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Why Northern Cyprus?

Those who visit Northern Cyprus usually return. It is a quiet place. It has not been overrun by tourists. Northern Cyprus is a land of beaches, mountains, castles and villages where time stood still many years ago - well, actually, sometime in the late fifties. If you are old enough there are many things here that you will recall from your childhood, including the music!

Even in Kyrenia, a major town by the standards of Northern Cyprus, the old harbour looks pretty much as it did in 1914, although what once were Carob warehouses are now restaurants and bars.

There is one Turkish word that visitors quickly learn : Yavash=Slowly. There is time. And there is Cyprus time. In Cyprus, no one is in a hurry.

But, like all countries where the pace of life is slow, the people are friendly, and the Turkish Cypriot smile is as bright and as warm as the Cyprus sunshine.

About 200,000 people live in this small country, which is only 120 miles from east to west and about 15 miles from north to south. However, the topography, from the dry central plain, to the mountains, to the coast and beaches, is dramatic in its contrasts. In addition, Northern Cyprus has a wide variety of wild flora and fauna, and is a stopping off point for many species of migrating birds, and there is also a green turtle conservation area.

Historically, there is also much of interest. Cyprus was repeatedly invaded over the centuries, each invasion leaving a legacy that survives to this day.

So, when you visit Northern Cyprus, forget time, forget stress, forget rain and grey days, just relax in the sunshine and do your own thing.

Best time to visit?

The winter months are December, January, and February with max temperatures from 17C to 19C and rain is to be expected. Rain here is often torrential, but does not usually last long. However, even in the winter months, when the sun shines, which is more often than not, it is warm enough to eat breakfast on the patio.

At any time of the year, the sunlight is intense. When you sit outside, it is necessary to position oneself in the shade. In November, and the winter months, and to a lesser extent in October and March, day time temperatures are usually pleasant, comparable to the best early summer days of Northern Europe, but once the sun begins to set it does begin to feel chilly, and you may then need to wear a sweater. But it is often possible to eat your Christmas dinner outdoors.

March sees the beginning of the tourist season even though it can still seem (to the acclimatised!) a little chilly at nights. April, May and June are very popular months, nights are warm, and the fields are carpeted with spring flowers. This is followed by the hot, dry months of July and August. These two months are strictly for dedicated sun-worshippers. It can be very hot indeed, and there is never any rain. Then follows the 'second spring', when a little rain is to be expected. September and October are many peoples' favourite months. It is still very warm, but not unbearably so.

Cyprus has a Mediterranean climate. No matter what time of the year, it is always warmer than northern climates. In Cyprus gardens you will see flowers all year round.




Cyprus Specialities

If you know the food of Turkey, then you know Cyprus food, but there are one or two things that you won't find in Turkey.Probably the most famous of Cypriot culinary specialities is hellim cheese. This full-fat soft cheese is made from whole goats milk, salt and a touch of mint. It is typically served with salads.

Another speciality is molohiya, a green leafy vegetable which grows only in Cyprus and on the banks of the Nile. It is usually cooked with chicken or meat and is delicious and wholesome.

Another interesting vegetable unknown outside Cyprus is kolokas, a root vegeable which when cooked (again with lamb or chicken) has the texture of potato, but a sweeter taste.

In addition to the usual Turkish kebabs, there are two which are only to be found in Cyprus. One is kup kebab, lamb or goat wrapped in foil with potatoes and herbs and cooked for hours in a clay oven. The other is sheftali kebabs, which are small, spicy and sausage-like. They are skewered and cooked over hot charcoal.



The definitive guide is "An Illustrated Flora of North Cyprus" which describes 1041 species which thrive in the wild. This may be a little heavy except for botanists or serious amateurs, but there are less scholarly books available which celebrate the beauty and colours of Cyprus flora. Or you can simply appreciate the flowers of the island by looking around at the house or hotel gardens which are usually a riot of colour at any time of the year. Or go for a walk through the fields which in the Spring are carpets of colour.

The brilliant and varied display of wild flowers which the visitor beholds in Feb, March and April begins to build up after the Autumn rains have given a good wetting to the soil, beginning with tiny grape hyacinth and narcissi, and climaxing in Feb and March with cyclamen and the many coloured anemones painting the fields in blue, red, pink, and white. A miniature iris and wild gladioli also abound. The verge of road and field are full of the tall asphodel, best felt unpicked, as they smell of tomcats. Olive orchards stand in lakes of acid-yellow oxalis, or blood-red poppies, dazzling in the sunlight. Waste areas are carpeted with the golden crown daisy (or wild chrysanthemum), often with the creamy, many branched scabious. The dark red Cyprus tulip is prolific in some western parts. Soon the fists of the giant fennel (some are ten feet tall) unfurl their feathery foliage and large yellow flower heads.

