Culture & History

History of Paxoi

The history of Paxos is historically related to Corfu. This is reasonable due to the geographic proximity of the islands. With an extent of 17.5 sq. km. it is one of the smallest islands in the Ionian Sea. According to the general census of 2001, its population is 2.438 inhabitants.

Examining the history of the island from the year 1500, when it was possessed by the Venetians, we find Paxos administratively depended on Corfu, since the island was governed by the representative of the Venetian prudent of Corfu. The “Protopapas” (or Archpriest) was responsible for the surveillance of the ecclesiastical affairs. He was under the Great Protopapas of Corfu, since there was no metropolitan throne of the Orthodox dogma in Corfu from 1267 until 1800. Within the feudal system that ruled the society and the economy of the two islands, Paxos constituted part of a fief and had to attribute 100 ducats annually to the landowners.

During this period, Paxos, along with Corfu, bore the consequences of the competition between the Ottomans and the western Christian forces in the Ionian. Thus, in 1537, after the unsuccessful siege of Barbarossa in Corfu, the Ottoman fleet ravaged Paxos causing terrible destruction and demographic bleeding. The same incident happened again in 1571.

Even though those invasions isolated the island, the residents of Paxos continued their survival efforts. They mostly relied on the cultivation of olive-trees which changed the configuration of the landscape of Paxos. At the same time, the Paxiots participated in naval activities which leaded to the development of a small, mostly fishing, fleet.

The Venetian period for the Seven Islands terminated in 1797 with the arrival of the French. This period has prevailed as the “Period of the French Republicans” so that it can be distinguished by the next return of the French to the Ionian, as a result of the political sovereignty of the emperor Napoleon in Europe which is attributed with the term “Period of the French Imperialists”. During this first stay of the French in the islands, Paxos were administratively included in the first of the three prefectures that the French created in the Ionian which belonged to the French territory: the Prefecture of Corfu, just like the rest of the neighbouring former Venetian possessions (Antipaxos, Diapontia, Parga, Vouthroto).

The French presence was terminated shortly since the united Russo-Ottoman fleet conquered the islands and after some diplomatic activities the autonomous state of the Seven Islands was a reality, tax tributary to the Sultan. Its federal structure was expressed by the existence of a local Government of three trustees in each island and of a Senate, constituted by representatives of the Seven Islands. Paxos were represented by a Senator and also had a representative in the forty-member legislative body of the Septinsular State.

After seven years of the existence of the Septinsular State, the latter was abolished by the Treaty of Tilsit, which restored the French presence on the islands. Britain was not pleased by the latest fact, thus, it boycotted all naval activities in the islands. This hindered greatly the commerce and supplying of the island. Besides the naval exclusion of the Ionian Islands, Britain undertook more active action for the removal of the French from the islands, starting progressively their occupation from 1809 (Kythira) up to 1810 (Lefkada). The British presence in Lefkada along with the boycott leaded to the revolt against the French in Paxos in May 1810. The purpose of that was to welcome the British on the island. The revolt, which involved ravaging of properties and killings of French supporters, after a short interval of predominance, was finally suppressed by the French military corps which rolled up from Corfu to Paxos. The epilogue of the revolt was written in Corfu with the trial of those who were responsible, the execution of seven of the arrested ones and the punishment of others.

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