Discovering Cyprus

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Discovering Cyprus


Cyprus ( in Greek, Kbrs in Turkish) is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily and Sardinia). It is located 70 km to the south of the Anatolian peninsula.Since 1 May 2004 it is a Member State of the European Union.

Main source of data: Wikipedia. LEnciclopedia Libera:

Cyprus is divided into two areas by the so-called Green Line, which is the demilitarized zone established by the UN in 1974, after the military intervention by the Turkish army on the island:The area under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus, which comprises about 59 % of the island;The Turkish-Cypriot area in the north (self-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), which covers about 36 % of the island and it is recognized only by Turkey.


The etymology of the word Kypros is unknown. Suggestions include:the Greek name of cypress tree ();the Greek name of the henna plant ();the Sumerian word indicating either copper (Zubar) or bronze (Kubar). This refers to the large copper deposits present in the island.The island gave its name to the Latin word for copper through the phrase aes Cyprium, metal of Cyprus, which was later shortened to Cuprum.According to Greek mythology, the coast of Paphos was one of the birthplaces of Aphrodite, who was also known as Kpria for this reason.

Morphology and climate

The island has three mountain ranges: Kyrenia and Pentadaktylos in the North, Troodos in the South-West. The Mount Olympus is the highest peak of the island (1,953 m).The fertile central plain of Messaria is between the two chains of mountains and it is rich in woods.The only rivers with regular flow, Yialias and Peidos, are both approximately 100 km long.Cyprus has a Mediterranean-subtropical climate with very mild winters (on the coast) and warm to hot summers. During winter, snow falls only on the Troodos Mountains in the central part of island. Rain occurs mainly in winter, with summer being generally dry. Often hot winds blow on Cyprus from the African deserts.

History of Cyprus

Prehistory The earliest confirmed site of human activity on Cyprus is Aetokremnos, situated on the south coast, where hunter-gatherers were active on the island from around 10,000 BC.In the first half of the seventh millennium BC, in Cyprus there was already a flourishing Neolithic culture in the village of Khirokitia.The penetration of cultural elements from Minor Asia can be traced back to the beginning of the Bronze Age (2300-2000 BC).In the period 2000-1600 BC, significant deposits of copper were discovered on the island, which became an important Mediterranean commercial area. The renewed wealth brought to a flourishing artistic and craft production.

Ancient History and Middle Age

In the period 1600-1050 BC the island became part of the Hittite Empire. There was a gradual wave of Mycenaean people, who brought a new culture and more advanced technologies. This caused a dramatic improvement of the Cypriot culture, as shown by the artistic evolution and the realization of huge fortresses, palaces and sacred places.The Hittite domination lasted up to the invasion of the Sea Peoples (late XIII-early XII century BC). The Hittite Empire, the Mycenaean civilization, and other ancient cultures disappeared. After the subsequent trade crisis in the Mediterranean, the arrival of a large migratory wave (probably of Achaean origin) led to a big change within the culture, the language and the religion which became similar to the Greek ones.With the beginning of the Iron Age (I millennium BC), Cyprus opened again to businesses with the Middle East. From the eighth century BC the Phoenician colonies were founded on the southern coast of Cyprus.The island was conquered by Alexander the Great in 334 BC. Following his death and the subsequent division of his empire among his successors, Cyprus became part of the Hellenistic kingdom of Ptolemaic Egypt. In 58 BC Cyprus was acquired by the Roman Empire.When the Roman Empire was divided in two parts in 395 by Theodosius, the island became part of the East Roman Empire and it remained so until the Crusades.In 1191, during the Third Crusade, Richard I of England conquered the island and he used it as a supply base that was relatively safe from the Saracens.A year later the island was sold to the Knights Templar, who, following a bloody revolt, in turn sold it to Guy de Lusignan.

