Daily Archives: July 16, 2019

Cypriot History – The Kingdom of Cyprus

The Kingdom of Cyprus was a Crusader state that existed between 1192 and 1489. It was ruled by the French House of Lusignan. It comprised not only the island of Cyprus, but also had a foothold on the Anatolian mainland: Antalya between 1361 and 1373, and Corycus between 1361 and 1448.
The island of Cyprus was conquered in 1191 by King Richard I of England during the Third Crusade, from Isaac Komnenos, an upstart local governor and self-proclaimed emperor of the Byzantine Empire. The English king did not intend to conquer the island until his fleet was scattered by a storm en route to the siege of Acre and three of his ships were driven to the shores of Cyprus. The three ships were wrecked and sank in sight of the port of Limassol.
The shipwrecked survivors were taken prisoner by Komnenos and when a ship bearing King Richard’s sister Joan and bride Berengaria entered the port, Komnenos refused their request to disembark for fresh water. King Richard and the rest of his fleet arrived shortly afterwards. Upon hearing of the imprisonment of his shipwrecked comrades and the insults offered to his bride and sister, King Richard met Komnenos in battle. There were rumours that Komnenos was secretly in league with Saladin in order to protect himself from his enemies the Angelos family, the ruling family in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople.
Control of the island of Cyprus would provide a highly strategic base of operations from which to launch and supply further Crusade offensives for King Richard. The English army engaged the Cypriots on the shores of Limassol with English archers and heavily armored knights. Komnenos and the remainder of the army escaped to the hills during nightfall but King Richard and his troops tracked the Cypriot ruler down and raided his camp before dawn. Komnenos escaped again with a small number of men.
The next day, many Cypriot nobles came to King Richard to swear fealty. In the following days, Komnenos made an offer of 20,000 marks of gold and 500 men-at-arms to King Richard, as well as promising to surrender his daughter and castles as a pledge for his good behaviour.
Fearing treachery at the hands of the new invaders, Komnenos fled after making this pledge to King Richard and escaped to the stronghold of Kantara. Some weeks after King Richard’s marriage to his bride on May 12, 1191, Komnenos attempted an escape by boat to the mainland but he was apprehended in the abbey of Cape St. Andrea at the eastern point of the island and later imprisoned in the castle of Markappos in Syria, where he died shortly afterwards, still in captivity. Meanwhile,
King Richard resumed his journey to Acre and, with much needed respite, new funds and reinforcements, set sail for the Holy Land accompanied by the King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan and other high ranking nobles of the Western Crusader states. The English king left garrisons in the towns and castles of the island before he departed and the island itself was left in charge of King Richard of Camville and Robert of Tornham. A subsequent revolt after King Richard left for the Holy Land caused him to doubt the island as a worthwhile gain and eventually prompted him to sell the territory to the Knights Templar.
The English invasion of Cyprus marked the beginning of 400 years of Western dominance on the island and the introduction of the feudal system of the Normans. It also brought the Latin church to Cyprus, which had hitherto been Orthodox in religion.
When King Richard I of England realized that Cyprus would prove to be a difficult territory to maintain and oversee whilst launching offensives in the Holy Land, he sold it to the Knights Templar for a fee of 100,000 bezants, 40,000 of which was to be paid immediately, while the remainder was to be paid in instalments. One of the greatest military orders of medieval times, the Knights Templar were renowned for their remarkable financial power and vast holdings of land and property throughout Europe and the East. Their severity of rule in Cyprus quickly incurred the hatred of the native population.
On Easter Day in 1192, the Cypriots attempted a massacre of their Templar rulers; however, due to prior knowledge of the attack and limited numbers of troops, the Knights had taken refuge in their stronghold at Nicosia.
A siege ensued and the Templars, realising their dire circumstances and their besiegers’ reluctance to bargain, sallied out into the streets at dawn one morning, taking the Cypriots completely by surprise. The subsequent slaughter was merciless and widespread and though Templar rule was restored following the event, the military order was reluctant to continue rule and allegedly begged King Richard to take Cyprus back. King Richard took them up on the offer and the Templars returned to Syria, retaining but a few holdings on the island.
A small minority Roman Catholic population of the island was mainly confined to some coastal cities, such as Famagusta, as well as inland Nicosia, the traditional capital. Roman Catholics kept the reins of power and control, while the Orthodox inhabitants lived in the countryside; this was much the same as the arrangement in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The independent Eastern Orthodox Church of Cyprus, with its own archbishop and subject to no patriarch, was allowed to remain on the island, but the Roman Catholic Latin Church largely displaced it in stature and holding property.
In the meantime, the hereditary queen of Jerusalem, Sybilla, had died and opposition to the rule of her husband, Guy of Lusignan, greatly increased to the point that he was ousted from his claim to the crown of Jerusalem. Since Guy was a long-time vassal of King Richard, the English king looked to strike two birds with one stone; by offering Guy de Lusignan the kingdom of Cyprus, he allowed his friend the opportunity to save face and keep some sort of power in the East whilst simultaneously ridding himself of a troublesome fief. It is unclear whether King Richard gave him the territory or sold it and it is highly unlikely that King Richard was ever paid, even if a deal was struck] In 1194, Guy de Lusignan died without any heirs and so his older brother, Amalric, became King Amalric I of Cyprus, a crown and title which was approved by Henry VI, the Holy Roman Emperor.
After the death of Amalric of Lusignan, the Kingdom continually passed to a series of young boys who grew up as king. The Ibelin family, which had held much power in Jerusalem prior its downfall, acted as regents during these early years. In 1229, one of the Ibelin regents was forced out of power by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, who brought the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines to the island. Frederick’s supporters were defeated in this struggle by 1233, although it lasted longer in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and in the Holy Roman Empire. Frederick’s Hohenstaufen descendants continued to rule as kings of Jerusalem until 1268 when Hugh III of Cyprus claimed the title and its territory of Acre for himself upon the death of Conrad III of Jerusalem, thus uniting the two kingdoms. The territory in Palestine was finally lost while Henry II was king in 1291, but the kings of Cyprus continued to claim the title.
Like Jerusalem, Cyprus had a Haute Cour (High Court), although it was less powerful than it had been in Jerusalem. The island was richer and more feudal than Jerusalem, so the king had more personal wealth and could afford to ignore the Haute Cour. The most important vassal family was the multi-branch House of Ibelin. However, the king was often in conflict with the Italian merchants, especially because Cyprus had become the centre of European trade with Africa and Asia after the fall of Acre in 1291.
The kingdom eventually came to be dominated more and more in the 14th century by the Genoese merchants. Cyprus therefore sided with the Avignon Papacy in the Great Schism, in the hope that the French would be able to drive out the Italians. The Mameluks then made the kingdom a tributary state in 1426; the remaining monarchs gradually lost almost all independence, until 1489 when the last Queen, Catherine Cornaro, was forced to sell the island to Venice.


