The seizure of Cyprus by the Romans

We learn from Strabo (63 BC-AD 24), Plutarch (46–after 119)  and Dion Cassius (150 – 235) that Cyprus became a Roman province in 58 BC, when the Roman politician, tribune Publius Clodius Pulcher, sent Marcus Cato to conquer the island alone, without an army, from the king Ptolemy, something that occurred without any bloodshed, as Ptolemy committed suicide by drinking poison during that year [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890] [Cyprus was annexed to the Roman provincial government of Cilicia]. According to A. Pavlides (2013), Ptolemy was buried at the “Tombs of the Kings” in Paphos, which is an area of massive catacombs which include many graves, but actually, probably Ptolemy was the only king buried there [the place is named as such due to the massive, luxurious structure of the catacombs] [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

The causation and the real reasons behind the annexation of Cyprus by the Romans

According to Strabo (63 BC-AD 24), when he was a young man, Publius Clodius Pulcher was caught hostage by Cilician pirates who requested 50 talents to free him. Clodius sent a letter to Ptolemy, ally and King of Cyprus, needing his financial assistance to be freed, but he sent to the pirates only two talents. The pirates let him free receiving his promise that he would pay the ransom fees himself. Returning back to Rome, Clodius sought to take revenge on Ptolemy for this insult [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].

  1. According to Plutarch (46–after 119) one reason that Clodius wanted Cyprus was economic; [The Romans, due to continuous wars, were in need of fresh money as according to Pavlides their treasury was “empty”]. Clodius was aware of Ptolemy’s wealth and wanted to seize his fortune. Cato indeed confiscated the royal fortune, which when was sold it brought an income of 7,000 silver talents, which was sent to Rome [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].
  2. As we read from Ammianus Marcellinus (4th cent.) a second reason was Cyprus resources; Cyprus had [an abundance of copper and other minerals,] timber and all the other materials needed for the construction of warships [George Long, 1872].
  3. The third reason was the strategic location of Cyprus in the Middle East according to Strabo (63 BC-AD 24) [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890]. [The Roman Republic was the largest force in the Mediterranean during this era and needed Cyprus to better control and sustain its authority in the region].

Cyprus in the hands of Egyptians and back to the Romans

According to Pavlides, first Julius Caesar and then Mark Antony gifted the island to Cleopatra VII of Egypt [Andros Pavlides, 2013] [and her sister Arsinoe IV around 47 BC according to Dion Cassius]. According to Dion Cassius (150-235), it became a Roman province again after Mark Antony’s defeat at the Battle of Actium in 30 BC. More specifically, Mark Antony [he was accused of treachery and Rome declared war against him] and Cleopatra when they were defeated they repatriated to Egypt where they committed suicide, and Cyprus became ownership of Octavius Augustus, who gifted it to the Romans [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890]. Cyprus, which under the Ptolemies was an allied country to the Romans, was forced under Mark Antony to become an enemy of Rome, hence Rome treated Cyprus as a conquered, hostile land after 30BC and not an ally anymore. Hence Cyprus did not have a favourable treatment from Rome, on the contrary, it was exploited [Andros Pavlides, 2013].



According to Pavlides, Cyprus remained under the Roman administration for three and a half centuries. Cyprus was administratively subjected to the immense Roman Empire and commanders were sent to the island on an annual basis, which began each 1st of July. These commanders were called Proconsuls and they were situated in Paphos, they were of Roman origin and they were assisted by other bureaucratic staff, which included two other officials, the Quaestor who was responsible for the finances, and the Legatus who was responsible for the enforcement of law and order [Andros Pavlides, 2013]. There was also the Curator civitatis or Logistes, who were dealing with finances and the Limenarcha who was governor or inspector of the harbours, a position filled by an officer appointed from Rome [George Hill, 1940].

