History of Cyprus
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|History of Cyprus|
Human habitation of Cyprus dates back to the Paleolithic era. Cyprus's geographic position has caused Cyprus to be influenced by differing Eastern Mediterranean civilisations over the millennia.
Cyprus was settled by humans in the Paleolithic period (known as the stone age) who coexisted with various dwarf animal species, such as dwarf elephants (Elephas cypriotes) and pygmy hippos (Hippopotamus minor) well into the Holocene. There are claims of an association of this fauna with artifacts of Epipalaeolithic foragers at Aetokremnos near Limassol on the southern coast of Cyprus. The first undisputed settlement occurred in the 9th (or perhaps 10th) millennium BC from the Levant. The first settlers were agriculturalists of the so-called PPNB (pre-pottery Neolithic B) era, but did not yet produce pottery (aceramic Neolithic).
The dog, sheep, goats and possibly cattle and pigs were introduced, as well as numerous wild animals such as foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) that were previously unknown on the island. The PPNB settlers built round houses with floors made of terrazzo of burned lime (e.g. Kastros, Shillourokambos) and cultivated einkorn and emmer. Pigs, sheep, goat and cattle were kept but remained, for the most part, behaviourally wild. Evidence of cattle such as that attested at Shillourokambos is rare, and when they apparently died out in the course of the 8th millennium they were not re-introduced until the ceramic Neolithic.
In the 6th millennium BC, the aceramic Khirokitia culture was characterised by roundhouses, stone vessels and an economy based on sheep, goats and pigs. Cattle were unknown, and Persian fallow deer were hunted. This was followed by the ceramic Sotira phase. The Eneolithic era is characterised by stone figurines with spread arms.
Water wells discovered by archaeologists in western Cyprus are believed to be among the oldest in the world, dated at 9,000 to 10,500 years old, putting them in the Stone Age. They are said to show the sophistication of early settlers, and their heightened appreciation for the environment.
In 2004, the remains of an 8-month-old cat were discovered buried with its human owner at a Neolithic archeological site in Cyprus. The grave is estimated to be 9,500 years old, predating Egyptian civilization and pushing back the earliest known feline-human association significantly.
In the Bronze Age the first cities, such as Enkomi, were built. Systematic copper mining began, and this resource was widely traded. Mycenaean Greeks were undoubtedly inhabiting Cyprus from the late stage of the Bronze Age, while the island's Greek name is already attested from the 15th century B.C. in the Linear B script.
The Cypriot syllabic script was first used in early phases of the late Bronze Age (LCIB) and continued in use for ca. 500 years into the to LC IIIB, maybe up to the second half of the eleventh century BC. Most scholars believe it was used for a native Cypriot language (Eteocypriot) that survived until the 4th century BC, but the actual proofs for this are scant, as the tablets still have not been completely deciphered.
The LCIIC (1300-1200 BC) was a time of local prosperity. Cities such as Enkomi were rebuilt on a rectangular grid plan, where the town gates correspond to the grid axes and numerous grand buildings front the street system or newly founded. Great official buildings constructed from ashlar masonry point to increased social hierarchisation and control. Some of these buildings contain facilities for processing and storing olive oil, such as Maroni-Vournes and Building X at Kalavassos-Ayios Dhimitrios. A Sanctuary with a horned altar constructed from ashlar masonry has been found at Myrtou-Pigadhes, other temples have been located at Enkomi, Kition and Kouklia (Palaepaphos). Both the regular layout of the cities and the new masonry techniques find their closest parallels in Syria, especially in Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra). Rectangular corbelled tombs point to close contacts with Syria and Palestine as well.
The practice of writing spread and tablets in the Cypriot syllabic script have been found at Ras Shamra which was the Phoenician city of Ugarit. Ugaritic texts from Ras Shamra and Enkomi mention Ya, the Assyrian name of Cyprus, that thus seems to have been in use already in the late Bronze Age.
Copper ingots shaped like oxhides have been recovered from shipwrecks such as at Ulu Burun, Iria and Cape Gelidonya which attest to the widespread metal trade. Weights in the shape of animals found in Enkomi and Kalavassos follow the Syro-Palestinian, Mesopotamian, Hittite and Aegean standards and thus attest to the wide ranging trade as well.
Late Bronze Age Cyprus was a part of the Hittite empire but was a client state and as such was not invaded but rather merely part of the empire by association and governed by the ruling kings of Ugarit. As such Cyprus was essentially "left alone with little intervention in Cypriot affairs". However, during the reign of Tudhaliya, the island was briefly invaded by the Hittites for either reasons of securing the copper resource or as a way of preventing piracy. Shortly afterwards the island was reconquered by his son around 1200 BCE.
