A Brief History of Zakynthos | A Brief History of Zante
The island of Zante has been known since the mythical years. It’s proximity to the southern Greek peninsula, its size & fertile land made it clear that colonizing the island was perceived as favourable by many.
Although there haven’t been many excavations here, sporadic findings of historical evidence have been found. The Greek sign of the Chancel Table in the Church of Saint in Melinado, the exonarthex coloumns of the same temple, various coins and more, eluding to a rich history and significant past.
Zakynthos history means it was certainly part of the Byzantine and Roman empires. During the years that followed of St Leo the Wise, all the Ionian islands including Zakynthos took part in the matter of Kefalonia. This administrative form hasn’t changed since then, although changes to the limits and topics make it difficult to track them. Rome held Zakynthos until the middle of the 8th century.
The Ionian Islands still belonged to the Byzantine Empire during the middle of the 12th century. Various raids took its toll and finally the Franks occupied the Ionian islands and set up the first Frankish hegemony in Greece.
A Brief History of Zante – 1185
In 1185 Zakynthos and Kefalonia are occupied by Orsini who set up the Palatine Komiteia of Kefalonia – Zakynthos. This creates the conditions for the seven centuries of political separation of the islands from the rest of Greece. Running until 1357.
The Venetians in 1485 occupy Zakynthos and 15 years later Kefalonia. Introducing organised and experienced administrative machinery and granting genuine religious freedom, not to mention hoards of refugees to Zakynthos, Venetian soldiers, refugees from Constantinople, the Peloponnese, Athens and Crete settle in Zante – creating a vast mixture of cultures, art, architecture, literature etc.
Regarding administrative and social structure, 3 classes become apparent – the noble (Nobili), the bourgeois (Civili) and the people (Popolari), favouring the middle class. Furthermore, education being only able for those of noble status.
Lasting until the French occupation of Zakynthos in 1797.
A Brief History of Zante – 1798
The French only held Zante for 15 months and in 1798 the Russians took Zakynthos. This Russian-Turkish occupation lasted nearly 2 years, and in March 1800 the two governments established a new state. The Eptanisos State, independent but protected by Russia and Turkey. Lasting only 7 years, with the French returning in 1807.
The English occupation of the islands is the last period of prosperity, which coincides with the mid-19th century – from 1809.
A Brief History of Zante – 1864
Finally, Greece’s independence from Turkey was the reason of the birth of a radical movement in the Ionian Islands that fought long against the British in order to join Greece and be free from foreign power.
Zante and the Ionian Islands joined Greece in 1864 year in which the Greek flag was raised.