Ancient history of Cyprus

Ancient history of Cyprus
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The ancient history of Cyprus, also known as Classical Antiquity, dates from the 8th century BC to the Middle Ages. The earliest written records relating to Cyprus date to the Middle Bronze Age (c. 15th century BC), see Alasiya.


Assyrian Period

The earliest written source of Cypriot history shows the nation under Assyrian rule. A stele found in 1845 in Kition commemorates the victory of King Sargon II(721-705 BC) in 709 over the seven kings in the land of Ia', in the district of Iadnana or Atnana. The former is supposedly the Assyrian name for Cyprus, while some scholars insist the later means Greece (the Islands of the Danaans). There are other inscriptions referring to Ia' in Sargon's palace at Khorsabad. The ten kingdoms listed by an inscription of Esarhaddon in 673-672 BC have been identified as Soloi, Salamis, Paphos, Kourion, Amathus and Kition on the coast, and Tamassos, Ledrai, Idalion and Chytroi in the interior. Later inscriptions add Marion, Lapithos and Kerynia (Kyrenia). The city-kingdoms began to strike their own coins around 500 BC, using the Persian weight system.

The City-Kingdoms

Cyprus gained independence between 669-663 BC. Cemeteries from this period are chiefly rock-cut tombs. They have been found, among other locations, at Tamassos, Soloi, Patriki and Trachonas. The rock-cut 'Royal' tombs at Tamassos, built circa 600 BC imitate wooden houses. The pillars show Phoenician influence. Some graves contain remains of horses and chariots.

The main deity of ancient Cyprus was the Great Goddess, Phoenician Astarte, later known by the Greek name Aphrodite, who was called, "the Cypriote" by Homer. Paphian inscriptions call her, "the Queen". Pictures of Aphrodite appear on the coins of Salamis as well, demonstrating that her cult had a larger regional influence. In addition, the King of Paphos was the High Priest of Aphrodite. Other Gods venerated include the Phoenician Anat, Baal, Eshmun, Reshef, Mikal and Melkart and the Egyptian Hathor, Thoth, Bes and Ptah, as attested by amulets. Animal sacrifices are attested to on terracotta-votives. The Sanctuary of Ayia Irini contained over 2000 figurines.

In 570 BC, Cyprus was conquered by Egypt under Amasis II. The brief period of Egyptian domination left its influence mainly in arts. The influence is especially evident in sculptures, where the rigidity and the dress of Egyptian style can be observed. Soon, the Cypriots discarded the sole influence of Egyptian art for the sake of Greek prototypes.

Statues in stone show a mixture of Egyptian and Greek influence. In particular, ceramics recovered on Cyprus show influence from ancient Crete. Men often wore Egyptian whigs and Assyrian-style beards. Armour and dress showed western Asiatic elements as well.

Under the Persians, the Kings of Cyprus retained their independence. However, the kings were required to pay tribute to their overlord. Coins minted by the kings were required to have the overlord's portrait on them. King Evelthon of Salamis (560 BC-525 BC), was probably the first to cast silver or bronze coins in Cyprus; the coins were designed with a ram on the obverse and an ankh (Egyptian symbol of good luck) on the reverse.

Except for the royal city of Amathus, the Kingdoms of Cyprus took part in the Ionian rising in 499 BC, following the lead of Onesilos of Salamis, brother of the King of Salamis, whom he dethroned for not wanting to fight for independence. The Persians crushed the Cypriote armies and laid siege to the fortified towns in 498 BC. In Paphos, remains of a Persian siege-ramp and counter-tunnels have been excavated at the North-gate. Soloi surrendered after a five-month siege. Around 450, Kition annexed Idalion with Persian help. The importance of Kition increased again when it acquired the Tamassos copper-mines.

The Teucrid dynasty of Salamis had been displaced by a Phoenician exile around 450 BC. Only in 411 did Evagoras I regain the throne of Salamis. At the beginning of the 4th century BC, he took control of the whole island and tried to gain independence from Persia with Athenian help. Ca. 380 BC, a Persian force besieged Salamis. Evagoras was forced to surrender, but stayed king of Salamis until he was murdered in 374. Together with Egypt and Phoenicia, Cyprus rebelled again in 350 BC, but the upraising was crushed by Artaxerxes III in 344.

