The island was known in antiquity as the “Korasian Islands“, and later as Korsei, probably because they were given as a dowry to the daughters of King Samos, the first king of the island of Samos (in ancient Greek the daughters were called korasides).
Their present name was derived from the Venetians, who referred to the complex of these islands as “Fornelli”, meaning small oven, thus describing the hollow, oven-like shape of the bay where the islands’ central harbour is located.
Because of their difficult and rugged geography, the islands of Fournoi spent long periods of their history uninhabited. On the basis of finds in various parts of the islands, it is proven that they were inhabited at least from the Hellenistic period (4th – 1st century BC).
During the Byzantine period, the islands were systematically plundered by pirates, with the result that many of their inhabitants left the islands for the neighbouring islands of Samos, Ikaria and Patmos. Particularly after the 11th century AD, Fournoi were uninhabited and only pirates used the islands (from this period came the local stories about treasures still buried on some of the islands).
Fourni were liberated and annexed to the Greek state in August 1912. Since then their population increased but again, during the Second World War, many of their inhabitants fled to Egypt and Cyprus.
Today Fournoi have about 1400 permanent residents, who live from fishing and tourism.