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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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CYPRUS . An island in the N.E. corner of the Levant, within sight of the Syrian and Cilician coasts. Its greatest length is 140 miles, breadth 60 miles. In configuration it consists of a long plain shut in on the N. and the S.W. by mountain ranges.

In the OT the name Cyprus does not occur, but undoubtedly the island is referred to under the name Kittim , which is the same as the name of the Phœnician town Kition, now Larnaka. In Genesis 10:4 Kittim is spoken of as a son of Javan, together with Tarshish and Elishah. This probably implies that the earliest population of Cyprus was akin to the pre-Hellenic population of Greece. In Ezekiel 27:6 the isles of Kittim are spoken of as supplying Tyre with boxwood. But the name Kittim is used also of the West generally, as in Daniel 11:30 of the Romans (cf. Numbers 24:24 ).

The early importance of Cyprus was due to its forests and its copper. Its copper has long ago been exhausted, and owing to neglect its forests have perished. But throughout the ‘bronze age,’ which for Ægæan countries may roughly be reckoned as b.c. 2000 to b.c. 1000, its copper was exported not only to Syria but to Egypt and to Europe, and, mixed with the tin brought by Phœnicians from Cornwall and the West, it provided the metal from which both weapons and ornaments were made. Hence the name copper is derived from Cyprus. When the iron age began, this metal also was obtained from Cyprus.

Doubtless the copper was first exported by Phœnicians, who early founded Kition and other towns in Cyprus, and introduced the worship of the Syrian Aphrodite who became known to the Greeks as the ‘Cyprian goddess.’ But the Greeks themselves were not long behind the Phœnicians in the island, the settlers were doubtless Peloponnesians disturbed by the Dorian invasions, and they used what the Greeks called the Arcadian dialect. They brought with them the Ægæan civilization, as relics found in the island prove conclusively. Paphoe, Soli, Salamis were Greek settlements, the last being named from the island off the coast of Attica. But the Greeks soon combined with the Phœnicians. They adopted what was probably in origin a Hittite alphabet, in which every syllable is represented by a separate sign, and this lasted till the 4th century.

Cyprus did not develop as an independent power. Before b.c. 1450 it was made tributary to Egypt. About b.c. 1000 it was subject to Tyre, and with Phœnicia it passed into the hands of Sargon, the Assyrian, about b.c. 700. Sargon left an inscription at Kition, and later Assyrian kings record tribute received from Cyprus. About b.c. 560 Amasis of Egypt reduced the island, and it passed with Egypt to Cambyses of Persia in b.c. 525. It took part in the Ionian revolt of b.c. 501, but was quickly reduced, and supplied Xerxes with a fleet in b.c. 480. Athens made repeated attempts to secure the island, but the mixed population prevented any strong Hellenic movement, and it only passed definitely into Greek hands by submission to Alexander the Great after the battle of Issus in b.c. 333. On the division of his empire it fell to the Ptolemys of Egypt, until it was annexed by Rome in b.c. 57. It was made a separate province after the battle of Actium in b.c. 31, becoming at first an ‘imperial’ province, but being afterwards transferred to ‘senatorial’ government, so that in Acts 13:7 St. Luke rightly describes the governor as a proconsul.

Jews first settled in Cyprus under the Ptolemys, and their numbers there were considerable before the time of the Apostles. Barnabas is described as a Cypriot Jew, and when he and St. Paul started from Antioch on the First Missionary Journey, they first of all passed through Cyprus (Acts 13:4-12 ). They landed at Salamis, then a Greek port flourishing with Syrian trade, now deserted with its harbour silted up three miles from Famagusta. Here they preached in the synagogue, where their message was probably not entirely new ( Acts 11:19 ), and then journeyed through ‘the whole island’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) to New Paphos in the W. a three or four days’ journey, even if they preached nowhere on the way. New Paphos, like Old Paphos, was the seat of the worship of Aphrodite (see Paphos), and was at this time the Roman capital. (For the incidents connected with the proconsul and the magus , see artt. Sergius Paulus and Bar-jesus.)

Besides Barnabas we have mention of Mnason, an ‘original convert,’ as coming from Cyprus (Acts 21:16 ), but we have no knowledge of how the Church grew in the island until it included 15 bishoprics. The Jews of Cyprus took part in the great rising of their race which took place in a.d. 117 (when Trajan was busy with Parthia), and they are said to have massacred 240,000 of the Gentile population. The revolt was suppressed without mercy, and all Jews were expelled from the island.

Under the Byzantine emperors Cyprus suffered much from their misrule, and from the Saracens. Seized in 1191 by Richard Cœur de Lion, it was sold to the Knights Templars. From 1479 to 1570 it was held by the Venetians. After three centuries of Turkish rule it passed under British rule in 1878, by a convention which still requires it to pay tribute to the Sultan. But it has scarcely recovered prosperity. Various causes have lessened the rainfall, it is troubled with malaria, its mineral resources were long ago worked out and its forests destroyed. There are no good roads, and communication is kept up by bullock-carts and mules. Its best ports (Larnaka and Limasol) are open roadsteads.

A. E. Hillard.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Cyprus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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