The Greek alphabet was introduced by Evagoras I of Salamis. In other parts of the island, the Phoenician script (Kition) or the Cypriot syllabic alphabet were still used, either for inscriptions in the local Greek dialect (Arcado-Cypriot) or in the so called Eteocypriot language (Amathus). Only during the 4th century BC, did the Cypriot gods become known under Greek names. Anat, who had a temple at Vouni was called Athena, Astarte Aphrodite, the main male God as Zeus. Reshef and Hylates were equated with Apollo, Eshmun with Asklepios.

Full Hellenisation only took place under Ptolemaic rule. Phoenician and native Cypriot traits disappeared, together with the old Cypriot syllabic script. A number of cities were founded during this time, e.g. Arsinoe that was founded between old and new Paphos by Ptolemy II.

Persian Period

Achaemenid empire at its greatest extent

In 526 BC, the Persians conquered Cyprus. Later, Cyprus was incorporated into the 5th Satrapy (Ionia), where the Eastern Greek influence can be seen in the Cypriot material culture. The Persians did not interfere in internal affairs, the city-kingdoms continued to strike their own coins and to wage war among each other.

Royal palaces have excavated in Palaepaphos and in Vouni in the territory of Marion on the North coast. They closely follow Persian examples like Persepolis. Vouni, on a hill overlooking the Morphou Bay was built around 520 BC and destroyed in 380. It contained Royal audience chambers (liwan), open courtyards, bathhouses and stores. The towns were fortified with mudbrick walls on stone foundations and rectangular bastions. The houses were constructed of mud-bricks as well, where as public buildings were faced with ashlar. The Phoenician town of Carpasia near Rizokarpasso (Turkish: Dipkarpaz) had houses built of rubble masonry with square stone blocks forming the corners. Temples and sanctuaries were mainly built according to Phoenician templates. Soloi had a small temple with a Greek plan.

In the sphere of arts, a definite influence from Greece was responsible for the production of some very important sculptures. The archaic Greek art with its attractive smile on the face of the statue is found on many Cypriot pieces dating between 525-475 BC, that is the closing stage of the Archaic period. During the Persian rule, Ionian influence on the sculptures intensified, copies of Greek korai appear, as well as statues of men in Greek dress. Naked kouroi, common in Greece, are extremely rare while women (Korai) are always presented dressed with rich foldings of their himations.

The pottery of Cyprus was shaped by local influences, although some Greek pottery was imported.

The most important obligation of the kings of Cyprus to the Shah of the Shahs of Persia was the payment of tribute and the supply of armies and ships for his foreign campaigns. Thus when Xerxes in 480 BC invaded Greece, Cyprus contributed 150 ships to the Persian army.

Evagoras (435374 BC) was an important pro-Greek king of Cyprus. He dominated Cypriot politics for almost forty years until he died in 374 BC. He favoured everything Greek and he urged Greeks from the Aegean to come and settle in Cyprus. He assisted the Athenians in many ways and they honoured him by erecting his statue in the Stoa (portico) Basileios in Athens.He tried to unite the cities of Cyprus. He met resistance on the parts of the kings of Kition, Amathus and Soli who fled to the great king of Persia in 390 BC. requesting him to prevent Evagoras from carrying out his plans. Evagoras also did not receive much help from Athenians and at the end could remain the ruler of Salamis only after accepting his role as a vassal of Persia.

Hellenistic period

Map of Alexander's empire.