Pavlides adds that it seems that during the Roman rule, the cities of Cyprus were free to be self-administered with their own local bodies such as the Vouli (council), Demos (popular assembly), Gerousia (council of the elders) and to take care of their own affairs. The cities seem to belong in a federation system, the “Koinon Kyprion”, which derived from the Hellenistic Period. It was a collective body of all the cities included and at the same time an essential institution. If we take into consideration that during this period, coins with the inscription “Κοινόν Κυπρίων” were recovered, it reveals the significance and authority that this body had acquired [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

Districts and Cities

According to Constantine VIII Porphyrogenitus (960-1028), Cyprus was organized into four districts of Salaminia, Lapithia, New Paphia and Amathusia [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].

Military (Navy)

From what we read from Hill, the Cypriot navy appears weaker than the previous centuries. When Licinius in 324 was collecting ships from the eastern Mediterranean for the final struggle with Constantine, he managed to obtain from Cyprus 30, whilst in the previous centuries for each expedition, Cyprus provided a minimum of 100 [George Hill, 1940].


From what we read from Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BC), we understand that there was cold-blooded financial exploitation implemented by the first commanders who served in Cyprus, as they imposed heavy taxes on the inhabitants, who fell victim to the Roman capitalists, who also lent at exorbitant interest rates. The inhabitants were found then in a miserable financial condition. As soon as Cicero, the viceroy of Cilicia was informed that the inhabitants were being tortured by injustices, arbitrariness and abuses of the governor and civil servants, [forbade them to accept gifts from the inhabitants], reduced the heavy taxation as well as the interest rates of the loans and replaced the governor. For example, the interest rate was 4% per month, and Cicero ordered that this should change at a rate of 1% per month [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].

Law and order

As already mentioned, the Legatus was a high ranking official responsible for the enforcement of law and order [Andros Pavlides, 2013].


Cities and Towns

  • New Paphos

Great and impressive public buildings, as well as splendid residences of the few Roman higher officials and even local, rich aristocrats and merchants, adorned the capital [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

The Paphos Mosaics

The marvellous mosaics discovered in areas of Paphos [Kato Pafos Archaeological Park] were simply the floors of such establishments, such as the ones next to the current harbour: House of Dionysos (It was built at the end of the 2nd century AD and was destroyed and abandoned after the earthquakes of the 4th century AD), Orpheus (mosaics of the third century AD have three mythological representations: “Orpheus and his Lyre”, “Hercules and the Lion of Nemea” and “the Amazon”), and Theseus (It was built in the 2nd half of the 2nd c. AD over ruins of earlier houses). It is one important characteristic that, despite that Cyprus was ruled by Romans, the representations of the mosaics, not only in Paphos but also in other locations were Greek related. The mosaics representations arise from the ancient Greek religion and mythology, and the inscriptions on the mosaics are in the Greek language [Wikipedia].

  • Palaepaphos [Old Paphos]

Palaepaphos was situated where we find today the village of Kouklia. Some of the important establishments of the Roman era include the following:

The House of Lyda

It is a Roman house located in the location Alonia, near the temple of Aphrodite. The only thing that has remained in this house is the central room, which had an excellent specimen of a mosaic floor dated to the 2nd century displaying Lyda and the Swan [Cyprus Island].

Palaepaphos Necropolis

The regional area of Palaepaphos includes many important necropoleis, dated from the Late Bronze Age until the Early Christian Period. Many specimens of mobile findings of the necropolis were found and they are on display in the Kouklia Local Museum [Cyprus Island].


Old Paphos still flourished in  Graeco-Roman times and retained its status as the principal centre of the cult of Aphrodite. In fact, Strabo tells us that at the annual festival of Aphrodite men and women, from other cities as well as from Paphos walked from New to Old Paphos, a distance of 60 stadia [Andros Pavlides, 2013]. Several thousand fragments of Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman terracottas not only demonstrate a strong Greek influence on the original fertility cult, but also Phoenician traces reflecting the impact of Astarte on the worship of Aphrodite [Academia Paphou].


