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A Brief History of Cyprus

Stone Age

The first settlers came to Cyprus, probably on rafts from Asia minor. The main settlements were at Choirokoitia and on the Karpas peninsula, where ruins of their beehive shaped houses can be seen.

Bronze Age

More settlers came from Anatolia and Mycenae. In 3500 BC, copper mines are established in the Troodos Foothills. Trade takes place for the first time and there is development of bronze implements, jewelry and a ceramics industry.

Iron Age

Cultural innovation and the building of new cities. Metallurgy flourishes and ceramics and pottery develops. Copper was also sent to Egypt as protection money. After 1600 BC, large numbers of fortresses were built around the island, suggesting a long period of conflict.

1200 BC

Mycenaean Greeks settle on the island to escape invasions from the north. They establish city kingdoms at Enkomi and later at Salamis, Kition (now Larnaca), Kourion and Paphos, plus Soloi and Lapithos in the North. During this period they begin to introduce much of the islands Greek culture. Temples were erected, many dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of love and fertility.

ca 700 BC

The Phoenicians arrive from Tyre and conquer the island. Later the Syrian's rule, but Cyprus's King's still exercise local authority.

ca 600 BC

Assyrian empire collapses with the Egyptians assuming control of the island in 570 BC.

545 BC

Cyprus submits to Persian domination.

333 BC

Alexander the Great ends the Persian supremacy in the Mediterranean, his victory at Tyre allows Cyprus to throw off the Persian yoke. However, by 299 BC Ptolemy I captures Cyprus and it becomes part of the Hellenistic state of Egypt.

58 BC

Cyprus becomes part of the Roman Empire. In 48 BC Julius Caesar returns Cyprus as a gift to Cleopatra, the last member of Ptolemaic dynasty. Shortly after, Augustus takes it back and allows his vassal "King Herod of Judea", to take control of copper production. The extensive legacy of public Roman buildings is still to be seen today with the sanctuary of Apollo Hylates at Kourion and the temple of Zeus at Salamis, and also at Nea Pafos and Soli.

45 AD

St Paul the Apostle visits Cyprus.

330 AD

Division of the Roman empire (Byzantine period) and Cyprus 'is ruled from Constantinople. The church of Cyprus becomes established. It is said that Helena the Christian Empress of Byzantium, visits the island and founds the Stavrovouni Monastery, with a piece of the True Cross as its most cherished relic. Around this time the St Nicholas Monastery (on the Akrotiri Peninsula) introduces a special breed of cat to rid the island of a plague of snakes.


The Arabs attack over the next 300 years weakening the Byzantine control. The island is pillaged and its inhabitants suffer much persecution.


The Byzantines reassert their authority and 100 years later the second Byzantine golden age commences, lasting another 300 years.


During the Crusades, Cyprus becomes a key strategic outpost for Byzantine interests in Syria and Palestine. Richard the Lionheart is forced by bad weather to land near Limassol. Richard sells Cyprus to the Knights templar but they ask him to take the island back again in 1192. Richard then passes the island to a crusading Frankish night - Guy de Lusignan (an ex-king of Jerusalem).

1192 - 1489

The Lusignans rule for nearly 300 years. In 1489 the Venetians (asked to help repel a Genoese invasion) annex the island for themselves.

1489 - 1571

The Venetian's rule, beginning a period of the persecution of the Greek church. With the threat of an Ottoman invasion, the Venetians construct massive defenses. Famagusta and Lefkosia are encircled by walls and bastions, which still survive today. A vast army of Turks storms Nicosia in 1570 and Cyprus surrenders in 1571.

1571 - 1878

The island is settled by the Turks, resulting in the creation of two communities.


Turkey gives the island to Great Britain for administrative and defensive purposes, though it remains under the authority of the Sultan. As a British colony Cyprus begins to prosper.


Turkey joins WW1 on Germany's side. Cyprus is then formally annexed to Great Britain.


Turkey renounces any claim to the island. Greek Cypriots demand unification with Greece (known as Enosis). This leads to conflict between British and Turkish Cypriots.


Under the leadership of Colonel George Gravis the national organization of Cypriot combatants (EOKA) pursues a terror campaign throughout Cyprus. the Treaty of Zurich is signed in which Britain, Greece and Turkey guarantee the republic's independence.


Archbishop Makarios becomes president. But hostilities between communities flare up in 1963. Turkish Cypriots retreat into enclaves. UN peacekeeping forces are sent in 1964 and still remain.


EOKA recommences its campaign.


EOKA, with the support of the Greek military junta, carries out the coup against Makarios in 1974. Nicos Sampson is appointed as president. Turkish forces invaded 5 days later, taking control of Northern Cyprus.


Turkish Cypriots unilaterally declare the independence of Northern Cyprus.


Talks between the leaders of the two communities take place. A map prepared by the UN is tabled, reducing the area held by the Turkish to 28% of the island.


Border restrictions are lifted allowing daily crossings for Greek and Turkish Cypriots.


A UN referendum is held for reunification of the island. Turkish Cypriots vote overwhelmingly for - the Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly against. Cyprus joins the European Union.


In 2007 Cyprus submited its formal application to adopt the single European currency (Euro) in early 2008.

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