History of Cyprus

History of Cyprus

Chronological History of Cyprus

C. 8,500 - 8,000 BC Hunter Gatherers
7,000 - 5,300 BC The first settlers: the Khirokitians.
4,000 - 2,500 BC Chalcolitic (Copper) Age: stone crucifix pendants are carved.
2,700-1,600 BC Cypriot Bronze Ages, Early and Middle: cattle, horses, and bronze making are introduced as well as highly indi- vidualpottery style. 
1,600-1,050 BC The Late Bronze Age: period of sophisticated literate city states such as Enkomi-Alasia and Kition.
1500 - 1450 BC Hittite rule in Cyprus
1450 - 1200 BC Beginning of the Egyptian domination of the island.
1200 - 1000 BC Establishment of the city states of Salamis (capital at the time), Soli, Marion, Paphos, Kurium, and Kyrenia; arrival of Greek colonies.
1,000 - 850 BC The coming of Iron, the Dorians and a Dark Age also known as Cypro-Geometric I and II.
850 - 750 BC The Phonecian-led Renaissance
750 - 612 BC Assyrian rule of Cyprus; The golden age of Archaic Cyprus when the island was divided between a dozen city kingdoms.
568 - 525 BC Egyptian rule.
525 - 333 BC Persian occupation and the rule of the island; also termed as the Cypro-Classical period and the duel between Kition and Salamis.
333 - 58 BC Hellenistic rule: the heirs of the Alexander the Great rule the island. 
58 - 395 AD Roman Empire ruling Cyprus: 350 years of quiet provincial prosperity.
395 - 649 AD Island becomes a part of the Byzantine Empire when Cyprus is gradually converted from paganism to Orthodox Christianity.
649 - 965 AD A second Dark Age: the island is caught on the frontier between the two warring empired of Byzantium and Islam.
965 - 1191 AD Return of the island to Byzantium.
1191 - 1192  Rule of the island by Richard the Lionheart, of England.
1192 - 1489  Rule of the island by the Frankish Lusignan dynasty. 
1489 - 1570 Venetian domination of the island.
1571 - 1878 Conquest of the island by the Ottoman Empire.
1878 - 1925 In accordance with a defence-alliance between Britain and the Ottoman Empire, the administration of Cyprus passes to Britain.
1925 - 1960 - Cyprus is annexed by Britain when Ottoman Empire enters into the World War I on the side of Germany; subsequently the island becomes a British Crown colony and under the British rule.
1960 - Kıbrıs Cumhuriyetini Kuruluşu
Kıbrıs'lı türkler Kıbrıs'lı Rumlar Londra ve Zürih anlaşmalarına dayanan bir ittifakla bağımsız Kıbrıs Cumhuriyetini kurdular.
1963  Inter-communal strife in Cyprus and the subsequent collapse of the constitutional rule.
1974 - Coup d'etat by the Greek army officers stationed on the island to overthrow the President (Makarios) with the aim of uniting the island with Greece; subsequent Turkish Military intervention (under the provisions of the Treaty of Guarantee of the Republic of Cyprus).
1974 - Division of the island into Turkish-Cypriot North and Greek-Cypriot South; Declaration of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus, to pave way for a federal settlement on the island.
1983 - Foundation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.


Neolithic 7000-3900BC

The earliest traces of settlement in Cyprus go back to 7000BC. The origin of the first settlers is thought to be the mainland to the north and east. There is evidence of two cultural phases, pre-pottery Neolithic I (7000-6000BC) and Neolithic II (4500-3900BC). An important settlement from the second phase was found on the north coast, east of Kyrenia, known as Ayios Epiktitos Vrysi. The houses were half-sunk and roofed with wood and thatch. Narrow covered passages linked the houses. Amongst the finds unearthed were polished stone axes and chisels, and stone idols.
Little is known about the gulf between Neolithic I and II (6000BC-4500BC). The island may have been temporarily abandoned on account of a natural catastrophe, or perhaps intermediate sites have not yet been recognised.

Chalcolithic 3900-2600BC

This period marks the first introduction of copper tools, which were probably imported from the Anatolian mainland. Local manufacture is possible, but no evidence has been found. Cross shaped soapstone idols which were placed on graves or worn around the neck are characteristic of this era. At this time a cult of the dead arose, associated with rites centred on a female fertility symbol.