In the later phase of the late Bronze Age (LCIIIA, 1200-1100 BC) great amounts of 'Mycenean' IIIC:1b pottery were produced locally. New architectural features include cyclopean walls, found on the Greek mainland, as well and a certain type of rectangular stepped capitals, endemic on Cyprus. Chamber tombs are given up in favour of shaft graves. Large amounts of IIIC:1b pottery are found in Palestine during this period as well. While this was formerly interpreted as evidence of an invasion ('Sea Peoples'), this is seen more and more as an indigenous development, triggered by increasing trade relations with Cyprus and Crete. Evidence of early trade with Crete is found in archaeological recovery on Cyprus of pottery from Cydonia, a powerful urban center of ancient Crete.
Although Achaean Greeks were living in Cyprus from the 14th century, most of them inhabited the island after the Trojan war. Achaeans were colonizing Cyprus from 1210-1000 BC. Dorian Greeks come at 1100 BC and unlike the Greek mainland they settle in Cyprus peacefully.
Another wave of Greek settlement is believed to have taken place in the following century (LCIIIB, 1100-1050), indicated, among other things, by a new type of graves (long dromoi) and Mycenean influences in pottery decoration.
Most authors claim that the Cypriot city kingdoms, first described in written sources in the 8th century BC were already founded in the 11th century BC. Other scholars see a slow process of increasing social complexity between the 12th and the 8th centuries, based on a network of chiefdoms. In the 8th century (geometric period) the number of settlements increases sharply and monumental tombs, like the 'Royal' tombs of Salamis appear for the first time. This could be a better indication for the appearance of the Cypriot kingdoms.
- Geometric 1050-700
- Archaic 700-525
Foundations myths documented by classical authors connect the foundation of numerous Cypriot towns with immigrant Greek heroes in the wake of the Trojan war. For example, Teucer, brother of Aias was supposed to have founded Salamis, and the Arcadian Agapenor of Tegea to have replaced the native ruler Kinyras and to have founded Paphos. Some scholars see this a memory of a Greek colonisation already in the 11th century. In the 11th century tomb 49 from Palaepaphos-Skales three bronze obeloi with inscriptions in Cypriot syllabic script have been found, one of which bears the name of Opheltas. This is first indication of the use of Greek language on the island.
Cremation as a burial rite is seen as a Greek introduction as well. The first cremation burial in Bronze vessels has been found at Kourion-Kaloriziki, tomb 40, dated to the first half of the 11th century (LCIIIB). The shaft grave contained two bronze rod tripod stands, the remains of a shield and a golden sceptre as well. Formerly seen as the Royal grave of first Argive founders of Kourion, it is now interpreted as the tomb of a native Cypriote or a Phoenician prince. The cloisonné enamelling of the sceptre head with the two falcons surmounting it has no parallels in the Aegean, but shows a strong Egyptian influence.
In the 8th century, several Phoenician colonies were founded, like Kart-Hadasht ('New Town'), present day Larnaca and Salamis. The oldest cemetery of Salamis has indeed produced children's burials in Canaanite jars, clear indication of Phoenician presence already in the LCIIIB 11th century. Similar jar burials have been found in cemeteries in Kourion-Kaloriziki and Palaepaphos-Skales near Kouklia. In Skales, many Levantine imports and Cypriote imitations of Levantine forms have been found and point to a Phoenician expansion even before the end of the 11th century.
The first written source shows Cyprus under Assyrian rule. A stela found 1845 in Kition commemorates the victory of king Sargon II (721-705 BC) in 709 over the seven kings in the land of Ia', in the district of Iadnana or Atnana. The former is supposedly the Assyrian name of the island, while some authors take the latter to mean Greece (the Islands of the Danaoi). There are other inscriptions referring to Ia' in Sargon's palace at Khorsabad. The ten kingdoms listed by an inscription of Esarhaddon in 673/2 BC have been identified as Salamis, Kition, Amathus, Kourion, Paphos and Soli on the coast and Tamassos, Ledra, Idalium and Chytri in the interior.
Cyprus gained independence for some time around 669 but was conquered by Egypt under Amasis (570-526/525). The island was conquered by the Persians around 545 BC. A Persian palace has been excavated in the territory of Marion on the North coast near Soli. The inhabitants took part in the Ionian rising. At the beginning of the 4th century BC, Euagoras I, King of Salamis, took control of the whole island and tried to gain independence from Persia. Another uprising took place in 350 but was crushed by Artaxerxes in 344.
During the siege of Tyre, the Cypriot Kings went over to Alexander the Great. In 321 four Cypriot kings sided with Ptolemy I Soter and defended the island against Antigonos. Ptolemy lost Cyprus to Demetrios Poliorketes in 306 and 294 BC, but after that it remained under Ptolemaic rule till 58 BC. It was ruled by a governor from Egypt and sometimes formed a minor Ptolemaic kingdom during the power-struggles of the 2nd and 1st centuries. Strong commercial relationships with Athens and Alexandria, two of the most important commercial centres of antiquity, developed.
