History in Nicosia

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Richard Sutoman

Nicosia was first inhabited over 5000 years ago. It was first known as Ledra during the Hellenistic period, but later the name was changed to Lefkothea under the Ptolemists. Till the Middle Ages  the city was only known by the Greek name of Lefkosia; when Cyprus came under Latin rule it was renamed Nicosia but the Greek population continued calling it Lefkosia. As a result of Arab raids on the island after the 8th Cebtury, many people abandoned the coastal areas to seek refuge inland; it was during this period that Lefkosia (Nicosia) became capital of Cyprus. The Patron Saint of the city is Saint Tryfilios, the first Bishop of the island. Along with the rest of the island, Nicosia continued to pass through different hands.

The Knights, the Lusignans, including Cyprus's last queen, Katerina Kornaro, developed the culture and architecture of the city, while the Venetians fortified it by building new walls. Nicosia was then taken over by the Ottoman Turks in 1570 and its development languished. The Turks called it by its Greek name of Lefkosia and over the years this developed into its current Turkish pronunciation of Lefkos(h)a.  In 1878 the administration of the island was taken over by the British and the capital flourished and developed its European character; churches were built and first public schools were founded. Government buildings and court houses were built as well as new roads and the city expanded outside the walls. Now Nicosia became the commercial centre of the country and the zone around Ledra Street was the busiest.

In August 1959 Cyprus was declared an independent Republic. In 1964  the city was divided when Turksih Cypriots barricaded themselves into their neighbourhoods after a brief intercommunal conflict.  This division line was called the 'green line'. In July 1974, a coup by extremist Greek officers with close links to Greece conducted a coup against the government which was at the time presided by Archbishop Makarios.  They set up a puppet regime and Makarios fled the island aided by the British who maintain two bases oon Cyprus.  Turkey used this situation as a pretext to invade the island, using a clause in the tratey of estabslihment of the Republic of Cyprus, allowing the guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey, UK) to intervene to restore the status quo if the constitution was under threat.  Not only did Turkey not restore the status quo ante, it created a total division of the island, occupying 38% of its territory and forcing the vast majority of the population from the occupied territory to move south; since then Nicosia is de facto divided into two parts.

For many years Greeks were not allowed to cross over to the north but in recent years the Turkish authorities are permitting this. 

 For detailed information see cyprus/history.

December 07, 2006 change by djaferisp (2 points)

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