LEFKADA IN THE PASSAGE OF TIME
Lefkada is the 4th largest island in the Ionian Sea and is separated from the opposite northwestern Acarnania by a shallow lagoon and a narrow canal. It has an area of 302.5 km2 and about 23,000 inhabitants.
Human traces in Lefkada date back to the Paleolithic period. The German archaeologist W. Dorpfeld, associate of Henry Schliemann in the Troy excavations, searched the island for evidence to support his theory that Lefkada is the Homeric Ithaca and after archaeological excavations in the early 20th century in Nidri, brought to light important findings from the Bronze Age (ca. 2,000 BC), from the Middle Paleolithic period to the 4th century AD, which you can see at the Archaeological Museum of the city.
Lefkada, from the 7th century BC, which became a Corinthian colony until the Roman conquest, was politically affiliated with the city of Corinth and followed it in all the major events of the time: the Battle of Salamis, the Battle of Corinth Plateaus, the Peloponnesian War as an ally of the Spartans, the campaign of Alexander the Great.
Lefkas, the capital of the island, was founded at the end of the 7th century. In the Hellenistic era, Lefkada joined the "Community of the Acarnanians" and became its capital (272-167 BC). Although in 197 BC. it was conquered by the Romans, it was given autonomy, and mainly did not succumb to the pressure of its Aitolian allies to grant it. Lefkada was a strategic point of the Ionian Sea and the Romans did not want to give it to their greedy allies. Thus Lefkada continued to be the leader of the "Akarnanians".
After the defeat of King Perseus of Macedonia in 168 BC, the Romans seized Lefkada from the Acarnanian federation, making it a small state that had its political autonomy under Philo-Roman rule until 146 BC, when after the defeat of the Achaian congregation in the Isthmus of Corinth, Rome became the absolute ruler of the Greek territory and regulated its political affairs at its will.
During the Roman years the ancient wall of the city was rebuilt and is believed that a 700-meter-long stone bridge was built connecting the city of Lefkada with Acarnania at the site of Rouga, the remains of which were found in the excavation of the new canal in about 1900.
In the Byzantine years Lefkada was part of the Byzantine Empire. After the partition of the state (395 AD) it belonged to the Eastern State and continued to be administratively owned by Epirus. From the years of Heraklios, when the institution of themes was introduced, Lefkada was attached to the theme of Kefalonia.
In the Late Byzantine period (1204-1294 AD), Lefkada was part of the Despotate of Epirus. Its medieval capital was also built on the hill of "Kulmos", in the ruins of the ancient city, which in the 6th century AD, having closed a millennium of life, probably destroyed by an earthquake. The new capital existed until the 12th century and was then deserted, according to sources. In the decree of 1355, by which Walter Bryennius granted Gratianos Giorgis the authority of St. Mavra, there is no mention of a castle other than the castle of St. Mavra, that is, the present one.
In the 11th century, the Ionian Islands gradually fell into the hands of Western invaders. Lefkada, which was part of the Despotate of Epirus, was given in 1294 as a dowry to John Orsini, son of the Count of Kefallinia, who built the first part of the castle of Agia Mavra, which still exists at the entrance of the island. In 1331 the deposed Duke of Athens Walter Bryennius subjugates Lefkada to the Adegavians of Naples, while in 1355 he confers Lefkada to his trustworthy and financial "sponsor" Gratianos Giorgis from Venice, in whose days in 1357 began the "revolution of Buchentra", from which in the 19th century the Lefkadian poet Aristotle Valaoritis inspired to write his work "Fotinos". During the period 1362-1479 Lefkada was part of the territory of the Tokkas. Then the capital, now known as Agia Mavra, was moved into the Castle and in the two districts east ("Other Meria") and west ("Chora") of the Castle.
In 1479 it was conquered by the Ottomans, in 1502-1503 it was under Venetian rule and again passed into the hands of the Ottomans until 1684. It then built the aqueduct with the 360 arches, which brought water to the Castle, the capital of Agia Mavra and the two districts of it, passing through the lagoon. Its ruins shown at the left of the road to the mobile bridge that connects Lefkada with Acarnania. The pipeline started from the Grand Fountain, passed through the main street of Amaxiki (the present main street of the city, the "bazaar") and gave water to five fountains, of which the present-day "Lower Fountain" exists on the western sidewalk of the main street of the city, north of the main square, about 50 meters from the end of the road to the beach.