Many Greek alphabetic inscriptions of the Hellenistic and Roman era were found in the area of the temple. Of these, some are dedications to Aphrodite Paphia while others are honorific [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

Main chamber of the Royal tomb at Kouklia-Arkalon

Not far from it two Paphian kings of the 4th century BC, Echetimos and Timocharis, were buried in the “Spilaion tis Regainas”. This only true Royal tomb in the Paphos area, well preserved and of impressive dimensions, was thoroughly investigated 1991-92. Inter alia, it yielded copious evidence of its re-use in the Late Roman period, including beside fine glass vessels the largest single group of decorated Roman lamps discovered thus far in Cyprus [Academia Paphou].

  • Salamis

Salamis is known during this era for the excessive interest in loans but as well as for the uprising of the Jews. Emperor Hadrian [117-138] financially help Salamina to be rebuilt following the damages caused by the fury of the Jews [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

Trading hub

The city was to benefit from Roman rule. Under the Empire, it flourished through trade, especially in wood and copper. It was certainly the island’s greatest trade hub [Livius].


The “cultural centre” of Salamis during the Roman period was situated at the northernmost part of the city, where a gymnasium, theatre, amphitheatre, stadium and public baths have been revealed. There are baths, public latrines (for 44 users), various little bits of mosaic, a harbour wall, a Hellenistic and Roman agora and a temple of Zeus that had the right to grant asylum [Wikipedia].

The Agora

The Graeco-Roman agora between the reservoir and the Temple of Zeus Olympios measures 217 x 60 m. Considerable remains survive of the stone colonnades extending on either side of the central open space. The stone drums stood ca. 8.20 m high at intervals of 4.60 m and carried Corinthian capitals. Behind the two long porticos were rows of shops [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

The Theatre

The Roman theatre of Salamis in Cyprus was built during the reign of Augustus (beginning of 1st century CE) and completed during the years of Trajan and Hadrian (beginning of 2nd century CE). It originally had 50 rows of seats (just 18 remain) and held over 15,000 spectators [World History Encyclopedia].

The Gymnasium and Palaestra

A severe earthquake destroyed the city in 76 AD after which the Gymnasium with its collonaded Palaestra was built by Trajan and Hadrian [].

The Roman baths

The Romans had an obsession with baths, and in the Great Hall buildings one can make out the Sudatorium (hot baths), the Caldarium (steam bath) and Frigidarium (cold baths) [].

Apostle Barnabas

Salamis was the city where Apostle Barnabas met his death. While he was preaching in a synagogue, Jews captured, tortured and killed him. Barnabas was buried by Mark and other Christians in Salamis necropolis [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

  • Kition

Although Kition suffered from several earthquakes, it generally prospered under the Roman rule [Livius].

Saint Lazarus

According to Pavlides, Saint Lazarus who had earlier fled to Cyprus, he was the man who Jesus brought back to life from the dead and he was ordained by the Apostles Barnabas, Paul and Mark as the first bishop of Kition [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

  • Kourion [Curium]

Kourion, which archaeologists believe numbered up to 10,000 people, is situated in an area steeped in mostly Roman history whose famous remains include a large theatre, a market place, public baths and mosaics [Archaeology Wiki].

The agora of Kourion

The Roman Agora in its present state is a structure of the early 3rd century A.D. with additions dating to the Early Christian period. It was built on the remains of an earlier public building, which was in use from the end of the 4th century BC to the end of the Hellenistic period. The Agora is surrounded on both sides by porticos with marble columns. An impressive public bath and a Nymphaeum, which supplied the city with water, occupy the northwest side of the Agora [Cyprus Department of Antiquities].

The House of Achilles

Only part of the building, which is situated at the northwestern end of Kourion near the old Lemesos-Pafos road, is preserved today. It is a Roman villa of the first half of the 4th century A.D. with a central peristyle court. Several rooms are decorated with mosaic floors. The most interesting floor depicts the popular story of the revealing of Achilles’ true identity by Odysseus in the court of the king Lycomedes at Skyros. The excavators suggest that this was a civic reception centre for distinguished visitors [Cyprus Department of Antiquities].

The House of the Gladiators

This Roman house, which dates to the second half of the 3rd century A.D., is situated a few meters to the east of the House of Achilles. Among the mosaics, which decorate the east and south wings of the courtyard, the most important are those in the east wing depicting a Gladiator combat scene which is rare in Cyprus [Cyprus Department of Antiquities].

