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Essay/Term paper: Cyprus

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Geography

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               Cyprus, an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, at the cross-roads of three

               continents - Europe, Asia and Africa - has one of the oldest histories of the

               world, dating back 9000 years.

               Its strategic position, its wealth in forests and mineral deposits, as well as its

               skilled craftsmen, made it the prized possession of the powers of the day.

               Cultural influences came from all directions - all major regional civilisations left

               their mark on the island, contributing to the development of a very rich and

               diverse cultural  heritage. 

                                 ANCIENT TIMES

              The Stone Age

              The first signs of human life on the island date back to c. 8500 BC during the

              Palaeolithic period. Evidence of human activity was found in cave dwellings near

              Liopetri, though it is not known whether they were just hunting parties passing

              through or permanent settlers.

              The first undisputed settlements are believed to have been established towards

              the end of  the 8th millennium BC.  Vestiges of such early communities are found

              all over the island, such as at Khirokitia, Kalavasos-Tenta, Apostolos Andreas-

              Kastros, Phrenaros, Petra tou Limniti.

              Neolithic Cypriots built circular houses

              with small undressed stones for the

              lower structures and sun-dried

              mudbricks and  clay for the middle and

              superstructure. The Khirokitia neolithic

              settlement in Larnaca district stands out

              as a striking example of prehistoric



                                              The Neolithic settlement of Khirokitia

              The Bronze/ Copper Age

              Large copper deposits brought fame and wealth to the island and may have even

              given it its name. It has been documented that during the bronze age Cyprus had

              intense commercial relations with the main commercial and cultural centres of that

              time. During this period metallurgy and pottery flourished while close relations

              developed, particularly with Crete, which are also expressed in the

              Cypro-Minoan script which appeared in Cyprus around 1500 BC.

              Of special significance for the future of Cyprus was its colonisation around 1200

              BC by  Mycenaean  and Achaean Greeks, a migration process that lasted for

              more than a century.  They brought with them to the island the Hellenic language,

              culture and religion. Legend has it that the first Hellenes who settled in Cyprus

              were heroes of the Trojan war. The arrival of the Achaeans greatly influenced

              town planning, architecture, and pottery. Since then Cyprus has remained

              predominantly Greek in culture, language and population despite influences

              resulting from successive occupations.

              Iron Age

              More and more people from the Greek world came to live in Cyprus.  They built

              city along the lines of the Greek ones.  There were about eleven city kingdoms in

              all:  Kourion, Paphos, Soloi, Marion, Lapithos, Salamis, Kition, Kyrenia,

              Amathus, and Idalion.

              Although Cyprus was conquered by other peoples, these city kingdoms mostly

              ruled themselves, paying taxes to their conquerors. The island was conquered in

              succession by the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Persians (800-332 BC).

              The Classical Period

              For more than a century, Cyprus was caught in the middle of the power struggle

              between Greece and Persia. In the 6th century BC Persia became the dominant

              power and the kings of Cyprus, while being allowed to retain their autonomy,

              were obliged to pay tribute to the Persian King and place their military forces at

              his disposal. Persia's domination, however, was not maintained easily and there

              were several attempts tooverthrow the Persian yoke, the most significant being

              the Ionian revolt and an attempt by King Evagoras I of Salamis to unite all of

              Cyprus' city-kingdoms under him. attempts failed.

              The Hellenistic Period

              Cyprus stayed in Persian hands until Alexander the Great defeated the Persian

              Empire when the island became part of his huge Empire. Upon Alexander's death

              Cyprus fell to one of his generals, Ptolemy I, the ruler of Egypt. From then on

              Cyprus, under the Ptolemies,  was an integral part of the Hellenistic World until its

              integration with the Roman Empire in 30 BC.

              During this time Cyprus experienced significant cultural activity and close contacts

              with the city kingdoms of the Hellenic World. Cypriot athletes took part in the

              Olympic and Panathenian Games and the names of Cypriot sculptors are referred

              to at Delphi and  Lemnos. The worship of Aphrodite was known throughout the

              region and the Temple of Goddess of Love and Beauty at Palaepaphos gathered

              pilgrims from all over the ancient world. The city-kingdoms of Salamis, Amathus,

              Paphos and others which were  established at the time of Greek colonisation

              flourished during this period and produced  magnificent pieces of architecture and

              sculpture which survive till our days.

              The Roman Period

              As the Ptolemaic empire declined, Cyprus came under Roman domination and

              was a colony in 58 BC. Romans also left their legacy on the island in the form of

              Roman amphitheatres, public baths, mosaics and other architectural edifices. One

              of the  most significant events during this period was the visit to the island of the

              Apostles Paul and Barnabas, the latter being considered the founder of the

              Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The Apostles travelled all

              across the island to Paphos where they converted the Roman governor to

              Christianity and so Cyprus became the first country to be ruled by a Christian.