Cypriot History – Cyprus internment camps

Cyprus internment camps were camps run by the British government for internment of Jews who had immigrated or attempted to immigrate to Mandatory Palestine in violation of British policy. There were a total of 12 camps, which operated from August 1946 to January 1949, and in total held 53,510 people.

Great Britain informed the United Nations (UN) on February 14, 1947, that it would no longer administer the Mandate for Palestine. This prompted the UN General Assembly to recommend partition of Palestine into independent Jewish and Arab states on November 29, 1947. Some 28,000 Jews were still interned in the Cyprus camps when the Mandate was dissolved, partition was enacted, and the independent Jewish State of Israel was established at midnight Palestinian time on May 14, 1948. About 11,000 internees remained in the camps as of August 1948, with the British releasing and transporting the internees to Haifa at the rate of 1,500 a month. Israel began the final evacuation of the camps in December 1948 with the last 10,200 Jewish internees in Cyprus mainly men of military age, evacuated to Israel during January 24–February 11, 1949.


Anti-deportation protest rally, Tel Aviv, 1946

In the White Paper of 1939, the British government decided that future Jewish immigration to Palestine would be limited to 75,000 over the next five years, with further immigration subject to Arab consent. At the end of World War II, there were still 10,938 immigration certificates remaining but the five years had expired. The British government agreed to continue issuing 1,500 certificates per month, but the influx of Jews, especially from the displaced person camps in Europe, well exceeded that number. It was decided in August 1946 to hold many of the illegal immigrants on Cyprus. Previous places of detention had included Atlit detainee camp in Palestine, and a camp in the Mauritius. A few thousand refugees, mostly Greeks but also a “considerable number” of Jews from the Balkans, had reached Cyprus during the war years.

At its peak there were nine camps in Cyprus, located at two sites about 50 km apart. They were Caraolos, north of Famagusta, and Dekhelia, outside of Larnaca. The first camp, at Caraolos, had been used from 1916 to 1923 for Turkish prisoners of war.


Some 400 Jews died in the camps, and were buried in Margoa cemetery.


The majority of Cyprus detainees were intercepted before reaching Palestine, usually by boat. Some were on vessels that had successfully run the British blockade, but were caught in Palestine. Most of them were Holocaust survivors, about 60% from the displaced person camps and others from the Balkans and other Eastern European countries. A very small group of Moroccan Jews was also in the camps. The prisoners were mostly young, 80% between 13 and 35, and included over 6,000 orphan children. About 2,000 children were born in the camps. The births took place in the Jewish wing of the British Military Hospital in Nicosia. Some 400 Jews died in the camps, and were buried in Margoa cemetery.

