and coexist with the Corfiot Carnival, rooted in the Italia Comedia del’Arte.
Corfu’s musical tradition also constitutes a dynamic composition of ancient Greek and Byzantine elements combined with others introduced mainly by Venetians and the British. Serenades and barcaroles coexist with folk songs, the roots of which go as deep as antiquity and the quadraphonia of religious hymns.
The inclination of Corfiots to the spectacles, the music and the opera is the result of the living history and coexists with the deepest respect for the national and religious symbols.
Kerkyra, the island of King Alkinoos’…
Various names of the island were found in the ancient literary sources, such as Drepani (meaning ‘sickle’) or Makris (‘Long Island’), which derive from its shape, Phaeacia, Gorgo or Gorgyra, Kassopaia and Scheria (a name that Homer used in his “Odyssey” to describe King Alkinoos’ island, which is generally identified as the island of Corfu).
The name Kerkyra – which prevailed in Greece – emanates from the ancient myth of nymph Kerkyra or Corkyra, daughter of the river Assopos. According to this myth, Poseidon, the God of sea, fell in love with Kerkyra, brought her to the island and gave it her name. The international name Corfu probably derives from Koryfo (at Byzantine years) because of the two characteristic rock-peaks of the Old Fortress of Corfu.
Mythical Past – Ancient Times
Most archaeologists identify Corfu as the mythical island of Phaeacians. It was here that ingenious Odysseus arrived after days of straggle with the sea-waves.
In the old days, Corfu was a continuation of the mountain range “Pindos” and constituted a headland of Epirus, from which it was already cut off completely – as the historians say, at the Palaeolithic Age. From that age long, Corfu was continuously inhabited, as the prehistorical findings show, spread all over the island. In the caves of the southwest Corfu, near Gardiki and lake of Korission, people lived during the Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Among others, fossilized bones of animal species have been discovered.
After the division of the Roman Empire, Corfu fell into the Eastern section, to be ceded to the Byzantine Empire finally in 733.