Paxi is the name given to the smallest group of the Ionian Islands (the Heptanese). In Greek it is a plural form and it refers to a complex of islands, the largest of which are Paxos and Antipaxos (a smaller nearby island famous for its wine, and two of the finest sandy beaches in the Ionian Sea). In Greek mythology, Poseidon created the island by striking Corfu with his trident, so that he and wife Amphitrite could have some peace and quiet.
Although possibly inhabited from prehistoric times, the Phoenicians are traditionally held to have been the first settlers on Paxos. The name is believed to be derived from Pax which meant slate in their language.
The Romans ruled the island from the 2nd century BC, and during the Byzantine period and Middle Ages it was constantly attacked by pirates. After various rulers and Crusaders had passed through, the island was taken by the Venetians at the end of the 14th century.
During the Napoleonic wars the Ionian Islands were taken by the French and the Russo-Turkish alliance. On 13 Feb 1814, the island of Paxos surrendered to the Royal Navy frigate HMS Apollo and 160 troops from the 2nd Greek Light Infantry from Cephalonia and the 35th Regiment of the Royal Corsican Rangers. Finally the British established the Ionian Union in 1815. In 1864, together with the rest of the Heptanese, Paxos was ceded to the Greek state.
Paxos comes from the word 'pax' which means peace in Latin.
The island is approximately eight miles in length and tipped up towards the west. The west coast is dominated by steep white, chalky cliffs that are greatly eroded at sea level, and harbour many 'blue caves' which can be explored on launches departing from Gaios. Much of the attractive landscape is still covered in olive groves. These stretch from Lakka, the harbour community in the north, through Magazia to Gaios, the capital. Olive oil making, soap manufacture and fishing were supplanted by tourism as the main industry in the mid sixties, resulting in a construction boom which has greatly altered the coastline around Gaios, the 'capital' of the Paxiot demos (community). There are ferry and jetfoil connections daily with Kerkyra (Corfu) and with the mainland at Parga. Excursions to Albania (the resort of Saranda and the magnificent Greco-Roman settlement of Butrint) can also be arranged with the local jetfoil operators.
Among well known semi-permanent British inhabitants were Audrey Good, former commander of the UN refugee bases in Epirus following the Greek Civil War, Albert Finney, the late actor Peter Bull (author of 'It isn't all Greek to me') and actress Susannah York. Some members of the Agnelli family (of FIAT fame) have built a palatial holiday home - complete with faux medieval tower - on a small island (Kaltonisi) situated near the southernmost tip ('the heel') of Paxos, close to the popular beach of Mongonissi. The presence of such residents, and the development of the coastal area (mostly by Italian nationals) explains why Paxos has now become one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Greece. One of Loggos's landmarks, the so-called 'Manor House' was put on sale for 1.6M€ in 2006.
Paxos is part of a European network called Cultural Village of Europe. It hosts a yearly classical music festival (founded by John Gough, and now organised by the Guildhall) which attracts some of Europe's finest young performers. This festival usually takes place in late August/early September, however the 2010 festival is in doubt as sponsorship cannot be determined. Concerts are usually held in the now-disused school of Longos, Paxoi.
The island is serviced by hydrofoils and ferry boats from the mainland Greece port of Igoumenitsa (1.5 hours), hydrofoil boats from Corfu (1–1.5 hours) and from Bari and Brindisi (4 hours). There is no airport.