Cyprus’ location in the east of the Mediterranean has led to the culture throughout history being influenced by several different civilizations, primarily Greek and Turkish. Today, the island is divided into a Greek-Cypriot part (Cyprus) and a Turkish-Cypriot part (Northern Cyprus).
From about 1200 BCE. Greek settlement took place and six Greek kingdoms were established. Cyprus was ruled by the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians to Alexander the Great conquered island in 333 BCE. In 295 BCE. Cyprus became subject to the Ptolemies, who ruled the island until it became a Roman province in 58 BCE. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Cyprus.
Following the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, Cyprus became part of the East Roman Empire and became subordinate to Byzantium. During the Crusades, Cyprus was conquered by Richard 1 of England in 1191 and was a crusader kingdom until 1489, when the island came under Venetian rule. The Ottoman Empire (Turkey) conquered Cyprus in 1571.
In 1878, the United Kingdom entered into an agreement with the Ottomans to lease the island. In 1914, Cyprus was formally annexed by the United Kingdom as a British colony after Turkey joined the First World War on the German side.
In 1960, Cyprus became an independent republic. After a period of Greek and Greek Cypriot pressure for union with Greece, Cyprus was attacked in 1974 by Turkey, which occupied the northern part of the country. Northern Cyprus was declared an independent republic in 1983, but is only recognized by Turkey.
- Countryaah: Check to see the location of Cyprus on the world map. Also covers major mountains, rivers and lakes in Cyprus.
The first known settlements in Cyprus are about 9000 years old. They disappeared after a few hundred years, after which Cyprus is believed to have been uninhabited for a few thousand years.
A new period of settlement was initiated around 4,500–4000 BCE, both on the south coast and in the Kyrenia mountains. Rich findings from the Bronze Age (1900–1600 BCE) show that there was trade in Crete, Anatolia, Syria and Egypt. This trade provided the basis for new settlements, and the Late Bronze Age (1600-1050 BCE) was a prosperous period, with extensive contact with other peoples. With the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization after 1200, Greek settlement in Cyprus took place. Six Greek kingdoms were established, and Greek languages have since been dominant on the island.
Cyprus became a cultural and economic center in the Mediterranean, and the significance grew after the Egyptian conquest in the second millennium BCE. After a long period of Phoenician and Mycenaean colonization, Cyprus became an Assyrian protectorate in the 8th century BCE. Assyrian control lasted for around 663 BCE, with Cyprus being independent for about a hundred years. Subsequently, Egypt once again became the dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean, while from 525 the Persians were the leading power.
Cyprus was incorporated into the Persian Empire in 522. The Persians had control of the island to 333, when Alexander the Great defeated the last Persian ruler. After Alexander’s death, the island came under the Ptolemies, which suppressed the Cypriot kingdoms and made the island a province in its kingdom, Ancient Egypt.
Part of the Roman Empire and Byzantine (East Roman) Empire (58 BCE – 1191)
The Ptolemies ruled Cyprus until 58 BCE, when it was subjugated to the Romans and made into a Roman province – with Cicero as one of its first proconsuls. For a time Cyprus was returned to Egypt under Cleopatra, but was taken back by Augustus in 31 BCE. and ruled as a separate province from 22 BCE. The Roman period was a rising time for Cyprus.
Christianity was introduced in Cyprus by the Apostle Paul about the year 45 CE. When Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70, many Jews sought refuge in Cyprus, where they rebelled in 115. Christianity became widespread, and by the end of the 300s the Greek Orthodox Church was firmly established.
After the division of the Roman Empire into a western and an eastern part in 395, Cyprus until 1191 was subject to Byzantine (East Roman) rule. This was challenged by the Arabs, who attacked in 649 and for the next three centuries were in conflict with the Byzantine kingdom of Cyprus – until the Byzantines recaptured the island in 964-965. Meanwhile, the Byzantines had divided the regime with the Muslim caliphate.
