Cyprus history

What is Cyprus?

For many millennial in the Mediterranean, the cities and the empires flourished and faded away, the wars broke out and people migrated. Cyprus has always been in the thick of these events because of its geopolitical position. Being at the crossroads of major trade routes between Europe, Asia and Africa, the island was constantly under attack. The Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Latins, Venetians, Turks, and British - these conquerors succeeded each other: some rules were short, while others swayed for centuries. However, it is worth saying that the original civilization brought by the Greeks has not lost its leading positions even today. So first things first:

ancient Cyprus

Ancient history of Cyprus


The earliest signs of civilization found on the island during the archaeological excavations are the Neolithic (Stone Age). The remains of ancient settlements Hirokitiya and Tenta located near the town of Limassol can serve as a striking example of this period of the Cypriot history. Thus, we can establish the fact that already in the 4th millennium BC the island was inhabited by people.

The next milestone in the development of civilization in Cyprus was the copper age. The emergence of the so-called Pomos Idol (human figure with outstretched arms) belongs to this period. The image of the statue can be found on the back of the coins of € 1 and € 2 minted in Cyprus. In the Bronze Age Minoans colonized the island, which began to mine copper, and later by the Phoenicians. The appearance of the Greek language and literature is noted. Around the VII - VI centuries BC 10 city-states have already appeared in Cyprus. The influence of the Cretan and Greek culture gradually becomes the determining factor in the further development of the island.

ancient CyprusAntiquity

The period of antiquity in Cyprus was marked with almost incessant wars. First, the island was a part of the Persian Empire (526 years BC), then it was captured by the Greeks (449 BC), then passes into the possession of the Persians (380 BC). In 321 BC as a result of the campaign of Alexander of Macedon Cyprus joined the Hellenistic Egypt. In 58 BC the island becomes a Roman province.

This era is characterized by fragile ethnic, political and religious isolation, the emergence of new forms of statehood, the expansion of economic ties, deepening the process of social differentiation. All this led to a greater dependence on the external world, the loss of a particular political identity of the island. Just as in past centuries, Cyprus remained the main supplier of copper, silver, grain and timber, as well as a center of maritime trade and shipbuilding. To facilitate communication between Ptolemaic Egypt and Cyprus, the island's capital was moved from Salamis to Paphos.

Also known by its temple of Aphrodite, Paphos has also become a religious center of the island. Despite the continuing rivalry of the Ptolemies and Seleucids, the island's population lived in the relative peace, contributing to its social and cultural development. Cities were built with straight lines, with intersecting at right angles streets, oriented to the sides of the world. Many constructions of the Hellenistic Cyprus were replaced later by the Romans or suffered from strong earthquakes in 15 BC and 76-77 AD, but epigraphic monuments confirm the existence of gymnasiums in Paphos, Salamis, Kition and Kourion. We also know that in the II century BC the theater was built in Curio. The remains of public buildings also exist in Idalion. All this suggests the existence of the polis government combined with the Hellenistic monarchy. In other words, the Cypriots, being subordinate to the king, at the same time had a significant amount of rights in the domestic government.

The level of spiritual life on the island is shown in the contribution of Cypriots in the development of Hellenistic culture. Eudemos was well known in the ancient world (IV century BC), he was a friend of Plato and Aristotle. His work contributed to the approval of the ethical principle of hedonism, according to which happiness is the highest goal of human life. Among the thinkers of the time we can mention Zeno of Kition who was the founder of the philosophical school of Stoicism (335-264 years. BC).

The priority of the main goddesses Aphrodite remained in the religious life of Cypriots. She became famous as the Great Mother, the giver of fertility and abundance to the lands. Along with Aphrodite and other gods the Greek pantheon was also worshiped. The cult of Serapis was a specific product of the Hellenistic period. He combined the features of Osiris and Zeus. Thus, the Ptolemaic attempted to unite Greek colonists with the local Egyptian population. Serapis was worshiped in Cyprus along with Isis, the evidence of which can be found the ruins of a temple complex in Sola. The island is also characterized by the existence of the dynastic cult, in particular Arsinoe, a sister and wife of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who is often identified with Aphrodite.

paphos Byzantium ruins

The Byzantine period in the history of Cyprus


After the collapse of the Roman Empire in 395, the island came under Byzantine rule. During this period, the influence of the church significantly increases. In 46 BC apostolic church was established in Cyprus. Then the bishops in Cirion Ashios and Philo appeared. Distribution and establishment of Christianity continued here for three centuries. On the Ephesus Council Cyprus Church was recognized as autocephalous. The period of the rule of the Byzantine Empire lasted for almost 800 years until the capture of the island by the Arabs in 688. Emperor Justinian II and Caliph Abd al-Malik managed to reach an unprecedented agreement. The next 300 years, Cyprus was ruled by both the Arabs and the Byzantine Empire as a condominium, despite repeated continental war between the two parties. This period lasted until 965, when a resurgent Byzantine Empire finally conquered the island.

