LAMPEDUSA, a small island in the Mediterranean, belonging to the province of Girgenti, from which it is about 112 m. S.S.W. Pop. (1901, with Linosa see below) 2276. Its greatest length is about 7 m., its greatest width about 2 m.; the highest point is 400 ft. above sea-level. Geologically it belongs to Africa, being situated on the edge of the submarine platform which extends along the east coast of Tunisia, from which (at Mahadia) it is 90 m. distant eastwards. The soil is calcareous; it was covered with scrub (chiefly the wild olive) until comparatively recent times, but this has been cut, and the rock is now bare. The valleys are, however, fairly fertile. On the south, near the only village, is the harbour, which has been dredged to a depth of 13 ft. and is a good one for torpedo boats and small craft.
The island was, as remains of hut foundations show, inhabited in prehistoric times. Punic tombs and Roman buildings also exist near the harbour. The island is the Lopadusa of Strabo, and the Lipadosa of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, the scene of the landing of Roger of Sicily and of his conversion by the hermit. A thousand slaves were taken from its population in 1553. In 1436 it was given by Alfonso of Aragon to Don Giovanni de Caro, baron of Montechiaro. In 1661, Ferdinand Tommasi, its then owner, received the title of prince from Charles II. of Spain. In 1737 the earl of Sandwich found only one inhabitant upon it; in 1760 some French settlers established themselves there. Catherine II. of Russia proposed to buy it as a Russian naval station, and the British government thought of doing the same if Napoleon had succeeded in seizing Malta. In 1800 a part of it was leased to Salvatore Gatt of Malta, who in 1810 sublet part of it to Alessandro Fernandez. In 1843 onwards Ferdinand II. of Naples established a colony there. There is now an Italian penal colony for domicilio coatto, with some 400 convicts (see B. Sanvisente, L '1 sola di Lampedusa eretta a colonia, Naples, 1849). Eight miles W. is the islet of Lampione. Linosa, some 30 m. to the N.N.E., measures about 2 by 2 m., and is entirely volcanic; its highest point is 610 ft. above sealevel. Pop. (1901) about 200. It has landing-places on the S. and W., and is more fertile than Lampedusa; but it suffers from the lack of springs. Sanvisente says the water in Lampedusa is good. A few fragments of undoubtedly Roman pottery and some Roman coins have been found there, but the cisterns and the ruins of houses are probably of later date (P. Calcara, Descrizione dell' isola di Linosa, Palermo, 1851, 29). (T. As.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)