Neolithic Cyprus. 9000- 3800 BC

Cyprus is on the tectonic plate boundary between Africa and Europe, and started to be upthrust from the sea about 12 million years ago.Most of the low-lying rock is limestone, from the sea bed, but the modest size Troodos mountains, ringed by copper-bearing pillow lavas, were originally part of the earth’s mantle  For most of its history the island was covered in forest. Human settlement came relatively late. Burnt bones of birds, fish and pigmy hipopotomui, and human tools, have been found by Acrotiri coastal caves, spanning from 10800 to 9800 BC. However these people and others later may have been seasonal visitors.

The oldest known Cypriot settlements were Neolithic I, from ca.9000 – 5500/5300 BC. Society seems to have been broadly egalitarian. Small, stone images sometimes combining phallic and female elements suggest a magical concern with fertility. They had round, mud brick houses with stone foundations and burnt lime floors and stone pots and tools, since they had not discovered the art of making ceramics. They also dug the world’s oldest known water wells. There were already pigs and birds, but they introduced dogs, sheep, and ibex (goats) to Cyprus and possibly a few cattle, which remained wild and later died out. They also introduced and hunted fallow deer and boars and grew cereals and pulses. Average age at death was about 34. Graves are found under the floors of houses, one from 7500BC included the oldest known domestic cat: well before the Egyptians. Weaving is attested by the presence of spindle-whorls and garments were probably of wool. They were fastened with bone pins, and sewn with needles. Personal ornament is represented by stone beads, pendants and bracelets; and necklaces of dentalia shells, carnelian and greyish-green pikrolite. Bone was used for handles of stone tools, for awls, pins and needles. Maces of polished stone were used as weapons.

Their most famous site is Choirokoitia (Khirokitia), a walled village of c.60 excavated houses, (where 3 houses have been reconstructed) though there may have been more. Through most of the Neolithic period Cyprus remained relatively isolated, though there has been some imported obsidian and other imported materials found. 

At the end of the Aceramic Neolithic many sites were abandoned and new settlements established. From 5200/5000 – 4100/4000 BC there was a Ceramic, Neolithic II society across the island, probably brought by new settlers from Syria and Anatolia. Like the earlier settlers they lived by farming and herding. Their pottery was monochrome with combed decoration. In the final phase there was also a painted red on white ware. Burials outside the settlement became the norm. Their settlements, such as Sotira (c.50 thin-walled rectangular houses with rounded corners) were devastated by earthquakes c. 3800 BC


Chalcolithic Cyprus 4000/3800-2400 BC

The Erimi culture of the Chalcolithic Age, found especially in the South and West, followed Neolithic II without a cultural break.  Though still basically a stone-age society they discovered and worked the small nuggets of native copper which can be found on the surface of the earth. Only a few small items could be hammered out of this soft, pure copper: small chisels, hooks and jewellery.  The buildings were round, 2 – 16 metres across with painted plaster on mud brick walls, on a stone base.  The largest have internal posts to support the roof. There was growing social, as well as technical complexity which became more explicit in the Bronze Age. Houses and grave-goods now show some social differentiation. They made Red on White pottery as well as large plain, storage and cooking pots. The cruciform Picrolite (or sometimes pottery or larger, limestone) figurines with spread arms and long necks have become emblematic of the period. Some other ceramic figures explicitly depict childbirth. The island was probably ruled by regional chiefs.

In the late Chalcolithic (from 2800 BC) there was a shift in the underlying ideological system with a move away from communal activities, which led to changes in funeral ritual. Though most people were still buried within the settlements a select few were buried in cemeteries of rock-cut tombs. Monochrome pottery dominated and figurines apparently disappeared. There were some large communities of substantial, round stone and mud-brick houses, many abandoned before the Bronze Age. A few signs of Anatolian influence appear from 2800 BC onwards.

Philia Period (Early BronzeAge) 2500-2200 BC

Around 2500BC, new settlers from Anatolia (South Turkey) brought new technologies and animal species to Cyprus. They may have been refugees from Indo European invasions. (In Anatolia these conflicts led to the Accadian empire of Sargon the 1st.). The Philia culture, as it is now called, quickly moved from the North coastal plain into the foothills of the copper-rich Troodos mountains. They introduced copper smelting but it is unclear whether the resultant preponderance of arsenic bronze was through deliberate choice of arsenic rich ores. Cyprus has no tin deposits, so it was only much later that tin bronze was substituted.

