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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History Essays

Geometric and Archaic Cyprus

The most important development on Cyprus between about 1200 and 1050 B.C. was the arrival of successive waves of immigrants from the Greek mainland. These newcomers brought with them, and perpetuated, Mycenaean customs of burial, dress, pottery, production, and warfare. At this time, Achaean immigrants introduced Greek to Cyprus. An Achaean society, politically dominant by the eleventh century B.C., most likely created the independent kingdoms ruled by wanaktes, or kings, on the island. The Greeks progressively gained control of major communities, such as Salamis, Kition, Lapithos, Palaeopaphos, and Soli. In the mid-eleventh century B.C., the Phoenicians occupied Kition on the southern coast of Cyprus. Their interest in Cyprus derived mainly from the island’s rich copper mines and its forests, which provided an abundant source of timber for shipbuilding. At the end of the ninth century B.C., the Phoenicians established a cult for their goddess Astarte in a monumental temple at Kition.

A stele found at Kition reports the submission of the Cypriot kings to Assyria in 709 B.C. Under Assyrian domination, the kingdoms of Cyprus flourished and Cypriot kings enjoyed some independence as long as they regularly paid tribute to the Assyrian king. A seventh-century B.C. inscription records that there were ten kings of Cyprus who ruled over ten separate kingdoms. Some of these kings had Greek names, others had names of Semitic origin, testifying to the ethnic diversity of Cyprus in the first half of the first millennium B.C. Royal tombs at Salamis suggest both the wealth and foreign connections of these rulers in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.

In the sixth century B.C., Egypt, under Amasis II, took control of Cyprus. Although the Cypriot kingdoms continued to maintain relative independence, a significant increase of Egyptian motifs in Cypriot works of art from this period reflects the intensification of Egyptian influence. Elements such as the head of Hathor appeared in quantity for the first time, especially at Amathus.

In 545 B.C., under Cyrus the Great (r. ca. 559–530 B.C.), the Persian empire conquered Cyprus. The new rulers, however, did not interfere with established Cypriot institutions and religious practices. Cypriot troops participated in Persian military campaigns, the independent kingdoms paid the customary tribute, and Salamis ranked as the foremost kingdom. By the late sixth century B.C., Persian control over Cyprus tightened, so that by the beginning of the fifth century B.C. the island was an integral part of the Persian empire.