In ancient times, the island was known as Patroklou Charax ("Camp of Patroclus") or Patroklou Nesos ("Island of Patroclus"), after the Ptolemaic admiral Patroclus, who established a fortified base there during the Chremonidean War.
In the late Middle Ages, the island was notorious as a haven for pirates. The Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaiologos was nearly captured by Catalan pirates in December 1437, when his ship sought shelter from a storm on the island during his journey to the Council of Ferrara.
On 12 February 1944, SS Oria sank in a storm on the south east rocks of Patroklos island with 4,074 killed, most Italian military internees.
It was also the island at the heart of the Israeli political scandal known as the "Greek island affair".