They introduced ploughs and sickles and the warp-weighted loom and had mud-brick houses, or compounds, built on stone footings (rectangular rooms arranged around a courtyard). Pit and rock-cut chamber tombs were outside the walls. They brought in donkeys and re-introduced cattle to the island in large numbers. These animals pulling their new ploughs allowed larger areas to be taken into cultivation, which started an expansion of the population that continued through the Early and Middle Bronze Ages.

The Philia also made flat-bottomed red polished ware pottery (often with broken-line incised decoration). There are strong similarities with Anatolan Red Burnished ware (eg from Tarsus and Troy), though the latter had dishes and sometimes used the potters wheel - neither of these introduced in Cyprus. However the famous Philia large jugs with cut-away spout have parallels in western Anatolia.

The quite uniform Philia culture took a long time to occupy the whole island and the process appears to have been peaceful. The native Chalcolithic culture hung on in the South West and East till possibly as late as 2300 BCE. The Early Cypriot I culture which took over from them spread similarly slowly, starting at about the same time, and again the process seems to have been assimilation rather than conquest.

It is only recently with the work of Webb and Frankel that the Philia period has been accepted as predating Early Cypriot. The dates of Cypriot Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age periods tend to be regularly revised. Most knowledge comes from cemeteries and there has been limited digging of stratified occupation sites of this period, partly due to the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the North, which led to a UNESCO ban on archaeological co-operation. 

Early Cypriot (Early Bronze Age I-III) 2300 - 2000/1950 BC


Eventually the Philia culture hybridised with local Chalcolithic traditions, creating the Early Cypriot culture. Flat bottomed Red-Polished Philia pottery gave way to a profusion of local, round bottomed variants produced in each settlement. The centre of pottery innovation in the early to middle Cypriot period was at first Vounous and then nearby Lapithos, both near the North coast. There, as the Early Bronze Age progressed, signs of further social differentiation appeared in grave goods, probably driven by the organisation of the expanding copper production and trade, but this did not produce distinctive elite dwellings. Southern pottery remained plainer and less innovative, and the culture may have been less hierarchical.


There were no towns yet. Buildings in settlements were close-packed and shared walls. Access was by narrow lanes. Houses were occasionally stone but more often mud-brick on a stone base, generally composed of a few rectangular rooms on one or two sides of a small courtyard. Walls and sometimes floors were rendered with lime plaster with low benches and hearths against the walls and pivot holes for doors. There were mortars sunk into the floor and lime plaster bins for storage jars and pots. Pierced lugs on many smaller bowls and vessels suggest they may have been hung from pegs in the wall. Stone grinders and scrapers were used in food production. Although there are a few ceramic depictions of thrones, and some tables and possibly stools, most people probably sat on the floor to eat. After the Philia period and until near the end of the Middle Bronze Age almost all vessels had round bottoms (like many traditional African pots now), so large storage vessels sat in dips in the floor while others probably sat in organic rings.


Staple foods comprised bread wheat, barley, chickpeas, and lentils, plus probably dairy products, while the major source of meat was sheep and goat, supplemented by venison, pork, and beef only for special occasions such as funeral feasts. This would have been extended with olives, berries, nuts and herbs, and seafood by the coast. Wine and beer were drunk. Wool, goat hair, and later flax fibres were spun and made into cloth. 


Although food production and some fabrication took place in houses and courtyards there were also mixed use workshops. The best example was discovered at Pyrgos Mavroraki near Limasol, where a complex of buildings contained copper smelting facilities, a perfume factory, an oil press with 500 litre storage jars, textile production and a winery.


Unlike the intramural burials of the Chalcolithic, extramural cemetaries were a considerable distance from the settlements, though usually within sight of them, which suggests some nervousness about the dead. Aside from some pit graves, burial was in rock-cut chamber tombs, which had a Dromos (a shallow pit outside, possibly used for rituals) leading through a narrow entrance (or entrances) into one or several chambers, generally cut into soft limestone, which were progressively re-opened and re-used and added to by a kin-group, sometimes for hundreds of years. Most of the complete objects we now have came from these tombs.