Macedonian history of Cyprus

The long and sustained efforts to overthrow Persian rule were unsuccessful, and the Persian rule in Cyprus extended until the reign of Alexander the Great. Eventually, the boisterous march of Macedon's army to the east defeated the Persians and finally ended their sovereignty over Cyprus. Alexander the Great (Alexander of Macedon and Alexander III of Macedon), was born in Pella in 356 BC and died in Babylon in 323 BC. Son of King Philip II and Olympias, he succeeded his father to the throne of Macedonia in 336 BC at age 20. He was perhaps the greatest commander in history and led his army in a series of victorious battles; he created a vast empire that stretched from Greece to Egypt in Africa to the Caspian Sea and India in Asia. The various kingdoms of Cyprus were allies of Alexander, and contributed to the victorious campaign. The presence of Alexander the Great in Asia Minor meant a new era for Cyprus, especially after successive victories at the Granicus (334 BC) and Issus (333 BC). The Achaemenid Empire presented the first signs of collapse when it lost the coast of Asia Minor, Syria and Phoenicia, which were naval bases.

Cypriot kings, knowing the victory of Alexander at Issus, radically changed their attitude towards the Great King of Persia. They felt that sooner or later, Alexander would be the new ruler of the island since the occupation of Cyprus was necessary (along with that of Phoenicia) to open lines of communication to Egypt and then to Asia. So in order to maintain their power, the Cypriot kings decided to show their willingness to make available to the fleet of Alexander the ships formerly in the service of Persia, thereby increasing the naval forces of the opponents. Beyond that, the Cypriots were quite experienced in seamanship and for this reason also, Alexander used a lot during the campaign into India. There was therefore a mutuality of interests: Alexander the Great would increase the capacity of his fleet, but the Cypriot kings would maintain their political independence.

From the area of Phoenicia, only Tyre had resisted, and Alexander undertook a siege. The Cypriot fleet, together with Cypriot engineers, contributed much to capture this highly fortified city. Indeed kings Pnytagoras of Salamis, Androcles of Amathus, and Pasikratis of Soloi, personally took part in the siege of Tyre, and although they lost many penteres (quinqueremes), managed to conquer the northern port city, helping to capture it. The gratitude of Alexander for that participation can be seen from the gestures after his victory: not only left the Cypriot kings to freely manage the affairs of the kingdom and could be asked like that. Pnytagora, for example, who seems to have been the main driver of this initiative to support Alexander, was helped to incorporate the territory of the kingdom of Tamassos into that of Salamis. The kingdom of Tamassos was by then ruled by King Poumiathonta of Kition who had purchased it for 50 talents from the king Pasikypro.

Tyre, then the most important Phoenician city, was built on a small island that was 700 meters from the shore, and had two harbors, the Egyptian to the south and Sidonian to the north. The Cypriot kings, with 120 ships and a very experienced crew, provided substantial assistance to Alexander and contributed decisively to the fall of Tyre, after a siege enduring seven months. During the siege, in a sudden attack of cheese fleet Cypriots who besieged the city from the north and northeast, have successfully pitches pentiri the king of Salamis Pnytagora the pentiri king of Amathus Androcles and pentiri King Pasikrati of Solon. The attack by the Cyprus cheese fleet was in the afternoon when the Cypriot crews rested on the coast. Alexander, occupying a Phoenician ship, personally intervened and saved the Cypriot fleet from more disasters. During the final attack on the town, the Cypriots managed to occupy the port of Sidon and the northern part of Tyre and the Phoenicians occupied the Egyptian port. Alexander also attacked the city with siege machines by constructing a "mole", a strip of soil from the coast opposite Tyre, to the island where the city was built. In the whole operation against Tyre, Alexander was helped by many Cypriots and Phoenicians engineers who built on his behalf, and in a short time, many siege engines battered the city from the "mole" and from "ippagoga" ships.

In 331 BC, while Alexander was returning from Egypt, he stayed for a while in Tyre. The Cypriot kings, wishing to reaffirm their trust and support, honored him by organizing round and tragic struggles, sacrifices and processions.

During the campaign into India, Alexander took with him, in addition to Phoenicians and Egyptians, many Cypriot sailors and rowers, who had greater experience in seamanship. These were experienced sailors led by princes as Nikoklis, son of King Pasikrati of Solon, and Nifothona, son of King Pnytagora of Salamis.

As Alexander continued in the vast state of the same administrative system that was until then the Persian Empire, commissioned very important responsibilities in Cyprus. This indicates that the Stasanor of Solon was appointed in 329 BC satrap of the Supreme Court and Drangon.