Then Cyprus experienced a relatively quiet period, although a Byzantine governor, Isaac Komnenos, rebelled and proclaimed emperor in 1185. He was beaten by an English crusader fleet led by King Richard the Lionheart in 1191, who transferred the island to the Knights Temple in Jerusalem. When they could not pay what the king demanded, he sold it to Guido of Lusignan, former king of Jerusalem.
Crusader Empire (1191–1489) and Venetian rule (1489–1570)
With the Guido of Lusignan, four hundred years of Lusignan – and thus Western – rule began, with the creation of a new kingdom in Cyprus, the introduction of feudalism, and a dominant place for the Latin (Catholic) church over the Orthodox.
With support from the Pope’s Bulla Cypria (1260), the Catholic Church subjugated the Orthodox Church organization, while being given the freedom to organize liturgy and rituals.
In the 1300s, the Kingdom of Cyprus strengthened its position in international trade, which was dominated by Italian city states. Famagusta became an important port city with widespread wealth. From the second half of the 13th century, Cyprus also played an important role in the struggle to maintain the Latin states in Syria, and after the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem fell in 1291, the Cypriot kings kept the crusader idea alive and countered the Muslim Mamluks. After the loss of Jerusalem, Cypriot kings from the Lusignan genus were crowned king of Jerusalem in the cathedrals of Cyprus.
During a crusade in 1361, King Peter conquered Antalya in Turkey and plundered Alexandria in 1365. After him a conflict ensued between Cyprus and the Italian states of Genoa and Venice, seeking control over the rich trade. Genoa took Famagusta during the war with Cyprus in 1372–1374; King Janus 1 led the fight to take the city back. The Mamluk forces from Egypt plundered Larnaca and Limassol in 1425, after which they defeated the Cypriot army at the Battle of Khirokitia in 1426, when the capital of Nicosia was also captured.
The last Lusignan king, Janus, with Egyptian help drove the Genovese out of Famagusta in 1464. His widow, Caterina Cornaro, took over the throne, but succumbed to strong pressure from Venice, which in 1489 annexed Cyprus.
Part of the Ottoman Empire (1570-1878)
Venice held Cyprus until 1570, when Nicosia fell for invading Ottoman forces; the following year Famagusta also fell. Cyprus became part of the Ottoman Empire, and Turkish immigration increased; among other things, several thousand Turkish soldiers were given land. Ottoman officers often took the best agricultural land, and were called the “lords of the valleys.”
In the early days, many converted from the Christian elite to Islam and gained high positions in the Ottoman hierarchy. Many marriages between Christians and Muslims also occurred. The Ottoman government gave the Greek Orthodox Church its administrative and financial independence and abolished the semi-feudal system introduced by the Franks and Venetians. The Cypriot church was given a key role in local expertise and bureaucracy for the Ottomans. The position of translator (” dragoman “) for the Ottomans was very attractive and brought so much wealth to the Christian proprietors that the dragoman was often referred to as the island’s richest and most powerful. They had a life guard of Ottoman soldiers.
There were several revolts against the power, brutality and wealth of the dragoman, and these rebels gathered both Muslims and Christians. The church also demanded taxes from its faithful partners and gained a certain jurisdiction over them. These positions as middlemen for the Ottomans gave unofficial access to parts of the funds raised, and the church and clergy were also heavily involved in legal and illegal export trade.
The church had large estates in Palestine and Russia and owned camels used in caravans. The church eventually became one of the largest landowners in Cyprus, despite its inferior status in a Muslim state. The property of the Church and Christian charities was protected by the laws of the Ottomans, and such foundations were exempt from taxation.
From 1702 Cyprus was governed by the Grand Visor (the Ottoman sultan’s representative), and in 1833 the Ottoman Sultan entrusted the administration of Cyprus to Muhammad Ali, the ever-more powerful Passover of Egypt who threatened the entire Ottoman Empire. However, after pressure from European great powers, he had to give up the island in 1840.
