katapi HOMEkatapi new bible atlas | HOME | CYPRUS | <Region | [MAP] | [EARTH]

CYPRUS (See also wiki article Cyprus.)

CYPRUS - An island in the NE. corner of the Mediterranean Sea, about 40 miles W. of the coast of Syria and 60 miles S. of Turkey, whose mountains are visible on a clear day. Third largest of the islands of the Mediterranean (after Sicily and Sardinia), Cyprus has an area of 3572 square miles with 486 miles of coast line which is characterized by a few small harbours and long sandy beaches. Its greatest length is 140 miles, breadth 60 miles. In configuration it consists of a long plain shut in on the N. and the SW. by mountain ranges, Mount Olympus (Troodos) being the highest peak at 6406 feet; at the NE. it tapers into a narrow strip of land about 6 miles wide and 46 miles long, terminating in Cape Andreas. Once covered by extensive forests' which are gradually being restored in modern times, the island has been coveted by great world powers since the dawn of history because of its natural resources and its strategic importance for the political and military control of the Middle East.

In the AV of the OT the name 'Cyprus' does not occur. The RSV has 'Cyprus' in four passages (Is.23.1, 12; Jer.2.10, Ezk.27.6) where it is a translation of the Hebrew Kittim (Gr. Kition and Chettion). The contexts of these passages, with their references to wood from Kittim (q.v.) and implying proximity to the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, make it probable that Cyprus is mentioned. The name Kittim, which is the same as the name of the Phoenician town Kition, now the city of Larnaka in Cyprus, was also used to designate a larger region of the Mediterranean and its peoples. In Gn.10.4 Kittim is spoken of as a son of Javan together with Elishah, Tarshish, and Dodanim. This probably implies that the earliest population of Cyprus was akin to the pre-HeIlenic population of Greece. But the name Kittim is also used in the OT of the West generally, as in Dn.11.30 of the Romans (cf Dead Sea Scroll Habakkuk Commentary, col. iia, 12), and in Nu.24.24 where the context does not make clear whether the name refers to Cyprus or the Mediterranean countries generally.

In the early records of the Egyptian, Hittite, and Mesopotamian rulers, the island is mentioned under various names such as 'Asi' (records of the military campaigns of Thutmose III.), 'Alashiya' (Journey of Wen-Amon to Phoenicia, War of Rameses in. against the Sea Peoples, and Hittite ritual texts) and 'ladanana' (Inscriptions of Sargon II. and Sennacherib). The evidence pertaining to these early names for the island is summarized by R. Dussaud (cf C. Schaeffer, Enkomi-Alasia, I. (1952).

The name 'Cyprus' is a transliteration of the Greek Kypros (see 1 Mac.15.23, 2 Mac.4.29, 10.13, 12.2) which is also the Greek word for 'copper,' the mineral which was mined in quantities in ancient times and exported to other regions of the Mediterranean. A Hittite ritual text refers to copper and bronze brought from Mount Taggata in Cyprus (Alasiya); copper was exported to Europe as late as the Middle Ages. In the NT, Cyprus (Gr. Kypros, Kyprios) is mentioned only in connexion with the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas (see below).

The history of Cyprus can be traced, not only through literary references to the island in ancient Near Eastern texts, but also through other results of archaeological work beginning during the period of Turkish domination and continuing in the 20th cent. under British control. Excavations have been conducted under the auspices of Swedish, British, and American institutions, and by the Department of Antiquities with headquarters in Nicosia, the capital of the island (see P. Dikaios, A Guide to the Cyprus Museum, 1953). Human occupation has been traced back to the Neolithic (New Stone) age, about 3700 BC, when large communities existed near springs or rivers, some animals were domesticated, flint and bone implements were used, and the presence of obsidian blades suggests a contact with Asia Minor. Copper was apparently first used about 3200 BC (the beginning of the Chalcolithic period), although stone implements continued to be used during the period. The demand for copper in other parts of Asia Minor doubtless encouraged commercial relationships with Cyprus.

It was once thought that copper was first exported by Phoenicians, who early founded Kition and other towns in Cyprus, and introduced the worship of the Syrian Aphrodite who became known to the Greeks as the 'Cyprian goddess.' However, recent excavations have uncovered material remains of the early Bronze Age (also called Early Cypriot Age, c 2400-2000 BC) and of the Middle Bronze Age (also called Middle Cypriot Age, c 2000-1550 BC) which indicate commercial relationships with Anatolia, Minoan Crete, and Egypt, as well as with the peoples of the Syrian coast. The Late Bronze (or Late Cypriot) Age (c 1550-1050 BC) was a very significant one, witnessing as it did, further contacts with the Syro-Palestinian areas, and also the arrival of Mycenaean settlers, military occupation by the Egyptians under Thutmose III., and waves of Achaean colonists following the Trojan War. During this period Cyprus became an island link between the lands of the East and the West; excavations reveal considerable wealth and a high degree of culture.