The new situation created by the presence of Alexander the Great in Asia, a presence that heralded the birth of the Hellenistic world, could not but affect, sooner or later, Cyprus: The Cypriot currency was further evidence that the independence of the Cypriot kings gradually fell, as the mints of Salamis and Kiti began to stamp coins on Alexander's behalf rather than in the name of local kings. As mentioned, between Alexandria, the cities had been built by Alexander the Great or his successors have been renamed in his honor after his death, and included a city of Alexandria is believed, was built and became the king of Solon, a friend and ally Alexander Pasikrati. As mentioned by Arrian and Strabo, the historian Excellent Cypriot Salamis wrote the essay in which recount the exploits of Alexander the Great. This book is not saved. Like Plutarch, Alexander was dying and sword thafmastin koufotiti, dorisamenou of Kition King ... iskimenos many christhai knife only battles Tas ... Ie "Alexander had a wonderful knife to cut and lightweight, it was a gift to him by the King of Kiti ... and was very practiced at using the sword in battle.

King of Kiti made to Alexander the prize was Poumiathon Phoenix (361 -312 BC), and he tried to win the favor of Macedon army, but to succeed. The policy of Alexander the Great on Cyprus and its kings, was clear: to exempt them from Persian rule (although some kings were by then clearly persofiloi), but annexing Cyprus to his country. In the interior of the Cypriot kingdoms not intervened directly and kings maintained their autonomy, but made some rearrangements, such as performance Tamassos and mining of the king of Salamis Pnytagora. While Alexander sought to make clear that he considered himself the master of the island, and it expressed and emphasized the abolition of the currencies of the Cypriot kingdoms and the establishment of others, his own, which were cut at the mints of Salamis, of Kiti and Paphos. According to sources when Alexander prepared the expedition will continue in India because the country had many navigable rivers, it includes a significant number of shipbuilders and rowers from Cyprus, Egypt, Phoenicia and Caria.

The premature death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC put an end to Greek aspirations for global domination. The empire he had created was divided between the generals and successors, which immediately started and the conflicts between them followed by war to win each of them something more. With the death of Alexander begins the Hellenistic period of Cypriot history. The conflict and wars of his successors inevitably complicated and in Cyprus focused on two claimants, Antigonus (enhanced by his son, Demetrius Poliorcetes) and Ptolemy Lagus. The first held Syria and the second Egypt. Initially successful in Cyprus were Antigonus and his son. The Cypriot kings who so far had maintained their independence in their kingdoms, suddenly found themselves in a difficult position. This is because, as Cyprus became the "apple of discord" between Ptolemy and Antigonus, the kings of the island now had to make new choices and alliances. This led to a controversy and confrontation because some Cypriot kingdoms chose alliance with Ptolemy, others sided with the Antigonids and others tried to remain neutral. The largest city and kingdom of Cyprus then appears to have been Salamis, whose king was Nicocreon. Nicocreon argued strongly in favor of Ptolemy. According to Arrian, Ptolemy had to come out except Nikokreonta of Salamis, and into Him contemplated Pasikratis of Solon, Nikoklis of Paphos and Amathus of Androcles of Amathus.

The words and into Him void indicates that the other three kings (Solon, Paphos Amathus) were under the influence of Nikokreonta of Salamis. What size and what kind of influence is not known. But it seems that after the march of Alexander the Great, perhaps because its own regulations and rules, the city of Salamis was a high Role in Cyprus, and the king probably the leader among Cypriot monarchs. However, some other kings of Cyprus, Praxippos of Lapithos - Kyrenia, the Poumiothon (Pygmalion) of Kiti and Stasioikos of Marion, were allied with Antigonus.

Against these, Nicocreon and other pro-Ptolemaic kings conducted combat operations. Ptolemy enhanced even military allies of the kings of Cyprus, and sending those troops under Seleucus and Menelaus. The Kyrenia and Lapithos were occupied after a siege and Marion capitulated. Diodorus gives information that Amathus was also forced to surrender to Ptolemy, even giving hostages as a guarantee, while Kition was closely besieged (around 315 BC).

