Lapithos (Greek: Λάπηθος; Turkish: Lapta) is a town of
Kyrenia Districton the northern coast of Cyprus, which was a kingdom in ancienty. According to Strabo, the settlement was founded by Spartans. In Assyrian inscriptions, Lapithos is mentioned as one of the eleven Cypriot kingdoms. During the Persian rule, Lapithos was settled by Phoenicians. The last independent king Praxippos was subdued by Ptolemy Iin 312 BC.
1974, after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the town is in the Turkish Cypriot part of the island. After the Turkish invasion of 20 July 1974four thousand Lapithiotes became refugees.Fact|date=July 2007
Lapithos, Lambousa, Imeroessa, Lapithea has been making a journey in history for thousands years now. ‘Construction of the Laconians and of Praxandros’ says Strabo. Alexander from Ephesus, the ancient philosopher called it Imeroessa, i.e. attractive, passion-arousing.
The archaeologists refer to Lapithos as colony of the
Laconians, built after the Trojan War(circa 1000 BC) by Praxandros its first king. However, findings from excavations i.e. pots and pottery wheels date back its existence as early as 3000 BC. Diodoros of Sicilyrefers to Lapithos as one of the nine Cypriot Kingdoms circa the 4th century BC.
Peisistratos, king of Lapithos, with his flotilla, together with
Nicocreonof Salamis and Stasanorof Curium, came to the aid of Alexander the Great, helping him to capture Tyre in Phoenicia. For this reason Alexander, the victorious army commander, declared Cyprus free from the Persians. The last king of Lapithos was Praxippos.
The Roman, Byzantine and Luisignan Period
During the period of the
Roman Empire, Lapithos had more than 10,000 inhabitants. It formed one of the four districts of Cyprus. From ancient times Lapithos became a centre for the processing of copperand more importantly an earthenware centre.
During the proto-Christian period (
25 BC- 250 AD) Lapithos experienced a great commercial drive because of the plethora of its produce, but also because of its port and its shipyard. During this period Lapithos was given the name Lambousa (Shining) may be because of its shining wealth or because of its shining beauty and cleanliness or because of its lighthouse, which shed shining light to the surrounding region.
During the first years of
Christianitythe apostles Paul, Barnabasand Mark passed by Lapithos coming from Tarsus. According to Apostle Barnabas, Lapithos had city walls. He cites that during his second tour with Apostle Mark, they stayed outside the walls because they were not given access to the city. During the Byzantineperiod, Lapithos enjoyed great prosperity in commerce as well as in riches, art and development. Bishop of Lapithos Theodotos (circa 314-324 AD) died a martyrin Kyreniawhile Bishop Didymos was represented at the 4th Ecumenical Synod (451 AD) by Saint Evlalios or Evlampios; a chapel dedicated to who can be found near the monastery of Acheiropoiitos.
Lapithos was heavily damaged during the Arab incursions. The population often had to flee and take refuge in the interior. Upon the liberation of Cyprus from the
Arabsafter the victorious expedition of Nicephorus Phocas, the Byzantine Emperor- 965 AD - Lapithos’s refugees returned to their town to rebuild it in a new location, not by the sea, but at the foot of mountain Pentadactylos.
Lusignanperiod Lapithos boasted a greater population than Limassol, Famagustaor Paphos. It was a feud known under the name "Le field de la Pison", believed to be a Latin paraphrase of Lapithos. It is known that a few years before the Ottoman Turkish conquest of Cyprus ( 1571) 3000 troops were stationed at Lapithos under the command of Zanetto Dandolo, who fell during the defense of Nicosia.
The Ottoman Period
During the Turkish occupation (
1571- 1878) the Ottoman Turksseized a great amount of landed property owned by GreeksFact|date=February 2007. In addition two Greek Orthodox Churches were converted into mosques. In 1780a section of Lapithos was split off to form a new village, Karavas.
Greek War of Independenceon 18- 21 June 1821, Konstantinos Kanaris, captain of a fire ship paid a visit to Lapithos in order to take provisions and to recruit men. Kanaris anchored at Asprovrisi. He was hosted at Paspallas house at Ayia Paraskevi. There they ‘staged a funeral’ burying weapons (mainly local knives) and other provisions in the local cemetery by the sea. During the following nights sailors from Kanaris’ fire ship unearthed the stuff, loaded it on board and left with sixteen new recruits. The Turkish rulers found out about the incident days later. Not surprisingly they took severe action. They beheaded the local headman Chatzelias and another sixteen Lapithiotes in Nicosia on 9 July 1821.Fact|date=July 2007
The British Rule
Soon after the British leased Cyprus from the Ottomans in
1878Lapithos was declared a municipality. Andreas Koumides took office as Mayor.
The people of Lapithos participated in the liberation struggle of
1955-59 ( EOKA). Many young Lapithiotes were trained in the tactics of guerrilla warfare by Gregoris Afxentiouand later by Kyriakos Matsis. Lapithos was at the forefront of the sabotage campaign against colonial rule. Bombs exploded and British troopswere ambushed and attacked. For this reason the community was ordered to pay heavy collective fines. Men were detained while a curfew was often imposed.
The Zurich-London Agreements (
1959) may have brought about the birth of the Republic of Cyprus( 1960) but they did not produce long-lasting peace. In 1963 inter-communal strife broke out.
