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Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian Period: From the 11th Century to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )

Abstract and Keywords

This articleexamines the archaeological evidence on the condition and major developments of Cyprus from the Iron Age through the Persian period, or from the eleventh century BC to the abolition of the city-kingdoms. Provenance studies indicate that different aspects of the material culture of the island exercised a strong influence, with a purposely maintained Cypriot trademark, on its Mediterranean environment. The analysis also reveals the absence of destruction levels or abandonment episodes that could have preserved the basic internal structure of settlements in the Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic periods.

Keywords: Cyprus, Iron Age, Persian Period, city-kingdoms, material culture, abandonment episodes, structure of settlements, Cypro-Geometric period, Cypro-Archaic period

[I]n order to understand the role of the Greeks in the eastern Mediterranean during the years ca. 1100–600 bc, it is necessary to move away from Syria and Palestine and to concentrate upon the island of Cyprus. Cyprus, I argue, provides the best evidence, both archaeological and philological, for the establishment of the Greeks in the far reaches of the eastern Mediterranean world.

James Muhly (2009: 23)


From at least as early as the 13th century to the end of the 4th century bc, when Ptolemy I Soter abolished the royal dynasties of Cyprus, the Mediterranean’s easternmost island stood staunchly in support of a segmented model of statehood: for as long as a millennium, Late Bronze Age Alashiya (Iadnana to the Neo-Assyrians and Kypros to the Greeks) was divided into a multiple though fluctuating number of variably autonomous politico-economic territories (Fig. 53.1).

Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian PeriodFrom the 11th Century  to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )Click to view larger

Fig. 53.1 Map of Iron Age II sites in Cyprus

Throughout this long era which, ever since the groundbreaking work of the Swedish-Cyprus Expedition in the 1930s, has been divided into the Late Cypriot (LC IIC–IIIB), the Cypro-Geometric (CG I–III), the Cypro-Archaic (CA I–II), and the Cypro-Classical (CC I–II) periods, the island sustained a homogeneous, strongly indigenous and, to the eye of the archaeologist, easily recognizable material culture; a versatile extrovert culture that did not lose its individuality when it adopted or was inspired by foreign prototypes, such as ceramic (e.g. Black-on-Red ware) or sculptural (e.g. Egyptianizing statuary) styles, which were then (p. 796) traded far and wide. Moreover, stylistic as well as provenance studies conducted on metal artefacts, pottery, terracotta, and limestone figures that have been found in the Levant, the Aegean, and Italy have increasingly highlighted the fact that, from the 12th century bc to the end of the Cypro-Archaic period (around 475 bc), different aspects of the material culture of the island (e.g. Cypriot-type statues) exercised a strong influence with a purposely maintained Cypriot trademark, on its Mediterranean environment (see below).

Research Problems: Urban Longevity, Limited Settlement Visibility

Sinister though it may sound, archaeologists in Cyprus have come to lament the absence of destruction levels or abandonment episodes that could have preserved the basic internal structure of settlements in the Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic periods. In fact, with the exception of a few sites where excavators were able to isolate 5th- and/or 4th-century levels—e.g. Kition, Idalion, Amathous, and Paphos (as in Chapter 43, ‘Paphos’ refers throughout this chapter to Kouklia-Palaepaphos)—even the Cypro-Classical strata have an extremely poor archaeological visibility. As a rule, we deal with a scatter of settlement evidence fortuitously discovered during the excavation of monumental structures of late antiquity (gymnasia, theatres, baths, etc.) that have eradicated the secular and sacred environment in many of the once autonomous Iron Age polities of Cyprus (e.g. Salamis and Kourion).

(p. 797) The longevity of the first-millennium bc settlements constitutes a major research problem which, admittedly, renders the study of the socioeconomic structure of the island a daunting task, and the interpretations of its urban and political development a controversial issue. There is, however, a much more positive aspect to this impressive longue durée, which calls for a constructive evaluation: granted that for more than a millennium the urban demography of the island did not undergo drastic changes, it becomes evident that from as early as the 11th century bc the island operated on a successful economic system. We do not observe in 11th-century Cyprus human resources wasted in the establishment of short-lived, failing settlements. One need only compare the sheer longevity of the settlements in Cyprus to the contemporary situation in Greece, where after the 12th century, and for as long as three centuries, there was an unnaturally high failure factor in the establishment of new settlements (Iacovou 2005a: 23). In the Aegean there was ‘a remarkable discontinuity in occupation between what appear to be some of the most prominent settlement sites of the Early Iron Age and those of the ensuing period’ (Snodgrass 1987: 173).

Nevertheless, due to the inherent shortcomings of settlement archaeology in Cyprus, the rich and diverse Iron Age material culture of the island—in many cases the loot of intensive 19th-century treasure hunting that destroyed hundreds of tombs and dozens of sanctuaries (cf. Goring 1988; Marangou 2000)—has until recently been approached from an art-historical point of view. In the absence of secure provenance or substantial contextual information, greater emphasis was placed upon the identification of external artistic influences (e.g. Phoenician, Assyrian, or Egyptian) on Cypriot pottery, metal objects, and sculpture. This was then mistakenly used as evidence for colonization (see below, the Phoenician ‘colonization’ of Kition) or political subjection (see below, the Egyptian ‘domination’ of Cyprus). In this chapter, the migration and permanent establishment of Greek and Phoenician people on the island, as well as the often elusive relation of the Cypriot polities to the Near Eastern empires, will be interpreted from an internal, a ‘Cyprocentric’ point of view (Iacovou 2007a). By contextualizing the material data and the epigraphic evidence, we may begin to reconstruct the separate regional histories of the different polities that participated, for longer or shorter periods of time, in the island’s first-millennium political geography.

One Political Culture, Three Language Groups

Three distinct languages were in use on the island during the better part of the first millennium bc: a Semitic one that was written in the Phoenician alphabet; an Indo-European one (the Arcado-Cypriot Greek dialect) that was written in the Cypriot syllabary and, after the 5th century, also in the Greek alphabet; and an undecipherable language christened ‘Eteocypriot’ that was also inscribed in the Cypriot syllabary (cf. Collombier 1991a; Panayotou-Triantafyllopoulou 2006). Much ink has been spilled in attempts to associate each linguistic group with a distinct ethnic culture—a fact that altogether distorts the cultural and political configuration of Cyprus in the first millennium bc. A contextual approach to the mortuary pattern, the sacred landscape, and the symbols of statehood employed by the Iron Age city-kingdoms indicate that the material culture in the various polities made no concerted effort to construct a distinctly Phoenician, Greek, or ‘Eteocypriot’ identity (Iacovou 2006a; 2008a). The ‘Cyprus phenomenon’ (i.e. a largely unified material culture sustained by three different linguistic groups) has its roots in the (p. 798) island’s successful handling of the ‘crisis years’. The evidence analysed in the previous chapter on Cyprus, which is primarily devoted to the archaeology of the 12th century bc, rejects the idea that an island-wide sharp break was imposed for any length of time after LC IIIA. The Mediterranean-wide crisis that had put an end to the second-millennium economic system and trade pattern, which centred on the exchange of high-value goods between heads of empires and palace states, did not obliterate all the regional economies of Cyprus. This made the island a desirable migrants’ destination. The newcomers were neither invaders nor colonists; they made no attempt to establish separate enclaves. Instead, they infiltrated economically vibrant Cypriot centres, like Enkomi, Paphos, and Kition, that were in the process of revolutionizing the metal industry with the production of ‘working iron’ (Snodgrass 1980) and where the Late Cypriot economic system—identified in the close association of cult, metallurgy, and trade in metals—had remained prevalent (Sherratt 1998: 300, 304; Webb 1999: 287).

