The ruins of the Venetian castle that dominates Parga, as well as the Turkish castle of Anthousa remind the visitor of the turbulent history of the area.
From ancient times the area was inhabited by the Myceneans and then later invaded by the Romans who would then destroy the village in 150BC.
The settlement currently known as “Paleoparga”, on the Petzovolio mountain was mentioned for the first time in 1320 in a commercial trade between the Bishop of Roumania and the Venetians. Later in 1360, in order to avoid the constant attacks of the Turks and the Albanians, the inhabitants of this early settlement moved down to the coast where Parga is located today. To make sure that the city would be safe, the residents asked for the help of the Normans, who ruled over the Ionian Sea by those times.
In 1401, the city came under the Venetian rule and this brought a certain sense of stability to its residents. The Venetians built the fortress of the city, planted great quantities of olive trees and developed Parga into an olive oil commercial centre.
In 1452, the Ottomans attacked the city and dominated it for two years. In 1537, the fearsome pirate Barbarossa destroyed the whole city and in 1571, the army of the Albanian leader Ali Pasha attacked the city. Following this a peace treaty was agreed between the Ottomans and the Venetians, who were keen to keep control of the town as it allowed them to keep control over the Ionian Islands and observe the movements of the Ottomans.
As soon as the treaty expired the Turks attacked Parga in 1657 and tried unsuccessfully for three years to conquer it. A new treaty of “Passarovitch” in 1718 between Venice, Austria and the Ottoman Empire was ended 1797 when Venice surrendered to Napoleon Bonaparte and gave Parga and the Ionian Islands to the French.
In the same year French troops came to Parga and built a fortress on the island of Panagia, in front of Parga harbour. The period of prosperity ended when Ali Pasha came with his army to conquer the city. Since the French were very few, the residents decided to ask for the help of the Russian fleet, who now patrolled the Ionian Islands.
A treaty between the Russian Tsar and the Ottoman Empire recognized Parga as an autonomous city, under the Russian influence. However, Ali Pasha tried to recover Parga, without success.
In 1807, there was another treaty, in which Parga came under the French rule once again and they stationed a small garrison in the town to discourage another attack from Ali Pasha.
When Napoleon lost the famous battle of Waterloo in 1815, the inhabitants of Parga rebelled against the French under the instruction of the British and put themselves under the British rule. However, the British were not actually interested in Parga itself, as they only saw it as a path to achieve their final goal of occupying the Ionian Islands.
Finally in 1817 England sold Parga to Ali Pasha for 150 pounds. This was devastating for the residents, who did not want to return to being under Turkish rule. They took the decision to burn the bones of their ancestors and abandon their city on April 15th, 1817 and cross over in exile to Corfu.
The men of Ali Pasha entered and inhabited Parga so that when former Greek residents returned in 1831, they found that the Turks were now the owners of their houses and lands. They were then forced to work the lands that they once owned. This Turkish oppression lasted until 1913, when Parga was finally incorporated to the Greek state.
A joyful celebration of the liberation from the Turkish and the return of the residents from exile in Corfu is re-enacted on 15 August every year with fireworks and live music.