The island of Cyprus lies at the intersection of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. The Greeks regarded Cyprus as the island of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty who, according to tradition, emerged from the sea near the southwestern coast.

Stone Age

As Cyprus was first inhabited around 7000 B.C. The earliest settlers had fixed abodes and practised agriculture and stock breeding. Pottery and metalware were still unknown. This period ended at about 6000 B.C. The next traces of human habitation date from around 4500 B.C. These people made hand-shaped pottery. From 3900 B.C. on, copper was used for jewellery and implements like chisels and hooks.

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age of Cyprus begins about 2900 B.C. The Greek word for copper is kypros and, from the Bronze Age on, Cyprus was a major supplier of this component of bronze, which greatly contributed to its prosperity. A new kind of red polished ware appeared, decorated with incised motifs. Pottery shaped like animals was popular (APM06314).
From 1900 B.C. on, so much copper was mined that it began to be exported. Besides red polished ware, white pottery with dark motifs is characteristic of the period; it was also often shaped like animals or furnished with animal plastic ornaments.
On Crete and the Greek mainland the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations appeared during the second millennium B.C. The Mycenaeans required much bronze, which they imported from Cyprus and for which they exchanged, among other things, their own pottery.

Sea Peoples

Cyprus continued to maintain close links with the east. Syria was the source of a new type of fertility goddess: a standing woman who holds her hands below her breasts (APM15697).
In the thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C. the calm of the eastern Mediterranean region was broken by the so-called Sea Peoples who ravaged the coastlines. The Mycenaean state succumbed and many Mycenaeans fled to Cyprus. In the ninth century B.C. Phoenicians settled on the island's southern coast.

Iron Age

By 1000 B.C. the inhabitants of Cyprus had mastered the technique of iron working and their prosperity increased further, as shown by the more valuable gifts they gave the dead. The island became divided into several small kingdoms, each centred on a town. When Assyria was a major eastern power several Cypriot kings declared their allegiance to it. Later, the island was ruled by Egypt and, finally in 545 B.C., Persia.
Although it remained under Persian control, East Greek art (that is, art from the Greek islands and the Ionian coast, the western coast of Turkey) exerted a strong influence, which is particularly noticeable in stone sculpture and clay figurines

Greeks and Romans

Alexander the Great's defeat of Persia in 333-332 B.C. heralded the end of its rule over Cyprus. Ultimately, it fell to Ptolemy, the new king of Egypt (APM13072). In 58 B.C. the Romans began to rule and in 30 B.C., after Cleopatra's end, it became a Roman province. At the division of the empire in A.D. 395. Cyprus fell to the eastern half, centred on Constantinople. The Byzantine history of Cyprus begins.

  • Cyprus, Aphrodites rock.


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