There are really a lot of myths associated with the mighty reign of Kefalonia, Kefallinia or Cephallenia. As said Apollodoro from Athens, the first king of Kefalonia was Thapius, son of Poseidon and king of Micenean people. Pterelaus, son of Thapius received from his grandfather Poseidon a gold hair as a present. This gold hair allowed him to be immortal until he had it on his head. Kefalonia island who had become meanwhile a really powerful empire, pretend to have part of Micenean reign, but the king Elettrione refused. The followers of Thapius stole all his sheep as a revenge and king Elettrione didn’t forgive them. When Anfitrione, king of Tebe, asked to marry his daughter Alcmena, Elettrione pretended to be revenged before. Anfitrione with the help of Cephalus and Eleius tried to organize the destruction of Thapius. It was almost impossible to win the immortal king but Comaetho, daughter of Pterelaus, felt in love with Anfitrione. During one night, while her father was sleeping, she cut the magic hair and Pterelaus was defeated.
Comaetho, due to her betrayal, was executed and Anfitrione went back to Tebe to his friend Cephalus with the booty. So many are the myths and the legends regarding Cefalus, the mythological heroes that gave the name to Kefalonia island. The most famous story tells about a strong and beautiful hunter that felt in love with Procri, daughter of Eretteus, king of Attic region. Ovidio tells us about one day when Cefalus, during his second month of marriage, went till the top of mount Hymettus with his nets to hunt a deer. Once on the top he met Eos that tried to kidnap him and left putting in Cefalus mind the idea that his wife was not faithful. Cefalus therefore, with a hidden identity, tried to seduce his woman and when she surrenders, he finally revealed his real identity. The woman escape till Crete mountains e become a hunter named Artemis. Artemis and Cefalus they met again each other in Kefalonia island during a hunting game. They stayed together for many and many years.
The face of Cefalus appears above many ancient coins and inspired both ancient historical scholars and modern artists.
Many scholars believe that the origin of Kefalonia’s name comes from Cephalus, and the name of the inhabitants, Kefaliotes, comes from “Cephales”. This word has its origins probably in the mountains of Kefalonia island or because Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian islands. The “Cephallenes”, inhabitants of a legendary reign that included Kefalonia, Ithaki, Zakynthos (Zante) and Lefkas are mentioned for the first time by the Greek poet Omer. Nobody know if “Taphus”, maybe Cephalo’s town, was the name of a city or the name of the whole island of Kefalonia. In the beginning it seems that Kefalonia island was managed by a unique reign, but Omer told us that Ulisse, during Troy war, left with 12 vessels from Sami. From this we can understand that others town were created in a second moment.
As pointed out in many fossils of plants, animals and bones found near Skala and Fiskardo and tools found in Sami, Kefalonia island was one of the first inhabited areas of Greece. Many scholar and archeologists agree to think that the island of Kefalonia had all the characteristics necessary for the demographic grow. Kefalonia island could be considered the barn of the Ionian island and its huge forest offered in the past a lot of wood to build ships and to develop commercial activities between Kefalonia and other ports.
Recent researches has pointed out that also some parts of Knosso palace were built using the lack fir of Kefalonia. This confirms the exceptional trade development of Kefalonia since ancient times. Its strategic geographic position gave to Kefalonia island the opportunity to be a commercial bridge between East and West. Different find of organized necropolis show us that Kefalonia was inhabited since the XI century B.C. The ancient “Achei” people that in the past colonized several areas like Sicily and Crete island they lived also in Kefalonia island, bringing together with them mythological heroes, gods Micenean civilization.
Also on Kefalonia island, as in the rest of Greece, when monarchies start to disappear, they were quickly replaced by oligarchies. Around the VIII century B.C. all the oligarchies had evolved into tyrannies and, near the end of the VII century, start to born the first democracies. After the decline of the tyranny in Kefalonia island born 4 powerful cities. Tucidide tells that they were autonomous and often had fight between themselves, as it is still proved by huge surrounding walls. The fist of these town that had a great political importance was the ancient Pali. Pali was from the beginning an important port for the “Corinzi” that were leaving Greece to travel until the coasts of Sicily. During the Peloponnese war (431 – 404 B.C.) all the four towns were fighting together with Athens. Soldiers from Athens used Kefalonia as strategic point to fight against their rivals of Corinth.
This was the first of a huge number of conquerors that passed through Kefalonia during the history. Every civilization that passed from Kefalonia island left a piece of their culture without killing local traditions and local culture. At the end of the Peloponnese war, in the period between 404 and 322 B.C., Kefalonia island is occupied first by soldiers from Sparti, after by soldiers from Athens and at the end by Macedonian king Philippos that instituted Koryntho’s assembly. Also Kefalonia island send sent some representative persons and was faithful with Macedonia empire also during Lamia battle against Greece. After the death of Alexander the Great, Kefalonia island have been included into the Aetolian league and this partnership brought great benefits for both. The Etoli could use Kefalonia as a strategic land to travel to Sicily, and Kefalonia was aloud to improve its trade business.