There seems to have been a fertility cult based around horned animals, principally the bull. The snake, representing the chthonic forces of death and rebirth was also represented, and late in the early Bronze Age images of birds proliferated in grave goods, possibly representing the spirit. Funerals may have been double: a cursory burial was later followed, after only bones remained, by a major celebration when the bones were transferred to a family tomb. This would suggest a possible cult of ancestor reverence. It is probably misleading to make a distinction between sacred and secular in such early cultures.


These elaborate funerals involved feasting and the consumption of alcoholic drinks and were occasions for the assertion and display of status by the provision of food and grave goods, including pottery, bronze and gold objects. The most common are the simple bowls used by the participants but beside the normal jugs and bowls, more elaborate and imaginative composite pots with proliferating spouts and bodies appeared, plus scenic models, most probably made especially for funerals, and representations on vessels of activities and cult animals. A little before 2000 BC the mysterious Plank Figures started to be made at Lapithos, which are found both in settlements and tombs and spread across most of the island.



Middle Cypriot (Middle Bronze Age) 2000/1950 - 1650 BC

There is no cultural divide between this and the previous period. Middle Cypriot was defined by the introduction of White painted II ware as a high status alternative to Red polished wares. Other wares such as Black slip , Plain White Handmade and Red on Black joined them late in the period. The potters wheel was still not used and pots continued to have rounded bottoms. This was a period of great diversity and inventiveness with pottery-making still local and household based, with distinct local styles. Large pithoi (storage jars) 1.2 metres or more high were sometimes sunk into the floors of buildings and used used to store olive oil and grain. They were to become truly enormous in the Late Bronze Age. Pottery scenic models, plank figures and complex composite pots at first continued to develop.

There were no palatial structures, as known in many parts of the Middle East. Probably authority was still local and there is little sign of major conflict. It was not till the disturbed and transitional Middle Bronze Age III (1750-1650BC) that the few defensive forts appeared, probably to protect the copper trade routes from the Troodos mountains to newly founded Enkomi on the East coast. A number of settlements were abandoned at this time but there is no evidence for foreign raiding. At the same time the first towns such as Enkomi were founded, mostly close to the coast where the incipient international trade with other cultures, especially the Levant (Ugarit), Anatolia (ie South Turkey), Egypt and Minoan Crete, was producing the first luxury imported goods in exchange for Cypriot copper and timber. Over 200 gaming stones have been found for the Egyptian board games of Senet and Mehen. 

Extramural burial and funeral feasting continued. Throughout the Bronze Age till ca.1200BC) most burials, or at least the known higher status ones, continued to be in rock cut tombs. The bodies were laid on rock cut benches, or in niches for children and infants, and the vessels and other offerings were laid on the floor.

Until recently most knowledge of these early periods came from cemeteries and there had been limited digging of stratified occupation sites, partly due to the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the North, which led to a UNESCO ban on archaeological co-operation.


Late Cypriot (Late Bronze Age) 1650 - 1050 BC

Late Cypriot I (1650-1450BC) was a continuation of the transitional period of Middle Cypriot III.  It had been a period of disruption and unrest when many settlements were destroyed or abandoned and forts were built.  Most of the iconic products of the Early and Middle Bronze Ages such as plank figures disappeared, but many of those from the late Bronze Age (such as the "Astarte" figures) had not yet appeared. Almost all the old ceramic wares ended and new ones were created. There was a movement of population to the South and East coasts and towns started to develop. Late in this period writing was introduced, based (as was Mycenaean Linear B) on the syllabic Minoan Linear A script.  However,  there are a limited number of texts known and the Bronze Age Eteocypriot language is largely undeciphered.


Late Cypriot II (1450-1200BC) was a high point not just in Cypriot but in world civilization. Egypt, the Mycenaeans and Hittites were at their peak. In Egypt it was the period of Ramases II and Thutmose III, the warrior Pharaoh. The latter laid claim to Cyprus around 1450 BC and imposed a tax but his claim to have Conquered Cyprus was probably untrue. Then from 1430/1420 BC, Cyprus paid tribute to the Hitites, but Cyprus was not invaded except very briefly in the late 13th century BC when the Hittites claimed to have defeated their navy and then won a land battle. However despite these episodes Cyprus remained largely independent, peaceful and prosperous until the middle of the 12th century BC and achieved a level of civilisation not equalled till the Archaic period.

