facebook-fan-page

  • Greek
  • English (United Kingdom)
  • Italian (Italy)
Banner

KEFALONIA HISTORY & MYTHOLOGY - Kefalonia is an island with rich history and mythology. The strange geological phenomena in combination with the mountainous terrain and the "water" paths  give the island a stunning and unique beauty but the history of Kefalonia starts centuries ago. 

 

KEFALONIA MYTHOLOGY

 

The mythology of Kefalonia starts from the Mesolithic period (10000 - 6000 BC), during which installations were found and continued in the Neolithic period as well as in the Early Helladic (2600 - 2000 BC) and Middle Helladic (2000 - 1600 BC). In the area of Skala and Sami  have been found  several stone tools from flint and obsidian. Few archaeological traces left by the first two periods of copper. Intense activity was observed in the Mycenaean period, which is testified to the island by a series of domed or chiseled tombs, which the greatest were found  in Mazarakata, in Metaxata, in Lakithra, in Diakata of Kranias and in Kontogenada of Paliki. Kefalonia and the other islands in the region were combined with a great Mycenaean Kingdom - due to the presence of Mycenaean findings. The name of the Kingdom remains unknown.  As the legend says, the Kings of Mycenaean Kefalonia claimed the kingdom of Mycenae and attempted expedition against the islands with Amfitryona, in which Cephalus from Thoriko of Attica and Elio from the Elos of Messinia took part. Target areas were Tafion and Tilevon. Amphitryon managed to win and donated the island to the two heroes who accompanied him. One of them was Cephalus, who it is said, he gave his name to the island (this is one version). Of course this is much disputed as the clay tablets of Pylos refers "Cephallenians people" or "Cephalanes", who lived in western Greece. In Livatho, were found great findings of Mycenaean necropolises, where it is said that Cephalus is located. The island is also referred to as Tetrapolis, the names of the 4 sons of Cephalus.

 

The name of Elio maintained until today in southern Kefalonia, where the area is called Elios. In Mavrata was found a vaulted tomb along with other antiquities of that period. The shape of the chamber tomb is similar to other tombs discovered in the region of Messinia, which proves that Mycenaean civilization entered in Kefalonia, Zante and Ithaca. There are numerous testimonies of that period for the island, in contrast to Ithaca, which has led too many experts to equate the Homeric Ithaca with Kefalonia. It is said that king Odysseus and his wife Penelope are old deities of Arcadia. So, it is probable that Achaeans from Arcadia went to Kefalonia, where they moved their gods and their heroes.  Moreover the people of Ulysses called “Cephallenians” and hold Ithaca, Zante and the coast of Akarnia and Sami. The name “Kefallinia” is reported by ancient authors (Herodotus) only in 450 BC. The Cephallenians gave their name to the island (second version for the name of the island).

 

 

HISTORY OF KEFALONIA

 

Kefalonia in Ancient Greece

The first reports exist from the Persian Wars, where Kephalinians participate in the battle of Plataea. In 434 BC Kephalinian ships took part in the battle of Corinth against Kerkyra, repulsing successfully Corinthians. In the Peloponnesian War the four cities of Kefalonia took the side of Athenians. When the war ended, Kefalonia left the defeated Athens in 372 BC, but was still at her side in the Athenian battle against Philip. In 218 BC Philip sailed with his fleet against Kefalonia and although they debarked in Prunous, difficulties of the terrain, forced him to withdraw and move to the Pali, which failed to conquer.

 

The Romans

Unfortunately the island did not remained independent and autonomous for long time, as the Roman consul Marcus Foulvios Nonbilior, having conquered Aetolia, proceeded against Kefalonia and finally conquered "her" in 187 BC.  Sami soon revolted, and Roman consul besieging the city for 4 months, when finally  conquered it, bringing siege engines for help from mainland Greece. The Romans destroyed the city, soldresidents as slaves and gained rich spoils, which shows the rise and prosperity of Sami. The principle of Roman rule in Kefalonia just begun.

 

In Byzantine times

In 495 BC, after the division of the Roman Empire into eastern and western, Kefalonia belongs to the Byzantine Empire. Successfully Kefalonia tackled many pirate attacks from the coast Africa, playing an important role in the defense of Byzantium. The Norman's descent in Mediterranean marked the beginning of many adventures on the island. In 1084 Robert Guiscard, defeated between Kefalonia and Corfu the united fleets of the Venetians and Byzantines, attempting to conquer Kefalonia but without success. He died on the ship on 17 June, 1085 when it was moored in the port of Panormos, where he left his name as memorial in the small town, which since then is called Fiscardo.

 

 

Frankish - Venetian Domination

During the period of the Frankish and Venetian domination important events on the island occurred : in 1103, Kefalonia was plundered by the Crusader fleet, led by bishop of Piza, in 1125 Genoese and Venetians landed on the island and in 1147 the island was occupied  by Roger II, King of Normandy. In 1185, the King of Sicily William II took the islands of Kefalonia, Zante and Ithaca by the Byzantines,  bestowing them to his admiral Margaritonis, creating the so-called county, Kefalonia - Zante, Ithaca. In 1194 Matthew or Mayo Orsini replaced Margaritonis and recognized as supreme authority the King of Sicily.  In 1236 Mathew became a vassal of Geoffrey II Villehardouinou, prince of Achaia. After the death of Matthew(1248), successor of the county took over his son, who became independent from the prince of Achaia (1288), giving an oath of vassalage to Charles of Napples, thus presaging the presence of the dynasty of the Angevins in Kefalonia.  In 1303, John I took over the county after his father's death, and after his marriage with the daughter of the despot Nikephoros, Maria, got as dowry Lefkada and yet the title of Count of Kefalinias, Zante and Lefkada. In 1316, the county came under the control of John's son, Nickolas, who gave an oath of vassalage to the Emperor Andronicus II Palaelogus, then he was anointed as despot and baptized Christian to mitigate the hatred that had been created from the crimes he had committed. In 1323, he was succeeded by his brother, John, who acknowledged the sovereignty of the Byzantine emperor, he married Anna Paliologina, also embraced the Orthodox faith and took the surname of Angels Comnenian, leaving of course the surname Orsini. His wife Anna, succeeded him after his death (1335), and the period of Orsini's dynast in Kefalonia stopped.

