Cyprus History

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Cyprus has been inhabited since very ancient times. The Cyprus' Greek cultural heritage, which became the dominant influence on the island, can be traced to the first Greek colonization in the thirteenth century B.C. The Phoenicians began to colonize the island about 800 B.C. Control of the island passed from empire to empire. Assyrian occupation (about 700 B.C.) was followed by Egyptian (550 B.C.), then Persian (525 B.C.). Alexander the Great, took Cyprus from Persia in 323 B.C., placing Cyprus in the Greek Alexandrine world. After the death of Alexander the island passed to Egypt under the Hellenic Ptolemy dynasty. Rome gained control in 58 B.C. Nevertheless, the island maintained a Hellenic Greek ethnic identity. The apostles Paul and Barnabas introduced Christianity. After the division of the Roman Empire into two parts, Cyprus came under the Greek dominated Eastern Roman Empire, known as Byzantium.

In 1191 A.D. the island was seized by Richard I, King of England, who gave it to Guy Lusignan, crusader and titular king of Jerusalem. The Frankish Lusignan dynasty lasted from 1191 to 1498. In 1498, Venice took control of Cyprus and fortified the island as a last bastion against the Ottomans in the east Mediterranean. Under the rule of these crusaders Roman Catholic clergy controlled the church. The Ottoman Turks, finally captured the island in 1571 and held control until the 1800s. During this time the island gained a substantial minority of Turks, mostly in northern Cyprus. The Turks expelled the Catholic hierarchy and the Greek Orthodox faith was restored; in time, the Archbishop of Nikosia as leader of the Greek Orthodox, became the island’s representative to the Ottoman government.

Despite a history of repeated occupations by different conquering powers, the people of Cyprus retained Greek cultural identity and language. The Greek population of Cyprus yearned to be part of Greece. Although Greek Cypriots assisted in the War of Greek Independence in 1821 to 1827, the island did not become part of the independent Greek kingdom in 1832. The Ottoman Empire held Cyprus until 1878 when they were defeated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Fearing greater expansion by Russia, Turkey induced the British to administer Cyprus. Under the enabling convention, the British received complete control of Cyprus for a rental of about $500,000 yearly, and Turkey retained nominal title. When the British administrators assumed office in 1879 they were presented with a petition from the Archbishop and the Greek community calling for union with the Kingdom of Greece which greatly dismayed the Turkish inhabitants of the island. The petition was denied.

When Turkey joined the Central Powers in World War I, Great Britain abrogated the 1878 treaty in November 1914 and annexed Cyprus. The British government then offered Cyprus to Greece if Greece would agree to enter the war on the Allied side. Greece was given one week to decide, and when the decision was delayed the British withdrew the offer. By the terms of the peace arrangement imposed on the Turks after the war, Turkey formally recognized British possession of Cyprus and in 1925 the island was made a crown colony. In 1959, it became an independent republic.[1]

Population Statistics

The population of Cyprus in A.D. 1000 may have been approximately 150,000 persons. These were Greek speaking inhabitants. The population rose to 200,000 by 1500. The population was reduced by the Turkish invasion in 1570. After the Turks gained control the population gained a substantial portion of Turks, but wars and plagues continued to reduce the total number of people. By 1600 the total stood at 120,000 but dropped to 110,000 by the year 1700. The population rose to 150,000 by 1850, 180,000 by 1875, and 230,000 in 1925. The census of 1960 reported 577,615 inhabitants. The 1975 population was 640,000. In 1998 there were a total of 729,800 people on Cyprus including Greeks, Turks, and others. Among the “others” are English and Armenians. Major cities (with 1992 population) are: Nikosia (177,000); Limassol (136,000); Larnaka (60,000); and Pafos (32,000). Another large city, Famagusta, now under Turkish occupation, had a population of 39,000 in 1982.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Cyprus,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1994-1998.