Goddess of love, blow us kisses! Cyprus is home to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of Love, who arose from the sea as a full-grown (and lovely) woman and sailed to shore in a seashell. It's also the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea with its geological origins in the fiery heat of volcanic eruption.
The history of Cyprus begins as far back as the Neolithic Age of 7000 BC. Relics exist showing settlements to the north and south coastlines. The first Greeks came to the island around 1400 BC, Mycenaean merchants who brought Hellenistic influences with them.
Between the time of the Greeks and the arrival of the Romans, Cyprus was conquered by Assyria, Egypt and Persia. Alexander the Great claimed Cyprus for his empire as of 333 BC, and it became part of the Roman Empire in 58 BC. It became the first country to be governed by a Christian when St. Paul experienced conversion there.
After the fall of Rome Cyprus was annexed into the Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople for its capital. This situation lasted until Richard the Lion-Hearted arrived in 1191 on a Holy Crusade, conquered the island and sold it to the Templars. Since they were basically wiped out at the start of the 14th century, Cyprus turned to Catholic feudal control and stayed that way until 1571, when the Ottoman Empire invaded and took reign. With this came the expulsion of Catholicism, introduction of Islam and the return of Greek Orthodoxy.
The Ottomans kept power until the end of WWI, when Britain assumed administrative duties over the island. As of 1925 it was declared a Crown colony, and in 1955 there began an armed rebellion against British rule.
The Republic of Cyprus was granted independence by the British in 1960. It joined the European Union in 2004 although dispute remains over who controls it. Right now there are four sectors. The biggest one belongs to the Republic of Cyprus; Turkish Cypriots occupies one third of the island (to the North), the United Nations has control of the border between these two, and Britain hold two sovereign naval base areas.
I'm not sure Aphrodite would approve of all these squabbles. Then again, she did have that brawl with Persephone over who got to live with Adonis the heartbreaker...
Text by Steve Smith