Social classes

The peasants according to Mas Latrie (19th cent.) were divided into perpirarii [free people] class and parici [slaves] [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].

How was the life of the Orthodox Greeks during the Late Byzantine Period (12th cent.) we can get an idea from what Saint Neophytus wrote a few years after the arrival of Franks (1196): “terrible sufferings of this land, so that its rich men have forgotten their wealth, their grand dwellings, their families, servants and slaves, their multitude of flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, horses and animals of all kinds, fields of corn, and fertile vineyards…” [George Hill, 1940]. It is useful information to know this about this era and simultaneously a predicament to read the writings of a “Saint” weeping for the fact that the rich local inhabitants were no longer owning slaves as they used to, during the Byzantine rule.


The years of drought and migration

During the 4th century, according to Constantinos the Great [272-337], Cyprus faced drought for 36 years, and the people [an unknown number] abandoned the island and Cyprus remained “almost deserted”. After the passing of Agia Eleni from Cyprus, the same era, the rain returned, and so did the people as well as settlers [Leontios Macheras, 15th cent.].

The return of the Jews

According to Pavlides, from findings such as inscriptions, the return of the Jews in Cyprus is recorded during the 5th and 6th century [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

The roots of Armenian presence in Cyprus

According to Theophylact Simocatta (6-7th cent.), Armenians were settled on the island in the late 6th century as captives, which numbered thousands [a specific number of 10,090 is given]. The captives had been taken from Arzanene [today SE Turkey] in Great Armenia by Maurice, in his campaign [in 578 according to Bury (1889)] against Khosrow [King of Iran between 531-579], who afterwards became the Emperor Maurice Tiberius [reigned 582-602]. That immigration was involuntary; but later, with the rise of the state of Armeno-Cilicia in the 11th century, communication between that kingdom and Cyprus, though by no means always friendly, must have led to Armenian immigration into the island. Le Quien (1421), gives two Jacobite bishops in Cyprus in the 7th-8th centuries [George Hill, 1940]. On the contrary, Theophanes (c.758-c.818) mentions about 30,000 Persian captives [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890], which makes more sense, as we speak about captives from the defeated of the battle. Why should Maurice take as captives the defenders of Arzarene and not the attackers?

Cypriots in Nova Justinianopolis and back

The chronicler Michael the Great, following Justinian’s II decision to relocate the Cypriots near Cyzicus as a “pillaging” of Cyprus. Abulfaraj informs that he also removed from Cyprus as captives the Arabs who at that time were there. Hill writes, “how many reached their destination on the Hellespont we do not know; but a large number were drowned by a storm that caught the transports, or died of disease. Many of those who survived drifted back to Cyprus” [George Hill, 1940].

The “banishment” of Cypriots in Minor Asia ended in 698 when Emperor Tiberius III Apsimarus decided to resettle the island, the population of which had been seriously depleted. He also sent to the Caliph three noble Cypriots accompanied by an imperial official asking that the Cypriots who were in Syria should be returned to their homes. The Caliph responded positively and despatched throughout Syria a number of Saracen high officials, who collected the Cypriots and transported them to Cyprus. Similarly, an imperial official collected all the Cypriots in Romania, Cyzicus, and the Cibyrrhaeote and Thracesian regions, and sent them back to repopulate Cyprus [George Hill, 1940].

Population removed as captives due to the Arab raids

Captives were taken from Cyprus at least in the following incidents, in:

  • 743: The Caliph Walid II appears to have raided Cyprus and carried off the inhabitants to Syria; they were returned back home by his son Yazid III the next year, in 744. Tabari (839-923) also certifies this event [George Hill, 1940].
  • 806: According to Theophanes, Caliph despatched a fleet to Cyprus under Humaid, the wali of the Syrian coast. The invaders took away with them many captives, which according to one account they numbered 16,000. The captives were sold [George Hill, 1940].
  • 1158: According to Hill, the Egyptian fleet of Es-Salih, vezir of Egypt, made various expeditions by sea and land to Cyprus which brought back many prisoners, and thanks to these raids, “all hands were full of booty” [George Hill, 1940].

Immigration due to the Arab raids

According to Theophanes, it is recorded that during the rule of Emperor Michael I Rhangabe (811-813), many Christians abandoned Cyprus due to the excessive Arab raids [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].

Arabs situated in Cyprus

According to Pavlides, during the centuries that Cyprus was paying tribute to the Arabs, Muslim population lived in Cyprus, but according to Arab geographer Istakhri (10th cent.), in the 10th century, they had all already abandoned the island. According to Arab historian Ibn Hawkal (10th cent.), during the period when Cyprus was paying tribute to the Arabs and taxes to the Byzantines simultaneously, Arabs lived in Cyprus “…and the commandment of Muslims was pleased with the behaviour of the Christians, who treated the Muslims as room-mates”. Pavlides claims Cyprus played a neutral role during this period between the two powers  [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

Refugees from Syria and Palestine

In 813 a great exodus is recorded from Syria and Palestine by Theophanes. Persecuted people from these two regions that did not suffer martyrdom from Arabs escaped to Cyprus; of these refugees, some made their way to Constantinople [George Hill, 1940].

The arrival of Maronites

According to Hill, there is some evidence for the influx of Maronites into Cyprus during this time, as the Maronite Patriarchs appointed two monks to be abbots of the monastery of St John Chrysostomos at Koutsoventis, in 1121 and 1141 respectively [George Hill, 1940].

More Armenians removed to Cyprus

According to Ibn al-Qalanisi (c. 1071–1160) and Ali ibn al-Athir (1160-1233), in 1136/7 the whole population of Tell Hamdun in Little Armenia was removed to Cyprus by Emperor Ioannis II Comnenos, having conquered it from its Armenian ruler [George Hill, 1940].


In the Byzantine period, the Greek language (for communicating with Byzantium) and ‘Syrian’ (Syriac, for the Patriarch of Antioch) had sufficed for official purposes according to Hill [George Hill, 1940].

Employment and social welfare

Hospitals, orphanages, and hostels for the elderly and poor were founded [Ronald Jennings, 1993]. More specifically, according to Procopius of Caesarea (6th cent.), Justinian (reigned 527-564) built the poor house of Saint Conon and restored the aqueduct in Cyprus, from Chytroi to Salamis [George Hill, 1940].


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