Greek Banknotes World War II Italian occupation of Ionian Islands Drachmas banknotes.

100, 500, 1000 drachma notes for the occupation of the Greek Ionian Islands.
100 drachma note with head of Aristotle.

500 drachma note with head of Julius Caesar on the obverse and a scene from an ancient Greek frieze containing
two horsemen on the reverse.
1000 drachma note with head of Julius Caesar on the obverse and a scene from an ancient Greek frieze containing
two horsemen  on the reverse.
    The Ionian Islands in the Adriatic Sea consisted of Corfu, Caphalonia, Zante, Lencas, Cythera, Paxos and myriad smaller islands totaling 891 square miles. The islands had a colorful history and the distinction of having been ruled by more foreigners than any other Mediterranean land. Initially Roman, they eventually fell to the Byzantine Empire. Upon the demise of the Byzantines they were taken over by the Venetian Republic and later the Turks in 1479. They later became the possession of France and when Napoleon was defeated, the islands were turned over to Great Britain in 1815 by the Treaty of Paris. Upon the establishment of the Kingdom of Greece in 1833, the British voluntarily relinquished the Ionian Islands to the mother country. This
was the state of affairs at the outset of World War II. Italy had long coveted these islands for their own. This yearning stemmed from the fact that the islands had formerly been Venetian territory which held a strategic
location in the Adriatic. If the islands could be occupied permanently, the Adriatic would truly be turned into an Italian “lake”. The territory was also part of the Adriatic coast that together with Dalmatia was needed to fulfill the Greater Italia dream. Recognizing this and spurred on by the Italian irredentists, Mussolini attempted to occupy Corfu in 1922. The 'Corfu Incident', as it was called, began when an Italian general and his staff, who had been sent by the Boundary Commission to arbitrate the Greek-Albanian border after World War I, was murdered in cold blood. Mussolini's reaction was to order the Italian fleet to immediately occupy Corfu. After Britain notified the League of Nations that they would put their own navy at the League's disposal, Mussolini backed down after a year's occupation.
     In 1939 the irredentists were again clamoring in the Italian press for control of the balance of Istria not acquired in 1923, Dalmatia, the Ionian Islands, Malta, Corsica and Nice and Savoy in France. Ultimately all these territories came under Italian domination with the exception of Malta, which due to the presence of a strong British fleet, remained free. Corsica, Nice and Savoy were occupied by the Italian army upon the fall
of France and the establishment of the Vichy government. Hitler rewarded his junior partner, Mussolini, by giving his blessing to these not too difficult Italian conquests. These areas were officially annexed to Italy in November 1942. Following his initial success in Albania, Mussolini moved to consolidate his hold on the Adriatic coast. He ordered the invasion of Yugoslavia and the occupation of the Dalmatian coast annexing them to Italy under the Governorship of Dalmatia. At the same time he sent the Italian fleet and army to occupy the Ionian Islands.
    Upon landing, a new political administration was set up and permanent annexation declared. All Greek streets and store signs were changed to Italian. The Italian language was made mandatory. Greek banks were closed and all communications with Greece ceased. On 20 April 1940 a new currency, known as the
Ionian drachma, was put into circulation. It was at par with the former Greek currency. The purpose was to orient the Ionian Islands economically towards Rome. The islands became a separate Italian province after the fall of Greece.
   The new currency bore the heading Biglietto a Corso Legale per le Isole Jonie, loosely translated as “Lawful Bank Note for Circulation Only in the Ionian Islands”. The notes were released by the Chief of Political and Civil Affairs. Denominations were of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 50000 drachma. The first three notes were small in size, the 50 and 100 drachma medium in size and the 500 and above denominations considerably larger. All but the 1 drachma note contain references to Greece's past glory. Alexander the Great appears on the 5 and 10 drachma notes, while a bearded Aristotle is featured on the 50 and 100 drachmas. The higher denominations are more interesting inasmuch as the reverses also extol the past glories of Greece. The 500 and 1000 drachma notes both contain a portion of an ancient Greek frieze containing two horsemen on the reverse. The 5,000 drachma note carries on its reverse a picture of a Greek trireme approaching shore surrounded by classical Greek symbols. The 50 drachma and higher denominations are all printed on watermarked paper containing rows of interlocking diamonds. The Ionian notes are all well executed. All notes were retired after the Italian capitulation in 1943.