Cyprus is a delightful island at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It has a history going back nearly 9,000 years. What follows below is a brief chronology of the island. Later I will post some information about Khirokitia, an ancient Neolithic village.
A chronology of old Cyprus follows. I’ll stop around the end of the Renaissance.
- 5800 – 3000 B.C.
was the Neolithic Age. There are remains of an old settlement in Cyprus dating from these times. It lies between Limmassol and Lefkosia (Nicosia) at a place called Khirokitia.
3000 – 1000 B.C.
it was during this period that copper as a useful metal was discovered. This formed the basis of an export trade between Cyprus, the Near East and the Aegean. The Cypriot wealth and culture attracted the attentions of the Achaeans who finally settled Cyprus and Hellenised the place.
700 – 350 B.C.
Over this period Cyprus was subjected to a number of invasions, with the invaders including the Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians. Cyprus was liberated from the Persians by King Evagoras. However, he eventually had to yield to the Persian Empire again.
- 333 B.C.
- Alexander the Great defeated the Persians and took over their empire, including Cyprus.
- 323 B.C.
- Alexander the Great dies and Cyprus falls under the control and rule of the viceroys of Ptolemy I or Egypt and his successors. At this time, the capital of the country is moved from Salamis to Paphos.
- 58 B.C.
- The Romans invade Cyprus and it falls under the administrative control of Cicero. Later, Julius Caesar gives Cyprus to Ptolemy and Arsinoe of Egypt. Mark Anthony the later gives Cyprus to Cleopatra.
- 22 B.C.
- By this stage, government of Cyprus is by a Roman Proconsul. The Proconsul was directly responsible to Rome.
- 45 A.D.
- The apostles Paul and Barnabas arrive in Cyprus spreading Christianity. They manage to convert the Proconsul, Sergius Paulus, to Christianity at Paphos.
- 116 A.D.
- There was a general revolt by the Jews against Roman power and the spread of Christianity. This included the island of Cyprus where thousands of Cypriots and Jews were killed in the fighting. As a result of this, further settlement by Jews on Cyprus was banned.
- 395 A.D.
- It was about this time that the Roman Empire was partitioned between the two sons of Emperor Theodosius. Cyprus came under the rule of the eastern empire from Constantinople.
- 488 A.D.
- The Patriarch of Antioch attempted to bring the church of Cyprus under his direct control. Apparently, however, Archbishop Anthemios of Cyprus found a copy of the gospel according to Matthew in the lost tomb of St Barnabas. He showed the gospel to the Emperor Zeno. The Emperor accepted this as a sign for the status of the church in Cyprus and the Archbishop was granted the privilege of holding a scepter instead of a pastoral staff, of wearing a purple mantle and of being able to use red ink for his signature (that was a big one, wasn’t it?). These privileges are still enjoyed by the archbishop today. Needless to say, the Church in Cyprus kept its independence from Antioch.
- 7th – 10th Centuries A.D.
- Over this period the island suffered almost continuous raids from the Arabs. Churches and ecclesiastic art suffered a fair amount of destruction. The castles of Kyrenia and Saranta Kolones were built at Paphos.
- 985 A.D.
- The Arabs were expelled from Asia Minor and the neighbouring coastal area by the Byzantine Emperor, Nikiforos Focas. This stopped the Arab raids. The Seljuk Turks advanced through Asia Minor (if it is not one raider, then it is another). The First Crusade in the eleventh century then combined with the Turkish movements to cause the Byzantine Emperors to turn Cyprus into a stronghold. It was at these times that the castles of St. Hilarion, Bufavento and Kantara were built.
- 1185 A.D.
- Isaac Comnenos, who was the Byzantine governor of Cyprus, declared himself an independant ruler of Cyprus.
- 1191 A.D.
- Part of Richard Coeur de Lion’s fleet was wrecked off the coast of Limassol on the way to the Third Crusade. Survivors of the shipwreck included Berengaria of Navarre who was his fiancee. Comnenos treated her discourteously which resulted in Richard invading and capturing the island.
- 1192 A.D.
- The sovereignty of the island was passed by Richard to Guy de Lusignan. This was the start of a 300 year dynasty.
- 1192 – 1489 A.D.
- was the period Cyprus was ruled by the Feudal system. The Catholic Church officially replaced the Orthodox Church on the island, although the Orthodox Church managed to survive in many places in spite of the persecutions of the catholics. The town of Famagusta boomed during this period and become one of the richest cities in the Middle East. Many buildings were erected, including the Bellapais Abby, the Nicosia and Famagusta Cathedrals. Towards the end of the 14th century, Famagusta was captured by the Genoese and Limassol was sacked by the Egyptians.
- 1489 – 1570 A.D.
- was the period when the Venetians ruled Cyprus. They used Cyprus as a fortified base against the Turks. Economically, the island suffered under crippling taxation (to pay for the forts) and trade and culture languished due to the constant warring. Turkey successfully invaded the island, gaining control after the fall of Famagusta, which had withstood the Turkish siege for a year.
- 1571 – 1878 A.D.
- Under the rule of the Turks, the Orthodox Church was give a degree of autonomy and it re-established itself. In 1878, an agreement was made between Turkey and Great Britain where administration of Cyprus was passed to the British in exchange for British assistance to Turkey in the case of Russian hostility along with an annual rental fee.