Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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Canon Pietro Casola
Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

page 3

specimens remain. It is not till we approach the mountain of Troodos that we find anything like a real forest. Here, on the spot where the summer encampment of the troops is fixed, there are some magnificent specimens of the Pinus Laricio, which clothe the mountains from an altitude of 4500 feet upwards. The Aleppo pine furnishes, however, nine-tenths of the forests. It attains very fine dimensions in Cyprus, and flourishes on all sorts of mineral soils to an altitude of 4500 to 5000 feet. Trees of 10 feet in circumference are frequently met with. The forests continue westward from Troodos, though much encroached upon, and cruelly misused by reckless felling, and tapping for resin, until we pass the monastery of Kikko. Between this point and the sea, to the extremity of the watershed, there are real forests, and those of a very considerable extent, covering an area of over 200 square miles. These owe their immunity partly to their large extent; but more especially because the spurs and valleys leading to them are of so difficult a nature that the transport of timber is not easily effected. It is here that the few remaining cedars of Cyprus are to be found; occupying a space of seven or eight square miles, at a mean altitude of 4500 feet. They resemble the Atlas cedar; none of the trees exceed 80 years of age, an insignificant age for a species that reaches 2000 years.
The crest of the northern range is also fringed with trees, and there are other patches of forest land containing brushwood and a few trees. On the whole, the forest lands of Cyprus occupy an area of 400 square miles. At the time of the British occupation, the ravages of the woodcutter were to be seen in full operation, and it cannot be doubted that it was only a question of time when the last remaining forests of Cyprus should entirely disappear.
The destruction of the forests dates, however, from modern times. For many centuries a vigorous felling went on, which gave to the wood of Cyprus an unique reputation in the Eastern world. I have already alluded to the fleets built by Alexander the Great from Cyprus timber; the Venetians also took immense quantities for their commerce and marine. But this would only affect the old and fine trees, because young trees are of no use for shipbuilding; hence the forests would always be renewed from the young trees. Great damage must, however, have been done by the mines which were so extensively worked by the Phnicians and the Romans, as trees of all sorts and sizes would be used for fuel. With the cessation of the mining, the forests must have again recovered themselves; and the true causes of the modern destruction of the forests are stated to be three in number, viz. fitful cultivation, fire, and the grazing of goats.
It is beyond the province of this paper to enter into detail on these points. They have been most ably dealt with by a French gentleman who was for three years the principal forest officer of Cyprus. But it may be interesting just to draw attention to the manner in which Cyprus is overrun by goats, which are the greatest enemies to forests in every country where they exist.
Taking five Mediterranean countries where goats abound, we find that there are:

In Italy

14 goats per square mile, 63 per 1000 inhabitants.

In Sicily

16 goats per square mile, 74 per 1000 inhabitants.

In Portugal

27 goats per square mile, 210 per 1000 inhabitants.

In Sardinia

25 goats per square mile, 374 per 1000 inhabitants.

In Cyprus

64 goats per square mile, 1430 per 1000 inhabitants.

Cyprus, in fact, contains more goats in proportion to its area and population than any country in the world.
The manner in which the destruction of forests is accomplished by goats, is described by Darwin and others with regard to the island of St. Helena. The goats were introduced into the island in 1502, and increased there in a short time beyond all measure. But as they only destroyed the young trees and respected the old, their ravages were not at first perceived. In 1710 the forests were still very thick; but in 1724 the old trees having arrived at the term of their existence, and having nearly all fallen, and those that ought to have replaced them not having sprung up, the forests disappeared almost suddenly, and were replaced by thick grass. The climatic disturbance thus caused to the island was very great and mischievous. In 1731 all stray animals were destroyed; but too late, as is always the case. Darwin, writing in 1836, adds: Sandy Bay is nowadays so arid that it was necessary for me to see an official record to believe that trees had ever grown there.
The French forest officer whom I have mentioned, M. Madon, made a very careful examination of the best-preserved parts of the forests, and showed the following results:
(1) For every hundred trees which were standing, there were 72 that had been felled and were left lying on the ground to rot.

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