Kefalonia is said to be one of the first inhabited places in Greece as findings as far back as 50,000 BC have been discovered. Civilisation first peaked on the island during the late Mycenaean era 1360-1100.
In the early civilisation of Mycenaean times, Kefalonia was a leading island at the start of the trading industry and supplied many of the other islands. It produced olive oil, wine and fruit and its vast forests provided timber to build ships and further develop trade, deriving a great part of itss wealth from the forests of Mount Ainos. Recent research suggests that the columns in the palace at Knossos were made from Cephalonian Fir Trees! During the Venetian occupation, Kefalonia was considered the granary for the other Ionian islands.
In ancient times the island was divided into the four states of Sami,Pronnoi, Krani and Pali. Favourite gods of the time were Zeus, Demeter, Apollo, Poseidon, Dionysos, Heracles, Athens and Artemis. Altars and temples were made for the sacrifices and ceremonies and nowadays villas are named after them!
Around 50 BC the island was ruled by the Roman Caius Antonius and it was a period of bad administration by the greedy Romans and pirate attacks from the Turks. Things brightened up by early 2nd century AD when the island was under the Antonines.
The Byzantine period 330-1185 does not seem to have offered better prospects than the Romans with continued lack of administration and regular pirate attacks.
In 1082 the Normans landed on Kefalonia and started a series of attacks so that by 1147 the island was once more occupied by Normans until an alliance with the Venetians in 1209.
Te Turks managed to land on Kefalonia in 1479 having wanted to dominate the Ionians as they gradulaly took over the rest of Greece after the fall of Constantinople. But in 1500 the Venetians with Spanish help captured the Castle of Saint George and continued to rule and develop the island.
In 1797 the French under Napoleon took the Ionian islands and the people of Kefalonia celebrated for a while. When France was defeated the island was run by a Russo-Turkish aristocratic system previously abolished by the French and later the Kefalonians were deprived of their political rights.
By 1820 Britannia ruled the waves and the first British Lord High Commissioner Sir Thomas Maitland unpopularly declared total control over the island's affairs. But the Kefalonians were more concerned with a higher goal of liberating Greece from its Turkish rule and some assisted in the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence.
Things improved after the death of Maitland and the much respected Lord Napier organised many public works on the island. The fight for freedom of speech continued until Queen Victoria afreed to free elctions in 1850. Five years later Gladstone set the wheels in motion for the Ionians to be reunited with the rest of Greece.
1865 the Kefalonians celebrated getting rid of British rule and being reunited with the rest of Greece. The photo above does not do justice the the band-playing that would have been heard on 21st May 1865.