The population increased and coastal towns grew up which exported large amounts of Cypriot copper, in the form of oxhide-shaped ingots, as well as timber, pottery and perfumes, in exchange for luxury goods such as faience and cylinder seals from, among others, the Hittites (Turkey), Ugarit (Syria), Palestine, Mycenaeans (Greece), Crete and Egypt. A Late Cypriot shipwreck found off Anatolia contained 10 tons of copper as well as pottery. 

To meet this demand production of copper enormously increased and this required much greater specialization, organization and control of production and distribution, which created new elites. Cyprus moved from local control by chieftains to domination by a ruler based in Enkomi, though there was no palace culture such as had existed for some time in dominant mainland civilisations. This Kingdom became known as Alasiya (or Alashiya) and  its ruler wrote to the rulers of Egypt and Ugarit as equals.

Large, walled, grid-plan towns, such as Enkomi, grew up with some dressed stone houses and public buildings, and substantial sanctuaries containing walled courtyards (temenoi) containing stone horns of consecration and cult buildings, with containers and bull masks used in ceremonies (but few votive offerings). Some have metal workshops with smelting furnaces, either opening off them or closely associated, indicating the divine protection of this important resource. There were also large centralized storage facilities, such as the hall containing 50 giant pithoi for oil, 1.5 to 2 metres high at Kalavassos Aiyos Dimitrios.

Houses in towns and in mining and agricultural settlements displaying a variety of construction techniques, sizes and qualities, indicate an economic hierarchy. Typically a Late Bronze Age house featured several rooms built around 3 sides of a courtyard. Tables and other furniture were in use. A few bathrooms were supplied with cement floors, clay bathtubs and drains. At the start of the period they already had cisterns, benches, large storage pithoi and grinding installations.  Gaming stones, cylinder seals, silver bowls and elaborate bronze objects such as wheeled stands were made. 

Burials in urban areas were now beside, or even in the courtyards of houses, though in the country extramural cemeteries continued. Most tombs continued to be rock-cut but a few Corbelled rectangular tombs and Tholos type tombs were created.  Collective burial diminished, though two stage burial probably continued. Many funerals must have been spectacular with very rich grave goods.

Pottery from this period became more diverse in type but the forms became generally more standardised.  It was mass produced in a few sites, mostly by men, and was traded across the island.  By contrast, Middle Bronze Age ceramics had been locally made in inventive local styles, perhaps mostly by women.  Wheelmade pottery was still the exception, unlike on the continent. Although some wheel made wares were produced, especially in Late Cypriot III, the dominant Base Ring and White Slip wares were still handmade. The earlier limited trade with Minoan Crete was dwarfed by a flood of Mycenaean pottery found in many high status tombs.



Late Cypriot III : 1200 -1050 BC.


 Historically this was a period of major disaster and collapse regionally, with immigration and consequent change, culturally, socially, politically and artistically. However, compared to other regional powers Cyprus remained relatively stable until 1100 BC.

Attacks came from "sea peoples", who may have been the same Achaeans who created new settlements along the Cypriot coast in this period. Many of the major civilizations collapsed or were severely damaged. Mycenaean Greece, the Ugarit and Hittite empires disappeared (the latter already weakened by war with the Assyrians). Egypt was severely stressed. Epidemics and famines from climate change may have been factors. 

In Cyprus there was great variation in how settlements and cities fared. Cypriot coastal cities, including Enkomi, Sinda and Kition, were destroyed, some by earthquakes and subsequently rebuilt. Though these towns never quite reached their old level this was still a prosperous period, and the 13th and 12th centuries BC were the high-point of copper production, clearing more of the remaining forests for fuel. Several other ports were abandoned with no sign of destruction and this may reflect the huge dip in trade with the destroyed or reduced civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean and the subsequent failure of some interdependent mining and farming communities serving ports. Despite the abandonment of many settlements others were created to suit the new realities, and a few such as Palaepaphos and Hala Sultan Teke not only continued but had a golden period (though the latter, like Enkomi, was later abandoned due to its harbour silting up).