Continuities and Settlement Pattern Restructuring

The power vacuum suffered mostly by southern and western settlement hierarchy systems in LC IIIA (Iacovou, Ch. 43 above) did not last long. In the Vasilikos and Kouris River Valleys it healed with the foundation of Amathous and Kourion in LC IIIB (the 11th century bc). These two settlements, which were first and foremost ports of export, became the management centres of the agricultural and industrial hinterland of their respective regions. Alison South provides a magisterial summary of the settlement pattern transformation in the Vasilikos and Maroni Valleys:

To what extent the Late Bronze Age ‘chiefdoms’ were the ancestors of the Iron Age kingdoms is a very complicated question [...]; it is well known that while there was continuity at some sites (Enkomi-Salamis, Kition, Kouklia [Paphos]), many others were abandoned, and immense changes took place following the upheavals at the end of the Bronze Age. In the case of Kalavassos and Maroni, these two prosperous Late Bronze Age polities, well endowed with agricultural and mineral resources, were completely abandoned by about 1200 bc, and although there is plentiful evidence for occupation having resumed in the Iron Age, they never regained their previous wealth and importance. Indeed, in this region the political pattern changed out of all recognition, with Amathus taking over as the centre of a kingdom, and the Maroni and Vasilikos valleys found themselves in the borderlands at the outer edge of the hypothesized extent of the kingdom...

(South 2002: 68)

The island’s Iron Age settlement pattern was, therefore, structured from old as well as new establishments and, as adroitly pointed out by Anthony Snodgrass (1994), survivals played a far more important role than losses in the construction of the Cypriot Iron Age. The long-term continuities, which bridge the divide between the island’s Late Bronze and Iron Ages, are evident in the material record. The most important ones are the following:

  1. Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian PeriodFrom the 11th Century  to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )Click to view larger

    Fig. 53.2 Greek Cypro-Syllabic inscription of the king of Paphos Onasicharis

    (Kouklia Museum Inv. No. 2141, with the kind permission of the Director of Antiquities, Cyprus)

    (a) continuity of the Late Cypriot script, which was adopted and adapted by two different languages (Greek and ‘Eteocypriot’), both of which served state functions in the Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical periods (e.g. legends on coins and royal dedicatory inscriptions) (Iacovou 2008a) (Fig. 53.2); (p. 799)

  2. (b) continuity of an economy based on trading the island’s metallic wealth, as copper remained Cyprus’s primary export commodity from the Late Bronze Age to the end of antiquity (cf. Kassianidou 2000) and, in addition, trade in metals was optimized with the production and marketing of iron tools and weapons, since Cypriot metalworkers played a ‘major role in unlocking the secrets of working with iron’ (Muhly 2003); and

  3. (c) continuity of the same open-air cult model not only in the Late Cypriot urban temene of Paphos and Kition but also in Late Bronze extra-urban sanctuaries that were refurbished in the Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic periods (e.g. Ayia Irene: cf. Gjerstad et al. 1935: 820–44) and in new sanctuaries established by Iron Age authorities (e.g. Amathous: cf. Fourrier and Hermary 2006; Fourrier 2007).

The preservation of the old Cypriot cult model that had been developed in the Bronze Age and came to be closely associated with the management of the copper trade in LC IIC–IIIA was more important than the promotion of Greek, Phoenician, or ‘Eteocypriot’ identities (Iacovou 2006a). Significantly, neither the Greek kings of Paphos nor the Semitic dynasty of Kition felt compelled to replace the indigenous cult practice with one that would have underlined their distinct origins from ‘motherlands’ that lay on opposite sides of the Mediterranean. They did not operate as colonists, which is why they have little in common with Greeks established in Syracuse or Akragas, or with Phoenicians established on the isle of Motya. Unlike the Archaic and Classical city-states of the other big Mediterranean island of Sicily, the Iron Age polities of Cyprus were not implanted on an island that until the arrival of colonists from east and west had not developed its own urban and literate culture (Iacovou 2008b: 250).

Territorial Fragmentation, Social Homogenization

The Early Iron Age polities were operating in a transformed economic environment in which institutionalized commercial exchanges between heads of state were a feature of the (p. 800) past (cf. Bell 2006: 105). From the 12th century and until the rise of the Assyrian Empire, Mediterranean trade was largely an entrepreneurial enterprise carried out by merchant groups and petty kingdoms. In the absence of a powerful unifying regulator, the number of regions trying to establish their own autonomous politico-economic territory kept multiplying. In Cyprus, ten is the highest reliable number we have and is based on Neo-Assyrian records of the early 7th century (see below).

Despite the fact that territorial fragmentation is a key feature of the Cypro-Geometric period—it was put into reverse gear once the island joined the Assyrian Empire (in 707 bc)— a common organizational concept is evident behind the selection of exclusively extramural cemeteries in the periphery of the otherwise invisible Cypro-Geometric settlements. All of them were newly designated burial grounds. They had been established in LC IIIB or CG I and most of them remained in use for centuries. The long-term maintenance and gradual expansion of the ‘towns of the dead’ (necropoleis) imply a secure and stabilized demography; and the basic structure of Early Iron settlements may be inferred from the spatial distribution of their extensive cemeteries (cf. Iacovou 2005b: 129, 131).

The Cypriot-type chamber tomb, which had been in use since the Early Cypriot, is not attested after the 12th century—it was not even retained in Amathous, the new Iron Age harbour town whose foundation is traditionally attributed to an autochthonous stock (cf. Iacovou 2002a). The prevalent type of tomb in every Cypro-Geometric cemetery is the chamber tomb with the long dromos, which in the Late Helladic period but not after the 12th century had served as the family tomb of the Mycenaean society. In Cyprus, however, where it makes its first appearance in the 11th century in association with Proto-White Painted pottery (e.g. at Gastria-Alaas: Karageorghis 1975), it is not reserved for the inhumation of a particular group of migrants. Thus, the evidence provided by Cypro-Geometric burial assemblages from all over the island (e.g. Paphos, Kourion, Amathous, Salamis, and Lapithos) suggests that Cyprus entered the first millennium with a highly homogenized society (Iacovou 2005b: 128). We do not observe in either the burial customs or the ceramic industry (especially the tableware), or in the rest of the Cypro-Geometric material culture, a differential use that could underscore a distinction between indigenous groups and newcomers.

The Cypro-Geometric culture was an island-wide koiné. Cremation, the prevailing rite in post-12th-century (‘Dark Age’) Greece, is rarely observed in Cyprus. It was, however, practised in the case of extraordinary individuals with evident Aegean affiliations, as is the case of the deceased in the LC IIIB Kaloriziki T 40 at Kourion (McFadden 1954). The placement of the cremated remains in elaborate bronze kraters and the exceptional burial gifts (a superb gold sceptre, two bronze tripod stands (Fig. 53.3), and arms of bronze, to mention only a few) belong to the milieu of the warrior grave tradition, and link the dead warrior of Kourion-Kaloriziki to near-contemporary heroic burials from Knossos (Subminoan), Tiryns (Submycenaean), and Lefkandi (Proto-Geometric) (Catling 1995: 126–7; Coldstream and Catling 1996: 646–8).

Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian PeriodFrom the 11th Century  to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )Click to view larger

Fig. 53.3 Bronze tripod stand from Kaloriziki T.40

(Cyprus Museum, with the kind permission of the Director of Antiquities, Cyprus)

Phoenician tophets have not been found in Cyprus, not even in Kition, which has been repeatedly described as the Phoenicians’ first colony to the west. Only one cemetery with funerary urns of the Cypro-Archaic period—found during rescue operations on the coast of Amathous but still unpublished—bears resemblances to a tophet (Karageorghis 1995: 330; 2002a: 151, fig. 319; Christou 1998). It supports the presence of a foreign, most probably Semitic, community that had established its burial ground separately from the extensive (p. 801) Iron Age cemeteries of the harbour town of Amathous (with hundreds of chamber tombs with a dromos), which spread around the citadel hill (cf. Hermary 1999: fig. 3).

New Commercial Strategies: After the Crisis and Prior to Empire Rule

Early Cypro-Geometric tombs contain impressive evidence as to the Mediterranean markets the Cypriots were exploiting and their ability to access rare exotica (e.g. a West Mediterranean obelos of Atlantic bronze from Amathous: Karageorghis and Lo Schiavo 1989) and raw materials, including precious metals that were made into jewellery by local craftsmen employing largely simple techniques (e.g. gold rings, gold plaques, and silver fibulae: Goring 1983). Evidently, Cypriot commercial enterprises were not brought to a standstill in the 11th century, but the strategies that began to make up for the losses were new (cf. Bell 2006: 102–3). In fact, the coastal urban centres of Cyprus are thought to have been in the forefront of this alternative trading system since the 12th century (Sherratt 1998: 292) and the same sites provide the earliest evidence for the introduction of the new iron technology (carburization and quenching: cf. Wheeler and Maddin 1980).

The oxhide ingot, the exchange unit par excellence of Cypriot copper, was one of the victims of the new trading pattern: it is not recorded after the 12th century. Considering its weight—about 28kg of raw copper—and the fact that it was shipped in considerable numbers to customers who were heads of Late Bronze states (cf. Knapp 2008: 308–12), its abandonment was inevitable. We have no evidence regarding the shape or weight of the units in which Cyprus traded its raw metal after the ‘crisis years’, but we know instead of Cypriot metal artefacts, which become increasingly visible in the freelance trade of the post-Sea Peoples era. Although they are usually presented as exclusively Late Cypriot products, the (p. 802) rod tripods and four-sided stands were apparently made and exported from Cyprus to the end of the 11th century. Their presence in CG I tombs (together with hemispherical bowls and spearheads) has been increasing (e.g Kourion-Kaloriziki T 39; Paphos-Skales T 49, 58; and Amathous-Diplostrati T 109: cf. Iacovou and Hermary 1999: 154), and it is becoming harder and harder to explain them all as heirlooms or antiques in CG I burial assemblages. In fact, beyond Cyprus, especially in Crete, Italy, and Sardinia, Cypriot stands continued to be imitated throughout the Early Iron Age (Karageorghis 2000: 60; Papasavvas 2001: 206–11; Kourou 2008: 363). Not surprisingly, the clay mould fragments for casting tripod legs found in Xeropolis (the settlement site of Lefkandi in Euboea) in a Late Proto-Geometric context (c.900 bc), are associated with Cypriot craftsmen (Catling and Catling 1980: 96, pls 12, 13a).

Bronze stands were not the only items with a Cypriot trademark that were reproduced/imitated in different parts of the Mediterranean. Iron knives, at times with an ivory handle and often bimetallic (with bronze rivets), made in Cyprus from as early as the 12th century, were among the first utilitarian iron implements that circulated in the ‘post-Ugarit’ Mediterranean maritime trade. ‘The Cypriot knives were a great success and appear to have been exported to or copied in Palestine and the Levant’ (Pickles and Peltenburg 1998: 84). They have been traced in Syria (e.g. Hama), the southern Levant (e.g. Tell Qasile, Tell el-Far‘ah, and Megiddo), Anatolia (e.g. Tarsus), and the Aegean (Sherratt 1994), especially Crete.

The Early Iron Age cemeteries of Knossos, in particular, have produced some exceptional metal artefacts from Cyprus: e.g. a Cypriot bronze bowl with a Phoenician inscription from a Middle Proto-Geometric tomb dated c.900 bc (Coldstream and Catling 1996: 30, T.Jf1, fig. 157); and iron obeloi (roasting spits) from two 10th-century tombs at Fortetsa (Brock 1957: 22, 202, no. 203; Coldstream 1977: 164, n. 22). In Cyprus, obeloi are an 11th-century novelty; they appear first in LC IIIB/CG I tombs and it is quite likely that they were a Cypriot invention (Coldstream 1977: 146; 1985: 54). The earliest, e.g. a group of three from Kition (Myres 1910: 107, pl. 29) and a second group of three from Paphos-Skales T 49, were of bronze (Karageorghis 1983: 60–61, pl. 88), though spits made of iron are reported from CG I–III tombs at Lapithos (Lapithos T 409:7; T 11: 32a–c; T 417:12a; T 422:10: Gjerstad et al. 1934). In CA I–II iron spits were deposited, often together with a pair of fire-dogs, in warrior burials (e.g. Paphos-Kato Alonia: Karageorghis 1963). Most of these elite burials come from monumental built tombs (e.g. Salamis T 79: Karageorghis 1973: 118; Patriki T 1: Karageorghis 1972: 169; Tamassos T 12: Buchholz, Matthäus, and Walcher 2002: 228–9). Their original function as spits for roasting meat is not in doubt (Karageorghis 1970). In Cyprus, as well as in Greece, where they were also often deposited with fire-dogs—as in the Argos warrior grave (Courbin 1957) and the North Cemetery of Knossos (Coldstream and Catling 1996: 591)—they were an acknowledged symbol of male status (cf. Coldstream 1977: 146–8). But what is more intriguing is that these thin rods, of which the hand could grasp six at once (hence, the Greek drachma) were deposited in numbers that can be divided or multiplied by six, which suggests that ‘they had become an index of wealth, a primitive currency’ (Coldstream 1977: 148) in the pre-monetary economy.

Standardized products were part of the response to the decentralized long-distance trade that began to flourish after the collapse of the second-millennium bc state economies, and this strategy could not have excluded ceramic containers and tablewares. Beginning in the 11th century, the local ceramic industry of Proto-White Painted (PWP) in LC IIIB (p. 803) and White Painted I (WP)/Bichrome I in CG I, achieved (for the first time) the standardization and fast-wheel mass production of an impressive range of high-quality utilitarian vessels (Sherratt 1991). The repertoire of PWP, published by Pieridou in her irreplaceable study of 1973, also includes a fascinating range of specialized vases (e.g. kernoi, zoomorphic and bird-shaped askoi (Pieridou 1970; 1971), pyxides, and horn- and boat-shaped vessels (Pieridou 1973)) that may have been used in cultic as well as funerary practices. The majority of PWP shapes are indebted to the repertoire of LH IIIC painted vases (e.g. amphorae, stirrup-jars, kylikes, cups, deep bowls, and kalathoi (Fig. 53.4) or have local antecedents in the slow-wheel shapes of the Cypriot Bronze Age (e.g. the ring kernos).

