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Zakynthos

An island with a rich past
The oldest traces of life that were found in the island come from the Neolithic age, and were located in
the Bay of Laganas. The history of the island has its roots in antiquity: according to Pliny, the island was
inhabited before 3000 B.C. and was named Yria. Near the fortress, a marble complex of divine figures
was found, such as those of Apollo, Aphrodite, and Artemis, which is now located in the Tiepolo Museum
in Venice. This also certifies the particular penchant of the ancient inhabitants of the island .for music
and the worship of Artemis

The island received the name of Zakynthos, as Homer
mentions, from Zakynthos, son of King Dardanos of
Troy. Zakynthos reached the island from the Arcadian
town of Psofida around 1500 B.C. and gave his name
to the new city-state. The colonists who followed him
named the acropolis of the island Psofida in order to
remember their homeland. The descendants of Zakynthos
created a noteworthy culture and began to found
colonies for their expansion, such as Zakantha in Spain,
the town of Kydonies in Crete, and Fokida in the Pyrenees
of Spain. In the Mycenaean era, the island formed
a part of the kingdom of Ithaca. Homer called the island
“yliessa”, or rich in vegetation.
The geographic location, the fertile soil, and the sources
of tar of the island played a significant role in its
economic development in the 6th century B.C., with the
result that in the 6th century B.C. silver coinage was
struck depicting the tripod, a symbol sacred to Apollo,
which was followed by the lyre in the 5th century B.C.
For approximately seven centuries, the island experienced
free democratic life. In 455 B.C. Zakynthos
joined the alliance led by the Athenians and after its
defeat, was occupied by the Lacedaemonians with the
result being a change from its democratic constitution
to an oligarchic one. During the Persian Wars, Zakynthos
kept a neutral stance, while during the period of
the Roman Empire, it was integrated within the Roman
province of Achaea. In parallel, the spread of Christianity
began in 34 A.D., according to one version, begun
by Mary Magdalene, or by Saint Beatrice, according to
another tradition.
With the founding of the Byzantine Empire, Zakynthos
belonged to the province of Illyria, however, without
receiving particular care or protection. Thus, it was
sacked by incursions of pirates and hopeful conquerors.
With the Crusades, the Ionian Islands would undergo
new adventures. At the end of the 12th century, the island
became a possession of the Orsini family of French
counts, and later of the Angevins (the kings of Naples)
and finally of the Tocchi (Florentine princes). In 1485,
the Venetians occupied the islands after diplomatic
pressure directed against the Turks. The Venetian occupation
provided Zakynthos with the stability and the
opportunity for development that it had been denied for
centuries. The peace secured by the power of Venice,
for the first time, ensured the possibility of the island
flourishing in economic and cultural terms.

The physiognomy of the place
Zakynthos is the furthest south of the Ionian Islands
and the third in area and population. It is located 8.5
nautical miles south of Kefallonia, 9.5 miles west of
the Peloponnese, and approximately 300 kilometers
west of the capital of Greece, Athens.

Its geographic location allows travelers to visit the other
Ionian Islands as well, or even to travel to the shores of the
Peloponnese opposite it, where one can find, among other
things, the ancient city of Olympia, where the Olympic
Games were held in antiquity. In addition, from Zakynthos,
due to its direct transport connection, it is easy to reach the
large cities of Greece, Patra, Athens, and Thessaloniki. An
island full of contrasts, Zakynthos is mostly mountainous,
with low mountains full of pine trees and fertile valleys.
On its northern, eastern, and southern sides, there are countless
picturesque beaches, while to the west, on its imposing
rocky coasts, many maritime caves have formed, such
as the famous Blue Cave in the northwest of the island. The
climate of Zakynthos is mild, Mediterranean, with much rain
and extensive sunshine, even in the winter. Evidently, it also
owes its immemorially abundant vegetation to this, which
also justifies its descriptions as “full of vegetation” and “the
flower of the Levant” (Flor di Levante) by Homer and the
Venetians respectively.
Zakynthos is still an island with abundant agricultural production,
mainly based on the cultivation of the olive, citrus
fruits, and grapes, producing both raisins and the excellent
wines of Zakynthos, with well-developed entrepreneurial
activity, mainly in the field of tourism, and with a rich historical
tradition, since for many centuries the island was a
crossroads of peoples and cultures.

Care for nature
The National Maritime Park of Zakynthos (NMPZ) was founded by a Presidential
Decree in December of 1999 and is the first of its type in Greece, administrated
by a Managing Entity, and is an example in terms of the application of management
measures for the other protected areas of Greece.
The most important goal of the NMPZ is the protection and preservation of the
shores where sea turtles lay their eggs, in the Bay of Laganas.
Its specific goals include environmental education and information, sensitizing
the public concerning nature activities, safeguarding the natural and cultural
landscape and developing tourism activities in accordance with the principle of
sustainability.
In the area of the National Maritime Park we meet populations of the Mediterranean
seal Monachus monachus, systems of sand dunes, underwater meadows of Posidonia
oceanica, and coastal ecosystems with hundreds of types of flora and fauna.

informations been Gathered from Zakynthos Tourist Board Association!

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