Kefalonia, a brief history

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cephalonia

History

An aition explaining the name of Cephallenia and reinforcing its cultural connections with Athens associates the island with the mythological figure of Cephalus, who helped Amphitryon of Mycenae in a war against the Taphians and Teleboans.[3] He was awarded with the island of Same, which thereafter came to be known as Cephallenia. Cephalonia has also been suggested as the Homeric Ithaca, the home of Odysseus, rather than the smaller island bearing this name today. Robert Bittlestone, in his book Odysseus Unbound, has suggested that Paliki, now a peninsula of Cephalonia, was a separate island during the late Bronze Age, and it may be this that Homer was referring to when he described Ithaca. A project starting in the Summer of 2007, and lasting three years examines this possibility. Cephalonia is also referenced in relation to the goddess Britomartis, as the location where she is said to have ‘received divine honours from the inhabitants under the name of Laphria’.

Archaeology Coins from Pale/Pali the ancient town north of Lixouri. In the Southwest of the island, in the area of Leivatho, an ongoing archaeological field survey by the Irish Institute at Athens has discovered dozens of sites, with dates ranging from the Palaeolithic to the Venetian period. From archaeological point of view Cephalonia is an extremely interesting island. Archaeological findings go back to 40,000 BP. Without any doubt the island’s most important era is the Mycenaean era from approx. 1500-1100 B.C. The archaeological museum in Cephalonia’s capital Argostoli – although small – is regarded as the most important museum in Greece for its exhibits from this era.

The most important archaeological discovery in Cephalonia (and in Greece) of the past twenty years was the discovery in 1991 of the Mycenaean tholos tomb at the outskirts of the village Tzanata, near Poros, Kefalonia in south-eastern Cephalonia (Municipality of Elios-Pronni) in a lovely setting of olive trees, cypresses and oaks. The tomb was erected around 1300 B.C. Kings and high ranked officials were buried in these tholos tombs during the Mycenaean period. It is the biggest tholos-tomb yet found in north-western Greece. The tomb was excavated by the archaeologist Lazaros Kolonas. The size of the tomb, the nature of the burial offerings found there and its well-chosen position point to the existence of an important Mycenaean town in the vicinity. In late 2006, a Roman grave complex was uncovered as excavations took place for the construction of a new hotel in Fiscardo. The remains date to the period between the 2nd century B.C. and the 4th century A.D. Archaeologists described this as the most important find of its kind ever made in the Ionian Islands. Inside the complex five burial sites were found, including a large vaulted tomb and a stone coffin, along with gold earrings and rings, gold leaves which may have been attached to ceremonial clothing, glass and clay pots, bronze artefacts decorated with masks, a bronze lock and bronze coins. The tomb had escaped the attentions of grave robbers and remained undisturbed for thousands of years. In a tribute to Roman craftsmanship, when the tomb was opened the stone door swung easily on its stone hinges. Very near to the tomb a Roman theatre was discovered, so well preserved that the metal joints between the seats were still intact. [edit]Monasteries Across the broader island, two large monasteries are to be found: the first is that of Haghia Panagia, in Markopoulo to the southeast, and the other lies on the road between Argostoli and Michata, on a small plain surrounded by mountains. This second has an avenue of about 200 trees aligned from NW to SE, with a circle in the middle, and is the monastery of Saint Gerasimus of Kefalonia, patron saint of the island, whose relics can be seen and venerated at the old church of the monastery.

