Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Cyprians

I am skipping Colchis because, interesting as it is, the information available to me is of very poor quality.  On to Cyprus!

Geographical definition
Cyprus (Greek Kýpros) is a large island located off the south coast of Anatolia (specifically ancient Pamphylia) and rather farther west of Syria.  So far as I know, the term has always referred to the whole island, so there is no need to speak of borders.

Cyprus has been inhabited for roughly 10-12,000 years and experienced waves of settlement during the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age.  During the Archaic period, many Greeks and Phoenicians settled, and Herotodus claims that the population also partly descended from Ethiopians.  The island's native political order, which existed more-or-less as it was through the Achaemenid period, consisted of independent city-states ruled by local kings.  Cyprus had been under Assyrian rule in the 8th century and Egyptian in the 6th.

According to Xenophon, the Cyprian kings allied with Cyrus the Great and offered military aid in his conquests of Caria and Babylon.  As a result, the city-states maintained autonomy and political continuity during Achaemenid rule.  They minted their own coinage and a few, at Palaepaphos and Vouni, built palaces showing Persian influence.

Elsewhere, an interesting mix of architecture is seen:  Most towns featured mudbrick houses and walls, while the Phoenician city Carpasia used mostly stone masonry.  At the same time, religious sites were mostly Phoenician-style.  Partly through the Phoenicians, Cyprus maintained links with Egypt, evidenced in the early 5th-century sarcophagus from Amathus decorated with sphinxes and reliefs of the Egyptian god Bes and Phoenician goddess Astarte, and other funerary steles featuring paired sphinxes.

During the Ionian Revolt, Onesilus of Salamis-in-Cyprus used the occasion to overthrow his brother, King Gorgus.  Gorgus had been unwilling to take part in the revolt and joined the Persians.  In 498, Onesilus persuaded nearly all the other kingdoms of the island to join the revolt, except for Amathus on the southern coast.  Onesilus besieged the city until 497, at which time a Persian army under Artybius arrived to put down the rebellion and Onesilus requested and received help from Ionia.  In the ensuing war, some Cyprians defected to the Persians; both Artybius and Onesilus were killed, but the rebellion failed.  In spite of this, the basic political landscape of Cyprus remained unchanged.

Together, the Cyprian cities sent 150 ships to the second Persian invasion of Greece, comprising more than a tenth of the entire fleet, and were present at the Battle of Salamis.

In 410, Euagoras I (better-known by the modern form of his name, Evagoras) became king of Salamis.  An ambitious politician, he curried favor with Athens in the last stages of the Peloponnesian War, and facilitated the alliance between Athens and his lord Artaxerxes II that led to the defeat of Sparta at Cnidus (394) during the Corinthian War between Athens and Sparta.  However, within a few years, the Persians began to feel that strengthening Athens was unwise and the war had gone on long enough, and switched to supporting Sparta, making Salamis and Persia enemies.  Nonetheless, over the next few years, Euagoras managed to gain control over most of Cyprus, invaded Phoenicia and captured several cities.

But in 387, the Athenians were forced by threats of Persian intervention to sign the Peace of Antalcidas, which ended the Corinthian War and required, among other terms, that Greece recognize Persian control of Cyprus.  For the next 13 years, Euagoras fought the Persians alone except for periodic Egyptian support.  The empire invaded in 385 with its general King Orontes I of Armenia and admiral Tiribazus, satrap of Sardis.  Tiribazus destroyed Euagoras' fleet at the Battle of Citium, but the two imperial leaders were unable to take Salamis and had a falling-out that resulted in Tiribazus' recall to Persia.  In 376, Euagoras negotiated a peace and was allowed to remain as a vassal king.  However, he was assassinated by a eunuch only two years later.  His son Nicocles succeeded him.

Cyprus launched one last revolt in 350, but it was defeated in 343 by the Hecatomnid prince Idrieus and a force of Greek mercenaries.

Following the Battle of Issus (333), the kingdoms of Cyprus defected to Alexander.  The addition of Cyprian naval support helped Alexander maintain a sea route to Asia and doubtless accelerated the outcome of the war, as well as ensuring the Cyprians' political future by betting on Alexander's victory.  Kings Phytagoras of Salamis, Androcles of Amathus and Pasikratis of Soloi participated in the Siege of Tyre (332), assaulting the northern harbor and providing engineers for the earthworks by which the Macedonians managed to invade the island city.  In return, Alexander allowed the Cyprians to maintain their autonomy, although he abolished the individual currencies of the island as a symbol of his overlordship.

Cyprus was a front in the Wars of the Diadochi until 294, when it settled in the hands of the Ptolemies and would remain there until the Romans seized control in 58 BC under Cato the Younger.  During the Hellenistic period, Cyprus, already heavily Hellenized in culture, lost the last vestiges of its pre-Greek native and Phoenician cultures.

Classical Cyprian religion was heavily influenced by the Phoenicians.  The most popular deity was Astarte (Phoenician Ashtart), the Northwest Semitic cognate of Ishtar, whom the Greeks sometimes identified with Aphrodite.  Other attested deities include Anat, Ba'al Melkart and the Egyptian Hathor, Thoth, Bes and Ptah.

The native language of Cyprus, today klept as Eteocypriot ("original Cypriot"), is scarcely attested; it wasn't Greek, but what it was is pretty unclear despite a few bilingual inscriptions.  Its use declined throughout the Classical period and it became extinct around the 4th century BC.  It was written in the Cypriot syllabary, a descendent of Minoan Linear A.

Arcadocypriot Greek, a dialect possibly descended from Mycenaean Greek (and thus related more to Arcadian than any other dialects of mainland Greece or Asia Minor), became one of the primary languages on the island from the late Bronze Age onward.  It was also written in the Cypriot syllabary.  However, Evagoras I encouraged the use of the mainland Greek alphabet in favor of the syllabary and hastened its decline.

Phoenician, a Northwest Semitic language related to Hebrew, was also to be found in places like Carpasia and Citium (Kition) in the east.  It was written in the Phoenician alphabet, a consonantal writing system ancestral to the Greek and Aramaic alphabets along with countless others, including this (Latin) alphabet.

I can find no illustrations of Cyprians in Persian art.  Herodotus says that "their princes wore turbans (mitrhsi; at a guess, I would interpret this as referring to diadems) wrapped around their heads, and the people wore tunics, but in all else they were like the Greeks."  Thus you may want to consider Greek-style sandals and possibly cloaks for your Cyprian impression.  I am unsure why Herodotus seems to distinguish "tunics" (kithonas) from Greek clothing.  Possibly he means tunics of a different style from what Greeks commonly wore, such as sleeved ones in the Syrian style.

Herodotus' description above refers to both clothing and arms.  The heavy Greek influence on Cyprus almost certainly would extend to items like the Argive shield and doru with sauroter that were widespread in mainland Greece and Asia Minor.

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