Transshipment and detention camps on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, in which the British authorities held Jewish “illegal” immigrants, most of them European survivors of the Holocaust trying to enter Palestine. On August 7, 1946, the British government made a decision to detain these Jews in Cyprus, hoping that this deterrent would put an end to Jewish immigration. The decision was geared to the British policy of breaking the power of the “Hebrew resistance movement” in Palestine. But before long the British came to realize that detention was not achieving the desired aim. The would-be immigrants continued their attempts to reach Palestine despite violent clashes with British troops and transshipment to Cyprus. By December 1946 the British government, under pressure from the Jewish Agency and in view of the rapid rise in the number of people interned in the Cyprus camps, was allotting half the legal immigration quota (that is, 750 visas, or certificates, a month) to the Cyprus detainees.


The British were successful in apprehending most of the 70,000 illegal immigrants who embarked for Palestine. Nonetheless, as space for refugees on Cyprus became scarce and ships continued to sail from Europe carrying ma’apilim, it became apparent to the British that the policy of detention in Cyprus was not successful in deterring the Ha’apala movement.


The use of the Cyprus detention camps began on August 13, 1946, and ended on February 10, 1949, when the last group of detainees left for what had become the state of Israel. During this period, fifty-two thousand Jews passed through the Cyprus camps, having been taken off thirty-nine boats in their attempts to get to Palestine. Twenty-two hundred children who were born in the camps must be added to this number. Some of the detainees spent only a few months in Cyprus, but many were held there for a year and longer. Responsibility for setting up the camps and for their administration and security was of the British army in Cyprus, which handled the camps according to the rules applicable to prisoner-of-war camps. There were two kinds of camps. The “summer camps,” of which there were five, were located at Kraolos, near Famagusta, and the detainees in them were housed in tents. The seven “winter camps” were located at Dekalia, north of Larnaca. Here the housing consisted of tin huts and some tents. Conditions in the camps were quite harsh, especially for mothers of children and babies.

Living Conditions

The tents and barracks were overcrowded. There was no privacy, and families had to share accommodations with single persons. There were no partitions, no lighting fixtures, and no furniture except beds. The food supplied by the British army was of poor quality. Because of the inadequate facilities in the field kitchens, food was wasted and people went hungry. The detainees also suffered from a lack of clothing and shoes, which the British supplied only in limited quantities from army surplus. The insufficient supply of water, particularly in the hot summer months, caused sanitary conditions to deteriorate and led to skin diseases and infections. Most of the British officers and troops in charge of the camps carried out their duties indifferently or unwillingly. Those who wanted to ease the refugees’ lot for humanitarian reasons had little authority or resources.

The British administration in Palestine, which was charged with establishing and maintaining the camps, had to bear the costs out of its budget, which in any case showed a deficit, and it sought to put the responsibility for the welfare of the detainees on the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee (also known as the Joint). This put the Jewish Agency in a dilemma. It did not recognise the legality of the detention, nor did it want to relieve the British authorities of their responsibility for the maintenance of the camps and the detainees’ state of health. The Agency therefore asked the Joint Distribution Committee to take on responsibility for the welfare of the camp population, which the Joint readily did. As early as September 1946, a few weeks after the camps were set up, the Joint was already engaged in welfare operations there, which they maintained throughout the camps’ existence.


The majority of the youngsters were put into one camp, Camp 65, which became a kind of youth village.


The Joint greatly reduced the hardships from which the refugees suffered. It recruited medical and welfare teams in Palestine to run nurseries and clinics in the camps, it improved the quality of food rations for those in special need and supplemented the basic food supplies of the general camp population, it catered to religious requirements, and it set up a bureau for the search of missing relatives. The provision of educational facilities for the children and teenagers (of whom there were large numbers in the camps, most having been orphaned in the Holocaust) was yet another task taken on by the Joint, in partnership with Youth Aliya. The majority of the youngsters were put into one camp, Camp 65, which became a kind of youth village. There, Youth Aliya educational teams established a school system based on the few teachers found among the refugees.

The welfare teams recruited in Palestine included Jewish Agency appointed emissaries of various political movements. Morris Laub, the Joint’s director in Cyprus, became the spokesman and representative of the detainees vis-א-vis the British authorities on the island. The detainees in the Cyprus camps were relatively young, with 80 percent of them between the ages of thirteen and thirty-five. Thus, they were among the more spirited and lively survivors of the Holocaust. They came to the camps as members of youth movements, immigration groups, and political parties imbued with a strong Zionist ideology. Their ideology and self-discipline enabled them to adapt to the conditions in the camps. In addition to being deprived of their liberty and exposed to harsh physical conditions, the detainees also suffered greatly from the enforced idleness of the camps. Efforts to keep them busy with cultural activities met with difficulties, owing to lack of means and scarcity of qualified personnel.

