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KEFALONIA'S HISTORY UP TO IT'S UNIFICATION

 

 

Kefalonia was first inhabited before 6000 bc with finds of flint tools and fossilized animal bones dated to an even earlier period, providing evidence that the island was one of the first inhabited areas of Greece. A wealth of these remains have been found in and around Poros, Skala, Fiskardo and Sami. The island flourished within the Mycenaean era with a large civilisation developing in terms of cultural and social progress, the inhabitants becoming great seafarers in the quest of defiant Odysseus.

 

It is believed that Lixouri, or possibly even the whole island, was known as Taphios after its first ruler, King Taphios. The island's first recorded inhabitants were the Taphians from Mycenae in the Peloponnese. The Taphians trying to expand their lands and believing it to be part of their inheritance demanded part of King Electryon of Mycenae's domain. He refused and when Taphios's son Pterelaus went on to steel a herd of his oxen he was incensed. Electryon engaged the help of Amphityon, The King of Thebes, to overthrow them. This he did with the help of Kefalos of Attica and Eleios who in turn were given different parts of the island as their spoils of war, Elios (which still retains its name today) is in the south of the island. Kefalonia was divided into four administrative units, these Tetrapolis cities were Pali (today's Lixouri), Krani (on the outskirts of Argostoli), Sami and Proni and are all said to have been named after the hero Kefalos's four sons.

 

Many wars followed, notably around 1100 - 800 bc, leading to the fortification of the cities with impressive walls. In 189 bc the Romans invaded and besieged Sami for four months, eventually the inhabitants where forced to surrender and sold as slaves and the citadel was ransacked.

During the Byzantine Period unbearably heavy taxes were imposed on the populace, at the same time, violent pirate raids began all over the island. When the Normans overran Kefalonia, the capital, the Byzantine citadel of Saint George, was made the administrative centre. Then it was the turn of the Francs and Venetians to occupy the island until the Turks destroyed most everything. The Venetians regained sovereignty and rebuilt after the deluge left by the Turks, including rebuilding much of the Castle. The gulf of Kefalonia was transformed into a strategic base for the Venetian fleet and, with the return of stability, trade increased, after which in 1757 the capital was relocated to Argostoli. Following the fall of Venice to Napolean, the French and then the Russians governed. In 1809, the British under the Swiss commander Philip de Bosset assumed control. He and his successor Sir Charles Napier constructed many public buildings with de Bosset constructing the famous Thrapano bridge. He also formulated a plan for an entire new road network that Napier later completed to an excellent standard with the citizensí help. In 1821 Kefalonians took an active part in the struggle for freedom against the Turks in the Greek Revolution. When Britain relinquished its mandate in 1864 Kefalonia joined with the other Ionian islands and were returned back to Greece. After the centuries of incessant conquerors various traits of each culture has been left and has always influenced the islanders, even affected their character. Possibly this above all has created the free spirit and thirst for travel that Kefalonians are renowned for.

 

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