History Of Cyprus

The island’s privileged geography position, explains both its tumultuous history and the fact that Cyprus has played an important role in the Eastern Mediterranean, through the ages. The first traces of civilization date back more than 9000 years to the Neolithic period. Subsequent cultural phases developed during the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age periods until the end of the 2nd millennium BC. But the most important event in the history of Cyprus was the arrival of Achaean Greek settlers in the 12th and 11th centuries BC, who decisively determined its cultural identity.

Greek language, religion, arts and traditions were introduced, and towns founded which still exist today.Well-known to the ancients for its copper mines and forests, Cyprus was an object of contest among the great powers of the Mediterranean region. Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians conquered and ruled the island until it was liberated in 333 BC by Alexander the Great.

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Under the Ptolemies, a Cypriot philosopher, Zenon of Kition, founded the Stoic school of Philosophy in Athens, which spread throughout the ancient world.Important events during the Roman period (58 BC – 330 AD) were the missionary journeys of Apostles Paul and of the Cypriot born Barnabas, who converted the Roman proconsul to Christianity. Cyprus became the world’s first Christian-ruled land and the Cypriots are the first Europeans to have become Christians. After the division of the Roman Empire, the glorious Byzantine era began when some of the most beautiful churches and renowned monasteries were established. On his way to the Holy Land, Richard the Lion-Heart, leader of the 3rd crusade, conquered the island (1191), soon sold it to the Knights Templar who in turn bestowed it on Guy de Lusignan, the ex Frankish King of Jerusalem. His family, originally from Poitiers of France, established a Catholic monarchy and ruled Cyprus for 3 centuries. Caterina Cornaro from Venice, the last Lusignan queen, was forced to yield her rights to the Venetians after the death of her husband who used Cyprus as a bulwark, so securing their commercial and strategic inter-ests against the Ottomans from 1489 till 1571.They, however, conquered the island and started a very oppressive rule lasting for 3 centuries, when Cyprus’ connections with Europe were severed. The latins were expelled but eventually the Greek-Orthodox Church which had been oppressed during the period of Lusignan and Venetian rule, recovered its autocephaly (jurisdictional independence).

With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Cyprus’ connections with Europe strategic value became even greater. With this in mind, in 1878 Great Britain took over administration of the British crown colony. After a four year liberation struggle, Cyprus became an independent republic in 1960. In 1974, Turkish forces invaded the north of the island turning one third of the population into refugees. The continued violation of the fundamental human rights of the people of Cyprus has been condemned by international bodies, but to date Turkey has refused to withdraw from Cyprus and maintains the island’s division by the force of arms. Although the invasion has dealt a tremendous blow to the economy of the island, Cyprus has managed to sustain a policy of reconstruction and economic development. Economically and politically, Cyprus has aligned itself with the European Union and aspires to become a full member in the near future. As from May 1, 2004 the Republic of Cyprus is a member of the European Union.

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