Greek Cypriots formed the island's largest ethnic
nearly 80 percent of the island's population. They were
descendants of Achaean Greeks who settled on the island
second half of the second millennium B.C. The island
became part of the Hellenic world as the settlers
the next centuries
(see Ancient Period
, ch. 1).
Great freed the island from the Persians and annexed it to
empire in 333 B.C.. Roman rule dating from 58 B.C. did not
Greek ways and language, and after the division of the
in A.D. 285 Cypriots enjoyed peace and national freedom
years under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Empire of
(see Byzantine Rule
, ch. 1). The most important event of
Byzantine period was that the Greek Orthodox Church of
became independent no in 431. Beginning in the middle of
seventh century, Cyprus endured three centuries of Arab
invasions. In A.D. 965, it became a province of Byzantium,
remained in that status for the next 200 years.
The Byzantine era profoundly molded Cypriot culture.
Orthodox Christian legacy bestowed on Greek Cypriots in
would live on during the succeeding centuries of
domination. English, Lusignan, and Venetian feudal lords
Cyprus with no lasting impact on its culture
(see The Lusignan and Venetian Eras
, ch. 1). Because Cyprus was never the final
any external ambition, but simply fell under the
whichever power was dominant in the eastern Mediterranean,
destroying its civilization was never a military objective
Nor did the long period of Ottoman rule (1570-1878)
Greek Cypriot culture
(see Ottoman Rule
, ch. 1). The
tended to administer their multicultural empire with the
their subject millets, or religious communities.
tolerance of the millet system permitted the Greek
community to survive, administered for Constantinople by
Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus, who became the
head, or ethnarch.
However tolerant Ottoman rule may have been with regard
religion, it was otherwise generally harsh and rapacious,
mainly by inefficiency. Turkish settlers suffered
Greek Cypriot neighbors, and the two groups endured
centuries of oppressive governance from Constantinople.
In the light of intercommunal conflict since the
is surprising that Cypriot Muslims and Christians
harmoniously. Some Christian villages converted to Islam.
places, Turks settled next to Greeks. The island evolved
demographic mosaic of Greek and Turkish villages, as well
fig. 4). The extent of this
be seen in the two groups' participation in commercial and
religious fairs, pilgrimages to each other's shrines, and
occurrence, albeit rare, of intermarriage despite Islamic
laws to the contrary. There was also the extreme case of
linobambakoi (linen-cottons), villagers who
rites of both religions and had a Christian as well as a
name. In the minds of some, such religious syncretism
that religion was not a source of conflict in traditional
The rise of Greek nationalism in the 1820s and 1830s
Greek Cypriots, but for the rest of the century these
were limited to the educated. The concept of
with the Greek motherland, by then an independent country
freeing itself from Ottoman rule--became important to
Greek Cypriots. A movement for the realization of enosis
formed, in which the Church of Cyprus had a dominant role.
During British rule (1878-1960), the desire for enosis
intensified. The British brought an efficient and honest
administration, but maintained the millet system.
and education were administered along ethnic lines,
differences. For example, the education system was
two Boards of Education, one Greek and one Turkish,
Athens and Constantinople, respectively. The resulting
emphasized linguistic, religious, cultural, and ethnic
and ignored traditional ties between the two Cypriot
The two groups were encouraged to view themselves as
their respective motherlands, and the development of two
nationalities with antagonistic loyalties was ensured.
By the 1950s, the growing attraction of enosis for ever
segments of Greek Cypriot society caused a Turkish Cypriot
reaction, a desire for taksim--partition of the
the smaller ethnic community had well-founded reasons for
rule from the Greek mainland. In the mid-1950s, Greek
agitation for enosis went beyond manifestos and
Turkish Cypriots responded in kind
(see The Emergency
Within twenty years, the island was tragically divided.
By the early 1990s, Greek Cypriot society enjoyed a
standard of living, and, to a degree unknown in its past,
educated and open to influences from the outside world.
modernization created a more flexible and open society and
Greek Cypriots to share the concerns and hopes of other
West European societies. The Archbishop of the Church of
the ethnarch, or leader, of the Greek Cypriot community in
only, because religion had lost much of its earlier power.
the dream of enosis was irrevocably shattered by the
1974, and Greek Cypriots sought to deal with the
the Turkish invasion.
Data as of January 1991