Full Hellenisation only took place under Ptolemaic rule. Phoenician and native Cypriot traits disappeared, together with the old Cypriot syllabic script. A number of cities were founded during this time, e.g. Arsinoe that was founded between old and new Paphos by Ptolemy II.
Cyprus became a Roman province in 58 BC, according to Strabo because Publius Clodius Pulcher held a grudge against Ptolemy and sent Marcus Cato to conquer the island after he had become tribune. Marc Anthony gave the island to Cleopatra VII of Egypt and her sister Arsinoe IV, but it became a Roman province again after his defeat at the Battle of Actium (31 BC) in 30 BC. Since 22 BC it was a senatorial province, after the reforms of Diocletian it was placed under the Consularis Oriens. (From then it was governed by a proconsul.) The island suffered great losses during the Jewish rising of 115/116 AD. Several earthquakes led to the destruction of Salamis at the beginning of the 4th century, at the same time drought and famine hit the island.
Christianisation: The apostle Paul is reported to have converted the people of Cyprus to Christianity. The Levite Barnabas, a Cypriot, travels to Cyprus and Anatolia with Paul (Acts. 12, 13). During the 5th century AD, the church of Cyprus achieved its independence from the Patriarch of Antioch at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Middle Ages to High Middle Ages and Byzantine Renaissance
After the division of the Roman Empire into an eastern half and a western half, Cyprus came under the rule of Byzantium. At that time, its bishop, while still subject to the Church, was made autocephalous by the Council of Ephesus.
The Arabs invaded Cyprus in force in the 650s, but in 688, the emperor Justinian II and the caliph Abd al-Malik reached an unprecedented agreement. For the next 300 years, Cyprus was ruled jointly by both the Arabs and the Byzantines as a condominium, despite the nearly constant warfare between the two parties on the mainland. The Byzantines recovered control over the island for short periods thereafter, but the status quo was always restored.
This period lasted until the year 965, when Niketas Chalkoutzes conquered the island for a resurgent Byzantium. In 1185, the last Byzantine governor of Cyprus, Isaac Comnenus of Cyprus from a minor line of the Imperial house, rose in rebellion and attempted to seize the throne. His attempted coup was unsuccessful, but Comnenos was able to retain control of the island.
In the 12th century A.D. the island became a target of the crusaders. Richard the Lionheart landed in Limassol on 1 June 1191 in search of his sister and his bride Berengaria, whose ship had become separated from the fleet in a storm. Richard's army landed when Isaac refused to return the hostages (Richard's sister, his bride, and several shipwrecked soldiers), and forced Isaac to flee from Limassol. He eventually surrendered, conceding control of the island to the King of England. Richard married Berengaria in Limassol on 12 May 1192. She was crowned as Queen of England by John Fitzluke, Bishop of Évreux. The crusader fleet continued to St. Jean d'Acre (Syria) on 5 June.
The army of Richard the Lionheart continued to occupy Cyprus and raised taxes. He sold the island to the Knights Templar. Soon after that, the Franks (Lusignans) occupied the island, establishing the Kingdom of Cyprus. They declared Latin the official language, later replacing it with French; much later, Greek was recognised as a second official language. In 1196, the Latin Church was established, and the Orthodox Cypriot Church experienced a series of religious persecutions. Maronites settled on Cyprus during the crusades and still maintain some villages in the North.
Late Middle Ages and Renaissance
Amalric I of Cyprus, received the royal crown and title from Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor. A small minority Roman Catholic population of the island was mainly confined to some coastal cities, such as Famagusta, as well as inland Nicosia, the traditional capital. Roman Catholics kept the reins of power and control, while the Greek inhabitants lived in the countryside; this was much the same as the arrangement in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The independent Eastern Orthodox Church of Cyprus, with its own archbishop and subject to no patriarch, was allowed to remain on the island, but the Latin Church largely displaced it in stature and holding property.
After the death of Amalric of Lusignan, the Kingdom continually passed to a series of young boys who grew up as king. The Ibelin family, which had held much power in Jerusalem prior its downfall, acted as regents during these early years. In 1229 one of the Ibelin regents was forced out of power by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, who brought the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines to the island.
Frederick's supporters were defeated in this struggle by 1233, although it lasted longer in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and in the Holy Roman Empire. Frederick's Hohenstaufen descendants continued to rule as kings of Jerusalem until 1268 when Hugh III of Cyprus claimed the title and its territory of Acre for himself upon the death of Conrad III of Jerusalem, thus uniting the two kingdoms. The territory in Palestine was finally lost while Henry II was king in 1291, but the kings of Cyprus continued to claim the title.
