History of Kefalonia
The magnificent sights, amazing beaches, rich cultural heritage, great monuments, mountains, castles, remote monasteries and cheerful, hospitable people are the treasures making Kefalonia one of the most attractive destinations.
It is the biggest island of the Ionian Sea, at the outlet of Patraikos Bay, between Zante and Lefkada. It stretches over an area of 904 km2 with a coastline length of 250 km. The island has a splendid natural beauty and a diversified geological structure with innumerable small bays and rich vegetation; the mountain Aenos (National Park since 1962 supporting rich flora and fauna) looks impressive from far away.
During the Byzantine period Kefalonia formed part of the province of Achaia and the prefecture of East Illyria. It was conquered by the Normans, the Franks, the Venetians and the Turks. It joined the rest of Greece along with the other Ionian Islands, on May 21st, 1864. The inhabitants’ resistance against the Italians and the Germans during World War II was considerable. The movie ‘’Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’’ shot in the natural scenery of the island refers to a history of the Resistance movement.
Cephalonia is already mentioned in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. He called the island Deuchalion, and said it then belonged to the kingdom of Odysseus and that it sent warriors to fight in Troy. We do not know for sure why the island has its name. It is either because it is the largest island in the Ionian archipelago, Cephali means "head" in Greek, or it got its name after the first king, who according to mythology was called Cephalus.
There have been paleolithic findings around the island dating 50 000 years back in time. Cephalonia was united with Ithaca and the mainland at that time, and you can still see from the shape of the two islands that they once were one.
During Mycenaean time the island of Kefalonia seems to have been very rich . Later on the men of the island are mentioned in wars against the Persians (5th cent. BC) and there were alliances with several other city-states like Athens, Corinth and Sparta. In 188BC the Romans conquered Cephalonia and they sold its inhabitants as slaves and looted the island. The island also suffered pirate attacks many times through history.
At the end of the 12th century AD the Francs conquered the Ionian islands, and were to stay until the Turks defeated them in the 15th century. Then followed Venetian rule from AD 1500 to 1797. Cephalonia was to suffer several Turkish attacks, and in 1797 Napoleons army invaded the island. A year later the British help the Russian/Turkish army take over. In 1807 the French came back, and two years later the British seized power.
In 1864 the island was finally liberated, but was to be occupied by Italian and German military during the second world war.
In 1953 there was a terrible earthquake which destroyed most buildings on the island, and killed many. Only the northern village of Cephalonia ,Fiscardo ,was saved and is today the only village on the island with older architecture.