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Native name:
Makronisos from space: Attica to the NW; Kea to the SE
GR Makronissos.PNG
Coordinates37°42′04″N 24°07′29″E / 37.70111°N 24.12472°E / 37.70111; 24.12472Coordinates: 37°42′04″N 24°07′29″E / 37.70111°N 24.12472°E / 37.70111; 24.12472
Area20 km2 (7.7 sq mi)
Highest elevation281 m (922 ft)
Regional unitKea-Kythnos
Population5 (2001)
Additional information
Postal code840 02
Area code(s)22880

Makronisos (Greek: Μακρόνησος, lit. Long Island), or Makronisi, is an island in the Aegean sea, in Greece, notorious as the site of a political prison from the 1920s to the 1970s. It is located close to the coast of Attica, facing the port of Lavrio. The island has an elongated shape, 13 km (8 mi) north to south and 2.5 km (1.6 mi) east to west at its widest point, and its terrain is arid and rocky. It is the largest uninhabited Greek island.[citation needed]

It is part of the Kea-Kythnos regional unit and in the municipality of Kea.


In ancient times the island was called Helen (Ancient Greek: Ἑλένη). It protected the ancient harbours of Thorikos and Sounion. It was also called Macris (Μάκρις), from its length.[1] Strabo describes it as 60 stadia (9.4 km) in length; but its real length is seven geographical miles (12 km).[2] It was uninhabited in antiquity, as it is at the present day; and it was probably only used then for the pasture of cattle. Both Strabo and Pausanias derive its name from Helen of Troy, the wife of Menelaus: the latter writer supposes that it was so called because Helen landed here after the capture of Troy; but Strabo identifies it with the Homeric Cranae, to which Paris fled with Helen,[3] and supposes that its name was hence changed into Helena. There cannot, however, be any doubt that the Homeric Cranaë was opposite Gythium in Laconia.[4][5][6][7]

The Kea Channel between Makronisos and neighbouring Kea was the site of the sinking, in 1916, of HMHS Britannic, sister ship of the RMS Titanic.

Prison camp[edit]

Makronisos was used as a military prison island and concentration camp from the time of the Greek Civil War until the restoration of democracy, following the collapse of the Regime of the Colonels in 1974. Torture methods were used among others. Because of its history, it is considered a monument of the civil war era; therefore the island and the original structures on it are protected from alteration.

Among the prisoners of Makronisos were Apostolos Santas, Nikos Koundouros, Mikis Theodorakis, Leonidas Kyrkos and Thanasis Vengos.


View of the island from Cape Sounion, Attica


  1. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium. Ethnica. Vol. s.v. Ἑλένη.
  2. ^ Strabo. Geographica. Vol. ix. p.399. Page numbers refer to those of Isaac Casaubon's edition.
  3. ^ Homer. Iliad. Vol. 3.445.
  4. ^ Strabo. Geographica. Vol. ix. p.399, x. p. 485. Page numbers refer to those of Isaac Casaubon's edition.
  5. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece. Vol. 1.35.1. , 8.14.12
  6. ^ Pomponius Mela. De situ orbis. Vol. 2.7.
  7. ^ Pliny. Naturalis Historia. Vol. 4.12.20.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1854–1857). "Helena". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. London: John Murray.

External links[edit]