An important contribution was made by emissaries from Palestine who lived with the refugees in the camps. Some of these were “legal”: representatives of the various Zionist movements, welfare workers under Joint auspices, and teachers dispatched to Cyprus by the Rutenberg Teachers’ Seminary. Others were “illegal”: they were sent to Cyprus by the Palmah, the underground strike force of the Hagana (the Yishuv’s underground military organization), to provide the young people in the camps with military training and prepare them for service with the Hagana when they arrived in Palestine. Living among the detainees and sharing their lot, these emissaries had great influence. They represented the Jewish national institutions and were the link between the refugees and the Jewish population in Palestine.

A few of the refugees who had second thoughts applied to the British authorities to return to the country from which they had set out. But generally, despite all their suffering, the Cyprus detainees displayed impressive moral strength and staying power during their internment. Though there were no written laws and no real sanctions that could have been applied, not a single criminal act was recorded among the detainees.

Escape attempts

A number of escape attempts took place while the camps were active. The most significant was in August 1948, when an estimated 100 inmates escaped a detention camp via a secret tunnel the British believed had been dug over a period of six months. The British believed that the escapees were being met by Jewish representatives in Cyprus, and “selected male specialists” among the refugees were being put on small boats capable of reaching Israel in 24 hours, which were being brought to Cyprus at night. Some 29 refugees were arrested over the incident and given prison sentences ranging from four to nine months. One man managed to escape while being transported from court to prison. In January 1949, as the British began deporting the final batch of inmates to Israel, an unspecified number of Jews who had escaped the camps and had remained at large in Cyprus turned themselves in so they could be sent to Israel. In February 1949, the evacuation of the camps officially ended, although some families and individuals remained in Cyprus until November 1949 due to health reasons or because they had young babies.

Immigration quota system

From November 1946 to the time of the Israeli Declaration of Independence in May 1948, Cyprus detainees were allowed into Palestine at a rate of 750 people per month. During 1947-48, special quotas were given to pregnant women, nursing mothers, and the elderly. Released Cyprus detainees amounted to 67% of all immigrants to Palestine during that period. Following Israeli independence, the British began deporting detainees to Israel at a rate of 1,500 per month. They amounted to 40% of all immigration to Israel during the war months of May–September 1948. The British kept about 11,000 detainees, mainly men of military age, imprisoned throughout most of the war. On January 24, 1949, the British began sending these detainees to Israel, with the last of them departing for Israel on February 11, 1949.


I had the opportunity to meet and speak with a retired soldier who had served in the operation, this was around 2008, over 60 years later, yet this old man was riddled with guilt. He told me that they would arrive on the shores of Palestine, as it was then and indiscriminately round them up and throw them on to the ships, where they were brought to Cyprus and then thrown in to camps, just as the Germans had been doing up to 1945. 

These people did not know what would happen to them, they did not know if they were just being deported, detained, or if they were going to be executed. Considering what had happened over the previous decade, any assurances that they would not be hurt, would not have been very reassuring.

