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Kérkira

Kérkira (kĕrˈkērä) [key] or Corfu kôrˈfō, Lat. Corcyra, island (1991 pop. 104,781), 229 sq mi (593 sq km), NW Greece, in the Ionian Sea, the second largest of the Ionian Islands, separated by a narrow channel from the Albanian and Greek coasts. Though rising 2,980 ft (910 m) at Mt. Pantokrator in the northeast, Kérkira is largely a fertile lowland producing olive oil, figs, wine, and citrus fruit. Livestock raising (poultry, hogs, and sheep) and fishing are important sources of livelihood. Tourism, centered in Kérkira city, the capital, has increased dramatically in recent years; the island is known internationally. The island has been identified with Scheria, the island of the Phaeacians in Homer's Odyssey. It was settled c.730 B.C. by Corinthian colonists and shared with Corinth in the founding of Epidamnus on the mainland but became the competitor of Corinth in the Adriatic Sea. The two rivals fought the first recorded (by Thucydides) naval battle in 665 B.C. In 435 B.C., Kérkira (then Corcyra) made war on Corinth over the control of Epidamnus, and in 433 it concluded an alliance (often renewed) with Athens; this alliance helped to precipitate (431) the Peloponnesian War. The island passed under Roman rule in 229 B.C. and in A.D. 336 became part of the Byzantine Empire. It was seized from the Byzantines by the Normans of Sicily in the 1080s and 1150s, by Venice (1206), and later by Epirus (1214–59) and the Angevins of Naples. In 1386 the Venetians obtained a hold that ended only with the fall of the Venetian republic in 1797. Under Venetian rule, the island had successfully resisted two celebrated Turkish sieges (1537, 1716). The island was under the protection of Great Britain from 1815 to 1864, when it was ceded to Greece. It was occupied (1916) by the French in World War I, and in 1917 the union of Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia was concluded there. In 1923, after Italian officers trying to establish the Greek-Albanian border were slain in Greece, Kérkira was bombarded and temporarily occupied in retaliation by Italian forces. A major earthquake in 1953 did little damage.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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