Paxos is located eight nautical miles south of Corfu (27 from Corfu Town) and occupies an area of 20 square kilometres. The island is one huge olive grove, with the olive trees growing right down to the seashore, giving the island its unique character. Today, the island's population is divided amongst some 34 settlements and stands at 2,400 inhabitants - mostly engaged in olive production, tourism and fishing. The island's 64 churches are witness to the depth of religious feeling and the eye-catching windmills to the agricultural life. The island of Antipaxos is located 2 nautical miles south of Paxos . It covers only three square kilometres, and its 2 settlements, Ano and Kato Chorio have 20 permanent residents, with occasional visits from outsiders who own land on the island. Mostly people are occupied with their vineyards. The natural beauty of Paxos and especially of its coastline draws a great deal of tourist traffic to the island. Today it boasts some 2000 rented rooms, 2 diving schools, and during the summer many events take place, such as a Jazz Festival in July and a Festival of Classical Music in the first two weeks of September.
According to tradition, Paxos was once joined to Corfu. Frequent tempests, provoked by Poseidon and Aiolos, gods of the sea and the winds, caused the land to sunder, and from then on Paxos continued to move further away to the south.
Another more romantic version tells us that Poseidon caused the separation of the two islands when he cast his trident into the sea in order to create a peaceful haven where he could enjoy his love affair with Amphitrite. Thus the emblem of Paxos is a trident.
In ancient chronicles, Paxos is mentioned by Herodotus, Polyvio
and Plutarch. In 229 BC, just off Paxos, a naval battle between
Corfu and Illyria took place, which led directly to the Roman
occupation. In 960 AD Bishop Leouprandos visited the island and
there wrote his third book of history.
Until 1380, (the Age of the Angevins), the fate of Paxos was
closely linked with that of Corfu. But
in that year it was granted to Baron Adam Sainte-Hippolyte, and
then six years later the Venetians occupied Corfu . The Baron
held on to ownership of Paxos as a fiefdom. In 1423, the fortress
on the islet of Saint Nicholas at Gaios was built to protect the
area from attacks by Turks and pirates. After the death of Sainte-Hippolyte,
his sister and heir, Lucentia, married the Sicilian, Ricardo Altavilla,
with the island as her dowry. For the 30 years after 1484, Paxos
came under the jurisdiction of the Venetian Republic and fell
into the hands of the noble Avrami family. The heavy taxes imposed
by the landowners and constant pillage by pirates who carried
off the populace into slavery, brought the Paxiots to the edge
of deprivation. The Venetian period is also characterised by the
monoculture of olives, and by the development of commerce through
the evolution of a merchant marine fleet.
The story continues with the French Republicans, the Russo-Turkish Alliance, the Septinsular State, and the French again - Imperialists this time. In 1810, the British navy first appeared in the Ionian, seizing Lefkada and threatening the other French-occupied islands. Unrest came to Paxos. Starving from lack of grain, heavily oppressed by the dictatorial authorities, the Paxiots, led by the pirate captain, Kefalas, revolted. They raised the British flag, and slaughtered the French aristocrats, plundering and burning their houses. The French sent a force to suppress the revolt, and the rebels were court-martialled. In 1811, seven of them were executed in Corfu, and their estates confiscated.
Three years later, the British, with the help of Theodoros Kolokotronis, invaded the island and occupied it. During the period they held it, the British constructed waterworks, roads and harbours, and set up schools.