Identification and Location. The Ionian Islands lie off the western coast of Greece in the Ionian Sea, a northern branch of the Mediterranean. The group of islands has been referred to variously as the Septinsular Republic, the Eftanissa or Eptanissa, or the Seven Islands, reflecting the number of large islands in the group. Smaller inhabited islets bring the total number of islands to twenty-four. The main islands are Corfu (Kerkyra), Cephalonia (Kefallinia, Kefalonia), Ithaca (Ithaki), Lefkas (Lefkada), Paxos (Paxi), Zante (Zakinthos), and Kithira. Kithira, while geographically separate at some distance to the south, is culturally similar and shares most of its history with the rest of the islands. Following tradition, Kithira is thus included in the group. Spreading north to south, the islands are actually the tips of a submerged limestone mountain range. The soil is often thin and rocky; Exceptions to this include the Lixouri Peninsula of Cephalonia, the broad plain of Zante, and portions of Corfu. The islands receive 90 to 115 centimeters of torrential rains from November through February; the temperature seldom falls below 4.4° C. The hot, dry summer days reach temperatures above 32° C, and there is little precipitation from May through September.
Demography. The population of the islands is estimated at 120,000. An influx of tourists in the summer doubles or trebles the population in some areas. In areas where many men are employed in the merchant marine, the actual resident population is perhaps 80 percent of the numbers Reported in the census. Heavy emigration has resulted in a population pyramid that is both age- and sex-skewed, with a relatively greater proportion of women and elderly.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Ionians speak a variant of the Greek language that reflects Italian influence in vocabulary and intonation. Greek is an ancient branch of the Indo-European Language Family.