                               THE MIDDLE AGES

              The Byzantine Period

              The Christian civilisation was consolidated in

              the island during the Byzantine Period

              (330-1191 AD) at which time the island was

              an important spiritual focus. Wonderful

              churches and magnificent monasteries

              containing fine wall paintings and mosaics

              survive to our times and are testimony to the

              importance of Cyprus in the East Roman


                                                   St Bartholomew, mosaic from the

                                                  Kanakaria Church. 6th century AD


              With the emergence of Islam in the 6th and 7th centuries AD, Cyprus became an

              object dispute between Christendom and Islam. The Arabs, who with their

              repeated incursions, spread death and destruction in coastal settlements, were

              finally pushed away in 965 AD by Emperor Nicephorus Phocas and restored

              Cyprus as a province of the Byzantine Empire.

              The western Crusaders influenced a great deal the development of the history of

              Cyprus. It was Richard the Lionheart, King of England, who during the Third

              Crusade captured the island defeating its ruler, Isaac Comnenos in 1191. Richard

              tried to sell Cyprus to the Knights Templars, who nevertheless, were not able to

              resist the revolt of the people of Cyprus. Thus the island went back to the English

              King, who sold it again this time to the Frankish King of Jerusalem, Guy de


              The Frankish Period

              The rule of the Franks in Cyprus lasted until 1489 and during that time life on the

              island  was organised on the basis of the feudal model of the West, oppression of

              the indigenous population being its main characteristic. The Lusignan period left

              numerous monuments on the island - mainly Gothic churches and mountain


              During the 14th century Cyprus is an important point of contact between East and

              West. Within a network of contradictions, a complex cultural creation took shape

              both in the letters and in the arts with the pronounced seal of a variety of


              The end of the Latin period in Cyprus came with the Venetian rule from 1489 to

              1571. The Venetians held the island for its strategic position in the area of the

              Eastern Mediterranean on the way to the vital Silk Route to China. Venice,

              wished in this way to underline its prominence among the western powers of the

              time and attempted to keep to road to the East open despite the growing menace

              of the Ottomans. The Venetians also left their mark on the island's cultural

              heritage with their fortifications around Nicosia and Famagusta. These, built with

              the intention of fending off the Turks, proved inadequate and Cyprus fell to the

              Turks in 1571, becoming part of the Ottoman Empire.

                                 MODERN TIMES

              The Turkish Period

              Though Cyprus on the whole became less prosperous under Ottoman rule, there

              were certain immediate benefits. Serfdom was abolished and the rights of the

              Greek Orthodox Church, which had been suppressed since the Franks, were

              restored. However, there was very harsh rule and harsh taxation which

              impoverished the people, and there were continual revolts. In 1821 an attempt by

              Cypriots to support the Greeks in their revolt against Ottoman rule was brutally

              crushed, with the Archbishop being publicly hanged and many others, including

              three bishops, put to death.

              Cyprus remained under Ottoman rule until 1878 when, with the Treaty of Berlin,

              the Sultan in his effort to secure British support in his conflict with the Russians

              leased Cyprus to Great Britain. Then in 1914, following the entry of Turkey in

              World War I on the side of Germany, the British government annexed Cyprus

              and turned it into a Crown colony in 1925. In the meantime Turkey surrendered

              all claim on Cyprus with the  Lausanne Treaty it concluded with Greece in 1923.

              The British Period

              British rule left its mark on the island's complex culture with the adoption by the

              people Cyprus of some of the customs of their colonial masters, the legacy of

              some British colonial buildings, and, most importantly, the tradition of the British

              administration especially in the civil service.

              Cypriots fought alongside the allies against fascism and nazism during World War

              II. The British, however, refused to keep their word and offer the island the right

              of self determination at the end of the war. There followed the Enosis referendum

              of 1950,  when 96% of Greek Cypriots voted for Enosis,  Union with Greece. In

              April 1955 the EOKA Liberation Struggle, against the colonial rulers, resulted in

              the granting of independence to the island on the basis of the Zurich and London

              Agreements of February 1959.

              Independence and invasion

              The independent Republic of Cyprus came into being in August 1960. Its first

              President was Archbishop Makarios. Over the first three years of independence

              relations between  the Greek and Turkish Cypriots deteriorated, mainly as a

              result of flaws in the  constitution which gave disproportional rights to the Turkish

              Cypriot community including the right to block the passing of laws. In 1963

              intercommunal violence broke out following which many Turkish Cypriots

              withdrew to enclaves. Attempts to bring the two sides back together were made

              through the United Nations who sent a contingent to the island.

              On 15 July 1974 the Junta ruling Athens at the time organised a coup to

              overthrow Archbishop Makarios. A week later Turkey invaded the island,

              claiming this was to restore constitutional order. However, when the rightful

              government was restored, Turkish troops stayed on, implementing a long-held

              policy of partitioning the island. They went on to occupy more than a third of

              Cyprus, forcing  200,000 people to lose their homes and become refugees. The

              area under Turkish occupation unilaterally declared independence in 1983, an act

              condemned by the UN and other international organisations. No country in the

              world other than Turkey has recognised this illegal state.

              The political issue, despite efforts to solve it, remains virtually frozen since 1974

              and the occupation of part of Cyprus by the Turkish army still continues.


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