Eventually Ptolemy entered Cyprus with more military forces in 312 BC, and clarified the situation: he captured and killed the king of Kition, and arrested the pro-Antigonid kings of Marion and Lapithos - Kyrenia. Moreover, he fully destroyed the city of Marion. So Ptolemy removed most of the kingdoms of Cyprus, which were until then and everything ... diapraxamenos while Cyprus has the general Nikokreonta, traditional cities and TE Tash Tash proceeds ekpeptokoton kings. We know that the crucial and decisive intervention by Ptolemy in 312 BC, maintained for some more power to the kings of Solon and Paphos. Particularly Nicocreon of Salamis, whom Ptolemy seems to have appreciated and trusted completely, won the cities and revenue of expelled kings. So Salamis extended its authority throughout eastern, central and northern Cyprus, since Kition and Lapithos had been included in it while Tamassos already belonged. Further, Nicocreon of Salamis took office with the blessing of Ptolemy as the chief general in Cyprus, effectively master of the whole island. But the situation was fluid and we know from sources that the rulers of Solon and Paphos had been kept in power. But soon the king Nikoklis was considered suspect, was besieged and forced to suicide, followed by the putting of his entire family to death (312 BC). The following year (311 BC) Nicocreon of Salamis died, in accordance with epigraphic evidence (Parian marble) that says: "Since Nicocreon had died and Ptolemy had become master of Cyprus, spent 47 years when in Athens was a master Simonides. The petition is about the year 264 BC, thus adding 47 years had passed, we find that Nicocreon died in 311 BC.

After the intervention of Ptolemy in Cyprus, which subjugated the island, Antigonus and his son, Demetrius, reacted against the besiegers. Indeed, the latter led a large military operation in Cyprus. Demetrius was born in 336 BC and initially fought under the command of his father for the first time in 317 BC against Eumenes, where he particularly distinguished himself. In 307 BC he took over and managed to liberate Athens, forcing Demetrius Phaleron and restoring democracy. In 306 BC he led the war against the Ptolemies. Shortly afterwards, he tried to capture Rhodes, but after a siege of two years reached an agreement with the Rhodians making them allies (304 BC). Defeated at the battle of Ipsus (301 BC) by the joint forces of Ptolemy Cassander and Lysimachus. The battle killed his father Antigonus Monophthalmus. Demetrius, having reorganized the army, was proclaimed king of Macedonia, but was evicted by Lysimachus and Pyrrhus. Asia Minor was defeated by Seleucus. The latter arrested him and locked the walls of Apamea, where he died in 282 BC Besieger got the nickname because Demetrius at various sieges of cities using technologically advanced siege engines.

When Demetrius freed Athens from Demetrius Phaleron decided to intervene in Cyprus was under the authority of Ptolemy, to use the island as a base for attacks against Western Asia. From Cilicia then began to Cyprus with a large number of infantry forces, cavalry and naval ships. Without meeting resistance landed in the Karpas peninsula and occupied the cities Heaven and Karpas. Meanwhile Menelaus, brother of Ptolemy I Soter, who was the new general of the island after the death of Nikokreonta, gathered his forces at Salamis.

Demetrius having left the fleet in safety, he moved against him. The first battle took place outside of Salamis. Menelaus has failed and some of his army fled to the city, the rest captured. The next step for Demeter was to encircle the town. Menelaus, however, had predicted his plans, requested the assistance of his brother Ptolemy, who was in Egypt. Immediately came to Paphos with considerable forces, which were compounded by those who offered him the Cypriot cities. Started on Salamis parapleontas the south coast of Cyprus. In Kition yet added 60 ships of Menelaos who earlier were in the harbor of Salamis. These vessels were added to 140 triremes and pentireis and 200 military transport ships of Ptolemy.

Demetrius has allowed some of its forces at Salamis, supplied the bow of the ship with guns (military machines blasting rocks and projectiles) and catapults, and began to meet Ptolemy and Menelaus, who meanwhile flew to the island of Salamis. Outside the port city was in 305 BC, a great battle in which Ptolemy and Menelaus were defeated. The historical drama of those events recounted by the historian Diodorus and Plutarch. Demetrius was the owner of the island, while Ptolemy and his brother were forced to return to Egypt.

