Somewhere in the Aegean Sea lies the Gyaros island – the secret prison island in Greece – that served as a major concentration camp during a major part of the second half of the 20th century. Ancient history and mythology also mentions the island that now remains abandoned and in very poor condition. But the island could reopen as a protected space for Mediterranean monk seals and a paradise for sea-diving.
Interested to know more about this secret prison island in Greece? Read on!
A walk through the history of Gyaros—The forgotten Aegean ‘Island of the Devil’
It finds a mention in the Aeneid of Virgil – a piece of classic literature
In the Aeneid of Virgil, Gyaros and Mykonos are said to be the two islands to which the god Apollo tied the holy island of Delos to stop its wandering over the Aegean Sea.
Pages in history from the early days of Roman Empire too talk about it
The island served as a place of exile during the early Roman Empire. However, even the criminals convicted of treason and extortion, such as Silanus, were not exiled to the island as Gyaros was said to be “harsh and devoid of human culture”.
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And the legacy of the prison island continued till the third quarter of the 20th century
A red-brick prison building held approximately 10,000 men in custody during 1948-1953 due to their participation in the Greek Resistance organization Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo (EAM) and Greek Civil War (1945–1949). The prison was used again during 1957-1964 and 1967-1974.
But when the structures began to decay, the prison island was finally abandoned and used only as a target range for the Hellenic Navy until 2000.
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But things have changed now
It has been left abandoned and is in a derelict state
In fact, due to the unexploded ammunition that still lies around, human presence was limited to fishermen, hunters, and government-run organisations.
Currently, the island is off-limits for general public
Even fishing in its proximity has been forbidden by the coast guard. The only way to witness this beauty maybe from the sky or from the Greek coasts facing the island.
It was was declared a historic site of significant value
In 2002, the Greek Minister for Culture declared the island a historic site of significant value that deserved state protection.
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And there’s a lot more to the island than just historical significance
Equally rare is its natural environment
The island is homes to many unique species of flora, fauna, and aqua-fauna. This includes the endangered monk seal. Gyaros, along with the surrounding marine area of 3 nautical miles, was listed among the European Natura 2000 Network sites in 2011.
This ‘devil island’ could be transformed into an ecological paradise
In fact, there’s the ongoing “CYCLADES LIFE” project that aims to conserve & protect the marine biodiversity of the region. This project is being supported by the WWF environmental organization.
And the island could easily be the next sea-diving paradise
The island is blessed with stunning diving landscapes and would serve as an excellent option for scuba-diving, snorkeling, and deep-sea diving.
The island could serve as an excellent soft tourism destination for nature lovers, adventure junkies, and historians. But with many unexploded missiles left on the island, a lot of work needs to be done before the island could welcome visitors with open arms.
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