British rule (1878–1960)
In 1878, the United Kingdom entered into an agreement with the Sultan to take over the administration of Cyprus, against the British using the island as a base to protect the Ottoman Empire against Russia. Formally, Cyprus continued to belong to the Ottoman Empire. The strategic importance of the island was greatly increased with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
In 1914, Cyprus was formally annexed by the United Kingdom after Turkey joined the First World War on the German side. The Turkish Cypriots responded with shock to this annexation, and many emigrated to the Turkish mainland. It was later demanded by the Turkish Cypriots that the island should return to Turkish control. In 1915 the United Kingdom offered Cyprus to Greece, against Greece joining the war on the Allied side, but the Greeks rejected the offer, which was later not repeated.
Through the Lausanne Agreement of 1923, both Greece and Turkey recognized the British rule of Cyprus, which in 1925 was made into the British Crown Colony. Cyprus was not drawn into World War II, but contributed with allied forces. The island was also used to deport Jews who were denied access to Palestine; the last internment camp was closed in 1949.
Even before the Second World War, the demand for union (enosis) with Greece grew. The claim was supported in the population by a referendum in 1950, but the British government refused to recognize the outcome of the vote. The Enosis movement was led by Makarios from 1950, who was elected the same year as the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus. In 1954, the British presented a constitutional plan for Cyprus, which did not allow for enosis or independence; because of the strategic importance of the island, Britain would not give up its sovereignty over Cyprus.
Militant advocates of enosis then formed the guerrilla organization EOKA, which, under the leadership of Cypriot-born officer Georgios Grivas, launched a military campaign against the British colonial government. Grivas had led the notorious, right-wing guerrilla group X of the Greek Civil War (1944-1949). In response to EOKA, a Turkish-Cypriot paramilitary organization named TMT was formed. Both of these organizations were heavily supported by their “mother countries”. Following a series of terrorist acts in 1955, the British introduced a state of emergency, which lasted until 1959.
Turkey claimed Cyprus in 1955, and the same year a clash broke out between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot paramilitary groups on the island. The Turkish Cypriots were chased out of several mixed villages, often by their neighbors. Discussions of independence between Archbishop Makarios and the British in 1956 were broken without result. Makarios was one of the founders of EOKA and was deported to the Seychelles. He was released in 1957, but not allowed to return to Cyprus, and settled in Athens.
The Greek Cypriot military campaign for enosis continued, while Turkish-Cypriot teams now demanded the sharing of the island (taksim) and no longer for inclusion in Turkey. Clashes between the paramilitary groups were frequent, and especially severe in 1958. At the same time, the situation in Cyprus caused increased tension between the two old opponents Greece and Turkey. In 1958, the United Kingdom presented a new plan for Cyprus, which would remain under British rule for seven years, but with internal autonomy for the two peoples.
In 1959, Greece and Turkey agreed to support Cypriot independence. The United Kingdom joined and a process of independence was launched. The independent Cypriot Republic should have a Greek-Cypriot president and a Turkish-Cypriot vice president. Parliament was to consist of 70 percent Greek Cypriots and 30 percent Turkish Cypriots. The Cypriot army should have 60 percent Greek Cypriots and 40 percent Turkish Cypriots. Greece was to be stationed with a force of 950 men on the island, Turkey 650 men. Britain demanded to retain sovereignty over the two base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, which have since been retained. Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom should be guarantors of Cyprus’ independence and the inviolability of the Constitution.
In December 1959, the state of emergency was abolished and Archbishop Makarios elected president. Turkish-Cypriot leader Fazil Küçük was elected vice president. On August 16, 1960, Cyprus became an independent state.
