Cyprus has a rich history, dating back ten thousand years. It was an important place for many civilizations, and a fortress for the most successful empires. As the island lies in the middle of the ancient sailing and trading routes, it soon became an important harbour for many civilizations. As Asia Minor is very close to Cyprus, and Syria is only 60 km-s away, it played a crucial part in the international politics for a long time. Egypt is not far away, either. The civilization started on the island about 8000 years BC, in the Stone Age. We can still find remains of settlements, and weapons, tools from these dark ages on the island.
When the locals discovered copper around 3000 years B. C, life changed on the island significantly. The Hittite empire and Egyptians were fighting for the authority of the developed island, and later on the Greek Empire did manage to claim the place as its possession. In the 13th to 11th Centuries B. C. Greeks settled down permanently, and formed their settlements. Cyprus is still mainly inhabited by Greeks, but has gone through so many wars and invasions, that you can find many remains of other civilizations as well. That is why today’s Cyprus is full of cultural diversity and you can find UNESCO heritage sites all over the island.
7000-3900 BC – Cyprus in the Neolithic Age
You can find remains of original settlements, near Khirokitia and Kalavassos, not far from Nicosia. The well-developed civilization’s remains are found around the North and South coast of Cyprus. You can review the first stone vessels, pottery and other tools used by the previous inhabitants of the island.
3900-2500 BC – Cyprus in the Chalcolithic Age
You can find remains of Chalcolithic settlements in the Western side of the island, and also signs of the culture of fertility. Copper was widely used on the island at this time, and many tools were found by archaeologists.
The Bronze Age Cyprus: 2500-1050 BC
The wealth of the island developed, thanks to the use of copper. Trade routes were developed through the Aegean Sea, and the routes touched Egypt’s ports Greece. After the 14th Century BC Greece did start settlements on the island, mostly harbours and trade cities. This was the time when the Greek language became the most spoken one in Cyprus. But Greeks brought more to Cyprus than the language: their architecture and religion is discoverable all over Cyprus. Hellenization of the island was rapid and effective.
Geometric Period of Cyprus: 1050-750 BC
The island had 10 different territories with a separate king for each, Phoenicians started to explore Cyprus, and trade brought wealth and prosperity for Cypriots.
750-325 BC Archaic and Classical Cyprus
Prosperity and wealth further increased in Cyprus during this period. However there were many attacks and invasions, the kingdoms managed to hold their independence. The Assyrian and Egyptian influence, together with the Persian invasion all left marks on the culture and influenced the history of the island. Finally, Cypriots managed to achieve piece with the Persian Empire, and managed to improve its independence both culturally and financially, thanks to the rebels’ activities.
Cyprus from 333 to 325 BC
For a short period of time, Cyprus became a part of Alexander The Great’s Empire.
325-58 BC – Hellenistic Cyprus
The defeat of Alexander the Great, Cyprus becomes a state of Egypt’s Ptolemies, under the Greek Empire. Alexandrine world overtakes the previous order, and Paphos becomes the capital of the state. The era brings wealth to locals, and Hellenistic culture settles down on the island.
58 BC – 330 AD – The Roman Cyprus
As Cyprus became a part of The Roman Empire, it was a part of Syria first. Later it achieved a rank of an independent proconsulate. Barnabas and St Paul visited the island these years, to complete their mission. Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of the time took on Christianity, and the state religion became Christian, too. In the first Century some earthquakes shook Cyprus, and a rebuilding work started in the major cities. A plague also claimed many lives in 116 AD. The rebuilding work continued, and in 325 AD the Council of Nicaea granted the right to worship to Cypriots. Cyprus became a real Christian state, on its own right.
330-1191 AD The Byzantine Period in Cyprus
When the Roman Empire gets divided into two parts and falls, the island will be attached to the Eastern Empire, called Byzantium. The centre of the Empire is Constantinople. The mother of Constantine, Helena stopped here, when she was on the quest to the Holy Land to find the remains of the Holy Cross. She founded a monastery at Stavrovouni. The main cities were destroyed and had to be rebuilt in the 4th Century because of a series of earthquakes. New cities are built, and Constantia becomes the capital of the island. Great building work starts, including religious sites and Basilicas. Cyprus is even granted autonomy by Emperor Zeno, after the discovery of St Barnabas’ tomb. A real Byzantine island forms, and many places of worship are founded. Cyprus is a part of the empire on its own right. Arab invasion shakes the island in 688, and the fights also influence the speed of development. Treaty is achieved, and the island is neutralised, but shortly after locals have to deal with a pirate attack and regain their freedom. Finally, Emperor Nicephoros Phocas drives out Arabs from the island for good.
1191-1192 AD- Cyprus under Richard The Lionheart, the era of The Templars
Under the governance of Isaac Comnenus, Cyprus it became a battlefield again. Richard I.’ s ship landed on the island, and defeated Isaac, taking control of Cyprus. He married Berengaria of Navarree in the historic city of Limassol, and she was crowned England’s queen. Richard later sold Cyprus to the Knight Templars, and they will later sell it to one of the Knights of Crusaders.
1192-1489 – Frankish Period in Cyprus
The Catholic Church takes control of the religious power of Cyprus, over the previous Orthodox Church. This meets opposition from the locals, and they still preserve their faith. Many cathedrals are built during this period, like the Aya Sophia of Nicosia and Bellapis Abbey. Famagusta was built in this time, too, and the city fast became one of the wealthiest towns of the Near East. It became a significant town, and later the capital under the rule of the Lusignan Kings. Caterina Queen gave away Cyprus to Venice in 1489, and the Lusignan dynasty ended.
1489-1571 – Cyprus’ Venetian Period
Cyprus remained the last bastion of the defence against the Ottoman expansion on the Mediterranean. The Ottoman Empire persuaded locals to change its look, and build fortresses, bastions on the place of the cathedrals. Defence walls were also built around the capital, and the whole country transformed into a military fortress.
1571- 1878 AD -Cyprus under the Ottoman Empire
The attack of Cyprus by the Ottoman Empire in 1570 resulted in great losses and the decrease of population. Nicosia’s people were slaughtered, and Famagusta also got occupied. Marc Antonio Bragadin finally capitulated to the Ottoman leader, Lala Mustafa, who in exchange gave some allowances to locals, seeing how few there were left after the fight. The Greek Orthodox religion got restored later, but Cypriots first had to adopt the Islam religion of the occupiers. In 1821 the Greek Independence War broke out, and this resulted in bloody fights in Cyprus, even more commoners and bishops were killed.
1878-1959 AD Cyprus- a part of the British Empire
The Cyprus convention on 1878 resulted in British administration over the island. Formally it still remained a part of the Ottoman Empire till 1914, but in 1923 it was claimed again by Turkey, after the post-war Lausanne treaty was reached. Britain claimed Cyprus as a colony of the Crown in 1925. The British considered the island extremely useful for strategic purposes after the World War I, and they were looking to retain their authority, despite initiatives by the Armed Liberation Struggle, between 1955 and 1959. The Cypriots were fighting against the huge empire again for their independence.
1960 till today: The Republic of Cyprus
The Zurich-London Treaty was reached in 1960. according to the documents, Cyprus became an independent republic ,and ceased to be a colony. Since that time the country has been developing fast. and now it is a part of the European Union, member of the United Nations. Britain still has authority on a limited area, called Sovereign bases, covering about 160 m2 of area; Akrotiri-Episkopi and Dhekelia. The majority of the island is a part of the Republic of Cyprus, but a part is still retained by turkey, according to a dispute.