Cyprus History


Cyprus history culture - ancient  Greek Cypriot temple

Cyprus history culture – ancient Greek Cypriot temple

According to the tradition, Cyprus got its name from copper, which was found in large amounts in antiquity. Cyprus has one of the oldest and rich histories that have been recorded in the world.


Neolithic Period (8200 – 3900 B.C.)

Remains of the oldest known settlements from the Neolithic period are found in the site of Choirokoitia which lies on a hilly landscape it’s an example from a brilliant civilization and architecture. The inhabitants were using a hard stone to manufacture stone vessels, which constitute a particular characteristic of the Cypriote Aceramic Neolithic

Chalcolithic Age (3900 – 2500 B.C.)

A transitional period between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. The first signs of civilization date to the Chalcolithic era and the discovery of copper began bring trade and wealth to the island.

Bronze Age (2500 – 1050 B.C.)

Copper was more extensively exploited bringing wealth to Cyprus. Trade developed with the Near East, Egypt and the Aegean where Cyprus was known under the name of Alasia. The arrival of Mycenaean-Achaean Greeks as permanent settlers introduced their language and culture to Cyprus and established the first city-kingdoms of Paphos, Salamis, Kition and Kourion. The Hellenization of the island was in process.

Geometric Period (1050 – 750 B.C.)

Cyprus had ten Greek city-kingdoms. The cult of Aphrodite flourished, and Phoenicians settled at Kition in the ninth century B.C. The eighth century B.C. was a period of great prosperity.

Archaic and Classical Period (750 – 310 B.C.)

Cypriot kingdoms were ruled by a succession of foreign invaders: after the Assyrians came the Egyptians and then the Persians. King Evagoras of Salamis (who ruled from 411-374 B.C.) unified Cyprus and made the island one of the leading political and cultural centers of the Greek world. The city-kingdoms of Cyprus welcomed Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, and Cyprus became part of his empire.

Hellenistic Period (310 – 30 B.C.)

After the rivalries for succession between Alexander’s generals, Cyprus eventually came under the Hellenistic state of the Ptolemies of Egypt and from then on was part of the Greek Alexandrine world. The Ptolemies abolished the city-kingdoms and unified Cyprus. Paphos became the capital.

Roman Period (30)(B.C. – 330 A.D.)

Cyprus came under the dominion of the Roman Empire. During the missionary journey of Apostles Paul and Barnabas, the Proconsul Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity, making Cyprus the first country to be governed by a Christian. Destructive earthquakes occurred during the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. and cities needed to be rebuilt.

Byzantine Period (330 – 1191 A.D.)

After the division of the Roman Empire in two parts, Cyprus came under the Eastern Roman Empire, subsequently known as Byzantium, with Constantinople as its capital. Christianity became the official religion. New earthquakes during the fourth century A.D. completely destroyed the main cities of the Island. Once again, new cities arose. Constantia, built near the site of ancient Salamis, became the capital. In 488 Emperor Zeno granted the Church of Cyprus full autonomy and gave the archbishop the privileges of holding a scepter instead of a pastoral staff, wearing a purple mantle and signing in red ink.

Frankish (Lusignan) Period (1192 – 1489)

Cyprus became a Frankish Kingdom and was ruled on the feudal system. The Catholic Church officially replaced the Greek Orthodox, which albeit under severe suppression, managed to survive. The city of Famagusta was then one of the richest in the Near East. It was during this period that the historical names of Lefkosia, Ammochostos and Lemesos were changed to Nicosia, Famagusta and Limassol, respectively. The era of the Lusignan dynasty ended when Queen Catherine Cornaro ceded Cyprus to Venice in 1489.

Venetian Period (1489 – 1571)

Venetians viewed Cyprus as the last bastion of Christianity against the Ottomans in the Eastern Mediterranean and fortified the island, tearing down lovely buildings in Nicosia to reduce the boundaries of the city within fortified walls. They also built impressive walls around Famagusta which were considered at the time to be state of the art military architecture.

Ottoman Occupation (1571 – 1878)

The Turkish Cypriots were mostly the descendants of the Ottoman Turks, who occupied the island for more than three hundred years (1571-1878). They have contributed their own heritage to the country which is still visible in Ottoman monuments scattered around the island.

In 1570 Ottoman troops attacked Cyprus, captured Nicosia, slaughtered twenty thousand people and laid siege to Famagusta for a year. The Ottoman Turks, whose descendants together with the descendants converts from the Christian inhabitants of Cyprus form today the largest part of the Turkish Cypriot community, were to rule Cyprus until 1878. During the Ottoman period, the Muslim minority acquired a Cypriot identity.

British Rule (1878 – 1960)

Under the 1878 Cyprus Convention, part of the Treaty of Berlin (1878), the Ottoman Turks handed over the administration of the island to Britain in exchange for guarantees that Britain would protect the crumbling Ottoman Empire against possible Russian aggression. It remained formally part of the Ottoman Empire until the latter entered World War I on the side of Germany, and Britain annexed the island in 1914. In 1923 under the Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey relinquished all rights to Cyprus, which in 1925 was declared a Crown colony. Hopes for self-determination in the post-war period which in the minds of the Greek Cypriot inhabitants who made more than 80% of the population was at the time synonymous with Union with Greece, were shattered by the British, who considered the island vitally strategic, especially after the debacle of Suez in 1956. In addition Ankara was averse to having a Greek island so close to its southern border.

After all peaceful means to achieve freedom had been exhausted; a national liberation struggle was launched in 1955 against colonial rule and for union with Greece. The liberation struggle ended in 1959 with the Zurich-London agreements signed by Britain, Greece and Turkey as well as representatives of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, leading to Cyprus’ independence in 1960.

Turkish Invasion and Occupation

On 15 July 1974, the ruling military junta of Greece staged a coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of Cyprus. On 20 July, Turkey, invaded Cyprus, allegedly to restore constitutional order. It seized about 36.2 percent of the territory of the island in the north, an act universally condemned as a gross infringement of international law and the UN Charter.

The invasion and occupation had disastrous consequences. More than 160,000 Greek Cypriots living in the north, nearly one third of the population of Cyprus at that time, were forcibly expelled from the occupied northern part of the island where they constituted 80 percent of the population. These people are still prevented by Turkish military presence from returning to their homes and properties. A further 20, 000 persons, the majority of which Greek Cypriots enslaved in the occupied areas were gradually, through intimidation and denial of their basic human rights, forced to abandon their homes. According to the latest report of the Secretary General to the Security Council there are only around 384 Greek Cypriots and 142 Maronitesenslaved persons.

The invasion had a disastrous effect both on the purely human as well as the economic level. The economy was practically destroyed, as a result of the invasion and there were thousands of people killed or missing.

In the aftermath of the invasion Turkey promoted demographic changes in the occupied territory through the import Anatolian settlers. The large influx of settlers has also negatively affected theliving conditions of the Turkish Cypriots, forcing over fifty-five thousand to emigrate.


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