Waves of refugees, including craftsmen and potters came from Greece, and aspects of Mycenaean civilisation, which had disappeared in Greece, were developed in Cyprus. Ethnic Greeks gained more influence and Mycenaean artistic and political styles were copied and blended with local traditions, which lead, in the Geometric period, to the division of the country into Mycenaean style city kingdoms.

Burial methods changed from rock-cut tombs with a dromos to shaft graves and iron started to be made in this period. Halls with a hearth appeared, imitating the Mycenaean Megaron. Indeed the Late Cypriot IIIB (1125 - 1050 BC) is called the Sub-Mycenaean period, and sometimes now considered part of the Iron Age.  With the crash in foreign trade and consequent shortage of tin to make bronze, combined with lack of wood for smelting, many copper mines closed. Although iron smelting required higher temperatures, iron could be extracted mechanically from the old slag. The iron could not be heated hot enough to make it molten so it had to be forged to beat out impurities.

There is much evidence of a slump in population at the end of the Bronze Age which may relate not only to conflict but to the scarcity of metal for making ploughs and tools. In addition the deforested landscape had much of its thin topsoil washed away and the silt made several of the old harbours unusable. Foreign trade, which had already ended with the Aegean, almost ceased, and did not substantially revive until well into the Geometric period largely through the contacts of the new Phoenician settlers.

In ceramics, Base Ring and White Slip wares, which had dominated for so long, were replaced by Proto White Painted wares showing Mycenaean influence. Most pottery was now wheelmade.

Around 1050BC huge earthquakes destroyed or badly damaged most towns and settlements and many were never rebuilt. All the major sites from the height of the Bronze Age had now been abandoned



Early Iron Age: Cypro-Geometric Period 1050 - 750 BC

Around 1050 BC huge earth-quakes destroyed most of the recently rebuilt towns and new ones were founded.  Most had harbours.  Of the old ones only Palaepaphos and Kition survived.  Ruined Enkomi’s harbour had silted up so Salamis was founded on the new coast a few miles away. The 11th century was a dark period for Cyprus, with attacks on her coast and the collapse of foreign trade. The population decreased, perhaps partly due to a shortage of metal. (Bronze making required imported tin).  Greece had already entered an illiterate dark age, but the Mediterranean-wide crisis that ended most bronze age states ironically affected Cyprus less because it was less centralised.  From the copper sources in the foothills of the Troodos mountains, farming lands radiated in all directions to ports which became the centres for the formation of new city kingdoms in the Mycenaean manner. Although almost all trade had stopped, the regions could start to develop alternative trading partners, particularly to the West (Crete, Italy, Sardinia). There was a movement towards the coast.

Contact with the Levantine coast never completely stopped, and gradually trade resumed: these included ceramic exports to the East and luxury metalwork to Crete.  Contact with the Aegean returned, and from the 9th century Phoenicians were bringing Cyprus into their wider networks. 

Copper production picked up, along, slowly, with exports (though the standard large oxhide shaped ingots had disappeared).  Elaborate bronze tripods and 4 sided stands were produced, along with bronze and Silver bowls. There were also large roasting spits in the Mycenaean warrior tradition. However, from the start of the 11th century BC the Cypriot coastal settlements had also became centres for the pioneering development of Iron technology. Knives with iron blades became an important export to Syria, the Levant, Anatolia and the Aegean.  The earliest iron objects found in Greece originated in Cyprus.

The waves of Greek settlers in the 12th and 11th centuries BC had brought Greek culture and widespread use of the Greek language, but these people were not invaders or colonists. They inserted themselves into a living culture and an amalgam formed which was unified and distinct. The same thing happened later with the Phoenician settlers in Kition, though their kingdom paid tribute to the Phoenician kings ofTyre and their coins and inscriptions use the Phoenician language and alphabet.

Arcado-Cypriot Greek existed alongside the old Eteocypriot language of the Bronze Age, though both were written in the Cypriot syllabary, descended from Linear A. The Greek alphabet did not come into wide use till the Classical period.