Although Cyprus did not develop as a strong independent power, some degree of independence was maintained under Cypriot kings during the Iron Age (c 1050-950 BC). Commercial relationships with Phoenicia were strong, but it was not until about 800 BC that Phoenician penetration reached its height, especially at the Tyrian city of Kition. In 709 BC Assyrian control of the island began, as recorded in the inscription of Sargon n. at Kition, and later Assyrian kings report tribute received from Cyprus. The prism of Esar-haddon (673 BC) refers to ten kings from Cyprus (ladnana) who were, among others, subject to him. Shortly thereafter, Assyrian domination of Cyprus came to an end, and there was almost a century of independence which was characterized by much activity in the building of palaces, ships and homes, and advances in ceramic art and poetry. About 560 BC Amasis of Egypt conquered the island, and it passed with Egypt to Cambyses of Persia in 525 BC, although Cypriot kings continued in power and minted their own coinage under the Persian kings. In 500 BC the Greek cities of the island joined in the Ionic revolt against the Persians, but Kition and probably other Phoenician cities on the island remained loyal to Persia. During the 5th cent. the island remained subject to Persia and in 480 BC supplied 150 ships for the fleet of Xerxes. Athens made repeated attempts to secure the island, but the mixed population prevented any strong Hellenic movement, and it only passed definitely into Greek hands by submission to Alexander the Great after the battle of Issus in 333 BC. On the division of his empire it fell to the Ptolemies of Egypt, until it was annexed by Rome in 57 BC. It was made a separate province after the battle of Actium in 31 BC, becoming at first an 'imperial' province, but was, in 22 BC transferred to 'senatorial' government, so that in Ac.13.7 Luke rightly describes the governor as the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. An inscription found near Paphos about AD 1870 and dated about AD 55 mentions a Paulus who was proconsul, although scholars do not agree that this is the same individual mentioned in Ac.13.7.

Jews first settled in Cyprus under the Ptolemies, and their numbers there were considerable before the time of the Apostles. Barnabas is described as a 'Levite, a native of Cyprus' (Ac.4.36). When he and Paul started from Antioch on the First Missionary Journey, they first of all passed through Cyprus (Ac.13.4-12). They landed at Salamis, then a Greek port flourishing with Syrian trade (as demonstrated by modern excavations); the city now deserted?with its harbour silted up?is three miles from Famagusta. Here they preached in the synagogue, where their message was probably not entirely new (Ac.11.19), and then journeyed through 'the whole island' (Ac.13.6, RSV) to New Paphos in the W. - a three or four days' journey, even if they preached nowhere on the way. New Paphos, like Old Paphos, was the seat of the worship of Aphrodite (see PAPHOS), and was at this time the Roman capital. (For the incidents connected with the proconsul and the magus, see articles SERGIUS PAULUS and BAR-JESUS.)

Besides Barnabas we have mention of Mnason, 'an early disciple' (RSV), as coming from Cyprus (Ac.21.16), but little information is available regarding the fortunes of the Christian community under later centuries of Roman rule. The Jews of Cyprus took part in the great revolt in AD 117 (when Trajan was busy with Parthia) which was participated in by Jews of Egypt and Cyrene, and they are said to have massacred 240,000 of the Gentile population on Cyprus. Hadrian, who later became emperor, put down the revolt and expelled all Jews from the island.

Following the division of the Roman empire in AD 395 Cyprus was ruled from Constantinople by the Byzantine emperors. The Christians enjoyed a degree of autonomy having been granted the right to elect and consecrate their own bishops and archbishop by the councils of Ephesus (AD 431) and Trullan (AD 692). During the following centuries Cyprus was often the scene of conflict involving Moslem and Byzantine forces. Seized in 1191 by Richard Coeur de Lion (Richard I.), it was sold to the Knights Templars, and it became a bastion of the Crusaders after defeats in Syria and Palestine. In 1373 Italian forces from Genoa were able to seize the port of Famagusta and assume control of the government and commerce for almost a century. In the 15th cent. Cyprus became a part of the Mediterranean empire ruled from Venice. After three centuries of Turkish rule it passed under British rule in 1878, by a convention requiring continued payment of tribute to the Sultan.

In 1914 Cyprus became a British crown colony and its people, a mixture of Greek and Turkish communities, enjoyed a period of peace and increasing prosperity. Following World War II. and the expulsion of British military forces from Egypt and Jordan, Cyprus became a strong British base in the eastern Mediterranean. This development coincided with a renewal of the demand by segments of the Greek population for union (enosis) with Greece. The Turkish population reacted against this movement, and the 1950's were characterized by violence and bloodshed caused by extremists in both segments of the population. In spite of this situation, the tourist trade and commerce increased. New roads were built, harbour installations were improved at Famagusta and Larnaka with the construction of piers, although Limassol remained an open roadstead where large ships must be loaded and unloaded by means of lighters. A modern airport near Nicosia served to link the island with Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the countries of the Middle East. The copper mines, which made Cyprus famous in ancient times but were neglected from the Roman occupation until the 19th cent, became in modern times the source of cupreous pyrites; other minerals being mined include iron pyrites, asbestos, chrome ore, and gypsum.

In 1960 Cyprus became an independent sovereign state with a Greek Cypriot President and a Turkish Cypriot Vice-President. It continues to belong to the British Commonwealth. Two areas of the island where there are military bases remain under United Kingdom sovereignty. [Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963. - A.E.H. - W.L.R.]

CYRENE - Capital of Libya (Tripoli) in N. Africa (Ac.2.10), the home of numerous Jews who with the 'Libertines' (freedmen from Rome ?) and Alexandrians had a synagogue of their own at Jerusalem (Ac.6.9). Many of these became Christians, as Simon and his sons (doubtless), Mk.15.21; Lucius, Ac.13.1; and those in Ac.11.20 who preached to the 'Greeks' (v.l.'Hellenists'). [Article