Early Bronze Age 2300-1850BC

The first towns and economic centres developed in Cyprus where copper was worked and exported. At this time the island developed commercial and cultural relations with Asia Minor, Egypt and the Syrian/Palestinian region. This fresh impulse resulted from an influx of immigrants from Anatolia who were displaced from their settlements in Asia Minor by invading tribes.

Judging by the multitude of articles placed with the dead - bowls, jugs, food, cimbs, knives, necklaces etc - the afterlife was evidently an important cultural feature.

Middle Bronze Age 1900-1600BC

This period is marked by an upsurge in cultural and trading contacts with neighboring countries. Copper was now a major export. The extent of trade is revealed by tomb finds of Egyptian faience beads, Asian cylinder seals, and Minoan vases, whilst Cypriot pottery has turned up in Cilicia and Palestine, and as far afield as Crete.

Late Bronze Age 1650-1050BC

The destruction of the Hykos Kingdom and the revival of Egypt as the leading power in the Eastern Mediterrean created for Cyprus at the beginning of the late bronze age favourable circumstances for its development into a flourishing commercial centre.

The period between 1500 and 1200BC saw the fusion of design elements from both East and West into the traditional Cypriot forms. Religious practices too combine elements from both the orient and the Aegean.
The prosperity of the Late Bronze Age was disrupted at the end of the 13th century BC by the so-called sea people whose origin is still a matter for conjecture. Cities were abandoned or fortified, destroyed and rebuilt. At the same time, Achaean settlers landed on the coasts of Cyprus. This Achaean colonisation is the historical basis connecting the Trojan war with the foundation of certain Cypriot cities by Trojan heroes. Lapta, for example, is belived to have been founded by Praxanor of Laconia.

Geometric Period 1050-750BC

The transition to the Iron Age was for Cyprus, as for Greece, a dark age. Natural catastrophes destroyed nearly all the Late Bronze Age settlements and led to a cultural decline, poverty, and a slump in population.
It was until the arrival of Phoenician colonisers from Tyre in the 9th century BC that the island received a fresh cultural impulse, resulting in strengthened links with the Orient.

The Phoenicians brought with them the cult of Astarte, the goddess of love and fertility. The Greek cult of Aphrodite incorporates features of the Astarte cult which suggests that the transformation of Astarte into Aphrodite occurred in Cyprus.

Archaic Period 750-475BC

In the 8th century BC Cyprus was once more drawn into the realms of the Near-Eastern powers.
Under Sargon II (721-705BC), Cypriot cities paid tribute to the Assyrian Kingdom, and after an Egyptian interlude (560-525BC), were incorporated into the Persian empire. Their Persian masters allowed the Cypriot cities considerable latitude, and created favourable conditions for an economic and cultural resurgence. Owing to its geographical position, and its natural wealth in copper and wood, the island flourished.

Gods of the Greeks, the Egyptians and the Phoenicians all found followers on the island.

Classical Period 475-325BC

The flowering of the Archaic epoch was interrupted by external events into which the island was drawn on account of its geographical situation. The turbulent events of this period saw a revolt against the Persians, which was crushed, the setting up of the Delian league by the Greeks to regain territory lost to the Persians and the subsequent temporary 'liberation' of large parts of Cyprus. The struggle against the Persians continued until Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian Empire.

Helenistic Period 325-58BC

After the death of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian general Ptolemy established control over most of the island. However, in 306BC, Demetrius, the son of one of the other Macedonian generals, landed at Carpasia and eventually mastered the island, holding it until 295BC when it was retaken by Ptolemy.

The importance of Cyprus as a shipping and trading centre at this time is symbolised by the wreck of a Greek cargo ship, recovered by archeologists off the North coast, and now preserved with its contents in Kyrenia castle.

The latter period of Ptolemaic rule degenerated into a series of internecine squabbles, and the insolent behaviour of the last Ptolemy towards a Roman senator, who was later elected tribune, gave Rome an excuse to annex the island. In 58BC Cyprus became a province of the Roman Empire.

