KEFALONIA & ITHACA THROW HISTORY
History of Kefalonia
From the stone tools found in Haliotata- Spilios position- and in Fournia peninsula in Fiscardo it has been concluded that Kefalonia has been inhabited since pre-historic times. Dr. G. Kavadias’ collection, which is exhibited at the Archeological Museum of Argostoli, proves that the first inhabitant of Kefalonia lived on the island before 50.000 B.C. A large number of findings and legends link the island to the prehistoric years.
Early Historic Years
“TETRAPOLIS” is how the historian Thucydides named the island. Kefalonia was divided into four City- States: Krani, Palli, Sami and Pronnoi. They were independent and autonomous Cities and their borders were determined by their natural ground formation. Etymologically and according to mythology the names of the City- States came from the names of the four sons of Kefalos. Their government was democratic. Many tombs in many different places of the island- Kokolata, Mazarakata, Razata, Tzannata, Kontogenada etc, – prove that Kefalonia was an important Mycenaean Center. In the Archeological Museum of Argostoli one can admire pre- Mycenaean, Mycenaean and Post- Mycenaean findings from these tombs. The Gods worshiped in Kefalonia show the connection of the island with mainland Greece. In Krani, Aenos, Pronnoi and Minies there are still remains of the temples dedicated to these Gods. Kefalonia was entirely conquered by the Romans in 188 B.C.
The Byzantine Years
During the early years of the Byzantine Era Kefalonia belonged to the Achaia province and later (9th- 11th century) there is evidence of the Kefalonian sector which aimed, due to its strategic position, to contribute to the defense of the vast Byzantine Empire.
From time to time the island suffered many and frequent raids. Robert Guiscard occupied the island temporarily as did Roger II of Cicely whose occupation finalized the secession of kefalonia from Byzantio.
The Frankish Rule
The great pirate Margaritonis essentially “opens” the postbyzantine era of the Frankish Rule. Sovereignty was taken over by the Orsini feudal in 1195 and was given to the house of Tocchi as a county in 1357. The short but tough Turkish occupation lasted 17 years and ended with the conquest of the Castle of St. George, the capital of the island, by the Venetians and the Spanish in 1500.
The Venetian, French and other conquerors.
The Venetian domination lasted 300 years. The French domination started in 1797 and brought about a new era of continuous political changes. Later the allied Russian and Turkish fleet foster the revolution against the French and in 1800- 1807 the “Eptanisos Politia” under the formal name “Politia ton Epta Enomenon Nison’ is created. The short French domination (1807- 1809) was halted by the British who stayed until 1864. All these successive revolutions and the appearance of the first socialist formations in our history, leading to the 21st of May 1864 when Kefalonia and Ithaca were re-united with Greece.
Contemporary Historical Events
From 1940 to 1943 Kefalonia was dominated by the Italians. In September 1943, during the Italian- German conflict, thousands of Italian soldiers from the Acqui division were slaughtered by the Germans. During the same period Argostoli and the settlements around were bombed by the German bombers resulting in many deaths and property destruction.
The short German domination was very trying for the population, as many resistance fighters were executed by the German occupation army only to be followed by the fierce civil war.
The earthquake of 1953 changed the island thoroughly and altered its course in history. Argostoli and most of the villages were totally ruined with a great number of injured and dead. In the years following the earthquake, migration and maritime employment emerged as the solution to unemployment. This resulted in a sharp decline in population and cultural, economic and social inertia.
The reversal comes about in the 80’s. In the 1981 census, the prefecture of Kefalonia rates first in population decline in Greece. Twenty years later, in the 2001 census, the island came first in population increase in Greece. Today it continues its dynamic development and is considered one of the most rapidly developing tourist areas in the whole country.
History of Ithaca
Anient Greek Mythology of Ithaka (Ithaca)
Ithaki (ancient Ithaka) is said to have taken its name from the island’s first settler, Ithacus, son of Poseidon and Amphimele. When he and his brothers, Neritus and Polyctor, grew up, they came to live on the island. Another myth has it that Ithacus was the son of Pterelaus and grandson of Taphius. Other experts believe that the name is from the Phoenician “Utica” (distant colony) or “Ithys” (cheerful, frank). the island’s conquerors gave it various names, such as Nericie, Val de Compare (Valley of the Godfather), Fiaki, and finally Thiaki.
Its most important hero, however, was not Ithacus, but resourceful Odysseus, the most popular character in Greek mythology and one of the most famous and best-loved heroes in Homer’s epics. Homer was a mythographer, and thus what he conveys lies somwehere between myth and reality.
