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Everything you need to know for your holidays in Corsica...

The history of Corsica - a brief introduction...

The Moors Head - a symbol of Corsica As an island, Corsica has enjoyed a turbulent past.

There is plenty of evidence of early settlement in Corsica, with menhirs and dolmen being found in several locations. The island was occupied by Greeks and Romans during the early centuries AD., the earliest settlement being at Aleria (first called Alalia) on the east coast. Mineral deposits of copper, iron and lead further inland were exploited, as were the lagoons along the east coast, which were rich in oysters and eels.

The subject of many invasions during the middle ages, control of the island passed to the state of Pisa in 1077. Following a period of rivalry with the state of Genoa, the Pisan state declined in 1284, and rule of Corsica, together with Sardinia, passed to the king or Aragon.

The Genoese regained the island in 1347, and ruled it - with a brief intervention by the French in 1553 - until 1729, the year of the Corsican revolution for independence. There followed a turbulent forty years of struggle by the Corsicans, under the leadership of Pascal Paoli who governed independent Corsica from 1755 to 1768 and gave it its constitution, modelled on that of England.

In 1768, the treaty of Versailles ceded Corsica to France and 1769 marked the end of Corsican independence. Napoleon was born in Ajaccio on 15 August 1769. Apart from a brief period from 1794 to 1796 when St. Gilbert Elliot ruled an Anglo-Corsican kingdom as viceroy, Corsica has remained part of the French republic to the present. During the 19th century, under Napoleon III and the third republic, the island was developed economically, with the building of roads, the railway and schools.

With the decline of agriculture on the island during the second half of this century, Corsica has gradually depopulated, the permanent population now being around a quarter of a million people. Many young people go to the mainland - Le Continent - for education and to work, and there are
Corsicans throughout France predominantly in the civil service, the police and customs service.

The Moor's Head - the origins of the Corsica flag (above)

The Moor's Head has become the Corsican emblem of Corsica and can be seen throughout the island on flags, locally produced goods, official buildings and Corsican owned boats, and the like. Even the airline CCM (Compagnie Corse Mediterranée) use this symbol on their livery.

There are numerous theories about the origin, most are merely speculation or romatic legends. It is believed that the symbol dates back to the the 13th century, when the King of Aragon was gifted Corsica by the Pope after their victory over the Saracens.

In 1762, the great Corsican Patriot, Pascal Paoli, chose the Moors Head as the official emblem of independent Corsica. He reportedly said 'The Corsicans want to see well, liberty shall follow the torch of philosophy and we shall not be scared by the light'.

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