The Kourion Theatre

It was originally built in the 2nd century B.C. but what is preserved today dates to the Roman period with 2nd and 3rd century A.D. additions and restorations. In the curved auditorium, the spectators’ seating area accommodates around 3500 people. The stage only preserves its foundations but it originally rose to the full height of the auditorium [Cyprus Department of Antiquities].

The Kourion Stadium

During the Antonine period, the stadium of Kourion was constructed, between 138-180 [Wikipedia]. The outline of its U-shaped plan is well preserved. Its total length is 233 m and its width 36 m. Its total capacity was ca. 7,000 spectators. The stadium was built during the Antonine period and remained in use until about A.D. 400 [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. John Howard Young excavated at the stadium in 1947. More than 5000 terracotta figurines were found in course of McFadden in 1935 and Hill’s excavations in the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, of these 160 are in the Penn Museum [Penn Museum].

Sanctuary of Apollon Ylatis

Despite the fact that the Sanctuary of Apollon Ylatis was actually built in the 8th century BC, what remains to be seen today is of the Roman era. According to Pavlides, it was a very large building complex that included the shrine, to which a holy road led, the treasury, the resident of the archpriest, the baths, tributes depositories, the palaestra and various other buildings. It was obviously one of the largest religious centres of ancient Cyprus. It was surrounded by a holy grove (hence Ylatis), in which many animals grazed and especially deers. Those animals that entered the sanctuary were considered sacred and their hunting was prohibited. According to Strabo (63 BC-AD 24), who dared to defile the altar of Apollo, he was executed by being thrown from a nearby cliff into the rocky sea below to die [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

  • Amathus

Despite the abandonment of its large military harbour in the middle of the Hellenistic period, Amathus seems to have maintained its trading activity, remaining in the same league as Cyprus’ other large cities in the Roman Period [Cyprus Department of Antiquities].

The temple of Aphrodite

The temple of Aphrodite that we see today dates back to the Roman period (1st century A.D.) and its ruins occupy an important part of the acropolis [No Stone Left Unturned].

The Roman forum & baths

The Roman market occupies the area of the lower town located east of the hill of the acropolis. It was organized around a large cobbled square; on the south side is the main street of the lower city; the three remaining sides were occupied by arte houses; in the center of the market there was a monumental fountain; in the northwest corner, the most important building is a large fountain-tank or Nymphaion. In the east are the Roman baths and in the southeast, there was a Hellenistic bath. At the west of the market, there is a complex of buildings that includes administrative buildings or guesthouses and date from the Roman to the Early Christian period [No Stone Left Unturned].

The necropolises

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].

  • Arsinoe [of Marion]

Arsinoe was founded by King Ptolemy II Philadelphus in 270 BC on the ruins of the former city of Marion. Today near that location exists the municipality of Polis Chrysochous. During the Roman period we find the following additions:


The Princeton team’s excavations unearthed several Roman-period workshops, including those for metallurgy, glass, and terracotta figurines [Princeton University].


The harbour [of unknown dating] of Marion-Arsinoe lies ca. 4 km W of Polis and still shelters fishing boats. A massive breakwater still survives for a considerable length; it must have been much longer in antiquity since a large part of the harbour has silted up. It was from this harbour that the trade with the West passed, especially the exportation of copper [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

  • Soloi

Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus often Anglicized as Galen, physician of the 1st-2nd century, in his writings he describes the mines of Soloi, which he had seen in person, as well as the products he acquired from them, mentioning their usages and their properties in medical science [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

The Theatre

The Roman theatre was excavated in 1929 by the Swedish mission. It dates from the end of the 2nd or beginning of the 3rd century AD. It was built on the northern ridge of a hill very close to the sea. It consists of the cavea, which had been cut in the rock, of a semicircular orchestra, and of the stage-building.  . The semicircular cavea had a diameter of 52 m. and the stands were made of limestone. The floor of the orchestra was plastered with lime-cement on a substructure of rubble; it had a diameter of 17 m.  The theatre could hold about 3500 spectators. It has recently been reconstructed to its diazoma [Cyprus Department of Antiquities].

