The History of Cyprus from Neolithic times to its independence in 1960

Since the first Neolithic settlers appeared on the island's shores about 12,000BC, the history of Cyprus has been anything but dull. In fact, over the millennia it has probably been one of the most heavily contested islands in the entire Mediterranean Sea, not only for its valuable strategic position, but also because it was one of the earliest locations where copper, a vital ingredient in Bronze weaponry, was produced in large quantities. As a result, Cyprus became a coveted target for many invading cultures.

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Cyprus played a vital part in Christian History

Beautiful Cyprus

Coveted though it may have been in those far-off days, the island's history is not all about conquest and warfare.

Indeed, Cyprus also holds a vital position in early Christian history, not only because it provided an escape for persecuted Followers of the Way, but also because it marked the beginning of Barnabas and Paul's first missionary journey, and was the location where Paul's first recorded miracle took place.

However, the History of Cyprus is nevertheless of interest by in its own right.


Beach at Cape Andreas
Cape Andreas was
once part of a land bridge

A BRIEF SUMMARY of the History of Cyprus from the time when the first Neolithic settlers arrived on the island.

  • 12,000 - 3800 BC: Human habitation on the island dates back to this time, with the first Neolithic people arriving at Cape Andreas at the end of the Karpass peninsula in the extreme north-east of Cyprus, and expanding westwards as time progressed.

  • 1,300 - 1,100 BC: The first City Kingdoms of Cyprus are established. Kourion is among these.

  • 706 BC: The seven Cypriot Kings openly pay homage to Sargon II, the Assyrian Emperor. But Assyrian rule is short, lasting only until 663BC, when the island regains its independence and a period of growth, peace and prosperity ensues.

  • 569 BC: At this time, Egypt casts its eyes on Cyprus and forces its submission, with the Kings of Cyprus once again acknowledging a foreign ruler (Ahmose II) as their overlord.

  • 525 BC: A mere forty four years later, the Kings of Cyprus voluntarily submit themselves to King Cyrus of Persia

  • 350 BC: Cyprus joins the Greek world. Greek architectural styles are adopted and Greek dress becomes the norm
  • 332 AD: The last Kings of Cyprus aid Alexander the Great in the Siege of Tyre with ships and troops.

  • 58 BC: The island is annexed by the Roman Empire. Later it is given as a gift to Cleopatra by Marc Anthony, only to be returned to the Empire after their defeat at the Battle of Actium in 30BC.

  • AD 45: Barnabas and Saul visit Cyprus on the initial leg of their first missionary journey. While on the island Saul performs his first recorded miracle and changes his name to Paul from this time.
  • 312: The Chi-Rho is revealed to Constantine in a Heavenly Vision on the eve of the battle which will make him Emperor.

  • 330: Emperor Constantine restructures the Roman Empire into East and West, and establishes Constantinople as capital of the Byzantine (Eastern) Empire.
  • 365: The cataclysmic 'Crete Earthquake' devastates Kourion, along with much of the Eastern Mediterranean.

  • 649: The start of periodic Arab raids on Cyprus. By 688, a treaty is signed between Arabs and Byzantines which declares Cyprus as neutral territory. Despite this, the sporadic raids continue.

  • 1191: Following a short campaign, Richard the Lionheart captures Cyprus on his way to the third Crusade, and marries Berengaria of Navarre at Amathus before continuing to the Holy Land.

  • 1192: Richard sells the island to the Knights Templar who, in their turn, sell it on to Guy de Lusignan, former King of Jerusalem when he loses his throne in favor of Conrad of Montferrat.

  • 1192 - 1489: Although Guy de Lusignan dies in 1194, the Lusignan dynasty lasts for almost three hundred years. during this time, the great cathedrals at Famagusta and Nicosia are built.

  • 1489 - 1571: Following the gradual decline of the Lusignans, the island's last queen, Catherine Cornaro is forced to abdicate on February 14th 1489 due to continuing pressure by the Venetians who covet Cyprus as a trade-base.

  • 1571: Following over a year of persistent campagning, Cyprus falls into the hands of the Ottoman Empire when Famagusta fell after a prolonged siege. Cyprus was to remain in Turkish hands for over three centuries.

  • 1878: With the Suez Canal completed less than a decade earlier, the outbreak of the Russo/Turkish War in 1877 actively threatened British economic interests in the Middle East, specifically in case of a Russian victory. To prevent this, the hard-pressed Turks rented Cyprus to the British for a nominal fee each year, which allowed the United Kingdom to establish an effective military presence in the region.

  • 1878 - 1914: Once in charge, the British fundamentally reform Cypriot governmental and legal systems despite causing outrage to the local population and protests from the Turkish who were, after all, still technically in control of the island.
  • 1914: This technicality was ended by the outbreak of the First World War, and the Turkish alliance with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which prompted Great Britain to fully annex Cyprus and refute all Turkish claims to it.
  • 1925: Six years after the end of the war, Turkey is finally forced to officially relinquish control of the island by the Treaty of Lausanne, thus opening the way for Cyprus to finally become a British Crown Colony.
  • 1939 - 1945: The Second World War sees Cypriot volunteers fighting alongside Allied Forces in return for veiled British promises of independence following the end of the conflict. Unlike Crete and Malta, Cyprus itself is of little strategic importance during the war, and so largely undamaged by fighting.
  • 1954: British promises for independence made during the War are repeatedly ignored, and, during 1954, the United Nation turns a blind eye to Cypriot pleas for intercession.
  • 1955: By the end of this year, EOKA (The Cypriot National Organisation of Fighters) begins a fierce terror campaign against the island's British rulers. Its goal is to bring about a unification with Greece. In response, the British government declares a total state of emergency.

  • 1959: Following over three years of terrorism, the London Agreement is signed between British, Greek, Cypriot and Turkish leaders. This agreement finally guarantees independence for Cyprus after more than two thousand years of foreign rule. As a result, the overall state of emergency is lifted on X-Mas Eve 1959.

  • 1960: The dream of Cypriot independence finally becomes a reality on August 16th of this year, with the swearing in of Archbishop Makarios III as the fledgling Republic's first president. This independence, however, comes at a price, as the London agreement makes provision for Britain, Greece and Turkey to station troops on the island for its protection.
  • 1960: On September 20th, the Republic of Cyprus becomes a member of the United Nations.

The Neolithic Village at Choirokitia
Replica of the Neolithic Village unearthed at Choirokitia


Neolithic Monolith from the Sanctuary of Aphrodite
Neolithic Monolith,
one of many fround
around the island


Campanopetra Basilica at Salamis with the Coastal Mountain Range in the Background
Basilica in Salamis, the city where Barnabas and Paul landed in Cyprus


Buffavento Castle in North Cyprus
Buffavento Castle from the Medieval Period


Fallen Column at the top of Amathus
Block at the top of Amathus Hill

Did you know...?
A substantial part of the Suez Canal's building materials were taken from Amathus, where blocks such as these were simply rolled down the hill to the waiting ships.


Mount Pentadactylos seen from Nicosia
Mount Pentadactylos

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