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John Pettitt holding the “Ryder Cup” 1985

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Archaic Period

THE ARCHAIC PERIOD and CLASSICAL PERIOD (750 - 475 BC, 475 - 325 BC)

During this time Cyprus had many successive conquerors; the Assyrians from 673-669 BC, the Egyptians from 560-545 BC and the Persians 545-332 BC. The Assyrian and the Egyptian hardly left any imprint on the Cypriot landscape allowing the Cypriot kings to enjoy an unrestricted domestic rule. During the Persian rule, although Cypriots were allowed to retain their kings, they had to pay tribute to and acknowledge their dependence on Persia. They also had to supply their new conquerors with an army and ships to be used in the foreign campaigns to enlarge the Persian Empire. Thus by the turn of the fifth century BC there were two political currents forming within the island: pro-Persian and pro-Greek.

THE PERSIAN PERIOD (546 - 323 BC)

Under the Persians, who finally conquered Egypt in 525 BC the Cypriot kings kept their sovereignty. But the influence of the new overlords upset the political balance of the island. With the support of the Persians who were the traditional allies, the Phoenician settlers began to move from the coast to the interior, in order to dominate the rich copper centers of the Idalion and Tamassos. Kings sympathetic to Persia were appointed to rule over the island's city-kingdoms and all the military force was put to the disposal of the Persian king.

King Onesilos led the first Greek-Cypriot rebellion in 500 BC. He displaced the pro-Persian king of Salamis and most of island gave him support. Within a year, however, the Persians defeated the rebels in a battle near Salamis. Thus the Persian's iron grip over the island tightened.

The next 50 years was a trying period for the Greek-Cypriots due to the war between Greece and Persia. They had to join forces with Persian King Xerxes in his campaigns against Greece. During this period the Greeks, in their efforts to secure a position in the Eastern Mediterranean, made several unsuccessful attempts to invade the island. The turning point in the war between Greece and Persia was the naval battle of Salamis, the Greek island in 480 BC, in which Cyprus committed 150 of her ships on the side of the Persians. The Greeks won and this resulted in a stalemate in the Mediterranean, resolved finally in a peace treaty between Greece and Persia in 448 BC. This conciliation left Cyprus very much on her own and there followed a long period of struggle for the Greek-Cypriots against the Persians and their Phoenicians allies.

The hero of this struggle was Evagoras, one of the greatest figures in Cypriot history, 435-374 BC. Evagoras did more than any other native Cypriot to advance Greek culture on the island. This was because he opened his court to Greek musicians, artists and philosophers and promoted the Greek alphabet and coinage. Gradually with the revived support of Athens, he succeeded in throwing out the Phoenicians and uniting most of the island under his leadership.

Unfortunately the second treaty between the Greeks and the Persians (386BC) reinforced Persian rule over Cyprus. It also brought about a total Greek withdrawal from the island. The Cypriots were left alone to face the mighty Persian army, so they returned to Salamis, which after a long siege fell to the Persians (380 BC).

But even in defeat Evagoras' power was considerable as he was able to retain his throne. However this optimism was short-lived as he was assassinated a few years later. His triumph was an example to the Cypriots but it was not repeated. Any later revolts were quickly crushed and it took a change in the Mediterranean's balance of power to secure the island's freedom from the Persians.

The new empire builders were the Macedonians. They were under the leadership of Alexander the Great who was set on the conquest of the east. The Cypriots chose the right moment to change sides because at the siege of Tyre (332 BC) they were supposed to send 130 of their ships to join the Persian fleet. Instead they sent them to join Alexander's in Macedonia. The result was a decisive victory for Alexander and the eventual overthrow of the Persians. This was the beginning of the mighty empire of Alexander the Great, of which Cyprus now became a part. However, he soon died and Cyprus became a sore point for his successors to squabble over.

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