Gradually through the Early Iron Age ethnic Greeks came to dominate Cyprus’s elite, and a very stratified society formed, with palaces and large houses, but the process is obscure. The new elites were warrior elites. Most of the new towns and settlements persisted for very long historic periods and were constantly rebuilt on the same sites. Consequently Archaeologists find few remains of buildings from the Geometric and Archaic periods.

Vast extramural cemeteries appeared which were used for centuries, including Mycenaean type chamber tombs with a long dromos, and a few warrior graves in monumental built tombs. However there were only a few cremations for exceptional individuals, perhaps with Aegean affiliations.

By 850BC, ambitious cut-stone temple buildings to the Phoenician goddess Astarte were being built at Kition (Larnaca) and Palace-like houses were being built, probably influenced by the Mycenaean Megaron, but even the finest dwellings were still plastered mud-brick on a stone base.

Now and especially in the Archaic period there was a multiplication of country shrines, particularly at the frontiers between the kingdoms, (where Kings and their families left life size votive sculptures.) where people from all around left votive figurines and other offerings.

Pottery was all wheel-made and consisted of White Painted and Bichrome wares, as well as a plain white ware, and a less common, ribbed, Black Slip Ware continued from the end of the Bronze Age. There were elements of a common ceramic style with the Levant, and the important Black on Red Ware, starting in the 9th century, was once though to come from there. However it is now recognised as a Cypriot product, widely exported to the Levant, Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, the Aegean and Crete, and much imitated. (This Geometric III period also brought three minor wares: Red Slip and Grey, and Black Polished.) The shapes and decorations were fairly standard and mass produced, ranging from huge amphorae to tiny perfume bottles. Levantine flasks and globular jug shapes were adopted, and influences from Greece are also discernible. Plates and large dishes were made for the first time. Figurines of a goddess with raised arms were copied from Crete.

Near the end of the Geometric period, in the first half of the 8th century BC, there was a sharp increase in numbers of settlements, ranging from large fortified urban centres down to numerous small rural ones, and many of the imported and home produced luxuries characteristic of the Archaic were already present. 



Early Iron Age: Cypro-Archaic period 750 - 475 BC

In the Archaic period Cyprus achieved another great period of prosperity and productivity.  Populations and literacy increased, along with monumental architecture and a ruling class who indulged in luxury and ostentation.

From now on we have direct, translated written records, and dates can be much more precise.  Earlier dates were inferred from linked finds in other countries, and the stratification of archaeology.  

Late in the 8th century BC the expansion of the Assyrian empire had swept west as far as the Phoenician, coast and in 707 BC Sargon II set up a stele in Kition recording the submission of seven Cypriot kings.  Before this Shilta, the Phoenician king of Tyre, had asked the Assyrians for help in suppressing a rebellion of his subjects in Cyprus who were withholding their tribute (Kition?). Until recently these two inscriptions were taken to mean that Cyprus was invaded and conquered, but the Assyrian records show that in 707BC Cypriot leaders (presumably fearing attack and wanting access to the vast trade the Assyrians controlled) jointly went to Sargon II in Babylon, offering gifts and allegiance.  In consequence the Cypriot city kingdoms were probably never attacked and did not become vassal states.  Instead they became client kingdoms and the resultant trade brought the island great wealth. Evidence of these riches can be seen in monumental architecture and magnificent burial gifts, such as wood and ivory Phoenician furniture, and horses drawn chariots and hearses with the animals sacrificed beside them.

In the 672/3 BC the Assyrian Esarhaddon’s prism named 10 Cypriot kings and their kingdoms (out of  the 12 which existed at various times). These latter were identified as Idalion, Chytroi, Salamis, Paphos, Soloi, Kourion, Tamassos, Ledra, “Quardihadasti” (possibly Amathous or Kition) and “Nuria” (Amathous or Marion)  Half the kings had Greek names.  Lapethos probably became a kingdom later (it issued coins around 500BC but the town has not been found.)  Of these Salamis and Kition vied to be the most important.  After Ashurbanipal (669-631) Cyprus is not mentioned in Assyrian records.