The impact of contemporary Levantine containers and slow-pouring vessels, on the other hand, becomes more pronounced in the production line of WP I/Bichrome I (cf. globular jugs: Iacovou 1988: 36). The imported originals that had reached Cyprus with their content are not plentiful and the same may be said of WP I/Bichrome I pottery on the Phoenician coast. PWP has not been securely identified outside Cyprus—though a wavy-band bowl from Sarepta is assigned to LC IIIB (Koehl 1985: 118–22). The earliest, most abundant and well-stratified CG I pottery ever found outside Cyprus is contained in assemblages from Tyre (cf. Aubet and Nuñez 2008) and Tel Dor; surprisingly, the shapes are mostly open tableware (Gilboa 1999: 122; 2005: 60). In CG IB/II, when Tel Dor witnessed an influx of Cypriot pottery, some bowl fragments were found to be local imitations (Gilboa 1999: 123, fig. 5: nos 7–8).

Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian PeriodFrom the 11th Century  to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )Click to view larger

Fig. 53.4 Proto-White Painted kalathos with pictorial decoration from Kouklia T.9 No. 7

(Cyprus Museum, with the kind permission of the Director of Antiquities, Cyprus)

Seen in their chronological milieu, the modest ceramic exchanges described above were not insignificant (cf. Karageorghis 2002a: 132, figs 278–81; 2008: 330). They suggest that the traffic between Cyprus and the Phoenician coast never ceased—not even in LC IIIA–IIIB (on the artefactual evidence, see Gilboa 2005: 53), when exchanges may have been largely (p. 804) limited to Cypriot-type wavy-band pithoi in the Levant cf. (cf. Gilboa 2001; Karageorghis 2008: 328) and Cannanite-type amphorae (cf. Hadjicosti 1988) in Cyprus. This strictly bilateral phenomenon becomes more pronounced when compared with the absence of exchanges between the southern Levantine coast (i.e. Philistia) and Cyprus. Like the coastal polities of southeast Cyprus, the northern Levantine coast (Phoenicia) was ‘one of the few areas that were least affected by the dramatic demographic and other terminal Late Bronze Age upheavals’ (cf. Gilboa 2005: 49).

In the Aegean region PWP and WP I/Bichrome I have not been identified to this date—not even in Crete, where three WP III/Bichrome III vases from the North Cemetery of Knossos are described as the first of this Cypriot fabric to be recorded on the island (Coldstream and Catling 1996: 406). Even in Rhodes the earliest ceramic evidence for Cypriot imports (two barrel jugs), as well as Cypriot imitations or influences on Rhodian Geometric pottery production, date to the early 9th century bc (Bourogiannis 2009: 114–15), but it is quite likely that future work will push the evidence backwards. Thus, today, Lefkandi in Euboea continues to hold the earliest confirmed arrival of a CG II vase in the Aegean: a Bichrome II jug from a Late Proto-Geometric tomb, dating to 920–900 bc (Desborough 1980: 350, pl. 137: 19; Lemos 2002: 227). At the same time, around the end of the 10th century, the first Euboean pendent semicircle skyphoi appear in Cyprus, at the port site of Amathous (Desborough 1957; Lemos and Hatcher 1991; Lemos 2002: 228). Coldstream, who has published and discussed (practically single-handedly) all Greek Geometric and Archaic imports to Cyprus, underlines that ‘of all the city-kingdoms of Cyprus, Eteocypriot Amathus has been the most prolific of Early Greek imported pottery’ (1995: 195). More importantly, Greek pottery exports to Amathous ‘closely match those reaching Tyre, and therefore place Amathus firmly on the route from the Aegean to the Phoenician metropolis’ (Coldstream 1998: 6).

The development of common ceramic styles in the Levant and Cyprus—as in the production of Bichrome Wheelmade and Red Lustrous Wheelmade—is well attested in the Late Cypriot period (cf. Steel 2004: 154), and it should not cause surprise when it reoccurs in the Early Iron Age. In the 1980s, however, following the rescue excavations of the Paphos-Skales Iron Age cemetery (Karageorghis 1983) and also of a few hundred Cypro-Geometric chamber tombs from the cemeteries of Amathous (Tytgat 1989), the problem of differentiating between Phoenician imports and local imitations of some closed vessel types (pilgrim flasks and round-based jugs) reached a climax. The solution was given by Patricia Bikai, who after having published the Tyre sounding (Bikai 1978), was able to identify the Phoenician imports in the Cypro-Geometric tombs of Cyprus and also group them into four horizons on the basis of their Cypriot contexts (Bikai 1987).

Black-On-Red Ware

Granted that the most conspicuous shapes that were adopted by the Cypriot ceramic industry, and were incorporated into the local production of Cypro-Geometric, were contemporary Phoenician closed vessels, it is hardly surprising that in the advanced Cypro-Geometric period a type of ware began to be manufactured on the island that was inspired by various traits associated with Phoenician pottery production. According to Bikai, the inspiration for the much-discussed Black-on-Red (BoR) lies in the Phoenician ‘Red Ware’ imports identified in CG I tombs (Bikai 1983: 405; Schreiber 2003: 231, 275). BoR, however, is not a Phoenician ware. Bikai ‘has always been mystified by the suggestion that Black-on-Red is (p. 805) Phoenician’ (Coldstream and Bikai 1988: 37); and it should certainly not be labelled ‘Cypro-Phoenician’—a misnomer that has been used in Levantine archaeology. In the Tyre assemblage, for instance, BoR is described as an imported alien element. Schreiber’s important work on BoR has shown that the ware was made ‘meaningful as a recognizable and marketable commodity’ in Cyprus (Schreiber 2003: 1), from where it was widely exported and also imitated in different parts of the Mediterranean. BoR’s distribution pattern in Israel/Palestine, Phoenicia, Syria, Asia Minor, and Egypt shows ‘a broad but relatively minimal distribution, over a lengthy period of time’ (Schreiber 2003: 80). In Cyprus the ware is closely associated with CG III and CA I burial assemblages. It is quite likely that the inception of its production in Cyprus occurred in CG II (conventionally dated to c.950–850), but this does not by any means make it a ‘hallmark’ of the 10th century (Iacovou 2004 contra Schreiber 2003: 84). BoR exports to the Aegean are also of Cypriot manufacture and are largely confined to the 8th century (cf. Bourogiannis 2009: 122). In Rhodes, Kos, and Crete, BoR was ‘copiously imitated’ from the late 9th to the 7th centuries bc (Stampolides 2009: 95). When pottery from Cyprus ‘began to arrive at Knossos in a steady flow from about 800 onwards’, the preponderant ware among the imports was BoR, and it inspired the frequently imitated shape of the BoR juglet (Coldstream 1984: 136–7).

Consequently, a survey of Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic pottery exports and their local imitations would underline that these preponderantly small- and medium-size closed vases (jugs and juglets) were primarily traded as containers for marketing different kinds of liquid, especially perfumed oil (cf. Schreiber 2003: 65). In the first millennium bc, no Cypriot open shape managed to match the popularity of the Late Cypriot White Slip bowls that were exported all over the Mediterranean as vessels on their own right—apparently because of their impermeable surface (cf. Karageorghis 2008: 327–8). The fine ware open shapes (mainly WP I) that dominate the Tel Dor and Tyre assemblages in CG I constitute an unusual phenomenon, which is currently attributed to the presence of Cypriots—established with their tableware—on the Phoenician coast (cf. Gilboa 2005: 337). Later, during the transitional period from CG III to Cypro-Archaic, a large number of Cypriot amphoroid kraters were used as urns for cremation burials in the Iron Age cemetery of Tyre-Al Bass (Aubet 2004).

