According to Pavlides, for mainly administrative reasons, the vast Roman Empire had already been separated from the emperor Diocletian, but also later from Constantine the Great into two huge parts: the Western Roman State with Rome as its capital, and the Eastern Roman State with its newly founded capital Constantinople, to which Cyprus belonged. This Eastern Roman State was what would later become the Byzantine Empire [395-1453], and in which Orthodoxy would develop [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
During the period of the Byzantine Empire, according to Theodore Balsamon (12th cent.), the Emperor was appointing a Duke to command the Diocese in which Cyprus belonged (the Diocese of the Orient), based in Antioch, and the Duke was appointing a General Commander to command Cyprus, which was subjected to the Duke of Antioch. Following the 526 earthquake that destroyed Antioch, Cyprus became administratively independent [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].
Administration in Cyprus at the beginning of the 12th century
A man of the Church, Archbishop Nicolaos Mouzalon writes around 1111 in a poem about life in Cyprus under the Byzantines. The poem does not exist in a modern Greek or English book so we are informed by Galatariotou about the following: “Like Neophytos [Saint Neophytos the Recluse], Mouzalon describes the Cypriot peasants as living in the misery of extreme poverty, having no clothes, food or shelter, but feeding themselves with ‘the food of the Prodromos’ and living in caves. Their land, he says, yields all kinds of fruit but their rulers take away all the labours of the peasants and ask for even more. The taxes are unbearably high, the administrative officials thoroughly corrupt. Because of the system of the allelengyon, Mouzalon says, the peasants had no escape: if the officials did not receive what they asked of one man, another suffered in his place” [Catia Galatariotou, 2009]. In regards to the clergy we read from Hill that “the clergy were equally oppressed; bishops were hanged and tortured to death, deacons sent to the galleys” [George Hill, 1940].
In another paragraph Galatariotou writes more specifically about Mouzalon’s view of the administration: “Mouzalon had, indeed, wished for arms in his frustration with the corruption and misgovernment of the island at the beginning of the twelfth century. This same way of government, and in particular the economic suppression of the people, can easily be linked with the two revolts we know occurred in Cyprus in the eleventh century” [Catia Galatariotou, 2009].
Districts and Cities
Hierocles (6th cent.) mentions the cities of Cyprus in 527: According to him, there were 15 cities in Cyprus, which were the following: Сonstantia (metropolis), Tamassos, Kition, Amathus, Kourion, Paphos, Arsinoe of Paphos, Soloi, Lapithos, Kirvoia, Kythroi, Karpasion, Kyrenia, Tremithus and Lefkousia [Constantinos Sathas, 1873]. We don’t have solid information on the districts in which Cyprus was separated during this era following the Arab raids.
Pavlides lists the 14 bishoprics of the era: Salamis-Constantia (capital), Paphos, Tremithus, Tamasos, Kition, Amathus, Soloi, Neapolis, Kourion, Lapithos, Ledra, Kythroi or Chytroi, Arsinoe of Paphos, Karpasia. They remained as such from the 4th century until the end of the Byzantine era [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
What happened to the ancient cities and towns of Cyprus
Paphos [Kato Paphos]: Two Early Christian basilicas and the Early Byzantine Castle belong to this Period and are seen in Kato Paphos today. At some time in the 4th c. A.D. Paphos yielded to Salamis its place as the metropolis of Cyprus, possibly because of the severe earthquakes of 332 and 342, in which both cities were badly shaken. Paphos was eventually rebuilt but it never regained its lost glory. The city became in Early Christian times the seat of a bishop and within reduced limits, it continued to be a city of some importance. It survived the Arab raids [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. According to Hierocles’s list of 15 Cypriot cities at the beginning of the 6th century, Paphos was one of them [Constantinos Sathas, 1873]. Paphos, according to Pavlides, was totally destroyed during the Arab raids up to the 7th century [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
Palaepaphos: The spread of Christianity in the 4th century put an end to the worship of pagan gods. In the Middle Ages, a considerable settlement with a royal Manor house developed over the ruins of the Roman city [Academia Paphou]. According to Hierocles’s list of 15 Cypriot cities at the beginning of the 6th century, Old Paphos or Palaepaphos was not one of them [Constantinos Sathas, 1873].
