WILLIAM DREGHORN The Antiquities of Turkish Nicosia
Fragment about Nicosia from The Antiquities of Turkish Nicosia
It is very likely that Paleolithic Man arrived in Cyprus a few hundred thousand years ago, but up to the present no definite sites have been located. About eight thousand years ago the Neolithic people came to the island probably from an area between sout h eastern Turkey and Syria. They led a settled life and were the first to build villages in this island. A few thousand years later, some Bronze age folk had a small settlement on the banks of the Pedhios River near Nicosia, but of course the only records are in the form of pottery and artifacts. About 800 B.C. mention is made of a town called Ledra in central Cyprus, although there is no archaeological evidence. Towns were established on the coast, but inland, the sites were on river banks at good crossi ng points. The river which flows through Nicosia is not a perennial one and it is better described as a wadi. There are no rivers in Cyprus which flow all the year round.
Nicosia lies in the geographical centre of a vast plain called the Mesaoria, meaning between the mountains, i.e. Kyrenia and Troodos mountains. We see this plain today as an almost treeless prairie and it is very difficult to believe that as late as the f ifteenth century, it was well forested. Records of the 1340 period describe the great sport of hunting done by the kings and nobles who lived in their NICOSIA palaces. What did they hunt'? Probably deer, wild goats and the mouflon.
By the 16th century, most of the wild animals were hunted to near extinction, but the mouflon escaped by retreating to the Troodos mountains. The forests were now cleared for agriculture, chiefly for the growing of grain. In classical times Cyprus expor ted wheat to Greece. lt is well known that forests attract rainfall, and so with their disappearance, the Mesaoria became a semi-desert, but along with this interference by Man there has been a change of climate.
Descriptions of Nicosia by a traveler in I2I 1 A.D. reveal that the city was a great religious centre, the seat of an archbishopric, had a strongly built castle, many palaces, and, most surprising of all, the walls had a circuit of seven miles. It must have really been a very large village, very spread out because of the large garde ns that everybody had in many parts of old Nicosia today, there are houses with unusually large gardens, when one considers the narrow streets, and so we have here a relic of the M idle Ages. All the mediaeval houses were pulled down and the only ancient monuments of those times are the Selimiye mosque, (St. Sophia), the Bedestan and the Hadiar Pasha mosque. (St. Katherines). Buildings come and go, but gardens go on for ever.