From Nero to Nicolas Cage, the invasion of Corfu goes back to Roman times and through to Hollywood today!
People have been so enchanted by Corfu that they have been visiting and settling there for thousands of years. Madonna has beenspotted house-hunting on the island, continuing a long tradition. The Roman Emperor Tiberius had a villa in Kassiopi, and the Emperor Nero visited the town as well. Today you might see a nightclub called Caesar's, but it doesn't quite date back to Roman times.
You might also look at Sidari and see a modern holiday resort, but there were known to be people living here in 7,000 BC, no doubt enjoying the sun and the sea every bit as much as we do today, though of course the waterpark hadn't yet been invented. Even older than that, back in about 40,000 BC, Palaeolithic people were living in the area around Gardiki Castle, the oldest known remains on the island.
Since the first settlers arrived, wave after wave of people have coveted Corfu. The first known invasion was by the Corinthians in 734 BC, and they had more than package holidays in mind. They were fought off by the Corfiot people who defeated them in what was the first recorded sea battle in Greek waters, in 644 BC.
No sooner had the Corinthians been shown the way home than the Spartans arrived, in 375 BC. Then the Romans turned up on the shoreline, in 229 BC. The Romans were at least invited in, as the Corfiots sought their help to get rid of Illyrian invaders.
Having got rid of the Illyrians, the Romans obviously liked it on Corfu as they stayed for almost 600 years, during which time some of their Emperors and other dignitaries built villas here. It was also a popular spot for those who could afford it to come on holiday, so the island's first tourists go back about 2,000 years.
Later invasions by the Goths and Vandals didn't do much for the tourist trade, and the pizza parlours probably went out of business. In the 11th century it was the turn of the Normans, who took Corfu to use as a base while they tried to expand their empire into the Balkans, but in 1147 they were turfed out of Corfu by a coalition of Corfiot, Byzantine, and Venetian troops.
In 1214 the Despot of Epirus invaded, Epirus being a country made up of what is now southern Albania and northern Greece. In 1267 it was the King of Naples' turn to rule the island, and in 1386 the Venetians took over. It is the Corfiots' proud boast that they were the only part of Greece not to be conquered by the Turkish armies, though it has to be said that the Turks are just about the only nation not to have conquered Corfu at some stage.
In 1797 the French took the island, and in 1814 the British took over for their turn, which lasted 50 years. Finally in 1864 Corfu gained its independence and became a part of the modern Greek state. Since then there have only been a brief invasion by the Italians in 1923, and again in 1941 when they controlled the island for three years alongside German forces.
In more recent times the island has had mainly peace and prosperity, with tourists as welcome guests. A million of them arrive each year between Easter and the end of October, when the season is in full swing. There is also a sizeable overseas community, mainly British and German, who live on the island all year round. Others have homes on Corfu which they use for part of the year.
Nicolas Cage fell in love with Corfu, which he visited after filming Captain Corelli's Mandolin on the nearby Ionian island of Kefalonia, and has subsequently been seen house-hunting here. So too have Richard Gere and Madonna. It seems the only invasion these days is from Hollywood.