The history of early Paxos



A brief history of early Paxos


Pre-History

The history of Paxos is linked closely with that of Corfu, in fact legend says that Poseidon, in a fit of rage, struck Corfu with his trident and Paxos splintered off and floated away to become a separate island. It then became his ‘love nest’ and to this day, Poseidon’s trident remains the symbol of Paxos.

It is thought that, sometime later the first ‘human’ inhabitants on Paxos were the Phoenicians who arrived in pre-historic times. Others civilisation who settled on the island include the Romans, Normans, and the Byzantines.

Both Corfu and Paxos islands fought together against pirates and the troublesome Turks. However even as a combined unit they could not resist the attacks of the Venetians in 1386 who stamped their indelible mark on the island for the next 400 years.

Venetians

About 60 years into the Venetians’ rule the castle of Agios Nikolaos was built in the south west of Paxos to protect the residents; although abandoned it still cuts an impressive figure as it stands guardian to the island. Around the same time a second castle, Dialetos, was built at the north of the Paxos island in Lakka above the sandy beach of Charami. Unfortunately this castle has not stood the test of time.

It was about this time that the locals of Paxos started to terrace the hills and cultivate olives on a commercial basis; they built yards and yards of dry stone walls to separate their trees from that of their neighbours. The walls, olive trees and the152 abandoned olive presses can be seen to this day as a testament to the work of previous generations of Paxiots.

After 400 years in the possession of the Venetians, control of the island passed to the French Republic for just two years. In 1799, after a 3 month siege, Corfu was occupied by Russian and Turkish forces. For the next 7 years the Ionian Islands Constitution was in force placing all the islands under the protection of these two countries.


British Rule

In 1810 the British blockaded Corfu and Paxos causing a massive food and water shortage which led to the Paxiots to revolt and kill the Governor and other local dignitaries. The revolt was later crushed; the ringleaders were shot in Corfu castle and other activists imprisoned if unable to flee the islands. However, the British responded and a counter attack led by Richard Church managed to capture the fortress without a single shot being fired!

Greek Union

In 1817 a new constitution was formed: the new United States of the Ionian Islands proclaimed a British protectorate, governed by a British High Commissioner who remained in charge until the Union with Greece in 1864.

Religion

Throughout this period religion has remained a major factor in the life of those living on Paxos and by 1686 there were 39 churches in use. The importance of the church in local life has continued to grow and there are now 64 churches (one for every 36 residents) on the island of Paxos with the oldest dating back to the 6th century: Agia Marina in Porto Ozias.

Close to the apartments is the Hypapanati church which is one of the most interesting on the whole island and well worth a visit.

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