History of Ionian Islands
1500 – 1950
Between the years 1485-1500, Venice annexed Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Ithaca, imposing its presence at the Ionian Sea. Having these islands and together with Corfu and Paxos, the maritime routes from Venice to Corfu and Cyprus could be effectively controlled. Even thought, they had lost Methoni and Koroni, they were able to provide the security and the continuation that the two Peloponnesian ports were insuring for its sailors and merchants.
At the begging of the 16th century, the situation at the Ionian Sea was the following: In 1503 Lefkada was given to the Turks under the treaty with which the second war between Venice and the Turks ended. Venice was the dominant of Kythira, Corfu, Paxos, Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Ithaca, Parga and Vouthrotos. In 1684, Venice would extent its domination on Lefkada, (as well as Preveza and Vonitsa), when the island was conquered by Francis Morozini and under the Treaty of Karlovitz (1699) the state formed by the VI war between Venice and the Turks, was recognized.
The gathering of most of the Ionian Islands under the Venetian occupation did not have the relevant administrative coherence. This was not because Lefkada was under the Turkish control and Kythira depended directly on the "Kingdom of Crete" (Regnio di Candia). Venice treated its dominations as a unit, the Sea State (Stato da mar) as they were calling it. This state was composed by the Dalmatian areas and all the islands with Greek population: Ionian Islands, Crete, Kythira, Cyprus, Tynos. The General Sea Prudent (provveditore generale da mar), the supreme official of the sea state, was not only in charge of the navy, but in charge of every island that the navy was moored. Even on the total public accounts of the 16th century, prepared in Venice, the tax income of the Sea State, were filed under one code, under the title Maritime Territories (Terre Maritime).
This situation did not appear from a specific idea or some political or public programming. On the contrary, in its absence we should search the obscurities in the public accounts; something very common in the financial policy of that time. The situation was changed in the 17th century when Venice applied new policies on the financial of the state and when due to political coincidences, its possessions were eliminated. By loosing Cyprus (1571) and Crete (1669) the borders of the Sea State were limited to Kythira and Tynos. The General Sea Prudent was renamed to General East Prudent (provveditore generale in Levante) and undertook the administration of the Ionian Islands, which under the code Isole Ionie, became an independent unit in the accounts (Bilanci Generali) of the Serenissima.
The transfer to the Venetian domination was not the same everywhere. However, the administrative organization of the islands was institutionally the same. Small differences as to the authorities of the local councils existed, without however changing the general picture. An official ruled each island for two years, accompanied by two counselors. The titles were different in every island: in Corfu Bailos was in charge, in Kefalonia and Zakynthos the Prudent, in Paxos the representative of the Prudent of Corfu governed, in Ithaca a noble from Kefalonia appointed by the Prudent of Kefalonia. In Kythira the supreme authority belonged to the castellan Prudent, appointed by the duke of Crete, whereas in Lefkada a casual Prudent and a regular Prudent were in charge.
In Corfu the captain Prudent was added, being in charge of the financial, public order and public assets. The supreme official was in charge of the defense on each island and had under his command the commander of the fortresses, the castellans, who were Venetians. The fortresses of Aggelokastro (Corfu) and Parga were exempted and were ruled by nobles from Corfu. During the 17th century, after the Turks had occupied Chania (1645), the administration of the defense of all islands was delegated to an official, the General Prudent of the three islands. In 1684, when Lefkada was annexed, the commander was renamed to General Prudent of the four islands and undertook the defense of the regions of the southeast Epirus and Akarnanias, which were also occupied.