Roman Period 58-330AD

In Cyprus a large scale building program was expedited. New harbours were built, roads were laid, aqueducts were constructed to channel water to the cities which were equipped with temples, market places, theatres, and other public amenities. The massive stone forum at Salamis is the largest Roman market place known, and indeed that city became prodigiously wealthy, exporting oil, wheat and wine to the markets of Rome.

In AD46 Paul and Barnabas, a native of Salamis, were instrumental in converting the Roman governor, who thus became the world's first Christian ruler. Barnabas later preached in Salamis where he was eventually martyred by the Jews.
After their revolt was crushed in Jerusalem in AD70 by the Romans, many Jews settled in Cyprus, particularly in Salamis. Here, in AD115, they rebelled again and the resulting carnage over the next two years prompted the decree from Rome expelling all Jews from the island.

For the next 50 years Cyprus enjoyed unparalleled prosperity, but the plague of AD164, and the later degeneration of the Roman Empire left the country in a sorry plight. Fortunes revived under Constantine (AD324-337), but in AD364 the empire split, the eastern half being ruled from the new capital city of Constantinople.

Byzantine Period 330-1191AD

Earthquakes rocked the island in 332 and 342, tumbling the towns of Salamis, Kition and Paphos. Salamis, resuming its role as capital, was rebuilt by Constantius II (337-361) and renamed Constantia.

The standing of Cyprus and its significance to Byzantium is indicated by the decision of Emperor Justinian (527-565) to classify the island as a seperate province. At this time, the cultivation of silk worms was developed, and this activity is recalled today by the widespread presence of mulberry trees.

For the next hundred years, Cyprus lay quiet and undisturbed. But out of the wastes of Arabia a new and potent power was gathering its forces. Islam spread like a forest fire throughout Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, and in 647 an Arab fleet of 1700 ships appeared off Salamis. The city was sacked, and other towns were plundered amd burned. From the 7th to the 9th century the island was repeatedly subject to Arab raids, and, at times, tribute was paid to the Caliphate as well as taxes to Constantinople. During this period many towns were abandoned, and most ancient and early Christian buildings were destroyed. The inhabitants of Salamis/Constantia finally moved out and settled in Arsinoe, which later became Famagusta.
The devastation did not end until Emperor Nicephoros Phocas (963-969) finally drove the Moslem invaders from Cyprus. To protect the island the 11th century mountain castles of St.Hilarion, Buffavento, and Kantara were built. In addition, new fortifications for Kyrenia and Nicosia were constructed.

In the 11th century a new threat arose: Seljuk Turks swarned in from the east, seizing the crumbling Caliphate, capturing Jerusalem, and crushing the Byzanine emperor at the battle of Manzikert. Taking advantage of the weakened condition of the empire, a certain Isaac Comnenos (a newphew of Emperor Manuel Comnenus) usurped control of Cyprus. In 1184 he crowned himself emperor, renouncing his allegiance to Constantinople.

The Lusignan Dynasty 1192-1489AD

The Lusignans came to rule Cyprus as a result of the Crusades, which the Roman church saw as a means of extending its power and others saw as a means to booty.

By the end of the 10th century, Christian forces occupied territory stretching from Edessa to Egypt, and had established the Kingdom of Jerusalem. By about 1186, the great Saladin has welded the Moslem nations together and embarked on a jihad to recover Jerusalem. In 1187 he destroyed the Christian armies and then took Jerusalem, leaving only Tyre, and the principalities of Tripoli and Antioch in Christian hands. This led to the Third Crusade. The Germans went by land and the English, led by Richard the Lionheart, and the French, went by sea. On thway, Richard's fleet was scattered by a storm: several ships foundered off the coast of Cyprus, and the one in which Richard's fiancee was sailing took refuge in the harbour of Limassol. The year was 1191, and the self-proclaimed emperor Isaac Comnenos was ruling Cyprus. He made the fatal mistake of arresting Richard's shipwrecked sailors, and abusing his fiancee Berengaria. When Richard arrived a few days later, he landed in force, and seized Limassol.

