The island’s history starts in the Mycenaean period and is consistent with the civilization and history of north Aegean islands. Archaeological finds from the period of Poliochni have been revealed on the island. It had different names: “Nea” during the prehistoric period, “Alonisos” in classical period, “Nisos ton Neon” in Byzantine period and finally “Agios Efstratios” after 15th century, probably from Saint Efstratios who performed miracles and lived in solitude on the island.
Agios Efstratios, after being granted to the Holy Monastery of Megisiti Lavra of Mount Athos by the Byzantine emperor Basil II the Bulgar Slayer (976-1025), economically prospered as the Monastery’s estate. The pirate raids however depopulated the island which was re-inhabited in about mid-16th century. During the 1st Balkan War on 18th October 1912, the Greek fleet liberated the island.
However, Agios Efstratios had been well known because it was related to an important chapter of contemporary Greek history. It was used as a place of exile for political opponents from 1928 to 1963. Apart from political personalities, eminent representatives of intellect and art of that time spent a part of their life as political exiles on this island, such as the poets Giannis Ritsos, Tasos Leivaditis, Titos Patrikios, the authors Menelaos Loudemis, Tasos Vournas, the actors Manos Katrakis, Tzavalas Karousos, the painters Christos Daglis, Giorgos Farsakidis and many others.