On the hillsides the rock roses, purple, pink and white, along with other flowering and aromatic shrubs, bloom over several months. Parasitic on the roots of the rock rose is the brilliant yellow Cytinus, its buds enclosed in scarlet scales, a solid clump of colour - worth looking out for.

As the summer approaches, the colourful echiums and other silver leaved plants appear, often still twined with the pink convulvulus, and three or four mallows.

Even in the long rainless summer, flowers are to be found, especially a succession of attractive thistles - pale yellow, purple, pink, royal blue, and bronze. Some form prickly electric-blue mats, some densely flowered mounds, while others tower six feet above the ground. The local thyme makes stiff twigged, aromatic hummocks, and the gorgeous white flowers of the caper bush, with their swirl of purple stamens, scent the evening air. Myrtles grow along the wadis, which are often full of the pink flowered, fragrant oleander bushes, and feathery tamarisk,while pungent lentisc and terebinth grow in rocky corners.

Very frequent on the slopes of the hills is the Arbutus, or strawberry tree, lovely at ebery season. The new branches are crimson barked, the leaves glossy green; clusters of creamy bells in the spring are followed by strawberry-like fruits.

The ultimate in hardiness is displayed by the Giant Squill, whose leafless stalk shoots up out of the parched earth in July/August, and the tall spikes of pale starry flowers, in the morning or evening light, seem like a procession of ghosts over the waste land.

'Street' trees are often spectacular. You can take your coffee under superb Jacarandas, shedding a bright mauve mat on the ground, opposite the Law Courts in Kyrenia. In front of the Old Police Station is a Persian lilac, with its black eyes lilac blooms.

In the villages, black and white mulberries feed people (fruit), pets and silkworms (leaves). The golden oriole, a visitor to Cyprus, is also rather partial to the berries. Purple flowered Judas trees, erupting at Easter, and the deep pink and mauve-trumpeted flowers of the Bauhinia last for ages on the tree, which is afterwards dripping with long thin bean pods.

Fruit Trees

At the time of writing towards the end of November, the lemons, oranges, grapefruits and pomegranites have ripened on the trees and are beginning to fall. The pomegranites have had the benefit of some rainfall in recent days and this may serve to make them a juicier crop. But of the citrus fruit there is a glut, as there has been every year since the trade embargo was imposed on Northern Cyprus, and many fruits, especially in Guzelyurt - the main fruit produing region - are destined to fall to the ground and be left to rot.

There are three basic types of orange tree : wild orange which tends to be very bitter but is useful for making marmalade, an orange that is refered to here as 'mandarin' which is a little sharp, and a sweet orange. The latter two are mixed to produce a lovely fresh orange juice.

The olives were shaken and combed from the trees a couple of weeks ago and taken to the mill where they will be processed for their oil. It is said that there are a millionand a half olive trees in Northern Cyprus, and I sure that this is no exaggeration. You will see olive trees where-ever you go and olive groves by almost every roadside Generally two products are derived from the crop ; olive oil and "Chakistez". The latter is a preparation exclusive to the Cypriot kitchen and is made using green olives which are cracked and left to marinade in olive oil, garlic and coriander seeds. The resulting dish is eaten as a meze or as an accompaniment to drinks.

The season for figs passed by about a month ago, which is a pity because it is difficult to find a finer fruit than a fresh fig. A wise old neighbour tells me that one should always peel a fig, because the pith is not good for the gums. This may or may not be true, but the fig tastes better peeled anyway. In England, one would pay a lot of money for figs. Here in Cyprus, they are cheap, as you would expect them to be when you can see fig trees growing in almost every other garden, and even growing wild.

The last of the grapes were harvested in August. Most vines in Cyprus are of the type suitable for wine making and so are not sweet enough to be eaten as dessert grapes, but of course there are vines which do produce sweet grapes. These can also be dried to produce sultanas.

Other fruits not often seen in England are also produced in Cyprus : quince being one, and a few others whose names I have not yet been able to establish!

Hazelnut, almond, pine-nut and walnut trees can be found growing in gardens all over Northern Cyprus. In some areas they are grown commercially.


The orchid enthusiast will be pleased to learn that there are about 35 different species of orchid which may be found in Northern Cyprus. A number of them flower in February, and the remainder in March/April, but there are some plants which flower well into the summer.

Probably the most famous orchid on the island is the Ophrys kotschyi which grows only in Cyprus, and is most commonly found on the lower slopes of the Kyrenia mountains. The flower is bee-shaped and pink.

One of the most intriguing orchids is the monkey orchid or Orchis simia of which one of the petals divides into what look like the arms and legs of a monkey.

There are commercially organised orchid tours and you will need to ask at the Tourist Information Office for details.


Northern Cyprus hosts over 1600 plant specia of which 22 are endemic, 350 species of birds, of which 7 are endemic, and 26 different species of reptile and amphibia.

