Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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Unfortunately, in Cyprus, the character continued in use to the exclusion of the more recent Greek alphabet, till the fourth century before our era. The reform of Evagoras, no doubt, effected the substitution of the Greek alphabet for the complex and ambiguous Cypriote; but there are no bilingual inscriptions, either Cypriote and Greek, or Cypriote and Phœnician, which can be assigned earlier than the fifth century B.c.; and that is certainly not the earliest date of Cypriote inscriptions, for the golden bracelets of Eteander, contemporary of Sargon, must be as old as the seventh century. Some of the lapidary inscriptions look older. The terra-cotta figurines and vases were undoubtedly made on the island, and are amongst some of the oldest productions of the potter's art. The statuettes found of the oldest Assyrian or Persian style, the middle period of the history of the island, are succeeded by the Phœnico-Egyptian, then by archaic Greek, and finally by such as were made at the time of the Roman Empire. Some of the earlier ones are incised with Cypriote inscriptions, apparently the names of the donors or persons represented. Amongst the most remarkable of the archaic kind are dogs and lions inscribed with Phœnician and Cypriote characters. One remarkable terra-cotta, representing a Genius on a cock, is dedicated to Cleopatra, but to which queen of that name is uncertain. Of the Roman period is that inscribed with the name of the Goddess of Rain, or a Naiad; and to the same period belong the numerous Cupids or Genii, which swarm on the sarcophagi and other objects of art of the second century. Analogous to the statuettes are the lamps of the Roman period of terra-cotta, hundreds of which were found at Salamis. These are the chief contributions to the antiquities of a later period. The vases discovered on different sites have a different type of decoration and character from those exhumed in Italy, Greece, and the Isles. An immense quantity belong to the oldest period of the fictile art, and have some analogy with those of Ehodes and Ialysus. The back grounds are pale yellow; the ornaments geometric, plain bands, and annulets. Vases ornamented with plain bands, annulets, circles,Vandykes, and similar decorations, belong to the earliest period of Greek art; some have been found in Cyprus, occasionally with Phœnician inscriptions burnt in, and others with Cypriote inscriptions incised, and consequently belong to the earlier period of the fictile art; but these are not all of the earliest age, as one remarkable vase in the collection bears the name of Arsinoë, the wife of Philadelphus, B.C. 284. The great peculiarity of early Cypriote art in its earliest development, is the employment of birds. These are often of large size, and occupy the greater portion of the area. The human figures, introduced by degrees as subordinate to ornament, exhibit all the peculiarities of the infancy of art. This is the style peculiar to Cyprus, especially the quaint figures of birds and trees. Corinthian vases, with maroon figures on yellow ground, are, however, found in Cyprus; and another peculiar ware of red clay, resembling the so-called Samian, but ornamented with archaic annulets and other patterns, and found under circumstances demonstrating their high antiquity. The vases of the Greek style of the last period are rare, but many interesting specimens of the Roman period, and a great number of lamps, are in the collection. The silver currency of Cyprus consists principally of didrachms on the Persian standard, and is as old as the sixth century B.c.; and amongst the earlier examples are those of Evelthon, king of Salamis, who flourished about B.c. 530, inscribed with Cypriote characters, which were in use at that period. The other coins of the supposed Euanthes and Pygmalion may also be of the same place and period. Those of the Phœnician kings, which exhibit Greek art and the same standard, and which are supposed to have been struck from B.c. 448 to B.c. 332, are contemporaneous with the Greek rulers, commencing with Evagoras, who issued gold pieces (of great beauty and interest) on the Attic standard, as well as silver, apparently at Paphos. They are beautiful examples of Greek art, inscribed with Greek inscriptions. After Nicocreon, in .B.C. 312, the Ptolemies established one of their mints in Cyprus, and struck coins at some of the principal cities, Salamis included. The political vicissitudes of the period, as well as the state of the art, are reflected by the currency, and after the acquisition of Cyprus by the Romans, the currency, which was bronze, became that part of the provincial issue known as imperial or provincial. In fact,at no period of its history, was the island governed otherwise than by kings, the institutions being always monarchical. The dominant civilization was Undoubtedly Greek, and so was the language of the principal cities; and the character in which it was written, although perhaps modified by Asiatic influences, cannot be traced with any amount of probability to any other known source. This is the more remarkable, as there is every evidence that the Phœnician population divided the possession of the island with the Greek, and that in some of the chief cities they held an undoubted supremacy; while as late as the Ptolemies, official and other acts were recorded in Phœnician as well as Greek. And this is the historical teaching of the antiquities found in the island, and their contribution to our knowledge of that portion of its former condition.

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