In 1684 the Venetians occupied it and relocated the capital of Agia Mavra to its current location, then called "Amaxiki". Since then, the fate of Lefkada has been the same as that of the other Ionian islands. Under the flag of Venice, the Ionian Islands had for the first time political unity. Venetian policy was adapted to the local customs of each island. It recognized earlier privileges, adopted institutions and allowed local autonomy and the creation of local aristocracy. So the Ionian Islands, apart from the similarities in the common political course, had differences. Corfu and Kefalonia had two different administrative systems. In Corfu the aristocratic element was strong while in Kefalonia the popular element was dominant. Lefkada was governed by its own Charter, the "privileges of the Community of Saint Mavra" granted by Morosini in 1684.
Ruling class were the nobili, the "noble" or "lords" who had large real estate and small minority, they were initially only 70 families. Only they had political rights. The second class was the bourgeoisie: merchants, who had a home in the city and property in the plain, doctors, lawyers, notaries, pharmacists, and they were called signori and officially notabili, without political rights but with social authority. This was followed by the lower classes of the second class: the small town dwellers living in the city, and the manual laborers (carpenters, builders, tanners, tailors, sandalmen, soap makers, etc.). At the bottom of the social scale were miners, carriers, and non-permanent workers: the "buranelles". Some rural landowners, some of whom lived in the city, were the "masters" of the area, they had patrons among the city's rulers and crofters in their properties. Most were free-ranging farmers and livestock farmers. They lived hard and deprived of the exploitation of the nobles and the Venetians. Far fewer were the peasants, who cultivated the land estates. 80% of the population lived in the countryside.
The Venetian system of government modernized public life, established courts and laid the foundations for the organization of administrative services, but it did not cease to be an oligarchic system, which imposed economic and political dominance on the part of the minority.
DEMOCRATIC FRENCH - RUSSIANTURKS - IMPERIAL FRENCH
In 1797 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the Venetian State and the Ionian Islands were now part of Democratic France under the Treaty of Campo-Formio. The enthusiasm, however, and the hopes of the Ionian Islands people, the sermons on freedom, soon becomes resentment from their strictly economic measures.
But French rule was short. In October 1798, the united RussianTurkish anti-French fleet occupied the Ionian Islands and in April 1899 its admirals established the autonomous Ionian State, based in Corfu.
The Treaty of Constantinople on 21 March 1800 between the Ottoman Empire and Russia officially recognized the Ionian Islands as a single autonomous state under the protection and sovereignty of the High Gate. Its official name is "State of the Seven Islands" and would be ruled by the "elite" and "prominent" locals. It is the first Greek state since the conquest of Greece by the Romans in 146 BC - though not formally independent, but formally and substantially, semi-autonomous and subject to taxation in the Sultanate.
A new change in the international status of the Ionian Islands took place in 1807, with the Treaty of Tilshit being granted to the now imperial French of Napoleon and becoming a French province for a short time: from 1809 until 1914 when the English fleet conquered them one by one with last Corfu. Lefkada was conquered in April 1810.
In November 1815, with the Treaty of Paris between Russia and England, the Ionian Islands were formally free and independent with the name "United States of the Ionian Islands" under the protection of Great Britain - in fact it was a British protectorate.The new constitution was imposed by the authoritarian first Lord High Commissioner Maitland, who was illiberal and accompanied by authoritarian rule, brought reactions and rebellions such as the attitude of the peasants of Lefkada in 1819, which was suppressed with special cruelty.
Protection lasted until 1864. At that time a serious three-tiered public education system was organized, the first in Greece. In Lefkada founded in 1829 the "Secondary School Lefkada", the famous High School with the first director Athanasios Psalidas. The protection, usually authoritarian and oppressive, forced sometimes to show democratic face, as the reforms of Commissioner Seaton at the end of the decade 1840-1850. It finally accepted the will of the Ionian Union people, taking in return to adapt some aspects of Greece's foreign policy and its internal status to its own aspirations.
By treaty on July 13, 1863, England, France, Austria, and Denmark appointed King G. Glixburg king of Greece and granted the Ionian Islands. On August 1, they signed the concession protocol, with the condition that the 13th Ionian Parliament, which was specifically elected for it, consented. At the 13th Session of the House of Representatives, October 5, 1863, the resolution on the Union drafted by Lefkada MP Aristotle Valaoritis was read. With the conditions of 14/11/1863 and 17/5/1864 the concession of the Ionian Islands was formalized. On May 21, 1864, Comptroller Henry Storks delivered to the envoy of the Greek Government Thr. Zaimis, the Ionian Islands. In Lefkada that morning, crowds gathered in the fortress of Agia Mavra. At 6 o'clock in the morning the English guard entered the frigate 'Witch' and at 8 o'clock Bishop Gregory and the Provincial Governor Markos Charlabas arrived. The English flag was sent, the keys to the fortress were handed over, the English left and the governor raised the Greek flag, which was greeted by 21 cannonries of the "Witch". It was the first day of freedom of Lefkada and the Ionian Islands.
