Everytime a text about Greece’s history is to be written, Georgios Seferis, the famous, Nobel prized, Greek poet and his speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10th 1963, comes to mind:

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

“I belong to a small country. A rocky promontory in the Mediterranean, it has nothing to distinguish it but the efforts of its people, the sea, and the light of the sun. It is a small country, but its tradition is immense and has been handed down through the centuries without interruption”.
Georgios Seferis

As part of Greece, Kefalonia is a place full of history. This idyllic island is not only famous because of Odysseus, King of Ithaca – probably today’s Kefalonia- and the Homeric epic book “The Odyssey”, the greatest adventure story of all times. Kefalonia is also known from fortresses and ancient monuments to natural caves and valleys spread all over the island.

As pointed out in many fossils of plants, animals and bones found near Skala and Fiskardo and tools found in Sami, Kefalonia was one of the first inhabited areas of Greece. Many scholar and archeologists agree to think that the island of Kefalonia had all the characteristics necessary for the demographic grow. Kefalonia island could be considered the barn of the Ionian island and its huge forest offered in the past a lot of wood to build ships and to develop commercial activities between Kefalonia and other ports. Historians claim, that the fleet of Odysseus in the Troyan war, was entirely constructed by the black fir of Kefalonia. Recent researches has pointed out that also some parts of Knossos palace were built using the black fir of Kefalonia!

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history


This confirms the exceptional trade development of Kefalonia since ancient times. Its strategic geographic position gave to Kefalonia the opportunity to be a commercial bridge between East and West. Different find of organized necropolis show us that Kefalonia was inhabited since the XI century B.C.

The ancient “Achei” people that in the past colonized several areas like Sicily and Crete island they lived also in Kefalonia island, bringing together with them mythological heroes, gods and Mycenaean civilization.

So, let’s have a look at the Archaeological sites and museums of Kefalonia:

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history


The Cyclopean Walls of ancient Krani

The Cyclopean Walls of ancient Krani are located near the village Razata, approximately 3km east of Argostoli and are dated from the 7th – 6th BC century.

The Cyclopean Walls, located near the former Doric temple of Demeter and some compare it to the Great Wall of China. They are considered to be one of the most visited archaeological monuments in Kefalonia because they are made of gigantic rocks and were believed to have been built by one-eyed giants, who according to Greek mythology and Homer’s “Odyssey”, are called Cyclops. Many people wonder how this wall can be so perfectly aligned. They were most likely built in 7th century BC and claimed to be some of the best examples of engineering of walls coming from that time.

The way to go to the walls is pretty simple. They are near the main road that goes from Argostoli to Sami. When you get close to a village called Razata, you will see a sign that says, Cylopean Walls. This sign points you to an asphalt road that eventually becomes a dirt road. There it happens to be a large open area to park your vehicle. You will have to walk the last remaining meters to these walls. These walls were meant to protect the ancient town of Krani. You can find remains of buildings from this town near the walls. The town used to be at the end of the Koutavos Bay and overlooked the whole region. The Krania plain was the main location of this city.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

Krani was one of the cities of Kefalonia that belonged to a kingdom called Ancient Sami. This kingdom dominated Kelafonia for over three thousand years. The famous archeologist N. Kyparissis believes that the history of Kefalonia is depicted in these walls. You can glimpse the ancient times right up to the years when the Roman Empire ruled this island. This time of period would be about three thousand years. The golden age of this island was during the Mycenean period.

People were able to communicate with the islands of Ithaca, Lefkada and the Cycladic group of islands. All this communication ended when the island was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Santorini. On a hill called Riza near these walls, there are many chamber tombs that existed before the Mycenaean period. Unfortunately, these tombs have been plundered and damaged. This hill was used as a necropolis for the ancient city of Krani. These cyclopean walls bear testimony to the fact that there was indeed ancient inhabitation on this island.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history


The Acropolis of Sami

The ruins of the Ancient Acropolis of Sami can be found in Lapitha Mountain, over the port town of Sami. Decide at the very last minute against taking the left turn to Antisamos beach, and turn right instead. The road winds up to a high plateau thickly studded with olive trees so old, big and grey that they look like a herd of petrified dinosaurs.

Take some time to explore the remains of what used to be an acropolis near Sami village. This Ancient Greek acropolis was also mentioned in Homer’s texts. Walls date back to the Hellenistic period, while there are also remains of a Roman theater and Roman baths nearby. Look for the mosaics as you explore.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

Much of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was filmed here. The road ends at the old Acropolis of Sami. It can be reached by a series of scenic trails, which also connects a number of neighboring Roman remains. The citadel occupies the hills of ‘Palaiokastro’ and ‘Ayioi Fanentes’, whilst evidence of all types of defensive architecture and masonry construction can be found due to the extensive fortification of the ancient city, dated back to the Classical and Hellenistic era (5th- 2nd century BC).

The ruins of a Frankish castle on the opposite hilltop join up to the Acropolis hill with a snaking wall. The broken walls and graceful doorway of a 16th century church frame the entrance to the ruins of the Ancient Greek square and the Roman baths – they say St Paul preached here.

