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Facts about Cyprus


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

Home > General Info > History > Byzantine Rule

Byzantine Rule

During the Byzantine period (330-1191 A.D.), Salamis, Paphos and other cities, were struck by catastrophic earthquakes (332 A.D. and 342 A.D.). The capital of Cyprus became Salamis, soon rebuilt, under the name of Constantinople and the commercial position of Cyprus throughout the Byzantine Empire grew higher. The next hundred years were rather quiet and Cyprus obtained prosperity via increased production of silk which was now sold throughout the Middle East. The Emperor Zeno appointed the Cyprus church autocephalous in 488 and he granted the archbishop of Cyprus with three major privileges: signing with a red ink, wearing a purple cloak at church ceremonies and carrying a scepter instead of a pastoral staff. Christianity as an official religion spread rapidly throughout the whole Byzantine Empire.

Islamic raids

During the Arab raids, Cyprus was attacked, sacked and burned, with many of its dwellings and churches and townships destroyed and abandoned. The country suffered from the Arabic raids for almost three centuries and people were made to pay taxes to both Constantinople, while whichever Caliph was in power at the time. This oppressive period lasted until the Byzantine Emperor defeated Arabs and made security in the island again. The advance of Seljukes in Asia Minor and the first crusade in the 11th century made Byzantium a strong fortress and it was during this period, that the island' s major fortifications were built, among which the castles of St Hilarion, Buffavento, and Kantara.

Crusaders

Isaac Komninos, the Byzantine governor, declared himself an independent ruler of Cyprus in 1185, and mother of Constantine the Great, St Helena, who, according to the tradition, on her way back from the Holy Lands arrived to Cyprus, established the early Christian monasteries of Stavrovouni and Tochni.

Many of the well-known monasteries were built in Cyprus during the 11th century and after, like Kykkos, St John Chrysostomos, Machairas, St Neophytos (12th ct), and also many remarkable painted churches, among which Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis, Panagia tou Araka, Asinou and others belong to this period. Many of the churches to the Troodos area, included in the catalogue of world cultural heritage of UNESCO, make the significant evidence of the Byzantine rule too.

Richard the Lionheart and Isaac Komninos

After Isaac Komninos seized the island, he renounced all the allegiance to Constantinople. Being a despotic ruler and treating the islanders brutally, Isaac was generally disliked. His domination lasted for seven years and ended up in capturing Berengaria of Navarre, the future wife of Richard the Lionheart. After the defeat of Guy de Lusignan at Jerusalem in 1187, the Christian forces of Europe were about to try and stop the rapid spread of Islam. Some of them traveled by sea and some went by land. Richard traveled by sea, but his flotilla was buried in storm. There remain several ship wrecks on the shore of Cyprus. The ship carrying Berengaria took refuge at Limassol and was caught by Isaac. Now imprisoned, he realized his mistake and provoking Richard' anger. In return, Richard seized Limassol and captured Isaac. Although managed to escape, first to the castle of Kantara, and then at the tip of the Karpaz Peninsula, yet, Isaac was finally recaptured by Guy de Lusignan, who had come to join the crusade of Richard.

In 1191 Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria in a little chapel of St George in Limassol, who was crowned a queen of England. Richard, the king of England, took control of Cyprus and discovered that Isaac Komninus had amassed considerable riches in his treasury. With this new-found wealth Richard was able to set off for Acre and reestablish his crusade. Leaving a small garrison to control the island, Richard departs Cyprus.

Rebellious Cypriots

The soldiers, however, had continuous problems with handling the islanders who had had enough of oppression. Richard realized, now that he took all the money from the treasury that the island was in non-favorable condition. He decided to sell Cyprus to the Order of the Knights Templar for 100.000 byzants. After paying Richard the deposit, they in return considered it unbearable to handle the rebellious Cypriot peasants and asked Richard to abolish the purchase of the island. He agreed, and retaining the original deposit, Richard sold the island and carried sovereignty to Guy de Lusignan, as a sort of compensation for the loss of Jerusalem. From that moment on, a 300-year rule in Cyprus begins, also known as the Frankish period.

Early settlers

Expansion and trade

The Iron Age

Persian Rule

Hellenistic Period

Roman period

Byzantine rule

Three Hundred years of French Rule

Venetian Rule

Ottoman Rule

British Control

Union with Greece

The country remains divided

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