The Temple of Serapis (Temple “E”)

In 1931, the Swedish Archaeological Mission uncovered at the location Cholades (on a hill, 250 metres from the western gate of the determined walls of the ancient city) a big complex of five consecutive temples. The fifth one supplies enough archaeological material for the cult of Serapis, the Dioscuri, Osiris-Canopus, the snake god Agathos Daimon and the mourning Eros, all deities that should be connected with chthonic elements (early 4th century AD). Additionally, another 4th century AD limestone statue from that temple has been associated with Isis, the symbolisms of which point out to Isis as a goddess of death and the after-life. Finally, the presence of chthonic beasts like sphinxes and sirens among the finds also point out to that direction. According to Papantoniou, the chthonic nature of the cults practised there may relate their initiation and promotion to the Ptolemaic politico-religious agency and ideology [Giorgos Papantoniou, 2009].


The structures in the late Graeco-Roman period were erected on workshops of the early Graeco-Roman period. Among the workshops identified were a glass factory and a dyer’s factory [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

  • Tamasos

Apart from the fact that in the first half of the 1st century A.D. Tamassos became one of the Christian bishoprics of Cyprus, the city did not play an important role during the Hellenistic and Roman periods [Cyprus Highlights]. The city flourished mainly from the Archaic to the Roman Period. There are no coins attributed to Tamassos and nothing is known of the existence of a gymnasium or of a theatre, though a town of this importance should have had both [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

  • Idalion

Idalion continued as an important copper processing centre and cult site into the Roman period [Open Context]. The city continued to flourish throughout the Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman times [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. In contradiction to the previous authors, Pliny claims that Idalion was a “dead” place during this period [George Hill, 1940].

  • Ledra

Ledra existed with the same name in the 1st century AD. According to Evangelist Mark, in his work “Praksis Barnaba”, mentions that Apostle Barnabas reached the “small town of Ledra” [Andreas Oratiou, 2018].

  • Chytroi

According to Nicolaou (1969), the site is still unexcavated but many casual finds have been recorded, including an over-life-size bronze statue of Septimius Severus [145-211], now in the Cyprus Museum. On the summit of a hill called Skali, due NW of the town, are the remains of a sanctuary identified from inscriptions as that of Aphrodite Paphia. This sanctuary was summarily excavated in 1876, uncovering partially one of two rectangular temples and again in 1883. There is nothing to be seen at present, the site being badly eroded; however, fragments of sculpture are still scattered about. This sanctuary dates from archaic to Graeco-Roman times [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

  • Lapithos – Lambousa

During the period of the Roman Empire, Lapithos had more than 10,000 inhabitants. From ancient times, Lapithos became a centre for the processing of copper and more importantly an earthenware centre [Wikipedia]. According to Nicolaou, Lapethos seems to have flourished mainly from archaic down to Early Byzantine times [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

New name

During the proto-Christian period [30–325] Lapethos experienced a great commercial drive because of the plethora of its produce, but also because of its port and its shipyard. During this period Lapethos was given the name Lambousa, “shining”, maybe because of its shining wealth or because of its shining beauty and cleanliness or because of its lighthouse, which shed shining light to the surrounding region. According to Apostle Barnabas, Lapethos had city walls [Wikipedia].

Ancient fish tanks

According to William Dreghorn, in ancient Lambousa there were rectangular shaped tanks cut into the solid rock of the foreshore and with exit channels leading into the sea. These ancient fish tanks are only found close to ancient ports dating from Roman times. To solve the problem of keeping fish fresh, close to the market, the fishermen created these fish tanks [Stwing at Upenn].

