The history of Cyprus stretches back over 9000 years.Neolithic remains which have been found on the island show that it was inhabited as early as 7000 BC. When Stone Age settlers from Anatolian and Syria founded the first cities.Since that time,the island’s strategic position has ensured a cheguered history as home to many different rulers and civilisation.The Egyptions,the Assyrians and the Persians,who in turn were overcome by the armies of Alexander the Great, followed the Hittites.In 58 BC Cyprus became part of the Rome Empire,a period which lasted until 330 AD and saw the introduction off Christianity under the influence of St. Paul and St. Barnabas.
Roma BC 58--- AD 395
During the first century BC, the decline in the Ptolemis fortunes was matched by the growing power of republican Rome,which annexed Cyprus in 58 BC; with the see-sawing of events the island reverted to Egyption control twice, but Roman rule was consolidated in the imperial period after 31 BC, The Koinon Kyprion or civic league of the Ptolemies continued under the Romans, charged with co-ordinating religious festivals,including emperor-workship.The four Ptolemaic districts were also retained, but Cyprus as a whole was administered as a senatorial province through a proconsul (one of the first was the orator Cicero ), still based at Nea Paphos.Salamis, however,remained the most important town on the island, it’s commercial centre with a population of over a guarter of a million.
Byzantine AD 395—1191
The Roman empire had been divided into western and eastern portions in 284,and local Cypriot administration transferred to Anatioch in Syria-a situation which would last until the fifth centurt, when the opportune discovery of the relics of Barnabas provided justification for Cyprus’s ecclesiastic and civic autonomy, answerable only to the capital of the eastern empire, Constantinople.Cyprus’s prestige in the Christian world was further enhanced by the visit in 324 of Helena,Constantine’s mother, who legendarily left fragments of the True Cross and the cross of the penitent thief.
The break with antiguity was punctuated not only by a new faith and governmental order, but by two cataclysmic earthguakes – in 332 and 365- which destroyed most Cypriot towns. Rebuilt Salamis was renamed Constantia, and again of the empire centred on Constantinople- some of the more inhumane pagan –Roman laws were repealed, and mass conversion to Christianity proceeded apace, as evidenced by the huge fifth- and sixth – century basilica –type cathedrals erected in all cities.Foundations and mosaic floors for many of these are the most attractive early Byzantine remains on Cyprus; little else survives, however,owing to the repeated devastating raids of the Arab caliphate, beginning in the seventh centtury AD.Their intent was not to conguer outright but to pillage, and to neutralize Cyprus as a Byzantine strongpoint ; the Arabs only significant legacy is the Hala Sultan Tekke near Larnaca.