Historical Era


It would appear that in Kefalonia, as in the rest of Greece, when monarchy went into decline, oligarchies came into being. Around the 8th century BC the oli­garchies had evolved into tyrannies and by the end of the 7th century BC they had become democracies.

After the decline of tyranny, Kefalonia split into four city-states, which Thucy­dides tells us were autonomous. Their relations with each other were not always friendly, as the existence of city walls and different coinage would indicate.

The first city-state to appear on the political scene was Pale. In his Histories, Herodotus tell us that in 479 BC the Paleans sent 200 hoplites to fight the Persians in the battle at Plataea. Pale was the first port of call for the Corinthi­ans on their way to Sicily; thus the two cities had a strong bond of friendship. In 435 BC the Paleans again appeared on the scene, sending 4 ships to help the Corinthians fight the Corcyraeans.

During the Peloponnesian War (431­404 BC) all four cities were free allies of the Athenians. The Athenians, however, do not seem to have trusted them com­pletely, because before a year had passed 150 Athenian triremes sailed out to attack the Peloponnese and Acarna­nia. In the end they took Kefalonia with­out resistance and made the island their base of operations against Corinth. The following year, 40 Corinthian triremes and 1500 hoplites landed in Crane. The Cra­nians pretended to be ready to negotiate and then in a surprise attack routed the invaders. Later, we will see on countless

occasions how the Kefalonians used diplomacy in a similar way to deal with such threats and thus ensure their inde­pendence. This was just the beginning of a long train of conquerors of many races, who left their mark on the island's blood­stained history, but never managed to change its identity.

At the end of the first Peloponnesian War in 404 BC the Ionian islands found themselves on the side of Sparta. But when Athens had shaken off her tyrants, her fleet took Kefalonia and imposed heavy taxation. In 378 BC Athens set up the Second Athenian Confederacy, more liberal than the first. This situation did not last long, however, because in the follow­ing year the Athenians sank the Spartan fleet and subjugated the Ionian islands without bloodshed.

In 337 BC, when Philip conquered Greece and sent out invitations to the assembly of the Greeks in Corinth, Kefalonia sent representatives. The island remained loyal to the Macedonians during the battle of Lamia between the Greeks and the Macedonians in 323-322 BC, and remained independent through­out this period.

After the death of Alexander the Great, Kefalonia entered into an alliance with the Aetolian League. This alliance was advantageous both to the Aetolians, as they were ensured of a safe port from which to sail towards Italy and Sicily, and to the Kefalonians, because it offered them an opportunity to engage in prof­itable piratical activities. The Aetolians, with the help of their allies including Kefalonia and Zakinthos, caused great havoc in the rich lands of the Achaeans and their allies. The Achaeans finally enlisted the help of Philip V of Macedo­nia. During the War of the Allies (220-217 BC), the Macedonian king, mindful of Kefalonia's strategic position, decided to concentrate on it first; his fleet put in at Pronnoi in 218 BC. But because that part of the island was deemed hard to con­quer, he turned to Pale, the most power­ful city, in the most fertile area of the island. The Macedonians failed, however, to conquer it, despite Philip's many strat­agems. On the other side, when the Aetolians and their allies learned about the attempt to beseige Pale, they imme­diately began launching attacks on Achaean territory in an attempt to draw the attention of their opponents away from Kefalonia.