With an average of only 51 people per square kilometre, Northern Cyprus holds the enviable reputation of being relatively free of pollution, industry or high concentrations of population. And with 387 km of coastline and pine, cypress and marquis covered hillsides, Northern Cyprus is something of a haven for wldlife.

The two main reasons for this amazing diversity are, firstly, that Cyprus was not affected by the last ice-age (which wiped out many species from areas further north), and secondly, that Cyprus forms a resting and nesting station for birds migrating between Africa and Eastern Europe.


During spring (March to May) and late summer (August to October) 300 species of birds (amounting to millions of birds) call at Cyrpus along their migratory route. Some notable examples are the Griffon Vulture, Hirundelle, Golden Oriole, Pochard, and the Cyprus Pied Wheatear. Some areas where birdwatching is particularly fruitful are the lake areas of Gonyeli, Kanlikoy, Famagusta and Glapsides. There is a Society for the Protection of Bird in Northern Cyprus and they will advise you of where and when to go. Tel: +90 (0)392 815 7337 (only the last 7 digits are required if phoning within the Kyrenia area).For an in-depth view visit http://northcyprusbirds.iecnc.orgButterfly


For an in-depth view visit


Two endangered species of sea turtle (Chelonia mydas and Caretta caretta) every year use 80 of Northern Cyprus' beaches for laying their eggs. The Chelonia mydas turtle derives its green hue from the green sea-weed on which it feeds. The smaller Caretta caretta feeds on small fish and crustacea. The fact that these turtles are highly sensitive to pollution and human presence shows just how remoten and undeveloped much of Northern Cyprus' coastline is, particularly in the Karpaz region. The turtles lay their eggs in the sand between June and October. If you wish to join a group to watch them, or to actively help out in the task of protecting them, please contact the Turtle Protection Society on (+90 (0)392) 815 2496 or 815 5135.For more info on turtles visit :

Wild Donkeys.

In the Karpaz National Park area (Pan handle) live donkeys which roam wild and number about 250. Generally they are black, but are sometimes ginger and are of a breed unique to Cyprus. Approach with care.


There are several species of small lizard which on warm days (which is most days) you will see scurrying about in pursuit of insects. In most countries these are affectionately known as Geckos. If you are very sharp eyed you may spot a chameleon, camouflaged to the colour of whatever he might happen to be sitting on, eyeing you back with his swivelling eyes. And yes, there are some snakes. The most common is perfectly harmless. It is black and tends to quickly get out of your way if you should disturb it. But another, the blunt-nosed viper, which is sandy coloured and tends to stand its ground when approached, is highly poisonous. The rule is, if the snake gets out of the way, don't worry about it. If it doesn't, then you're the one that gets out!


There are about 200 varieties of fish in the waters around Northern Cyprus. For this reason you will find many fishing boats in the harbour of Kyrenia and elsewhere. Large specimens of tuna fish are often caught. Usually the fishermen sell their catch as soon as it is landed directly to whichever local restaurant is first to hear about the catch. This also means that you can always find daily fresh fish in the market places.

Other animals

The visitor may count himself lucky if he sees a moufflon - a symbol of Cyprus - in captivity, let alone in the wild. The indigenous species of cow still exists, and attempts are being made to preserve it in an animal park in Catalkoy.Foxes and hares abound, and hedgehogs are common. The species in Cyprus has long ears and is a colonist from North Africa.



St Hilarion Castle, Kyrenia - Girne

The castle is named after St. Hilarion, a hermit monk who fled from persecution in the Holy Land and lived and died in a cave on the mountain. Later in the 10th century the Byzantines built a church and monastery here. Along with Kantara and Buffavento, St. Hilarion Castle was originally built as a watch tower to give warning of approaching Arab pirates who launched a continuous series of raids on Cyprus and the coasts of Anatolia from the 7th to the 10th centuries. Some 400 years after it was first built, the castle became a place of refuge and also a summer residence for the Lusignans. When the Venetians captured Cyprus in 1489, they relied on Girne (Kyrenia) Nicosia and Famagusta for the defence of the island and St. Hilarion was neglected and fell into oblivion.

The Palace of Vouni

The main thing that The Palace of Vouni has going for it, after a brief life of eighty years (about 480-400 BC), is the journey there. I set out with my wife and our friends on a warm sunny morning - 13th January 2001, travelling out on the Lapta road. There is the sea on your right and the mountains on your left, but the real scenery begins beyond Lapta, where it becomes greener, and then, as the road goes up into the mountains, it becomes unexpectedly spectacular.
Quite some distance before Guzelyurt (which is the fruit growing region), the orange trees are in evidence. Field upon field, the trees are planted in close rows, laden with ripening fruit. There are also fields of strawberries, neatly covered with the white flowers poking above the cloches (don't ask me how they do that). And some fields of banana trees. Not to mention the odd prickly pear.