Salamis-Constantia: In 332 and 342, many Cypriot cities were destroyed by heavy earthquakes. With the help of the Roman emperor Constantius II (r.337-361), the city was rebuilt on a smaller scale and renamed Constantia. It became the capital of Cyprus. One of the people living here was bishop Epiphanius, an important Christian writer. The Kampanopetra basilica dates back to this age. The end came when the city was destroyed by the Arabs around 647. The inhabitants moved to Arsinoe, a settlement further down the coast, just beyond Constantia’s cemetery. Arsinoe had been founded by King Ptolemy II Philadelphus and had been named after his wife Arsinoe. Although a royal foundation, the town had declined and was just a fishing village. Many of the old buildings were covered by sand. It was nicknamed Ammochostos [Famagusta], which means something like “hidden in the sands”. [Livius].
Kition: According to Flourentzos, the earthquakes of 332 and 342 AD “caused the destruction not only of Kition but also of Salamis and Pafos” [Wikipedia].
Kourion: It was badly hit by the severe earthquakes of 332 and 342. Before this time Christianity was well established at Kourion and one of its bishops, Philoneides, had suffered martyrdom under Diocletian (284-305). [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. It appears to have been almost completely abandoned for a short period of time, before being reoccupied at the beginning of the early 5th c. AD. Despite this reoccupation, the site never completely recovered, resulting in a large portion remaining abandoned leading to the preservation in the archaeological record of the destruction [Tandy Institute for Archaeology]. According to Davis (2012), a professor of Archaeology, Christian worship remained secretive and it was not until after the earthquakes of 365-370 that churches replaced temples as places of worship. “This change is obvious in the lives of the common people. In the earthquake debris, we found a Christian ring with a Chi-Rho symbol, [the Monogram of Christ]. We also found Christian lamps. These people were partially pagan and some were Christian. This is the same type of evidence that the late Danielle Parks found in her Amathus gate cemetery excavation” [Archaeology Wiki]. Zeno, a later bishop, was instrumental in securing at the Council of Ephesos (A.D. 431) a favourable decision on the claims of the church of Cyprus to independence. As a bishopric, the city flourished once more until it was gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of 647. The principal monuments uncovered to date include the House of Achilles, the House of the Gladiators and the House of Eustolios, all paved with mosaics of the 4th and 5th c. A.D. [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. Kourion existed at the beginning of the 6th century according to Hierocles [Constantinos Sathas, 1873]. Kourion, according to Pavlides, was totally destroyed during the Arab raids up to the 7th century and the residents moved to Episkopi [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
Amathus: East and west of the city of Amathus, there are two extensive and important necropolises with carved tombs, dating from the Geometric to the early Christian period [No Stone Left Unturned]. Later, in the 4th century AD, Amathus became the see of a Christian bishop and continued to flourish until the Byzantine period [Wikipedia]. In the 5th century the temple of Aphrodite, which has fallen in decay, was repaired and converted to a church [Livius]. Saint John the Merciful was born in Amathus [in 552] [George Hill, 1940]. Arab attacks followed in 649; The city was destroyed and abandoned [Livius]. Amathus declined and was already almost deserted when Richard Plantagenet won Cyprus by a victory there over Isaac Comnenus in 1191. The tombs were plundered and the stones from the beautiful edifices were brought to Limassol to be used for new constructions. Much later, in 1869, a great number of blocks of stone from Amathus were used for the construction of the Suez Canal [Wikipedia].
Arsinoe: The excavation team excavated two Late Antique churches. One stood at a crossroads near the centre of the city and continued in use into the Byzantine period. The other stood closer to the bluff overlooking the sea and remained in use in the Middle Ages [Princeton University], as archaeological evidence indicates that the city was also inhabited during the Medieval period [Cyprus Department of Antiquities]. Arsinoe, according to Hierocles, existed in the 6th century under the same name [Constantinos Sathas, 1873].
Soloi: The city flourished down to Early Byzantine times when it was gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of 647 [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. The inhabitants relocated to what we call today “region of Solea” [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
Tamasos: The city flourished mainly from archaic to Graeco-Roman times; in Early Christian times it became the seat of a bishop [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. The city’s prosperity began to decline in the 10th century when mines faded out in the area. The city was then replaced by smaller settlements, namely the villages of Politiko and Episkopio [Wikipedia].
Idalion: By Medieval times the city had shrunk to a small village and shifted north to follow the changing course of the river [Open Context].
