Ionian Islands, the collective name of seven islands belonging to Greece, six of which are in the Ionian sea (a name applied from ancient times to the part of the Mediterranean between the W. coast of Greece and the E. coast of Italy and Sicily), viz.: Corfu, Santa Maura, Ithaca or Thiaki, Cephalonia, Zante, Paxo, and Cerigo, with some smaller dependencies, between lat. 35° 48' and 40° 30'N., and Ion. 19° and 23° 18' E.; aggregate area, 1,113 sq. m.; pop. in 1870, 229,516. The islands are very mountainous, and mostly rise with rugged abruptness from the sea, but have fine havens on their coasts. Mt. AEnos in Cephalonia is 5,246 ft. high, and in the other islands there are elevations ranging from 1,000 to 3,800 ft. The geological formation is chiefly limestone, mixed with sandstone and gypsum. There are no active volcanoes. Most of the islands abound in fine natural scenery, and here and there bear luxuriant vegetation. The soil is generally dry and calcareous, and about half the surface is arable. The climate is variable, but healthy. The spring is mild, the summer hot and dry, the autumn rainy, and the winter tempestuous. The sirocco is often felt, and N. winds blow violently during winter. Snow falls often, but does not last long except on the mountains.
Earthquakes are not uncommon. Iron, coal, manganese, sulphate of soda, marl, clay, chalcedony, quartz, and gray marble are the most important minerals. The principal vegetable products are the olive, lemon, orange, and fig, grapes, currants, wheat, maize, barley, oats, flax, pulse, and cotton. The last is of very good quality. The celebrated currants of Zante are the fruit of a dwarf vine. The va-lonia oak (quercus aegilops) is valued for its acorns, besides being a beautiful tree. Madder grows wild, and the cactus Opuntia, which furnishes the food of the cochineal insect, thrives in all the islands, but is little attended to. Experiments in the culture of indigo have succeeded. Farms are mostly small, and are generally let annually on shares. Sheep and goats are the only animals reared in considerable numbers. The manufactures of these islands consist almost entirely of coarse cloths, earthenware, soap, salt, some silk and cotton fabrics, and filigree work. Although the coasts abound with fish, the fisheries are not prosecuted systematically. A large coasting trade is carried on.
The imports are sugar, coffee, drugs, raw and manufactured cotton and silk, wool and woollen cloth, glass, hardware, staves and hoops, iron, timber, wheat, Indian corn, rice, flour, cheese, salted fish, cattle, sheep, drugs, and tobacco; the exports are currants and olive oil, also wine, brandy, liqueurs, honey, wax, valonia acorns, soap, salt, and hare and lamb skins. - The natives are Greeks, with a considerable admixture of Albanian and Italian blood. Italian is understood in most of the large towns, and is generally spoken by the higher classes. Some thousands of the islanders cross annually to the mainland to assist in the labors of harvest, for which they receive payment in grain. Education flourishes, and each of the islands has an academy supported by the government, at which ancient Greek, Latin, modern languages, and mathematics are taught. A university was founded at Corfu in 1823. Four fifths of the population belong to the Greek church, under the archbishops of Corfu, Zante, Cephalonia, Santa Maura, and Cerigo. The Roman Catholics have an archbishop of Corfu and a bishop of Zante and Cephalonia. There are several thousand Jews, living chiefly in Corfu, and enjoying rights of citizenship.- In Grecian history these islands figured singly as Corcyra, Leucas, Ithaca, Cephallenia, Zacyn-thus, Paxos, and Cythera. In the 12th century they were taken by the kings of Sicily, and in the 14th fell under the jurisdiction of the Venetians, and so remained till the fall of Venice threw them into the hands of the French by the treaty of Campo Formio (1707). Russia and Turkey jointly expelled the French, and in 1800 erected these islands into the Septinsular republic, which, under the protection of Turkey, failed as an experiment of self-government. By a secret article in the treaty of Tilsit in 1807 they were given to the French; but being occupied by the British during the wars from 1809 to 1814, they were secured to that power by the treaty of Paris in November, 1815. From 1814 to 1863 the islands were a republican confederation, under the protectorate of Great Britain, and were called the United States of the Ionian Islands. The government was vested in a lord high commissioner appointed by the British crown, and a parliament consisting of a senate and legislative assembly.
Attempts at insurrection in 1848 and 1849 were suppressed with rigor. In 1863-'4 they were incorporated with the kingdom of Greece, when Cerigo was united as an eparchy with the nomarchy of Argolis and Corinth, and the remaining islands were formed into three nomarchies, Corcyra (Corfu), Cephalonia, and Zante (Zacynthus). (See Greece.)