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CEPHALLE´NIA (Κεφαλληνία, Κεφαληνία: Eth. Κεφαλλήν, pl. Κεφαλλῆνες, Κεφαλλήνιος: Cephalonia, Cephallania), called by Homer SAME (Σάμη, Od. 1.246, 9.24) or SAMOS (Σάμος, Il. 2.634, Od. 4.671), the largest island in the Ionian Sea, opposite the Corinthian gulf and the coast of Acarnania. Along the northern half of the eastern coast of Cephallenia lies the small island of Ithaca, which is separated from it by a narrow channel about three miles in breadth. (Comp. Hom. Od. 4.671.) Strabo says that Cephallenia was distant from the promontory Leucata in the island of Leucas about 50 stadia (others said 40), and from the promontory Chelonatas, the nearest point in the Peloponnesus, about 80 stadia. (Strab. x. p.456.) Pliny describes it as 25 (Roman) miles from Zacynthus. (Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 19.) The first of these distances is tolerably correct; but the other two are erroneous. From C. Viscardo, the most northerly point of Cephallenia, to C. Dukato (the ancient Leucata), the distance is 5 English miles, or about 40 stadia; but from C. Scala, the most southerly point in Cephallenia, to C. Tornese, the nearest point in the Morea, the distance is 23 miles, or about 196 stadia; while from C. Scala to the northernmost part of Zacynthus the real distance is only 8 miles.

The size of Cephallenia is variously stated by the ancient writers. Strabo (l.c.) makes it only 300 stadia in circuit. Pliny (l.c., according to Sillig's edition) says that it is 93 miles in circumference; and Agathemerus (1.5) that it is 400 stadia in length, both of which measurements are nearer the truth, though that of Agathemerus is too great. The greatest length of the island is 31 English miles. Its breadth is very unequal: in the middle of the island, where a bay extends eight miles into the land, the breadth is about 8 miles, but in the northern part it is nearly double that distance. The area of the island is about 348 square miles.

Cephallenia is correctly described by Strabo as a mountainous country. Homer in like manner gives to it the epithet of παιπαλοέσση (Od. 4.671). A ridge of calcareous mountains runs across the island from NW. to SE., the lower declivities of which cover nearly the whole island. The highest summit of this range, which rises to the height of about 4000 feet, was called AENUS (Αἷνος), and upon it was a temple of Zeus Aenesius. (Strab. l.c.) From this [p. 1.588]mountain, which is now covered with a forest of firtrees, whence its modern name, Elato, there is a splendid view over Acarnania, Aetolia, and the neighbouring islands. There was also a mountain called BAEA (Βαία) according to Stephanus, said to have been named after the pilot of Ulysses. The principal plain in Cephallenia is that of Same, on the eastern side of the island, which is about 6 miles in length from N. to S., and about 3 miles in width at the sea. From the mountainous character of the island, it could never have been very productive. Hence Livy (38.28) describes the inhabitants as a poor people. We read on one occasion of good crops of corn in the neighbourhood of Pale. (Pol. 5.5.) Leake observes that “the soil is rocky in the mountainous districts, and stony even in the plains; but the productions are generally good in their kind, particularly the wine. Want of water is the great defect of the island. There is not a single constantly flowing stream: the sources are neither numerous nor plentiful, and many of them fail entirely in dry summers, creating sometimes a great distress.”

The island, as has been already remarked, is called Same or Samos in Homer. Its earliest inhabitants appear to have been Taphians, as was the case in the neighbouring islands. (Strab. x. p.461.) It is said to have derived its name from Cephalus, who made himself master of the island with the help of Amphitryon. (Strab. x. p.456; Schol. ad Lycophr. 930; Paus. 1.37.6; Heraclid. Pont. Fragm. xvii. p. 213, ed. Korai.) Even in Homer the inhabitants of the island are called Cephallenes, and are described as the subjects of Ulysses (Il. 2.631, Od. 20.210, 24.355); but Cephallenia, as the name of the island, first occurs in Herodotus (9.28). Scylax (p. 13) calls it Cephalenia (Κεφαληνία, with a single λ), and places it in the neighbourhood of Leucas and Alyzia.

