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Nicosia History, Cyprus

Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, is among the few cities that had been constantly inhabited for more than 4 and a half millennia. Despite its location on an island, Nicosia was far from isolated from the changes and conflicts that shaped the history of Europe. Nicosia’s history had countless ups and downs, and today the city is still divided by a border, with each side serving as a capital for the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, respectively.

Nicosia History – The Antique City of Lefkothea

Archeological discoveries indicate that Nicosia is first mentioned somewhere in the 6th century BC, when the present day-capital was a small city state known as Ledra. During Antiquity, the island of Cyprus was under Egyptian influence, so it came to be known as ‘Lefkothea’, or ‘the white goddess’. In the middle of the 4th century, Christianity spread across the small city states in the Cypriot island. The crusades, especially the one lead by Richard the Lionheart, caused a lot of disorder in the small Byzantine city of Lefkothea. Lionheard conquered the city and then sold it to the Templers, who, in their turn, being chased away by the locals in 1192, had sell it to Guy de Lusignan. During the Lusignan period, Nicosia became the administrative, religious and cultural centre of the kingdom. A system of fortified walls and gates was built in order to protect the city. Nevertheless, the kingdom got under Venetian dominance in the 15th century. The Venetians began a second wave of fortification, but their effort, although admirable, was in vain, because in 1570, the Ottomans conquered the island.

Nicosia History – Nicosia under Ottoman Reign

During the Ottoman rule, Nicosia was the scene for a number of misfortunes, starting with the violent repression of the 1821 Greek revolution and ending with a disastrous cholera epidemic in 1835. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the island went under British protectorate in 1878. Nicosia history during the 20th century is marked by interethnic conflicts between the Greek and Turkish descent Cypriots. Following a 4 year struggle for liberation, Cyprus was recognized as an independent republic in 1959. The Turkish population was not satisfied with this settlement so, following the 1963 riots, the country was divided in two with the acceptance of the UN. The line crossed by the UN officials, dubbed the ‘green line’ is still separating Cyprus’ capital in two. On the Greek part of the island you can also visit the historical cities of Paphos and Larnaca.

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