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September 10, 2017 by Chris Christou

More than 7000 years ago the first men landed on the shores of Cyprus. The first Greeks came to the Island of Cyprus in 1400 BC. The Greek civilization on the island did not go unchallenged. Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians all attacked the island between 725 BC and 333 BC. Then in 333 BC Alexander the Great seized control of Cyprus.

Cyprus remained under Greek control until the Island fell to the invading Roman forces. When Rome eventually lost its control over vast stretches of the known civilization, then Cyprus came under the rule of Byzantium. The people of Cyprus then considered Constantinople to be their capital.

Byzantium retained control of Cyprus until the time of the Crusades. In 1091 Richard the Lionhearted invaded and conquered the Island of Cyprus. That change brought the feudal system of government to Cyprus. That system remained the governing force until 1489 AD.

In 1489 AD control of Cyprus passed to the Venetians. That allowed for a greater presence of the Roman Catholic Church on the island. The Venetians constructed stronger defenses on the island. They retained control of Cyprus until 1571, when those defenses failed and Ottoman troops stepped onto the Cypriot shores.

The Ottomans brought Islam to Cyprus. The introduction of Islam caused a decline in the number of Cypriot citizens who chose to join the Roman Catholic Church. The citizens of Cyprus, however, did not flock to the houses of worship opened by the Muslim invaders. They chose instead to return to the Greek Orthodox Church, a religion that had been introduced by the rulers from Byzantium.

The Ottomans managed to rule Cyprus until 1914. The Ottomans lost control of Cyprus by making a fateful decision. They chose to side with the Germans during World War I. At the conclusion of the war, Britain, being on the winning side, annexed the Island of Cyprus. That made Cyprus a crown colony of Britain. By 1955, the citizens of Cyprus had come to resent that colonial rule.

In 1955 the people of Cyprus took part in a rebellion. They rebelled against their British rulers. By 1960 Cyprus had gained its independence. It had become a separate country with its own government.

Independence on Cyprus did not put an end to the long battle between Greeks and Turks. Both groups wanted to have a say in the government of Cyprus. The United Nations had chosen to give the real power to the Greeks. That changed, however, in 1974.

In 1974 a Greek junta staged a coup on the island. The Turks saw that coup as an excellent excuse for an invasion of the island. Although the United Nations did not officially agree to hand a part of Cyprus over to the Turks, the invasion allowed Turkey to control 37% of the island.
After 1974 Cyprus became divided by a Green line. That line even passed through the capital of Nicosia. After the union of the two Germanys, Nicosia was the world’s only divided capital city.

Since 1974, the people of Cyprus have not had time to do any more fighting. As the situation in Lebanon deteriorated, many people fled Lebanon for Cyprus. Most such flights were an effort to escape Lebanon, where the airport had been shut down. Departure by boat had for a while become the only way to leave Lebanon.

That situation occurred again in 2006, when the Israelis and Hezbollah were hurling missiles at each other. During the battle, the Americans and Europeans in Lebanon had only one way to get out of the battered country. They had to take a boat to Cyprus.