Kefalonia is one of the first regions inhabited in Greece. According to archaeological findings the island was inhabited since 10.000 BC. In its age long historic route, Kefalonia met a lot of conquerors. Influences of those foreign civilizations added to the creation of Ionian culture.
We introduce you to the most important stations in the history of this island, which shaped its current identity.
The island’s denominations
According to mythology, Kefalonia was named after Kefalos, the son of Hermes and Ersi, and was the first king of the island.
Kefalos gave birth to four sons. Kranios, Paleas, Pronisos and Samos, who gave their names to “Tetrapolis”, the four towns (Pali, Krani, Sami, Pronnous), which flourished in the island in ancient times. These towns functioned autonomously, had their own coins and different coalitions. So, the residents of Kefalonia were in the side of Corinthians, Spartians and Athenians.
When Romans conquered the island, these towns lost their autonomy.
During 2nd BC, Romans conquered Kefalonia and used it as their base against Greece. After the division of Roman union in east and west, in 495BC, the island was under the Byzantine Empire.
The naval force of Kefalonites and their experience in sea battles was precious as it contributed to the protection of the island from Arabs, Sarakenean pirates, Venetians, Genoveans and others.
In 1085 the Normandy adventurer Robert Guiskardos managed to take up the north port of the island, the famous Fiskardo.
From 1185 to 1470 the island suffered from prospective conquerors. In all these years it met the dominance of Franks, Normands and suffered the Turkish Dynasty.
While from 1479-1481 and 1485-1500 the island is under the possession of Ottoman Empire.
In 1500 Kefalonia is under the possession of Venetians, who manage to keep it for about 300 years. Kastro is then the island’s capital, southwest of Argostoli in Peratata village.
In 1757 Argostoli becomes the capital, due to the port’s location. The influence of Venetians in the island’s culture – as in all Ionian islands – is visible even today.
In 1797, after the signature of Kambo Formio convention, Ionian islands come to the hands of France. During this period, art and literature bloom in the island. Schools are established, the national library and the printery.
Kefalonites along with the other Ionian islands try to accomplish the independence of all Ionian islands.
In 1800 the “State of Seven United Islands”, is the first independent Greek state with its own constitution and flag. But occurrences and insurrections continue and break the State of Seven United Islands and the assignment of Kefalonia to France.
British dominance – Coalition to Greece
In 1809 British come to the island, after a requirement of residents who asked for their help in order to be delivered from French captivity.
In November 1815 was assigned a convention, according to which all Ionian islands were named “United States of Ionian Islands” under the protection of Great Britain.
The 1953 earthquakes
In August 12th 1953 a severe earthquake occurred in Kefalonia. The earthquake of 6,5 – 7 Richter and 58 sec. destroyed the island completely. Entire villages were razed and hundreds of people lost their life. And they would be even more if the forewarning concussions didn’t force them to go away from densely populated areas.
Humanitarian forces from all over the world came to Kefalonia. Towns and villages were built form the start and people managed to find the strength to go on with their lives.
The only place that stayed unaffected from the earthquake was Fiskardo, in the north part of the island. It is the only region keeping the island’s traditional architecture.