Showing an unusual ability to digest and assimilate different cultural influences in order to translate them into familiar characteristics, Corfu has managed over a long period to establish its own cultural identity. From the Archaic Age in the 7th century bc until unification with the young Greek republic in 1864, the people of Corfu resisted various powers that tried to impose their cultural rule on the island. The historical circumstances that followed the fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks, and the local dom¬inance by the Counts of Anjou, brought Corfu and the rest of the Ionian islands (also known as the Heptanese) under the protection of the then all-powerful Serenissima Republic of Venice. The four centuries of Venetian rule defined to a large extent the cultural identity of the island, affecting public space, formal ceremonies and religious observance, linguistic idiom, cuisine, and even social conduct.

The Heptanese, under Western rulers and protectors for long centuries, obtained and secured a fruitful dialogue with Renaissance and Enlighten¬ment Europe. The arrival of Cretan artists, following the fall of Crete to the Ottomans (mid 17th century), in parallel with the Italian and European Re¬naissance, led to a flourishing of art, music, literature and poetry, reaching its height in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This was what ulti¬mately came to be called the Ionian School in the arts and letters.

In 1864 the Ionian islands were reunited with the young Greek state. They proved a rich source of intellectual material for the new country, and were deeply influenced by the rest of Greece in turn. Indeed, Corfiot culture, with its enduring sense of Greek identity based on a shared language and religion, has always been able to receive elements of other cultures it has met in its long historical progress, and to create its own unified identity, one which continues to develop into the new global age.

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