The island is supposed to own its name from Kephalos who was the first king of the area, during the Palaeolithic Era. According the locals, this king founded the four main cities of the island which were Sami, Pahli, Krani and Pronnoi, named after the king’s sons. This explains why the island was called Tetrapolis (Four Towns) during this period. Those four cities were autonomous and independent and they had their own regimes and coins.
Kefalonia (Cephalonia) participated in the Persian and Peloponnesian War and supported both Athens and Sparta. Philip of Macedonia tried to attack the island in 218 BC but was defeated with the help of the Athenians. The Romans took the island in 187 BC after months of confrontation against the resistance of the island’s inhabitants. The Romans used the island as a strategic spot that would help them conquer the mainland, so they turned Kefalonia in an important naval base. During this period, the island suffered gravely and frequently from invaders and pirate raids. The threat of the pirates continued and grew during the Byzantine period (from the 4th century AD). The most dangerous pirates were the North African ones, the Saracens.
The first Turkish attack was effectuated by the famous Ahmed Pasha, in 1480. Pasha and his troops ruled on the island for a short period of time but, when they left, they devastated the island. Following the faith of the rest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia came under the domination of the Venetians and the Spanish. The political and military center of the island during this period was Saint Georgios Fortress but because it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1757, the capital moved to Argostoli, where it still is today.
During the Venetian domination the atmosphere was quite conflictive because the island’s society was divided into three classes and the noble class, which was the wealthiest and more powerful, had all the privileges and used them against the other social classes.
The Venetian rule ended in 1797 with the arrival of the French who were warmly welcomed by the island’s inhabitants because Napoleon promised them to liberate them (and the rest of the Ionian Islands) from the oligarchic system created by the Venetians. The French publicly burnt the Golden Book where the names and privileges of the nobles were written.
The French were defeated by the allied fleet of the Russians, the Turks and the English. The Ionian State was founded in Constantinople in 1800 and was under the Sultan's supervision. The nobles of Kefalonia island took their privileges back.
After popular demand democratic elections were organized in 1802 and a new Constitution was established in 1803.
Kefalonia island fell again under French domination in 1807 but the new Constitution was maintained. After the Treaty of Paris, in 1809, the Ionian Islands came under the rule of the English and the “United States of the Ionian Islands” was established. During the English period various important constructions of public interest were constructed.
Despite the fact that Kefalonia, like the other Ionian Islands, remained under the English rule and escape the Turkish yoke, its inhabitants financially helped the Greek Revolution for independence against the Ottomans who were ruling on the major part of Greece.
Kefalonia was finally united to the rest of independent Greece in 1864 with the rest of the Ionian Islands.
During World War II, in 1941, the island was occupied by the Italian troops which were allied with the Germans.
In 1943, Italy capitulated and its troops refused to leave from Kefalonia. As a punishment, the German forces killed more than 5000 Italian soldiers. This fact was described in the famous book (that became a movie) "Captain Corelli’s Mandolin", written by Louis de Bernieres.
In August 1953, the major part of Kefalonia island was destroyed by a huge earthquake.
During the first exploration in 1951, an ancient lamp, which is now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli, was found there. The excavations of 1962 were made by S. Marinos and produced few but important relics of a former Minoan culture on Cephalonia. Oil lamps, plates and figures show the god Pan and several nymphs. This is, why the cave is sometimes called Cave of the Nymphs. The lake was named after one of the nymphs, the nymph Melissanthi.
Lake Melissani has an absolute invisible specialty, which sounds pretty strange. The lake water is brackish, a mixture of sea water and sweet water. The cave is about 500m from the sea, and the water level is a meter higher than sea level, and the brackish water rises from a 30m deep cave system on one side of the cave and flows silently to the other end of the cave, flowing through narrow crevices into the sea.Here the water from the Katavothres on the other side of the island reappears. This was discovered by dye tracing experiments in 1959.
The cavern, once two big chambers, caved in several thousand years ago. Today the cave has the shape of a B, with two big water filled halls and an island in the middle. The first hall has a big oval opening to the surface, where the sunlight shines in. When the sun is directly overhead, its rays strike the ultramarine water, lighting the cave with blue light. So the best time to visit the cave is on a sunny day at the middle of the day. Nevertheless, a visit at the morning or in the evening has its own atmosphere. The boats seem to hover on a lake of blue light.
Melissani Boat Trip
Melissani Cave History
1951 first exploration by Ioannis Petrocheilos, discovery of an ancient lamp on the central hill.
1959 dye tracing experiments by Ioannis Petrocheilos, Maurin, and Zölt revealed the connection to the Katavothres.
1962 excavations on the central hill.
1963 entrance tunnel built, cave opened to the public.
Drogarati's Cave, which is close to Sami, was discovered 300 years ago, when a part of it was destroyed because of a strong earthquake, and so the entrance was created. The cave's depth is 60 meters from the ground level, the temperature is 18 C and the humidity is 90%. Initially, the cave was developed and used by the community of Haliotata, under the supervision of the speleologist Mrs. Petrocheilos,and since 1963 it is open for the public.
