Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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To the later period of Cypriote art belong the sculptures and other objects, which were made after the Greek element obtained a stronger hold on the civilisation. These types, however, still retain an Asiatic tendency, but assimilate more to the art and style of other Greek settlements. Besides the sculpture, innumerable articles of foreign fabric, opaque glass toilet vases made at an early period in the furnaces of Phoenicia, and bronze bowls or cups, with subjects in relief, like those of Assyria and Etruria, poured into the island by the intercourse kept up with the coasts of Syria and Egypt. These vases, which, by the route of commerce, have been found deposited in the tombs of Egypt, the graves of the Greek isles, and the sepulchral chambers of Etruria, and which are now known to be at least as old as the sixteenth century b.c., have also been found in the Necropolis of Salamis, and many elegant examples are in the Lawrence-Cesnola collection. They are amongst the most beautiful products of ancient art, and the predecessors of the glass chefs-d'œuvre of Rome and Venice. Amongst those which the Necropolis of Salamis has contributed is a remarkable egg-cup, with the egg-shell still remaining in it, a type not yet discovered amongst the shapes of Hellenic vases of a later period. Of unrivalled beauty also is a toilet vase of the shape of an amphora, ornamented with peacocks and foliage, painted by the hand; this bird, however, the pride of India, does not appear on works of ancient art till about the first century of our era. Another charming specimen is the lid of a box, adorned with a figure of Aphrodite Anadyomene. The first appearance of transparent glass with indications of a date is only about the seventh century b.c., when the vase made for the Assyrian monarch Sargon, which was discovered at Kouyunjik, or Nineveh, exhibits a green transparent glass made with thick sides; and other vases of the same kind have been discovered in Cyprus and at Salamis. A great deal of this transparent glass, but of thinner substance and more elegant shape, is extant, and this kind of transparent glass was continued till the close of the Roman Empire. The quantity of ancient glass found in Cyprus is considerable, and many specimens exhibit a rare iridescence of colours. A large proportion of the glass is, however, of the Roman period, and of the second and third century of this era. A class of objects, also of Phœnician fabric, are the scarabœi, made of hard stones, such as sard, sardonyx, agate, cornelians, and jaspers, and imitated from the Egyptian prototype. A most interesting example occurs in the collection, bearing an inscription in Cypriote characters, and illustrating the fact that these scarabœi were made on the island as well as imported. The earlier engraved specimens were followed by the usual Greek intaglios, and many of the period of Greek and Roman dominion are in the collection. These are principally of the later period of art, and probably made in Cyprus, as under the Ptolemies there was a mine in the island. A class of objects peculiar to Cyprus are the cylinders of steatite coarsely glazed, found in the island, this collection being very rich in those from Salamis. These were probably imitated from Assyrian and Babylonian art, the deities and figures represented on them being derived from that source, while the material and glazing were copied from Egypt, cylinders of glazed steatite having prevailed fully fifteen centuries before the Christian era in that country; but the art of these cylinders is so different from that of both countries, that the cylinders were not imported from either, and must have beenan indigenous production, and they consequently form a distinctive type of Cypriote art. Many cylinders, however, of hǽmatite, chalcedony, and other hard stones, some inscribed with cuneiform Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions, and even Egyptian hieroglyphics, have been found in Cyprus, brought thither either by commerce, or introduced subsequent to the conquest of the island by Sargon; while in the Lawrence-Cesnola collection appear other engraved stones of the conical shape which is seen at the Assyrian and Persian period, or the later hemispherical type in use at the period of the Parthian Empire, descending to the third century B.c. Amongst the objects introduced from Egypt are the scarabǽi, which preceded by many centuries the Phœnician, some as early as the fourth dynasty, a period so remote that there is no evidence that Cyprus was then known to the Egyptians; others of the period of the eighteenth dynasty, when Cyprus figures as a tributary to Egypt. Other Egyptian objects in the collection, however, point to a later period, when the Phœnicians and Greeks exported Egyptian objects in porcelain to the isles. Prom Egypt, too, Cyprus probably acquired the alabaster, or rather stalagmite, of which many of the toilet vases were made; and bronze and porcelain figures of the twenty-sixth dynasty, or between the sixth and seventh centuries B.C., obtained by this means, are in the Lawrence-Cesnola collection. A considerable series of gold ornaments throw considerable light upon the arts of the jeweller at different periods of the history of Cyprus. Some of these have inscriptions in Cypriote characters, and are probably older than the time of Evagoras, or the third century B.c., and are of the age of the Phœnician and Greek kings, rising to the sixth and seventh centuries.

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Created at June 2008