Ledra: Despite the town’s insignificance in the Roman age, there was a bishop of Ledra. The Christian author Sozomen [400-450] mentions a Triphyllius (“a man otherwise eloquent, who on account of practising the law, had lived alone while at Berytus”), who occupied the ecclesiastical office. Jerome [342-420] calls the bishopric “Ledra or Leucotheon”, implying that bishop Triphyllius, who had written a Commentary on the Song of Songs during the reign of Constantius II [337-361], oversaw two villages that were very close to each other. Because Lefkotheon or Lefkosia is certainly identical to modern Nicosia, we can be certain that Ledra was not too far from the present capital of Cyprus [Livius]. According to Sakellarios (1890), Ledra should not be confused with the nearby Lefkosia, of which existence under separate name exists during this period until they united into one city following the wars and earthquakes Cyprus, and their expansion due to the relocation of coastal inhabitants towards the safer centre [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890]. In the case that Ledra had been the predecessor of Lefkosia [Nicosia], under the name of Lefkousia [Λευκουσία] the city appears for the first time circa in the sixth century, in the “Synecdemus [between 527-535]” of Hierocles [6th cent.]. Ledra does not appear in this list of 15 cities [Constantinos Sathas, 1873].
Chytroi: According to Nicolaou (1969), in Early Christian times it became a bishopric and flourished down to Early Byzantine times [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. Chytroi existed as “Kythroi” in the 6th century according to Hierocles [Constantinos Sathas, 1873]. Chytroi existed also in 911 when the Arab Dimyana, sacked the place [George Hill, 1940]. According to Nicolaou, [911 or] 912 is the date of its abandonment [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. According to one tradition, the name Kythrea derives from Chytroi, hence Kythrea is a continuation of Chytroi [Wikipedia].
Lapethos: According to Nicolaou, Lapethos seems to have flourished mainly from archaic down to Early Byzantine times, when it became a bishopric. It is well known for its Early Byzantine silver treasure, most of which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The city was gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of 647 [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969] [Lapethos exists today in a nearby location].
Golgoi: According to K. Nicolaou (1969), Golgoi must have been inhabited down to Early Christian times. The area of the city itself is now a field of ruins under cultivation and belongs to the municipality of Athienou [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. The city did not exist in the 6th century [Constantinos Sathas, 1873].
Tremithus: According to K. Nicolaou (1969), this town seems to have flourished up to the Early Byzantine times. In Early Christian times, it became the seat of a bishop. Its first bishop was Spyridon, who was present at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and at that of Sardica in 343-344 [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. The city existed in the 6th century under the same name [Constantinos Sathas, 1873]. Later it was most likely succeeded by the village of Tremetousia.
Karpasia: According to Nicolaou (1969), Karpasia flourished in Classical, Hellenistic, Graeco-Roman, and Early Christian times, when it became the seat of a bishop. There are traces of a city wall, built to protect only a small part of the town on the north side, which should date from Early Byzantine times. The principal monuments now visible, apart from the church of Agios Philon [it dates from the 12th century and next to this lie what is left of an earlier church, dating from the 5th century] and the excavated remains of an Early Christian palace attached to it. Apart from minor excavations carried out in the 1930s around this church, when remains dating from Early Christian times were uncovered, the townsite is unexcavated. It was finally abandoned in Early Byzantine times after the first Arab raids of A.D. 647 [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].
Aphrodision: According to K. Nicolaou (1969), Aphrodision seems to have flourished from Hellenistic to Early Byzantine times, when it was gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of 647 [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969] but this allegation is doubtful because according to Hierocles’s list of 15 Cypriot cities at the beginning of the 6th century, Aphrodision was not one of them [Constantinos Sathas, 1873].
Ourania: According to K. Nicolaou (1969), the town flourished down to Early Byzantine times, when it was gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of 647 [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969] but this allegation is doubtful because according to Hierocles’s list of 15 Cypriot cities at the beginning of the 6th century, Ourania was not one of them [Constantinos Sathas, 1873].
Makaria-Moulos: According to Nicolaou, it seems to have flourished from Hellenistic to Early Christian times when it was gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of A.D. 647. The townsite was in 1969 under cultivation and following the Turkish invasion of 1974, it remained unexcavated [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].
Pergamon: According to Nicolaou, nothing is known of the history of this small town, which seems to have flourished in Graeco-Roman and Early Byzantine times. The townsite is now a field of ruins partly under cultivation and partly overgrown with scrub. The site prior to the 1974 invasion was unexcavated [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969] [and it remains as such until our days].