Cypriot History – Roman Kourion

Roman Kourion (c. 50 BC – AD 500)
Cyprus was annexed by Rome in 58 BC after complex political and diplomatic wrangling between the Roman Senate and the Ptolemaic kingdom. After a generation of financial and personal mis-administration by Roman officials, followed by the tense civil wars between Pompey, Caesar, Mark Antony, Cleopatra and Augustus, the island settled down to become an essentially peaceful Roman province. While the island had been of great strategic value to its Ptolemaic rulers, its military importance ceased once the limits of the Roman empire were stabilised well to the east in Syria, hence its administration by the Roman Senate rather than by the emperor. Cyprus settled down to become a prosperous and, with a few exceptions, largely quiescent province under the Pax Romana.
Roman Cyprus is often described as a backwater because of its uneventful political history, but this very factor allowed the island to develop into the type of province the military machine of the Roman empire was designed to encourage and protect: a world of peaceful, prosperous, semi-autonomous communities, whose leading citizens competed with each other for the honour of serving their cities with benefactions and public services.
Limited historical sources make it difficult to determine how active the community of Kourion was in pursuing the sort of activities typical of their contemporaries in other provinces of the empire. Surviving epigraphic records suggest that it was in fact little different from other communities of the island or many parts of the eastern Roman empire. It should be noted, however, that the relative neglect of the Roman period on Cyprus has resulted in a rather impressionistic picture of the island, with little detailed attention to the rich archaeological record, despite the abundance of surviving monuments in most of the major sites, including Kourion itself.
The large body of inscriptions from this period demonstrate the typical operation of civic life, but also put the town in its wider imperial context. Emperors such as Nero, Trajan or Hadrian, the proconsuls, as well as local officials, priests and worthies, dedicated numerous offerings in the sanctuaries, especially the shrine of Apollo Hylates (‘of the woodland’) which enjoyed something of an international reputation in Roman times. The inscriptions also record the cosmopolitan nature of the population, with officials and traders drawn from other parts of the empire. These included Jewish elements, in the form of the cult of Hypsistos (‘Almighty’), which combined Graeco-Roman and Judaic elements. This influence has also been detected at the nearby town of Amathus, where curses written on lead and selenite (gypsum) tablets may reflect Jewish magical traditions, though of a kind familiar throughout the empire.
Excavations by the Department of Antiquities on the acropolis have also revealed much evidence of this prosperity. The theatre was extended several times, reaching its greatest extent under Trajan (AD 98–117) when it could have accommodated around 3,000–4,000 people. Remains of the agora, at least one side of which was surrounded by a monumental stoa, date from the same time in the second century AD. An impressive Nymphaeum, which also functioned as the major source of water for the centre of the city, is one of the largest of its type known in the eastern Mediterranean. Several adjacent buildings, such as the House of the Gladiators and the House of the Achilles Mosaic, are renowned for their finely executed mosaic decoration. Finally, a large stadium of Antonine date at the locality still called At Meydan (‘racecourse’) outside the city completes the picture of a typical city of the eastern Roman empire.
The sanctuary of Apollo Hylates also witnessed major changes during Roman times and reached its most monumental and complex state. Both of the major deposits of votive offerings from the CA to Hellenistic phases of the site were created in the middle of the 1st century AD, suggesting the sacred space was being reorganised on a significant scale at this time. The first phase of the present temple of Apollo was erected during the reign of Augustus (27 BC–AD 14), while the structure was completed with its familiar portico of columns early in the reign of Trajan in AD 101. Trajan also paid for a large structure known as the South Building, probably used as a dormitory or storerooms. Buildings typical of sanctuaries throughout the empire, including a large bathhouse and a palaestra (sports centre), were also added to what was by now one of the main sanctuaries of the island and indeed of the eastern Mediterranean.
Reconstruction of the sanctuary of Apollo Hylates in the Roman period. The Temple of Apollo is at the top of the illustration, next to the much older Cypro-Archaic temenos. The main sacred area was surrounded by buildings serving the needs of pilgrims and the officials of the shrine. (Image kindly provided by Dr David Soren).
A single item from the sanctuary is known to have entered the British Museum collection, this fine gold necklace inlaid with garnets. It was purchased from Percy Christian in 1897, and is said to have come from here. If this provenance is correct, then it is possible that this was a personal item dedicated by a pilgrim in Roman times.
The complex was badly damaged in an earthquake in the middle of the 4th century AD, after which there is very little evidence for cult activity, though there are signs of decline even before this disaster. The rise of Christianity during this time would have discouraged the extensive reconstruction of the sanctuary, especially after the imperial edict of AD 395 closing the pagan temples. The town itself, perhaps weakened by economic decline and the impact of earlier seismic activity, was also devastated by earthquakes in the 4th century AD. Dramatic evidence for this has been revealed in the ruins of houses on the acropolis. Despite this setback, the town was eventually rebuilt, perhaps after a period of abandonment, but apparently thrived into Late Antiquity when the city was the seat of the local bishop, probably based in the fine Christian basilica on the acropolis. The location of the so-called extra-mural basilica close to the site of the Classical shrine where Demeter and Kore were once honoured may have been coincidental, but could reflect an accommodation of older cult places by the new religion.
 Roman period, late 4th century AD
The town was finally abandoned some time in the 7th century, when a combination of economic decline and the threat from Arab raiders made the coastal areas less attractive for settlement. The population moved inland to the site of the modern village of Episkopi, whose name reflects the fact that the new settlement remained the centre of ecclesiastical administration. The humble jug from the Hake-Kitchener excavations in 1882 illustrated here must have been among the items in use in this final phase of the town, which had been occupied for well over a thousand years.