crusader castleCyprus under the rule of the Crusaders

In 1191, during the third Crusade, Richard the Lionheart landed in Limassol and captured Cyprus. After looting of the island, he sold it to Guy de Lusignan, whose dynasty ruled Cyprus until 1489. The island's population was under cruel oppression, which was aggravated by religious strife (the rulers of Cyprus were Catholics, the population adhered to Eastern Christian faith). Economic power on the island increasingly passed into the hands of Italian merchants, and in 1488 the last Queen of Cyprus, Venetian by birth, officially handed the island to the Venetian republic. But the Venetian republic did not retain it for a long time. In 1570-1571 the Cyprus was conquered by the Turkish army.

ayios nicolas cathedral in famagustaThe period of the Ottoman rule

In 1571 the island was finally conquered by the Ottoman Empire. During three hundred years of Turkish domination of the island it radically changed. 30000 Ottoman soldiers were placed to Cyprus and almost as many Turks were relocated to the island from Turkey. Changes in the life of the island, in connection with these events can be traced to two main points. First, it changed the ethnic and religious composition of the Cypriot society. As tax-paying population census carried out in 1572 as a result of military action,around 65 thousand Christians, especially adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church remained in Cyprus, so the port has taken several measures to forcibly resettle both Muslim and non-Muslim subjects from other provinces.

The Ottoman Empire established in Cyprus the same tax system as in other conquered Christian areas. Christians were considered "dhimmi" ("People of the Book"), for which recognized the right to life, but they were required to pay a utility bill or bank tax - jizya. This organization has contributed to a broad transition of the local population to Islam. Many Greek Cypriots crossed to Islam only formally, secretly continuing to adhere to Christianity, but for generations they have been gradually influenced by the Turkish.

Another important change in the lives of Cypriots has been the increasing role of the Orthodox Church. In 1815 this circumstance has led the British diplomat Turnerto argue that in fact the Archbishop and his subordinate priests control Cyprus. Since the end of the XVIII century the national consciousness and widespread idea of liberation from Turke ybegan to awaken among non-Muslims. However, Turkish authorities were drowned any expression of the liberation movements in blood. For example, in 1821 the sultan governor of the island, Kyuchgak Metet, ordered to hang Archbishop Kiprianosa, to behead three bishops and hundreds of Cypriot aristocrats accused of the involvement in the uprising.

cyprus and eu flags

Cyprus as a British colony


June 4, 1878 the island came under British rule, in exchange for the support provided by Turkey to the Russian-Turkish war. The British administration initially acted very cautiously, because the convention allowed only temporary occupation of the island. In 1888 the British developed the constitution to Cyprus on a classic colonial model. In accordance with the "constitution" in 1882, limited self-government of both communities was set in Cyprus. The activities of the British brought some results in the economic sphere. The lease system was abolished, taxation was streamlined, the steps to improve the situation of the peasants were taken, the roads were built, health care was improved (in Turkish rule the island was a place of exile, as it was considered the most disadvantaged place for health of the empire).

Finally, the island was annexed in 1914 during the First World War. The real power in Cyprus was taken over by the British Governor, self-governing body - the Legislative Council was formed. In 1925, Britain officially announced Cyprus its Crown Colony. Already in 1931, riots erupt among the Greek population, demanding enosis (union with Greece), resulting in the death of six people and burning houses the British administration in Nicosia. During the riot two thousand people were arrested.

During the Second World War, the Cypriot volunteers fought in the British armed forces. In the Second World War, the colonial authorities chose to go to the softening regime, and in 1943, for the first time after 12 year break in Cyprus; municipal elections were held in which the Communists have achieved considerable success of the party Akel. Cypriots' hopes of the independence in the postwar period did not materialize, because Britain still viewed Cyprus as an important strategic foothold in the eastern Mediterranean. After attempts of a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus issue have failed, in 1955, a war for independence started and lasted until 1959.

Cyprus land

Cypriot-Turkish conflict of 1974


The long-awaited independence, acquired in 1960, contrary to all expectations, did not bring to the suffering island a peaceful life. In December 1959 Makarios III, who returned from exile, was elected as a president of Cyprus. Parliamentary elections in July 1960 brought victory to his supporters who formed the Patriotic Front. Vice-president of the island was Turkish Cypriot F. Kucuk. In 1963, the clashes broke out between the Greek and Turkish communities inhabiting the island.

In July 1974 the Cypriot reaction with the support of the Athens military junta which carried out the policy of "Enosis" (the accession of Cyprus to Greece), coup d'état was attempted. Under the pretext of restoring order and protecting the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey has introduced its troops to the island, occupying about 37% of its territory. This led to a virtual split of Cyprus into two distinct parts. The situation is not solved up to now.