Cypro-Archaic: Return to Empire Rule

The rise of Assyria, the first Iron Age empire that reached as far west as the Mediterranean and incorporated the coastal city-states of the Levant into its centrally controlled market economy, worked as a catalyst for the political geography of Cyprus. A primary goal of Neo-Assyrian imperialism was the control of a vast interregional trading network that rendered the redistribution of goods an essential operation. Militarily, however, their westward expansion had stopped short of Cyprus: the island did not suffer a military intervention (cf. Yon and Malbran-Labat 1995). It was the collective decision of Cyprus’s regional representatives that apparently led, shortly before the end of the 8th century (c.707 bc), to the negotiation of a profitable liaison with Sargon II of Assyria, which appears to have given the Cypriots a ‘favoured nation’ status (Muhly 2009: 24). They became client states and operated primarily as the empire’s Mediterranean entrepôts (Iacovou 2002b). The royal stele, which Sargon II ordered to be erected at Kition to mark the western frontier of his dominion, is inscribed with the only Near Eastern decree ever found beyond the continent. The cuneiform text (p. 806) suggests that the Cypriot leaders went of their own accord to offer Sargon II gifts and allegiance; they returned having secured the emperor’s recognition as heads of kingdoms (Yon 2004: 345–54).

In an invaluable royal inscription on a prism (dated to 673/2 bc), Esarhaddon (680–669) identifies by name ten Cypriot kings and their capital seats. Although each had his own kingdom, they all belonged geographically to Iadnana. The etymological ‘history’ of the term and its variants (Adnana and Iadanana: cf. Stylianou 1989: 384–6) has recently been thoroughly discussed (with a critical review of all earlier interpretations) by James Muhly, who concludes that this term describes Cyprus ‘as the predominant island in the land of the Danunians’, or the ‘Eastern Ionians’ (2009: 28). The transliteration of the kings’ names on the list runs as follows: Akestor of Edil (Idalion), Pylagoras (or Phylagoras) of Kitrusi (Chytroi), Kisu of Sillua (Salamis), Eteandros of Pappa (Paphos), Eresu (Aratos?) of Silli (Soloi), Damasos of Kourion (Kuri), Admesu (Admitos?) of Tamesi (Tamassos), Damusi of Qardihadasti, Onasagoras of Lidir (Ledra), and Bususu of Nuria (Lipiński 1991; 2004: 74). Thus, Esarhaddon’s prism reveals that in the first quarter of the 7th century more than half the Cypriot polities were ruled by kings who bore Greek proper names.

Manifestations of Royalty and Expansion of Cypriot Trading Activities to East and West from c.700 bc

Although there are no Assyrian royal records referring to the Cypriot polities after the reign of Asurbanipal (668–663 bc), we are exceptionally well informed by archaeological evidence as to the new wealth that began to pour into the island from the beginning of the Cypro-Archaic period. No sooner had Cyprus become a tributary to Assyria than its material culture acquired architectural monumentality befitting its royal dynasties. With Salamis leading the way—as Enkomi, its predecessor, had done in the Late Cypriot era—the territorial monarchs constructed the first true monuments of Iron Age Cyprus: the built tombs. Salamis possesses the earliest (late 8th century) and the greatest concentration of ‘royal tombs’, which held ostentatious burial gifts of unsurpassed craftsmanship (cf. Karageorghis 2002a: 157–73) (Fig. 53.5). In fact, the high-quality wood and ivory ‘Phoenician’ furniture witnessed in the Salamis tombs of the late 8th century are considered among the first examples of the Egyptianizing iconography that was imported to Cyprus on a large scale during the 7th century (Faegersten 2003: 257).

These sepulchral monuments also served for staging extravagant funerary ceremonies, which in Salamis, in particular, are evocative of Homeric burial customs (Karageorghis 1969; 2002b). The display of exotica and status symbols before their deposition was of paramount importance. Burial processions often involved horse-drawn chariots and hearses and the sacrifice of the animals that were then buried with the deceased lord. Built tombs were also constructed in Amathous—where the second highest number has been recorded—Kition, Tamassos, Idalion, Kourion, and elsewhere (Christou 1996).

Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian PeriodFrom the 11th Century  to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )Click to view larger

Fig. 53.5 Salamis, ‘Royal’ Tomb No. 79

(Cyprus Museum photographic archive, with the kind permission of the Director of Antiquities, Cyprus)

Besides built tombs, a whole range of new Cypriot phenomena are dated within the fifty years covered by the last quarter of the 8th and the first quarter of the 7th century, alternatively between the dating of Sargon’s stele and Esarhaddon’s prism; collectively they define the sociopolitical environment of the Cypro-Archaic period. The most important is the (p. 807) earliest recorded use of the Cypriot syllabary by Greek basileis (kings), the political leaders of almost all the Cypriot kingdoms in the Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical periods (Iacovou 2006b). Thus, use of the Greek syllabary for state functions in Cyprus pre-dates that of the Phoenician alphabet by two centuries (Iacovou 2013: 141–2).

Two of the earliest known royal syllabic inscriptions—the one reads Akestor basileus of Paphos, the other mentions only the title basileus—are engraved on silver bowls dated c.725–675 (Karageorghis 2000; 2002a: figs 321, 322). Like the bronze stands in earlier days, these so-called Cypro-Phoenician bowls (in bronze or silver), recovered from contexts dating from the 9th to the 7th centuries bc (Markoe 1985; 2000: 148), are associated with Mediterranean elites in Italy, the Aegean, and Cyprus. There are twenty-two examples known from Cyprus and most of them come from sanctuaries and built tombs (Karageorghis 2000: 180, nos 297–307). A group of these vessels has been assigned to a workshop in Cyprus that was active around 700 bc (Markoe 2000: 149–50).

Meanwhile to the east, at the trading port of Al Mina—established at the mouth of the Orontes River that provided access to Syria and to Assyria beyond—the predominantly Euboean pottery of the first generation suddenly gives way around 700 bc to pottery of Cypriot type (Boardman 1999). At the same time, to the west, merchant seals in the Cypriot syllabary occur on two Greek vases dated around 700 bc; one was found in northern Greece and the other in Italy (Vokotopoulou and Christides 1995). And, almost simultaneously, Cypriot terracotta figurines make their debut in the Greek sanctuaries of Ionia, along the coast of Asia Minor and in the adjacent islands of the eastern Aegean (Samos, Rhodes, Cos, and Chios).

Terracotta and limestone sculpture

On the basis of securely dated evidence from the Heraion of Samos, the import of Cypriot terracotta figurines started steadily at the beginning of the 7th century—if not a little earlier, (p. 808) in the late 8th century—and, without delay, they began to be produced with Samian clay. Moulds, a novelty for Samian potters of the 7th century, played a major role in the production of Cypriot-type figurines, which continued down to the 6th century. Recently, it has been confirmed that even large Cypriot-type terracottas were made with local Samian clay (Karageorghis et al. 2009: 20, 204–5).

Technically demanding large and even life-size terracotta sculptures began to be produced on Cyprus in the mid-7th century (cf. Karageorghis 2000: 139). The best examples of this early phase are the sculptures found in situ and in the hundreds around the altar of the Iron Age sanctuary of Ayia Irene (Gjerstad 1948: 93) (Fig. 53.6). Impressive examples of 7th-century large-size Cypriot terracotta figures found at Miletus have been classified as fragments of female votive statues, like the life-size figure from Old Smyrna (Henke 2009: 209).

Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian PeriodFrom the 11th Century  to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )Click to view larger

Fig. 53.6 Terracotta statues from the sanctuary of Ayia Irene on display in the Cyprus Museum

(Cyprus Museum photographic archive, with the kind permission of the Director of Antiquities, Cyprus)

Sculpture in limestone (Cyprus has no marble) also began in the second half of the 7th century (cf. Karageorghis 2000: 106), and the earliest are votives from the sanctuary of Golgoi which, like Idalion, Arsos, and Kition—the main workshops of stone sculpture in Cyprus—is close to the limestone sources situated in the centre and the southeastern parts of the island. Interestingly, the early development of limestone sculpture in Cyprus has been attributed by Antoine Hermary, the leading authority on Cypriot sculpture, to the prestige enjoyed by the Cypriot terracottas (Hermary 1991: 146). Hermary posits that sculptors from Idalion moved with their material first to Samos—where the earliest Cypriot limestone sculpture outside Cyprus is recorded—and not much later to other eastern Aegean sites, as well as to Naukratis and to small kingdoms on the Levantine coast (Hermary 2009: 247). Large numbers of Cypriot-type sculptures in limestone and terracotta were found at the Temple of Eshmun near Sidon (Stucky 1993; Karageorghis 2007). The terracotta fragments, most of them moulded, date primarily to the 6th century bc. Some were imported from Cyprus, others were locally made; and the same seems to be true of the limestone statues (p. 809) (cf. Karageorghis 2008: 332). The greatest number of 6th-century Cypriot statues come from the sanctuary of Amrit (Lembke 2004); it belongs to the class known as Cypro-Ionian (Hermary 2008: 172).

Two recent provenance studies on limestone (Kourou et al. 2002) and terracotta (Karageorghis et al. 2009) statuettes of Cypriot type found in the Aegean have shown that the distribution pattern of Cypriot and Cypriot-type terracotta figurines is exactly the same as that of the contemporary class of Cypriot limestone statuettes—despite the fact that the presence of the latter in the Aegean is dated to a shorter period (from the late 7th to the middle of the 6th century) (Kourou et al. 2002: 5). In fact, the trend of dedicating terracotta and stone figurines of Cypriot origin or style in Greek sanctuaries of the eastern Aegean, to the near complete exclusion of the rest of the Greek world, is a phenomenon confined to the Archaic period (Karageorghis et al. 2009: 19).

The impressive visibility of Cypriot and Cypriot-type sculpture abroad throughout the Cypro-Archaic period justifies the term ‘Cyprianizing trend’, coined to describe the prestige enjoyed by this sculpture in the eastern Aegean and the Levant.

Sanctuaries and Kingdom Territories

Dedications of sculptures in clay and stone are another means through which royal agendas were manifested (cf. Hermary 1989; Fourrier 2007; Satraki 2008). Numerous dedications by kings or members of their families have been identified in extra-urban sanctuaries, whose proliferation and enhancement during the Cypro-Archaic period is interpreted as a gesture on behalf of the rulers to legitimize state boundaries and to protect routes that facilitated the transfer of copper and raw materials to the ports of export.

As to whether Cyprus was forced to pay tribute to Egypt some time in the 6th century, this is largely a modern academic construct built from Herodotus’s unfounded claim that Amasis was the first man to seize the island (Hist. 2.182.2) and from a group of Egyptianizing male votive statues (cf. Karageorghis 2002a: 195). As Reyes has stated after a thorough review of the debate, ‘it is not possible to associate anything Egyptian in the material record with an “Egyptian domination”, if only because, historically, there need not have been any such phenomenon’ (Reyes 1994: 78).

The ‘Egyptianizing horizon’ on Cyprus begins in the late 8th century, but Cypriot Egyptianizing votive objects in the round (e.g. sphinxes, Hathoric stelae and capitals, and the kilt-wearing male figures) are encountered from the early 6th century onwards, executed in the local limestone. They are closely tied to the carved and incised iconography of the ivory plaques and the bronze and silver bowls in Cyprus since the end of the 8th century (Faegersten 2003: 13–14). Karageorghis has justifiably described this tendency as ‘Egyptomania’ (2002a: 197). In her indispensable study of the Egyptianizing male limestone statuary from Cyprus, Faegersten identifies three distinct craft traditions on these statues: the indigenous Cypriot votive tradition, the East Greek sculptural tradition, and the Phoenician wood and ivory repertoire (2003: 264). The Egyptianizing limestone figure was a characteristic Cypriot votive type, strongly related to the Cypriot clay and limestone votive figures manufactured in the island’s workshops, and it was dedicated in the sanctuaries during the entire 6th century. Despite the fact that from the last quarter of the 7th century, Cypriot merchants and craftsmen are established in the Nile Delta emporion of (p. 810) Naukratis—where Cypriot sculptors produced statuary for the local market (Hermary 2001: 27)—the Egyptianizing sculpture was not created under the influence of contemporary Saite-period Egypt (Faegersten 2003: 263–4). Egyptianizing statues have also been found at various sites in Lebanon (e.g. Amrit, Byblos, and Sidon: Faegersten 2003: 178).

In Cyprus itself the most remarkable examples of Egyptianizing sculpture—the portrait of a king-priest from Paphos, who sports a Cypriot version of the Egyptian double crown (cf. Maier 1989: 378, fig. 40; Faegersten 2003: 293, Cat. 58), and a Hathoric capital from the palace of Amathous (Hermary 2000: 146, no. 969)—date from the c.500 bc, by which time Cyprus was under the Persians. On both examples we can see how the Cypriots employed carefully selected imperial insignia in the name of the development of their own royal and religious iconography (Hermary 2001: 29). The Egyptian Hathor was protectress of mining operations, and Edgar Peltenburg has established a link between the goddess and faience and copper production in Late Bronze Age Cyprus (2007). It is no wonder, therefore, that in the Iron Age Hathoric capitals have been found in monumental buildings identified as palaces at Vouni and Amathous (Hermary 2000: 165). In the Iron Age, Hathor may have been an image of the Great Cypriot Goddess (invoked as wanassa by the Greeks and as Astarte by the Phoenicians).

In Amathous and Idalion the palace compounds have supplied evidence for record keeping, large-scale storage, and industrial activities—quantities of copper slag and fragments of crucibles in Amathous and olive-oil presses in Idalion (Aupert 1996: 103; Hadjicosti 1997). In addition, the Amathousian palace produced votive offerings associated with a number of palatial sanctuaries (cf. Petit 2002). Religion and state were not two distinct institutions in a Cypriot kingdom, which explains the role of kings as priests in Paphos and, judging from the infrequent use of the term ‘priest’ or ‘priestess’ on inscriptions (Masson 1983: 438), why priesthood in Cyprus seems to have been insignificant before the Hellenistic period.

In the case of Paphos in particular, the Greek rulers sought to become identified as legitimate heirs to the legendary figure of Kinyras, the pre-Greek king of the island, who was also the Goddess’s beloved high priest. As late as the 4th century, Greek syllabic inscriptions from Paphos show that Timarchos, Nikokles, and others insisted on being identified by their double title as king-priests (cf. Masson 1983: 95, 112–14; Maier 1989). In this manner, they stressed their undivided authority over the sacred and secular environment (Iacovou 2013: 146).