Burial customs

Few tombs of Roman date from the Kourion area have been published in detail. Both of the main types, chamber tombs with long entrance passages and simpler pit graves from the earth or bedrock, continued earlier Hellenistic types represented elsewhere on Cyprus at Amathus and Paphos (where numerous burials of this period have been discovered in recent years) but also from older excavations at Kontoura Trachonia, Tsambres and Apehendrika in the Karpas peninsula.[105] There is also much evidence to suggest that many older Hellenistic funeral vaults were commonly reused, often by the addition of new niches or side-chambers (loculi) though this is not always clear from the descriptions of the British Museum-excavated tombs.
As before, in chamber tombs the deceased were laid out on the floor of the chamber or loculus, sometimes on benches with headrests or within sarcophagi (stone coffins). Coffins were also made of clay or wood and often do not survive, especially from older excavations. Niches with arched roofs (called arcosolia) and in-built sarcophagi, which were cut into the walls of tomb chambers, became very common in the Roman period and especially around the Kourion area. As the accompanying pictures of the Amathus Gate and Akrotiri cemeteries show, these are sometimes the only parts of the tomb that have survived millennia of man-made and natural destruction. In addition, many tombs were provided with cylindrical tombstones (known as cippi), usually inscribed with just the name of the deceased and a simple farewell.
Tomb 113 of the British Museum excavations consisted of a large rectangular chamber 5.2 x 1.5m and 1.13m wide approached by a stepped passageway. Two large recesses between 2.1m and 2.4m long opened from the back wall, while smaller niches led off the side of the chamber. Both of these side-chambers contained a sarcophagus, though one also had a lead urn full of cremated bone. The finds recorded by Walters date the tomb to the 1st or 2nd century AD: many glass bottles and other vessels, decorated lamps, bronze coins, several spindle whorls, and a bronze mirror and spatula. An inscription cut above one of the stone coffins in the right-hand recess is an epitaph in Greek to Metrodoros son of Metonos.
Although rather neglected by earlier excavators and many modern scholars, simpler tombs for small numbers of burials, with little or no architectural elaboration, were also very common in Roman times, as they had been for centuries before. They are commonly called mneimata (the plural of mnema) in the scholarly literature, and the term is often used in Walters’ notebook of his excavations at Kourion in 1895.
These mneimata are essentially rectangular pits cut in the earth or rock for a small number of interments, similar in many respects to modern Western graves. Earth graves were sometimes lined or covered with stone slabs or tiles, while rock-excavated examples often show refinements such as carefully cut sides or ledges for a covering slab. Despite their simpler form, some of these graves show signs of wealth and are sometimes placed in the same cemetery plots as chamber tombs. Both adults (men and women) and children were interred in surface graves. From this it follows that they were not necessarily the burial places of the poor, or predominantly late in date, as was once commonly argued.
At the same time, changes in burial practices are visible at Kourion over time. The cremation burial in Tomb 113 just mentioned, though never very common, is one sign of a shift away from exclusive use of inhumation. The older Hellenistic and early Roman chamber tombs below the Amathus Gate of the city appear to have been abandoned, after which the area was extensively quarried. From the 4th century AD, single burials were commonly placed in stone cists covered with large slabs in the same area as the older chambers. These graves were connected to the surface by small pipes to allow libations to be offered to the dead after the sealing of the tomb. This practice, as well as the offering of grave goods, apparently continued for a time after the advent of Christianity.

