Brief History of Cyprus - page 2

During this time Cyprus experienced significant cultural activity and close contacts with the city kingdoms of the Hellenic World. Cypriot athletes took part in the Olympic and  Panathenian Games and the names of Cypriot sculptors are referred to at Delphi and  Lemnos. The worship of Aphrodite was known throughout the region and the Temple of Goddess of Love and Beauty at Palaepaphos gathered pilgrims from all over the ancient world. The city-kingdoms of Salamis, Amathus, Paphos and others which were  established at the time of Greek colonisation flourished during this period and produced  magnificent pieces of architecture and sculpture which survive till our days.

The Roman Period

As the Ptolemaic empire declined, Cyprus came under Roman domination and was a colony in 58 BC. Romans also left their legacy on the island in the form of Roman amphitheatres, public baths, mosaics and other architectural edifices. One of the  most significant events during this period was the visit to the island of the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, the latter being considered the founder of the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The Apostles travelled all across the island to Paphos where they converted the Roman governor to Christianity and so Cyprus became the first country to be ruled by a Christian.


The Byzantine Period                   

The Christian civilisation was consolidated in the island during the Byzantine Period (330-1191 AD) at which time the island was an important spiritual focus.
Wonderful churches and magnificent monasteries containing fine wall paintings and mosaics survive to our times and are testimony to the importance of Cyprus in the East Roman Empire
With the emergence of Islam in the 6th and 7th centuries AD, Cyprus became an object dispute between Christendom and Islam. The Arabs, who with their repeated incursions, spread death and destruction in coastal settlements, were finally pushed away in 965 AD by Emperor Nicephorus Phocas and restored Cyprus as a province of the Byzantine Empire.

The western Crusaders influenced a great deal the development of the history of Cyprus. It was Richard the Lionheart, King of England, who during the Third Crusade captured the island defeating its ruler, Isaac Comnenos in 1191. Richard tried to sell Cyprus to the Knights Templars, who nevertheless, were not able to resist the revolt of the people of Cyprus. Thus the island went back to the English King, who sold it again this time to the Frankish King of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan.

The Frankish Period

The rule of the Franks in Cyprus lasted until 1489 and during that time life on the island  was organised on the basis of the feudal model of the West, oppression of the indigenous population being its main characteristic. The Lusignan period left numerous monuments on the island - mainly Gothic churches and mountain fortifications.
During the 14th century Cyprus is an important point of contact between East and West. Within a network of contradictions, a complex cultural creation took shape both in the letters and in the arts with the pronounced seal of a variety of influences.
The end of the Latin period in Cyprus came with the Venetian rule from 1489 to 1571. The Venetians held the island for its strategic position in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean on the way to the vital Silk Route to China. Venice, wished in this way to underline its prominence among the western powers of the time and attempted to keep to road to the East open despite the growing menace of the Ottomans. The Venetians also left their mark on the island's cultural heritage with their fortifications around Nicosia and Famagusta. These, built with the intention of fending off the Turks, proved inadequate and Cyprus fell to the Turks in 1571, becoming part of the Ottoman Empire.

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Mosaic                       from the Kanakaria Church, 6th century AD.