Neolithic 7000-3900BC

Chalcolithic 3900-2600BC

Early Bronze Age 2300-1850BC

Middle Bronze Age 1900-1600BC

Late Bronze Age 1650-1050BC

Geometric Period 1050-750BC

Archaic Period 750-475BC

Classical Period 475-325BC

Helenistic Period 325-58BC

Roman Period 58-330AD

Byzantine Period 330-1191AD

The Lusignan Dynasty 1192-1489AD

Venetian Period 1489-1571AD

Turkish Rule 1571-1878AD

British Rule 1878-1960AD

Independent Cyprus
and the Turkish Intervention

Neolithic 7000-3900BC

The earliest traces of settlement in Cyprus go back to 7000BC. The origin of the first settlers is thought to be the mainland to the north and east.

There is evidence of two cultural phases, pre-pottery Neolithic I (7000-6000BC) and Neolithic II (4500-3900BC). An important settlement from the second phase was found on the north coast, east of Kyrenia, known as Ayios Epiktitos Vrysi. The houses were half-sunk and roofed with wood and thatch. Narrow covered passages linked the houses. Amongst the finds unearthed were polished stone axes and chisels, and stone idols.

Little is known about the gulf between Neolithic I and II (6000BC-4500BC). The island may have been temporarily abandoned on account of a natural catastrophe, or perhaps intermediate sites have not yet been recognised.

Chalcolithic 3900-2600BC

This period marks the first introduction of copper tools, which were probably imported from the Anatolian mainland. Local manufacture is possible, but no evidence has been found.

Cross shaped soapstone idols which were placed on graves or worn around the neck are characteristic of this era. At this time a cult of the dead arose, associated with rites centred on a female fertility symbol.

Early Bronze Age 2300-1850BC

The first towns and economic centres developed in Cyprus where copper was worked and exported. At this time the island developed commercial and cultural relations with Asia Minor, Egypt and the Syrian/Palestinian region. This fresh impulse resulted from an influx of immigrants from Anatolia who were displaced from their settlements in Asia Minor by invading tribes.

Judging by the multitude of articles placed with the dead - bowls, jugs, food, cimbs, knives, necklaces etc - the afterlife was evidently an important cultural feature.

Middle Bronze Age 1900-1600BC

This period is marked by an upsurge in cultural and trading contacts with neighboring countries. Copper was now a major export. The extent of trade is revealed by tomb finds of Egyptian faience beads, Asian cylinder seals, and Minoan vases, whilst Cypriot pottery has turned up in Cilicia and Palestine, and as far afield as Crete.

Late Bronze Age 1650-1050BC

The destruction of the Hykos Kingdom and the revival of Egypt as the leading power in the Eastern Mediterrean created for Cyprus at the beginning of the late bronze age favourable circumstances for its development into a flourishing commercial centre.

The period between 1500 and 1200BC saw the fusion of design elements from both East and West into the traditional Cypriot forms. Religious practices too combine elements from both the orient and the Aegean.

The prosperity of the Late Bronze Age was disrupted at the end of the 13th century BC by the so-called sea people whose origin is still a matter for conjecture. Cities were abandoned or fortified, destroyed and rebuilt. At the same time, Achaean settlers landed on the coasts of Cyprus. This Achaean colonisation is the historical basis connecting the Trojan war with the foundation of certain Cypriot cities by Trojan heroes. Lapta, for example, is belived to have been founded by Praxanor of Laconia.

Geometric Period 1050-750BC

The transition to the Iron Age was for Cyprus, as for Greece, a dark age. Natural catastrophes destroyed nearly all the Late Bronze Age settlements and led to a cultural decline, poverty, and a slump in population.

It was until the arrival of Phoenician colonisers from Tyre in the 9th century BC that the island received a fresh cultural impulse, resulting in strengthened links with the Orient.

The Phoenicians brought with them the cult of Astarte, the goddess of love and fertility. The Greek cult of Aphrodite incorporates features of the Astarte cult which suggests that the transformation of Astarte into Aphrodite occurred in Cyprus.

Archaic Period 750-475BC

In the 8th century BC Cyprus was once more drawn into the realms of the Near-Eastern powers.

Under Sargon II (721-705BC), Cypriot cities paid tribute to the Assyrian Kingdom, and after an Egyptian interlude (560-525BC), were incorporated into the Persian empire. Their Persian masters allowed the Cypriot cities considerable latitude, and created favourable conditions for an economic and cultural resurgence. Owing to its geographical position, and its natural wealth in copper and wood, the island flourished.

Gods of the Greeks, the Egyptians and the Phoenicians all found followers on the island.