Cypriot History – The Kitos War

The Kitos War or The Jewish Revolt as it has come to be known as (115–117; Hebrew: מרד הגלויות‎: mered ha’galuyot or mered ha’tfutzot [מרד התפוצות]; translation: rebellion of the diaspora. Latin: Tumultus Iudaicus) was one of the major Jewish–Roman wars, 66–136. The rebellions erupted in the year 115, when majority of the Roman armies were fighting Trajan’s Parthian War on the eastern border of the Roman Empire, major uprisings by ethnic Judeans in Cyrenaica, Cyprus and Egypt spiralled out of control, resulting in a widespread slaughter of left-behind Roman garrisons and Roman citizens by Jewish rebels.
The Jewish rebellions were finally crushed by Roman legionary forces, chiefly by the Roman general Lusius Quietus, whose nomen later gave the conflict its title, as “Kitos” is a later corruption of Quietus. Some were left so utterly annihilated that Romans moved in to settle these areas to prevent their complete depopulation. The Jewish leader, Lukuas, fled to Judea. Marcius Turbo pursued him and sentenced to death the brothers Julian and Pappus, who had been key leaders in the rebellion. Lusius Quietus, the conqueror of the Jews of Mesopotamia, was now in command of the Roman army in Judea, and laid siege to Lydda, where the rebel Jews had gathered under the leadership of Julian and Pappus. Lydda was next taken and many of the rebellious Jews were executed; the “slain of Lydda” are often mentioned in words of reverential praise in the Talmud. The rebel leaders Pappus and Julian were among those executed by the Romans in the same year. The situation in Judea remained tense for the Romans, who were obliged under Hadrian to permanently move the Legio VI Ferrata into Caesarea Maritima in Judea.
The First Jewish–Roman War
Tension between the Jewish population of the Roman Empire and the Greek and Roman populations mounted over the course of the 1st century CE, gradually escalating with various violent events, mainly throughout Judea (Iudaea), where parts of the Judean population occasionally erupted into violent insurrections against the Roman Empire. Several incidents also occurred in other parts of the Empire, most notably the Alexandria pogroms, targeting the large Jewish community of Alexandria in the province of Egypt. However, with the exception of Alexandria, the Jewish diaspora fared well throughout the Roman Empire and relied on the Roman state for maintaining their rights.
The escalation of tensions finally erupted as the First Jewish–Roman War, which began in the year 66 AD. Initial hostilities were due to Greek and Jewish religious tensions, but later escalated due to anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens. The Roman military garrison of Judea was quickly overrun by rebels and the pro-Roman king Herod Agrippa II fled Jerusalem, together with Roman officials, to Galilee. Cestius Gallus, the legate of Syria, brought the Syrian army, based on XII Fulminata, reinforced by auxiliary troops, to restore order and quell the revolt. The legion, however, was ambushed and defeated by Jewish rebels at the Battle of Beth Horon, a result that shocked the Roman leadership.
The suppression of the revolt was then handed to General Vespasian and his son Titus, who assembled four legions and began advancing through the country, starting with Galilee, in the year 67 CE. The revolt ended when legions under Titus besieged and destroyed the centre of rebel resistance in Jerusalem in the year 70 CE, and defeated the remaining Jewish strongholds later on.
Revolt and warfare
In 115, the emperor Trajan was in command of the eastern campaign against the Parthian Empire. The Roman invasion had been prompted by the imposition of a pro-Parthian king on the throne of Armenia after a Parthian invasion of that land. This encroachment on the traditional sphere of influence of the Roman Empire — the two empires had shared hegemony over Armenia since the time of Nero some 50 years earlier — could only lead to war.
The Cypriot Jews participated in the great uprising against the Romans under Trajan in 117 AD, and massacred 240,000 Greeks.
As Trajan’s army advanced victoriously through Mesopotamia, Jewish rebels in its rear began attacking the small garrisons left behind. A revolt in far off Cyrenaica soon spread to Egypt and then Cyprus, inciting revolt in Judea. A widespread uprising centred at Lydda threatened grain supplies from Egypt to the front. The Jewish insurrection swiftly spread to the recently conquered provinces. Cities with substantial Jewish populations – Nisibis, Edessa, Seleucia, Arbela – joined the rebellion and slaughtered their small Roman garrisons.
In Cyrenaica, the rebels were led by one Lukuas or Andreas, who called himself “king” (according to Eusebius of Caesarea). His group destroyed many temples, including those to Hecate, Jupiter, Apollo, Artemis, and Isis, as well as the civil structures that were symbols of Rome, including the Caesareum, the basilica, and the public baths.
The 4th century Christian historian Orosius records that the violence so depopulated the province of Cyrenaica that new colonies had to be established by Hadrian:
“The Jews … waged war on the inhabitants throughout Libya in the most savage fashion, and to such an extent was the country wasted that, its cultivators having been slain, its land would have remained utterly depopulated, had not the Emperor Hadrian gathered settlers from other places and sent them thither, for the inhabitants had been wiped out.”
Dio Cassius states of Jewish insurrectionaries:
“‘Meanwhile the Jews in the region of Cyrene had put one Andreas at their head and were destroying both the Romans and the Greeks. They would cook their flesh, make belts for themselves of their entrails, anoint themselves with their blood, and wear their skins for clothing. Many they sawed in two, from the head downwards. Others they would give to wild beasts and force still others to fight as gladiators. In all, consequently, two hundred and twenty thousand perished. In Egypt, also, they performed many similar deeds, and in Cyprus under the leadership of Artemio. There, likewise, two hundred and forty thousand perished. For this reason no Jew may set foot in that land, but even if one of them is driven upon the island by force of the wind, he is put to death. Various persons took part in subduing these Jews, one being Lusius, who was sent by Trajan.”