Modern Era

Following the death of the last Lusignan king in 1473, the Republic of Venice took control of the island. The Venetians fortified Nicosia, using it as an important commercial hub. During the Venetian control there were two communities, one Greek and the other Levantine.Following the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) and the Congress of Berlin, Cyprus was given to the British Empire which took over its administration in 1878. In exchange, Britain guaranteed that they would use the island to protect the Ottoman Empire against possible Russian aggression.The island served as a military base for its colonial conquests. Following the outbreak of the First World War, on Nov. 5 1914 the British Empire formally annexed Cyprus, Egypt and Sudan.It became independent in 1960 with the Zurich agreement, but it was immediately affected by ethnic tensions. In 1974 the Greek militaries carried out a coup dtat which gave the opportunity to Turkey to intervene militarily. The Turkish army invaded the island and they occupied a far larger area than that one where the Turkish minority lived . The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was created with no international recognition (except from Turkey).Due to a referendum in April 2004, only the Greek part of the island joined the European Union.

Europe or Asia?

Whether Cyprus should be considered as part of Europe or part of Asia is a controversial issue. From the point of view of cultural history, Cyprus can be seen as an European state. However, from the geographical point of view it belongs to Asia (because of geographical proximity; in fact, Turkey is very close to the island and it is universally considered Asia).In conclusion, Cyprus may be considered either Europe or Asia, depending on the criteria adopted.

Main cities

The capital city of the Republic of Cyprus is Nicosia, which is also the most important city. Nicosia is located in the plain of Mesoira and, being situated on the border between the two national ethnic areas, it is also divided into two areas: the southern Greek part and the northern Turkish part. Nicosia is the main economic center, where the largest companies, the national bank, some middle size factories, as well as the national museum and theater can be found.


Main cities

Other important cities are: Limassol, which is the second largest city after the capital, port of the southern coast, and famous touristic center;Paphos, which is an ancient port, located on the western cost, and has the second biggest airport of the island;Kouklia, well known for the Aphrodite sanctuary. It is a World Heritage Site (UNESCO);Larnaca, a city on the south-east coast, where there is the main airport of Cyprus.


Cyprus has a total population of 970,000 inhabitants of whom 78% are Greek Cypriots, 18% are Turkish Cypriots, and the remaining 4% belong to other ethnic groups.The Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots share several traditions but maintain distinct identities based on the religion and on the connections with Greece and Turkey respectively .Before 1974, the two communities lived throughout the island. After the war in 1974, the geographical separation of the different ethnic groups became more marked.

Languages and religions

Cyprus has two official languages: Greek and Turkish. Greek is mainly spoken in the South of the island (especially the Cypriot dialect), while Turkish is spoken in the North. English is also widely used.An Arabic dialect like Syro-Palestinian is used as well but it is spoken only by the small Maronite community in Kormakiti.Nowadays the majority of Greek Cypriots identify as Greek Orthodox (over 80%) while most Turkish Cypriots are Muslims (18%). There are also some minorities: Armenian-Gregorian, Maronite (Archeparchy of Cyprus) and Catholics (about 25,000).

European Union and United NationsThe Cypriot government adopted the euro in 2008 and this introduced a change in the national economy. Euro became the new currency only in the southern part of the island, replacing the old currency also known as lira-Cyprus pound. As for each state member, Cyprus chose the design of the coins. They chose to show on 1, 2 and 5 cents coins a couple of wild sheep (which were very common in the island in the past and nowadays almost extinct). For the coins of 10, 20 and 50 cents it was decided to show the ship of Kyrenia. Finally for the coins of 1 euro and 2 euro the idol of Pomos was chosen, a mythological Cypriot character linked to fertility and abundance.

Politics and administrative divisions

Cyprus is a presidential republic. The president is elected by a process of universal suffrage for a five-years term. The Parliament comprises 59 deputies, elected every five years by universal suffrage.Cyprus is divided into six districts: Famagusta, Kyrenia, Larnaca, Limassol, Nicosia, Paphos.

Armed forces

Even the armed forces police, army and national guards are divided between the Cypriots and the Turkish minority. The Turkish armed forces are directly controlled and financed by Turkey, to ensure the survival of the Turkish part in the island.Military service is required for all men only and it is mandatory at the age of 18 years. The main forces of state are three: the Greek Cypriot National Guard (GCNG); State Gre