During the period of Protection the bourgeoisie came to power. On the one hand, there were the "archontoloi", that is, the landlords and their allies of the upper bourgeoisie, and on the other, the "popolo", that is, all the other social strata, and which had the political and cultural hegemony of the enlightened bourgeoisie, especially the intellectuals.Generally, the social stratification of the Venetian occupation continued, but by the end of the Protection period the power of the landowners began to diminish and new bourgeois strata emerging, engaged in commerce. The most powerful were the "merchants", who have flourished since about 1850. It also grew the stratum of market professionals, of various occupations, being the majority of the city's population, its popular element, the "popolo". Finally, the "employees" have risen, a social structure with unclear boundaries. In the countryside, landlords continued to exist and farmers were the largest part of the countryside, at around 80%.
AFTER THE UNION
In 1864 Lefkada and Ithaca became the prefecture of Lefkada. By law of 1866 the Prefecture was abolished and became a province of Corfu Prefecture until 1899 when a new law reunited the prefecture with the islands of Meganisi, Ithaca, Kalamos and Kastos. In 1909 this prefecture was again abolished and Lefkada and Meganisi constituted the province of Lefkada in the Prefecture of Corfu. In 1945 Lefkada and Meganisi formed the Province of Lefkada in the Preveza Prefecture. In 1946 the Prefecture, which includes Lefkada, Ithaca, Meganisi, Kalamos and Kasto, was rebuilt. The prefecture remains to this day except that Ithaca by law of 1976 went to the Prefecture of Kefallinia.
In German occupation, Lefkada, like all the Ionian Islands, from 1941 to 1943 belonged to the Italians, who by their capitulation passed into German possession until 1944.The resistance of the inhabitants was brave and well organized. Then came the civil conflict in the "December events", the turbulent political period and finally the civil war, very harsh on the island. It took many years for people to heal their wounds.
In the post-Union era, social stratification was on the one hand the 'strong' and on the other the 'people', encompassing all other social strata and which political and cultural hegemony had enlightened bourgeois, despite political changes such as granting the right to vote to all males.
The landlords still existed, but their power gradually diminished and they had to make intermarriage with the financially strong, that is the bourgeois-landlords.
The bourgeoisie grew stronger over time and increased in number. It was a heterogeneous social class that included wholesalers, traders, professionals, scientists such as doctors, lawyers, notaries etc., employees such as educators, "lower" freelancers such as laborers, fishermen, grocers, tailors, bakers etc. and finally at the base of the pyramid is always the impoverished popolo of the city, the buranelli. Wholesalers or "merchants" the social elite, engaged in economic activities (shipping, brokerage, etc.), acquired great economic power, invested in all kinds of real estate (hence the term "merchants"), made intermarriages with the weakened "lords", ascended socially and politically and became the strongest social group. Their decline came after the end of World War I. he next social elite is the "pure bourgeoisie of Lefkada: traders, brokers, craftsmen and industrialists" who developed the island. The Second World War brought the decline of this elite and the descent of the peasants into the city, who bought with the remittances of their emigrants relatives the property of the formers, became the new commercial bourgeoisie of the city and dramatically changed its social composition.
Farmers were still the large mass of the population, which continued to be harshly exploited by the ruling elites until the early post-war years. Since 1870 wine has been the most important product of agricultural production. Its price was very high, because its demand internationally was high due to the destruction of the vineyards of France at the same time. Thus, viticulture spread throughout the island. In 1892, however, a crisis erupted from a decline in demand and the destruction of Lefkada`s vineyards in 1900 by mildew, resulting in a large migration from Lefkada to the US and Canada. The struggles of wine producers provided some breaths in viticulture but in 1935 came a new outbreak of the crisis. In this charged climate it became the most famous rally of local history: the rally of the winegrowers 1.9 and 1.10.19351, which resulted in police and army intervention and the death of three protesters.
After the war, the rural population declined from 80% of the population in the 19th and first half of the 20th century to 60%. At the same time economically ascended rapidly at a time when tourism was now the "heavy industry" of the island and agricultural activities shrank dramatically. At a glance, it seems that the economic situation of coastal mainly, but not only, parts of the countryside since the last years of the last century has improved significantly.