Education for the Muslims and the non-Muslims according to a Moutsis study (2019) was conducted separately for each race, on their own initiatives. Despite the fact that during the early stages of Ottoman rule education was limited, the 19th century saw a rise in the number of schools and an increase in the interest taken in education. On the one hand, the Tanzimat reforms allowed the opening of new schools and the implementation of a more secular curriculum designed to help Ottoman subjects embrace Ottoman patriotism and help the Empire compete with European powers. On the other hand, the western ideas that came to Cyprus through the neo-Hellenic enlightenment urged the Church of Cyprus and wealthy members of the Orthodox Cypriot community to invest in education in order to spread the ideas of Greek nationalism [Ioannis Moutsis, 2019].

Education for the Muslims

Moutsis main sources regarding the education of Muslims seem to be Gökel and Dağli (2015). They reveal that existed Elementary schools (Sıbyan mektepleri) and Higher education institutions (the Medrese), which were the main educational institutions until the middle of the 19th century. After the reforms of Tanzimat, also Secondary schools (İptidaî mektepleri) and Middle schools (Rüştiye mektepleri) were introduced in the system with more secular curricula [Ioannis Moutsis, 2019].

Sıbyan schools were also known as the “neighbourhood schools”. Students joined them at the age of 5 or 6 and graduated between the ages of 13-15. After being taught how to read and write, students were introduced to the main aspects of Islam and learned how to recite the Quran. Their classes also included basic arithmetic. Afterwards, the students would learn grammar, vocabulary, literature and history. Teachers were appointed the imams and muezzins from the nearby mosques, elderly people with some competence in reading and writing, maybe a qualified son of a deceased teacher or women who had received some education and knew the Quran by heart. As from 1824 on the sıbyan schools was introduced compulsory education for the students aged 4-7 [Quran, reading and writing, basic arithmetic]. During the Ottoman administration, there were 29 vakf-administered and 39 non-vakf administered sıbyan schools. These schools remained closed during Thursday afternoons and on Fridays. The medreses included subjects as grammar, Arabic, Islamic law, religion, philosophy of law, rhetoric, calculation, geometry, astronomy, history and geography [Ioannis Moutsis, 2019].

In 1847 the Tanzimat introduced new teaching methods, transforming all the Sıbyan schools to İptidaî. The aim was to disassociate the schools from the mosque, increase the level of literacy among the population and instil Ottoman identity. Students from wealthy families continued their studies in Medreses while students from poorer families or those who did not wish to continue turned to trade and crafts. Finally, one and only Rüştiye school was introduced in 1838, around Ayasofya Mosque [Ioannis Moutsis, 2019].

Education for the Greeks

Before the Tanzimat (1847) various Orthodox schools operated unofficially with the support of archpriests and ecclesiastical committees. According to Papadopoulos (1991), schools that were funded and supported by the Church were not secular education-oriented, but religious education instead. The first Greek school was founded in 1741 by Archbishop Filotheos, which according to Moutsis was closed around 30 to 40 years later [Ioannis Moutsis, 2019]. In 1812, archbishop Kyprianos having seen that Cyprus had no schools to educate the children and the clergy, reopened Filotheos’s school [and called it “Greek School”], which was abandoned following his execution in 1821, and its library was destroyed, according to Sakellarios (1890). Archbishop Panaretos re-opened the school around 1830, and it remained in operation during the rest of the Ottoman rule. Later on, in a period of reforms within the Ottoman empire, Archbishop Kyrillos (1849-1854) and then Makarios, worked hard for the foundation of Greek primary schools for males and females in the towns of Nicosia, Larnaca and Limassol, as well as for primary schools in other villages of the island. Likewise, when Archbishop Sofronios took the throne in 1865, according to Sakellarios, continued the work of his predecessors for the evolution of education in Cyprus [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890]. It is hence seen that after the mid 19th century the Church took the initiative to the establishment of new schools and the modernization of the subjects taught. Christian schools followed the curriculum of schools in Greece, school teachers and textbooks came from Greece, and the goal of education was to enlighten the students and instil the Greek consciousness. The funds came primarily from the Church, as well as from wealthy Greek Cypriots and Greeks of the diaspora [Ioannis Moutsis, 2019].


Mariti during the 1760s claimed that the Greek and Turkish languages prevailed. According to him, the Greeks’ language and accent were corrupted by the arrival of the Venetians on the island. Still, even during the 1760s, the commercial people spoke the Italian language and a few of them spoke French [Giovanni Mariti, 1791]. According to a Çiçek’s research (2019), in the 18th century, few Greeks knew Turkish in order to present themselves without a translator before the Nicosia court: “It must be noted that there was always an interpreter employed by the court in order to help the Orthodox Cypriots, most of whom did not speak Turkish” [Kemal Çiçek, 2019]. According to Juan Lopez (1771), the Maronites knew Arabic as well. Dr J. Sibthorn was surprised to find out in 1787, that the Cypriot Greeks called the Mediterranean fishes with sufficient resemblance to the names which ancients Oppian and Aristotle described them, whilst in Greece, the language was modernized and those fish were then called with modern names [this shows us how the ancient Greek language was preserved in Cyprus through the millennia, even though corrupted by French, Italian and Turkish]. Furthermore, Henry Light comments in 1814: “Though the language of Cyprus is said to be more corrupt than of any other part of the east where Greek was once spoken, yet I could not but be pleased to hear ancient Greek words used for figs, cheese and milk by the market people who passed me”. Ali Bey writes in 1806: “Although Arabic is the sacred language of Islam, there are probably not ten persons in the island who can understand it” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].


It seems that the interest of foreigners for Cyprus’s antiquities sparked during the late 18th century. Edward Clarke in 1801 mentions the following: “A few inscribed marbles were removed from Baffa by Sir Sidney Smith. Of the two that the Author examined, one was an epitaph, in Greek hexameter and pentameter lines; and the other commemorated public benefits conferred by . one of the Ptolemies. But the Phoenician relics upon the island are most likely to obtain a notice, and these have been hitherto unregarded. The inhabitants of Larneca rarely dig near their town without discovering either the traces of ancient buildings, subterranean chambers, or sepulchres. Not long before our arrival, the English Consul, Signor Peiristiani, a Venetian, dug up, in one place, above thirty idols belonging to the most ancient mythology of the heathen world. Their origin refers to a period long anterior to the conquest of Cyprus by the Ptolemies and may relate to the earliest establishment of the Phoenician colonies” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].

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