Venetian rule Further information: Ionian Islands under Venetian rule Cephalonia born Greeks of the 18th century. Petros Melissinos (ca. 1726 – 1797) (left) and Spiridonos Louzis ( ca. 1741 – 1815) (right).[5] During the Middle Ages, the island was the center of the Byzantine theme of Cephallenia. After 1185 it became part of the County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos under the Kingdom of Naples until its last Count Leonardo III Tocco was defeated by the Ottomans in 1479. The Turkish rule lasted only until 1500, when it was captured by a Spanish-Venetian army, a rare Venetian success in the Ottoman–Venetian War (1499–1503). From then on Cephalonia and Ithaca remained overseas colonies of the Venetian Republic until its very end, following the fate of the Ionian islands, completed by the capture of Lefkas from the Turks in 1684. The Treaty of Campoformio dismantling the Venetian Republic awarded the Ionian Islands to France, a French expeditionary force with boats captured in Venice taking control of the islands in June 1797. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, it was one of the largest exporters of currants in the world together with Zakynthos and owned a large shipping fleet, even commissioning ships from the Danzig shipyard. The towns and villages mostly were built high on hilltops, to prevent attacks from raiding parties of pirates that sailed the Ionian Sea during the 1820s. [edit]French, Ionian state period and British Rule From 1797 to 1798, the island was part of the French départment Ithaque. From 1799 to 1807, it was part of the Septinsular Republic, nominally under sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire but protected by Russia. After a second period under French control (1807–1809), it was conquered by Great-Britain in October 1809 and became a dependency of the British Empire, named the United States of the Ionian Islands from 1815 to 1864.

Union with Greece In 1864, Cephalonia, together with all the other Ionian Islands, became a full member of the Greek state.

World War II Further information: Axis occupation of Greece during World War II In World War II, the island was occupied by Axis powers. Until late 1943, the occupying force was predominantly Italian – the 33rd Infantry Division Acqui plus Navy personnel totalled 12,000 men – but about 2,000 troops from Nazi Germany were also present. The island was largely spared the fighting, until the armistice with Italy concluded by the Allies in September 1943. Confusion followed on the island, as the Italians were hoping to return home, but German forces did not want the Italians’ munitions to be used eventually against them; Italian forces were hesitant to turn over weapons for the same reason. As German reinforcements headed to the island the Italians dug in and, eventually, after a referendum among the soldiers as to surrender or battle, they fought against the new German invasion. The fighting came to a head at the siege of Argostoli, where the Italians held out. Ultimately the German forces prevailed, taking full control of the island, and five thousand of the nine thousand surviving Italian soldiers were executed as a reprisal by German forces. While the war ended in central Europe in 1945, Cephalonia remained in a state of conflict due to the Greek Civil War. Peace returned to Greece and the island in 1949.

The Great Earthquake of 1953 Main article: 1953 Ionian Earthquake Cephalonia is just to the east of a major tectonic fault, where the European plate meets the Aegean plate at a slip boundary. This is similar to the more famous San Andreas Fault. There are regular earthquakes along this fault. A series of four earthquakes hit the island in August 1953, and caused major destruction, with virtually every house on the island destroyed. The third and most destructive of the quakes took place on August 12, 1953 at 09:24 UTC (11:24 local time), with a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale. Its epicentre was directly below the southern tip of Cephalonia, and caused the entire island to be raised 60 cm higher, where it remains, with evidence in water marks on rocks around the coastline. This 1953 disaster caused huge destruction, with only regions in the north escaping the heaviest tremors and houses there remaining intact. Damage was estimated to run into tens of millions of dollars, equivalent to billions of drachmas, but the real damage to the economy occurred when residents left the island. An estimated 100,000 of the population of 125,000 left the island soon after, seeking a new life elsewhere.

[Recent history The seat of the united Cephalonia municipality. The forest fire of the 1990s caused damage to the island’s forests and bushes, especially a small scar north of Troianata, and a large area of damage extending from Kateleios north to west of Tzanata, ruining about 30 square kilometres of forest and bushes and resulting in the loss of some properties. The forest fire scar was seen for some years. In mid-November 2003, an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale caused minor damage to business, residential property, and other buildings in and near Argostoli. Damages were in the €1,000,000 range. On the morning of Tuesday September 20, 2005, an early-morning earthquake shook the south-western part of the island, especially near Lixouri and its villages. The earthquake measured 4.9 on the Richter scale, and its epicentre was located off the island at sea. Service vehicles took care of the area, and no damage was reported. Between January 24 and 26 of 2006, a major snowstorm blanketed the entire island, causing extensive blackouts. The island was recently struck yet again by another forest fire in the south of the island, beginning on Wednesday July 18, 2007 during an unusual heatwave, and spreading slowly. Firefighters along with helicopters and planes battled the blaze for some days and the spectacle frightened residents on that area of the island. The fire later burnt out, having consumed thousands of hectares of forests and bushes. It transformed a natural beauty into an undemanding scenery.

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