Zakynthos was inhabited from the Neolithic Age, as some archaeological excavations have proved.
The famous ancient Greek poet and writer, Homer, first mentioned the island in his masterpieces, the Iliad and the Odyssey, stating that the first inhabitants of it were the son of King Dardanos of Troy called Zakynthos and his men and that they first came on the island around 1500–1600 BC.
The island was then conquered by the Great Imperial King Arkeisios of Kefalonia. The famous Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek) from Ithaca was the next King to conquer the island.
Later on, a treaty was signed that made Zakynthos an independent democracy, the first established in the Hell area, that lasted more than 650 years.
The Athenian military commander Tolmides concluded an alliance with Zakynthus during the First Peloponnesian War sometime between 459 and 446 BC. The importance of this alliance for Athens was that it provided them with a source of tar. Tar is a more effective protector of ship planking than pitch (which is made from pine trees). The Athenian trireme fleet needed protection from rot, decay and the teredo, so this new source of tar was valuable to them. The tar was dredged up from the bottom of a lake using leafy myrtle branches tied to the ends of poles. It was then collected in pots and could be carried to the beach and swabbed directly onto ship hulls.Alternatively, the tar could be shipped to the Athenian naval yard at the Piraeus for storage.