Paleolithic Period & History (734 – 229 BC) of Corfu
Human remains and tools have been found mainly in the southwest of Corfu (Gardiki), which indicates that the island was inhabited since the Paleolithic period (30.000 – 7.000 BC). The first acknowledged Neolithic (6000 BC) settlement was discovered in the north of Corfu, in the area of Sidari, which continued until the Bronze Age. There have also been discovered similar findings from that age in the southwest Corfu, as Kefali, Afiona and Ermones.
The Greek speakers, Eretrians, from Euboia in the middle of 8th century BC, colonized Corfu for the first time. The Illyrians, the previous residents of the island, were displaced to the center of the island. The Eretrians were staying near to the Yllicos Port, where the lake of Chalikiopoulos is now located. The Corinthians, with their leader Hersikratos, were settled in the island in 734 BC and occupied it, assimilating the Liburnians, who were living on the island. The colony had a quick development; it became an independent state, winning a battle against the old metropolis during the 7th century (Thucydides, “Kerkyraika").
The Corfiots together with the Vackhiades managed to obtain power over the other colonies, Sicily and Illyria and they became a threat to the Corinthians. They established the prosperous first colony, Epidamno, in 625 BC. (known as Dyrachio today). The Corinthian tyrant, Periandros, managed to defeat them.
The Corinthian influence, mostly during the Periandros’ tyranny, was extremely significant for the economical development and the flourishing of the Corinthian art. There are still remnants from important monuments such as the circular cenotaph of Menekratus (Kyprou str.) aged around the end of 7th century BC. and the Doric Temple of Artemis on the west of Monastery of Ag. Theodoron.
After Periandros died, Corfu, being a free island, became a flourishing commercial center due to the commercial transactions with the other areas. According to the archeological findings, the center of the town was in Paleopolis and the Alcinoos’ Port. Houses had been built on the west side of the Kanoni Peninsula, and the holy place of goddess Hera and Apollona, the Corkyrian, was on the east side, above the hills (Mon Repo). The cemetery was outside the town, in the area of Garitsa in Corfu.
In 435 BC there was a big crisis in the relationship between Corinth and Corfu. Athens, on the other hand, was trying to extend its economical and political influence to the west. Corfu made an alliance with the Athenians, which resulted in the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. This crisis was also because of the power that Corfu had created. Corinth had established many colonies in the west with the purpose being to secure the commercial transactions. Corfu managed to develop the economical status with its own commercial fleet, establishing also colonies by itself. After a while, Corfu became totally independent from its Metropolis (Corinth). Corfu Town had two ports, the port of Alcinoos, that was located on the market place opposite to Epirus, and the port of Illycos, where Perama is now located.
In 427 BC. Corfu established a democracy. The system of democracy was vulnerable; it was dependant on the successful battles or defeats of the Athenians. When the Athenians won, democracy was stable in Corfu, but when they were defeated, the oligarchics came up and developed their activities. Their goal was to recall the neutrality of the island in order to gain as much profits as they could, especially in war times. On the contrary, the democratic part supported the Athenian war, which led to the catastrophic civil war in Corfu.
At the end of the Peloponnesian War (404 BC.) the Athenians introduced a Federation including the naval cities against the Spartans. Corfu participated by the side of the Athenians. The Spartans decided to dominate the island, but the Athenians sent their forces and they succeeded in displacing them. After some years, Corfu was still having civil conflict and a lot of crusaders conquered the island. The Illyrian pirates tried to besiege Corfu, in 229 BC. The weaken Corfiots were forced to compromise with the crusaders.
As a result, Corfu was exhausted and unable to deal with the problems from the wars. The island got through under the administration of the Romans in order to avoid the pirates.