United States of the Ionian Islands

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United States of the Ionian Islands
Ηνωμένον Κράτος των Ιονίων Νήσων
Stati Uniti delle Isole Ionie (it)
Amical protectorate of the United Kingdom
Coat of arms
Coat of arms
The Republic's territory extended to the seven main islands plus the smaller islets of the Ionian Sea
Capital Corfu
Languages Greek
Religion Greek Orthodox
Government Republic
Legislature Parliament
 •  Upper house Ionian Senate
 •  Lower house Ionian Assembly
Historical era 19th century
 •  Congress of Vienna 9 June 1815 (signed)
 •  Protectorate est. 9 November 1815
 •  Constitution 26 August 1817
 •  Resolution for union with Greece 26 November 1850
 •  Treaty of London 29 March 1864
 •  Union with Greece 28 May 1864
 •  1864 2,659 km2 (1,027 sq mi)
 •  1864 est. 236,000 
     Density 89/km2 (230/sq mi)
Currency Obol (1818–64)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Septinsular Republic
Kingdom of Greece
Today part of  Greece
References: Capital city;[1] languages;[2][3] area and population.[4]

The United States of the Ionian Islands (Greek: Ἡνωμένον Κράτος τῶν Ἰονίων Νήσων, translit. Inoménon Krátos ton Ioníon Níson, literally "United State of the Ionian Islands"; Italian: Stati Uniti delle Isole Ionie) was a state and amical protectorate of the United Kingdom between 1815 and 1864. It was the successor state of the Septinsular Republic. It covered the territory of the Ionian Islands, in modern Greece, and it was ceded to Greece as a gift of the United Kingdom to the newly enthroned King George I[5] after the Resolution for union with Greece which was proposed by the Party of the Radicals.


The islands were settled by Greeks at an early date, possibly as early as 1200 BC, and certainly by the 9th century BC. The early Eretrian settlement at Kerkyra was displaced by colonists from Corinth in 734 BC. The islands were mostly a backwater during Ancient Greek times and played little part in Greek politics. The one exception was the conflict between Kerkyra and its mother-City Corinth in 434 BC, which brought intervention from Athens and triggered the Peloponnesian War.

By the 4th century BC, most of the islands, were absorbed into the empire of Macedon. Some remained under the control of the Macedonian Kingdom until 146 BC, when the Greek peninsula was gradually annexed by Rome. After 400 years of peaceful Roman rule, the islands passed to the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire.

Under Byzantine rule, from the mid-8th century, they formed the theme of Cephallenia. The islands were a frequent target of Saracen raids and from the late 11th century, saw a number of Norman and Italian attacks. Most of the islands fell to William II of Sicily in 1185. Corfu and Lefkas remained under Byzantine control.

Kefallonia and Zakynthos became the County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos until 1357, when this entity was merged with Lefkada and Ithaki to become the Duchy of Leucadia under French and Italian dukes. Corfu, Paxi and Kythera were taken by the Venetians in 1204, after the dissolution of the Byzantine Empire by the Fourth Crusade. These became important overseas colonies of the Republic and were used as way-stations for their maritime trade with the Levant.

Before the French Revolutionary Wars, the Ionian Islands had been part of the Republic of Venice. When the 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio dissolved the Republic of Venice, they were annexed to the French Republic as the French departments of Greece. Between 1798 and 1799, the French were driven out by a joint Russo-Ottoman force. The occupying forces founded the Septinsular Republic, which enjoyed relative independence under nominal Ottoman suzerainty and Russian control from 1800 until 1807.

The Ionian Islands were then occupied by the French after the treaty of Tilsit. In 1809, the United Kingdom defeated the French fleet off Zakynthos island on 2 October, and captured Kefalonia, Kythira, and Zakynthos. The British took Lefkada in 1810. The island of Corfu remained occupied by the French until 1814.

