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Lefkas owes its name to the white (leukos in Greek) rocks that characterise the southern part of the island, the Cape of Lefkata. According to mythology, the poet Sappho threw herself from these white rocks into the sea because she could no longer bear the impossible love between her and Phaon.

Corinthians colonised the island in the 7th century B.C., built the new city of Lefkas and in 650 B.C. began building the canal that separated Lefkas from the mainland and made Lefkas an island. During this period the island consisted of many autonomous towns that flourished economically for a long time. Lefkas played an important role in the Persian Wars and also participated in the battles between other Greek cities and the Persians. Lefkas sent three ships to help the Greeks in the famous Battle of Salamis in 480 BC.

Lefkas also took part in the Spartan side of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) to help its parent city, Corinth, in the battle against Athens. In 343 BC, the island became an ally of the Athenians to fight against the Macedonians and their king Philip II. Athens, however, lost the battle and Lefkas came under Macedonian rule. Lefkas became independent in 312 BC. In the 3rd century BC Lefkada became part of the Acarnanian Federation along with part of mainland Greece.

In 230 BC the Federation made an alliance with the Macedonians to resist attacks by the Romans. But the Romans won the battle and in 198 BC Lefkas came under Roman rule and became part of the Roman province of Nikopolis.

Middle Ages

During the Byzantine period Lefkas became part of the province of Achaia and, because of its strategic position, was constantly attacked by pirates. In the 6th century AD, Lefkas included in the "Settlement of Kefalonia" and, after a temporary occupation by crusaders, part of the Despotate Epirus. In 1204 conquered the Franks Constantinople and Lefkas came under their rule. In 1294, the island by Bishop Nikiforos A'Angelos as a kind of wedding gift given to his daughter, who married the Sicilian Giovanni Orsini. Until 1331 Lefkas was ruled by the Orsini family, who had the castle of Agia Mavra built.

15th to 19th centuries

After the Orsinis, Lefkas was dominated by several dynasties, before the Turks conquered the island in 1479 and occupied it until 1684. After the Turks, the Venetians under Francesco Morozini took over the reigns of Lefkada, and it was during this period that the main town of Lefkada was established at its current location. The economy flourished due to trade and the development of navigation.

The Venetian period came to an end when Napoleon's army conquered Venice in 1797; Lefkada became part of France by the Treaty of Kamboformio. This domination lasted only a short time, however, because already in 1799 a combined fleet of Turks, Russians and English defeated the French and conquered Lefkada. On March 21, 1800, the Ionian State was formed in Constantinople, with the intention of eventually founding the "United States of the Ionian Islands". This failed because Lefkada came under French rule again in 1807. This period was also one of economic prosperity, especially in the agricultural field.

During this period, the other Ionian islands were occupied by the English and the same happened to Lefkada in 1810 and again confirmed in 1815 with the Treaty of Paris. During the English occupation, Greek became the official language, a network of roads was built and the water management on the island was improved. The English occupation did not last long, but the Protectorate of the Ionian Islands lasted until 1864. During the English occupation and Protectorate, Leskas and the other Ionian Islands helped the Greeks on the mainland in their struggle against the Turks. On 21 May 1864, the Ionian Islands, including Lefkas, were united with the new independent state of Greece.

20th and 21th century

For a few years, the middle classes prospered and trade flourished. At the beginning of the 20th century, a plant disease destroyed all the vineyards on the island, and this heralded a period of poverty for the population.

Many residents of Lefkas did not wait for a possible revival of the economy and emigrated mainly to Canada and the United States. This emigration wave only abated after the Second World War. During the Second World War, Greece was occupied successively by the Italians and the Germans. Lefkas was no exception and the population had a hard time under the Nazi occupation.

After the war Lefkas was hit by earthquakes in 1948 and 1953. Many residents of Lefkas moved to mainland Greece to find work. From the sixties of the 20th century, the economy began to improve, but only since the eighties, the tourist industry for an economic revival.

See also the history page of Greece.



Leistra, M. / De Griekse eilanden Gottmer/Becht

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Last updated May 2024
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