Cyprus

   Island in the eastern Mediterranean (q.v.) whose Roman capital was Salamis, renamed Constantia following the earthquakes of the mid-fourth century. The island's historical importance lies in its strategic location near the coasts of Syria and southern Asia Minor (qq.v.). Beginning ca. 647 the island was raided by the Arabs (q.v.), resulting in the abandonment of some coastal cities, including Kourion. A treaty of 688 with Abd al-Malik (q.v.) made Cyprus a neutral zone with tax revenues divided between the Abbasids and Byzantium (qq.v.), and Justinian II (q.v.) resettled a number of Cypriots at Kyzikos (q.v.). Basil I (q.v.) reconquered the island for several years, but only with the conquest of Nikephoros II Phokas (q.v.) in 965 was it brought securely into Byzantine possession. Its close proximity to the Holy Land made it a source of food and supplies for the Crusader principalities. However, that same proximity allowed Reynald of Châtillon to plunder it in 1157. In 1184 the self-proclaimed ruler of the island, Isaac Komnenos (q.v.), declared Cyprus independent. However, in 1191 Isaac was captured when Richard I Lionheart conquered Cyprus during the Third Crusade (q.v.). Thereafter, Cyprus remained in Crusader hands under the Lusignans until 1489, when the Venetians acquired it. The Ottomans (q.v.) conquered it from the Venetians in 1571. The Byzantine monuments of Cyprus are numerous and renowned. They include important Christian basilicas (q.v.) at Kourion, Lythrankomi, Salamis/Constantia, and Paphos. An extraordinary wall mosaic of the Virgin and Christ child, thought to date from the sixth or seventh century, survives from a basilican church at Kiti. Among the later Byzantine monuments is the 12th-century monastic cell (q.v.), called the enkleistra, of the hermit (q.v.) Neophytos. The frescoes (q.v.) that decorate his dwelling (one shows him between archangels) are excelled only by those of the contemporary churches at Asinou and Lagoudera. Alexios I Komnenos (q.v.) is thought to have constructed the defenses that guarded Cyprus's northern coast, including the castles of St. Hilarion, Buffavento, Kantara, and Kyrenia.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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