The Congress of Vienna agreed to place the Ionian Islands under the exclusive "amical protection" of the United Kingdom. Despite British military administration, the Austrian Empire was guaranteed commercial status equal to the UK. The arrangement was formalised with the ratification of the "Maitland constitution" on 26 August 1817, which created a federation of the seven islands, with Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Maitland its first "Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands".

The Party of Radicals (Greek: Κόμμα των Ριζοσπαστών) founded in 1848 was against the British occupation of the Ionian Islands and in favor of union with Greece. On 26 November 1850 the Radical MP John Detoratos Typaldos proposed in the parliament the resolution for the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece which was signed by Gerasimos Livadas, Nadalis Domeneginis, George Typaldos, Frangiskos Domeneginis, Ilias Zervos Iakovatos, Iosif Momferatos, Telemachus Paizis, Ioannis Typaldos, Aggelos Sigouros-Dessyllas, Christodoulos Tofanis. Britain responded with persecutions, arrests, imprisonments, and exile. In 1862, the party was split into two factions, the United Radical Party and the Real Radical Party.

On 29 March 1864, representatives of the United Kingdom, Greece, France, and Russia signed the Treaty of London, pledging the transfer of sovereignty to Greece upon ratification; this was meant to bolster the reign of the newly installed King George I of the Hellenes. Thus, on 28 May, by proclamation of the Lord High Commissioner, the Ionian Islands were united with Greece.[6]


According to the second constitution of the republic (1803), Greek was the primary official language, in contrast to the situation in the Septinsular Republic.[7] Italian was still in use, though, mainly for official purposes since the Venetian Republic. The only island in which Italian (Venetian) had a wider spread was Cephalonia, where a great number of people had adopted Venetian Italian as their first language.[8]


The British coat of arms surrounded by the emblems of the seven Ionian Islands. From top, clockwise: Corfu, Zakynthos, Ithaca, Paxoi, Cythera/Cerigo, Leucas, Cephalonia

The United States of the Ionian Islands was a federation. It included seven island states, each of which was allocated a number of seats in the parliament, the Ionian Senate:

State Capital Members elected
Corfu Corfu 7
Cephalonia Argostoli 7
Cythera Kythira 1 or 2[9]
Ithaca Vathy 1 or 2[9]
Paxos Gaios 1 or 2[9]
Leucas Lefkada 4
Zakynthos Zakynthos 7


Ionian two-oboli coin, 1819

The British organised administration under the direction of a Lord High Commissioner, appointed by the British monarch on the advice of the British government. In total, ten men served in this capacity, including William Gladstone as a Lord High Commissioner Extraordinary (in office 1858-1859).

The Ionian Islands had a bicameral legislature, titled the "Parliament of the United States of the Ionian Islands" and composed of a Legislative Assembly and a Senate.[10]

The 1818 constitution also established a High Court of Appeal to be called the Supreme Council of Justice of the United States of the Ionian Islands, of which the president was to be known as the Chief Justice, who would rank in precedence immediately after the President of the Senate.

The successive Chief Justices were:

See also


  1. ^ Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article II
  2. ^ Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article IV
  3. ^ Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article V
  4. ^ "Treaty of London". Greek Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on 8 March 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2006. 
  5. ^ The Times (London) 8 June 1863 p. 12 col. C
  6. ^ Hertslet, Edward. The map of Europe by treaty (PDF). p. 1609. Retrieved 21 July 2006. 
  7. ^ http://www.dircost.unito.it/cs/docs/settinsula.htm The second constitution of the republic (1803). (in Italian)
  8. ^ Kendrick, Tertius T. C. (1822). The Ionian islands: Manners and customs. J. Haldane. p. 106. Retrieved 8 February 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c Cythera, Ithaca, and Paxos each elected one member, but the three elected a second member in rotation. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article IV
  10. ^ Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article VII

External links

  • "Constitution of the Ionian Islands". University of Kassel. Retrieved 21 July 2006. 
  • The Constitution in Italian
  • "Territories of the British Empire, History of the Ionian Islands". David Rumsey Map Collection. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
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