After the second Punic war (202 b c ) they were searching a reason to attack Philippos that created an alliance with the strategist Hannibal from Cartagine. The excuse was easily found, but the real reason was that Rome was planning to expand itself in Greece. The Etoli stipulated an alliance with the Romans, but as soon as they realised to have no benefits from this agreement, the established a partnership with the Greek king of Syria Antioco III. This event gave the Romans the excuse and the ambition to conquer the island of Kefalonia. In 198 b.c. Roma sent to Kefalonia island the consul Fulvio Nobili to ask to the four town to surrender and deliver 25 citizens as prisoners.
When the prisoners were delivered and everything seem to be quiet, the village of Sami clsed its door, thinking that the romans pretend the conquer the wholeb village. The siege last 4 months before the inhabitants of Sami gave up. In Kefalonia, between the 189 and 30 b.c. were lost all the privileges gained during the emperor of Etoli and Roma established in Kefalonia a strategic point to control the rest of Greece. When Constantine in 325 A.D. reorganized the Roman Empire, Kefalonia suffered precarious stability due to the constant attacks suffered by the Vandals and the Ostrogoths and the wars with the Romans forced the empires of Africa.
The next time the empire was reorganized in 629 to 634 under the leadership of Heraclius, was divided into small districts and this ensured more protection in Kefalonia, which became the headquarters of the islands belonging to the theme of Lombardy, regained some of its former glory. When Niceforus Foca defeated the Arabs in Crete in 961 the Ionian islands of Greece were freed from pirates and thrived until the Normans appeared on the scene
The Normans, with German origin, occupying the Scandinavian peninsula and in 1057 Robert Guiscard became their ruler. When Botaniatus Nicephorus deposed Emperor Michael VII and locked his wife Helen, daughter of Guiscard, in a monastery, the Normans had the excuse they needed.
In 1082 assembled an army and a fleet and attacked the Ionian Islands in Greece and, after conquering the island of Corfu (Kerkyra), had to give up against fierce resistance from Kefalonia and in particular the heroic city of Pali. Another son of Robert, Bohemond sought support in the powerful maritime cities in Italy and at the end of 1103 attacked the Ionian islands with the help of the Pisans. In July of 1185 Admiral of the Fleet Norman Margaritonis managed to take Corfu and Kefalonia, hundreds of people were executed, imprisoned and many different goods seized.
The capital of the Ionian Islands Kefalonia Greece was again, but this time the venue was the fortress of Agios Georgios and no longer in Pali. The heirs of the kingdoms of Sicily and Normandy did not keep good relations like their predecessors. In their battle, Margaritonis sided with the Normans; after the defeat he became pirate and later was taken prisoner by the Germans and died in Germany in 1194.
In 1204 the crusaders and the Venetians in Constantinople signed a treaty divedere the Byzantine Empire and the Greek islands passed into the hands of Venice. Ricardo, the son of Matteo Orsini, had the cunning to marry his son to the daughter of Ioannes The despot of Epirus who was also Count of Kefalonia. His son, in addition to inherit the titles of the family, killed the king of Epirus usurping the dowry of his sister and her husband William Tocco, equal to half of the island of Zakynthos. He recognized the emperor Andronicus II as its sovereign, and to increase his popularity, he renounced the Orsini family and adopted the name Angelus Ioannes Commeno. Its power end with his death at the hands of the king of Anjou in Naples.
In 1357 the King of Naples gave Leonardo I Tocco the islands of Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Ithaca and Lefkada to thank him for his services. The next hundred years were a period of great uncertainty because of the advancing Turks relentless conquering territories in Greece, in the second half of 1400 the Turks took possession of the islands of the Ionian with the exception of Corfu, and this was one of the worst period ‘s Kefalonia island had to cross.During the second war between the Turks and the Venetians (1499-1502) the fortress of Agios Georgios was besieged and rebuilt and in 1504, a new treaty gave Venice the control of the island.
While the rest of Greece the poplazioni were subject to cruel turkish domain, the Ionian islands, under Venetian rule, enjoyed relative comfort and gave birth to several businesses and agriculture including the production of raisins. The treaty signed with the Turkish guaranteed peace only on paper, because Kefalonia had to cope with many attempts to conquer it tried to solve in 1593 with the building of the fortress of Assos. Kefalonia began to increase its maritime trade, to have more than 200 large cargo ships and expanding its port area. In 1640 began a period of 15 years which saw the island of Kefalonia theater of tensions and feuds among the peasants and nobility noble and between Greek and Frankish nobility. In 1658 the government of Kefalonia was preparing to launch an attack on the island of Lefkada, which had become a base used by the Turks to launch attacks against other Ionian islands, but a violent earthquake shook the island of Kefalonia and razed the area of Lixouri by more than 300 victims.
