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Area: 9,251 sq km
Capital: Nicosia
Language: Greek, Turkish
Currency: Euro
  Turkish Lira
Population: 784,301
Coastline: 648 sq km

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Ancient names of Cyprus

The island of Cyprus was given many names by the ancient or the present writers, among which the most important:

Akamantis, Aspelia, Kition, Khettiim, Makaria, Kryptos, Kypros, Khethima, Kyoforos, Alasia, Kerastis, Amathousia, Miionis, Sfikia, Kolinia, Tharsis, Aeria, Nea Iousiniani.

Moreover, many adjectives were closely associated with Cyprus, like chalkoessa (because of the veins of copper), asselia (for its fishing activity), iera nisos (for the many saints), evinos (for the variety of wines), eveleos (for its olive oil and many olive trees), dasoessa (for its forest), nisos eroron (island of love), perikallis (beautiful), Afrodisia (island of Aphrodite), and many more.

The current name of the island was portrayed variously by many specialists, either ancient writers or present-day historians, philologists, linguists, etymologists or any other researchers.

The main concern is, however, given to the interpretation of the origin of KYPROS (Cyprus), and there is number of explanation to the name:

a) From a plant, called kypros (henna). It was believed for a long time that Cyprus acquired its name from a shrub called kypros (Lawsonia alba). The plant which is native to North Africa, Arabia, Persia and India, has never been found in Cyprus in a big number, and today one can hardly find a shrub like that in Cyprus. It is rather odd that a relatively large island with such a rich history and a civilization dating back to a few millennia obtained its name from a non-native shrub.

b) From a town of Cyprus named Kypros. Onorios and Isidoros claim that the name is due to a town lying between Kyrenia and Akanthou in the northern part of Cyprus. However, such a town has never been unearthed or historically traced, and the probability of existence of such a town is minimal.

c) From Kypris, a name which many of the ancient writers, including Homer gave to Aphrodite. Although a few writers believe that Kypros (Cyprus) owes its name to Kypris, it is Kypris that has derived its name from Kypros (Cyprus), as Kypris was the Goddess of Kypros (Cyprus).

Cyprus landscape

d) From Kypros, the son or daughter of Kinyras. Comparing following explanations, Evstathios, relying on older sources claims that the name of the island is derived from Kypros, the son of Kinyras, while Stephanos Byzantios and K. Porphyrogennitos drawing from old sources as well, ascribe the name to the daughter of Kinyras, Kypros. Mentioned by Homer, Kinyras was a historical person, but his genealogy is lost in the myths of antiquity. We learn from ancient writers including Homer that Kirynas was called the king of the whole Cyprus, not only the king of Pafos, as some sources indicate. It was a habitual matter to name the islands after the sons of kings, mythological persons or some other significant personalities, like Samos, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Andros etc in Greece. Therefore, it is no wonder that the son or daughter of the most renowned, rich and eminent kings of Cyprus is linked with the name of the island.

e) From copper that was discovered in Cyprus during the Bronze period (2500 B.C -1050 B.C). The mining and production of copper brought along a true revolution which made the every day life and mainly the economy of the island changed significantly. Owing to copper, Cyprus became a well-known country at that time. The strategic position at the cross-roads of the Mediterranean made it come up as the land that was remarkably attractive for the nearby countries. Copper became a product that determined the raise of export and trade. The Myceneans, who made their settlements in Cyprus in the 14th century B.C, belonged to those who were firstly lured by the copper trade and in the following period they Hellenised the island.

Although the name Kypros appeared in Homeric times in 8th century B.C., there is even an earlier evidence of the name, according to Knossos and Pylos tablets from the 13th century B.C. In spite of the fact that Cyprus was among the oldest copper producing countries in the Near East, and this production was launched by the pre-Greek population, it is highly probable, as K. Hadjioannou claims, that the word “kypros” meaning “copper” was a pre-Greek word, and most likely an Eteocypriot one. Eteocypriots were the aboriginal Cypriots. If this is true, he concludes, the name of island is justly derived from copper. At present time, the word copper which derived from the Latin word “cuprum”, has a similar form in many European languages (English = copper, German = Kupfer, French = cuivre, Swedish = Koppar, Danish = Kobber). To make a conclusion, Kypros is most likely derived from Kypros, the son or daughter of Kinyras. However, if there was a proof for the Eteocypriot word “kypros”, meaning “copper”, the etymology of Cyprus would be automatically clear.

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