Like Jerusalem, Cyprus had a Haute Cour (High Court), although it was less powerful than it had been in Jerusalem. The island was richer and more feudal than Jerusalem, so the king had more personal wealth and could afford to ignore the Haute Cour. The most important vassal family was the multi-branch House of Ibelin. However, the king was often in conflict with the Italian merchants, especially because Cyprus had become the centre of European trade with Africa and Asia after the fall of Acre in 1291.
The kingdom eventually came to be dominated more and more in the 14th century by the Genoese merchants. Cyprus therefore sided with the Avignon Papacy in the Western Schism, in the hope that the French would be able to drive out the Italians. The Mameluks then made the kingdom a tributary state in 1426; the remaining monarchs gradually lost almost all independence, until 1489 when the last Queen, Catherine Cornaro, was forced to sell the island to Venice. Ottomans started raiding Cyprus immediately afterwards, and captured it in 1571.
Cyprus under the Ottoman Empire
Beginnings of Enosis
During the Greek War of Independence the Greek people fought for independence from the Ottoman Empire who ruled them. A number of Greek Cypriots rebelled on Cyprus, in return the Ottoman rulers of Cyprus tried to keep control by using draconian means of suppression. 486 Greek Cypriots were executed on 9 July 1821, accused of conspiring with the rebelling Greeks, including four Bishops and numerous prominent citizens—all beheaded in the central square of Nicosia, while Archbishop Kyprianos was hanged. Actions during the short period that followed caused a strengthening of that Greek Cypriot desire to become part of Greece, known as Enosis ("Union").
Many Cypriots again sought the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece when Greece became independent in 1830, but it remained part of the Ottoman Empire. The Russo-Turkish War ended the Ottoman control of Cyprus in 1878 when Cyprus was left under the control of the United Kingdom; with its conditions set out in the Cyprus Convention, although sovereignty of the island continued to belong to the Ottoman Empire until the Kingdom annexed the island unilaterally in 1914, when it declared war against the Ottomans at the First World War.
Under British rule the island began to enjoy a period of increased free-speech, something which allowed further development of the Greek Cypriots' ideas of Enosis.
In 1878, as the result of the Cyprus Convention, the United Kingdom took over the government of Cyprus as a protectorate from the Ottoman Empire. In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Cyprus was annexed by the United Kingdom. In 1925, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Cyprus was made a Crown Colony. Between 1955-59 EOKA was created by Greek Cypriots and led by George Grivas to perform enosis (union of the island with Greece). However the EOKA campaign did not result union with Greece but rather an independent republic, The Republic of Cyprus, in 1960.
In 1960, the mostly Muslim Turkish Cypriots were only 18% of the Cypriot population. However, the 1960 constitution put in place a form of power-sharing, or consociational government, in which concessions were made to the Turkish Cypriot minority, for example there was a requirement the vice-president of Cyprus and at least 30% of members of parliament be Turkish Cypriots. Archbishop Makarios would be the President and Dr Fazil Kucuk would become Vice President. One of the articles in the constitution was the creation of separate local municipalities so that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could manage their own municipalities in the big towns.
Internal conflicts turned into full-fledged armed fighting between the two communities on the island which prompted the United Nations to send peacekeeping forces in 1964; these forces are still in place today. In 1974 Greek Cypriots performed a military coup with the support of military junta in Greece. Turkey used the coup as a pretext to invade the northern portion of the island. Turkish forces remained after a cease-fire, resulting in the partition of the island; an objective of Turkey since 1955. The intercommunal violence and subsequent Turkish invasion led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Cypriots.
The de facto state of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed in 1975 under the name "Turkish Federated State of Northern Cyprus". The name was changed to its present form on 15 November 1983. The only country to formally recognise The "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" is Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of Turkish settlers have been granted right to illegally reside in the 'TRNC' and allowed to reside on Greek Cypriot land and property in order to change the island's demographic in favour of the Turkish Cypriots. The international community considers the North as occupied territory of the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey has repeatedly violated numerous UN Resolutions calling on it to withdraw its occupation.
In 2002 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan started a new round of negotiations for the unification of the island. In 2004 after long negotiations between both sides a plan for unification of the island emerged. The resulting plan was supported by UN, EU and the US. The nationalists in both sides campaigned for the rejection of the plan but Turkish side accepted the plan while Greek side rejected it.
After Cyprus became a member of the European Union in 2004, it adopted the Euro as its currency on January 1, 2008, replacing the previously used Cypriot Pound; whilst the illegally occupied areas continued to use the Turkish Lira and on January 1, 2008 the New Turkish Lira.
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- UN Resolutions on Cyprus
- History, general
- C. D. Cobham, Excerpta Cypria: materials for a history of Cyprus (Cambridge 1908). Nice Collection of written sources.
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- Vassos Karageorghis, Cyprus (1969). Includes bibliography.
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- Classical Period, Sources
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- History, 20th century
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- Cyprus - an island divided - Interactive guide from The Guardian