Other information

From inscriptions, we learn that there was a gymnasium, and it is possible that there was a theatre, but nothing is known of the location of either. It seems strange that no evidence has been forthcoming so far of the existence at Lapethos of sanctuaries nor do we know anything of the worship there of any deity. Lapethos is one of the Cypriot cities mentioned in the list of the theodorokoi from Delphi (early 2d c. B.C.). According to epigraphical evidence quinquennial games were held at Lapethos. These were known as the Aktaion games, held in celebration of the victory at Aktion [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

Probably the best preserved remains are those of the harbor, where both the ancient breakwaters still survive for a considerable distance. The W arm measures about 155 m; the N one is shorter, measuring about 40 m. In this way was created a small but safe harbor protected from the N winds. This is undoubtedly the anchorage for small craft mentioned by Strabo [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

  • Golgoi

According to K. Nicolaou (1969), Golgoi was inhabited during this period, until the early Christian times, but nothing is known of the history of Golgoi, although it is mentioned by several ancient authors [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. Gaius Valerius Catullus [84-54 BC] is one of them who proves its existence during the Roman times: “Quae sanctam Idalium, Surosque apertos, quae Ancona Cnidumque arundinosam colis, quaeque Amathunta, quaeque Golgos” [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].

  • Tremithus

According to K. Nicolaou (1969), the town flourished during the Roman times [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

  • Karpasia

According to Nicolaou (1969), Karpasia flourished in Classical, Hellenistic, Graeco-Roman, and Early Christian times [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

  • Aphrodisio [Aphrodisium]

Aphrodisio existed during the Roman Rule, as Strabo who lived during that times (64 BC-24 AD) mentions: «είτ’
‘Αφροδίσιον, καθ’ ο στενή ή νήσος: είς γαρ Σαλαμίνα υπέρβασης σταδίων εβδομήκοντα». Sakellarios (1890) assumes from the words of Ptolemy and Strabo that Aphrodisio should have been a small city [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890]. Aphrodision seems to have flourished from Hellenistic to Early Byzantine times [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

  • Ourania

The city existed during the next Period but we have no information about Ourania during the Roman Rule.

  • Makaria [Moulos]

According to Nicolaou, the town but it is mentioned by Ptolemy [100-170] the geographer. Nothing else is known of its history. It seems to have flourished from Hellenistic to Early Christian times. The town site was in 1969 under cultivation and following the Turkish invasion of 1974, it remained unexcavated [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].

  • Pergamon


Pergamon existed on the north coast. The ruins of a small town identified by Hogarth with Pergamon extend around the Church of Panaghia Pergaminiotissa, due northeast of Akanthou village, some 500 m from the sea. A low, rocky hill to the north may have been the acropolis [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].


According to Nicolaou, nothing is known of the founding or history of this small town, which seems to have flourished in Graeco-Roman and in Early Byzantine times. The town site 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

The name of the town is mentioned Pliny, and Pompeius Melas, but it is omitted by Strabo  [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969]. The reason may lie in the fact that according to Pliny Kyrenia was a “dead” place [George Hill, 1940].

  • Thronoi

The ruins of a small town, mentioned by Ptolemy (5.14.1-4), on a headland called Cape Pyla, on the eastern shore of Larnaca Bay. It is mentioned in the list of the Theodorokoi at Delphi (early 2d c. B.C.), provided the restoration of the name is correct. Substantial remains of the town, dating from Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman times, are still visible. Remains of the town wall running for a considerable distance along the inland side of the town, underground chambers cut in the rock, and vestiges of a sanctuary with fragments of stone statues have been reported [Kyriakos Nicolaou, 1969].




Cyprus during this era was already called by the Romans “Cypros”, as we read from Vergil (Publius Vergilius Maro, 70 BC – 21 BC): ” genitor tum Belus opimam vastabat Cyprum, et victor dicione tenebat” [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].


Besides the Greek population, on the island also lived Jews, which appeared in large numbers already from the Hellenistic Period, taking into advantage the regime of certain Ptolemies. Strong communities of Jews existed in all the important cities of Cyprus. These communities were well organized, they had their synagogues and they were prosperous. After a general uprising of the Jews in the region, the revolt reached Cyprus in 116 for unclear reasons, and Jews slaughtered thousands [a ridiculous number of 240,000 deaths is mentioned by a source] and their presence on the island was strictly forbidden afterwards [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

Languages and Script

According to Michaelidou-Nicolaou, the last evidence of the survival of the ancient Cypriot Syllabic script appears in the 1st century BC on sealings preserved in (New) Paphos, which is related to the Roman archives [Maria Iacovou, 2008].




