Cyprus Brief History

Cyprus Country Facts:

Cyprus, located in the eastern Mediterranean, is an island nation known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and cultural heritage. The capital and largest city is Nicosia, divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. The island has a diverse population influenced by Greek, Turkish, and other cultures. Cyprus boasts ancient ruins, medieval castles, and beautiful beaches, attracting tourists from around the world. The island’s economy is driven by tourism, services, and shipping, with significant cultural contributions in art, literature, and cuisine.

Ancient Cyprus (Prehistoric – 333 BC)

Neolithic Settlements

Early Inhabitants

Cyprus was first settled by Neolithic communities around 10,000 BC, leaving behind impressive archaeological sites such as Choirokoitia. These early settlers engaged in agriculture, animal husbandry, and trade with neighboring civilizations.

Bronze Age Civilizations

Minoan and Mycenaean Influence

During the Bronze Age, Cyprus was influenced by the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, evidenced by the presence of pottery, artifacts, and written records. Copper mining and metallurgy were central to the island’s economy during this period.

Phoenician and Assyrian Rule

Foreign Influence

In the 1st millennium BC, Cyprus came under the influence of Phoenician and Assyrian powers, who established colonies and trading posts on the island. Cyprus became a hub for Mediterranean trade, exporting copper, timber, and other goods.

Persian Conquest

Achaemenid Rule

In 525 BC, Cyprus was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, becoming a satrapy within the Persian realm. The Persians introduced administrative reforms and maintained control over the island’s resources.

Hellenistic and Roman Cyprus (333 BC – 330 AD)

Hellenistic Period

Greek Influence

Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, Cyprus came under Hellenistic rule, experiencing Greek cultural and linguistic influence. Greek city-states were established, and Cyprus became a center of Hellenistic art and scholarship.

Ptolemaic Rule

Ptolemaic Dynasty

Cyprus was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt from 294 BC to 58 BC, with Ptolemy I Soter establishing a strong presence on the island. Greek culture flourished, and Cyprus became an important center of Hellenistic civilization.

Roman Annexation

Imperial Rule

In 58 BC, Cyprus was annexed by the Roman Republic, becoming a senatorial province under Roman administration. The Romans exploited the island’s resources and established cities, roads, and infrastructure.

Christianization

Spread of Christianity

During the Roman period, Cyprus was evangelized by early Christian missionaries, including Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas. Christianity spread rapidly, and Cyprus became an important center of early Christian worship and pilgrimage.

Byzantine Cyprus (330 – 1191)

Byzantine Rule

Eastern Empire

With the division of the Roman Empire, Cyprus became part of the Byzantine Empire, maintaining its status as a Christian stronghold. Byzantine emperors strengthened defenses, built churches, and promoted Orthodox Christianity.

Arab Invasions

Islamic Incursions

Cyprus faced Arab raids and invasions in the 7th and 8th centuries, leading to periods of instability and conflict. Despite Arab incursions, Byzantine control over Cyprus remained largely intact.

Basil II’s Reconquest

Byzantine Restoration

In the 10th century, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II reconquered Cyprus from Arab rule, reestablishing Byzantine authority over the island. Cyprus became a strategically important outpost in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Cultural Flourishing

Byzantine Heritage

Under Byzantine rule, Cyprus experienced a cultural renaissance, with the construction of monasteries, churches, and icons. Byzantine art and literature flourished, leaving a lasting legacy on the island’s culture.

Medieval Cyprus (1191 – 1571)

Crusader Conquest

Lusignan Dynasty

In 1191, Richard the Lionheart of England conquered Cyprus during the Third Crusade, selling it to the Knights Templar. The island was later acquired by Guy de Lusignan, establishing the Lusignan Dynasty.

Venetian Rule

Republic of Venice

In 1489, Cyprus was sold to the Republic of Venice, becoming a Venetian colony for over eighty years. Venice strengthened fortifications and developed trade networks, but faced resistance from Ottoman expansion.

Ottoman Conquest

Ottoman Empire

In 1571, Cyprus fell to the Ottoman Empire after the Battle of Lepanto, ending Venetian rule on the island. The Ottomans introduced Islamic law, taxation, and administration, transforming Cyprus into a provincial Ottoman territory.

Ottoman Cyprus (1571 – 1878)

Ottoman Administration

Provincial Rule

Under Ottoman rule, Cyprus was governed by local administrators appointed by the Sultan. The island’s population included Greek Orthodox Christians, Turkish Muslims, and other communities, coexisting under Ottoman suzerainty.

Greek Independence

Revolutionary Movements

In the 19th century, Cyprus became a center of Greek nationalist movements seeking independence from Ottoman rule. Greek Cypriots participated in the Greek War of Independence and advocated for enosis, or union with Greece.

British Occupation

Cession to Britain

In 1878, Cyprus was leased to the British Empire by the Ottoman Sultan as part of the Cyprus Convention. Cyprus became a British protectorate, but Ottoman sovereignty was officially retained until 1914.

British Cyprus (1878 – 1960)

British Administration

Colonial Rule

Under British rule, Cyprus experienced economic development, modernization, and infrastructure improvements. The British established a colonial administration, introduced English education, and promoted agriculture and industry.

Ethnic Tensions

Greek-Turkish Divide

Ethnic tensions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots intensified during the colonial period, fueled by nationalist sentiments and communal conflicts. The British employed a policy of divide and rule, exacerbating tensions between the two communities.

Enosis Movement

Union with Greece

Greek Cypriots campaigned for enosis, advocating for union with Greece and self-determination. The enosis movement gained momentum, leading to protests, strikes, and demands for constitutional reforms.

Independent Cyprus (1960 – Present)

Republic of Cyprus

Independence

In 1960, Cyprus gained independence from British rule, establishing the Republic of Cyprus as a bicommunal state with Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. Archbishop Makarios III became the first president of Cyprus.

Intercommunal Strife

Ethnic Conflict

Tensions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots escalated in the 1960s, leading to intercommunal violence and political deadlock. Efforts to reconcile the two communities and establish power-sharing arrangements failed, resulting in the division of Cyprus.

Turkish Invasion

Partition of Cyprus

In 1974, following a coup d’état by Greek Cypriot nationalists supported by the military junta in Greece, Turkey invaded Cyprus, occupying the northern part of the island. The conflict resulted in the de facto division of Cyprus into Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot zones.

Cyprus Issue

UN Peacekeeping

The United Nations intervened to broker a ceasefire and establish a buffer zone between the two sides. UN peacekeeping forces have since maintained peace and stability on the island, but efforts to reunify Cyprus have been unsuccessful.

European Union Membership

Integration and Reconciliation

In 2004, Cyprus joined the European Union, representing the entire island despite its de facto division. EU membership has facilitated economic development, cross-border cooperation, and efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue through diplomatic means.

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