Kefalonia History Facts and Timeline

(Kefalonia, Ionian Islands, Greece)

The history of Kefalonia is quite extensive, stretching back to the Stone Age and boasting fabulous input from the Mycenaeans. The island has numerous interesting villages, many of which feature charming Venetian buildings, as well as ancient archaeological sites. An earthquake in the 1950s unfortunately destroyed many sites, although the island has bounded back.

Archaeological sites in south-west Kefalonia suggest that people were living here in Palaeolithic times (perhaps as long ago as 50000 BC), and these same sites feature remnants of the Venetians' time here. In addition, the impressive Tholos tomb of the Mycenaeans dates from around 1300 BC. This was Kefalonia's most important era and many items from these digs can be seen in the popular Archaeological Museum of Argostoli.

Kefalonia was split into states early on, namely Krani, Palli, Pronnoi and also Sami, when the island was referred to as Tetrapolis (four cities). These independent cities were well developed, while Sami's Acropolis is one of Kefalonia's standout historic sites, dating from 500 BC and lying amid stark surrounds. Tourists at Antisamos Beach can reach the Acropolis easily.

Roman-Byzantine Times

During Kefalonia's early history, the Romans ruled from 187 BC, using the site as a naval base in order to take Greece proper. Pirates ran riot at this time - the most troublesome group being the Saracens, and the Romans built St. George Castle as a result. They also left behind many relics, including a recently uncovered grave complex in Fiskardo (Fiscardo) and the Roman Villa at Skala, famed for its fine mosaic floors.

Raids went on right through the Byzantine period, which stretched through to the 11th and 12th centuries. Roger II Cicely and Margaritonis both played a part in the course of Kefalonia history - the latter bandit opening the way to Frankish rule.

Venetian Beautification

The Venetians' arrival marked a period in Kefalonia's history that was characterised by aristocracy and social unrest. The Venetians remained in charge for three centuries and left many attractive buildings, with some of the best being located within the village of Fiskardo. They also built a castle in Assos, which remains the biggest on the island.

France had a hand in making history in Kefalonia, taking over from the Venetians at the end of the 18th century. Their rule was short due to clashes with the Turks and Russians, and ultimately they lost the island to the British in 1809. However, it was not until 1864 that the island was reunited with Greece.

Contemporary Kefalonia

Italy occupied the island during part of WWII, although the Germans turned on the Italians after they refused to leave and executed thousands of soldiers. Argostoli was bombed, and further misery came post-war in 1953 after a major earthquake struck, killing many people and flattening countless ancient sites. Venetian buildings were destroyed in Argostoli and the Moving Rock (Kounopetra) famously stopped moving. The discovery of the Melissani Cave was a minor highlight.

The history of Kefalonia started to change in the 1980s through much-needed income from tourism. The population decline that had been occurring finally reversed in 2001 and today, the island is being rapidly developed with holiday makers in mind.