According to Strabo (64 BC–24 AD), Cyprus was rich in wine, olive oil and wheat: “κατ’ αρετήν ουδεμιάς των
νήσων λείπεται και γαρ εύoινός έστι και ευέλαιος, σίτω τε αυτάρκει χρήται” [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890]. According to Michaelides (1995) and Leonard (2015), in the Roman Times, besides copper ore and wood, Cyprus exported manufactured and agricultural products such as ships, medicines, cosmetics, pottery, olive oil, wheat and wine [Łukasz Misžk – Ewdoksia Papuci-Władyka, 2016].


According to Pavlides, there was a “satisfactory enough” road network during that time and we have knowledge of it by a saved medieval document-copy of a Roman map. This road network connected all the 15 important cities of that era. Saints Barnabas, Paul and Mark toured all around Cyprus via this network [Andros Pavlides, 2013].


According to Strabo (64 BC –  24 AD), Cyprus was rich in copper, found in Tamasos: “μέταλλά τε χαλκού έστιν άφθονα τα εν Ταμασώ” [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890]. The mines of Cyprus, according to Pavlides, had been a great source of wealth for the Romans. A significant number of workers and slaves, as well as convicts, were involved in the extraction of copper, which was found in abundance, as well as gold, silver and other metals. A special official was supervising, an expert on metals, reporting directly to Rome [Andros Pavlides, 2013]. According to Eusebius (263-339), a number of Christians were transferred in 310 from Palestine to Cyprus, condemned to work in the mines. The copper mines were ownership of the Roman State. According to Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100), in 12 BC Augustus allowed Herodes the Great to take over a half of the output of the copper mines at Soloi against a payment of 300 talents [George Hill, 1940].



The appearance of Christianism

During this period Christianism appears. The first attempts at Christian conversion in Cyprus were made during the 1st century initially and exclusively to the Jews, first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Cypriots of Jewish origin were the first of the leaders of the first Christians of Cyprus. Cypriots then systematically preached the new religion in Cyprus, such as Apostle Barnabas and the Evangelist Mark, who had two itinerations on the island, of which in the first in 45, the Apostle of Nations, Paul, participated [the second took place 4-5 years later]. We know that they first reached Salamina through Syria where they preached in the synagogues to Jews. The first Christian messages reached Cyprus with the first Christian fugitives of Palestine, following the persecutions that began following the death of Saint Stephen, again according to the Acts of the Apostles [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

More than one religion existed up to that time on the island which co-existed without the one conflicting with the others. No conflicts are witnessed during this period within Cyprus due to religious affairs. The appearance of Christianism, though, was faced with hostility by the earlier religions, not only in Cyprus but also within the Roman influence in general. The reason lays behind the fact that the new religion introduced something utterly innovative, important and unprecedented. It was based on the vast love towards any kind of human being, offering hope to the poor, the slaves and the underprivileged. With such messages involving the promise for a better life, including the afterlife, the new religion could infiltrate within the wide lower class, while the world was divided into social classes, of which the least privileged was the most numerous. The apostles and the continuators of their mission, imitating the example of Christ, toured from city to city and from community to community. This is how Christianism was born in Cyprus [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

Lucius Sergius Paulus was a Proconsul of Cyprus under Claudius (1st century AD). He appears in Acts [13:6-12], wherein Paphos, Paul, accompanied by Barnabas and Mark, overcame the attempts of Bar-Jesus (Elymas) “to turn the proconsul away from the faith” and converted Sergius to Christianity. Cyprus became hence, according to Pavlides, the first country in the world to be ruled by a Christian, even in a short period of time. From Paphos, the three prelates left towards Pamphylia, but they left behind men who were willing to continue and contribute to their mission, such as Saint Heracledius who was the most important, originating from Tamasos. Before they leave, they ordain the first local prelates, thus formating the Cypriot Church [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

