Past and Present

The island's privileged geographical position ,explains both its tumultuous history and the fact that Cyprus has played  an important roll in the Eastern Mediterranean, through the ages.

The first traces of civilization date back more than 9000 years to the Neolithic period. Subsequent cultural phases developed during  Chalcolithic and Bronze Age periods until the end of the 2ndmillennium BC.

But the most important event in the history of the Cyprus was the arrival of Achaean Greek settlers in the 12th and 11th centuries BC, who decisively determined its cultural identity. Greek language, religion, arts and traditions were introduced, and towns founded which exist today.

Well-known to the ancients for its copper mines and forests, Cyprus was an object of contest among the great powers of the Mediterranean region.

Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians conquered and ruled the island until it was liberated in 333 BC by the Alexander the Great.

Under the Ptolemies, a Cypriot philosopher, Zenon of Kition, founded the Stoic school of philosophy in Athens, which spread throughout the ancient world.

Important events during the Roman Period (58 BC-330 AD) were the missionary journeys of Apostles Paul and of the Cypriot born Barnabas, who converted the Roman proconsul to Christianity. Cyprus became the world's first Christian-ruled land  and the Cypriots are the first Europeans  to have become Christians.

After the division of the Roman Empire, the Glorious Byzantine era began when some of the most beautiful churches  and renowned monasteries were established.

On his way to his holy land, Richard the Lion-Heart, leader of the 3rd Crusade, conquered the island (1191),soon sold to the Knights Templar who in turn bestowed it on Guy de Lusignan, the ex Frankish King of Jerusalem.

His family , originally from Poitiers of France, established a Catholic monarchy ruled Cyprus for 3 centuries. Caterina Cornaro from Venice , the last Lusignan queen, was forced to yield her rights to the Venetians after the death her husband who used Cyprus as a bulwark, so securing their commercial and strategic interests against the Ottomans from 1489 till 1571.

They, however, conquered the island and started a very oppressive rule lasting for 3 centuries, when Cyprus' connections with Europe were served. Latin were expelled but eventually Greek-Orthodox Church , which had been oppressed during the period of Lusignan and Venetian rule, recovered its autocephaly (jurisdictional independence).

With the opening of Suez Canal, in 1869, Cyprus' strategic value became even greater. With this in mind, in 1878, Great Britain took over administration of the island and in 1925 made it a British Crown Colony. After a four year liberation struggle, Cyprus became an independent republic, in 1960.

In 1974, Turkish forces invaded the north of the island turning one third of the population into refugees. The continued violation of the fundamental human rights of the people of Cyprus has been condemned by international bodies, but to date Turkey has refused to withdraw from Cyprus and maintains the island's division by the force of arms.
Although the invasion has dealt a tremendous blow to the economy of the island, Cyprus has managed to sustain a policy of reconstruction and economic development. Economically and politically, Cyprus has aligned itself with the European Union and aspires to become a full member in the near future.



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