Cyprus History and Civilization
7000-3900 BC NEOLITHIC AGE: In Choirokitia and Kalavassos the remains of the oldest known settlement in Cyprus can be seen. The civilization inhabiting Cyprus during this period was spread around the coastlines of the whole island. Originally only stone vessels were used then, after the 5th century B.C., pottery was invented.
3900-2500 BC CHALCOLITHIC AGE: Most Chalcolithic settlements are found in the West part of Cyprus. During this period the abundant copper in the island begins to be exploited and utilized.
2500-1050 BC BRONZE AGE: The abundant copper in Cyprus was now being more extensively exploited and now a main source of wealth for the island. Trade develops with Egypt, the Near East and the Agean. Mycenaeans from Greece came to the island after the 14th century. Between the 12th and the 11th centuries B.C. many Achaean Greeks are continuously arriving to settle in Cyprus. With them they bring their customs, religion and the Greek language. They build new cities; Kition, Paphos, Salamis and Kourion among others. From this juncture in time the island of Cyprus is henceforth progressively becoming Hellenized.
1050-750 BC GEOMETRIC PERIOD: There are at this juncture 10 kingdoms on the island. The Phoenicians come to settle in the city Kingdom of Kition (now Larnaca). Marked prosperity was characteristic during the 8th century B.C.
750-325 BC ARCHAIC AND CLASSICAL PERIOD: Although the prosperity that began flourishing in the Geometric Period continues, the island becomes victim to several conquerors. During these invasions the Cypriot kingdoms do their best to preserve their independence but eventually fall under the domination of Egypt, Assyria and Persia. King Evagoras of Salamis (ruled during 411-374 B.C.) rebels against Persia and for a while unifies the island. But, after a great siege, is forced to make peace terms with Persia and consequently loses control over the island.
333-325 BC: Cyprus becomes part of the Empire of Alexander the Great when he conquers Persia.
325-58 BC HELLENISTIC PERIOD: After a series of internal struggles between Alexander the Great’s generals, Cyprus eventually comes under the Hellenic state of the Ptolemy of Egypt and henceforth belongs to Greek Alexandrine. The capital becomes Paphos, and Cyprus flourishes during this era.
58 BC – 330 AD ROMAN PERIOD: Cyprus becomes a part of the Roman Empire. Primarily it falls under the Syrian Province, and then becomes a separate province under a proconsul. The proconsul- Sergius Paulus is converted to Christianity by the Apostles Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas during their missionary journeys, resulting in Cyprus becoming the first country in the world to be governed by a Christian. Between 1st century B.C. and 1st century A.D. massive earthquakes cause great destruction necessitating the rebuilding of cities. Both the rebellion of the Jews who inhabited Salamis in 116 A.D. and the plague which occurred in 164 A.D. caused great loss of life. In 313 A.D. the Edict of Milan grants the freedom of worship to Christians. In 325 A.D. Cypriot bishops attend the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea convened by Saint Constantine the Great.
330-1191 AD BYZANTINE PERIOD: The Roman Empire becomes divided in to two parts. Cyprus comes under the Byzantine Empire which was what the Eastern Roman Empire was called, with Constantinople in Greece as its capital. According to tradition, St. Helen, the mother of St. Constantine the Great, stopped in Cyprus on her journey from the Holy Land with pieces of the Holy Cross and founded the Monastery of Stavrovouni (which still stands today and which has a piece of the Holy cross in shrine for the public to venerate). In the 4th century several earthquakes destroy the main cities. This destruction gives birth to new cities and Constantia is now the capital of the island. From the 4th-5th century large basilicas are built. After the tomb of St. Barnabas is found in 488, the Emperor Zeno grants the Archbishop of Cyprus full autonomy and privileges including wearing a purple mantle, holding a scepter instead of a pastoral staff, and signing in red ink. Thus, Cyprus is now an autocephalous Church. The Arabs, lead by Muawiya, invade the island in 647. In 688 Emperor Justinian II and Caliph Malik sign a treaty rendering Cyprus as neutral , although there were reported violations of this agreement. Cyprus was often attacked by pirates until 965 when the Emperor Nicephoros Fokas ousted the Arabs from Asia Minor and Cyprus.
1191-1192 AD RICHARD THE LIONHEART AND THE TEMPLARS: Isaac Comnenus, the self proclaimed governor of Cyprus, is ill-mannered to survivors of a shipwreck. This ship was part of a Richard I’s fleet on its way to the Third Crusade. Richard overthrows Isaac, taking possession of Cyprus and subsequently marries Berengaria of Navarree in Limassol upon where she is crowned Queen of England. Then, Richard sells Cyprus to the Knights Templars for the sum of 100,000 dinars. In turn, they sell the island to one of the Crusaders, Guy de Lusignan, for the same price.
