Chapter 01 - Cyprus in Antiquity
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The strategic location of Cyprus in the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea has always played a significant role in its history. At the crossroads between East and West, and facing the fertile valley of the Nile, the island in antiquity was in close proximity to the great civilizations of the Syro- Palestinian coast, while it was also linked to areas of the Aegean and Asia, through intense interactions and exchanges. As a consequence, Cyprus attracted the attention of several great Empires of the antiquity such as the Assyrians, the Persians, the Macedonians and the Romans. The control of the island – the third largest island in the Mediterranean basin after Sicily and Sardinia – was of a crucial importance for the political, economic and strategic interests of these major Empires. Cyprus was exalted for its important geographical position, but mainly for its legendary wealth, already in antiquity. The Greek geographer Strabo (63BC – AD21) wrote in 23 BC: « In fertility Cyprus is not inferior to any one of the islands, for it produces both good wine and good oil, and also a sufficient supply of grain for its own use. And at Tamassus there are abundant mines of copper, in which is found chalcanthite and also the rust of copper, which latter is useful for its medicinal properties. Eratosthenes says that in ancient times the plains were thickly overgrown with forests, and therefore were covered with woods and not cultivated; that the mines helped a little against this, since the people would cut down the trees to burn the copper and the silver, and that the building of the fleets further helped, since the sea was now being navigated safely, that is, with naval forces, but that, because they could not thus prevail over the growth of the timber, they permitted anyone who wished, or was able, to cut out the timber and to keep the land thus cleared as his own property and exempt from taxes ». Rich, fertile meadows, abundant fresh water, dense forests that covered the mountains of Troodos and the Kyrenia mountain range, olives, vines, fruit and nuts, figs, almonds and pistachios, carobs, pomegranates, palms and lotus, wild animals like moufflon, wild pig, fox, also domesticated animals like, pigs, goats, sheep, dogs and cats composed the Cypriot environment of the ancient times. The ancient Cypriot environment was composed by rich, fertile meadows, abundant fresh water, and dense forests that covered the mountains of Troodos and the Kyrenia mountain range. The flora of the island was rich with products, such as olives, vines, fruit, figs, almonds and pistachios, carobs, pomegranates, palms and lotus. The fauna consisted of wild animals, such as the moufflon, wild pig, and the fox, while domesticated animals included pigs goats, sheep, and cats. Ancient Cyprus was particularly famous for its copper resources. Due to the discovery and mining of copper ores the island became infamous for the production and trading of raw material and metal objects. The principal copper ores are on the north and northeast slopes of the Troodos mountains.