During the siege of Tyre, the Cypriot Kings went over to Alexander of Macedon and supported him with ships. In appreciation, Alexander set them free. This period, however was very brief since the Macedonian King died soon afterwards and Cyprus became a bone of contention among his successors. In 321 four Cypriot kings sided with Ptolemy I Soter and defended the island against Antigonos. Ptolemy lost Cyprus to Demetrios Poliorketes from 306 to 294 BC, but after that it remained under Ptolemaic rule till 58 BC. It was ruled by a governor from Egypt and sometimes formed a minor Ptolemaic kingdom during the power-struggles of the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Strong commercial relationships with Athens and Alexandria, two of the most important commercial centres of antiquity, developed.

Ptolemaic rule was rigid and exploited the island's resources to the utmost, particularly timber and copper. A great contemporary figure of Cypriot letters was the philosopher Zeno who was born at Kition about 336 and founded the famous Stoic School of Philosophy at Athens where he died about 263 BC.

Roman Period

Cyprus became a Roman province in 58 BC, according to Strabo because Publius Clodius Pulcher held a grudge against Ptolemy. The renowned Stoic and strict constitutionalist M. Porcius Cato 'Uticensis' was sent to annex Cyprus and organize it under Roman law, and Cato was relentless in protecting Cyprus against the rapacious tax farmers that normally plagued the provinces of the republican period. After the Caesarian civil wars that ended the Roman republic, Mark Antony gave the island to Cleopatra VII of Egypt and their daughter Cleopatra Selene, but it became a Roman province again after his defeat at the Battle of Actium (31 BC) in 30 BC. From 22 BC, Cyprus was a senatorial province, after the reforms of Diocletian it was placed under the Consularis Oriens.

Pax Romana (Roman peace) was only twice disturbed in Cyprus in three centuries of Roman occupation. The first serious interruption occurred in 115-116, when a revolt by the Jews inspired by Messianic hopes broke out. Their leader was Artemion, a Jew with a hellenised name as was the practice of the time. The island suffered great losses in this Kitos War, it is believed that 240,000 Greek and Roman civilians were killed. Though probable that the number massacred was greatly inflated, there were few or no Roman troops stationed on the island to suppress the insurrection as the rebels wreaked havoc. After forces were sent to Cyprus and the uprising was put down, a law was passed that no Jews were permitted to land on Cyprian soil, even in case of ship wreck.

The second turomoil sprang up in 333-334, when the magister pecoris camelorum Calocaerus revolted against Constantine I, claiming the purple. This rebellion ended with the arrival of the troops led by Flavius Dalmatius and the death of Calocaerus.

Several earthquakes led to the destruction of Salamis at the beginning of the 4th century, at the same time drought and famine hit the island.

Olive Oil Trade in the Late Roman Period

Olive oil was a very important part of daily life in the Ancient Mediterranean World in the Roman Period, including Cyprus. It was used for food, as a fuel for lamps, and as a basic ingredient in things like medicinal ointment, bath oils, skin oils, soaps, perfumes and cosmetics.[1] Even before the Roman Period Cyprus was known for its olive oil, as indicated by Strabo when he said that “in fertility Cyprus is not inferior to any one of the islands, for it produces both good wine and good oil.”[2]
There is evidence for both local trade of Cypriot oil and for a larger trading network that may have reached as far as the Aegean, though most of the oil trade was probably limited to the Eastern Mediterranean. Many olive oil presses have been found on Cyprus, and not just in rural areas, where they might be expected for personal, local use. They have been found in some of the larger coastal cities as well, including Paphos, Curium, and Amathus. In Alexandria, Egypt there is a large presence of a type of amphora made in Cyprus known as Late Roman 1 or LR1 that were used to carry oil. This indicates that a lot of Cypriot Oil was being imported into Egypt. There is also evidence for Cypriot trade with Cilicia and Syria.[2]

There is also evidence that olive oil was traded locally, around the island. Amphorae found at Alaminos-Latourou Chiftlik and Dreamer’s Bay, indicate that the olive oil produced in these areas was mostly used locally or shipped to nearby towns that were larger.[3] The amphora found on the Cape Zevgari ship wreck indicate that the ship, which was a typical small merchant ship, was carrying oil and other pieces of evidence on the ship and the location of the wreck itself imply that it was traveling a short distance, probably west around the island.[4] These both indicate that much of the oil trade in the late Roman Period was local.

