John Pettitt holding the “Ryder Cup” 1985


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Hellenistic Period


The beginning of this period after the death of Alexander was quite optimistic. The Phoenician influence had nearly finished and Cyprus was at last incorporated with the Greek world. With the rise of Ptolemy, the Alexandrian general who had become Satrap of Egypt, the centre of this world became Alexandria, with Cyprus established as a protectorate.

But the peace and prosperity that the Cypriots craved was not to be. Another of Alexander's generals - the ruler of Syria, Antigonus - made his own bid for the power of the island, gaining control for the kingdoms of Amathus, Kition, Lapithos and Kyrenia. The Cypriot king of Salamis, Nicocrean found himself in alliance with Ptolemy's military Governor, Menelaus, in a war against Antigonus. Although the kingdoms did not agree with the situation they were ultimately subdued. But this was not the end of the Antigonus' campaign. In 306 BC he dispatched his son Demetrius to Cyprus with a war fleet.

This remarkable young general, who became known as 'Demetrius the Besieger' met and defeated Menelaus in battle, conquered Salamis after an incredible siege and later defeated a reprisal fleet sent by Ptolemy. He seized the throne of Salamis and for 12 years was the only ruler of the island. Then after the death of Antigonus and the departure of Demetrius, the island was re-occupied by Ptolemy.

For the 250 years his descendents ruled the island. Under the Ptolemies the independent Cypriot kingdoms went and Cyprus was divided into four districts with military governors. It was the first time the island had been united and the first time it had been under direct imperial rule. In this peaceful time Cyprus prospered, in close contact with a city that was in its apex of commercial and cultural achievement: Alexandria. But another power was already growing in the Mediterranean: Rome.


In 58 BC the Romans already established in this province of Cicilia on the coast of Asia Minor, seized Cyprus as part of their plan to take over of the Hellenistic world. It later became a province of Rome, ruled by a military governor.

During the Roman occupation of the island, which was to last for 450 years (until the emergence of the Byzantine Empire) Cyprus made the most rapid advances in her history. The Roman engineers built roads and harbours, bridges and aqueducts. Roman architecture still exists today in the ruins of the palaces, temples and theatres; their art in sculpture and mosaics. Surrounded by the Roman territories of the Eastern Mediterranean Cyprus enjoyed a long period of peace and security, in which her trade and industry were able to develop unharassed by war or internal strife.

The most important event of the period was St Paul arriving on his first missionary journey (45AD). Accompanied by St Barnabas he travelled across the island from Salamis to Paphos, the Roman capital. Here he converted the proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. On the way the Apostles created the island's first church: a cave in the mountains. This was the home of St Heracleidius, who showed the Apostles through the Troodos area. Heracleidius lived near Tamassos and was ordained by Paul as the island's fist bishop.

As Cyprus was St Paul's first stop it has developed a special meaning with the early Christian religion. The other important event was the matrydom of St Barnabas, a native of Cyprus. This laid the foundations for the independence of the Cypriot church. The missionary Saint was martyred by the Jews. There was a large number on the island, who had fled there to escape the persecution of the Romans in Palestine.

The rise of Christianity in Cyprus met with a lot of resistance by the Jews and in 117AD there was a terrible massacre in Salamis, where a vast majority of the Gentile population were killed. The Romans immediately deported all Jews from Cyprus. By 313 AD when Emperor Constantine officially recognised Christianity most of Cyprus had become Christian and was later represented by three bishops at the first Ecumenical council, held at Nicaea.

A further noteworthy event in the history of the Cypriot Church was the visit of the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine in 324 AD. The Empress returning to Rome after visiting Jerusalem, brought with her the remains of the True Cross, a fragment of which was to be preserved in the monastery founded by her on Stavrovouni. It was a symbol of a new faith, which now mainly united the Roman world that stretched from the Atlantic to the Euphrates. But in the end even Christianity could not prevent the break up of an empire that had become too big to govern itself effectively, or to withstand the barbarian pressure on its borders.

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