1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cephalonia

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CEPHALONIA (Ital. Cefalonia, ancient and modern official Greek Cephallenia, Κεφαλληνία), an island belonging to the kingdom of Greece, and the largest of those known as the Ionian Islands, situated on the west side of the mainland, almost directly opposite the Gulf of Corinth. The name was traditionally derived from Cephalus, the Attic hero who was regarded as having colonized the island. The tradition, which is repeated by Aristotle, is probably due solely to the similarity of the names (see J. G. Frazer, Pausanias, i. 37, 6 note). Pop. (1907) 71,235. Its extreme length is 31 m., and its breadth varies from about 20 m. in the southern portion to 3 m. or less in the projecting part, which runs parallel with the island of Ithaca, at a distance of about 4 m. across the strait of Guiscardo or Viscaro. The whole island, with its area of 348 English sq. m., is covered with rocky hills of varying elevation, the main range running from north-west to south-east. The ancient Mount Aenos, now Elato, Monte Negro, or the Black Mountain (5315 ft.), frequently retains the snow for several months. It is not only the loftiest part of the sierra, but also the highest land in the whole Ionian group. The name “Black” was given from the darkness of the pine woods which still constitute the most striking feature in Cephalonian scenery, although their extent has been greatly curtailed by fire. The summit is called Megálo Sorós. The island is ill supplied with fresh water; there are few permanent streams except the Rakli, and springs are apt to fail in dry summers. In the western part of the island a gulf runs up from the south, a distance of about 7 m.; on its east side stands the chief town Argostoli, with about 10,000 inhabitants, and on its west side the rival city of Lixouri, with 6000. About a mile west of the town are the curious sea mills; a stream of sea water running down a chasm in the shore is made to turn the wheels. About 5 m. from Argostoli is the castle of St George, a building of Venetian origin, and the strongest fortification in the island. On an eminence east-south-east of Argostoli are the ruins of the ancient Cranii, and Lixouri is close to or upon those of Pale; while on the other side of the island are the remains of Samos on the bay of the same name, of Proni or Pronni, farther south above the vale of Rakli and its blossoming oleanders, and of an unknown city near the village of Scala. The ruins of this city include Roman baths, a brick-built temple, rock-cut tombs, and tessellated pavements; and Cranii, Proni and Samos are remarkable for stretches of Cyclopean and Hellenic walls, partly of the most irregular construction, and partly preserving almost unimpaired the results of the most perfect skill. The inhabitants of Cephalonia have all along been extremely active; and no slight amount of toil has been expended in the construction of terraces on the steep sides of the hills. Owing to the thinness of the population, however, but a small proportion of the soil is under cultivation, and the quantity of grain grown in the island is comparatively meagre. The staple is the currant, in the production of which the island surpasses Zante. The fruit is smaller than that of the Morea, and has a peculiar flavour; it finds a market mainly in Holland, Belgium and Germany. The grape vine also is grown, and the manufacture of wine is a rising industry. The olive crop is of considerable importance, and the culture of cotton in the low grounds has been successfully attempted. Manufactures are few and undeveloped, but lace from the aloe fibre, Turkey carpets and basket-work are produced by the villagers, and boats are built at both the principal towns. Of all the seven Ionian islands Cephalonia and Zante are most purely Greek, and the inhabitants display great mental activity.

In the Homeric poems Cephalonia is generally supposed to be mentioned under the name of Same, and its inhabitants, among the subjects of Ulysses, to be designated Cephallenes (see, however, under Ithaca). In the Persian War they took but little part; in the Peloponnesian they sided with the Athenians. The town of Pale was vainly besieged by Philip of Macedon in 218 b.c., because it had supported the Aetolian cause. In 189 b.c. all the cities surrendered to the Romans, but Same afterwards revolted, and was only reduced after a siege of four months. The island was presented by Hadrian to Athens, but it appears again at a later date as “free and autonomous.” After the division of the Roman empire, it continued attached to Byzantium till 1082, when it was captured by Robert Guiscard, who died, however, before he could repress the revolt of 1085. In 1204 it was assigned to Gaius, prince of Tarentum, who accepted the protection of Venice in 1215; and after 1225 it was held along with Santa Maura and Zante by a succession of five counts of the Tocco family at Naples. Formally made over to Venice in 1350 by the prince of Tarentum, it was afterwards captured by the Turks in 1479; but the Hispanico-Venetian fleet under Benedetto Pessaro and Gonsalvo of Cordova effected their expulsion in 1500, and the island continued in Venetian possession till the fall of the republic. For some time it was administered for the French government, but in 1809 it was taken by the British under Cuthbert, Lord Collingwood. Till 1813 it was in the hands of Major de Bosset, a Swiss in the British service, who displayed an industry and energy in the repression of injustice and development of civilization only outdone by the despotic vigour of Sir Charles Napier, who held the same office for the nine years from 1818 to 1827. During the British protectorate the island made undoubted advances in material prosperity, but was several times the scene of political disturbances. It retained longer than the sister islands traces of feudal influence exerted by the landed proprietors, but has been gradually becoming more democratic. Under the Venetians it was divided into eight districts, and an elaborate system of police was in force; since its annexation to Greece it has been broken up into twenty demarchies, each with its separate jurisdiction and revenues, and the police system has been abolished.

Authorities.—A special treatise on the antiquities of Cephalonia was written by Petrus Maurocenus. See Holland’s Travels (1815); Ansted’s Ionian Islands (1863); Viscount Kirkwall’s Four Years in Ionian Islands (1864); Wiebel’s Die Insel Kephalonia; parliamentary papers. Riemann, Recherches archéologiques sur les Iles Ioniennes (Paris, 1879–1880); Partsch, Kephallenia und Ithaka (1890); see also Corfu; Ionian Islands.  (E. Gr.)