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This article is about the Greek island. For the place in the United States, see Corfu, New York.
Pontikonisi and Vlaheraina monastery as viewed from the hilltops of Kanoni
Pontikonisi and Vlaheraina monastery as viewed from the hilltops of Kanoni
Coordinates: 39°40′N 19°45′E / 39.667°N 19.75°E / 39.667; 19.75
Island chain: Ionian Islands
Area: 592.877 km² (229 sq.mi.)
Highest mountain: Mt. Pandokratoras (906 m (2,972 ft))
Periphery: Ionian Islands
Capital: Corfu (city)
Population: 107,879 (as of 2001)
Density: 182 /km² (471 /sq.mi.)
Postal code: 490 82,490 83, 490 84, 491 00
Area code: 26610- (town and middle island), 26620- (south and paxoi), 26630- (north)
License code: KY
www.corfu.gr Corfu Town
Corfu (Greek: Κέρκυρα, Kérkyra, /ˈkʲe̞ɾkʲiɾa/; Ancient Greek: Κέρκυρα or Κόρκυρα; Latin: Corcyra; Italian: Corfù) is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands.1 Its northern part lies off the coast of Sarandë, Albania, from which it is separated by straits varying in breadth from 3 to 23 km (2 to 15 mi), including one near ancient Butrint, while its southern part lies off the coast of Thesprotia, Greece. The island is part of the Corfu Prefecture and includes twelve of the sixteen municipalities or communes in the prefecture and communities of Ereikoussa, Mathraki, Othonoi, and Municipality of Paxoi, which are all separate islands.
The principal town (pop. 28,185) of the island is also named Corfu, or Kérkyra in Greek, as is its municipality (pop. 39,487). Corfu is home to the Ionian University.
The island is connected to the history of Greece from the beginning of Greek mythology. Its Greek name, Kerkyra or Korkyra, is related to two powerful water symbols: Poseidon, god of the sea, and Asopos, an important Greek mainland river.2 According to myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopus and river nymph Metope, and abducted her, as was the custom among gods of the era’s myths. Zeus was a serial offender.2 Poseidon brought Metope to the hitherto unnamed island and, in marital bliss, offered her name to the place: Korkyra,2 which gradually evolved to Kerkyra (Doric).3 Together, they had a child they called Phaiax, after whom the inhabitants of the island were named: Phaiakes. This term was transliterated via Latin to Phaeacians.
The island’s history is laden with battles and conquests. The legacy of these struggles is visible in the form of castles punctuating strategic locations across the island. Two of these castles enclose its capital, which is the only city in Greece to be surrounded in such a way. As a result, Corfu’s capital has been officially declared a Kastropolis (“castle city”) by the Greek government.3 Corfu was long controlled by Venice, which repulsed several Turkish sieges, before passing into British hands following the Napoleonic Wars. Unification with modern Greece was concluded in 1864 under the Treaty of London.
Map of Corfu. Its satellite islands of Ereikousa, Othoni and Mathraki counterclockwise NW, WNW and W respectively (with respect to the northern part of the island at the top of the map) and Paxoi and Antipaxoi on the SE side, are visible.
The name Corfu is an Italian corruption of the Byzantine Κορυφώ (Koryphō), meaning “city of the peaks”, which is derived from the Greek Κορυφαί (Koryphai) (crests or peaks), denoting the two peaks of Palaio Frourio.3 In shape it is like the sickle (drepanē, δρεπάνι), to which it was compared by the ancients: the concave side, with the town and harbour of Corfu in the centre, lies toward the Albanian coast. With the island’s area estimated at 227 square miles (588 km2), it runs approximately 40 miles (64 km) long, with greatest breadth at around 20 miles (32 km).
Two high and well-defined ranges divide the island into three districts, of which the northern is mountainous, the central undulating, and the southern low-lying. The more important of the two ranges is that of Pantokrator (Παντοκράτωρ), the ancient Istone, which stretches east and west from Cape Falacro to Cape Psaromita, and attains its greatest elevation in the summit of the same name.
Bay of St. George in northwestern Corfu
The second culminates in the mountain of Santi Jeca, or Santa Decca, as it is called by misinterpretation of the Greek designation Άγιοι Δέκα (Hagioi Deka), or the Ten Saints. The whole island, composed as it is of various limestone formations, presents great diversity of surface, and views from more elevated spots are magnificent. Beaches are found in Agios Gordis, the Korission lagoon, Agios Georgios, Marathia, Kassiopi, Sidari, Palaiokastritsa and many others. Corfu is located near the Kefalonia geological fault formation; earthquakes have occurred. Corfu town and countryside have not lost the traditional architecture from the 16th century.
Corfu’s coastline spans 217 kilometres (135 mi) including capes; its highest point is Mount Pantokrator (906 metres (2,972 ft)); and the second Stravoskiadi, at 849 metres (2,785 ft). The full extent of capes and promentories take in Agia Aikaterini, Drastis to the north, Lefkimmi and Asprokavos to the southeast, and Megachoro to the south. Two islands are also to be found at a middle point of Gouvia and Corfu Bay, which extends across much of the eastern shore of the island; are known as Lazareto and Ptychia (or Vido). Camping areas can be found in Palaiokastritsa, Agrillia, with four in the northern part, Pyrgi, Roda, Gouvia and Messonghi.
Homer identifies seven plants that adorn the garden of Alcinous: wild olive, oil olive, pear, pomegranate, apple, fig and vine (Grape). Of these the apple and the pear are now very inferior in Corfu; the others thrive, together with all the fruit trees known in southern Europe, with addition of the kumquat, loquat and prickly pear and, in some spots, the banana. When undisturbed by cultivation, the myrtle, arbutus, bay and holm oak form a rich brushwood and the minor flora of the island are extensive.