Numismatic Economy

The dynamism with which numismatic economy was introduced in Cyprus in the second half of the 6th century, when first Salamis, Paphos, and Idalion issued silver coins with exclusively syllabic Greek legends (Figs 53.7a, b) is considered a surprisingly early phenomenon (cf. Kraay 1976: 301; Destrooper-Georgiades 1984). Despite the fact that around this time the Cypriot kings had offered their allegiance to the Persian Empire—probably shortly after the subjection of the Levantine city-states (c.525 bc)—the style and weight of the silver sigloi of Cyprus does not imitate that of the Persian coins. It should also be noted that in the Phoenician city-states numismatic economy was introduced almost a century later than in Cyprus (around the middle of the 5th century) (Iacovou 2012). Even the earliest coins of Byblos and Tyre (cf. Elayi 1992: 21–2, 26) are later than the 5th-century issues of Kition and Lapethos, which have Phoenician inscriptions (cf. Markoe 2000: 98).

Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian PeriodFrom the 11th Century  to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )Click to view larger

Fig. 53.7a Idalion silver siglos (obverse); sphinx seated, syllabic signs in the field

(Cyprus Museum photographic archive, with the kind permission of the Director of Antiquities, Cyprus)

(p. 811)

Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian PeriodFrom the 11th Century  to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )

Fig. 53.7b Paphos silver siglos (reverse) from the Vouni hoard; eagle standing, syllabic signs in the field

(Cyprus Museum photographic archive, with the kind permission of the Director of Antiquities, Cyprus)

With the exception of Idalion, the inland kingdoms identified on the prism of Esarhaddon—Chytroi, Ledra, and Tamassos—have failed to provide any kind of inscriptional evidence that could defend their independent status in the period following the inception of numismatic economy. Despite the fact that the oldest coin hoard ever found in Cyprus (dating c.500–498 bc) was recently excavated in Nicosia (thought to be ancient Ledra), numismatists are unable to associate with any degree of certainty the thirty-six silver sigloi to any one of the inland polities (Pilides and Destrooper-Georgiades 2008: 327). The case of Tamassos is particularly intriguing, since it has built tombs and all kinds of elite artefacts and status symbols in the burial assemblages which, according to Matthäus (2007), define a royal ideology of the late Archaic period.

(p. 812) The fact that neither coins nor royal inscriptions have yet been associated with these three inland sites suggests a major reorganization of the political geography of the island. The pact with the Assyrians created a new economic environment that worked in favour of coastal polities but undermined the significance of inland centres. This was paramount for the territorial consolidation of fewer (than ten) autonomous politico-economic regions. Although we do not have a Persian list of the late 6th-century Cypriot kingdoms, the material evidence suggests that before the end of the Cypro-Archaic period (c.475 bc), the history of the Cypriot states becomes a history of port authorities, which reaches its climax with the takeover of the last inland kingdom, Idalion, by the Phoenician dynasty of Kition before the middle of the 5th century (Stylianou 1989: 403–4; Collombier 1991b: 34–5).

Persian Rule and the Graeco- Persian Conflict

Achaemenid archives are silent as to the date and the circumstances under which Persian rule began in Cyprus. We are unaware as to how it was enforced or what obligations it entailed. Cyprus was one of the many subdivisions of the district of Syria but its governmental structure is not known (cf. Mehl 2004: 14). Persian domination did not disrupt or interfere with the commercial enterprises of the Cypriots. In fact, the Persians seem to have treated the Cypriot kings like ‘sacred cows’ despite repeated incidents of disobedience and rebellious behaviour in the course of the Graeco-Persian conflict, which began with the Ionian Revolt in 499/498 bc.

The unsuccessful attempt of Onesilos of Salamis to unite the Cypriot kingdoms under his authority and to join the Ionian uprising (Herodotus, Hist. 5.103–16) marked the end of the kingdoms’ smooth relations with whichever empire had until then imposed the rules of trade in the Mediterranean. From that day on, caught in the middle of the long-drawn-out clash of the Persians with the Aegean city-states, headed first by Athens and later by Alexander the Great, the Cypriot kings fought a losing battle against the polarization of political and economic interests in the Mediterranean. It was under these new geopolitical circumstances that a powerful Phoenician dynasty made its appearance in Kition at the start of the 5th century.

Although neither Idalion nor Kition are mentioned by Herodotus in the episodes of the Ionian Revolt, it is not coincidental that the attacks against Idalion begin after the failure of the revolt. The Kitian kings’ aggressive attitude should be considered in the context of the southeastern geo-economic (catchment) area to which both sites belong. Idalion was nearer, and in control of, the mines but it also had to have a port of export within its geographically consolidated territory. Kition was a port of export but had to have access to mines if it were to claim the status of a Cypriot kingdom (Iacovou 2007b). For Kition to take over as the region’s administrative capital and port of trade, it had to undermine the supremacy of the last remaining inland capital that blocked the route to the mining region. And it did just that, in the years after the Ionian Revolt—probably not until the second quarter of the 5th century. This interpretation would also explain why there is minimal overlap between the last coin issues of Idalion and the first of Kition (e.g. a siglos of Idalion is struck over a siglos of Baalmilk I: Destrooper-Georgiades 2002: 353–5, nn. 16, 22). The takeover is now confirmed by the fascinating discovery of an economic archive—the first ever to be found (p. 813) in Cyprus—in a building identified as the administrative centre of Idalion in the 4th century bc. The archive rooms were full of accounts inscribed on ostraca or written on gypsum plaques, almost all in the Phoenician alphabet (Hadjicosti 1997: 58–9, fig. 24).

The Phoenicians and Kition

‘[A] Phoenician presence on the Island before c.800 still needs to be demonstrated and not invoked uncritically’ (Gilboa, Sharon, and Boaretto 2008). Like the establishment of Greek people on Cyprus, the establishment of Phoenicians on the island is not heralded by a distinct cultural package (nor should it be defended on the basis of ceramic imports: Iacovou 2005b: 131–2) but by Phoenician inscriptions (Iacovou 2008a: 643). Despite the fact that the Phoenician alphabetic scribal tool is attested in Cyprus from as early as the late 10th century (Lipiński 2004: 42–6), there is no indication that it was used consistently and continuously by a Semitic royal authority other than that of Kition. The case of Lapethos, where there is no record of a Greek syllabic inscription, remains a puzzle, as Greek (e.g. Dimonikos or Dimonax) and Semitic (e.g. Sidqimilk) names of kings alternate on its 5th-century coins but the inscriptions are all in the Phoenician alphabet (Masson and Sznycer 1972: 98–9; Lipiński 2004: 81). Late in the 4th century, the Greek alphabet replaces the Phoenician one on the coins of its last king, Praxippos (Destrooper-Georgiades 1995: 163). In Marion, where the earliest coins were issued by Sasmas (c.480–460 bc), with a syllabic legend on the obverse and a Phoenician on the reverse (Masson and Sznycer 1972: 79; Destrooper-Georgiades 1993), the later 5th-century coins of Stasioikos I and Timocharis are inscribed in the Greek syllabary (Masson 1983: 181). Kition, therefore, is the only Cypriot state where the kings bore purely Semitic names and were addressed with the Semitic term mlk, throughout the 5th and 4th centuries, but not before the 5th century. The earliest evidence that supports the presence of a Phoenician royal authority in Kition is provided by the legends on the early 5th-century coinage of Baalmilk I, founder of the Phoenician dynasty.

If we, therefore, contextualize the evidence of script types used around Cyprus in the first millennium, we are bound to realize that Kition is a Cypriot polity from where the syllabary is conspicuously absent: from the 9th to the 4th centuries, Kition produced 150 exclusively Phoenician inscriptions, which cover the secular, funerary, and sacred domain, but hardly any in the syllabary (Yon 2004: 159). This implies that the establishment of a literate Phoenician population in Kition was a particularly early event that should be held responsible for the discontinuity of the Cypriot syllabary into the first millennium.

