The largest island in the eastern Mediterranean, located between 34 ° 33 ′ and 35 ° 41 ′ N., and between 32 ° 17 ′ and 34 ° 35 ′ E., approximately 95 km. west of Syria. The Caramel coast of Asia Minor is 64 km away.; to the West the nearest land is the island of Rhodes and even more distant is Crete. While remaining part of the Ottoman Empire, Cyprus was occupied and administered by Great Britain in 1878, to which it was definitively annexed in 1914. In 1925 it was proclaimed a Crown Colony.
The name of Isj or Alašia in Egyptian texts seems to refer to the island, while it is called Iatnana in the later Assyrian documents of Sargon II. The identification of the Jews with Kittim is less certain, although the supporters of this hypothesis rely on the existence in ancient Cyprus of a city called Kition. The name Κύπρος first appears in Homer, but its origin is obscure. From it derive in every way the name of the copper, extracted on the island since ancient times, that of the cypress, and that of the goddess Aphrodite already called by Homer Kypris.
Morphology and geology. – The island (9280 sq. Km.) Consists of two mountain ranges connected by a large plain, the Messaria (“in the mountains”). The northern chain or Monti Kerynia, which rises to just over 1000 m., Is composed, except in the eastern part, of Mesozoic limestone, with intrusions of more recent igneous rocks. This chain forms a bulwark along the entire northern coast and extends into the eastern Karpaso promontory, intercepting the rain-bringing winds from the north and forming a strip of lush vegetation with the narrow coastal plain. The southern mountains, composed for the most part of igneous rocks, diabase, gabbro, serpentine, andesite, occupy almost the entire SW part. of the island reaching the maximum height (m. 1953) in the Troodos mountain, and degrade to E. in the Stavrovouno (Monte Santa Croce), forming an extended massif. The plain itself is made up for the most part of sandstones and conglomerates, dominated by more recent tertiary clays, and is very eroded by the furrows of running waters. In some parts, especially along the northern foothills of Troodos, erosion has left a characteristic table formation (mesas). The plain in the summer is arid and desolate, except for the localities favored by the springs, which form luxuriant oases inhabited since ancient times. For Cyprus geography, please check franciscogardening.com.
Due to the prevalence of the high type of coast and the lack of large estuaries Cyprus is almost absolutely lacking in ports, since the two existing ones, Famagusta, famous in medieval times, and Kerynia, are quite unsuitable for modern ships, so that most of the steamers drop anchor in the open bays of Larnaka and Limassol. A developing traffic is held by the bay of Morphou located at the mines of the Troodos massif.
Climate. – The general character of the climate is typically Mediterranean: dry summers and wet winters. The rains fall mostly in November and December; missing in July and August.
On the northern and western coasts and on the mountains, precipitation is greater (750 mm.), Less in the region of Limassol and in the western plains (470-500 mm.), Minimum in the eastern Messaria and in the adjacent coastal zone (less than 300 mm.). Summer precipitation, excluding Nicosia and the upper Troodos area, is on average less than 50 mm. all over the island. The average annual temperature is about 19 °, that of January is 9 °, 5 ° for Nicosia and 12 ° for the coastal stations, and the thermometer, except on the Troodos, rarely drops below zero; the average of the warmest month is 27 °, 9 ° for Larnaka and 28 °, 3 ° for Nicosia, where a maximum of 43 ° was observed, 9. However, the heat is somewhat mitigated by the sea breeze coming from the NW. Apart from that, I come across the prevailing winds blow from the north and are cold in winter and hot in summer, often causing considerable damage to crops.
Hydrography. – Apart from the small but perennial rivers that spring from M. Troodos, including the Kouris which flows into the sea near Episkopi and the Diarrizos whose mouth is close to Kouklia (ancient Paphos), the waterways are not mostly other than winter torrents. The Pideas has its sources in the northern slopes of Macharia, passes near Nicosia and loses most of its waters in the Enkomi swamps near Famagusta. The Yalias (Gyalias) is born near the Pideas and runs to the sea more or less parallel to it.
Flora and fauna. – The flora of Cyprus is generally of the Mediterranean type and has a set of species similar to those of Pamphylia, Cilicia and Syria, as well as many endemic species, especially in the mountainous region. The active reforestation of denuded areas, successfully carried out by the Forestry Department, is likely to have a considerable effect on the local flora. It is interesting to note that in ancient times the forests of Cyprus provided Egypt with timber for ships, while today, although specimens of Pinus laricio still exist on the Troodos, the island has very little usable timber. Even more astonishing is the report of Eratosthenes, who tells us that the Messaria was in ancient times covered with dense forest. In any case, except in the mountains, the work of man and goats has greatly reduced the spontaneous vegetation of the island.
The Quaternary fauna of the island, as shown by the great explorations of the ossiferous caves of the M. Kerynia, included a dwarf elephant, a small hippo, and the genet. Currently the largest mammal on the island is the mouflon, similar to that of the Tauern and Sardinia. 17 other mammal species have been found, but no members of the skunk, ermine and weasel family live on the island. Since ancient times, Cyprus had a reputation for harboring many poisonous reptiles, while, although the viper is common, the reptiles are not numerous, nor are they particularly poisonous. Birds have special interest; not only are there numerous migratory birds, of which about 300 species have been counted, but among the 50 residents there are many local forms.