Although there are various theories regarding the origin of the island's name, according to mythology, Kefalonia was named after the legendary King Kefalos.

Kefalonia was first inhabited in the 10th century BC and by the 5th century BC was already divided into four autonomous city-states which constituted the 'Kefalonian Tetrapolis' : Krani, Palli, Sami and Pronous.

It took part in the Trojan War as part of the Kingdom of Odysseus; sent an army to fight in the Persian Wars and later became a member of the Athenian Alliance.

Archaeological excavations have brought to light finds that indicate the great development of the island during the Mycenaean period.  In around 50 BC Kefalonia was conquered by Rome, while during Byzantine rule the island suffered from marauding pirates.  Raids in the 11th and 12th centuries, by Normans and then knights of the First Crusade, were particularly destructive for the island. The Turks captured Kefalonia and the remaining Ionian Islands following the end of the first Russo-Turkish War of 1463 – 1479. The occupation of the island by the Tocco family marked the beginning of Venetian rule, which was briefly interrupted by the Turks again in 1484. The Venetians returned in 1500 and ruled the island until 1797.  They were succeeded by the French until 1809, when they were replaced by the British, who ruled from 1809 to 1864. Together with the other Ionian Islands, Kefalonia was united with Greece on the 21st of May, 1864.

During the 20th century Kefalonia shared the mixed fortunes of the Greek state, with periods of prosperity and political upheavals. During World War II many Kefalonians joined the armed resistance against the German occupation, with terrible consequences both for themselves and the island.

The recent history of the island is marked by the devastating earthquakes of August 1953. Kefalonia and the surrounding Ionian islands were struck by the full force of the quakes, which left nothing standing in their path. As a result, the only surviving examples of pre-earthquake architecture are located in the north of the island, which was less affected due its rocky terrain. The earthquakes forced many of the inhabitants to abandon the island as together with the buildings the economy of Kefalonia also collapsed.

In the decades following the major earthquake, Kefalonia was restored to its former prosperity through rebuilding and economic development. Gradually, many Kefalonians returned to their birthplace, and invested the savings they acquired as merchant seamen and immigrant workers. The largest investments were made in the tourism sector and thus Kefalonia today has a well developed tourist infrastructure, growing tourism and an increasing population. Apart from Kefalonians returning to their homeland, over the last few years the island has also become a popular destination to relocate for many citizens of other European countries.

    
Virtual tour

Discover Kefalonia