Zakynthos & Christianity

It is believed that the persons who first taught Christian principles on the island in 34 AD were Mary Magdalene and Maria Klopa, who passed through Zakynthos while on their way to Rome.

The name of the village Maries serves as a proof of this fact. The visit of Mary Magdalene is still commemorated annually in the village of Maries with a great feast.

During the Byzantine era, Constantine the Great included Zakynthos in the province of Illyria. During this era, Zakynthos suffered from many pirate attacks. The island was also repeatedly destroyed by the crusaders due to its crucial geographic position as a passage from the East to the West.


History of Zakynthos Zante Greek Islands


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zakynthos island in greece has a long and interesting history

The recorded history of Zakynthos, Zante in teh Greek Islands dates back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic Era, bones and fossils from both eras were discovered in the Bay of Laganas.

  • According to the poet Homer, the name of Zakynthos was derived from the first inhabitant of Zante Island - who was named Zakynthos. He was the son of King Dardanos of Troy, who arrived on the island around 1500-1600 BC
  • According to other historical sources, the name of Zakynthos island is derived from the words Za and Cynthos, which means hill. This corresponds to the mountainous landscape of Zakynthos.


There was a large earthquake in Zakynthos in 1953 destroying much of the architecture of Zante Island

The big earthquake in 1953, together with a seven-day firestorm, destroyed most of the monuments of cultural development on the island and the few still remaining give only a slight hint of its glorious past. In the Museum, you can see the miniature of the town before the earthquake.

The island of Zakynthos has a long and intriguing history. There are a few key moments, dating back to Ancient times, where Zante pops up in the major history books.

Zakynthos was conquered by the king of Keffalonia, Arkisios, and was subsequently reconquered by Ulysses, son of Laertis who was the King of Ithaka.

Under the King of Ithaka, whose son Ulysses had conquered the island of Zante, Zakynthos joined the expedition against Troy. Upon Ulysses' return to Ithaka a treaty was signed granting autonomy and democratic governing to the island. The treaty was the first of its kind throughout the Hellenic area. This era lasted 650 years.

Zakynthos remained neutral during the Persian war until the battle of Plataies, when they drove the Persians back to Asia, having formed an alliance with the Lacedaemonians. In 455 BC they allied with the Athenians and, during the Peloponnesian war, Zakynthos and Corfu faced the Korinthians. After the defeat of the Athenians in Cicily, Zakynthos was conquered by the Lacedaemonians, who imposed an oligarchic regime. Later on, however, the inhabitants rebelled and re-established democracy.

During the Macedonian War, the island  of Zakynthos was occupied by the Macedonians, and afterwards by the Romans. After the first years under the command of a Roman governor, the island was granted the right to be governed by its own laws, have its own municipality, parliament, legislature, and currency with a local symbol. This era contributed to a great cultural development on Zakynthos.

Zante was occupied by the Venetians in 1084, until the French occupation at the end of the 12th century. The French retained control of Zakynthos until 1357 when the De Toki dynasty settled on the island. They helped to develop the economy of the island as well as the administrative order.

This was a prosperous period for Zante, until the Turkish attack, when the island was looted and the inhabitants were exiled to the Peloponnese.
Five years later in 1485, the Venetians occupied the island again and offered the inhabitants fields and homes upon their return. Under the venetians the island developed again and the city was reconstructed in an impressive architectural style which earned it the name of the ‘Florence of Greece’.

  • With the French Revolution in 1789, Zakynthians brought the ideals of social equity and justice to the island. On July 4th 1797 the French democratic flag was raised above the castle of Zakynthos. Discrimination was abolished and schools for all children were established.
  • In October 1798, the Turkish fleet occupied Zakynthos again. On March 21, 1800, a treaty between Turkey and Russia was signed. This contract established the first independent Greek State of the Seven Islands and was effective for seven years.

In 1809, the British fleet occupied Zakynthos, and Zakynthos then became the capital of the Ionian State. At this time, the rest of Greece was under Turkish occupation. With a base in Zakynthos, the Company of Friends promoted the rebellion against the Turks.

In 1830, Greece became independent. Then in 1851, a member of Parliament suggested the union of the Seven Islands with Greece. The British reacted violently, but the Zakynthians under leadership of Constantine Lamvardos, carried on the struggle for the union with Greece. Finally, on May 21 in 1864, the Greek flag was raised on the island.

During World War Two, the Italians and the Germans occupied Zakynthos until its liberation on September 12th 1944.

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