On May 12th 1191, Richard married Berengaria in Limassol, and she was crowned Queen os England.
In June, with bulging treasure chests filled with the wealth Isaac had anassed during his rule, Richard set sail again, leaving a garrisoned Cyprus in the charge of Richard of Camville and Robert of Tornham. These two were soon occupied in suppressing a revolt of their unwilling subjects and on hearing the news, King Richard sold the island to a military order of knights, the Templars, for 100,000 bezants.

The Templars soon discovered that the rebellious Cypriots would not submit to their severe rule, and after desperately putting down a popular uprising, they begged Richard to cancel their purchase.
Richard then offered the island of Cyprus to Guy de Lusignan, who had been king of Jerusalem. Thus began the Lusignan dynasty, which was to endure for 300 years.

Two years later, Guy died and he was succeeded by his brother Amaury. To ratify his right to rule, Amaury obtained a crown from the Holy Roman Emperor and in 1197 became the first Lusignan king of Cyprus. To secure his position from without and within, Amaury extended the mountain castles of St.Hilarion, Buffavento, and Kantara.
The fall of Jerusalem in 1244 provoked the disastrous 7th Crusade, led by King Louis of France. Accompanying his party were a number of architects, artists and stone masons. Some of these remained in Cyprus and were instrumental in the creation of the Gothic masterworks in this period.

In 1267, a king of exceptional qualities ascended the throne: Hugh of Antioch. He took effective action during the plague and famine of 1267, and under his rule the country prospered. He was a generous patron of Bellapais Abbey, but when he died in 1284, he was buried in St.Sophia in Nicosia. In 1291, the last crusader stronghold in the Levant was lost, and Cyprus became the Christian outpost of the East. Genoese, Venetian and other merchants transferred their establishments to Famagusta, which rapidly flourished as the major trading centre linking occident and orient. In the 14th century Famagusta became one of the wealthiest and most influential cities in the Mediterranean.

This prosperity was disturbed by the havoc wrought by the bubonic plague or 'Black Death' of 1349. The king sought refuge in St.Hilarion, trade ground to a halt, and after the pestilence the population was severly depleted.
In terms of art, the era of the lusignans and the crusaders was one of the most brilliant and significant epochs in the history of Cyprus. The Gothic churches, the abbey at Bellapais, the crusader castles, all constitute the most impressive memorial to Frankish art of the middle ages on oriental soil.

Venetian Period 1489-1571AD

The Venetian desire for Cyprus was inspired purely by profit. The island was well endowed with timer essential for shipbuilding, and formed an ideal base from which the Venetians could dominate trade with the east. They continued to pay the tribute enforced upon Cyprus by the Mamelukes, and when the latter were conquered by the Ottomans, the tribute was redirected to Constantinople, the seat of Ottoman power since 1453.

Anticipating conflict, the Venetians undertook an ambitous plan of fortification. Famagusta and Nicosia were ringed with impressive earthworks cased with stone. An outer wall was erected around Kyrenia castle, the gap being filled with earth to form an artillery rampart. The best military architects in Europe were brought in to design and execute these projects.
All was in vain. A body blow had already been dealt to Venice by Bartholemew Diaz, who in 1486 discovered a new sea route to India via the Cape of Good Hope. In 1570, after an ultimatum from Sultan Selim II has expired, hordes of Ottoman troops landed at Larnaca. Nicosia resisted for six weeks, refusing terms of honourable surrender on rumours of an approaching Venetian fleet. The city was eventual taken by storm, and sacked, 20,000 inhabitants being massacred in the process. Kyrenia capitulated without a struggle. Famagusta fell in August 1571.

Later that month Venetian officials handed over the island together with 300,000 ducats for war reparation.
October of 1571 saw a European League fleet destroy the Turkish fleet at Lepanto, but by this time Cyprus was lost and was to remain a backwater of the Ottoman Empire for the next 300 years.

Turkish Rule 1571-1878AD

The takeover by the Ottoman Empire in 1571 was largely welcomed by the local population who had to some extent collaborated with the invaders, and who anticipated changes for the better. To begin with, their hopes were justified. The hated Latin church was uprooted, with many churches being converted into mosques, and the Orthodox church was restored to dominance. The feudal system was abolished, and the former serfs could now own and inherit land.