Coup d'Etat attempt and Turkish Invasion
July 15, 1974a coup-d'etatperpetrated by the Junta of Athens and EOKA B’ in order to fulfill Enosis. Turkey, as a guarantor country, considered this to be the so much wanted reason to intervene. Lapithos was situated in the invaded territorries of the Northern Cyprus, later to become part of the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Situated about 14 Kilometers west of
Kyrenia, on the northern coast of Cyprus, on the East it borders with Karavas, on the West with Basileia, on its South with the villages of Sysklhpos, Agridaki, and Larnaka tis Lapithou. It spreads from the high mountains of Pentadactylosto the waters of the Mediterranean. In fact, it rests against the background of the highest peak of Pentadactylos, the Kyparissobouno, which reaches about 1024 meters high, its highest peak, exquisite Lapithos spreads in the green reaching the Mediterranean coast.
The village was constituted of six enories (parishes). Each enoria had its own civil and religious administration. There was a community council under a chairman and an ecclesiastical authority with a Greek Orthodox priest. Moreover every enoria had its own cemetery. The six enories were the following:
Ayia Anastasia and Ayia Paraskevi in Upper Lapithos were known as the Pano Enories (Upper Parishes). Ayios Theodhoros on the west side of the village and Timios Prodhromos and Ayios Loukas in the centre, while Ayios Minas lay to the east.
Farming and Crops
Lapithos has fertile land and rich water resources due to its headspring (Kefalovryso). A variety of trees are cultivated. Citrus, especially lemon-trees, thrive producing 11-12 million lemons per year. It was the greatest production in the island. The lemon-tree grown in the Lapithos area (Lemonia Lapithiotiki) is well known in Cyprus. The orchards of Lapithos filled the place with their green colour. In springtime every span of the land smelled sweetly. The scent of lemon blossom was omnipresent. Olive-trees thrived especially in the hilly areas. Carob-trees also prospered. They provided the so-called ‘black gold’ at a time when commerce was not at its best.
Water-loving plants like fistikia (pistachios), konari and kolokasi were plentifully cultivated in the Lapithos plain. Mulberry-trees were planted on the edge of the orchards in order to protect the lemon-trees from the winds and the saltiness of the sea but also to provide food for the silkworm the mainstay of the silk industry.
The green-clad orchards with their evergreen lemon-trees, citron-trees (nerantzies), tangerine-trees, grapefruit-trees, bergamot-trees and all sorts of orange-trees formed the green background of the scene as if of a painting most conspicuous in Spring as the white blossom of the trees embellished every inch of the land.
The great variety of white plums in Lapithos was perhaps unique. Red, yellowish tzianeres (very sweet and round that can be eaten unripe) but also the so-called flokkaroues (long and greenish) are varieties peculiar only to Lapithos. Plum-trees, reklot, formoses, red-leaved pournelies, mavropournelloues (small round blackish pournelles) were abundant. They provided extra income to the local farmers.
When Cyprus became British Colony in
1878, the British set about re-organizing the administrative structure of the island. Thus Lapithos became one of the ten new ‘municipalities’. Both the Mayor and the Municipal Council were democratically elected by the people of Lapithos. As a result competent personalities were elected in office, who strived for the progress and well-being of the small town.
This Municipal Council stayed in office until the end of 1987, thirteen years after the invasion.
The 1974 catastrophe put all the activities of the municipality to a halt. The displaced Lapithiotes were dispersed not only around the island but also in the world at large. The items on the agenda of the first post-1974 meeting of the Municipal Council on
13 January 1975were as follows:
1. Jobs in the civil service for the now unemployed municipal employees.2. Problems of the municipal employees.3. Enlightenment campaign on the Cyprus National Problem.
The Municipal Council meetings took place in the homes of its members until the Municipality was offered temporary offices at 37 Ammochostou Street, Nicosia, west of Ammochostos Gate. The Municipality of Lapithos found itself under the same roof with also refugee Municipality of Kythrea. The current Mayor of the town is Athos Eleftheriou.
Churches and Mosques
The town is divided into six parishes. Each one of the six bears the name of the saint to whom the parish church is dedicated. Starting from the west plains the traveller finds the parish church of Ayios Theodhoros Stratilatis – Saint Theodore the Victorious Army Commander. Next, one finds the parish church of Apostolos Loukas – Apostle Luke – and finally the parish church of Ayios Minas – Saint Minas. On the hills there are another two. First, the church of Ayia Anastasia – Saint Anastasia – situated in a commanding spot with a large yard surrounding it in which there is a primary school. Then, on higher ground, there is the largest of parish churches in the village, that of Ayia Paraskevi – Saint Paraskevi. This is also the location of the Kefalovryso – headspring. Last but not least, right in the town centre, lies the Church of Timios Prodhromos – Holy Prodhromos, dated back to the 18th century, the oldest in Lapithos.
In the Saint Theodore's interior old Byzantine books and icons were kept. According to the testimonies of those enclaved in their own land after the Turkish invasion, by 1975 every piece of treasure in this historic church was pillaged.
The Haydar Pashazade Mehmet Bey Mosque in Lapithos is an Ottoman style stone mosque. [http://www.cypnet.co.uk/ncyprus/city/kyrenia/lapta/index.html]
Patriarch Gregory II of Constantinople
Lapithos is twinned with the following Greek Municipalities:
*flagicon|Greece Mandraki, Nisyros Island,
* [http://www.lapithos.org.cy/english/ Municpality]
Turkish invasion of Cyprus
* [http://www.lapithos.org.cy/english/default.aspx?articleID=9869&heading=History History of Lapithos by the Municipality]
* [http://www.lapithos.org.cy/english/default.aspx?articleID=9408&heading=Parish%20Churches%20in%20Lapithos Parish Churches of Lapithos by the Municipality]
* [http://www.lapithos.org.cy/english/default.aspx?articleID=7892&heading=Farming%20and%20Crops Farming and Crops]
* [http://www.lapithos.org.cy/english/default.aspx?articleID=10426&heading=COUP%20D’%20ETAT%20–%20INVASION%20–%20OCCUPATION Coup d'etat and Invasion by Lapithos Municipality]
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