A country’s cultural heritage is the most important living treasure of its people. It is through this that its identity can be expressed and an awareness of its historical continuity through time can be created. Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. It is situated at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa. This geographic position has since antiquity played an important part in the island’s turbulent history. Its prehistoric age inhabitants were joined by the Mycenaean Greeks 3500 years ago, who introduced and established their civilisation, thus permanently instilling the island’s Greek roots. Many other cultures followed since then, including Phoenicians, Assyrians, Franks, Venetians, Ottomans, British, all leaving behind visible traces of their passage. On this island once walked Christ’s apostles. The splendour of the Byzantine Empire for many centuries encapsulated Cyprus. The island is an openair museum, where one can visit prehistoric settlements, classical Greek temples, Roman theatres and villas, Early Christian basilicas, Byzantine churches and monasteries, Crusader castles, Gothic cathedrals, Venetian fortifications, Moslem mosques and British colonial-style buildings. In the villages one can still observe old ways of life, customs and traditions. Here, festivities whose origins hark back to the depths of antiquity are still being celebrated. These include Carnival and the Flower Festivals. Aphrodite, the ancient Greek Olympian goddess of beauty and love, who according to mythology was born on the island, still roams her beloved Pafos and the “Sweet land of Cyprus”, omnipresent in the bright atmosphere, the beauty of the landscape and the charm of the local people. At Kouklia, where once stood her great temple, now stands a church fittingly known as the church of “Panagia Aphroditissa”.
The immortal verses of the ancient Greek playwrights still reverberate on a balmy summer evening at the ancient theatre of Kourion and the Pafos Odeon, where classical Greek plays are regularly staged. And in the month of September, wine flows copiously and the spirit of Dionysos, the Greek god of wine and well-being, lives on throughout the duration of the Wine Festival. Popular medieval songs can still be heard on the island reviving the legends of Digenis, the invincible folk hero of the Byzantine era and the unfettered Rigaina, the beautiful amazonian queen. Cyprus, as the easternmost part of Europe, constitutes a cultural bridge between people of different religions, cultures and ways of life.
8200 – 1050 BC
The very first signs of permanent settlement in Cyprus date from the Neolithic Age (8200-3800 BC). While copper is mined in small quantities during the next period, the Chalcolithic Age (3800-2400 BC), this brings about only minor changes in the way of life of the people. In both the Neolithic and the Chalcolithic Ages the Cypriots lived in single room dwellings, used stone tools and vessels, made jewellery out of picrolite, ate fish, cereals, lamb and goat’s meat and buried their dead within their settlements. The earliest pottery found dates back to the 5th millennium BC.
The first significant cultural changes affecting all aspects of society took place around 2400-2200 BC, towards the end of the Chalcolithic Age and at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age. Instead of building cylindrically shaped dwellings, people began to construct multi-room oblong structures, started to process copper in jewellery, applied the plough for agriculture and began to bury their dead in organised cemeteries. Despite the fact that these developments contributed to the economic growth that occurred both during the Early (2400-1900 BC) and Middle (1900-1650 BC) Bronze
Age periods, people still lived in small hinterland villages. Communication and trade with the surrounding Mediterranean lands was limited.
The Late Bronze Age (1650-1050 BC) was the first period of prehistoric Cyprus when tangible and irrefutable evidence exists that a number of significant developments occurred. These include the establishment of coastal towns, intensive mining of copper and other metals, development of a writing script, contact and trade with the neighbouring regions of Egypt, the Middle East, the Aegean and the wider Eastern Mediterranean area. From the latter part of the 13th century BC successive waves of mainland Greeks begin to settle in Cyprus. Hence, Mycenaean pottery is imported in great quantities from the Aegean (Greece) and used extensively, both in everyday life as well as for religious ceremonies. Later it is reproduced locally and incorporated in the island’s ceramic tradition.
The other periods:
1050 – 480 BC
Geometric and Archaic Periods
480 BC – 330 AD
Classical, Hellenistic and Roman Periods
330 – 1191
1192 – 1489
1489 – 1571
The Venetians in Cyprus
1571 – 1878
Cyprus becomes part of the Ottoman Empire
1878 – 1960
1960 – today
The Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish invasion, European Union entry