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Ancient Lefkada, in Greece: The name Lefkada has derived from the word Lefkas Petra (white stone), which happens to be a prehistoric name of today's Leukada, located in the southern part of the island. The southern cape, which is conspicuous by its white rocky promontories is where the poet Sappho gave away her life for the sake of love, which in turn provides the name to the city.
The city of Lefkada was brought into existence by the Corinthians and with the passage of time, the entire island was referred to in the same name. Renowned geographer Stravonas is of the opinion that the prehistoric city of Nirikos was renamed as Lefkada and was made to function as the capital of the island by the Corinthians.
Human habitation in Lefkada goes back to the Paleolithic era. The renowned German archaeologist Wilhelm Dairepfeld in association with Henry Schliemann who took part in the Troy excavations carried out a wide-ranging archaeological investigation at Nydri, which offered fascinating insight on the ancient city of Lefkada courtesy remnants from the Copper Age dating back to 2000 BC.
The prehistoric city of Nirikos, which dates back to the 7th century BC was discovered by archaeologists in Kalligoni and historians are unanimous in their opinion that it was the island's original capital. A massive wall encircled it. Today though, only a part of the wall is left and the major portion of the wall has been lost to the wrath of nature.
The earliest history of Lefkada, dating back to the 7th century BC was once a key Corinthian colony till the Roman conquest. It was politically linked to the city of Corinthos. The city of Lefkada provided assistance in tumultuous events like the battle of Salamina, the battle of Platea and the Peloponnesian War as a trusted partner of the Spartans. It also offered military assistance during the conquest of Alexander the Great.
The city of Lefkada offered tremendous resistance to the Romans particularly during the 3rd century B.C., before ultimately surrendering to the marauding Romans in the 2nd century. During the Roman regime, numerous important projects were undertaken like the stone bridge for instance that linked the island of Lefkada with Akarnania, They also reconstructed the ancient wall that was also constructed by the Romans.
In the year 1204, the island of Lefkada was included in the territory of Hepiros. However, from 1294, Lefkada came under the rule of the French, as it was bestowed as a gift to John, who was the Count of Orsini. He is credited for building the foundation of the Aghia Mavra Castle, which is located at the entrance of the island.
The history of Lefkada from the 14th century until the time of its inclusion to the Greek state is replete with events and landmarks. In other words, a saga of extensive historical exploration. In the year 1331, Lefkada was occupied by the marauding Andigavians, while in 1334 it was captured by Georgie.
Way back in the 7th century, Lefkada was a cape located to the west coast of Greece with which it was integrated. However, with the coming of the Corinthians, Lefkada was segregated from the other part. In spite of the separation, Lefkada continued to maintain relations with Epirotic Greece. They have conveniently linked to each other courtesy two bridges, an itinerant one which is all of 25 meters and a much larger one over the lake. If one goes to the southeast of Lefkada, he will come across the remnants of the ancient city. Of particular significance are the vestiges of the theater and its parapets, which clearly indicates that Lefkada was undoubtedly one of the larger cities of Greece.
The earliest mention of the ancient city of Lefkada can be found in the Homeric years. The world-renowned German archaeologist Derpfeld, who resided in the island for a long period of time for the purpose of carrying out excavations, Lefkada was indeed Ithaca, the native land of Ulysses, the legendary hero of Homer. Way back in 640 BC, it was occupied by the Corinthians.
Lefkada in the past was an integral part of the Corinthian protectorate and it played an active role in the Persian Wars that were waged between 490-479 BC. Lefkada offered its armada of three ships as well as army personnel. In the Peloponnesian War too (431-404 BC) it was at the forefront against Athens. Nevertheless, in BC 394 it was an integral part of the larger alliance against the Spartans. With the passage of time, Lefkada turned out to be an ally of Sparta.
In the Hellenistic Times, the island was successively under enemy control during the Hellenistic era and was occupied and colonized by mighty rulers of the stature of Cassandrus, Agathocles, Demetrius the Besieger and Pyrrus. For a while, it was also the de facto capital of the Public of the Acarnanians and it offered military support to the Macedonians in their fight against Rome. Nevertheless, it was occupied by the Romans in BC 197.
During the Byzantine rule, Lefkada owed allegiance to Cephalonia's Theme (administrative district). Following the provisional abolishment of the Byzantine state by the advocators, Lefkada happened to be an integral part of Epirus Despotate. In the year 1294, tyrannical ruler Nichiphorus the First presented the island of Lefkada as an offering to his son-in-law John Orsini.
In the year 1331, Lefkada was captured by the indomitable Valterus Vryenios who in turn offered it to Georges Gratianos. Nevertheless, the Lefkadians were disgusted and very aptly revolted against Georges. Ultimately they arrested Georges and brought him to the tyrant of Epirus. Georges, however, managed to secure his release and on his return, he was able to conquer Lefkada which he ruled over until his death in the year 1362.
Later on, the island of Lefkada was under the rule of the Royal family of Florence Tokes. The last of the Tokes, Leonard the Third, is reported to have assisted the Venetians against the mighty Turks. Nevertheless, Venice ceded with the Turks who later went on to capture Lefkada and banished Leonard away. In the year 1500 fresh disputes came to surface between them and the Venetians captured the island only to give it back a year later to the Turks.
The Venetians again had the opportunity to rule over Lefkada from 1684 till 1797. After that, it was the turn of the French to rule over the island. A year later the island was captured by the combined might of Russian-Turkish navy and became an integral part of the Eftanesian State. From the year 1810, it was the turn of the Britishers to rule over the island. They ruled till the year 1864 after which Lefkada along with the rest of the islands of Eftanesus was officially amalgamated in the Greek state.