Hermes and Chione, a nymph of snowy Mt. Parnassus, had a son, Aytolycus, who as he grew up proved himself adept at stealing and breaking oaths. At the same time another wily shepherd, Sisyphus, used to graze his sheep next to those of Autolycus. One would steal the other’s sheep, until Autolycus was defeated in a contest of trickery. Then he got the idea that a son born to his daughter Anticleia and Sisyphus would inherit both his parent’s cunning. Sisyphus, impatient to lie down with the fair maiden, didn’t wait until his wedding night. Laertes asked for Anticleia’s hand in marriage, when she had already become pregnant by Sisyphus (tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides).
Another myth says that Odysseus was the lawful son of Laertes and Anticleia, and that he was born in the cave on Mt. Niritos because it was raining. Autolycus named his grandson Odysseus, that is, hated by everyone (as Homer interprets it in the Odyssey). After he grew up, he visited his grandfather on Mt. Parnassus, where his knee was injured during a wild boar hunt. Odysseus was sure Helen of Troy was going to choose him for a husband. But she chose Menelaus, and Odysseus took Penelope, daughter of Icarius and Periboea or Polycaste.
In the beginning, Odysseus did not want to take part in the Trojan War, but he was finally forced to. He fought heroically and revealed his crafty, resourceful character, particularly in the ruse of the Trojan Horse, which brought about the fall of Troy. But his adventures were not over when the war ended, because he had by that time provoked the wrath of several gods. The winds blew him to Thrace, where he overcame Ismarus. From there he headed south, to the Land of the Lotus-Eaters, where whoever ate the fruit of the lotus wanted to stay. Then he sailed to northern Sicily and the land of the Cyclopes. The Cyclopes were terrible man-eating giants with one eye in the middle of their foreheads. One of them, Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, would have eaten Odysseus and his men, if Odysseus and not got him drunk and blinded him. Bound to the underbellies of the giant’s sheep, the prisoners tricked Polyphemus and escaped. This enraged Poseidon, and from that point on he was behind everything bad that befell Odysseus.
On the island of Aeolus, the god gave Odysseus the sack containing the winds; his curious companions, however, let loose the bad winds which blew them straight to the land of the man-eating Laestryogonians. Only one of Odysseus’ ships was saved, which reached the island of Aeaea, where Circe lived. She was a sorceress who turned passing sailors into swine. When his companions didn’t return to the ship, Odysseus went to see Circe himself. Hermes revealed her secret to him, and, after saving his companions, he stayed on the island for a month and had Telegonus by her. In the Land of the Cimmerians, the blind prophet Teiresias foresaw his future. Odysseus’ next adventure took place near the island of the Sirens – women above the waist and birds below. With their superb singing they caused ships to run against the rocks and then ate the sailors. Odysseus stopped up the ears of his companions and tied himself to the mast. Then he passed the monsters Scylla and Charybdis who caused storms and devoured shipwrecked sailors. Odysseus’ men persuaded him to put in at the island of Thrinacia. Unfavorable winds kept them there until some of them were so hungry that they slaughtered the sacred cattle of the Sun, who sank their ship, and only Odysseus survived. He landed on the island of Calypso, where he remained for years, until Zeus took pity on him and ordered Calypso to let him go. He built a wooden raft and after suffering Poseidon’s wrath once again, he was washed up on the island of the hospitable Phaecians. He stayed with them for a short time and finally made it home to Ithaca. There Athena transformed him into a beggar and he went to his palace, where certain noblemen, the so called suitors of Penelope, were now living and squandering his wealth while they waited for her to choose one of them to marry. But she kept using various ruses to postpone making a decision. Odysseus appeared at the appropriate moment and killed them.
Homer’s tale ends here, but tradition has given us two versions of Odysseus’ death: one, that the relatives of the suitors forced him to leave the island, and he died in Tyrrenia in Italy at an advanced age, and the other that Teiresias’ prophecy was fulfilled; Odysseus had to appease Poseidon by taking an oar and going to a country where where the people would ask him what it was he was carrying. There he was to sacrifice to Poseidon and then return home, but death would finally come to him on the sea. With regard to his death, Eugamon the Cyrenaean said that he dreamt his son would kill him, so he decided to exile Telemachus to Kefalonia. But his other son, Telegonus, arrived and plundered and ravaged the land until Odysseus tried to stop him. Telegonus killed his father with a spear tipped with a poisoned fish-bone.
