Last modified: 2005-05-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: zakynthos | zante | turtle | national marine park | caretta caretta |
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by Thanos Tzikas
The island of Zakynthos (401 sq. km; 40,000 inhabitants), also known as Zante, is the southernmost of the Ionian islands. It is separated from Peloponnesis (Greek mainland) by the strait of Zakynthos.
Zakynthos was settled by the Acheans, and was part of Ulysses' Kingdom.
It was an important harbour station on the trade road to West.
Zakynthos was forced to set up an alliance with Athens in 455 BP;
Sparta failed to invade the island in 430 BP.
In the Middle Ages, Zakynthos was trashed by the Vandals, the Sarracens and the Norsemen, and eventually conquered by Count Tocchi in the XIVth century. The island was trashed once again by the Turks in 1479 and taken over with the other Ionian islands by Venice from 1485 to 1797. France occupied the island from 1797 to 1800. From 1800 to 1807, Zakynthos was one of the seven components of the Septinsular Republic, placed under Russian protectorate. In 1807, Russia retroceded the islands to France, which incorporated them into the Illyrian Provinces. After the fall of Napoleon, Britain set up a protectorate on the islands, which were eventually ceded to the Kingdom of Greece in 1864. Zakynthos was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1953.
In the XVIII-XIXth centuries, Zakynthos was known as the fior di Levante and was a famous center of culture. The island was the birth place of the following poets:
- Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827), an Italian Romantic writer. Foscolo related his youth in the short, autobiographic novel Jacopo Ortis' last letters (Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis, 1798 & 1802), written on the model of Rousseau's La Nouvelle Héloïse and Goethe's Werther. Foscolo's poems follow the mythological and classical traditions and are often patriotic (A Bonaparte liberatore, 1797; Tombs, 1807). Foscolo also wrote tragedies (Thyeste, 1797; Ajax, 1811; Ricciarda, 1813), in the style of the great Italian tragedist Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803); brilliant essays on the classical and modern Italian litterature (Dell'origine et dell'ufficio della letteratura [On the origine and role of litterature], Pavia, 1809; Saggio sullo stato della letteratura italiana nel primo ventennio del secolo decimonono [Essay on the state of the Italian litterature in the first twenty years of the XIXth century], 1818; Saggio sul Petrarca [Essay on Petrarch], 1819; Discorso sul testo della Divina Comedia [Address on the text of the Divine Comedy], 1825; Discorso storico sul testo del Decamerone [Historical address on the text of the Decamerone], 1825; Della nuova scuola drammatica italiana [On the new Italian dramatic school], 1850); translated Homer in hendecasyllabs (Esperimento di traduzione dell' Iliade [An experimental translation of the Iliade], 1803) and the English writer Sterne into Italian; and wrote witty chronicles on the upper society of London (Lettere scritte dall' Inghilterra [Letters written from England], 1818).
- Andreas Calvos (1792-1867), a Greek patriotic poet. Calvos moved
early to Leghorn and later to Florence where, aged 20, he met Ugo
Foscolo. Calvos was Foscolo's secretary and disciple and travelled with
him to Switzerland and London, where the two poets fell out in 1817.
Calvos published The Lyra in Switzerland (1824) and The new odes in
Paris (1826), immediatly translated into French. Calvos came back to
Greece, then insurrected against the Ottomans, and settled in Corfou,
where he was professor at the Ionian Academy until 1852. He spent there
a sad and lonesome life and emigrated to England, where he ended his
life as a professor in a young girls' college directed by his second
Calvos published only 20 odes and nothing more for the last 43 years of his life. He is a model of the accursed poet, often considered as Solomos' failed twin. One of the reasons of Calvos' failure is his weird poetic expression and his lack of sense for the Greek language; Calvos broke the structure of the verses and the stanza, suppressed the rhymes, and mixed archaic and classical words in Pindarus' style.
- Dionysos, Count Solomos (1798-1857), the national poet of Greece.
Solomos was born in a family of Cretan origin, ennobled during the
Venitian rule on the Ionian islands. He studied in Italy, in Cremona
and Pavia, and wrote his first poems in Italian. The Greek war for
independence (1821) and the release of books of popular songs of modern
Greece by Fauriel
(1824 & 1825) attracted him back to the Greek language, which he had to
learn again from scratch. In 1823, he wrote the Hymn to Freedom, the
national anthem of Greece, translated into French by Stanislas Julien
and published by Fauriel in 1825, and the Poem on Lord Byron's Death in
1824. His Dialogue, on the use of the popular Greek language, was
modelled on Dante's Convivio. His pre-Surrealist text The Woman from
Zante was published only in 1927. After the fall of Missolonghi,
Solomos wrote The Liberated Besieged, a philosophical and epic poem
celebrating the spiritual strength of the besieged, as opposed to the
brutal, material strength of the besiegers. Solomos is considered as
the founder of the Ionian poetry school and the father of modern Greek
A verse by Solomos is written on the flag of Zakynthos.
Ivan Sache, 26 January 2005
The flag of Zakynthos can be seen outside every public building all over the
It is green with an orange sitting man called Zakynthos, considered the first resident of the island, after whom it took its name. The name of the man and the island ΖΑΚΥΝΘΟΣ is written above the man. The motto placed horizontally below the man, ΘΕΛΕΙ ΑΡΕΤΗ ΚΑΙ Η ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ, means "Freedom needs virtue and courage".
These words are taken from Dionysios Solomos.
Iconographical source: Zakynthos website
Thanos Tzikas, 4 July 2003
by Thanos Tzikas
In the southern part of the island lives a rare species of sea turtle named Caretta caretta. In order to protect it, the National Marine Park of Zakynthos was recently established. The flag of the Park is white with the logo of the Park, which shows the endangered turtle.
Source: National Marine Park of Zakynthos website
Thanos Tzikas, 4 July 2003