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Large island in eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Syria (area
By its location, Cyprus was at the crossroad of many civilizations from the Middle East, Egypt and Greece, though its situation as an island and the richness of its soil (especially rich copper mines that were at the root of its prosperity and induced trade relations with most of the Middle East) allowed it to keep its specificity over the centuries. Cyprus had been populated since a very remote past. Around 1450 B. C., Greeks of the Mycenæan civilization established trade posts in the island. Yet, the kings that were reigning over Cyprus stayed in power and managed to keep their autonomy and neutrality in the power struggles that opposed the Hittites kings from Anatolia and the pharaohs of Egypt during the XIVth and XIIIth centuries B. C., and they developed privileged relations with the royal family of Ugarit on the nearby coast of Syria facing Cyprus. Toward the beginning of the XIIth century B. C., the Mycenæan civilization suddenly disappeared and Cyprus was invaded by what the ancient Egyptian documents call "Peoples from the North and the Sea", which have not been precisely identified by modern historians. Centuries later, toward the end of the IXth century and during the VIIIth century B. C., Phoenician merchants established trade posts on the southern shore of the island, in cities like Citium, as relays on their progression west. Yet, most of the island stayed under the control of kings of Salamis, vassals of the Assyrian Empire. With the fall of Nineveh (612), the Assyrian dominion over the island was replaced by that of Egypt, followed by that of Persia in the time of Cyrus the Great and his successors.
Greek mythology of classical times links Cyprus to Teucrus, son of Telamon, the king of Salamis (the island facing Athens) and father of the Great Ajax, one of the most prominent Greek heroes during the Trojan war. Teucrus was the half-brother of Ajax, born from Hesione, a Trojan princess, daughter of Laomedon and sister of Priam (the father of Hector and Paris), whom Telamon had won in helping Heracles in his expedition against Troy (an expedition that has nothing to do with the Trojan War of Homeric Poems), while Ajax's mother was Periboea, daughter of the king of Megara. Despite his family ties with the Trojan kings, Teucrus was on the Greek side during the Trojan War, was said to be the best archer of all the Greek army, and accomplished many exploits there. When he came back to Salamis after the war, where his elder brother Ajax had been killed, his father Telamon exiled him for not having protected or avenged his brother. Teucrus fled to Syria, where the king of the place settled him in Cyprus that he had just conquered. There, Teucrus founded a city that he called Salamis as well.
Back in the historical times we are dealing with, Cyprus, under the leadership of Onesilus, brother of the king of Salamis, took part in 498 in an uprising against Darius, the Persian King, along with Ionian cities led by Aristagoras, ruler of Miletus. But the attempt failed, the combined Ionian fleet and Cypriot army were defeated on sea and land by Darius' troops and his Phoenician navy near Salamis of Cyprus, and Onesilus was killed (Herodotus' Histories, V, 104-116). Yet, for Herodotus, this episode, in which the Athenians provided help to the Milesians, was the cause of Darius' attempt to invade Greece to punish Athens in what became known as the first Persian War.
It is in Cyprus, during the siege of Citium, that Cimon died in 450 (Thucydides, I, 112 ; Plutarch's Life of Cimon, 19.1). But, on their way back, the Athenians won a naval and terrestrial victory over the Phoenicians, Chypriots and Cilicians near Salamis of Cyprus, which was soon to be followed by the Peace of Callias between Athens and Persia.