Herodotus the Greek historian, in the last sentence of book 2 of his Histories wrote "Amasis" (Ahmose II of Egypt in perhaps 570BC) "was also the first man to seize Cyprus and compel it to pay tribute." but there is no other evidence for this and many historians now tend to discount it.  Certainly the important influence of Egyptian iconography and style on Cyprus long predates this, ranging from palmate decoration and stylistic features of sculpture, but most of all the iconography of the goddess Hathor who had become a protectress of mining, and was perhaps identified with the ancient Great Goddess of Cyprus, worshiped at Paphos.

Between about 560 BC and his death in 530 the Persians under Cyrus the Great conquered almost all the kingdoms of the Middle East.  Around 545 or possibly 530 BC Cyprus submitted to the Persians, probably without a military conquest. Following their usual practice the latter left the Cypriot local kings in place. In 525 Cyprus contributed ships to the conquest of Egypt by Cyrus’s successor, Cambyses II .  In 498 BC several Cypriot kings joined the Ionian revolt against the Persians but were crushed in a  battle where the forces from Kourion changed sides, followed by the Salamian chariots. In the sieges which followed Salamis was spared and Soloi the last to fall in 497. Subsequently Cypriot forces aided the Persians against the Phoenicians and Miletus.  Persian rule favoured kingdoms with harbour facilities and gradually all the inland kingdoms lost their autonomy, starting with Tamassos. Only Idalion survived beyond the Ionian revolt.

Around 530/520 BC, Evelthon, the Wanax (king) of Salamis issued the first Cypriot coinage at the old Lydian weights, followed shortly afterwards by Paphos and then Idalion and, by the middle of the 5th century, most of the remaining independent Kingdoms.  Most inscriptions used the Cypriot syllabary  (used to write both Cypro-Arcadian Greek and the old Eteocypriot language), though the early coins of Kition, Lapethos and Amathous had inscriptions in the Phoenician alphabet. This was before Tyre and Byblos, in Phoenicia, minted their first coins.

The Persian rule was very light at first, but after the Ionian revolt these smooth relation ended.  Cyprus contributed men and ships to the Persian war against Greece 480-479BC. The Phoenicians, as dependable allies of the Persians gained influence, controlling 6 of the 10 old kingdoms, 3 of the kings being Phoenician. Around 450 BC Kition conquered Idalion, for a while taking over from Salamis as the dominant Cypriot kingdom in this transition to the Classical period.

During the Archaic period Cyprus flourished and traded widely.  Their wares show influence from the Phoenicians, Greeks and Egyptians, while Cypriot influence was felt abroad. Goods, including pottery was exported to the Aegean and Levant while materials such as precious metals were imported.

The Archaic urban centres were walled and contained the palace of a king, mansions of the upper echelons of society and progressively smaller and rougher housing through the merchants and artisans.  Houses were flat roofed, built of plastered mud brick walls on a stone base.  Essentially not so different from the Neolithic. Floors were usually lime cement, often plastered – only rarely stone, often in bathrooms  The innovations were mostly in the detail of grander buildings, such as palmette ornament, and Proto Aeolic and Hathor-headed capitols.  Palaces contained both sanctuaries and industrial and storage areas, continuing the link between metal production and religion seen in Late Bronze Age Enkomi.  Only small fragments of the pre-Hellenistic Palaces remain, the chief being part of a Geometric III palace at Amathous, the outlying but complete palace, from the late Archaic / early classical, at Vouni and parts of a similarly dated palace at Idalion. Vouni’s Archaic palace has an outer and inner court perhaps blend influences from the Mycenaean Megaron with Eastern prototypes.  “The kings used the title of Basileus in inscriptions: a Greek term (originally meaning a provincial manager) which in Cyprus came to represent the king’s undivided secular and sacred authority. 

The chief pottery styles continued from the Geometric period, but show new decoration and shapes from the East.  The West coast particularly favoured Geometric decoration, featuring concentric circles, while the East favoured figurative, floral or animal designs (occasionally introducing the human figure).  Plain white or Red slip vessels show Phoenician influence from Kition. Plain white amphorae were used to transport commodities. 

Many, usually quite crude, pottery figurines exist from this period, some depicting everyday life.  Most were votive offerings from country shrines. (see below). There is also much finer terracotta and stone sculpture which relates to Assyrian and Egyptian and Archaic Greek styles, often with protruding almond shaped eyes.  Cyprus has no marble and stone sculpture was carved from limestone which cannot accept the level of finish and detail which marble allows. 