Both the Greek and the Turkish population had developed underground movements that were preparing for violent actions, and both sides were illegally bringing weapons to the island. Cooperation between the two peoples groups in the government ceased long after President Makarios and Greek Cypriot politicians demanded that the ethnic principle of power sharing be changed on several levels. This was contrary to the Constitution. Turkish-Cypriot MPs withdrew from parliament in protest, and Greek-Cypriot members meanwhile passed the unconstitutional amendment to the constitution. The Constitutional Court’s independent German president protested against this illegal act. The Greek Cypriot politicians demanded that the Turkish Cypriots should recognize the change before being allowed to return. It never happened,
Serious riots broke out for the first time in December 1963, with paramilitary killings of civilians. The following year, the civil war raged and the Cypriot government asked the UN to send a representative to the island. A peacekeeping force, UNFICYP, was deployed and a division line was established in Nicosia and other cities. Almost the entire Turkish-Cypriot population had to flee to armed enclaves, and more than 20,000 lived in refugee camps until 1974.
President Makarios secured control of the Cypriot National Guard in 1966, and in 1967 Turkey threatened the invasion of Cyprus to defend the rights of the Turkish minority. The condition of the Turks to cancel the planned invasion was that General Grivas, who had returned to Cyprus in 1964 after an extended stay in Greece, should be expelled from the country together with his illegal forces. In the tense situation that followed, General Grivas returned to Greece, and about ten thousand Greek soldiers left Cyprus under Turkish supervision.
The Turkish-Cypriot minority demanded internal self-government, which was rejected by the Greek Cypriots, who feared it would cause the island to be permanently divided. In 1967, however, the Turkish Cypriots introduced a transitional administration for their territories, led by Küçük. It was regarded by President Makarios as an illegal and de facto government for the Turkish Cypriot minority. A new organization, The National Front, resumed terror in 1969 as a tool in the fight for enosis, and an assassination attempt against Makarios in 1970 was attributed to this.
In 1971, General Grivas secretly returned to Cyprus, initiated a collaboration with the National Front, and organized a new guerrilla organization, EOKA-B, which continued the fight for a union with Greece. EOKA-B targeted the Cypriot government in an internal Greek-Cypriot armed conflict. In 1973, Makarios was re-elected president, while Turkish Cypriot Rauf Denktaş became new vice president.
In 1974, the Cypriot National Guard, led by Greek officers and apparently with Greek support, conducted a coup d’etat in Cyprus, and Nikos Sampson was named president; General Grivas died earlier this year. Archbishop Makarios fled to Britain, and Greece sent reinforcements to the National Guard. Denktaş called for British and Turkish military intervention to prevent Greece from unilaterally introducing enosis, but Britain’s guarantee power was unwilling to intervene. Thus, on July 20, Turkish forces invaded Cyprus. The UN force failed to prevent Turkish advance even after the UN-sponsored ceasefire came into force on July 22. The entire northern part of the island, the area north of what became known as the Attila Line, came under Turkish occupation.
The invasion contributed to the military regime in Greece going off on July 23, and at the same time Nikos Sampson resigned as president. Glafkos Klerides was appointed new president until Archbishop Makarios returned in December to take over the position. The new civilian government in Greece announced that it was unwilling to go to war with Turkey over the Cyprus issue. Turkey claimed that the country had only used its right as one of Cyprus’ three guarantee powers to intervene, with the aim of restoring the constitutional order and defending the rights of the Turkish Cypriot minority. The invasion, and the division of land that followed, led to about 225,000 Cypriots being fled in both directions; About 184,000 of these were Greek Cypriots.
On February 13, 1975, the Turkish federal state of Cyprus was proclaimed in the part of Cyprus that was under Turkish occupation, but not as an independent republic. Rauf Denktaş was elected president of the Turkish “state” and elections to a legislative assembly were held in 1976. Negotiations between the leaders of the divided island in 1975-1977 did not proceed. Archbishop Makarios died in August 1977, creating fears about the stability of the Greek-Cypriot regime. Spyros Kyprianou was temporarily appointed president and elected when Makarios’ term expired in 1978.
On November 15, 1983, the Turkish zone declared itself an independent republic, under the name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. State formation has not been recognized by countries other than Turkey, and its establishment was condemned by the UN Security Council.