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History of Corsica

The beautiful Mediterranean island of Corsica has a long history that makes it a compelling destination with much for the traveller to see and do. From the ancient Greeks to the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte to the events of the Second World War, the island’s past is both intriguing and moving.

Early settlers

Like many islands of the Mediterranean, the prehistoric era of Corsica dates back millennia and is shrouded in mystery. It is thought that the earliest inhabitants of the region made the island home during the Mesolithic period, with travellers from Sardinia crossing the Strait of Bonifacio around 9000BC. These early settlements endured undisturbed until the arrival of the ancient Greeks at Aleria on the east coast of the island in 566BC.

Such dominion over the island was only temporary. The steady growth of the mighty Roman Empire absorbed Corsica into its realm following the First Punic War in 260BC. From then on, the island was part of the Empire until the Middle Ages, when the eventual collapse of Roman rule led to successive invasions by the Vandals and the Ostrogoths.

Through the Middle Ages

Following the brief rule of the Byzantines, Corsica formed part of the Kingdom of the Lombards, before control was handed to Pope Stephen II. Over the next few centuries, and with the influence of the republic of Pisa, Corsica flourished, with many landmarks – in particular the churches – remaining to this day.

Conflict soon returned to the island, however, with the Genoese and the Aragons clashing over the territory following the end of Pisan rule. The eventual ceding of power by the Genoese to the Bank of Saint George triggered a period of peace lasting until the Corsican Revolution of independence in 1729.

Revolution and the rise of Napoleon

Lasting 26 years, the battle for independence from Genoa was finally successful in 1755 and the Corsican Republic sat under the leadership of Pasquale Paoli. Later, in 1769, Corsica welcomed its most famous son to the world: Napoleon Bonaparte, who was born in the capital, Ajaccio.

It was in the years that followed Napoleon’s rise to power that the Corsican relationship with France was solidified. The influence of French trade, commerce, and culture during this time enabled the island was able to go from strength to strength.

Modern era

Later years have seen Corsica become more popular for tourists, with an estimated three million travellers each year dwarfing its small population. Thanks in no small part to the legacy of Napoleon, and the fascinating history stretching back thousands of years, the island is certain to continue to attract visitors year in, year out. 

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