Kyrenia: In Early Christian times it became the seat of a bishop. The ancient town flourished down to Early Byzantine times when it was sacked during the first Arab raids of A.D. 647 [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969] [but Kyrenia survived until our days].
Thronoi: It is unknown to say what happened to Thronoi but we could assume that it could had been succeeded by Pyla.
Lefkousia: Lefkosia (known as Nicosia in English) appears as “Lefkousia” (Λευκουσία) for the first time circa in the sixth century, in the “Synecdemus (between 527-535)” of Hierocles (6th cent.). Lefkosia must have existed even earlier as a small community and at this period it merged with Ledra creating a city or a town. The name “Lefkousia” will survive at least until the time of Leontios Macheras, during the 15th century. According to Pavlides, Lefkousia became the capital of Cyprus in 965, when Cyprus was once again a province of the Byzantine Empire [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
Arsinoe (Ammochostos): Arsinoe had been founded by King Ptolemy II Philadelphus and had been named after his wife Arsinoe. Although a royal foundation, the town had declined and was just a fishing village. Many of the old buildings were covered by sand. It was nicknamed Ammochostos [Famagusta], which means something like “hidden in the sands” [Livius]. Arsinoe gained importance after the second destruction of Constantia (Salamis) by the Arabs in 653/4. Then, it became the capital of Cyprus [George Hill, 1940].
Nemesos-Lemesos: Lemesos, known as Limassol today, appears as Neapolis [Νέα πόλις – New town], during the Roman period as we see Tychicus bishop of Neapolis [Andros Pavlides, 2013]. It evolved as Nemesos during the Byzantine Period, and it was probably a small, not significant town. At the end of this period, when mentioned by chroniclers, they call it Lemesos.
We may not know the details but for sure there was a taxation system during the Early Christian Period during the Byzantine rule; we read from Hill (1940) the following regarding the aftermath of the earthquake of 342: “…there can not have been a lot of Salamis left standing after this, and the Emperor, relieving the survivors of taxation for four years, rebuilt it…” [George Hill, 1940]. He also mentions the following: “Like the rest of the provinces, it [Cyprus] must have been bled by the Byzantine treasury, except when the power of extortion was transferred to the hands of the Arab invaders; and the unhappiness of the population under the imperial oppression made it more willing to accept a change of masters” [George Hill, 1940].
It is said by some of the Oriental chronicles that Muawiya when he invaded Cyprus in circa 647, laid on the island a perpetual tribute of 7000 or 7200 gold coins and that it was the equivalent to the tribute exacted at the same time by the Greek Emperors. Caliph Abd-al-Malik (reigned 685-705) added another 1000 dinars to the annual tribute. Omar II (reigned 717-720) cancelled this addition; Hisham (reigned 724-743) restored it and finally, Abbasid Mansur (reigned 754-775) returned to the conditions imposed by Muawiya, refusing to oppress the Cypriots any longer [George Hill, 1940].
According to Hill, a special tax called Stratia was imposed for the payment of the coast guards called Stratiotai, who were essential soldiers to protect the island’s coast guards from the Muslim invaders. According to Macheras the tax amounted to three gold besants or six white besants for each village-hearth, while the town-dwellers were quit for one gold besant [George Hill, 1940].
According to Pavlides, after 874, when the island was ruled by Byzantium without the interference of the Arabs, commander Stavrakios was accused of tyrannical administration and imposing heavy taxation towards the Cypriots. According to Pavlides, the heavy taxation could be related to the raising of money for military purposes, and “Cypriots who were not accustomed to such high taxes might be protesting for this reason” [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
As mentioned in the “Administration” section, Nicoalos Mouzalas describes the taxation at the beginning of the 12th century as unbearably high and the administrative officials thoroughly corrupt [Catia Galatariotou, 2009]. He also mentions that those who could not pay the taxes were hung up, and dogs hung up beside them pricked on to tear their flesh. If one who was wanted by the officials escaped, his neighbour, due to the system of the allellengyon, was held responsible and punished in his stead [George Hill, 1940].
The Cypriot Navy
According to Hill, during the first centuries of Byzantine rule, the navy was allowed to sink to a low degree of efficiency. Thus the Isaurian pirates, who from 404 to 407 ravaged the southern and eastern provinces of Asia Minor, Syria and Phoenicia, also included Cyprus in their depredations [George Hill, 1940].