A brief history

Although a small country, Cyprus has an almost overwhelming cultural heritage. Wherever you travel you will find ancient monuments and sites, churches and monasteries bearing silent witness to over 9000 years of civilization and history. Cyprus stands at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe and this exotic mix is well-reflected in Cyprus' cultural history.

History in Cyprus dates as far back as 7000 BC, the Neolithic Age, with settlements along the north and south coasts of the island.

After 1400 BC, the first Greeks came to the island, Mycenaen merchants, who started the Hellenisation of the island.

By 1050 BC Cyprus can be considered a Greek island, with the language, culture and religion of Greece well established. Cyprus has ten city-kingdoms and by 800 BC it is a flourishing and prosperous country.

From 750 BC Cyprus is conquered several times by Assyria, Egypt and Persia. In 333 BC Alexander the Great claims Cyprus for part of his empire. Cyprus continues to be part of the Hellenist Empire until 58 BC.

In 58 BC Cyprus becomes part of the Roman Empire. Saint Paul is converted to Christianity whilst in Cyprus and Cyprus becomes the first country governed by a Christian.

After the division of the Roman Empire Cyprus becomes part of Byzantium, with Constantinople as its capital.
In 1191 AD Cyprus is defeated by the crusader Richard the Lionheart. The island is then sold to the Knights Templar, who resell it to Guy de Lusignan. From 1192 to 1489 Cyprus is ruled under a feudal system and Catholicism becomes the official religion.

In 1489 control of the island passes to the Venetians who takes steps to fortify the island and build walls around the towns of Nicosia and Famagusta.

In 1571 Ottoman troops invade the island and Cyprus becomes part of the Ottoman Empire. Islam is introduced to the island and Catholicism is expelled. The Greek Orthodox religion is restored.

In 1878, under the Cyprus Convention, Britain assumes administration of the island although it remains part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1914 however, when the Ottomans entered the 1st World War on the side of the Germans, Britain annexed the island. In 1923 Turkey relinquishes all rights to Cyprus and in 1925 Cyprus is declared a Crown colony.

An armed struggle breaks out in 1955 against colonial rule, which lasts until 1960 when the island is granted independence.

In 1963 Turkish-Cypriot ministers withdraw from the Government in protest at proposed changes to the Constitution and Turkey threatens to invade.

In 1974 the Greek junta instigates a coup in Cyprus against the Cypriot Government and Turkey uses that as an excuse to invade the island.

Turkey continues to illegally occupy 37% of the island, violating the UN charter. It has established the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an illegal state, recognized only by Turkey and continues to maintain the division of the island through force.

Both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities are currently in talks to unify the island.