Local

    Country Information

    History

    One of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, Cyprus has been coveted, conquered and colonised numerous times during its 10,000-year history.

    Boasting one of the oldest recorded histories in the world, Cyprus lies at the crossroads of three continents, occupying a key strategic position at the gateways of Europe, Asia and Africa. The island was once rich in supplies of copper and timber, which gave it economic as well as strategic value. In addition, Cyprus was blessed with exquisite natural beauty, a fitting birthplace for the legendary ancient goddess Aphrodite, whom tradition credits with having emerged from the waves near Paphos.

    While there may be no evidence to prove this particular romantic tale, the remains of numerous ancient civilisations are littered across the island. The remains of the oldest known settlements date back to the Neolithic period, between 9000 and 6000 years ago.  Even the name, Cyprus, derives from the ancient Greek word for the precious copper deposits that were already being mined and traded as early as 2500 BC. Copper was one of the most valuable commodities of the ancient world, its discovery and commercial exploitation began sometime between 3900 and 2500 BC, and as trade with the Near East, Egypt and the Aegean developed, it brought wealth and prosperity to the island.

    The island’s rich natural resources also attracted the interest of a succession of dominant powers in the region, who did battle for it through the millennia. The first of these are believed to have been the Achaean Greeks who arrived in around 1200 BC introducing their language, religion and customs to the island. Cyprus was subsequently colonised by the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Persians. In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great claimed the island, which remained part of the Greek-Egyptian kingdom until 30 BC, when the Romans arrived and Cyprus became a senatorial province. It was during this period that Saint Paul was said to have visited the island and converted the Roman governor to Christianity.

    Cyprus remained a Roman possession until the empire began to disintegrate in 330AD, when it became part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. In 1191, Cyprus was conquered by the English king, Richard the Lionheart, while he was on his way to take part in the Third Crusade. He later sold the island to the Knights Templar, who themselves sold it on to the Franks or Lusignans, a dynasty which went on to rule Cyprus for almost 300 years. The last of the Lusignans ceded the island to Venice in 1489. Despite building heavy fortifications around the island’s major cities of Famagusta and Nicosia, the Venetians were not able to withstand the invading Ottoman troops who conquered the island in 1571. Cyprus remained under Ottoman rule until the arrival of the British in 1878.

    Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but with one of the world’s most complicated constitutions as its foundation, the new republic soon encountered difficulties. Inter-communal violence between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, resulted, eventually, in the withdrawal from government of the Turkish Cypriot leadership in 1963. Just over a decade later, in 1974, a right-wing coup sponsored by the military junta then in power in Greece, overthrew the government of Archbishop Makarios. In an alleged attempt to protect the minority Turkish Cypriot community, Turkey invaded the island from the north. Despite numerous subsequent attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem, the island has been effectively divided ever since, with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities separated by a UN-manned buffer zone, commonly referred to as the ‘Green Line’. 

    In 1983 the Turkish Cypriot leadership unilaterally declared independence. The international community refused to recognise the self-styled ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, or ‘TRNC’, as a separate state and the breakaway republic is only recognised by Turkey.

    Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, and adopted the euro as its currency in January 2008. In February 2008 Demetris Christofias was elected president of the republic and initiated direct talks with the then leader of the Turkish-controlled north, Mehmet Ali Talat in an attempt to find a solution. In April 2010 Mr Talat was succeeded as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, by Derviş Eroğlu. Peace talks between the two leaders continue, although a solution remains as elusive as ever.

    Cyprus Timeline

    700BC - 1799AD

    700 BC:

    Settlement of the island by Neolithic farmers

    850 BC:

    Phoenician merchants settle in Kition

    570 BC:

    Cyprus becomes a Roman Province

    45 AD:

    Saint Paul, St Barnabus, and St Mark introduce Christianity to Cyprus and convert the the Roman governor Sergius Paulus

    330 AD:

    Cyprus becomes part of the Byzantine Empire

    1191 AD:

    Richard the Lionheart sells Cyprus to the Knights Templar

    1192:

    The Knights Templar sell Cyprus to Guy de Lusignan, the exiled king of Jerusalem

    1571:

    Cyprus becomes part of the Ottoman Empire.

    1625-1700:

    Great depopulation of Cyprus. The plague wipes out over half of the population

     

    1800 - 1959

    1821:

    Greek Cypriots side with Greece in a revolt against Turkish rule

    1878:

    The Ottoman Empire turn over control of Cyprus to the British

    1925:

    Cyprus annexed by Britain and made a crown colony

    1931:

    First serious riots of Greek Cypriots demanding Enosis, the union with Greece. The display of the Greek flag and the Greek National anthem are banned

    1950:

    Archbishop Makarios III is elected as political and spiritual leader

    1955:

    A series of bomb attacks starts a violent campaign for Enosis by EOKA (National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters)

    1956:

    Britain deports Makarios to the Seychelles in attempt to quell the revolt

    1959:

    Feb 19, An agreement is signed by Britain, Turkey and Greece granting Cyprus its independence

    1959:

    March 1, Archbishop Makarios returns to Cyprus

     

    1960 - 1989

    1960:

    Cyprus gains independence from colonial ruler Britain, which still maintains two sovereign military bases on the island

    1960:

    Archbishop Makarios begins serving as the first post-independence president

    1961:

    Cyprus is accepted into the Council of Europe

    1963:

    Intercommunal fighting breaks out between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

    1974

    July 15, Greek troops and the Greek Cypriot National Guard stage a military coup, Archbishop-President Makarios flees

    1974:

    July 20, First phase of the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus

    1974:

    July 23, Coup is put down and Makarios returns

    1974:

    August 14, Second phase of the Turkish invasion. Turkey occupies 37% of the island. 200 000 Greek Cypriots are expelled from the north and become refugees

    1975:

    Turks announce a Federate State in the north

    1977:

    August 3, Archbishop Makarios dies

    1983:

    Turkish Cypriots declare their breakaway state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Turkey.

     

    1990 - 2009

    1998:

    Glafcos Clerides elected as president

    2002:

    The leaders of the two communities of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash, meet in Nicosia in the first formal negotiation in 4 years.

    2003:

    February 28, Tassos Papadopoulos takes office as the fifth President of Cyprus.

    2003:

    April 16, Cyprus signs a treaty to join the European Union

    2003:

    April 23, Greek Cypriots are allowed to cross the dividing line for the first time since 1974

    2004:

    April 24, Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly reject a UN plan to reunite Cyprus

    2004:

    May 1, Cyprus is one of ten new states to join the EU

    2008:

    January 1, Cyprus adopts the euro

    2008:

    February 24, Demetris Christofias is elected President

    2008:

    April 3, Ledra Street, a main shopping street in Cyprus' divided capital reopens for the first time in 44 years

    2008:

    May, Resumption of talks between the leaders of the two communities for the solution of the Cyprus problem

    2009:

    April, Right-wing nationalist National Unity Party wins parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus

     

    2010 - Present

    2010:

    January, President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat resume talks on reunification

    2010:

    April, Turkish Cypriot head of government Dervis Eroglu beats the pro-unity incumbent Mehmet Ali Talat

    2010:

    April, Turkish Cypriot head of government Dervis Eroglu beats the pro-unity incumbent Mehmet Ali Talat

    Cooperation Partners
    • Logo for Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism
    • Logo for Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry
    • Logo for Invest Cyprus
    • Logo for Cyprus In Your Heart
    • Logo for CFA Cyprus
    • Logo for Cyprus International Businesses Association
    • Logo for Cyprus Shipping Chamber
    • Logo for Cyprus Investment Funds Association
    • Logo for Association of Cyprus Banks