It is impossible to do justice to the history of Corsica in a short article. The following is a brief summary and an opportunity to whet the appetite of those who are history buffs.
A history of strong and dominant forces shaped the island of Corsica, throughout its entire history. The Corsican landmass was created by intense volcanic activity. Among other names for this beautiful island, one is “a mountain in the sea”. Corsica is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean, with more than 100 peaks that exceed 2000 meters. The dramatic peaks, lush valleys, and 1000 kilometers of coastline have played a major role in the island’s civilization as it exists today. The Moor’s head dominates the Corsican flag and is visible across the island on thousands of items, from beer labels to beach towels. The exact origins of the symbol are still debated; yet it is a powerful and iconic reminder of the island’s history. It is a chronicle of millennia of habitation, growth, conflict and struggle for survival.
History experts believe that Corsica was occupied since the last ice age, the Upper Paleolithic period (9000 BC). We visit the most “modern” site outside of Propriano, known as the Filitosa Prehistoric Station. This prehistoric site was discovered in 1946 and is now accessible to the public for self-guided tours. The site is believed to have been home to Neolithic people, from 6000 BC, about 8000 years ago. This small population lived in rocky shelters and foraged for food in the fertile area. During archaeological excavations ceramic fragments were discovered, they can be seen in the small museum. During the megalithic period 3000-1800 BC, a strong population of seafaring warriors dominated the site. The signs of which are evident in the standing stones that remain at the site. The Torréen Culture then dominated the site, during the Bronze Age 1800 – 700 BC, destroying menhirs to use as building materials for their “Tower” or towers. The Filitosa museum is poorly lit and written material is limited, however the rest of the site is worth the trip.
Jumping to the most “recent” story. The ancient Greeks and Romans ruled the island for successive periods. Strategically, Corsica was an important place for raw materials and trade routes throughout the centuries. The geographical proximity of Corsica to Sardinia and the Italian coast was greatly highlighted in the development of Corsica. History is long and plagued with continual conflict, followed by dominance and then a new series of rulers. Many cities like Ajaccio, Bastia, Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio and Calvi, were built with walled citadels, for security reasons. The period of Pisan rule was generally peaceful, which allowed for some artistic development. In this author’s opinion, the Genoese period remains one of the most visually prominent periods on the island. The coastline is dotted with remains of towers from the Genoese period. The towers were built with the intention of protecting against invading pirates. In 1531, the Republic of Genoa determined that 99 towers would be built (in the end 85 were built). Today, 67 towers remain in various conditions, from ruins to well-preserved ones.
The French had long viewed Corsica as a strategic landmass, after a turbulent period, Genoa ceded it to France on May 15, 1768. A love-hate relationship has existed ever since, with France desiring control and control. Corsican people fighting for independence. The island’s population grew substantially in the 19th century, to about 340,000 people. However, the infrastructure and economic base did not exist to sustain that number of inhabitants. The result was a significant migration to France and other regions, including Central America. The island of Corsica suffered in the First World War, when some 12,000 died. The economic and political uncertainty surrounding WWII resulted in the temporary Italian occupation, which ended with liberation in September 1943, when Corsica chose France. Corsica continues to fight today to maintain its heritage, culture and traditions.
Today, the island has a population of just over 300,000, is unquestionably beautiful, and remains in conflict. Tourism is a crucial economic engine with more than 2 million visitors a year. The economic benefits are obvious; The impact on a highly patriotic and independent population is likely to continue to be studied for centuries to come. Regardless of whether the Greeks were right, they called Corsica or Kallisté, “the most beautiful”.