Despite the earthquake that devastated Kefalonia and Zakynthos, their economy flourished with the trade, while the island of Crete, which was engaged in the war against the Turks, could no longer keep their tl step. Censuses of the period, preserved in the archives of Venice, speak of a population of Kefalonia was the largest of the Ionian Islands and drew refugees from the Peloponnese and Crete wealthy families who had escaped the war against the Turks.
In the period between 1760 and 1765 there was a violent period in Kefalonia clashes between families and families Anninos Metaxas. The Venetians took no part, and the inhabitants of Cephalonia, not feeling adequately protected, the thought that Russia had become one of the most important in Europe after the reforms of Peter the Great and his struggles against the Turks. Greece began to see Russia as a possible salvation from the domain turkish and a method to restore the Orthodox religion. In this very Greeks moved to Russia and many officers of Kefalonia had honors and awards during the reign of Catherine the Great Russia declared war against Turkey in 1768 and, after winning in Greece was made free practice of religion and the Greek Orthodox in Turkey were free to return home.
In 1789, the outbreak of the French Revolution and its consequences were also evident on the island of Kefalonia. In 1795, the commander of the French Napoleon Bonaparte declared war on Venice and, after defeat, sent military troops to take over the administration of the Ionian Islands of Greece. A democratic government known as Demarchion was established in the city of Argostoli, Kefalonia in other areas and in other islands. During this time, thanks to the influence of the French, there was a huge improvement in the intellectual life of the island of Kefalonia with the construction of new schools, colleges and libraries. This created a situation where the middle class revolted against the nobility and the peasantry refused to recognize the judicial authority and to recognize any obligation to the landowners.
In September 1798 the Russians and the Turks landed in Argostoli and replaced the French flag with the Russian, and their occupation was short-lived, but created the “State of the Ionian Sea” under the suzerainty of the Sultan, which lasted from 1800 to 1807 the year in which the French returned to take possession island.
After the French it was the turn of the British government who remained on the island from 1809 to 1864. An important figure in the early years of the English conquest was the Swiss military Carlo De Filippo Bossé who distinguished himself as a skilled politician, especially for jobs as the construction of roads, bridges, etc … but also his lieutenant Carlos Jaccobo Napier, who was superintendent of a series of public works, including the excellent Markato in Lixouri which was the first courthouse island of Kefalonia, with a capacity of 600 people.
This beautiful and famous structure stood until the earthquake of 1953. The feudal regime for the exploitation of the earth and the increasing awareness of the inhabitants of the occupants want the freedom and independence has led to many armed revolts, of which the most important one occurred in 1848/49, with the aim of reducing system, the change of the political classes but also union with Greece. Zervos, Mompheratos, Typaldos, Livadas and Iakovatos are among the celebrities who led the revolt of the people against England.
The Treaty of the Great Powers, established in London in 1863, decreed that the renunciation of England the protectorate of the Ionian islands and in May 1864 the island of Kefalonia was finally united with Greece. However, did not end the occupation that occurred again during the two World Wars, with serious consequences for the entire island of Kefalonia. During the Second World War Kefalonia was occupied by the Germans and by the Italians.
Famous has become the Massacre of the Acqui Division Italian by the Germans in 1943. There is a monument to Argostoli remember this terrible event that killed hundreds of Italian soldiers. With the war did not end all the problems of the island that recurred in a completely different form in 1953. On a day a devastating earthquake destroyed 90% of the households on the island, bringing an economic, social and geology disaster. The inhabitants of Kefalonia with a lot of willpower and hard work rebuilt the cities and their villages trying to reproduce the typical characteristics of the previous buildings.
Today we can think of Kefalonia island as one of the most beautiful vacation spots of the entire Mediterranean area. Fishing and agriculture play an important role in the economy but surely for an island located in the Mediterranean sea its the most important source of income. Its pristine beaches, its picturesque bays and above all the ability that had the people of Kefalonia to preserve their beautiful island have allowed the island to remain wild and well taken care of at the same time.
A parallel activity to tourism is the production and sale of oil, honey and wine, local products par excellence.In addition, in the mountains there are still cattle ranches and the island produces cheese, milk and yogurt. Flanked to agriculture is the local handicrafts provides the typical products of the island as a tourist objects carved in olive wood, jewels, embroidered fabrics and ceramics.