History of Kefalonia Island

According to mythology, the island takes its name from King Kefalos. Other sources claim that the name comes from ancient people known as Kefallenes or from the fact that Kefalonia is the largest island in the Ionian Sea and thus constitutes the “kefali” or head of this group of islands. During the Trojan War, it lent its support to the king of Ithaca, Odysseus. Kefalonians took part in the Persian Wars, and finally in the 4th century BC they became members of the Athenian Confederacy. Around 50 BC the entire island fell under Roman rule. During the Byzantine period Kefalonia was often raided and plundered by pirates. Between the 11th and 12th centuries the island suffered repeated destructive raids initially by the Normans and later by Crusaders of the First Crusade. At the end of the first Turko-Russian War [1463-1479] the Turks took over Kefalonia along with Lefkas and Ithaca. It was later retaken by the Venetian Tocco family, then came into Venetian hands and finally was conquered by the Turks in 1484. In 1500 the Venetians once more took possession of the island, which remained under their domination until 1797. The French became masters of the island in 1807, followed by the British [1809-1864]. After the end of the British rule the Ionian Islands were united with Greece on May 21st 1864.

Kefalonians also took an active part in the Greek War of Independence, by contributing men and ships. During World War II and the German occupation many Kefalonians participated in the resistance movement and suffered severe reprisals. Kefalonia’s tribulations were not yet over with liberation from the Nazis in 1945. On a summer’s day in August 1953 a terrible earthquake struck the island. The violent seismic shocks flattened the beautiful town of Argostoli, destroying its traditional houses, its churches, tall belfries, stately mansions and farmhouses. Most of the island became a mound of ruble forcing many Kefalonians to immigrate.

In recent decades Kefalonia has experienced rapid growth in its infrastructures, economy, and social conditions. Many expatriate Kefalonians have found their way back to the homeland contributing to the flourishing tourism industry.

History

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