Visit the little chapel on the site with the view of Sami spread out below.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

Mazarakata Mycenaean Tombs


Five kilometers outside Argostoli and towards Pessada, you come across the Mazarakata Tombs, found in the early 20th century. This is the largest cemetery of the Mycenaean period the ruins of the Mycenaean era, witness to the culture that flourished in this region. The cemetery, which was found intact, is of great importance. Many reports were held in the books of Homer about Kefalonian cemeteries, and after what came to light, they seem rather confirmed.

The cemetery was found in 1813 by Colonel De Bosset. Many excavation activities took place in 1908 and 1909 by Kavadias, an archeologist from Kefalonia, who along with Colonel De Bosset investigated 16 vaulted graves and 83 burials. Beneath the tombs and caves were roads through which they transferred the dead. The shapes (square, trapezoid, elliptical) and size (small, large) of the chambers vary.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

Excavations brought to light 17 chamber tombs, which were found unbroken and filled with vessels with beautiful colors and golden components of glass. The tombs are subterranean and carved in the natural bedrock.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

The Roman Cemetery in Fiskardo


This archaeological monument was discovered in 1993 by sea. The Roman cemetery dates from the 2nd (BC) to the 4th century (AD) and came to light by chance. Excavations revealed parts of a large graveyard, which contained two rectangular sections as well as a total of 27 tombs. The tombs show great variation in their architectural form and offerings were found inside them such as pottery and glass vases, jewellery, metal objects and coins.


Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

Roman Villa in Skala


In 1956, the remains of a roman mansion were discovered during excavations. The Roman Villa is situated on the far southern side of the island and on the very outskirts of Skala and is well worth exploring if you are in the area. It was built during the 2nd century AD and is considered to be a type of rural villa. Six rooms have been preserved, four of which have mosaic flours whilst the sixth one is an open courtyard. One of the most impressive mosaics can be found in the second floor and it represents an allegoric picture of Fthonos, (Envy) presenting himself as a young woman suffering, when seeing other people’s happiness. The villa appears to have been destroyed by fire in the 4th century AD.


Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

The Tholos Tomb at Tzannata


Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and historyA finding of the Mycenaean civilization was discovered at Tzanata near the village of Poros. It is the largest known beehive-shaped or tholos tomb in the Ionian Islands and is unique of its kind. The tomb itself is considered to be a royal grave and golden jewellery, royal seals and precious stones accompanied the tomb.

There have been claims that this was the burial place of Odysseus himself! The tomb was built on top of another smaller grave, which had collapsed for unknown reasons.


Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

Assos castle

The fortress at Assos is the largest castle on Kefalonia, the only other island castle of note being Agios Georgis near Peratata.

Built on a west coast rock outcrop, it commands impressive views over the horseshoe bay of the quiet resort village of Assos, on one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline of the island. The castle is, indeed, one of the largest in Greece in terms of area anyway, and was built by the Venetians in the early 17th century in response to a request from Kefalonians for protection from raids on the island by passing Turks and pirates.

The Venetian's decided to build a fortress big enough to house the local population and the Assos peninsula was considered impregnable with sheer drops of 155 meters to the sea below. It has two kilometers of perimeter wall entirely circling the large rocky bluff of Assos interspersed with five bastion towers. The hilltop Venetian fortress has now been listed as a World Heritage Site.

The ambitious plan to make Assos the capital of Kefalonia was scaled down after the locals proved reluctant to move inside. The hilltop has no natural springs for a water supply and, despite building some very large water cisterns; the grand plan was reluctantly dropped, although the castle did become the seat of Venetian government on Kefalonia until the end of Venetian rule in 1799.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

Even today, the fortress is not an easy place to reach. A zigzag trail climbs the steep hillside through woods and fields

The castle has a long history. A quarantine compound for around 1,700 people in the early 1800's, a small community carried on living there after Greek independence in 1865. It became a prison farm in the late 1920's and was used as a military lock-up in the Second World War.

Originally, the castle had four gates but only the two larger ones still standing today while the smaller gates lie in ruins. Visitors at the main gate enter through a small tunnel while, on the other remaining gate is a carved emblem of the Venetian Lion on the archway above. Not much else remains of those that originally built the castle, only the ruin of a Venetian building called Gentilini House named after its former owner the Venetian High Commissioner.

Modern-day visitors can see the remains of the prison yard and cells, still pretty well intact, in the centre of the fortress. The domed buildings, with many small windows, are where the prisoners were housed.

But the most impressive views are those over the sea and the bay below.


Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

The Castle of St George

The Castle of St George (Castro) rises above the village of Peratata. Built on a hill 300m high, it is located 5km to the south of Argostoli. It covers about 16,000 square meters and its walls have a perimeter of 600m. It is polygonal in shape and consists of 3 main parts: the outer walls, the inner enclosure shaped like a horse-shoe, and a rocky mound in the centre of the inner enclosure where the ruins of the Old Castle can be found. It was most probably built in the 12th century by the Byzantine Emperors.

