The tragic island of Makronissos

Makronissos Island

Makronissos is an island in the Aegean Sea, notorious for being a political prison from the 1940s to the 1970s.

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The Cyclades Antiquities Ephorate has been conducting excavations on and around the island over the last few years.

The exile island of Makronissos, near Kea: The Island of Makronissos is placed to the northwest of Kea island, opposite Lavrio town. It is a small island, 3km long and 500m wide. Administratively, it belongs to Kea island. Its landscape is rocky and infertile. In ancient times, Makronissos was called “Helena island” because it is said that this was the island where beautiful Helena and Prince Paris made a stop on the way to Troy or, according to another legend, where she and her husband, Menelaus, landed when they returned from Troy, after the end of the Troyan War.

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Makronissos is an island in the Aegean Sea, notorious for being a political prison from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Some ruins of the Neolithic era have been found on the islet and the two churches of Makronissos, Agios Georgios and the church of Virgin Mary, have been built on the ruins of some ancient constructions. However, Makronissos is known for the sad side of Greek history. Makronissos is a sort of Greek equivalent to Alkatraz. During the Balkan Wars (1912-13), a large number of Turkish prisoners of war were transferred there until the war ended and Greece and Turkey signed a peace contract.

When the Greek Civil War started, in 1946, this islet was turned into a prison for communists, political prisoners, and defectors. These people were tortured in cruel ways and suffered starvation and privation of water to be forced to deny their political beliefs and sign a statement of regret and obeisance to the Greek rightist regime. Many people died there and others, those who managed to survive, still carry this traumatic experience.

Among the prisoners of Makronissos, we include many famous Greek people, such as the music composer Mikis Theodorakis, the filmmaker Pantelis Voulgaris and the poet Giannis Ritsos. It stopped functioning as a prison when the Greek dictatorship ended, in 1973. Needless to say, Makronissos islet stands today, in the memory of the Greeks, as an islet of torture and shame. Makronissos has today been declared a Civil War monument.

In August 2003, three music concerts were held in Makronissos by Mikis Theodorakis, in order to honour all those people who died for their ideals.

The first traces of human presence on Markronissos date back to 4,000 BC while the first settlement was founded at the location Provata, in the west part of the island, during the early Bronze Age.

The island is uninhabited.

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