Cyprus, owing to its strategic position, was throughout its history colonized by some of the most influential colonial powers in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In 1878 Britain was the last power to occupy Cyprus, taking over the island from the Ottoman Empire. The Cypriots, Greeks and Turks alike, had for centuries co-existed peacefully in mixed villages, towns and places of work.
|Cyprus has played an important role in the history of the Eastern Mediterranean on account of its privileged geographical position at the crossroads between the East and the West. The island’s prehistory dates back to the 8th millennium B.C. Subsequent cultural phases developed during the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age periods until the end of the 2nd millennium B.C. However, the most crucial event in the history of Cyprus was the arrival of the Achaean settlers at the end of the 12th and throughout the 11th century B.C. The Greek settlers brought with them new vigor to the already flourishing culture of the island by establishing new towns and introducing the Greek language, new techniques in metallurgy, new artistic styles and even religious elements from the Greek world.|
In the subsequent Geometric period, the hellenization of Cyprus was completed and this is probably the period of the establishment of several city-kingdoms, which are well-attested in written sources later in the Archaic and Classical periods.
Cyprus was renowned in ancient times for its copper mines and forests. In this sense it is by no means surprising that its wealth made it the object of contest among the great powers of the Eastern Mediterranean in antiquity: the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Persians, who in turn became its rulers.
During the 5th century B.C. Athens played an important role in Cyprus, co-operating with the main cities of the island against the Persians. It was during this time that King Evagoras of Salamis came to power, a figure of world-wide radiance at the time. By the time of the partition of the Empire of Alexander the Great, who had earlier liberated the island from the Persians, Cyprus had become one of the most lucrative parts of the Empire of the Ptolemies of Egypt, until in 58 B.C., when it came under the dominion of the Romans. Both during the Ptolemies and later under the Romans, the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Paphos was the centre of the national, religious and cultural life of the island.
With the division of the Roman Empire in 330 A.D., Cyprus became a province of the Byzantine Empire. From then on Cyprus was to share the fortunes of the Greek world. Thus during the Crusades, the island was conquered by Richard the Lionheart (who was on his way back from the Holy Land in 1192).
Richard passed control of the island briefly onto the Knights Templar and they, in their turn, to the Lusignans from France, who established a Kingdom on the Western feudal model (1192-1489). The last Lusignan Queen, Caterina Cornaro, was forced to pass her rights onto the Republic of Venice, which ruled the island until 1571 when it was conquered by the Ottomans. The Ottoman period lasted until 1878 when the expansionist policy of Tsarist Russia led the Turks to cede Cyprus to Britain, which had promised to help Turkey in the event of an attack by Russia on certain bordering provinces.
British rule lasted until 1960, when after a four-year liberation struggle, the island became independent and was proclaimed a Republic.
Many of the provisions included in the 1960 Constitution of the Cyprus Republic proved unworkable and this preemted its smooth implementation. When in 1963 the President of the Republic of Cyprus proposed some amendments to facilitate the functioning of the state, the Turkish community responded with rebellion (December 1964), the Turkish Ministers withdrew from the Cabinet and the Turkish public servants ceased attending their offices. Since then, the aim of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, acting in full concert with the Turkish Government, has been the partitioning of Cyprus and the annexation of part of it by Turkey. On July 15, 1974 a coup was staged in Cyprus by the Greek military junta then in power, attempting to overthrow President Makarios. Turkey used this pretext to launch an invasion on July 20, with a full-fledged army. The invasion was carried out in two phases (July 20-22 and August 14-16), in which the Turkish troops eventually occupied 37% of the island’s territory, which remains until today under military occupation (more detailed information on this matter is available in the http://www.mfa.gov.cy/mfa/mfa2006.nsf/documents01_en/documents01_en?OpenDocument section of this website).
Aspects of Cyprus presentation