The population at this time, according to an offical census, was 150,000. In addition there were also some 30,000 Turkish settlers, who were granted land by the Sultan, and changed the demographic nature of the island. In 1641, with plague following close on the heels of famine, the total population had plummeted to 25,000.

In the intervening years, the Cypriots had come to realise that they had exchanged one form of oppression for another. Namely, the imposition of extortionate taxation. Conditions did not improve when, in 1702, Cyprus became the fief of the Grand Vizier. The post of governor was sold on an annual basis, and the incumbent made it his business to end his tenure on a wealthy note. Temporary relief came in 1746 when Abu Bekr Pasha ruled the country. This enlightened man undertook many public works, and, at his own expense, built the aqueduct which supplied Larnaca with water for the next 200 years.
In 1754 the Sultan recognised the Orthodox archbishop as the leader of the Cypriot community, and granted himm and his bishops various privileges, along with the responsibility of collecting taxes. As the century progressed the bishop's power and wealth increased as they cynically worked hand in glove with the Turkish governors. Both Greek and Turkish peasants revolted in vain against the rapacity of their masters.

In 1821 the archbishop, along with other clergy and leading Christians, were discovered to have connections with a Greek nationalist movement aimed at driving the Turks from Greece. The response of the Governor was swift and bloody. The archbishops, the bishops, and many prominent Christians were massacred, and this was followed by an islandwide purge of the Christians. Meanwhile, the vast Ottoman Empire was showing signs of disintegration. After crushing the Greek revolt, the European powers intervened, resulting in the creation of an independent Greek Kingdom in 1832.
In the midst of these troubles, Sultan Mahmoud II institued reforms which alleviated the condition of his subjects, including those in Cyprus. The farming of taxes was abolished, but external problems impeded the implementation of this and other reforms.

War with Russia, which had continued off and on since 1769, was weakening the Ottoman Empire, and after further defeats in 1877, chunks of Anatolia were ceded to the Russians. This alarmed the English, who saw this as a threat to the Suez canal. An agreement was subsequently reached in 1878 whereby England would occupy Cyprus, using it as a base to protect her own interests, and to defend Ottoman territory against further encroachments by Russia.

British Rule 1878-1960AD

The first High Commissioner took steps to create a new constitution. A legislative council was formed, and a High Court was established in Nicosia, presided over by two British judges. The district courts were served by one Christian and one Moslem judge, under the supervision of a British official. In 1882 the legislative council, formerly consisting of four British and three local members, was modified to comprise six British officials, and twelve elected local members. The proportion of the latter, three Turkish and nine Greek Cypriots, caused an inverse proportion of outrage. However, in practice, the Turks generally sided with the British officials, and in the event of a tie, the High Commissioner cast the deciding vote. The tax system was dratically restructured, and the change of emphasis from direct to indirect taxes served to increase revenues whilst leaving more money in the peasant pocket.

The British undertook an extensive program of public works, including the construction of roads and bridges, drinking and irrigation water supplies, and even a railway line linking Nicosia to Famagusta and Guzelyurt. In addition, port facilities were improved, and administrative buildings, schools and hospitals were built.
When Turkey sided with Germany in World War I, Britain annexed the island. In 1915, Britain offered Cyprus to Greece in return for joining the allied cause, but the suggestion was rejected, and with it the chance of enosis, the striving for which would cause so much strife in the future. Meanwhile, the enosis movement, aiming for union with Greece, was growing within the Greek Cypriot community, fostered by the powerful Orthodox church. The movement erupted into islandwide riots in 1931, during which Government House was burnt to the ground. The uprising was crushed, and the legislative coucil abolished thus eliminating the local voice in government decisions.

After World War II, when 30,000 Cypriots fought in the British army, calls for enosis were renewed. A plebicite organized in 1950 showed that 96% of the Greek Cypriots supported union with Greece. However, it has been reported that excommunication was a stick used to encourage the overwhelming vote. Furthermore, it is doubtful that many Cypriots understood the fullimplcations of enosis, quite apart from the fact that it was anathema to the Turkish Cypriot minority.
Now Colonel George Grivas launched EOKA: an armed struggle against British rule beginning in April 1955, abetted by the churches and the clergy. The Turkish Cypriots spawned their own movements: taksim called for the division of the island; TMT was the Turkish Cypriot resistance movement.