Classical Period 475-325BC

The flowering of the Archaic epoch was interrupted by external events into which the island was drawn on account of its geographical situation. The turbulent events of this period saw a revolt against the Persians, which was crushed, the setting up of the Delian league by the Greeks to regain territory lost to the Persians and the subsequent temporary 'liberation' of large parts of Cyprus. The struggle against the Persians continued until Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian Empire.

Helenistic Period 325-58BC

After the death of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian general Ptolemy established control over most of the island. However, in 306BC, Demetrius, the son of one of the other Macedonian generals, landed at Carpasia and eventually mastered the island, holding it until 295BC when it was retaken by Ptolemy.

The importance of Cyprus as a shipping and trading centre at this time is symbolised by the wreck of a Greek cargo ship, recovered by archeologists off the North coast, and now preserved with its contents in Kyrenia castle.

The latter period of Ptolemaic rule degenerated into a series of internecine squabbles, and the insolent behaviour of the last Ptolemy towards a Roman senator, who was later elected tribune, gave Rome an excuse to annex the island. In 58BC Cyprus became a province of the Roman Empire.

Roman Period 58-330AD

In Cyprus a large scale building program was expedited. New harbours were built, roads were laid, aqueducts were constructed to channel water to the cities which were equipped with temples, market places, theatres, and other public amenities. The massive stone forum at Salamis is the largest Roman market place known, and indeed that city became prodigiously wealthy, exporting oil, wheat and wine to the markets of Rome.

In AD46 Paul and Barnabas, a native of Salamis, were instrumental in converting the Roman governor, who thus became the world's first Christian ruler. Barnabas later preached in Salamis where he was eventually martyred by the Jews.

After their revolt was crushed in Jerusalem in AD70 by the Romans, many Jews settled in Cyprus, particularly in Salamis. Here, in AD115, they rebelled again and the resulting carnage over the next two years prompted the decree from Rome expelling all Jews from the island.

For the next 50 years Cyprus enjoyed unparalleled prosperity, but the plague of AD164, and the later degeneration of the Roman Empire left the country in a sorry plight. Fortunes revived under Constantine (AD324-337), but in AD364 the empire split, the eastern half being ruled from the new capital city of Constantinople.

Byzantine Period 330-1191AD

Earthquakes rocked the island in 332 and 342, tumbling the towns of Salamis, Kition and Paphos. Salamis, resuming its role as capital, was rebuilt by Constantius II (337-361) and renamed Constantia.

The standing of Cyprus and its significance to Byzantium is indicated by the decision of Emperor Justinian (527-565) to classify the island as a seperate province. At this time, the cultivation of silk worms was developed, and this activity is recalled today by the widespread presence of mulberry trees.

For the next hundred years, Cyprus lay quiet and undisturbed. But out of the wastes of Arabia a new and potent power was gathering its forces. Islam spread like a forest fire throughout Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, and in 647 an Arab fleet of 1700 ships appeared off Salamis. The city was sacked, and other towns were plundered amd burned. From the 7th to the 9th century the island was repeatedly subject to Arab raids, and, at times, tribute was paid to the Caliphate as well as taxes to Constantinople. During this period many towns were abandoned, and most ancient and early Christian buildings were destroyed. The inhabitants of Salamis/Constantia finally moved out and settled in Arsinoe, which later became Famagusta.

The devastation did not end until Emperor Nicephoros Phocas (963-969) finally drove the Moslem invaders from Cyprus. To protect the island the 11th century mountain castles of St.Hilarion, Buffavento, and Kantara were built. In addition, new fortifications for Kyrenia and Nicosia were constructed.

In the 11th century a new threat arose: Seljuk Turks swarned in from the east, seizing the crumbling Caliphate, capturing Jerusalem, and crushing the Byzanine emperor at the battle of Manzikert. Taking advantage of the weakened condition of the empire, a certain Isaac Comnenos (a newphew of Emperor Manuel Comnenus) usurped control of Cyprus. In 1184 he crowned himself emperor, renouncing his allegiance to Constantinople.

The Lusignan Dynasty 1192-1489AD

The Lusignans came to rule Cyprus as a result of the Crusades, which the Roman church saw as a means of extending its power and others saw as a means to booty.

By the end of the 10th century, Christian forces occupied territory stretching from Edessa to Egypt, and had established the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

By about 1186, the great Saladin has welded the Moslem nations together and embarked on a jihad to recover Jerusalem. In 1187 he destroyed the Christian armies and then took Jerusalem, leaving only Tyre, and the principalities of Tripoli and Antioch in Christian hands.

