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Cyprus History

Phoenician-led Renaissance & Assyrian Rule

Old fertility goddess of the island, who was addressed as Astare by the Phoenicians and Aphrodite by the GreeksPhoenician merchants were responsible for the restoration of trade routes and cultural contacts that had been severed during the fall of the Late Bronze Age civilisations. 

The Phoenician homeland was a loose confederation of half a dozen cities along the coast of Lebanon. Nearby Cyprus with her rich woods and copper mines was one of their first ports of call. By the mid-9th century B.C. a Phoenician colony was already well established at Kition (modern Larnaca), with small but influential trading communities in the other emerging towns. 

As well as luxury goods for the royal courts such as textiles, engraved gemstones, carved ivories, metalwork, glass, paper and their famous purple cloth, the Phoenicians brought with them another of their inventions, the alphabet.

Within a century of its importation to Cyprus, the alphabet was being used by the Greek-speaking settlers and those who still spoke the language of the Cypriot Bronze Age. Amathus and Palea Paphos were the strongholds of the latter and retained their shrines to the old fertility goddess of the island, who was addressed as Astare by the Phoenicians and Aphrodite by the Greeks. 

Ancient Pottery, Cyprus, ca 800BC,  "Black-on-Red Ware" these pieces were votive offerings made to Gods and ancestors. This particular piece was found in an Archaic-period grave in Lebanon. 3.4" (8.7cm) x 2.3" (5.8cm)

In 709 B.C. Sargon II of Assyria erected a stela at Kitium recording the fact that seven Cypriot kings had paid him homage; subsequent Assyrian documents speak of 11 tributary kingdoms, the seven (Curium, Paphos, Marion, Soli, Lapithos, Salamis, and Amathus) plus Kitium, Kyrenia, Tamassos, and Idalium. 

The subordination to Assyria, probably rather nominal lasted until about 663 B.C. for the next hundred years Cyprus enjoyed a period of complete independence and exuberant development. 

Epic poetry was greatly popular, as it had always been, and much was written on the island; Stasinus of Cyprus, credited with the authorship of the lost epic poem "Cypria", was reckoned among the most important poets in this style in the 7th century B.C. Bronze work and ironwork, a spirited style of ceramic decoration, and delicate jewellery and ivory work are characteristic of this period; among outstanding works are the sumptuous ivory throne and bedstead excavated from a royal tomb at Salamis dated from about 700 B.C. 



  • B. Rogerson (1994), Cyprus, Cadogan, London.



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