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HISTORY OF CYPRUS

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Canon Pietro Casola
Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

page 2

Between the two mountain ranges which I have thus briefly described there lies a great plain called the Mesaorea, which is the most fertile part of Cyprus, growing large crops of wheat, barley, and cotton. It was evidently once the bottom of the sea, for in many parts are large beds of marine shellsgigantic oysters and othersall clustered in masses. A noticeable feature of this plain is the number of flat-topped plateaux of various sizes, where the rock seems to have resisted the action of the water. The tops of these plateaux are clothed with short herbage, affording a scanty provision for flocks, and are usually from 100 to 200 feet above the plain.
The rivers which descend from the hills carry down large quantities of alluvial soil, and this forms in the eastern part of the Mesaorea a rich deposit, something similar to the Delta of the Nile.
The two rivers which mainly contribute to this plain are the Pedius and the Idalia, the former taking its rise from the northern slopes of Mount Machera and the latter from the eastern slopes of the same mountain.
The Pedius flows northward to Nicosia, and encircling that city, continues its course eastward through the Mesaorea, receiving the drainage of the northern range during its course, and falls into the sea near the ruins of the ancient city of Salamis. The Idalia, passing to the south of Nicosia through the classic valley of Dali, also flows eastward, and falls into the sea at Salamis, about half a mile from the mouth of the Pedius. The beds of these rivers have, however, become so choked up with alluvial deposit towards the end of their course, that their waters overflow the plain and mingle together, so that their separate mouths can with difficulty be distinguished.
The only other considerable river rises on the northern slopes of Mount Adelphe, and after flowing to the north for about 20 miles, turns to the west, and passing the populous village of Morphou, flows into the Bay of Morphou.
The normal condition of these rivers is to be without water, but whenever there is a heavy rainfall in the mountains, the river comes down, as it is called, and runs for one, two, or more days. During the winter months, from December to February, this frequently happens, and I have known the river Pedius to be running for six weeks together, but this is rare.
It occasionally happens that the water descends with great suddenness and violence, causing disastrous floods. In December 1880, a storm of rain of the greatest violence burst over the valley of the Garilis, a small river which flows into the sea at Limassol. Six inches of rain were registered in three hours at the military cantonment at Polemidia, 3 1/2 miles from Limassol. The water overflowed the narrow channel and flooded the town of Limassol, washing down many houses, destroying much property, and causing the death of several persons. A similar calamity is reported to have occurred at Nicosia about twenty-five years ago. The river Pedius, bursting its banks at a point just outside the western gate of the city, forced open that gate, which had been closed, and rushing through the town to the Famagusta Gate on the east side, the waters closed that gate, and, finding no egress, flooded all the low-lying central parts of the city, causing great damage and loss of life. The inhabitants of the Mesaorea are never more pleased than when the rivers come down abundantly, but from the want of proper storage and direction, much of the water runs waste into the sea, and much land is rendered uncultivable from being flooded. Since the British occupation an ancient canal has been repaired which carries off some of the surplus waters of the Pedius, and irrigates a considerable tract of country, but the question of water storage in Cyprus is one for which there is much scope.
Considerable supplies of water for irrigation purposes are obtained by sinking wells. A long chain of wells are sunk at distances of five or six yards apart, and being connected by underground galleries, a channel is thus formed which conveys the water to a reservoir constructed at the foot of the last well, and it is thence raised to the surface by a waterwheel; or in some cases the level of the ground admits of the channel being brought out on the surface. In this way the town of Nicosia is supplied with excellent water, which is brought in two aqueducts from a distance of some miles. Larnaca and Famagusta and other towns have similar aqueducts.
Closely connected with the water supply is the forest question.
Cyprus was anciently clothed with forests. In Old Testament times much shipbuilding took place. In Balaam's prophecy we read that ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and it was with Cyprus timber that Alexander the Great built the fleets which he launched on the Tigris and Euphrates. At the present time the forests are confined to the mountain ranges, and threaten to disappear altogether.
At the time of the Egyptian occupation of Cyprus, vast quantities of timber were cut down and carried to Egypt. In this way the whole country round Larnaca was completely denuded of trees. Previous to that time, the low hills to the west of Larnaca were covered with forest. Now but a few dwarfed and scattered

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