This led to the Third Crusade. The Germans went by land and the English, led by Richard the Lionheart, and the French, went by sea. On thway, Richard's fleet was scattered by a storm: several ships foundered off the coast of Cyprus, and the one in which Richard's fiancee was sailing took refuge in the harbour of Limassol. The year was 1191, and the self-proclaimed emperor Isaac Comnenos was ruling Cyprus. He made the fatal mistake of arresting Richard's shipwrecked sailors, and abusing his fiancee Berengaria. When Richard arrived a few days later, he landed in force, and seized Limassol.

On May 12th 1191, Richard married Berengaria in Limassol, and she was crowned Queen os England.

In June, with bulging treasure chests filled with the wealth Isaac had anassed during his rule, Richard set sail again, leaving a garrisoned Cyprus in the charge of Richard of Camville and Robert of Tornham. These two were soon occupied in suppressing a revolt of their unwilling subjects and on hearing the news, King Richard sold the island to a military order of knights, the Templars, for 100,000 bezants.

The Templars soon discovered that the rebellious Cypriots would not submit to their severe rule, and after desperately putting down a popular uprising, they begged Richard to cancel their purchase.

Richard then offered the island of Cyprus to Guy de Lusignan, who had been king of Jerusalem. Thus began the Lusignan dynasty, which was to endure for 300 years.

Two years later, Guy died and he was succeeded by his brother Amaury. To ratify his right to rule, Amaury obtained a crown from the Holy Roman Emperor and in 1197 became the first Lusignan king of Cyprus. To secure his position from without and within, Amaury extended the mountain castles of St.Hilarion, Buffavento, and Kantara.

The fall of Jerusalem in 1244 provoked the disastrous 7th Crusade, led by King Louis of France. Accompanying his party were a number of architects, artists and stone masons. Some of these remained in Cyprus and were instrumental in the creation of the Gothic masterworks in this period.

In 1267, a king of exceptional qualities ascended the throne: Hugh of Antioch. He took effective action during the plague and famine of 1267, and under his rule the country prospered. He was a generous patron of Bellapais Abbey, but when he died in 1284, he was buried in St.Sophia in Nicosia.

In 1291, the last crusader stronghold in the Levant was lost, and Cyprus became the Christian outpost of the East. Genoese, Venetian and other merchants transferred their establishments to Famagusta, which rapidly flourished as the major trading centre linking occident and orient. In the 14th century Famagusta became one of the wealthiest and most influential cities in the Mediterranean.

This prosperity was disturbed by the havoc wrought by the bubonic plague or 'Black Death' of 1349. The king sought refuge in St.Hilarion, trade ground to a halt, and after the pestilence the population was severly depleted.

In terms of art, the era of the lusignans and the crusaders was one of the most brilliant and significant epochs in the history of Cyprus. The Gothic churches, the abbey at Bellapais, the crusader castles, all constitute the most impressive memorial to Frankish art of the middle ages on oriental soil.

Venetian Period 1489-1571AD

The Venetian desire for Cyprus was inspired purely by profit. The island was well endowed with timer essential for shipbuilding, and formed an ideal base from which the Venetians could dominate trade with the east. They continued to pay the tribute enforced upon Cyprus by the Mamelukes, and when the latter were conquered by the Ottomans, the tribute was redirected to Constantinople, the seat of Ottoman power since 1453.

Anticipating conflict, the Venetians undertook an ambitous plan of fortification. Famagusta and Nicosia were ringed with impressive earthworks cased with stone. An outer wall was erected around Kyrenia castle, the gap being filled with earth to form an artillery rampart. The best military architects in Europe were brought in to design and execute these projects.

All was in vain. A body blow had already been dealt to Venice by Bartholemew Diaz, who in 1486 discovered a new sea route to India via the Cape of Good Hope. In 1570, after an ultimatum from Sultan Selim II has expired, hordes of Ottoman troops landed at Larnaca. Nicosia resisted for six weeks, refusing terms of honourable surrender on rumours of an approaching Venetian fleet. The city was eventual taken by storm, and sacked, 20,000 inhabitants being massacred in the process. Kyrenia capitulated without a struggle. Famagusta fell in August 1571.

Later that month Venetian officials handed over the island together with 300,000 ducats for war reparation.

October of 1571 saw a European League fleet destroy the Turkish fleet at Lepanto, but by this time Cyprus was lost and was to remain a backwater of the Ottoman Empire for the next 300 years.

Turkish Rule 1571-1878AD

The takeover by the Ottoman Empire in 1571 was largely welcomed by the local population who had to some extent collaborated with the invaders, and who anticipated changes for the better. To begin with, their hopes were justified. The hated Latin church was uprooted, with many churches being converted into mosques, and the Orthodox church was restored to dominance. The feudal system was abolished, and the former serfs could now own and inherit land.

The population at this time, according to an offical census, was 150,000. In addition there were also some 30,000 Turkish settlers, who were granted land by the Sultan, and changed the demographic nature of the island. In 1641, with plague following close on the heels of famine, the total population had plummeted to 25,000.