The opposite phenomenon is observed in Paphos, the only Cypriot polity from where the Phoenician alphabet is almost totally absent and where the adoption of the Cypriot syllabary by Greek speakers is evident from the 10th century. The earliest epigraphically recorded Cypriot statesmen are 7th-century kings of Paphos; they are Akestor and Eteandros and their title is described with the Greek term basileus written in syllabic Greek. Although Mycenaean basileis were low-ranking regional officers—quasireu on the Linear B tablets from the palace archives of Knossos and Pylos—with this Greek term alone, which was evidently upgraded after the establishment of Greeks on Cyprus, the Cypriots defined the office of their supreme rulers not only in Paphos, but also in Salamis, Idalion, Marion, Soloi, and Kourion (Iacovou 2006b). Even in Amathous, where the syllabary expressed the unknown Eteocypriot language, the Amathousian rulers, whose names were mostly Greek, (p. 814) such as Lysandros, Epipalos, and Androkles, used the syllabary to inscribe their coins and royal dedications (cf. Amandry 1984: 60–3; Hermary and Masson 1982: 235–42).

The Cypro-Classical Period

Following the abolition of the Greek dynasty of Idalion, Ozibaal, son of Baalmilk I, began to identify himself as king of Kition and Idalion and, for a period in the 4th century, Pumayaton, the last king of Kition, ruled over Kition, Idalion, and Tamassos. Thus, in the 5th and 4th centuries, when Kition acted as a steadfastly pro-Persian authority whose mission was to keep Cyprus within the Persian sphere, its kingdom reached the apogee of its political and economic supremacy. During this period commercial contacts with the Levant were intensified and the style of the 5th-century votive statuary from the sanctuary of Amrit changed: its closest stylistic and iconographic parallels are now found on the 5th-century limestone sculpture of Kition (Fig. 53.8). Hermary suggests that this ‘phenomène unique en son genre’ was the result of the establishment of a Kitian community at Amrit (Hermary 2008: 175). Two Phoenician inscriptions from Amrit, which seem to have been dedicated to Eshmoun by Cypriot Phoenicians, render further support to this view. But Cypriot Greeks must also have been present in the small Cypriot communities that sprang up on the Levantine coast: three dedicatory inscriptions (of the 5th and 4th centuries)—one from Tel Dor, one from Sarepta, and the third probably from Sidon—are in the Greek syllabary (Hermary 2008: 176–7).

Cyprus During the Iron Age Through the Persian PeriodFrom the 11th Century  to the Abolition of the City-Kingdoms (c.300 )Click to view larger

Fig. 53.8 Limestone statue of Herakles-Milqar (h. 123cm) from Kition-Bamboula

(Cyprus Museum photographic archive, with the kind permission of the Director of Antiquities, Cyprus)

From the middle of the 5th century and especially from the reign of Evagoras I of Salamis, who was an ardent supporter of the Athenians and is credited with the introduction of the (p. 815) Greek alphabet in Cyprus (cf. Collombier 1991a), the Greek art of the Classical period became the predominant cultural prototype on the island—not only in kingdoms ruled by Greeks but equally in Kition and Amathous. On the coins, especially those of 4th-century Salamis, busts of Greek gods (Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, and Apollo) appear for the first time. At Paphos, Zeus enthroned is depicted on the obverse of the 4th-century silver siglos of King Timocharis, which portrays on the reverse a standing Aphrodite (for the first time). In Cyprus, the first time that the goddess is invoked as Kypria Aphrodite is on a 4th-century bilingual inscription of the last king of Amathous, Androkes (Fourrier and Hermary 2006: 9, fig. 6).

In the mortuary sample of Kition, Phoenician anthropoid sarcophagi (also known from Amathous: cf. Karageorghis 2000: 226–9), often made of Parian marble, occur—even in the same chamber tomb—with sarcophagi bearing Greek iconography and lids imitating Greek temple pediments (cf. Georgiou 2009). Greek marble stelae with the name of the deceased inscribed in the Phoenician alphabet also abound in Kition (Yon 2006: 124). In the 4th century even the Phoenician language opened up to Greek loans: when the triumphant King Milkiathon (392–362 bc) dedicated a trophy in celebration of his victory against the Salaminians and their allies the Paphians, he used on the inscription the Greek word tropaion (Yon 2004: 201).

In spite of the political ascendancy of Kition in the Cypro-Classical period, Phoenician failed to become the predominant language on the island. In fact, even within Kition, the Phoenician alphabet had a precise expiration date. No sooner had Cyprus been made a Ptolemaic colony than the inscriptions from Kition were written in alphabetic Greek (Yon 2004: 154, 160–61; 2006: 125, fig. 80).

A Symbolic Death and the End of Trilingualism

A population confined on an island that shared the same environment and a largely identical culture for hundreds of years should have also come to share the same language; but this did not happen. Instead, for as long as Cyprus was divided into autonomous states, Greek, Phoenician, and Eteocypriot were able to survive as three distinct languages. When the kingdoms were abolished by Ptolemy I and the people of Cyprus were forced to accept a unified political environment, Eteocypriot and Phoenician disappeared from the written record in no time. In the 3rd century bc, Greek had become the only language: the koiné was written in the Greek alphabet but the Arcado-Cypriot dialect, which had made its first appearance c.1000 bc inscribed on the obelos of Opheltas from Paphos-Skales T 49 (Karageorghis 1983: 60, pl. 88), continued to make use of the syllabary to the end of the first millennium bc (Michaelidou-Nicolaou 1993).

The first time the island achieved linguistic coherence was also the first time that territorial boundaries had been lifted. The abolition of the kingdoms at the end of the 4th century bc, aptly defined by Papantoniou (2008) as the transfer of authority from basileis to strategos, is the first major break in the political and cultural history of ancient Cyprus. It was decided by an external authority and was inflicted with considerable violence against the ruling families. In eliminating the hereditary kings of Cyprus, Ptolemy did not differentiate between the Phoenician Pumayaton of Kition, the ‘Eteocypriot’ Androkles of Amathous, (p. 816) or the Greek kings of Paphos and Salamis, Nikokles, and Nikokreon (Iacovou 2007a: 464). All of them stood for the same indigenous, millennium-old political culture—a culture so ingrained in the identity of the Cypriots that Ptolemy knew he had to kill and bury it with its last royal representatives if he were to stand a chance of subjugating the Cypriots to the colonial administration of his newly founded empire.

Kyprioi: One Cultural Identity

In the literary record of antiquity, the Cypriots, whether kings or commoners, are not identified as Greeks, Phoenicians, or natives but as Paphioi, Salaminioi, Kourieis, Soleis, Lapitheis, and Marieis from the name of their kingdom. The Greek authors of antiquity, who identify the Giblites, the Tyrians, and the Sidonians collectively as Phoenicians, do not refer to the people or the kings of Kition as Phoenicians but as Kitiois (cf. Diodorus 14.98.2; 19.59.1). The Phoenicians of Kition do not seem to have ever been grouped under the umbrella term ‘Phoenicians’; they are instead invariably covered by the term Kyprioi. In fact, the terms Phoinikes and Kyprioi occur in apposition in many historiographies in reference to the people or the kings of the Levantine coast and Cyprus respectively (cf. Herodotus, Hist. 3.19.3; 6.6.1; Arrian, Anab. 2.13.7; 2.20; Diodorus 16.40). Irrespective of their linguistic identity, the different ethne of the island identified themselves and were collectively identified as Kyprioi.

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