  1. ^ Tyree, E.L. 1996, “The Olive Pit and Roman Oil Making.” The Biblical Archaeologist 59: 171-8.
  2. ^ a b Papacostas, T. 2001, “The Economy of Late Antique Cyprus.” In Economy and Exchange in the East Mediterranean during Late Antiquity: Proceedings of a conference at Somerville College, Oxford, 29th May, 1999, edited by S. Kingsley and M. Decker, 107-128. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  3. ^ Leonard, J. and S. Demesticha. 2004, “Fundamental Links in the Economic Chain: Local Ports and International trade in Roman and Early Christian Cyprus.” In Transport Amphorae and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean: Acts of the International Colloquium at the Danish Institute at Athens, September 26–29, 2002, edited by J. Eiring and J. Lund, 189-202. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.
  4. ^ Leidwanger, J. 2007, “Two Late Roman Wrecks from Southern Cyprus.” IJNA 36: 308-316.


Roman Cyprus was visited by the Apostles Paul, Barnabas and St Mark who came to the island at the beginning of their first missionary journey in 45 AD. After their arrival in Salamis, they proceeded to Paphos where they converted the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus to Christianity. In the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke describes vividly how a magician named Bar-Jesus (Elymas) was obstructing the two Apostles in their preaching of the Gospel, so Paul by his word only made him temporarily blind. As a result of this, Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. In this way, Cyprus became the first country in the world to be governed by a Christian ruler.

The apostle Paul of Tarsus is credited with converting the people of Cyprus to Christianity. St. Barnabas was supposed to have founded the Church of Cyprus, underpinning claims for ecclesiastical independence from Antioch. According to the apocryphal Acts of Barnabas, Barnabas carried a copy of the Gospel with him, which he had written and that was buried with him, and later unearthed after a dream by Archbishop Anthemius of Salamis. At least three Cypriot bishops (sees of Salamis, Tremithus and Paphos) took part in the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and twelve Cypriot bishops at the Council of Sardica in 344. In 400, the Metrolitan see was located at Salamis (Constantia).

Early Cypriot Saints include: St. Heracleidius, St. Spiridon, St. Hilarion and St. Epiphanius. A fragment of the true cross was deposited by St. Helena at Tochni, the cross of the penitent thief at Stavrovouni, which helped to relieve a terrible drought. In 431, the church of Cyprus achieved its independence from the Patriarch of Antioch at the First Council of Ephesus. Emperor Zeno granted the archbishop of Cyprus the right to carry a sceptre instead of a pastoral staff.


  • Veronica Tatton-Brown, Cyprus BC, 7000 years of history (London, British Museum 1979).
  • C. D. Cobham, Excerpta Cypria, materials for a history of Cyprus (Cambridge 1908). Includes the Classical Sources.
  • D. Hunt, Footprints in Cyprus (London, Trigraph 1990).
  • Leidwanger, J. 2007, “Two Late Roman Wrecks from Southern Cyprus.” IJNA 36: 308-316.
  • Leonard, J. and S. Demesticha. 2004, “Fundamental Links in the Economic Chain: Local Ports and International trade in Roman and Early Christian Cyprus.” In Transport Amphorae and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean: Acts of the International Colloquium at the Danish Institute at Athens, September 26–29, 2002, edited by J. Eiring and J. Lund, 189-202. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.
  • Papacostas, T. 2001, “The Economy of Late Antique Cyprus.” In Economy and Exchange in the East Mediterranean during Late Antiquity: Proceedings of a conference at Somerville College, Oxford, 29 May 1999, edited by S. Kingsley and M. Decker, 107-128. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  • Tyree, E.L. 1996,

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