Lefkada, also called Lefkas, is a beautiful Greek island in the Ionian Sea on the west coast of Greece; south of Corfu, and North of Kefalonia island. The island is connected to the mainland by a long causeway and floating bridge. Because Omilo organizes every year a 1- and 2-week Greek Language and Culture courses on Lefkada island, during the month of May / June, we love to introduce you to some facts as well as to the rich mythological tradition of this Greek island.
The Myth Of Lefkada
Almost every place in Greece has a mythical tradition. Ancient Greeks always wanted to associate places with stories about Gods or famous heroes.
Lefkada, one of the 7 Ionian Islands, took its name from the « Cape of Lefkata. There are two versions about the origin of this name. One version says that the name comes from the white color (λευκός, -ή, -ό [lefkos] = white) of the cape’s rocks. The other version says that the name comes from Lefko, a friend of Odysseus.
In Antiquity, the « Cape Lefkatas » was famous. According to a tradition, anyone who jumped from the rocks could escape the torment of love. The region had this status because Zeus (Jupiter) used to have a rest there, between his love adventures. Sappho (Ancient Greek poet) jumped from the cape because she wanted to relieve herself of her love for Phaon. Also, the Goddess Aphrodite chose to end her life this way after she discovered that Adonis, her love, had died. And later on, even the Romans followed this « tradition ».
Another tradition is associated with the temple of Apollo, which is situated in the region. According to the myth, once a year, the people living in Lefkada had a ceremony to purify the city. They threw a convict from the rock in order to prevent evil for the city.
Lefkada And Homer
Apart from this tragic myth, Lefkada is also related to the poetry of Homer, namely the Odyssey.
The German archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld, having performed excavations at various locations in Lefkada, was able to obtain funding to do work on the island by suggesting that Lefkada was Homer’s Ithaca, and the palace of Odysseus was located west of Nydri, on the south coast of Lefkada.
The most widely recognized argument for this theory is that Homer described that Ithaca could be reached on foot. Lefkada is indeed the only island that was connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, and nowadays by a floating bridge.
Who Was Sappho?
Sappho was one of the 9 lyric poets of Ancient Greece. She lived on the island of Lesbos during the late 7th century BC. Little is known about her life and most of the information comes from her poems.
Her poetry is all about passion and love, both towards men and women. Because Sappho wrote many poems about her feelings and affection towards young women, she is many times considered to be the first homosexual woman we know about in history.
There are almost 200 fragments of poems written by Sappho, although some of them consist of only a few words.
Nowadays, the name Sappho is popular not only in Greece but in several Western countries as well.
Due to the myth about Sappho and Cape Lefkada, you will also notice that many taverns, hotels or cafés on the island are named “Sappho”.
Also in Agios Nikitas, the village where the Omilo Greek Language and Culture courses take place, the tavern on the beach is called “Sappho”.
Lefkada is well-known for its impressive coastline with amazing white sand beaches and turquoise waters.
Take a look at some of the videos on our Omilo Youtube channel, which were taken during the Greek courses.
A general impression of an Omilo course on Lefkada island: https://youtu.be/L7Bs8s77bN8
The village of Agios Nikitas (Omilo course location) : https://youtu.be/wIVhbRmcEOQ
Excursion to the waterfall: https://youtu.be/XxiewIu_aeA
A boat trip to neighbouring islands; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4p8S1coCQw8&t=3s
Listen to an Omilo student in Lefkada: https://youtu.be/L7zvRebgJKY
However, the lovely beaches and the crystal-clear waters are not the only reason for the island’s beauty. Lefkada is a very green island, full of trees and rich fauna and flora. The lagoon between Lefkada and the mainland is a protected wetland and perfect shelter for many migratory birds and other rare species. You will also find rivers as well as the waterfalls of the Dimossari gorge, near Nidri.
20 kilometers south of Nidri is the village of Vasiliki, also a windsurfing center. There are ferries to Kefalonia and Ithaca from Vasiliki.
In 1963, Aristoteles Onassis bought the island of Scorpios, next to Lefkada, and placed Greece in the spotlight of the world. Since then, Lefkada also became known all around the world.
Life in Lefkada is strongly associated with Scorpios. Scorpios is a small island of 800 km2, very close to the east of Lefkada island, which was owned by the Onassis family till May 2013.
Aristotle Onassis, Greek shipping magnate, bought Scorpios in 1963 and transformed it into an earthly heaven by planting thousands of plants and trees from all over the world. He built villas, a church and a private cemetery. The island has a heliport and a private marina. Since the island was too dry, he also managed to supply Scorpios with water, by submarine pipelines. To thank the residents of Lefkada for their help, he invited Maria Callas to sing at the Lefkada festival in 1966.
The island was used as a summer residence for his family. Scorpios lived many years of great glory. Onassis organized parties and glamorous receptions, inviting famous people from all over the world. On Scorpios, Onassis got married to Jacky Kennedy in 1968. No need to say, the paparazzi were every day somewhere “around the island”.
After Onassis and his daughter, Christina, died, his granddaughter, Athena, became the owner of the island. Athena has a French father and was raised in France.
In May 2013, Athena sold the island to the Russian billionaire businessman, Dmitry Rybolovlev. He bought the island for 110.000.000 Euros, a gift for his daughter Katrina! Nevertheless, according to Onassis’ will, the island cannot be sold (*). Therefore the island was “rented for long operation” to the Russian tycoon. In any case, now it is Katrina Rybolovlev who enjoys the island. There will be most likely new investments and new jobs will be created. The legend about the island is going on…
(*) Specifically, Onassis stated in his will that the island would remain in the family as long as they could afford to cover its maintenance expenses. According to the will, if his descendants could not cover the expenses, the island would be donated either to Olympic Airways or to the state. Therefore the island is now leased to the heiress for 100 years’ time, still under the belonging of Athina Onassis Rousel.
Greek Language and Culture Courses In Lefkada
Since 2013 Omilo organizes 1-and 2-week courses in the village of Ag.Nikitas, 10km north of the town of Lefkas. and next to Milos beach.
The island of Lefkada is the perfect location to combine an intensive Greek language course with a holiday in a relaxing environment and a beautiful natural setting next to the beach.
Also, the Guardian Newspaper (UK) mentioned the Omilo Lefkada course as one of the “10 of the best language with activity holidays around the world”.
Click here to read the Guardian Article.
In the mood to learn Greek (all levels) on the island of Lefkada?
Click below to take a look at our video taken during an Omilo course!
Or click on the button on top of this article, and listen to the Greek AUDIO, to improve your listening skills.
1-week courses : https://omilo.com/course/one-week-group-course-lefkada/
2-week courses : https://omilo.com/course/two-week-group-course-lefkada/
We hope you will soon have the possibility to explore Lefkada yourself, or together with Omilo.