About Cyprus

Cyprus History in Brief


Remains of the oldest known settlement in Cyprus dating from this period can be seen in Khirokitia and Kalavassos (Tenta), off the Nicosia-Limassol road. This civilization had developed along the North and South coasts. First only stone vessels were used. After 5000 B.C., the art of pottery was invented.


Most Chalcolithic establishments are found in Western Cyprus, where a fertility cult develops. The copper of the island begins to be exploited and used.

2500-1050 BC BRONZE AGE

Copper is more extensively exploited bringing wealth to Cyprus. Trade is built up with the Near East, Egypt and the Aegean. After 1400 BC, Mycenaeans from Greece reach the island, perhaps as merchants. During the 12th and 11th centuries several waves of Achaean Greeks come to settle on the island bringing with them the Greek language, their religion, their customs. They build new cities like Paphos, Salamis, Kition. Kourion. The island from now on is progressively hellenised.


There are ten Kingdoms in the island. Phoenicians settle at Kition. The 8th century B.C. is a period of great prosperity.


The era of prosperity continues, but the island falls prey to several conquerors. Cypriot Kingdoms try to preserve their independence but come variously under the domination of Assyria, Egypt and Persia. King Evagoras of Salamis (who ruled from 411-374 BC) rebels against Persia and unifies the island but, after a great siege has to conclude peace with Persia and loses control of the whole island.

333-325 BC

Alexander the Great defeats Persia and Cyprus becomes part of his empire.


After the succession struggles, between Alexander’s generals, Cyprus eventually comes under the Hellenistic state of the Ptolemies of Egypt, and belongs from now onwards to the Greek Alexandrine world. The capital is now Paphos. This is a period of wealth for Cyprus.


Cyprus becomes part of the Roman Empire, first as part of the province of Syria, then as a separate province under a proconsul. During the missionary journeys by Saints Paul and Barnabas, the Proconsul, Sergius Paulus is converted to Christianity and Cyprus becomes the first country to be governed by Christian. Destructive earthquakes occur during the 1st century B.C. and the 1at A.D. and cities are rebuilt. There is a great loss of life when the Jews who lived in Salamis rebel in 116, and from the plague in 164 AD. In 313 the Edict of Milan grants freedom of worship to Christians and Cypriot bishops attend the Council of Nicaea in 325.


After the division of the Roman Empire in two parts, Cyprus comes under the Eastern Roman Empire, known as Byzantium, with Constantinople as its capital. Constantine the Great’s mother, Helena is said to have stopped in Cyprus on her journey from the Holy Land, with remnants of the Holy Cross and founded the monastery of Stavrovouni. More earthquakes during the 4th century A.D. completely destroy the main cities. Cities lose their splendour and remain in ruins. New cities arise, Constantia is now the capital, and large basilicas are built as from the 4-5th century A.D. In 488, after the tomb of St. Barnabas is found, Emperor Zeno gives the Archibishop of Cyprus full autonomy and privileges including holding a sceptre instead of a pastoral staff, wearing a purple mantle and signing in red ink. In 647 Arabs invade the island under Muawiya. In 688 Emperor Justinian II and Caliph al-Malik sign a treaty neutralising Cyprus, but violations are reported, and the island is also attacked by pirates until 965 when Emperor Nicephoros Phocas expels Arabs from Asia Minor and Cyprus.


Isaac Comnenus, self proclaimed governor of Cyprus, is discourteous to survivors of a shipwreck involving ships of Richard I’s fleet on their way to the Third Crusade. Richard defeats Isaac and takes possession of Cyprus, marrying Berengaria of Navarree in Limassol, where she is crowned Queen of England. Richard then sells the island to the Knights Templars for 100,000 dinars but they resell it at the same price to Guy de Lusignan, one of the Crusader Knights.


Cyprus is ruled on the feudal system and the Catholic church officially replaces the Greek Orthodox, although the latter manages to survive. Many beautiful gothic buildings belong to this period including the Cathedrals of Ayia Sophia in Nicosia, Saint Nicholas in Famagusta and Bellapais Abbey. The city of Famagusta becomes one of the richest in the Near East, and Nicosia becomes the capital of Cyprus and the seat of the Lusignan Kings. The Lusignan dynasty ends when the last queen Catherina Cornaro cedes Cyprus to Venice in 1489.


Venetians see Cyprus as a last bastion against the Ottomans in the east Mediterranean, and fortify the island tearing down lovely buildings in Nicosia to bring the city into a tight encircled area defended by bastions and a moat which can still be seen today. They also build impressive walls around Famagusta which were considered at the time as works of military art.


In 1570 troops attack Cyprus, capture Nicosia, slaughter the population (20,000) and lay siege to Famagusta for a year. After a brave defense by Venetian commander Marc Antonio Bragadin, Famagusta capitulates to the Ottoman commander Lala Mustafa, who first gives free passage to the besieged but when he sees how few they are, orders the flaying, drawing and quartering of Bragadin and puts the others to death. On annexation to the Ottoman Empire, the Latin hierarchy are expelled or converted to Islam and the Greek Orthodox faith restored; in time, the Archibishop as leader of the Greek Orthodox, becomes their representative to the Porte. When the Greek War of Independence breaks out in 1821, the Archibishop of Cyprus, Kyprianos, three bishops and hundreds of civic leaders are executed.


Under the 1878 Cyprus Convention, Britain assumes administration of the island, which remains formally part of the Ottoman Empire until 1914 when Britain annexes Cyprus, after the Ottoman Empire enters the First World War on the side of Germany. In 1923 under the Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey renounces any claim to Cyprus. In 1925 Cyprus is declared a Crown colony. In 1940 Cypriot volunteers serve in various branches of the British Armed Forces throughout the Second World War. Hopes for self-determination now being granted to other countries in the post-war period are shattered by the British who consider the island vitally strategic. An Armed Liberation Struggle, after all means of peaceful settling of the problem are exchausted, breaks out in 1955 which last until 1959.


According to the Zurich-London Treaty, Cyprus becomes an independent republic on 16th August 1960. It is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Commonwealth as well as the Non-Aligned Movement. According to the above Treaty, Britain retains in the island two Sovereign Bases, (158.5 sq km) at Dhekelia and Akrotiri-Episkopi.

The 1960 Constitution of the Cyprus Republic proves unworkable in many of its provisions, and this made impossible its smooth implementation. When in 1963, the President of the Republic proposed some amendments to facilitate the functioning of the state, the Turkish community responded with rebellion (Dec. 1963), the Turkish ministers withdrew from the Cabinet and the Turkish civil servants ceased attending their offices while Turkey threatened to invade Cyprus. Ever since then, the aim of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, acting on instructions from the Turkish Government, has been the partitioning of Cyprus and annexation by Turkey. In July 1974, a coup is staged in Cyprus by the Military junta, then in power in Athens, for the overthrow of President Makarios. On 20 July 1974, Turkey launched an invasion with 40,000 troops against defenseless Cyprus. Since 1974, 37% of the island is under Turkish military occupation and 200,000 Greek Cypriots, 40% of the total Greek Cypriot population, were forced to leave their homes in the occupied area and were turned into refugees. The invasion of Turkey and the occupation of 37% of the island’s territory as well as the continuing violation of the fundamental human rights of the people of Cyprus have been condemned by international bodies, such as the UN General Assembly, the Non-aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and the Council of Europe.