No sooner had the Venetians taken control of the island than they set about reinforcing and re-fortifying the castle. In 1504 the external walls that we can see today were constructed by the engineer Nicholaos della Cimara and a team of specialist wall-builders brought in from Venice. From then on, frequent additions and improvements were made.

Inside the castle itself, there were both public and privately-owned buildings, churches, food and ammunition stores, barracks, hospitals, prisons and water-storage tanks. According to reports, many buildings had coats of arms of noble families on the walls. Today you can still see placements for cannons and lighter weapons, as well as observation posts among the ruined battlements. There are also the remains of a bridge, built during the French occupation of the island, which joined the battlements. Inside the castle in a small square are the ruins of the catholic church of St Nicholas where two bishops and several of the “Protectors” or governors of Kefalonia were buried. There is also a tunnel that ran from under the battlements to the Koutavos lagoon in Argostoli and which served as an emergency exit.

The Castle of St George had already lost its strategic importance by the end of the 16th century. The defense of the island now demanded the construction of forts nearer to the sea and harbors.

The castle was damaged in the 1636 and 1637 earthquakes, but the greatest devastation occurred during the last earthquakes of 1953.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history


Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

The Roman villa of Agia Efimia (Saint Euphemia)

The mosaic floor of the Roman villa in Saint Euphemia, will impress you. The excavation of the villa was only completed in early 2000. Dating back to early Christian times and abandoned at the after roman period when it was used as a place of burial. You can clearly see how the rainwater was gathered in every detail. The Roman villa can be visited throughout the year and the entrance is free.


Korgialenio History and Folklore Museum of Argostoli

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

The museum is housed on the ground floor of the Korgialenios Library, a donation of Vangelis Typaldos Bassia. The new wing houses two exhibitions in total. The museum collects studies, ranks and keeps inventory of all the history and folklore data of Kefalonia; from the Venetian period and up until the 1953 earthquakes.

The permanent exhibition is divided into the sections urban and rural department, ecclesiastical art and the city plan. Τhe collection of Byzantine icons of Charokopou and of Francis and Stephen Vallianou are exhibited separate. This is a warm and friendly showroom.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

The purpose of the museum is the view of history and folklore of the island from the 16th century to 1953, since many elements of Kefalonian culture was destroyed.

The museum hosts:

  • Photocopied English, French and Italian historical documents
  • Household ware, porcelain, silverware
  • Embroidery and daily farm utensils
  • Reconstruction of a bedroom
  • Watercolors, lithographs, maps, surveys, church plans
  • Photographic records consisting of 3000 images of Kefalonia before earthquakes, of historical figures, of architectural hardware, of religious icons and temples.
  • Works of art, wooden temples, sacred vessels, coins and pictures.


Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

In the museum you can visit the informative Korgialenios Library hosted here.


The Nautical Museum of Sami

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

The newly opened Nautical museum is located on the main Sami-Argostoli road, just 3 km from Sami and 4 Km from Drogarati Cave. The museum and its inspiring creator, Sotiris Marketos, born in Sami, exhibits all types of vessels of traditional Greek shipbuilding. Visitors will be wandering among twenty-two vessels on a 3500-year trip.



Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

House-Museum / Casa-Museo at Karavomylos

It is located on the main road of Karavomylos-Agia Efimia, very close to Melissani Cave lake and Karavomylos lake. This is not just a museum. It is a new cultural proposal. The museum is not a historic house converted into a museum or a folklore one. It is a new building in a lush garden, built after the 1953 earthquakes but in an old fashioned rate, externally and internally, and it hosts objects and furniture of at least2.5 centuries aged. It aims to deliver value to all those of our ancestors who made Kefalonia and Ionian area famous all over the world. It is also a lifetime dream for Peristera and Takis Tokkas, the inspirators and creators of this museum.


Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history The visitor enters from portóni (the yard door) to the kourti (courtyard) which is paved with local stone. The entrance to the museum is by the loggia and the next room is the tinéllo (dining room) where there are objects and furniture from the second half of the 18th, the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.


Korridóros (corridor) links the rooms and it is decorated with furniture of the 19thcentury. In the Sala (sitting room) authentic furniture and objects of the 18th, 19th and the first half of the 20thcentury create a refined atmosphere of an old mansion. In the Camara , (bedroom) furniture and objects of 18thand 19thcentury create a warm and tranquil atmosphere.


The house-Museum/Casa-Museo opened its doors in 2011, as a window in time, a starting point for a short trip in the magic atmosphere of old urban Ionian houses. It is a proposal that hopes to begin a broader dialogue in the context of Kefalonian cultural identity.

Kefalonia - The Homeric island of culture and history

Kefalonia is full of history and the spirit of Odysseus/Ulysses lives on. Birthplace of Gnostic philosophers and eccentric artists, of extravagant ship tycoons and sturdy peasants rooted in the soil, ingenious traders and otherworldly clerics, despotic dictators and uncompromising revolutionaries of various hues, fervent poets and haughty jurists, Kefalonia has left its mark all over Greece and beyond - indeed its children are prospering all over the world. But, as they themselves smilingly admit, among their many virtues, the virtue of moderation is rarely to be found.



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