Before BC (4500BC - 58BC)
If history were a measure of wealth, Cyprus would be the richest nation in the world. The island literally overflows with archaeological treasures, tracing the rise and fall of whole civilisations through 10,000 years of human occupation. From the first hunter-gatherers who sought refuge in rock shelters along the cliffs near Akrotiri through to the dawn of the Roman Empire and beyond, all ancient Cypriots have left their mark on Cyprus, helping to mould the island into what it is today.
Tourism in Cyprus would certainly not be as rich or as varied as it is now without the spellbinding circular stone dwellings at Choirokoitia, near Larnaca. Just one of several settlements built by the Neolithic Cypriots between 7500BC and 4000BC, Choirokoitia is easily identifiable as a village in which these ancient people lived. They would have farmed the land using wooden ploughs and fashioned flint tools for hunting and scything corn. The island appears to have been abandoned during the middle part of this period, but the Chirokitians as they have become known returned around 4500BC. This time they introduced pottery to the island, sparking an association with pottery making that has lasted to this day in Cyprus.
The dawn of the Copper Age saw Cyprus rise to centre stage in the ancient world. Rich copper deposits on the island ensured that Cypriots became wealthy through the supply of copper artefacts and raw copper to neighbouring lands. The Bronze Age which followed (2700BC - 1050BC) consolidated the island people's wealth, attracting the Phoenicians and the Ancient Greeks to its shores.
The Ancient Greeks left a legacy rooted in fine architecture, myth and legend. Cyprus became the Island of the Gods, Aphrodite - The Goddess of Love & Beauty - it is said rose from the ocean onto the shores of Cyprus. A patron to many Cypriot cities, she was worshipped by the people of the day and by the many civilisations that followed. Grand temples were built to honour her on the island - you can follow in her footsteps from Old Pafos (Palaepaphos) and the ruined Sanctuary of Aphrodite to the Baths of Aphrodite at the natural grotto on the Akamas Peninsula.
Other Greek Gods have a presence in Cyprus as well. The Sanctuary of Apollo, which dates to the 5th Century BC, is arguably the island's most impressive monument. Eros too is celebrated through statues and art, as are many other Gods besides. Even in the most unexpected places today there are references to the Classical Gods of old and even stories of the stray thunderbolt or two sent by Zeus himself!
A playground for the Gods Cyprus may have been, but for other civilisations the island was a prize to be won. Conquering armies rose and fell as the Hittites, Persians and eventually the Egyptians lead by Alexander the Great all made Cyprus theirs. The Romans however made a much more lasting impression when they arrived in 58BC.