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A Brief Chronology

The Maure Symbol

Filitosa [Acquaviva/Friends of Filitosa]

Corsica's Inclement History

The sky of Corsica's history is a stormy one. Turbulent, thunderous and ripped open by streaks of lightning from constant invasion.

A sky, where the deceptive calm during moments of peace are suddenly shattered by foreign lust for wealth and power. An innondation of invaders such as Iberians, people of Liguria, Phoenicians, Phocaeans, Etruscans, people of Syracuse, Romans, Vandals, people from Pisa and the Genoeses.

Corsica is both a victim of its geographical position and the radiance of its natural beauty. Since the beginnings of recorded history the island has been forced to submit its shores to invaders which the sea relentlessly washes up, challenging Corsica to persevere in the face of adversity with a will as strong as the granite rock from which the island was hewn.

A Brief Chronology

Lets travel through time so that we can better understand the enigma of Corsica's harmonious landscape ravaged by a tumultuous history.

A Few Reference Points pre History
  • 7000 - 6000 B.C. Pre-neolithic
    Traces of the first groups of humans living in caves. Identification of the most ancient Corsican sepulture which is dated from 6570 B.C., the "The Woman of Bonifacio" (Museum of Lévie ).
  • 6000 - 4500 B.C. Ancient Neolithic
    Man domesticates the animal, masters ceramics and builds shelters with drystone, uses tools made of flint and obsidian.
  • 4500 - 3000 B.C. Middle Neolithic
    First attempts at breeding and farming.
  • 3000 - 1800 B.C. Recent Neolithic
    The population expands and now occupies several sites. They develop farming and are the first in Western Europe to work with wicker (near St Florent) and copper (Aleria). The Methods, tools and defensive weapons evolve.

    The megalithic civilization is under way demonstrated by the appearance of megaliths such as chests, dolmens, menhirs and statues whose number proved to be the highest in the Mediterranean affirmed by Filitosa, high site of the Corsican statuary art, recognized as being of world interest by UNESCO.

  • 1800 - 700 B.C. Bronze Age
    Society organizes itself into a hierarchy. The fortified villages and the "castellis" grow in number and are fortified by circular monuments called "torre", probably designed with both defensive and cultural features in mind- this "toreenne" civilization mainly appeared in the South of the island.
  • 700 - 565 B.C. Iron Age
    Activity at the heart of the village intensifies. Agriculture and the organisation and storage of scarce resources resources develop. (site of Cucuruzzu in Lévie ) Metal furniture is common.
    This period is marked by a succession of invasions.

    First the Iberians, then the people of Liguria and then the Phoenicians. These invasions are accompanied by alliances which are just as quickly compromised by the constant arrival of newcomers.

  • 565 B.C. The Foundation of Aléria
    This city was founded by the Phocaean in about 565 B.C. It was the first commercial syndicate created in Corsica. The indigenous population, ensconced in the mountains, do not take much advantage of the richness and diversity of this international metropolis.

    Situated at the crossroads of the major trade routes of the Old World, it is immediately coveted by the Etruscans of Tuscany who are allied to the Carthaginians of Africa.

    The contribution of these successive civilizations is remarkable. Democratic processes, artistic and technical achievments with the notable development of the Eastern plain through the cultivation of vine and olive trees. Mineral extraction and fishing industries are all developed at this time.

    Then the people of Syracuse who came from neighbouring Sicily arrive. They in turn are ousted by the same Carthaginians (280 B.C.).

A Few Reference Points in History
  • From -259 The Roman Conquest and Peace
    After a long and devastating conquest (-259 -111) Rome finally seized the island it was a long respite which marked, from the 1st century B.C. this tormented period in history.
    This extended period of more than five centuries allowed the institution of a "Pax Romana" marked by a relative prosperity in the coastal area and notably by the Mariana foundation and the development of Aleria which had become a garrison town, a naval base and a prosperous city.

    Corsica received contributions from each of its successive invaders e.g. the discovery of mineral sources and the establishment of Thermes.
    Christianity is progressively introduced to Corsica from around the second century. Restitude, Devote and Julie will be the holy martyrs of it.

  • From 455: Vandals and Ostrogoths and Byzantines
    Corsicans had to suffer these new invasions for about two centuries followed by the Byzantine occupation and with it, the ravages of perversion and destitution.
  • Around 754: A Papal Land assailed by the Saracens
    During the defeat of the Arabs by the Franks, Corsica had been conquered by the Lombards in 725 and is given up 29 years after their arrival at the Holy See.
    The Mediterranean however, is at that time overrun by the Barbary Coasts pirates.

    The Saracens (Moors) - who would be at the origin of the symbol of Corsica: the Head of Moor- have set up strategic bases on the isle (Campomoro, Morsiglia) which would be a threat for the shipping trade up until the 10th century when they would suffer the concerted attacks of Pisa and Genoa.

    Confused, prey to anarchy and torn by terrible feudal struggles, Corsica progressively became a bargaining counter at the service of the Papacy which arbitrated its policy between Pisa and Genoa until Pope Gregory VII entrusts the government of Corsica to the people of Pisa in 1077.

