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Septinsular Republic

The Septinsular Republic (Greek: Ἑπτάνησος Πολιτεία, Italian: Repubblica Settinsulare, Ottoman Turkish: جزاييرى سبعه مجتمعه جومهوروCezayir-i Seb'a-i Müctemia Cumhuru) was an island republic that existed from 1800 to 1807 under nominal Russian and Ottoman sovereignty in the Ionian Islands. It succeeded the previous French departments of Greece. It was the first time Greeks had been granted even limited self-government since the fall of the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottomans in 1460.[4] In 1807, the republic was ceded to Napoleon's First French Empire, but the islands were not annexed by France, keeping their institutions of government (known in French as République Septinsulaire or République des Sept-Îles). The British gradually took control of the islands, and following the Treaty of Paris, the islands were formally organised into the United States of the Ionian Islands under British protection.

Septinsular Republic

Ἑπτάνησος Πολιτεία (el)
Eptánisos Politía
Repubblica Settinsulare (it)
جزايير سبعه مجتمعه جومهورو (ota)
Flag of Septinsular Republic
Emblem of the Septinsular Republic
The Republic's territory extended to the seven main islands plus the smaller islets of the Ionian Sea
The Republic's territory extended to the seven main islands plus the smaller islets of the Ionian Sea
StatusProtectorate of Russia and Ottoman Empire1 (1800–1807)
Protectorate of the French Empire (1807–1815)
Common languagesOfficial languages:
Greek (from 1803)
Unofficial minority languages:[1][2][3]
Italkian, Venetian, Yevanic
Greek Orthodox Church (official)
Roman Catholic Church (recognised)
GovernmentAristocratic republic
• 1800–02 (first)
Count Spiridion Georgio Teotochi [el]
Senate (Senato, Γερουσία)
Legislative Assembly (Corpo Legislativo, Νομοθετικό Σώμα)
Historical era19th century
• Russian/Ottoman occupation
April 2 1800
• 1st constitution
• 2nd constitution
23 December 1803
• 3rd constitution
1806 (not implemented)
7 July 1807
• Corfu occupied by Britain
24 June 1814
5 November 1815
CurrencySeptinsular gazeta
Preceded by
Succeeded by
French departments of Greece
United States of the Ionian Islands
Today part of Greece3
1: Formally under Ottoman suzerainty; under the de facto protection of the Russian Empire
2: According to the 1803 Constitution the President of the Senate gets the title of the Prince (Principo, Πρίγκηψ) and he is head of state.
3: Sazan Island (Saseno, Σάσων) is now a part of Albania.

The seven islands constituting the Republic were:



Gazeta, the currency of the State.

By the late 18th century, the Ionian Islands had been under Venetian authority for centuries. With the Treaty of Leoben (18 April 1797), the French Republic gained the islands, a move finalised with the 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio, which formally abolished the Venetian state.

The islands now formed part of the départements Mer-Égée, Ithaque and Corcyre. The arrival of the French sparked great enthusiasm among the islands' inhabitants, and was marked by acts such as the burning of the Libro d'Oro, the abolition of aristocratic privileges and the adoption of the Constitution of the Year III in 1795.

The French then proceeded to strengthen the defences of Corfu. By the end of the 18th century, it was the strongest fort in Europe, with more than a thousand French cannons placed on its walls.

Despite several progressive measures adopted by the French administration, heavy taxation and the undisciplined behaviour of French soldiers soon alienated the population. This discontent was used by a joint Russo-Ottoman force under Admiral Ushakov to evict the French from the islands.

In March 1799, the city of Corfu fell after a four-month siege, ending French rule. This was the beginning of the Septinsular Republic.


Ioannis Kapodistrias, minister of the Septinsular Republic and future Governor of independent Greece.

In 1800, the so-called "Byzantine" Constitution was approved in Constantinople by Selim III, establishing the Septinsular Republic as a tributary state to the Ottoman Empire. The winged Lion of St. Mark on its flag indicated that it was supposed to be a successor state to the Venetian Republic, recently abolished by Napoleon.

The Republic, according to the first article of the constitution, is "one and aristocratic", La Repubblica delle Sette Isole Unite[a] è una,[b] ed Aristocratica. (in the original text).

The Republic existed practically as a Russian protectorate largely because the population saw the Russians as their Orthodox co-religionists. The political experience of administering the Republic was hugely important for the young Ioannis Kapodistrias, who thereby attracted Russian patronage, and would later become the first governor of independent Greece. Jervis gives a copy of the constitution (presumably the second) in his book. The franchise was restricted to males of legitimate Christian birth on the islands, who did not keep a shop or practise any mechanical art and could read and write. They also required a minimum yearly income which varied between the islands from 1800 ducats on Corfu to 315 ducats on Ithaca. People with the franchise are normally referred to as nobles, but this term probably exaggerates their wealth.