In the intervening years, the Cypriots had come to realise that they had exchanged one form of oppression for another. Namely, the imposition of extortionate taxation.

Conditions did not improve when, in 1702, Cyprus became the fief of the Grand Vizier. The post of governor was sold on an annual basis, and the incumbent made it his business to end his tenure on a wealthy note.

Temporary relief came in 1746 when Abu Bekr Pasha ruled the country. This enlightened man undertook many public works, and, at his own expense, built the aqueduct which supplied Larnaca with water for the next 200 years.

In 1754 the Sultan recognised the Orthodox archbishop as the leader of the Cypriot community, and granted himm and his bishops various privileges, along with the responsibility of collecting taxes. As the century progressed the bishop's power and wealth increased as they cynically worked hand in glove with the Turkish governors. Both Greek and Turkish peasants revolted in vain against the rapacity of their masters.

In 1821 the archbishop, along with other clergy and leading Christians, were discovered to have connections with a Greek nationalist movement aimed at driving the Turks from Greece. The response of the Governor was swift and bloody. The archbishops, the bishops, and many prominent Christians were massacred, and this was followed by an islandwide purge of the Christians.

Meanwhile, the vast Ottoman Empire was showing signs of disintegration. After crushing the Greek revolt, the European powers intervened, resulting in the creation of an independent Greek Kingdom in 1832.

In the midst of these troubles, Sultan Mahmoud II institued reforms which alleviated the condition of his subjects, including those in Cyprus. The farming of taxes was abolished, but external problems impeded the implementation of this and other reforms.

War with Russia, which had continued off and on since 1769, was weakening the Ottoman Empire, and after further defeats in 1877, chunks of Anatolia were ceded to the Russians. This alarmed the English, who saw this as a threat to the Suez canal. An agreement was subsequently reached in 1878 whereby England would occupy Cyprus, using it as a base to protect her own interests, and to defend Ottoman territory against further encroachments by Russia.

British Rule 1878-1960AD

The first High Commissioner took steps to create a new constitution. A legislative council was formed, and a High Court was established in Nicosia, presided over by two British judges. The district courts were served by one Christian and one Moslem judge, under the supervision of a British official. In 1882 the legislative council, formerly consisting of four British and three local members, was modified to comprise six British officials, and twelve elected local members. The proportion of the latter, three Turkish and nine Greek Cypriots, caused an inverse proportion of outrage. However, in practice, the Turks generally sided with the British officials, and in the event of a tie, the High Commissioner cast the deciding vote. The tax system was dratically restructured, and the change of emphasis from direct to indirect taxes served to increase revenues whilst leaving more money in the peasant pocket.

The British undertook an extensive program of public works, including the construction of roads and bridges, drinking and irrigation water supplies, and even a railway line linking Nicosia to Famagusta and Guzelyurt. In addition, port facilities were improved, and administrative buildings, schools and hospitals were built.

When Turkey sided with Germany in World War I, Britain annexed the island. In 1915, Britain offered Cyprus to Greece in return for joining the allied cause, but the suggestion was rejected, and with it the chance of enosis, the striving for which would cause so much strife in the future.

Meanwhile, the enosis movement, aiming for union with Greece, was growing within the Greek Cypriot community, fostered by the powerful Orthodox church. The movement erupted into islandwide riots in 1931, during which Government House was burnt to the ground. The uprising was crushed, and the legislative coucil abolished thus eliminating the local voice in government decisions.

After World War II, when 30,000 Cypriots fought in the British army, calls for enosis were renewed. A plebicite organized in 1950 showed that 96% of the Greek Cypriots supported union with Greece. However, it has been reported that excommunication was a stick used to encourage the overwhelming vote. Furthermore, it is doubtful that many Cypriots understood the fullimplcations of enosis, quite apart from the fact that it was anathema to the Turkish Cypriot minority.

Now Colonel George Grivas launched EOKA: an armed struggle against British rule beginning in April 1955, abetted by the churches and the clergy. The Turkish Cypriots spawned their own movements: taksim called for the division of the island; TMT was the Turkish Cypriot resistance movement.

After a conference attended by Greece, Turkey and Britain in June 1955 failed to achieve a solution, Greece applied to the United Nations in 1957 and again in 1958 claiming the right of self determination for Cyprus. This claim, of course, did not take into account the position of the Turkish Cypriot minority, and as a counterthrust, Turkey suggested a double enosis, or partition of the island.

Meanwhile, Grivas and his terrorists were actively prosecuting their cause, and with the death toll rising above 500, the British were anxious to find a suitable formula for independence. This was eventually hammered out in the Treaty of Zurich which provided guarantor powers of military intervention to Britain, Greece and Turkey.

Thus the Republic of Cyprus came into being on 19th August 1960.

