Kefalonia or Kefalinia is an island in the Ionian Sea. It’s history begins from the Mesolithic period and during the years that passed it met many aspiring conquerors and settlers.
The island owes its name to Kephalos, the mythical hero who conquered the island later, in the Bronze Age, together with the Mycenaeans and their leaders Amphitryon (Hercules’ father) and Eleios (Perseus’ son).
Diverse versions exist about Cephalus’ origins; he might have been the son either of the Phocaean king Deion, or of Hermes and the priestess of Athena Herse (the word herse etymologically means drew, that was considered to be a gift of the moon-goddess Selene to the mortals), or even a descendant of Aeolus’ son, Endymion.
Cephalus myth is also related to his persuasion by Eos, the goddess of the dawn, who fell in love and tried to seduce him. She carried him off to Syria, where she gave birth to their son named Tithonus or Phaethon.
According to the locals, this king founded the four main cities of the island which were Sami, Pahli, Krani, and Pronnoi, and named them after his sons.
According to tradition, the first known inhabitants of the island were Leleges, who inhabited the island around the 15th century. e.g. Later, Pterelaos appears as a settler of the island, whose father was Tarios, son of the god Poseidon and the first inhabitants of the island were named Tafioi or Televoes. In a campaign to occupy the island, however, Pterelaos was defeated by the king of Thebes who offered the island as a reward to the mythical hero Kefalos and his name is preserved on the island to this day.
The island is also mentioned as Tetrapolis by the names of the 4 sons of Kefalos, Kranios, Paleas, Pronisos and Samos. Pali included the entire western peninsula of the island (today’s Palliki) and was built on the hill of Duri. Krani was built on the inlet of the lagoon of Koutavos where even today traces of the cyclopean walls are preserved and included the southern part of the island to the west of Ainos.
The Pronni who were in the southeast of Kefalonia and Sami which was built on two hills, just above today. These four cities were small independent democracies and minted their own coins.
In 187 BC. Roman rule on the island begins, when the Roman High Priest Marcus Fulvius Nonvilor after the occupation of Aetolia conquered Kefalonia. Sami soon rebelled and the Roman emperor besieged the city for 4 months, to finally capture it, as he had to bring an army to besiege it from mainland Greece. The Romans destroyed the city, sold its inhabitants as slaves, and made a lot of money.
The adventures of Kefalonia have no end and so in 495 AD and after the division of the Roman state into east and west, Kefalonia belongs to the Byzantine Empire. In fact, he successfully faced many pirate attacks from the coasts of Africa, playing an important role in the defense of Byzantium.
The descent of the Normans to the Mediterranean brings new adventures to the island. In 1084 Robert Guiscard, lord of Calabria and Puglia in Lower Italy, defeated the united fleets of Venetians and Byzantines between Kefalonia and Corfu, trying to occupy Kefalonia without success and the island remained under Byzantine rule. In fact, he finally died inside his ship on June 17, 1085 when he was anchored in the port of Panormos, giving his name to the small town, which has since been named with a slight corruption Fiskardo.
Cephalonia did not stay in the hands of the Turks for long. In 1479 the Turks set foot on the island for the first time on the island. But three years later the Venetians besieged the Castle of Agios Georgios and captured it, slaughtering the Turkish garrison. In 1538 the Turks attacked again, capturing 14,000 locals whom they sold to the slave markets of the East.
Haradin Barbarossa, the terrible pirate of the Aegean, reaches the Ionian Sea and in 1537 plunders Kefalonia, taking with him thousands of prisoners. The Turkish danger ceased to exist permanently after the naval battle of Nafpaktos, in which Ionian ships also took part. It is said that in 1548, when Kefalonia was occupied by the Venetians, it was a desert island with only 1,400 inhabitants.
On July 11, 1797, the French troops, preachers of the beginning of the French Revolution, landed in Kefalonia with the people welcoming them with enthusiasm and joy. They formed a provisional democratic government, Archbishop Ioannikios Anninos blessed the tree of freedom and threw into the flames the Golden Paper, that is, the titles and privileges of the nobles of Venetian rule.
The French occupation lasted twenty months, as the fleets of Russia and Turkey arrived in Argostoli on October 29, 1798, where they created the Ionian State under the sovereignty of the Sultan with the Treaty of Constantinople (March 21, 1800). With the implementation of the so-called “Byzantine regime”, which granted privileges only to those who were registered in the Golden Book, many uprisings were created in Kefalonia.
In 1806 a new constitution was drafted which was not implemented, because the Ionian Islands were ceded to France by the tsar. The second French occupation lasted 3 years, because in 1809 the English fleet landed outside Kefalonia and Zakynthos and Kythira.
The catastrophic earthquake of 1953
The earthquakes of 1953 literally leveled what he had left behind intact, World War II and the Civil War. The events of that time changed dramatically and the history of the island. The. Of Kefalonia had been completely destroyed, the dead were dozens and the wounded even more. Only the area of Fiskardo remained intact and that is why it still retains its traditional architecture.
Immigration and fleeing to shipping are the only ways out of unemployment in the years that followed, a fact that brought not only the population collapse of Kefalonia, but also the economic decline, cultural and social apathy.
The newer years
The 80’s is the period of upheaval in the wider area of the prefecture. Until today, it continues its dynamic development course and is one of the most dynamic tourist areas of our country. In fact, today Kefalonia is considered one of the most developed regions in Greece with one of the highest per capita incomes.