Cephallenia was a tetrapolis, containing the four states of Same, Pale, Cranii, and Proni. This division of the island appears to have been a very ancient one, since a legend derived the names of the four cities from the names of the four sons of Cephalus. (Etym. M. s. v. Κεφαλληνία; Steph. B. sub voce Κράνιοι.) Of these states Same was probably the most ancient, as it is mentioned by Homer (Hom. Od. 20.288). The names of all the four cities first occur in Thucydides. (Thuc. 2.30; comp. Strab. x. p.455; Paus. 6.15.7.) An account of these cities is given separately; but as none of them became of much importance, the history of the island may be dismissed in a few words. In the Persian wars the Cephallenians took no part, with the exception of the inhabitants of Pale, two hundred of whose citizens fought at the battle of Plataea. (Hdt. 9.28.) At the commencement of the Peloponnesian war a large Athenian fleet visited the island, which joined the Athenian alliance without offering any resistance. (Thuc. 2.30.) In the Roman wars in Greece the Cephallenians were opposed to the Romans; and accordingly, after the conquest of the Aetolians, M. Fulvius was sent against the island with a sufficient force, B.C. 189. The other cities at once submitted, with the exception of Same, which was taken after a siege of four months. (Pol. 4.6, 5.3, 22.13, 23; Liv. 37.13, 38.28, 29.) Under the Romans Cephallenia was a “libera civitas.” (Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 19.) The island was given by Hadrian to the Athenians (D. C. 59.16); but even after that event we find Pale called in an inscription ἐλευθέρα καὶ αὐτόνομος. (Böckh, Inscr. No. 340.) In the time of Ptolemy (3.14.12) Cephallenia was included in the province of Epeirus. After the division of the Roman empire, the island was subject to the Byzantine empire till the 12th century, when it passed into the hands of the Franks. It formed part of the dominions of the Latin princes of Achaia till A.D. 1224, when it became subject to the Venetians, in whose hands it remained (with the exception of a temporary occupation by the Turks) till the fall of the Republic in 1797. It is now one of the seven Ionian islands under the protection of Great Britain. In 1833 the population was 56,447.

Of the four cities already mentioned, SAME and PRONI were situated on the east coast, CRANII on the west coast, and PALE on the eastern side of a bay on the west coast. Besides these four ancient cities, there are also ruins of a fifth upon C. Scala, the SE. point of the island. These ruins are of the Roman period, and probably those of the city, which C. Antonius, the colleague of Cicero in his consulship, commenced building, when he was residing in Cephallenia after his banishment from Italy. (Strab. x. p.455). Ptolemy (l.c.) mentions a town Cephalenia as the capital of the island. This may have been either the town commenced by Antonius, or is perhaps represented by the modern castle of St. George in the middle of the plain of Livadhó in the south-western part of the island, where ancient remains have been found. Besides these cities, it appears from several Hellenic names still remaining, that there were other smaller towns or fortresses in the island. On a peninsula in the northern part of the island, commanding two harbours, is a fortress called Asso; and as there is a piece of Hellenic wall in the modern castle, Leake conjectures that here stood an ancient fortress named Assus. Others suppose that as Livy (38.18) mentions the Nesiotae, along with the Cranii, Palenses, and Samaei, there was an ancient place called Nesus, of which Asso may be a corruption ; but we think it more probable that Nesiotae is a false reading for Pronesiotae, the ethnic form of Pronesus, the name which Strabo gives to Proni,one of the members of the Tetrapolis. [PRONI] Further south on the western coast is Tafió, where many ancient sepulchres are found: this is probably the site of TAPHUS (Τάφος), a Cephallenian town mentioned by Stephanus. Rakli, on the south-eastern coast, points to an ancient town Heracleia; and the port of Viskárdho is evidently the ancient Panormus (Πάνορμος), opposite Ithaca (Anthol. Gr. vol. ii. p. 99, ed. Jacobs). (Kruse, Hellas, vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 431, seq.; Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iii. p. 55, seq.)

hide References (18 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (18):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 9.28
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.631
    • Homer, Odyssey, 20.210
    • Homer, Odyssey, 20.288
    • Homer, Odyssey, 24.355
    • Homer, Odyssey, 1.246
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.671
    • Homer, Odyssey, 9.24
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.15.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.37.6
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.30
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.634
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 37, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 18
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 28
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.14
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