The Name of Corfu

20 Mar, 2018
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The island known internationally as Corfu is called Kerkyra by the Greeks. Like so much else in this ancient country the origin of its name can be found in Greek mythology.

Korkyra, the beautiful Nymph

Kerkyra or Korkyra (Corcyra) was a beautiful Naiad Nymph. Her father was Asopos, the Sikyonian River God and her mother the river nymph Metope. Poseidon, the god of the sea, fell in love with her, abducted her and took her to the northernmost island in the Ionian Sea, which was as yet unnamed. He gave the island her name – Korkyra, which gradually evolved into Kerkyra.

Phaiax, the first Corfiot

They had a child, which they called Phaiax, after whom the islanders were named Phaiakes. In Latin this is Phaeaciani and Corfu is often called the island of the Phaeacians. Phaiax was supposedly the grandfather of King Alcinous, who welcomed Odysseus to the ‘island of the Phaeacians’ in Homer’s Odyssey.

Korypho-Corfu

So how come we call it Corfu? In Byzantine Greek Koryphai means ‘peaks’ and the Byzantine word Korypho means ‘city of the peaks’ – the name was given to the island because of the twin peaks of the town’s Old Venetian Fortress. ‘Corfu’ was the Italian version of Korypho and so that became the name that was eventually used worldwide.

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