The original 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia cited this about the Cyrene massacres:
“By this outbreak Libya was depopulated to such an extent that a few years later new colonies had to be established there (Eusebius, “Chronicle” from the Armenian, fourteenth year of Hadrian). Bishop Synesius, a native of Cyrene in the beginning of the fifth century, speaks of the devastations wrought by the Jews.”
The Jewish Encyclopedia acknowledges Dio Cassius’s importance as a source, though believes his accounts of the actions at Cyrene and on Cyprus may have been embellished:
“For an account of the Jewish war under Trajan and Hadrian Dion is the most important source (lxviii. 32, lxix. 12–14), though his descriptions of the cruelties perpetrated by the Jews at Cyrene and on the island of Cyprus are probably exaggerated.”
Lukuas led the rebels toward Alexandria, entered the city, which had been abandoned by the Roman governor, Marcus Rutilius Lupus, and set fire to it. The Egyptian temples and the tomb of Pompey were destroyed. Jewish rebels reportedly also prevailed in a battle at Hermopolis in 116, as indicated in a papyrus.Trajan sent new troops under the praefectus praetorio Marcius Turbo, but Egypt and Cyrenaica were pacified only in autumn 117.
In Cyprus a Jewish band under a leader named Artemion took control of the island, killing tens of thousands of Cypriot Greek civilians. The Cypriot Jews participated in the great uprising against the Romans under Trajan (117), and massacred 240,000 Greeks. A Roman army was dispatched to the island, soon reconquering the capital. After the revolt had been fully defeated, laws were created forbidding any Jews to live on the island.
“Such was the bitterness of the people of Cyprus towards the Jews, that a law was passed banning any person of Jewish descent or faith from ever setting foot on Cyprus, under pain of death. This law was still in effect a century later under the Severan emperors, and was even applicable if the offender had been shipwrecked on Cyprus or had been blown to its shores by unforeseen winds.”
A new revolt sprang up in Mesopotamia, while Trajan was in the Persian Gulf. Trajan reconquered Nisibis (Nusaybin in Turkey), Edessa, the capital of Osroene, and Seleucia (Iraq), each of which housed large Jewish communities.
A pro-Roman son of the Parthian king Osroes I, named Parthamaspatas, had been brought on the expedition as part of the emperor’s entourage. Trajan had him crowned in Ctesiphon as king of the Parthians. Cassius Dio described the event thus: “Trajan, fearing that the Parthians, too, might begin a revolt, desired to give them a king of their own. Accordingly, when he came to Ctesiphon, he called together in a great plain all the Romans and likewise all the Parthians that were there at the time; then he mounted a lofty platform, and after describing in grandiloquent language what he had accomplished, he appointed Parthamaspates king over the Parthians and set the diadem upon his head.” With this done, Trajan moved north to take personal command of the ongoing siege of Hatra.
The siege continued throughout the summer of 117, but the years of constant campaigning in the baking eastern heat had taken their toll on Trajan, who suffered a heatstroke. He decided to begin the long journey back to Rome in order to recover. Sailing from Seleucia, the emperor’s health deteriorated rapidly. He was taken ashore at Selinus in Cilicia, where he died, and his successor, Hadrian, assumed the reins of government shortly thereafter.
The Jewish leader, Lukuas, fled to Judea. Marcius Turbo pursued him and sentenced to death the brothers Julian and Pappus, who had been key leaders in the rebellion. Lusius Quietus, the conqueror of the Jews of Mesopotamia, was now in command of the Roman army in Judea, and laid siege to Lydda, where the rebel Jews had gathered under the leadership of Julian and Pappus. The distress became so great that the patriarch Rabban Gamaliel II, who was shut up there and died soon afterwards, permitted fasting even on Ḥanukkah. Other rabbis condemned this measure. Lydda was next taken and many of the rebellious Jews were executed; the “slain of Lydda” are often mentioned in words of reverential praise in the Talmud. The rebel leaders Pappus and Julian were among those executed by the Romans in the same year.
Lusius Quietus, whom the Emperor Trajan had held in high regard and who had served Rome so well, was quietly stripped of his command once Hadrian had secured the Imperial title. He was murdered in unknown circumstances in the summer of 118, possibly by the orders of Hadrian.
Hadrian took the unpopular decision to end the war, abandoning much of Trajan’s eastern conquests and stabilising the eastern borders. Although he abandoned the erstwhile province of Mesopotamia, he installed Parthamaspates – who had been ejected from Ctesiphon by the returning Osroes – as king of a restored Osroene. For a century Osroene would retain a precarious independence as a buffer state, sandwiched between the two empires.
The situation in Judea remained tense for the Romans, who were obliged under Hadrian to permanently move the Legio VI Ferrata into Caesarea Maritima in Judea.
Bar Kokhba revolt
Further developments occurred in Judea Province in the year 130, when Emperor Hadrian visited the Eastern Mediterranean and, according to Cassius Dio, made the decision to rebuild the ruined city of Jerusalem as the Roman colonia of Aelia Capitolina, derived from his own name. The decision, together with Hadrian’s other sanctions against the Jews, was allegedly one of the reasons for the eruption of the 132 Bar Kokhba revolt — an extremely violent uprising, which stretched Roman military and resources to the limit. The Bar Kokhba rebellion ended with an unprecedented onslaught of Judean population and a ban upon the Jewish faith across the Roman Empire, which was lifted only in 138, upon Hadrian’s death.
At this time, the number of fatalities (240,000) within the Greek, or Greek Cypriot people was actually Genocide on a scale never seen before and never seen again to this day.