+ Cycladia Travel Guides | History



Obelisk Monument, Kefalonia
Ancient Times
The first mentions for the island were recorded during the Persian Wars, where we find Kefalines participating in the battle of Plataies. In 434 BC the Kefalinian mighty ships participated in the naval battle of the Korinthians against the Corfiats, while during the Peloponnesian Wars they were in favor of the Athenians. However, even before that, evidence from settlements on the island prove its existence even in the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Early Helladic and Meso-Elladic eras.

In Skala and in Sami, archeologists found many stone tools made of flint or obsidian, while there is limited evidence from the first two Copper Eras. However, activity appears to be intense during the Mycenaean Era, due to the numerous arched or vaulted tombs found in Mazarakata, Metaxata, Lakythra, Diakata and Kontogenada.  

The archeological museum in Argostoli houses many of those findings, especially from the tombs found in Mazarakata, Kokolata and Lakythra. The last astonishing finding was a small ancient theater in Fiscardo that accidentally saw the light of day during an excavation for the construction of a building.
The Romans in Kefalonia
Kefalonia was conquered by the Romans on 187 BC, even though there was a 4 month mighty resistance, especially from the state of Sami. However, the Romans won, sold the residents as slaves and looted the island which was used as a base of operations from which their naval forces could patrol the Ionian Islands and western Greece. In 325 AD, when Constantine reorganized the Roman Empire, Kefalonia became part of the Eparchy of Achaea. Unfortunately, during the Roman years, the island suffered from many attacks by pirates and barbarians (Vandals and Ostrogoths), while the wars between the Romans and the Africans also put it in great danger. Emperor Heraclius also attempted to reorganize the Roman Empire and divided the island in smaller Eparchies, aiming to achieve enhanced protection from enemies.  
The Byzantine era
From 495 AD, Kefalonia belonged to the Byzantium, successfully defending the integrity and wealth of the Empire from pirate, crusader and Arab attacks coming from Africa. When the Normans descended to the Mediterranean Sea, the island started having many problems. On 1084, Roberto il Guiscardo, who was a mighty seafarer, defeated between Kefalonia and Corfu the united fleets of the Venetians and the Byzantines, in an attempt to conquer Kefalonia. His attempt was unsuccessful though and he actually died on his ship on June 17th 1085, in the port of Panormos, leaving his name to this small town as a heritage. Since then Fiscardo, namevariation of Guiscardo, became one of the most well-known towns of the island and definitely one of the most beautiful ones in Greece and Kefalonia remained under the Byzantine rule.
The Venetians

In 1103 Kefalonia was ravaged by the Crusaders, in 1125 the Venetians and the Genoese invaded the island, followed by the king of Normandy, Roger II. In 1185 William the Second managed to detach Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Ithaca from the Byzantines and created the county of Kefalonia-Zakynthos-Ithaca. John the 1st took over this county in 1303, after the death of his father, and, after marrying the daughter of the Despot of Epirus, received Lefkada as a dowry and became the Count of Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Lefkada.

After changing consecutive hands, Kefalonia was under the Venetian rule for almost 3 centuries (1500-1797). They say that when the Venetians took over the island, it was completely looted and deserted with merely 1.400 inhabitants. The Venetians depended on the nobility, whose families were registered in the prominent Libro d' Oro. Later, they established their headquarters in the castle of Agios Georgios and made it the island’s capital. However, the capital was ultimately transferred in 1757 in Argostoli, due to the latter’s strategic location.

The Frankish Rule
On July 1797 the French invaded the island, formed a temporary democratic government and burned the Libro d’ Oro, the privileges and the titles of the Venetian nobility. The Frankish occupation lasted for 20 months, until the fleets of Russia and Turkey arrived in Argostoli in 1798. The creation of the Ionian State, under the rule of the Sultan and according to the Treaty of Istanbul on March 21st 1800, as well as the implementation of the Byzantine constitution that granted privileges only to those inscribed in the Libro D’ Oro led to massive riots in Kefalonia. On 1806 a new Constitution was established. However it was never implemented because the Ionian Islands were handed over to the Tsar. The second Frankish occupation lasted for about 3 years, because on 1809 the British fleet invaded Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Kithira, taking over their administration.
The British Occupation
The British played a very significant part on the island’s development, starting from 1809. Commander De Bossé created a road network in Argostoli and in Leivatho, built the Bridge of Drapano, the Judicial Mansion in Argostoli, the Customs Office and the Lantern (Lighthouse) of Agioi Theodoroi.  However, from 1848 the Ionians started rioting against the British occupation. In 1851 the British imposed many restrictive measures on the freedom of expression; nevertheless nothing could prevent the Unification of the Ionian Islands with the rest of Greece on May 1864.
Modern history

From 1940 up until 1943, the Italians and the Germans conquered Kefalonia. However, on September 1943, a truly dramatic event took place. The Germans slaughtered more than 10.000 Italian soldiers. The German airplanes bombarded Argostoli and the nearby villages, leaving hundreds of victims behind, while many buildings and archeological sites were destroyed. And then came the Civil War till the mid ’40s.

Whatever was left from World War II and the Civil War was demolished by the terrible earthquakes of 1953. Kefalonia is located on the east of a tectonic plate, as all the Ionian Islands. The series of earthquakes that lasted for about 2 months dramatically changed the island’s development and history. Almost every building collapsed and hundreds of people were killed and injured. The northern part of the island, where Fiscardo is located, suffered much less damage from the 3.000 earthquakes and aftershocks. And this is why this is the only town that boasts many beautiful buildings of older architecture.

After 1953, the locals started migrating in an effort to restore their economic status and this led to the island’s economic, social and cultural recess. During the ’80s the island suffered a significant population decrease. However, in 2001 the Prefecture of Kefalonia appeared to be the fastest growing community in the country. Today, Kefalonia is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece, chosen by many celebrities, especially after the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin that was shot there, such as actors, singers and politicians from around the world that arrive on their luxury yachts and enjoy the incredible turquoise blue waters, the pure white pebbles and the delectable cuisine.

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