10,000 years of Cyprus History

In 2004 French archaeologists led by Jean-Denis Vigne discovered the remains of an 8-month-old cat buried with its human owner at a Neolithic site dated to 0 8500 B.C.  The most significant Neolithic settlement that can be visited taking its name from today’s village Choirokoitia, located near the main road connecting Nicosia with Limassol it is called Khirokitia situated in the Maroni valley about 6 km from the southern coast

The Phoenicians arrived in Cyprus as merchants and settled originally in the coastal cities and afterwards in the mainland. A great Phoenician centre was Kitio (today’s Larnaka). Massive Lebanon cedars found in 1986 at circa 3500 B.C Hierakonpolis temple in upper Egypt have showm academic doubters that Phoenicians were sophisticated sea faring traders throughout the rise of Egyptian pyramids over the millenniums before the bible was written.

In the last centuries of the Bronze Age (around 1200 – 1050 B.C.), Mycenaean settlers arrived in Cyprus, joining the natives whose economy was already engaged in supplying the nearby Phoenicians with bronze, cedar wood, perfume and wine to trade with the great civilizations of Babylon and Egypt and as far as Great Britain. The Greeks added vowels to the Phoenician alphabet and joined the Phoenicians is setting up their colonies along the shores of the Mediterranean.  This culture became the world’s most influential and even today its fantastic stories and characters are well known to most well educated citizens and artists of the world. This Greek culture adopted wholeheartedly by the Roman Empire is alive in Cyprus where its stories were first fashioned from both the actual and figurative “melting pot” of the bronze age.

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Cyprus was never under the direct control of the Assyrian empire. But during the reign of Sargon II 721-705 BC its rulers dispatched a diplomatic delegation to the Assyrian king in an attempt to lessen the control of Tyre over the island. In 707 – 650 B.C., Cyprus the Assyrians were the dominant power but they preferred tributes to direct rule and the City States thrived as both a provider of raw materials and manufacturing  center. Following a brief period of Egyptian domination in the sixth century BCE, Cyprus fell under Persian rule, leaving the city-kingdoms to continue striking their own coins and waging war amongst one another, until the late-fourth century BCE saw the overthrow of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great.

Alexander from Macedonia conquered Cyprus during his expedition against the Persians (332 B.C.), while afterwards, it finally passed to the rule of Greek kings of Egypt, known as Ptolemies (294 B.C.). The Ptolemies ruled Cyprus exercising centralized administrative control. However, they allowed the Cypriot cities to exercise a system of limited self-government called “Confederation of the Cypriots” (Koinon Kyprion); an institution with religious character, and the authority to mint copper coins. At that time, Paphos was the capital of the island. Leda_swan-Paphos-mosaic.jpg

Cyprus became finally Roman province in 30 B.C. There are still many well-preserved architectural monuments, left by the Romans in various cities of the island, such as the house of Dionysus in Paphos, with the mosaic floors representing scenes from the life of the wine god.

Cyprus was one of the first centres of Christianity. Apostles Paul and Barnabas preached in Cyprus, while Apostle Barnabas is considered the founder of the Church of Cyprus.

In the 4th c. A.D., Cyprus was annexed to the Byzantine Empire. In the 5th c. A.D., the Orthodox Church of Cyprus was recognized as independent and autocephalous, devolving major authority to the Archbishop of Cyprus.

In 1191, during the 3rd Crusade, Richard the Lionheart, king of England, conquered Cyprus on his way to the Holy Places, and then sold it to the French noble Guy de Lusignan, initiating the period of Frankish rule (1192-1489).

In 1489 Cyprus passed to the Venetian rule, while in 1571 it was annexed to the Ottoman Empire (1571).

In 1878, at the congress of Berlin Turkey ceded the occupation and administration of Cyprus to Great Britain. In 1914, when Turkey participated in the 1st World War on the side of Germany, G. Britain annexed Cyprus. In 1923, with the Lausanne Convention, Turkey recognized the annexation of Cyprus, while in 1925 it was proclaimed a colony of Great Britain.

In 1931 the Greek-Cypriots revolted (“October revolt”). The British suppressed the revolt (having as a result five dead people and sixty injured, while two thousand people were convicted to various terms of imprisonment) and imposed strict measures. In 1955, the Greek-Cypriots started a liberation fight, with Makarios as political leader and Georgios Grivas as military leader (EOKA, National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters).

In 1959, with the Zürich Agreement and the London Agreement between Turkey, Greece and Great Britain, the anticolonial struggle ceased and the Cypriot state was founded under the supervision of the three guarantor powers. On August 16th 1960, the Archbishop Makarios was elected Cyprus’ first President.

On July 15th 1974 the Greek Junta and EOKA-B organized a coup d’état against the Cypriot government. The Turkish invasion to Kyrenia followed on July 20th 1974. On August 14th 1974, the Turkish army attacked again and finally occupied 37% of the Cypriot territory. The occupation line or Attila Line, as named by the Turks, divides until today the Cypriot territory.

Occupied by the Turkish army, held apart by United Nations peace-keeping forces, exposed to Greek debt and facing periodic water shortages Cyprus remains an oasis much loved by many for its climate, unique geography, many layers of history as well as  its friendly welcoming culture which has charmed visitors for 10,000 years

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