History of Ionian Islands
1500 – 1950
1500 - 1950
Between 1485 and 1500, Venice annexed Zakynthos, Cephalonia and Ithaki, thereby establishing its presence in the Ionian Sea. Having these islands under her influence, together with Corfu and Paxi, she could have an effective control over the maritime routes from Venice to Crete and Cyprus. Although she had lost Methoni and Koroni, Venice was in a position to make up for the safety and continuity that the two Peloponnesian ports endured her sailors and traders.
In the early 16th century, the situation in the Ionian Sea was as follows: in 1503, Lefkada was given to the Turks, as a result of the treaty that was signed in order to end the second Ottoman - Venetian War. Kithira, Corfu, Paxi, Zakynthos, Cephalonia, Ithaki, Parga and Vouthroto were under Venetian rule. In 1684, Lefkada (as well as Preveza and Vonitsa) are handed over to the Venetians, with Francesco Morosini occupying the island and, with the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz recognising the new status quo that resulted after the sixth Ottoman - Venetian War.
Having the largest part of the Ionian Islands under Venetian occupation did not correspond to a proportional administrative cohesion, since Lefkada was still under Turkish control and Kithira were directly dependent on the “Kingdom of Candia” or “Duchy of Candia” (Regno di Candia). Venice treated its occupied territories as an indivisible unit, which is why they were referred to as the “State/Domains of the Sea” (Stato da Màr or Domini da Màr). This state comprised Istria, Dalmatia, Negroponte, the Morea (the "Kingdom of the Morea"), and all islands inhabited by Greeks: the Ionian Islands, the Aegean islands of the Duchy of the Archipelago, as well as the islands of Crete (the "Kingdom of Candia") and Cyprus. It was one of the three subdivisions of the Republic's possessions, the other two being the Dogado, i.e. Venice proper, and the Domini di Terraferma in northern Italy. The Governor General of the Sea (Provveditore Generale da Mar), the supreme commander of the State of the Sea, was head of the war fleet, but also the highest authority of any island where its naval powers were moored. Even in the 16th century public accounts that were drafted in Venice, all tax income of the State of the Sea was recorded under a single heading: Maritime Lands (Terre Maritime).
This situation was not the result of a specific perception or some political or fiscal plan. On the contrary, it is precisely the very lack of any planning that explains the nebulosity of public accounts; this was, in fact, very commonplace for the fiscal practice of those times. The situation changed ardently in the 17th century, when Venice applied new techniques in state finances and her dominion was reduced in size due to political conjuncture. With the loss of Cyprus in 1571 and Crete in 1669, the borders of the State of the Sea were limited to Kithira and Tinos. The Governor General of the Sea was renamed Governor General of East (Provveditore Generale in Levante) and was essentially assigned to govern the Ionian Islands which, under the name Isole Ionie, became a self-contained unit in the annual statement of accounts, general ledgers and balance sheets (Bilanci Generali) of the Most Serene Republic of Venice (Italian: Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, Venetian: Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta or Repùblica de Venesia)- often referred to as La Serenissima.
Transition to the Venetian rule did not occur everywhere in the same manner. However, the administrative organisation of the island was institutionally the same. There were small differences as to the extent of powers and competences of local councils, without any substantial differentiation in the overall picture. Each island was ruled by an official of a two-year term of office, with two subordinates. Their titles were different for each island: in Corfu, the head was called Bailo, in Cephalonia and Zakynthos the Provveditore, Paxi were ruled by a luogotenente, assigned by the Provveditore of Corfu, while Ithaki was administered by a nobleman from Cephalonia, appointed by the Provveditore of Cephalonia. In Kithira, the reggimento included both a Provveditore and a Castellano, appointed by the Duke of Crete, while Lefkada had a Provveditore ordinario and a Provveditore straordinario.
In Corfu, the Capitano was added, with authority on fiscal matters, public safety and public property. In charge of each island’s defence was the supreme commander and he was over the fortress commanders and the Castellani, who were all Venetians; with the exception of the fortresses of Angelokastro (Corfu) and Parga, where Corfiot noblemen were appointed. During the 17th century, after the city of Chania was occupied by the Turks (1645), the coordination of all islands’ defences was assigned to a single official, the Governor General of the Three Islands. In 1684, when Lefkada became annexed, the military commander was renamed Governor General of the Four Islands and took over the defence supervision of the areas of southeast Epirus and Acarnania that had also been occupied.