Speleologists have confirmed that the cave has an extention, that, however is not approachable. That means that the cave is probably connected with other caves in the area. It's got many stalactites and stalagmites created from the rain, which comes through the rocky level of the cave, it corroses it and deposits its elements on the edge of the stalactites. A stalactite grows one cm every 100 years. Unfortunately, many stalactites are broken, some of them because of the earthquakes, some others because of human lack of sense for the magnificent natural piece of work. Tthe big hall of the cave (900m2), is called "Sala of Apotheosis" because of its perfect acoustics. It's therefore also used for concerts and other shows.
Kefalonia Musuems and Churches
Agios Gerasimos - The patron saint of Kefalonia
The Monastery of Our Lady Themata
Built during the 11th century nearby the village of Agia Efimia, in the middle of a verdant forest, on the slopes of the second highest mountain of Kefalonia, Agia Dinati. According to popular stories, the people of the island where praying the miraculous icon of the Virgin Themata (meaning “matters” in Greek) to ask solutions for their problems.
The Monastery of Panagia Atrou
The Monastery of Panagia Atrou is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is standing at an altitude of 500 meters, on the top of a green hill, a few kilometers of the village of Poros. First built during the 8th century, it is the oldest monastery of Kefalonia and is supposed to have been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times. The monastery celebrates its feast day on the 8th of September.
The Church of the Virgin Mary Lagouvarda
Situated in the village of Markopoulos, the church of the Virgin Mary Lagouvarda was built on the site where a monastery used to stand and which had been destroyed by the Turks. Urban legend says that in 1705 the monastery was attacked by pirates and the frighten nuns prayed the Virgin to be changed into snakes in order to escape from the cruelty of the pirates. Their prayers where answered and, at the sight of the snakes, the pirates ran away; since then, the nuns-snakes return each year to the monastery, bringing good luck and prosperity to the village. This legend explains the phenomenon that happened every August the 15th, on the Virgin Mary’s feast day: a large number of harmless snakes come around the monastery just for this day and then disappear.
Agia Barbara Monastery
The town of Sami is built at the foot of the Agioi Fanendoi and Palaiokastro hills. Excavations have brought to light parts of the two citadels and the Cyclopean fortification walls of the ancient city which stood north of the present town. It had fortification walls with 22 entrances, was 3,400 acres in length, and 377.6 acres in area. The excavation site also includes parts of an ancient aquaduct, traces of an ancient theatre, buildings, a part of a Roman edifice known as "Rakospito", and three 3d century BC tombs. There are also numerous findings on display in the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli. Ancient Sami was a prosperous and powerful town. It was founded by Agaios, son of Arkadia's king Lykourgos. It had been settled since the Paleolithic times. During classical and Hellenistic times Sami flourished because of the growth of trade and the exploitation of mount Ainos' timber. Thucydides speaks of the four cities of Kefalonia of which Sami was one. The citadels were built during the Hellenistic period. Ruins of ancient Sami are also preserved in the contemporary town of Sami.
The Archaeological Museum
In the chambers of the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli, one can admire findings during excavations on the island. Some of the exhibits are the findings from the Mycenaean Tums of Mazarakata and Metaxata, sculpts, pots from the prehistoric and the post-mycenaean era, tombstones, coins, seals, small objects and copper weapons. The exhibits are dated back to geometric and the ancient era, the classical period, the hellenistic, the roman period and the byzantine era. The most significant of the exhibits are a bronze head of the 3rd century BC and the sign "Tripis Damatri Ke Kora " of the 6th - 7th century BC, dedicated to goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The sign was found in the location of ancient Krani.
Korgialenio Historical and Folk Museum
Korgialenio Historical and Folk Museum is situated in the center of Argostoli. It was established in 1966, in an area of 300 sq. m. The Museum exhibits the local costumes, furniture and embroidery of Kefalonia. Other exhibits includes heirlooms and other ecclesiastic items, pictures, paintings, maps, manuscripts, coins, jewels, silver and metal craft works and much more. In a special chamber in the museum's basement, the Historical Archives of Kefalonia display historical manuscripts from the 16th-19th centuries, depicting several historical periods. The building also houses the Library of the same name.
The Ecclesiastical Museum of Apostle Andreas of Milapedia
The Natural History Museum
Established by the Society for the Protection of the Environment of the islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca, the Natural History Museum is located in the village of Davgata. This museum was founded in order to preserve the natural environment of Kefalonia and Ithaca and make people care about it and protect it. Precious and interesting information about the fauna and flora of both islands are presented.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin in Kefalonia (Cephalonia)
Kefalonia's beautiful bays & beaches
Most of the filming took place in Sami, a village 9 km south of Agia Efimia, where a huge and beautiful set was built. The campsite of the Italians was built on the beach of Antisamos bay (see left). North of Agia Efimia village you will find the bay shown above (where part of the filming took place), and it can be reached in ten minutes by boat. Myrtos beach, which is shown to the left and on top of this page was used in the film as well and is situated approximately 5 minutes by car west of Agia Efimia. Myrtos Bay (left) is where the bomb explosion on the beach took place in the film.
The set built in Sami and towards Antisamos Beach:
"Argostoli Town and Pelagia's Village"