After a conference attended by Greece, Turkey and Britain in June 1955 failed to achieve a solution, Greece applied to the United Nations in 1957 and again in 1958 claiming the right of self determination for Cyprus. This claim, of course, did not take into account the position of the Turkish Cypriot minority, and as a counterthrust, Turkey suggested a double enosis, or partition of the island.

Meanwhile, Grivas and his terrorists were actively prosecuting their cause, and with the death toll rising above 500, the British were anxious to find a suitable formula for independence. This was eventually hammered out in the Treaty of Zurich which provided guarantor powers of military intervention to Britain, Greece and Turkey.
Thus the Republic of Cyprus came into being on 19th August 1960.

Independent Cyprus and the Turkish Intervention

The constitution now provided for a bi-communal society, with safeguards to prevent the majority Greek Cypriots from dominating the Turkish Cypriots.

The president was to be Greek, and the vice-president from the Turkish community, each with the power of veto. In the government and civil service, the communities were represented in the ratio of 70 per cent to 30 per cent, whilst in the police and army, the ratio was 60 per cent to 40 per cent. Failure to agree on the structure of the army resulted in Makarios, the first president of Cyprus, declaring that Cyprus would have no armed forces. This led to the formation of private armies, supplied clandestinely by Greece and Turkey.

There were other complications which meant that in practice the constitution was unworkable due to inherent suspicions between the two communities. However a straightforward 'democracy' was not applicable to Cyrpus as it would have resulted in the Turkish community having no say in government, would would have almost certainly have led to enosis - union with Greece.

In November 1963, Makarios submitted a plan aimed at simplifying the constitution. The changes proposed removed most of the checks and balances which had been built into the constitution to protect the minority Turkish community, and were of course unacceptable to the Turks.

Matters came to a head on Christmas Eve, when armed Greeks attacked a suburb in Nicosia, killing or capturing those Turkish Cypriots who were unable to escape. Armed conflict spread, with the Turkish Cypriots withdrawing into enclaves to defend themselves.

A buffer zone was set up and manned by British troups in a largely unsuccessful attempt to stop the fighting. These were later replaced by United Nations troops in March 1964. In March 1964, well armed Greek forces attempted to crush the Turks at Erenkoy on the north coast, in order to interrupt the flow of munitions from the Turkish mainland: they would undoubtedly have succeeded had not the Turkish air force intervened. This act added a new dimension to the conflict. Fear of Turkish intervention sobered the Greeks somewhat, and they settled down to systematic economic blockade of the Turkish enclaves. This amounted to partition.

Further armed conflict in 1967 provoked Turkey to threaten military intervention, but with the takeover by the colonels in Greece, and the economic boom in Cyprus, enosis seemed less attractive. During the presidential elections of 1974, Makarios clearly announced the cause of enosis, and was re-elected with 95 per cent of the cast votes. He subsequently ordered the withdrawal of mainland Greek officers, whereupon the National Guard, which was under the command of the Greek officers, stormed the presidential palace in Nicosia. Makarios escaped, but this attempted coup, sponsored by the military junta in Greece, persuaded Turkey to intervene as a guarantor power. On 20th July 1974, Turkish forces landed and occupied 40 per cent of the island in the north. 150,000 Greek Cypriots fled to the south, and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots escaped to the north. Substantial Turkish forces remained in the north, and the civilian population increased after considerable migration from the Turkish mainland.

Intercommunal negotiations since 1974 have been fruitless, and in November 1983, Northern Cyprus declared itself independent as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Recognised only by Turkey, the TRNC is hampered economically and has not prospered as much as the south. (The remaining paragraphs are not extracted from the source acknowledged below.) Under the auspices of the United Nations, talks - 'proximity talks' - continue to be held, but to no avail. The south continues to insist that it is the legimate government of the whole of Cyprus and that Turkey is an occupying invader. The north insists that any solution must recognise the TRNC as a seperate state or, at the very least, an autonomous unit of a north-south federation.

But one thing is indisputable. Since 1974, for one of the few times in its long and turbulent history, there has been peace in Cyprus.