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This present work was originally designed to embrace a history of the Ionian Islands; but it soon appeared that such an attempt would prove as impracticable as it would be to take a county out of England, Ireland, and Scotland, respectively, and unite them as the subject of a connected narrative. The incongruous character of such materials will at once become evident to any one who considers that each island, while differing from the rest in manners, customs, and even in lineage, from time immemorial followed its own peculiar course; they were even not unfrequently opposed to one another in the several contests of their more powerful neighbours: and although their final subjugation to Venetian rule might be supposed in a certain degree to have assimilated them, yet such was far from being the case. It was contrary to the principles of Venetian government to cement a
their foreign possessions; in fact, a steady system of disunion was carried on, which has given rise to a state of illfeeling, now so deeply rooted, that a long lapse of years will scarcely suffice to eradicate it. At present, nothing can be stronger than the contrast observable between the commercial population of Ithaca, and the proud independence of the Santa Mauriots; or, between the industrious peasantry of Zante and Cephalonia, who seem to have turned to the profit of industry every spot in their islands that appeared capable of cultivation, and the more than Hibernian indolence of the Corfiots.
Yet, even of these seven islands, Corfú is the only one of any importance either in a military or commercial point of view. The penetrating quickness of Napoleon fully impressed that consummate soldier with its value for strategical purposes : whilst its magnificent harbour will ever render it an object of cupidity to a coinmercial nation.
The only historians who have treated solely of the Ionian Islands, are Andrea di Marmora, a Corfiot noble, who wrote a history of Corfú, which was published at Venice in 1670; and two French gentlemen, MM. de St. Sauveur, and le Colonel Bory de St. Vincent. The history of Marmora is so full of fiction, as to make it in many cases impossible to glean out the truths; and, unfortunately, the French historians have implicitly relied upon his authority; but they have been so far of use to me as to point out the directions in which to make my researches. I confess to have been rather startled, when I first discovered in these authors, that the Romans conquered Britain and defeated the Parthians owing to assistance received from the Corcyreans; but there was a certain charm in reading the History of Rome in such a new light. Not satisfied, however, with these little anachronisms, Marmora turns magician, and raises a whole line of imaginary princes. “For when,” says he, “the conquest of Constantinople placed a Frenchman on the throne of Constantinople, and entirely changed the aspect of the Grecian empire, it nowise affected Michael I., Prince of Epirus, and Duke of Corfú. He continued to reign peaceably, embellished his capital of Corfú by various edifices, erected the Castle of San Angelo, fortified Gardichi, &c.”* It is pleasant to find an author who can enter into the minor details of a small island, relative to an age in which the most impor'tant events of the Eastern empire are difficult to
trace; but I have felt with regret the necessity of withstanding the fair illusions, owing to the utter inability of finding anything relative to a line of Corfú Dukes in any historian of credit: nevertheless, I have to a certain extent supplied their place by giving, so far as I have been able, the true account of the Despots of Epirus.
The total absence of archives at Corfú, tending in any way to elucidate the history of that island, has left me no alternative but that of offering what will perhaps be thought a disjointed account, in an endeavour to harmonize together in one consecutive history such isolated facts as were found, relating to the subject, in the authors who have written on the countries lying in the south-east of Europe; with some one of which Corfú has been at one time or another connected ; and, in comparing together the several versions of the story, I have been anxious to give one which might appear impartial and correct.
To St. Sauveur, I am indebted for the narrative of the siege of Corfú, in 1716, which he copied from the private papers of one of the Búlgari family, who, having been present at the siege, had kept a journal of the daily circumstances; a very trustworthy account of the first French occupation is also to be found in the “Division du Levant," by M. le