History

The first inhabitants of Cyprus were Neolithic tribes who came from the region between eastern Anatolia and Sumerite Mesapotamia about 7000 BC. They used stone vessels; did not know the art of making pottery, but were well-established agriculturists, growing wheat and balley and domesticating animals; sheep, oxen, and dogs. New waves of settlers arrived in about 6000 BC and they brought with them skills in making pottery, and gradualily the stone vessels used by the first settlers were replaced by earthenware pots as cooking utens~iIs>. The first inhabitants are classified by archaeologists as Neolithic tribes in the pre-pottery or ceramic stage, Neolithic A, and the folk who came later, Neolithic B.

The first settlers established small villages along the coast, occasionally hunting the numerous moufflon in the interior forests. Two important sites have been excavated by archaeologists, one at Troulli, eleven miles east of Girne (Kyrenia), and the other at Khirokitia, half-way between Limassol and Nicosia. The objects found reveal a peaceful life of farming, fishing, looking after animals, and weaving cloth from wool. It must have been a peaceful life because very few weapons were found during the excavations.

Up to the present, no evidence has been found in Cyprus of Palaeolithic Man, but it is thought that strong evidence will come later, for only 50 miles to the north Palaeolithic Man lived in caves at Kara In near Antalya. This was 20,000 BC, at a time when the rest of Europe was recovering from the Ice Age, and when Palaeolithic Man hunted bears, deer, and mammoths. They were just hunters and collectors, had no settled life, and knew nothing about agriculture. There are plenty of caves in the Kyrenia mountains which could have possibly been occupied, but during the course of the thousands of years since that time the caves have been in constant use by farmers for their sheep and goats, during which all traces of Palaeolithic Man`s occupation have been cleared away.

Research has carried the history of Cyprus back to the early Neolithic Age, around 3700 BC, when the island seems to have been first settled by an enterprising people whose origins are obscure.` These Neolithic Cypriots were of a broad-headed, stocky type, distinct from any known contemporaries on the neighbouring mainland, except on the central plains of Anatolia. They used implements and vessels of stone, dwelt in riverside settlements of circular huts., living on the produce of the land they farmed. Before metal was introduced, pottery, frequently corned with painted decoration of great individuality, was in general use.

The adoption of bronze for implements and weapons, about 2500 BC, ticided with the appearance of the ox, the plough, and a plain red pottery, suggestive of Anatolian origin, of which large quantities have been found in rock-cut tombs of the period. It may well be that immigrants from Anatolia first exploited the island`s copper resources. By the Late Bronze Age (1600-i 050 BC) these had focused neighbouring attention on the island, which prospered as a commercial and cultural link between East and West. Under the name Alasia, Cyprus is recorded among the tributaries of Egypt, from the time of Thotmes III, but it remained open to traders and settlers from the Mycenaean Empire. On the disruption of that Empire, Achaean colonies established themselves in settlements founded, according to legend, by heroes returning from the Trojan war who brought with them their language and religion, perhaps by way of the coast of Asia Minor.

It remained for Alexander the Great to liberate the island (333 BC). At the division of his Empire, Cyprus passed to the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt; it became a Roman province in 58 BC, was early converted to Christianity and on the partition of the Roman Empire fell under the rule of the Byzantine Emperor.

In the 4th century AD the Christian sect in Salamis, and elsewhere in the Roman Empire, offered divine~ power to the Roman governor in return for recognition. It must be remembered that Roman Salamis consisted of a population of about 2,000 Roman citizens and about 6,000 rsiaves; The Romans had to come to terms with the Christians because many of their supporters came from the slave population, and now that the Christians made the Roman Emperor the representative of God on Earth, their political power was greatly increased. Thus religion and state became established together in power. Then the Roman Empire split up into an eastern half centred in Byzantium (Constantinople) which became the centre of the Greek Orthodox Church, and the western Roman empire centred at Rome, becoming the centre of the Latin Church. In this way there arose in Cyprus the Latin Church and the Greek Orthodox Church communities.