Andeganoi and Tocchi occupied Kefalonia successively. With an interval of Turkish rule (1479 -1481) & (1485 - 1500), the Venetian domination follows for almost 3 centuries (1500 - 1797). Furthermore, in 1537, the Turkish pirate Barbarosa, plundered the island, taking with him thousands of  captives. The Turkish danger finally ceased to exist after the battle of Nafpaktos, in which participated and Ionian ships. It is said that in 1548, when Kefalonia was occupied by the Venetians, it was a desert island with just 1,400 inhabitants. The Venetians supported their power exclusively to the noble whose families were recorded in "Golden Bible"  (Libro d 'Oro). Later, during the Venetian domination, the Venetian officers installed the General Administration in the castle of St George and  they define it as capital of the island.  But a bit later,because of the location of Argostoli (and the importance of the port),  the capital was transferred there (1757).

 

On 11 July, 1797 the French troops, preachers of the principles of the French Revolution, disembarked in Kefalonia, where people welcomed them  with enthusiasm and joy, but also with much concern - on the part of the nobles. They formed a provisional democratic government, and archbishop Ioannikios Anninos blessed "the tree of liberty" and threw  "Golden Bible" , titles and privileges of noble Venetian into the flames. The French occupation lasted twenty months, because of the fact that fleets of Russia and Turkey arrived in Argostoli on October 29, 1798. The creation of the Ionian State under the suzerainty of the Sultan by the Treaty of Constantinople (21 March 1800) and the subsequent implementation of the " Byzantine regime", which gave privileges  only to those enrolled in the Golden Bible, provoked rebellions in Kefalonia. Successive riots occurred in 1800, 1801 and 1802 with many pillages, fires while armed villagers occupied the capital. At that time two commas prevailed, that of Metaxa and that of Anninos, while at the same time for the primacy of the island, Argostoli and Lixouri started their own "race" (something that still holds true today). In 1806 a new constitution was drafted that eventually was not implementedbecause the Ionian Islands were ceded to France by the tsar. The second French occupation lasted 3 years, because in 1809 the English fleet occupied Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Kythira.

 

ENGLISH DOMINATION 

Important role in its subsequent growth and course of the island played England, because they dominated the island since 1809. Philip de Bosse, commander of the island, he  built roads in Argostoli, Livatho and the famous known bridge of Drapanu. Also constructed the courthouse of Argostoli, the Customs and the lighthouse of Saint Theodore from the deputy Charles James Napier. Especially from 1848 onwards, we have Ionian struggles against British occupation with pioneers the Radicals of Kefalonia, Gerasimos Livadas, Elias Zervos-Iakovatos and Joseph Montferrat. In the elections of 1850 for the Ninth Parliament of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia elected the radicals Elias Zervos, Joseph Momferatos Gerasimos Libadas, John Typaldos - Kapeletos, Dotoratos, George Typaldos - Jacob and Stamatelos Pilarinos. In 1851, the British exiled again Montferrat and Zervos, imposing tougher measures and restriction of expression to the inhabitants of the island, but the Union of the Ionian Islands with the rest Greece in May 1864 became true, that means the end of British Protectorate - occupation.

 

MODERN HISTORICAL FACTS

The island has also many references to Greek history. From 1940 to 1943, the Italians, who were allies of the Germans were found to have conquered Kefalonia.

But in September 1943, one of the most exciting events of the Second World War occurred in Kefalonia: the massacre of thousands of Italian soldiers of the ‘Division Acqui’ by the Germans in the Italian-German conflict (the dead were more than 10,000). That period German planes bombed Argostoli and nearby villages, causing dozens of victims from the civilian population. Major disasters took place at many buildings and archaeological sites. The period of the German occupation, although it was smaller than the rest of Greece, was particularly painful for the inhabitants, where dozens of patriotic fighters were executed by the Nazi occupation forces.

The earthquakes of 1953 literally razed everything that had been left behind intact by the second World War and the Civil War. The events of that era have changed dramatically the history of the island. ¾ of Kefalonia were completely destroyed, as dead  were dozens and wounded even more. Immigration and the escape to shipping as a way to unemployment in the years that followed the earthquake of 1953 brought not only the demographic collapse of Kefalonia, but also the economic decline, cultural and social inertia. The 80s is the reversal  period  in the wider area of the county. At the 1981 census the county of Kefalonia was first in population decline in Greece. Nevertheless, 20 years later - in the 2001 census the county of Kefalonia is one of the first population that grew in Greece. Until today it continues its dynamic growth path and is one of the most dynamic tourist areas of our country.

 

 

St. George Castle
In the pictures here you see the main gate of the castle (top left) and the embrasures (pictured right). The castle was originally built by Leonardo Toko, rebuilt by the Ottomans and eventually strengthened by the Venetians. Thereby preserved from the 16th century.  The Venetian officers install in St. George Castle the  General Administration and define it as the first capital of the island. Note that during the Venetian domination lived there 15,000 people inside and in the surrounding villages. From the small church that is built on top of the hill and is dedicated to St. George , the village took his name. On November 24, 1750 delivered a memorandum which analyzed the necessity of abandoning the region there and carry all the forts near the sea and at the ports.