Bread continued to be baked and wine and beer to be drunk. Foods, from remains found or known from depictions included fish, octopus, molluscs, birds, snails, eggs, fruit, cereals, lentils, olives, figs, almonds, dates, herbs, as well as the meat of oxen, sheep, pigs, wild boar, goats, deer, moufflon and perhaps gazelle.  Meat and fish were preserved in fat and salt respectively and the rich roasted meat on long bronze skewers, derived from Mycenaean warrior prototypes.  Terracotta models and paintings on vases depict cereals being ground, bread and cakes being baked and carried, fruit gathered, grapes trodden, fish being caught in a net and animals hunted with bows and arrows or spears, men carrying wine jars on their shoulders and women carrying water in amphorae on their heads.  Sacred dances are being danced, harps, lyres, double flutes, bronze cymbals and tambourines being played, women giving birth, attended by midwives,  baths taken, feasts eaten by figures on couches and in (possibly sacred) gardens, scribes writing, warriors on foot or on horses or on chariots brandish weapons. Sailors go to sea, animal are sacrificed and votive offerings are made to divinities, the Egyptian board games of Senet and Mehen were played.

There was fine furniture and a multitude of small containers for perfumes and unguents, in terracotta, glass, alabaster, faience; also bronze mirrors, tweezers razors and the other accoutrements for cosmetics. Intricate jewellery, rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and clothing and hairstyles influenced by the East and the Aegean.


Cypro-Classical (475 - 323 BC) etc

The Persians had occupied Cyprus in about 525BC as part of their 5th Satrapy. Cyprus contributed men and ships to the Persian war against Greece 480-479BC. The Phoenicians in Cyprus, as allies of the Persians gained influence. Kition (a Phoenician colony since at least the 8th Century BC) conquered Idalion around 450 BC.  Eventually controlling 6 of the 10 kingdoms, with 3 of the kings being Phoenician. They introduced their deities to Cyprus, many of them corresponding to existing Greek deities (for example Astarte/Aphrodite).  However at the start of the 4th century Evagoras took control of most of the island and tried to gain independence from Persia but failed.   Cypriots fought for independence several times, aided by the Greeks including a revolt in 350 BC which was crushed by Artaxerxes.   Finally Cyprus was liberated by Alexander the Great in 333BC after Cypriot kings supported him in the siege of Tyre.

Cyprus was cut off from trade with Greece till late in the 5th century, after which Greek intellectuals and artist moved between the two countries, influencing Cypriot art, particularly Sculpture which flourished, and jewellery. Large quantities of Greek-style pottery have been found.

The death of Alexander in 323BC marks the start off the Hellenic period.  His empire (and Cyprus) was fought over by his followers. 4 Cypriot kings supported Ptolemy I (one of Alexander's generals ruling Egypt) against Antigonos. Ptolomy lost control of Cyprus in 306 and 294 BC but thereafter Ptolomaic Egypt ruled Cyprus through officials in Paphos, abolishing the Cypriot kingdoms. Greek was the dominant language, though the Etocypriot language was still spoken, dying out in the 3rd century.  Hellenistic art and culture came to dominate Cyprus and Phoenician and native Cypriot characteristics disappeared, along with the Cypriot syllabic script. Number of new cities were founded.   In 58 BC the island was annexed by Rome. Mark Antony gave Cyprus to Cleopatra VII of Egypt and her sister Arsenoe IV, but after his defeat at Actium it became a Roman province again in 30BC, and remained so till the division of the Empire into East and West, Cyprus belonging to East.


58 BC - 2021 AD

Until modern times Cyprus continued to be ruled by more powerful neighbours: after the Persians in the Classical Period, and Ptolomaic Egypt in the Hellenistic period, they were ruled successively by the Romans, the Byzantines (including briefly Arab/ Bizantine co-rule) and later still crusader Franks (Lusignans), Venetians, Turks and finally the British. They finally became independent in 1960, but Partition into a Turkish North and Greek South followed the Turkish invasion of north Cyprus in 1974.