The Olympian gods, particularly Athena, Hera, Apollo and his sister, Artemis, were worshipped in Ithaka.
Meet the history of Ithaka (Ithaca)
Ithaki was first inhabited in 4000-3000 BC. Information about its first inhabitants who were indigenous Greeks, comes from shards incised with the Linear A script found in Pilikata. Finds from the Pilikata settlement and Loizos Cave date back as far as 3000-2000 BC. By 1500 BC, the whole island was inhabited. The island’s civilization reached a high point in 1000 BC, when the kingdom of Ithaca included the other Ionian islands and part of the coast of Arcanania. The decline that followed was mainly due to exhaustion of the soil. The northern part of the island, however remained inhabited and under cultivation. After 180 BC Ithaki was part of the Roman province of Illyria.
Later its port town, Polis or Jerusalem, was built; Anna Comnene refers to it in her “Alexias”. The port was gradually abandoned and sank into the sea after the earthquake in 967 AD. In 1086 the first pirates appeared on the scene. In 1185, Ithaki was conquered by the Normans, who ceded it in 1200 to the Orsini family. The Orsinis remained rulers of the island until 1357, when the king of Naples handed it over to the Tocco family. The Turks sacked Ithaki, along with the rest of the Ionian islands, in 1479. Material damage was tremendous, many hostages were sold as slaves. Of the remaining population, many abandoned the island. When war broke out between the Turks and the Venetians in 1499, Ithaki, sharing the fate of neighbouring Kefalonia, was signed over in a treaty to the Venetians. The Venetian senate, concerned about the reduction in population due to fear of pirates and the Turks, granted lands to anyone who would come back, and exempted them from taxation. Many people were attracted by this offer, most of them from mainland Greece, which was suffering under the Turkish yoke.
In 1569 Ithaki was fortified for the first time. But the Venetian governors, taking advantage of the people’s poverty and ignorance, often acted unjustly and sometimes committed acts of violence. Despite this the island’s population increased to 10,000 and the the dawn of the 17th century found Ithaki’s land under cultivation; the island had also put together a commercial fleet that was carrying on trade with Europe. This fleet took part in all the battles for freedom from the Turks up to 1821.
In 1798, the democratic French took over the Ionian islands but held them for only a year. Despite the heavy taxes they levied, their new revolutionary ideas were conveyed to the islanders. The Russians and Turks succeeded the French and a 14-member senate governed democratically until 1807. French rule returned for another two years, and in 1809 the English occupied the Ionian Islands and formed the “United States of the Ionian Islands”.
During the Revolution of 1821, the Ithaki islanders joined the Friendly Society, taking part in its activities and offering a place of refuge to fugitive Greeks. It was in Galatsi in Romania that Ithacans first began the Revolution in 1821. Two waves of emigration, one in 1829 and the other in 1845, made the Ithacans famous as sailors and merchants abroad. Union with Greece in 1864, of which T. Paizis and the Radical Party were strong supporters, came at a time when Ithaki was a significant power, both in commerce and shipping.
Like the whole Ionian area, Ithaki has been stricken by repeated earthquakes. According to Partsch, the most violent occurred in 1648. There were other earthquakes in 1766, 1876, and between 1912 and 1918. Extensive devastation was caused by the 1953 earthquake.
On May 1, 1941 the Italian annexation began, and September 24, 1943 saw the beginning of the German occupation, which lasted only a year.
Archaeological Museum of Vathy
The museum contains excavation finds from Aetos, dating from the Geometric to the Roman period and a remarkable collection of finds dated to the Geometric period.
The most important items of the exhibition are:
– Ring-shaped vase. It has angular walls and is decorated with narrow bands on the sides of the ring, hatched triangles on the neck, and panels with diagonals on the handle. Dated to the end of the Late Geometric period.
– Votive inscription that mentions goddesses Athena and Hera. It was found at Polis Cave and dates from the Late Archaic period.
Archaeological Collection of Stavros
It contains various finds from north Ithaca, spanning the period from the Early Helladic to the Roman periods.
The museum was built in 1933. In 1994 the exhibition was rearranged and the building was repaired.
The most important items of the exhibition are:
– Fragments of large, bronze tripods from Polis Cave. Dated to the 9th-8th centuries B.C.
– Clay plate with a representation of a cock. It was found at Polis Cave and dates to the 7th century B.C.
– Clay mask. Fragments of a mask with an incised inscription. Dated to the 1st or the 2nd century B.C.
– Stone relief bearing a representation of dancing Nymphs. It was found at Polis Cave and dates to the Hellenistic period.