cypriot history

Limestone head from the statue of a worshiper of Apollo, bearded and wearing a helmet with upturned cheek-pieces.  Found at the sanctuary of Apollo in the ancient city of Idalion, Cyprus.  Artist unknown; ca. 525-500 BCE.  Now in the British Museum.  Photo credit: George M. Groutas/Wikimedia Commons.


A Rare Coin Showing Two Aspects of Aphrodite, The Goddess of Love

This extremely rare stater of King Pnytagoras of Cyprus came from the ancient city of Salamis and was minted circa 350-331 BC. The obverse shows the draped bust of Cypriote Aphrodite wearing a turreted crown with the inscription ΠN behind her. The reverse shows Aphrodite wearing a torque, a fillet, and a crown decorated with semicircular plates; BA is inscribed behind her. This coin shows us Aphrodite in two of  her aspects: as a patron goddess wearing a turreted crown which shows her assimilation to Tyche as protecting civic goddess for the whole of Cyprus and and as a  goddess of marriage, sexuality and fertility on the reverse.

Pnytagoras attained the throne of Cyprus after the deposition and expulsion his half-uncle Evagoras II, who grew unpopular after refusing to support a revolt against the Persians. Though the revolt failed,  Pnytagoras subsequently submitted to the Persian king and ruled with their favor. After Alexander’s invasion, Pnytagoras allied himself with the Macedonians and his fleet participated in the important siege of Tyre in 332 BC. Pnytagoras’ gold staters feature busts of Cypriote Aphrodite in her various forms, as celebrated by her numerous cult centers on the island.

Silver stater from Salamis, Cyprus, c. 445-411 BC,

This extremely rare coin minted under an uncertain king shows a recumbent ram with a pellet-in-crescent above, “Euelthon” in Cypriot around. The reverse shows a large ornate ankh enclosing Cypriot letter ku; Cypriot letters ko and ru flanking, floral ornaments in corners; all within incuse square.

Salamis was an ancient Greek city-state on the east coast of Cyprus, at the mouth of the river Pedieos, about 4 miles north of modern Famagusta. According to tradition the founder of Salamis was Teucer, son of Telamon, who could not return home after the Trojan war because he had failed to avenge his brother Ajax.

The Ancient Cypriot King Who Commited Suicide

This is an excessively rare Greek silver distater from Paphos (Cyprus), struck under King Nikokles and is among the finest of all Cypriot coins. Only four genuine coins of this type are known.

Nikokles was one of the most powerful of the late kings in Cyprus, but he, like all the others, was overthrown by Ptolemy I. As a result of his failure, Nikokles and his entire family all committed suicide. Clearly, he had been chafing under Ptolemaic suzerainty at that time and producing such flamboyant coins might be seen as a way of attempting to emphasize his own importance. If this were the case, it resulted in his downfall, and the clear probability that the Ptolemaic authorities in Cyprus made a conscious effort to melt down all the coins of this type they could find; thus helping to explain its enormous rarity today.

The coin was struck circa 325-309 BC in the Persic standard with the head of Aphrodite on the obverse.  She is wearing an elaborate tiara composed of a mural crown with four towers, a disc earring with a triple pendant and a pearl necklace; behind her neck, π∫Å. The reverse shows Apollo, wearing a laurel wreath and nude but for a cloak over his shoulders, seated left on an omphalos, holding an arrow in his right hand and a bow, the bottom of which rests on the ground, in his left; to left, laurel branch.

Aphrodite was the most prominent deity at Paphos (her sanctuary was famous), and her importance is emphasized by the letters on the obverse: Π[αφου] ΒΑ[σιλισσα] = Queen of Paphos. This is emphasized by the mural crown she wears as well, since it symbolizes the powerful walls of Old Paphos (the city of New Paphos was almost certainly founded by Ptolemy I), of which she was the protectress. On the reverse we find Apollo, the syncretized version of Hylates, a similar god originally worshiped on Cyprus (nearby Kourion, a town not far away from Paphos on the west coast of the island, was famous for its sanctuary to Apollo Hylates). It has been suggested that the figure on the reverse of this coin represents a statue that was erected in Paphos, perhaps by Nikokles, and that it was later carried off to Antioch where it was used as a prototype for the seated figure of Apollo that appeared on Seleucid coinage.

Cypriot Terracotta Jug,  Cypro-Archaic I, c. 750-600 BC

With an unknown mythological creature.

The astonishing figure shows a compact body with small hooves, one of a pair of wings, and a human face. The iconographical source is Near Eastern, possibly one of the human-headed composite creatures that figure prominently on readily portable seals. During the period of Assyrian control of Cyprus (c. 707–612 BC) such influence are particularly likely.

Cypriot Limestone Votive Pine Cone, Hellenistic, 3rd-1st Century BC

Pine cone symbolism is consistently found across many ancient cultures. The ancient Greeks and Assyrians viewed the pine cone as a symbol of masculinity because of its phallic shape. It formed the apex of the Greek thyrsus staff, which was associated with Dionysus and represented fertility and prosperity.  Assyrian winged deities with pine cones represented the power of regeneration and immortality.

As the emblem of Artemis, it represented feminine purity. It was also the emblem of the Roman goddess Venus (Aphrodite). And, from ancient Egypt on some of the papyri illustrating the entrance of the souls of the dead into the judgment hall of Osiris, the deceased person had a pine cone attached to the crown of his head, which is thought to represent wisdom and immortality.

Cypriot Agate Scepter Head, c. 950 BC,  Late Cypro-Geometric I – Early Cypro-Geometric II

Scepter and mace heads are well-attested Cypriot implements, but this example is exceptional in the magnificence of its material. The head itself is set on an iron shaft. During the Late Geometric and Archaic periods, rulers of the major centers of Cyprus gained considerable wealth from natural resources, notably copper, and from active trade, especially with the Phoenicians.

President Makarios during a state visit to Berlin in 1962
Makarios III (Greek: Μακάριος Γ), born Michail Christodolou Mouskos (Greek: Μιχαήλ Χριστοδούλου Μούσκος) (August 13, 1913 – August 3, 1977), was the archbishop and primate of the autocephalous Cypriot Orthodox Church (1950–1977) and the first President of the Republic of Cyprus (1960–1974 and 1974–1977). In his three terms as President of Cyprus (1959-1977), he survived four assassination attempts and a 1974 coup.