Independent Cyprus and the Turkish Intervention

The constitution now provided for a bi-communal society, with safeguards to prevent the majority Greek Cypriots from dominating the Turkish Cypriots.

The president was to be Greek, and the vice-president from the Turkish community, each with the power of veto. In the government and civil service, the communities were represented in the ratio of 70 per cent to 30 per cent, whilst in the police and army, the ratio was 60 per cent to 40 per cent. Failure to agree on the structure of the army resulted in Makarios, the first president of Cyprus, declaring that Cyprus would have no armed forces. This led to the formation of private armies, supplied clandestinely by Greece and Turkey.

There were other complications which meant that in practice the constitution was unworkable due to inherent suspicions between the two communities. However a straightforward 'democracy' was not applicable to Cyrpus as it would have resulted in the Turkish community having no say in government, would would have almost certainly have led to enosis - union with Greece.

In November 1963, Makarios submitted a plan aimed at simplifying the constitution. The changes proposed removed most of the checks and balances which had been built into the constitution to protect the minority Turkish community, and were of course unacceptable to the Turks.

Matters came to a head on Christmas Eve, when armed Greeks attacked a suburb in Nicosia, killing or capturing those Turkish Cypriots who were unable to escape. Armed conflict spread, with the Turkish Cypriots withdrawing into enclaves to defend themselves.

A buffer zone was set up and manned by British troups in a largely unsuccessful attempt to stop the fighting. These were later replaced by United Nations troops in March 1964.

In March 1964, well armed Greek forces attempted to crush the Turks at Erenkoy on the north coast, in order to interrupt the flow of munitions from the Turkish mainland: they would undoubtedly have succeeded had not the Turkish air force intervened. This act added a new dimension to the conflict. Fear of Turkish intervention sobered the Greeks somewhat, and they settled down to systematic economic blockade of the Turkish enclaves. This amounted to partition.

Further armed conflict in 1967 provoked Turkey to threaten military intervention, but with the takeover by the colonels in Greece, and the economic boom in Cyprus, enosis seemed less attractive.

During the presidential elections of 1974, Makarios clearly announced the cause of enosis, and was re-elected with 95 per cent of the cast votes. He subsequently ordered the withdrawal of mainland Greek officers, whereupon the National Guard, which was under the command of the Greek officers, stormed the presidential palace in Nicosia. Makarios escaped, but this attempted coup, sponsored by the military junta in Greece, persuaded Turkey to intervene as a guarantor power.

On 20th July 1974, Turkish forces landed and occupied 40 per cent of the island in the north. 150,000 Greek Cypriots fled to the south, and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots escaped to the north. Substantial Turkish forces remained in the north, and the civilian population increased after considerable migration from the Turkish mainland.

Intercommunal negotiations since 1974 have been fruitless, and in November 1983, Northern Cyprus declared itself independent as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Recognised only by Turkey, the TRNC is hampered economically and has not prospered as much as the south.

(The remaining paragraphs are not extracted from the source acknowledged below.)

Under the auspices of the United Nations, talks - 'proximity talks' - continue to be held, but to no avail. The south continues to insist that it is the legimate government of the whole of Cyprus and that Turkey is an occupying invader. The north insists that any solution must recognise the TRNC as a seperate state or, at the very least, an autonomous unit of a north-south federation.

But one thing is indisputable. Since 1974, for one of the few times in its long and turbulent history, there has been peace in Cyprus.




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Books on Ancient Cyprus
By Veronica Tatton-Brown. Good, illustrated from Neolithic to Roman times by a distinguished archeologist. Published by British Museum Press.
Cyprus in History
By Doros Alastos. Two tomes covering all perios up to 1955. Published by Zeno, UK
Cyprus, from the Stone Age to the Romans
By Vassos Karageorghis. Definitive, well-written introduction by one of the foremost Cypriot archeologists. Published by Thames & Hudson.
Footprints in Cyprus, an Illustrated History
By Sir David Hunt. Lavishly illustrated anthology, covering all eras. Published by Trigraph, UK. Also available in paperback.
Girne Castle
By Dr. W.Dregham. A short guide to the castle and its history. 36pp illustrated in b/w from water-colours by the author (aged 76 at the time!). Published 1985 or before(?) and long since out of print. Last seen at The Green Jacket Bookshop at UK 5.00 sterling.
A History of Cyprus
By Sir George Hill. The standard reference work. Published by Cambridge UP. Out of print.
The Kingdom of Cyprus and the Crusades, 1191-1374
By Peter W Edbury. Plumbs the intricate power struggles of the Lusignan period. Published by Cambridge UP.
The Turks in Cyprus : A Province of the Ottoman Empire (1571-1878)
By Ahmet C Gazioglu. According to The Rough Guide this is tendentious, but useful. Published by KEmal Rustem, Nicosia. Out of print.

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