1192- 1489 AD FRANKISH (LUSIGNAN) PERIOD: The Catholic Church officially replaces the Greek Orthodox Church, although it manages to continue to exist. Cyprus is now governed based on the feudal system. Many splendid gothic buildings were built in this period including Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Famagusta, Bellapais Abbey and the impressive Agia Sophia Catherdral in Nicosia. The city of Famagusta becomes one of the wealthiest cities in the Near East. Nicosia becomes the new capital of the island and the seat of the Lusignan Kings. The last queen of the Lusignans, Catherine Cornaro, relinquishes Cyprus to Venice in 1489, ending the Lusignan dynasty.
1489-1571 AD VENETIAN PERIOD: Cyprus is viewed by the Venetians as a last defensive stronghold against the Ottomans in the Mediterranean. They fortify the island tearing down various buildings in the capital, Nicosia, to enclose the city in a small area defended by fortresses and a moat. The tangible efforts of the Venetians can be seen standing today. They also built imposing walls around the city of Famagusta which also can still be seen today.
1571-1878 AD OTTOMAN PERIOD: In 1570 the ottoman army attacks Cyprus, capture the capital and slaughter the 20,000 strong population. They place Famagusta under siege for a whole year. Marc Antonio Bragadin, the Venetian commander, puts up a courageous defense, but eventually capitulates to the ottoman commander Lala Mustafa. The ottoman commander at first lets them go but then orders the thrashing, drawing and quartering of Venetian commander Bragadin and the rest are executed. Upon the annexation of Cyprus to the Ottoman Empire, the Latin clergy are either expelled or converted to Islam. Amazingly the Greek Orthodox faith is restored. As leader of the autocephalous Cyprus Greek Orthodox Church, the Archbishop becomes their representative to the Porte. 1821 sees the Greek war of independence from the ottomans, during which the then Archbishop of Cyprus, Kyprianos, three bishops and hundreds of civil leaders are executed.
1878-1960 BRITISH PERIOD: Great Britain assumes the administration of the island under the 1878 Cyprus convention which still remains part of the Ottoman Empire. However, in 1914 Britain annexes Cyprus after the Ottoman Empire sides with Germany in the First World War. In 1923, under the Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey forfeits any claim to Cyprus and in 1925 the island is declared a Crown colony. During the Second World War Cypriot volunteers serve in the British Armed Forces. The British consider Cyprus as geographically importantly strategic, which is why they do not grant Cyprus the right of self-determination despite granting this right to other countries after the war. Between 1955 and 1959 the Cypriots took up an Armed Liberation Struggle for independence after all attempts at a peaceful solution were exhausted.
1960 REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS: As a result of the Zurich-London Treaty, Cyprus becomes an independent republic on August 16th 1960. It is a member of the Council of Europe, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. One provision of the Zurich-London Treaty is that Britain retains two Sovereign Bases on the island at Dhekelia and at Akrotiri-Episkopi. The 1960 Constitution of the Cyprus Republic proves to be not viable in most of its provisions. In 1963 the President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios, proposed several amendments to facilitate the proper functioning of the state but the Turkish community reacted to this with a rebellion (December 1963). The Turkish ministers subsequently withdrew from the cabinet and the Turkish civil servants stopped working and Turkey threatened to invade Cyprus. Since then, the aim of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, acting on the orders from the Turkish Government, has been the partitioning of Cyprus and the annexation of it by Turkey. In July 1974 a coup is staged in Cyprus by the Military junta which was in power in Greece for the overthrowing of President Makarios. On the 20th of July 1974, Turkey invades Cyprus with 40,000 troops against a defenseless and unsuspecting Cyprus. Since 1974, 37% of the island is under Turkish military occupation. 200,000 Greek Cypriots (40% of the Greek Cypriot population), were forced to leave their homes in the occupied area of the North and became refugees overnight. The Turkish invasion and the occupation of 37% of the island’s territory as well as the continuing violation of the Cypriot’s fundamental human rights have been condemned by the United Nations General Assembly, the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe and the Non-Aligned Movement.
MODERN ERA: Cyprus is part of the European Union, having become a member in 2004. It adopted the Euro on January 1st 2008 as its currency, replacing the Cypriot pound that was in use for decades.