Early on, Cyprus was owned by the Egyptians and Assyrians, then became part of the gigantic Persian Empire. In the 4th century, this was conquered by Alexander the Great; after Greek rule, Cyprus was taken over to the Romans. The majority of settlers at this stage were Greek, and have remained so since.
In the early Middle Ages, Cyprus was part of the Byzantine Empire, the successor to Rome. Arabs initally raided then settled on the island. Int he 7th century, this led to an Arab-Byzantine condominium, a highly unusual agreement between two rival powers. Though the Byzantines recaptured Cyprus in the 10th century, there remained a susbstantial Arab influence for some time.
The Crusades saw Cyprus captured by the Anglo-French king Richard I in 1191, who then passed it on to then king of the Crusader state of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan. The island was then known as the Kingdom of Cyprus and remained in French possession for three centuries, during which time it was a major entrepôt and centre of trade between Europe, Africa and Asia. The Greek Orthodox Church, however, was largely dislodged by the Catholic Latin Church.
Then, in 1489, under pressure from Genoese merchants and the Mamelukes, the Kingdom of Cyprus was sold to Venice. The Republic exploited Cyprus and it went into decline to some extent. Then, in 1570-1, the Ottomans conquered Cyprus. They restored the Greek Orthodox partriarchate and their rule was generally peaceful. It was at this time that some Turkish settlers moved onto Cyprus. From 1832, when Greece became independent, some Greek Cypriots talked of enosis, union with Greece.
In 1878, the United Kingdom formed an alliance with the Ottoman Sultan, who agreed to grant British protectorate status to Cyprus. In 1914, after the Ottomans joined the German side in World War I, Britain formally took governance of the island. The Ottoman Empire was formally dissolved in 1922, and, a year later, after the Greco-Turkish War, Turkey renounced any claim to Cyprus. Meanwhile, in 1925, Cyprus became a British Crown Colony. Campaigning for enosis intensified from the 1930s, and Britain made various offers to the Greek Cypriots, none of which they found acceptable.
This changed in 1960, when Cyprus became independent, with a new constitution which guaranteed a deal of power-sharing between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Up to this point, Greek and Turkish Cypriots had lived side by side, with Greeks in the majority and Turks scattered throughout the island. However, tensions ran high and inter-community fighting often broke out. Then, in 1974, a Greek Cypriot military coup ousted the elected president, Archbishop Makarios, and installed a junta that favoured enosis. Turkey, which vehemently opposed enosis, invaded the north of Cyprus - a move that was judged illegal according to international law.
Since the cease-fire in August 1974, Cyprus has been divided between the southern, Greek Cypriot two-thirds and the northern Turkish third. In the last few years, there has been an easing of tensions between the two communities. The presidents of both Cyprus and Northern Cyprus have both stated that they desire reunification. Talks began most recently in June 2017, and although they soon broke down, there is still hope that a solution will be found in the near future.
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