In secret articles of the 1807 Treaty of Tilsit, they were ceded by Russia to Napoleon's French Empire, an expeditionary force led by general César Berthier taking control of the islands in August 1807. Unlike their Adriatic neighbour the Illyrian provinces, the Seven Islands were not annexed by France, keeping their institutions of government and the Ionian Senate, under the occupation of French forces led by Governors General Berthier and, after March 1808, François-Xavier Donzelot.


The official language was at first the Italian language and then in 1803 Greek became, along with Italian, one of the two official languages of the Republic. During the Venetian period, Italian was used for official purposes in the islands but it was also widely spoken in the cities, whereas in the countryside people continued to speak Greek. The only island in which Italian (Venetian) had a wider spread was Cefalonia, where a greater number of people had adopted Venetian as their first language.[5]

Antonios Komoutos, President of the Septinsular Republic 1803

The constitution of the Septinsular Republic was printed in Greek by the patriarchal press in Constantinople, using many loanwords from Italian for technical terms. However, the new constitution approved in 1803 was drafted in Italian. The text of the constitution was prefaced by the report of the committee that drafted it, which stated that: "the noble, rich and harmonious Hellenic dialect, having been exiled by the Venetians, should be recalled to the dominion and become the language of administration and the interpreter of the active citizens."[6] This issue was considered to be so important that it was even given a separate article (Art. 211) in the constitution. According to the article, Greek was scheduled to replace Italian as the working language in public acts by the year 1820.[7]


Corfu town (Corfu Island, Greece): the Panagia Mandrakina or church of the Virgin Mary Mandrakina

Most of the people on these islands during this period were Christians, with a small number of Jews on Corfu, Zante and an even smaller number on Cefalonia.[8] The majority of Christians were Eastern Orthodox. However, there was a significant number of Catholics, especially on Corfu, Zante and Cefalonia. The Constitution of 1803 recognized Orthodoxy as the dominant faith; it also stated that the Roman Catholic faith was recognized and protected. The Constitution also provided for the enactment of a law defining the privileges of the Jews residing in the State.[7]


In 1809–10, the British took all the islands except Corfu, where a French garrison held out until 1814. In the Treaty of Paris of November 5, 1815, the islands were formed into the United States of the Ionian Islands under British protection. The colonial government lasted for half a century until 1864, when Britain gave the islands to the Kingdom of Greece.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Republic was known by many names in Italian like Repubblica delle Isole Ionie, Repubblica Settinsulare, Eptaneso or Stato Ionio.
  2. ^ In the first official translation of the constitution to Greek in 1804 the word una was translated as "single" or "united".


  1. ^ "Judæo-Greek And Judæo-Italian". Retrieved 2015-04-18.
  2. ^ "CORFU". 1902-09-19. Retrieved 2015-04-18.
  3. ^ "Judeo-Greek - Jewish Language Research Website". 2002-07-26. Retrieved 2015-04-18.
  4. ^ John V A Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest, University of Michigan Press 1994← p.563
  5. ^ Kendrick, Tertius T. C. (1822). The Ionian islands: Manners and customs. J. Haldane. p. 106. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  6. ^ Mackridge, Peter (2009). Language and national identity in Greece, 1766–1976. Oxford University Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-19-921442-6. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Settinsulare". Retrieved 2015-04-18.


  • H. Jervis-White Jervis 1852 reprinted 1970 History of the Island of Corfu and the Republic of the Ionian Islands
  • Karapidakis, Nikos (2003). "Τα Επτάνησα: Ευρωπαϊκοί ανταγωνισμοί μετά την πτώση της Βενετίας" [The Heptanese: European rivalries after the fall of Venice]. Ιστορία του Νέου Ελληνισμού 1770-2000, Τόμος 1: Η Οθωμανική κυριαρχία, 1770-1821 [History of Modern Hellenism 1770-2000, Volume 1: Ottoman rule, 1770-1821] (in Greek). Athens: Ellinika Grammata. pp. 151–184. ISBN 960-406-540-8.
  • McKnight, James Lawrence (1965). Admiral Ushakov and the Ionian Republic: The Genesis of Russia's First Balkan Satellite (PhD thesis). University of Wisconsin, Madison. OCLC 47945614.
  • Moschonas, Nikolaos (1975). "Τα Ιόνια Νησιά κατά την περίοδο 1797-1821" [The Ionian Islands in the period 1797-1821]. Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους, Τόμος ΙΑ′: Ο ελληνισμός υπό ξένη κυριαρχία, 1669–1821 [History of the Greek Nation, Volume XI: Hellenism under foreign rule, 1669–1821] (in Greek). Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon. pp. 382–402.

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