According to Pavlides, the introduction of Christianism in Cyprus, a heresy of Judaism, created a conflict with the Judaist Jews of Cyprus and the Dodekatheist Greeks. It was Jews after all who vividly reacted to the new religion and killed Apostle Barnabas in Salamis. Christianity, however, finally found fertile ground in Cyprus, as the people were enslaved by the Romans, and the new religion came to inspire hope and promise a better life after death. The two apostolic periods of the Roman period laid a solid foundation for the development of the new religion on the island [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

According to Pavlides, during the second half of the first century, there were in Cyprus eight bishoprics, of Salamis, Tamasos, Kition, Amathus, Soloi, Paphos, Neapolis and Kourion [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

Pavlides notes that at first, Rome was not worried about the rise of Christianity, which interpreted it as a mere sect of Judaism, which was not a forbidden religion. Its gradual differentiation from Judaism and other religions alarmed Rome. Although Christian preaching taught legitimacy to existing powers, as well as praying for the emperor, religion was banned for a variety of reasons. For example, the doctrine of monotheism was seen as a denial of the worship of the emperor and the gods of the state, so Christians were judged as traitors. Religion was still considered revolutionary as intended to overthrow the state and order, although this was not correct. Thus, Christians were severely persecuted. Elsewhere they began in 64 during Nero and until 250 they were sporadic. From 250, during the reign of Emperor Decius, the persecutions spread throughout the empire and thus reached Cyprus, where many “martyrs” of the new religion are recorded. The persecutions ended in 313 with the Milan decree on Secularism [Andros Pavlides, 2013].

The Greek Religion

The ancient Greek Religion kept [of course] being worshipped, for as we know when in the spring of 49 or 50, when Barnabas and Mark visited Cyprus for the second time, Aphrodite was worshipped all around the island. It has been survived that pagan rituals in honour of Aphrodite were taking place in Lapithus, Paphos, Kourion, Amathus and Kition, with the participation of all the folk. In Kourion especially, Barnabas and Mark encountered naked athletes competing with each other in the context of the celebrations of Aphrodite [Andros Pavlides, 2013].



According to Hill, public education was in the hands of the gymnasiarchs, and such are known to exist during the Roman rule at Paphos, Salamis, Kition and Lapithos, and frequently undertook the office as a liturgy of their own cost. From an inscription we know that in Lapithos, Adrastus built the temple and set up the statue of the emperor in the gymnasium, appointing himself and his descendants, gymnasiarch and priest of the gods of the gymnasium, Hermes and Heracles. His son, also named Adrastus, chose himself to be gymnasiarch of the boys, and they both did all at their own cost. An ephebarch [in Greek antiquity, an overseer of youth – in Greek epheboi] is mentioned in the same inscription, as also in one from Chytroi. An ephebarch was subordinate to the gymnasiarch. At Soloi there was a bibliophylakion (library) [George Hill, 1940].



15 BC > Earthquake: During the reign of Octavius Augustus, an earthquake occurred in Cyprus according to Dion Cassius (150 – 235) [George Hill, 1940 ].

77 > Earthquake: According to Eusebius Pamphili (263-339) during the 8th year of the reigning of emperor Vespasianus an earthquake occurred and three cities were destroyed [but he does not mention which ones] [George Hill, 1940 ].

116 > Massacre: Around the end of the reign of Imperator Traianus Jews revolted on the island and massacred a [astronomic] number of Greeks in Salamis [that could be hardly believed] (240,000) [Andros Pavlides, 2013]. We do not have an indication of how many of the dead were themselves Jews. Chapot (1912) believes that the recorder of this event, Cassius Dio (155-235), may had meant the total number of people killed both in Cyprus and Egypt since the uprising of Jews at that time occurred also in Cyrene and Egypt. According to Cassius Dio, as a result of this outbreak, no Jew was allowed to set foot on the island, and even those who were driven there by adverse winds were put to death [George Hill, 1940].


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