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 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 chariots brandish weapons, sailors go to sea, animal sacrifices 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; 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.