Throughout the Middle Ages rivalry~ between Greek and Latin churches continued. The Moslems favoured the Greek church because it was the Latins who fought the Muslims in Palestine during the Crusades.

For 300 years from the middle of the seventh century Cyprus lay, in the words of a contemporary English visitor, `betwixt> Greek and Saracens`, ravaged by one Arab raid after another. In 965 Nicephoros II Phocas re-established Byzantine rule, which sndured:for another 200 years, a period marked by much church building and ty more than one insurrection.

In 1185 Isaac Comnenos, a relative of the yeignihg Emperor of Byzantium usurped> the governorship of Cyprus and maintained his independence until 1191, when his rule was brought to an end by Richard Coeur-de-Lion, who was on his way eastwards to take part in the Third Crusade. Richard occupied the i~and to avenge wrongs done to the members of his following by Isaac, but after a few months sold it to the Knights Templar. They in turn finding its occupation burdensome, transferred it, at Richard`s wish, to Guy de Lusignan, the dispossessed King of Jerusalem. Thereafter kings of the house of Lusignan ruled the island until 1489, although from 1373 to 1464 the Genoese Republic held Famagusta and exercised suzerainty over a part of the country.

The 300 years of Frankish rule were a great epoch in the varied history of Cyprus. The little kingdom played a distinguished part in several aspects of medieval civilisation. Its constitution, inherited from the Kingdom of Jerusalem, was the model of that of the medieval feudat state; but, with that conservatism which characterised the island throughout its history, it retained the Assizes of Jerusalem` long after they had been outmoded. In the Abbey of Bellapais, and in the cathedrals of Nicosia and Famagusta, it couldhoast examples of Gothic architecture without equal in the Levant. But such achievements required the introduction of an alien nobility and the ruthless subjugation of the Greek Church to a Latin hierarchy. And if the poverty and oppression of the peasantry Were no worse than in medieval Europe, in Cyprus they were longer endured.

The fall of Acre in 1291 left Cyprus the outpost of Christendom in the `avant. Profiting by the influxcof the Franks driven from the mainland anWpspe4ng by the diversion of the Syrian trade to its ports, Cyprus was able briefly to carry the struggle back into enemy territory. Under Peter I, Alexandria was! sacked and Adalia and Korykos on the Turkish coast were occupied, but the Black death and later plagues, the Genoese invasion of 1373 and devastatingMameluke raids, culminating in the rout of the Cypriot forces and the capture of King Janus in 1426, marked stages in a progressive decline which laid the island open to the i~gu~ ea of Western powers and a threat to Turkish merchant shipping. In 1489 Cyprus fell to the republic of Venice, which held it until it was won by the Turks in 1571, in the Sultanate of Selim II. The Venetian administration, elaborate but often inefficient and corrupt; laboured under the excessive control exercised by the Signory, which spent on it little more than one-third of the revenue it drew from the island. The population increased to some 200,000 but the former prosperity did not return.

The Turks were greeted` as liberators by the local population, who were treated with consideration in return. They abolished serfdom, recognized the supremacy of the Orthodox community over all other Christian denominations, and restored the Orthodox Archbishopric. Above all, the Cypriots were integrate& into that remarkable institution known as the Millet Systern, which for centuries provided members of religious minorities within the Ottoman Empire with more freedom than was enjoyed by such groups anywhere in Europe.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 brought Cyprus into British strategic interests because the island lay on the route to the British Crown Colony of India.

Following the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8, Britain became alarmed at Russian ,encroachments~into Turkey`s eastern provinces and sought an alliance with Turkey. In exchange for a promise to assist Turkey against the Russian threat the island was leased to the British and the administration temporarily passed to Great Britain.t The deal was a joint governorship of Cyprus and the British agreed to pay a tribute of 92,000 golden sovereigns annually to the Ottoman Sultan, which continued until 1914. The island still remained Ottoman territory and its inhabitants Ottoman subjects. But on the outbreak of the First World War on 5 November 1914, Britain unilaterally annexed Cyprus to the British Crown. The annexation was not recognized until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1924.