The main mythical version about the origin of the modern name of the island, Kerkyra, is the following; God Poseidon fell in love with the Nymph Cercyra, abducted her and lay with her on the island. Their son, Phaeax, is the mythical primogenitor of the Phaeaceans, who lived in Corfu. Other names used for the island, is Makris (=long) and Drepane (=sickle) because of the length and shape respectively. Also Scheria according to Homer and Corypho during the Middle Ages. As a crossroads between east and west, Corfu has been the passage of numerous conquers. Geographically, the island was once part of the coast of Epirus .
The first settlement of Greeks was this of Eretria in Euboea , in 760-750 BC. In 734 BC the Corinthians drove the Eretrians out and settled themselves. During the next five centuries several wars took place -Thucydides wrote about the first sea battle in the Greek history, this between Corfiots and Corinthians in 664 BC- ; the worst was this against the Spartians ( Corfiots fought in the side of Athenians). In 229 BC the rule of the island passed on to the Illyrians. In 229 BC Corfu voluntarily surrendered to the Romans, and became an important naval base for them. The Roman period lasted up to 395 AD. When the Roman Empire was split (West and East), Corfu belonged to the East ( Byzantine Empire ). During the Byzantine period (395-1267 AD) the island was part of the administrative theme of Cephalonia , and soon became an important trading-station and naval base.
From 1267 until 1386 the Island was under the rule of the angerins. The second period of Venetian rule took place in 1386-1797. It influenced the economic progress and the assimilation of numerous elements in the mental makeup and culture of the Venetians. Considerably, Corfu was called the Gibraltar of the Adriatic. Despite the peaceful co-operation with the Venetians, this period was full of attacks by neighboring states; Genoa in 1403&1432, the Turks in 1431, 1571, 1573 and pirates by Hair-ed-Din Barbarossa (who slaughtered thousands of Corfiots in 1537).
In 1716 thelast unsuccessful attempt by the Turks took place; this anniversary is celebrated in the 11th of August annually in honor of St.Spyridon. In 1797 the General Gentily under Napoleon Bonaparte dominated Corfu , and the Ionian Islands became part of the republican French until 1799. They contributed to the education and founded the first printing-house. The “parade” of conquers went on with the Russians and Turks (1799-1807). According to the Treaty of Constantinople in 1800 the Ionian Islands became the ” Septinsular Republic “, which was provided with autonomy and had Corfu as a capital.
This situation lasted until the Russo-Turkish war in 1806, when the ” Septinsular Republic ” had to fight on the Russian side.
In 1807 the Ionian Islands became once again property of Napoleon, under the Treaty of Tilsit between Russia and France , until 1814 when Napoleon fell. This is when the Islands were placed under British protection. Two years later (1816), the Ionian Islands were recognized as a United State under British control, as it was governed by a British High Commissioner.
At last in the 21st of May 1864 the Ionian Islands returned to the rule of the Greek State . This anniversary is still celebrated and one can see the Monument of the Union.