  • From 1077 to 1284: The Truce of Pisa
    From the end of the 11th century to the end of the 13th, until the victory of Genoa against its eternal rival of Pisa - the island takes advantage of the wisdom and the benefits of its colonisation by Pisa.
    The architecture and art of Pisa is expressed through the building of many convents and churches: San Michele de Murato, Calenzana, Carbini and the famous Canonica. This period saw colourful personalities appearing such as Giudice de Cinarca (Sinucello della Rocca) who was the island's master for a time. In the end he became a victim of his own ambition as did Pisa and Genoa, his successive allies.

  • From 1284 to 1768: Five centuries of Genoese Time
    Genoa suffered a succession of political plots and foreign occupations. Genoa interested itself little in Corsica before having to face the Aragonais, to whom the Papacy had entrusted Corsica.
    Genoa really only fully established itself there by the middle of the 14th century, during which time the island was threatened by plague.
    The Genoese period ended with the War of Independence (1729-1769).

    The first three centuries of the Genoese period were a time of unrest and anarchy during which Genoa delegated the governing of Corsica to the Maona - an association of Genoese tradespeople- then, to the financiers of the Saint Georges Bank.
    It was also a time disturbed by Spanish designs on this torn land.

    The Corsican lords, leading an anarchic policy of successive and conflicting alliances with Genoa and the Aragon, ravaged the country. Their castles were destroyed during the revolt (1358) of an exasperated people, led by Sambucuccio of Alando.

    It was now the turn of the France. Henri II at war against the Spain of Charles Quint landed on the island in 1553.
    Nevertheless, the French army took control of the island employing Corsican troops led by Sampiero Corso, had to quickly submit to to Genoa.

    Sampiero, refusing to accept this situation, started the war again against Genoa in vain. Genoa finally established its authority.
    Peace and amnesty was set up in 1569 in a Corsica which was ruined, depopulated and ravaged by epidemics. "Civil and Criminal Statutes" and institutions were set up.

    It is on this depopulated isle that the Greeks fleeing from the Turks settled and created Paomia then Cargèse .

    Throughout the 16th century the coasts are dotted with towers in an attempt to offer better protection against the raiders of the Barbary Coasts.
    The towns and citadels of Calvi and Bonifaciodate from this Genoese occupation. The Church experiences a real revival, Ajaccio was endowed with a new cathedral.
    Despite numerous efforts, the development of farming in the Eastern plain is thwarted by malaria.
    Farm economy remains for the main part pastoral whereas economic development asserts itself in the region of the Corsican Cape.
    Largely authoritarian, the Genoese domination proved to be a yoke thwarting the development of a real democracy and led to the appearance of the first insurrectionary movements.

  • 1729 - 1769 The War of Independence
    This war was really the Corsican Revolution and forced Genoa which was n the wane, to repeatedly call on the intervention of Austria and then looked to France for help.

    Four insurrections shook Corsica, and from these violent jolts was born together with Jean Pierre Gafori, the feeling of belonging to a nation, then the desire to win Independence. This was led by Pascal Paoli. From the insurrection of the "mountain dwellers" begun in Castagniccia, pillaging Bastia, to the rallying calls for emmancipation of the leaders of towns, the movement reached the whole island.

    These troubles only stirred up the competition in Mediterranean of the great powers involved in the War of Succession of Austria: England, helped by Sardinia, (under which Corsica suffered attacks) and Spain allied to France.

    The fourth revolt, started by the French troops, saw the murder of Gaforri in 1753 in Corte, and unity was accomplished in 1755 centered around the leadership of Pascal Paoli, general of a Corsica which would be Independent for 14 years.

    Pascal Paoli, who was recognised as having the makings of a head of state, inspired public opinion and European intellectuals. Until then, Corsica was a piece of land which was unknown.

    Corsica and its main fervent democrat, features in the books of Jean-Jacques Rousseau ("The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right", "Projet de Constitution") and above all in the books of the Scottish writer James Boswell (Account of a tour to Corsica).
    Pascal Paoli, a man of progress, known for his adaptationion of democratic ideals to the realities of 18th century Corsica.

    He gave Corsica a capital - Corte - a university and he set up the structures of a state in which the "Corsican nation" is sovereign.

  • 1768 The Treaty of Versailles - 1789 Integration with France
    Corsica, the only independent island of the Mediterranean, had nevertheless a flimsy army.
    France which had seen, at the expense of an ambiguous policy, its influence grow, in the Mediterranean in general and particularly in Genoa, found itself granted Corsica in 1768 by the Treaty of Versailles. The armed resistance opposed by the Corsica of Pascal Paoli The armed resistance opposed by the Corsicans of Pascal Paoli ended with their defeat at Ponte-Novo the 8th of May 1769.

    Three months later, the 15th of August 1769 Napoléon Bonaparte was born.

    Exiled for 21 years in England, Pascal Paoli marked his return by the creation of an Anglo-Corsican kingdom which lasted only two years (1794-1796).
    In the meantime on the 30th of November 1789, a Decree had proclaimed Corsica "an integral part of the French Empire".

    The intervention of the French troops, then later the victorious campaigns of Napoleon strengthen the bonds with France, which, with its colonial Empire, quickly became a land of emigration for a part of the island population which strongly increased during the 19th century.

    The heavy contribution by Corsica during the two last World Wars and its commitment in the Resistance indicate a belonging to France which nevertheless remains more than ever attached to the specific uniqueness of a land that nature and history have given to her since her birth.

Other History Headings :
The Figures of History / The Sites and Monuments / Vendetta and Bandits d'Honneur [Outlaws]
The Maure Symbol

A Few Books to Go Further ...


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