In ancient times, settlers from ancient Greece established several city kingdoms between 750 BC and 475 BC at Kourion, Soloi, Lapithos, Pafos, Salamis and Marion, starting the wave of Greek influence on the island of Cyprus. The island grew wealthy and entered a classical age in which it was in turn ruled in turn by Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians. This Classic Age ended with the death of Evagoras, King of Salamis, at the hands of Persians in 381 BC.
Cyprus was re-inducted to Hellenism by Alexander the Great when he took control of the city kingdoms in 333 BC, though it was later ceded to Ptolemy of Egypt and then taken over by the Roman Empire in 58 BC. During this era the island enjoyed relative peace and prosperity, and many residents converted from paganism to Christianity.
When Rome was split, Cyprus became a part of the powerful Byzantine Empire until governor Isaak Komninos declared himself emperor of Cyprus and decided to attack King Richard of England. This action ended with Richard taking over the island and then selling it to the Knights Templar, who then passed it on to the dispossessed king of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan.
Cyprus then entered a period of prosperity, but unrest started to brew among Orthodox Greeks, who were technically free to practice their religion but had to defer and pay tribute to a Roman Catholic administration. Many retreated to the mountainous areas of the island at this time to escape the ruling government.
Genoa and Venice turned their attention to Cyprus in the 15th century and fought over control of the major cities. Genoa seized Famagusta and held it for almost 100 years, but the island was eventually ceded to Venice before finally falling to the expanding Ottoman Empire in the 1570s.
After centuries of Ottoman rule, Turkey and Britain signed an agreement in 1878 on the terms that Turkey would retain sovereignty over Cyprus, but Britain would take over the island's administration, since the UK needed a strategic foothold in the Middle East to keep an eye on the Levant and the Caucasus.
During World War I, Britain declared outright control over the island, a rule which was formally recognized by the Treat of Lausanne in 1923. The Greek population assumed that Britain would help them eventually achieve union with mainland Greece (the movement for a Cypriot and Greek unification was termed “enosis”), so they welcomed British rule, but Turkish Cypriots disliked the hold of British colonization.
A pro-enosis movement gathered momentum in the 1950s with the establishment of the National Organisation for the Cypriot Struggle (Ethniki Organosi tou Kypriakou Agona). The organization was responsible for a series of attacks on the UK administration and all other opponents of enosis.
Greece and Turkey increased their involvement in the island and while the Greeks fought for enosis, the Turkish side fought for a partitioning of the island.
In 1959, Greek Cypriot religious leader Archbishop Makarios III met with Turkish Cypriot leader Faisal Kucuk in Zurich, along with Greek and Turkish leaders and representatives of the British government, in order to discuss Cypriot independence, as long as the newly established nation agreed not to enter into political or economic unions with Turkey or Greece,or be partitioned. After a 4 year war and plenty of meetings and treaties, Cyprus finally received full independence from Britain in 1960.
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