History of Cyprus

The first humans to live on Cyprus are thought to have arrived on the island around 10,000 BC. The arrival of the first people coincides with the extinction of several animals, including the dwarf elephants that once roamed the island.

During the Bronze Age the island was colonised by Greek settlers and it is from those people that the legends of Cyprus originate. In Greek mythology, Cyprus was said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite and Adonis the goddess and god of beauty. Cyprus has been an island that has regularly fallen under the influence of foreign powers.

After the Greeks it was then settled by the Phoenicians and then conquered by the Assyrian Empire in 708 BC.  Following them were the Egyptians and Persia. In 333 BC the island was conquered by Alexander the Great and upon his death it became a part of the Ptolemaic Egypt. In 58 BC Cyprus was annexed by the Romans and became a Roman territory for the next 800 years.

With the fall of the Western Roman Empire the island remained under the rule of the Eastern empires successor the Byzantine Empire. In 649AD, Cyprus was ravaged by Arab raids and endured 300 years of near constant warfare as the Empire desperately tried to halt the Arab advance. Large-scale attacks led to many Cypriots being killed and much of the island’s wealth was stolen or destroyed. No Byzantine churches remain from the period as many cities including Salamis were utterly destroyed. Eventually the Byzantines regained control following decisive victories on land and at sea.

In 1191 the island fell under the control of Richard the Lionhearts Crusader armies and used as a supply base for his campaigns against Saladin and as a base for the Third Crusade. A year later it was sold to the Templar’s who then sold it on to Guy de Lusignan the former king of the lost kingdom of Jerusalem.

It remained as the kingdom of Cyprus until 1473 when the Republic of Venice took power of the island. The city of Nicosia was fortified by the famous Venetian walls during this time.  The Ottoman Empire continuingly raided the island until in 1570 it launched a massive invasion bringing Cyprus firmly under the control of the Ottomans. Despite the numerous invasions the population remained Greek and numerous uprisings were carried out by the population.

In 1821 Greece won its independence from the Ottomans and called for union with Cyprus. Many uprisings took place but none were successful but the seeds of unification with Greece had been sown.

Following the Russo-Turkish war the island fell under the control of the British Empire. The British used it as a key military base and greatly improved the islands infrastructure.

At the outbreak of World War One the British offered Cyprus to the King of Greece on condition that Greece entered the war on the Allied side. The offer was rejected and it wasn’t until 1925 that Cyprus was officially made a British Crown colony. Many Greek Cypriots joined the British Army in hopes that the island would unify with Greece and even joined the Empire during the Second World War. In 1955 the EOKA organisation was founded, seeking independence and union with Greece through armed struggle. At the same time the Turkish Resistance (TMT), calling for Taksim, or partition, was established by the Turkish Cypriots as a counterweight. Turmoil on the island was met with force by the British. Cyprus gained independence in 1960 after an agreement was made between Britain, Greece and Turkey. The UK kept two military bases. Violence erupted shortly after between the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots with the former being forced into small enclaves.

War between Turkey and Greece was inevitable as inter-community violence continued and after the Greek military junta carried out a coup d’état in a bid to unify the island with Greece. In 1974 and as a response Turkey invaded the island and during a brief war managed to seize control of 37% of the island forcing many Greek Cypriots to the South whilst the Turk Cypriots fled to the north.

Since the invasion Cyprus has remained divided. The north is not recognised by the international community and the Republic of Cyprus is listed as the ruler of the entire island in diplomatic circles. In 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) declared independence, although Turkey is the only country which recognises it.

In 2004 Cyprus joined the European Union and enjoyed a decade of rapid economic expansion and development. Now however the country is facing extreme difficulties.

The country has suffered from the ongoing Eurozone crisis and in 2013 it had to be bailed out by the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The bailout has brought a lot of economic uncertainty to Cyprus. As with the other bailed out nations Cyprus is expected to undergo a painful transition, the jobless rate is expected to rise and cuts to public services should be expected.