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Kyrenia

History

A city of more than three thousand years of Greek history and civilisation. The first Greeks, who arrived on the island from mainland Greece and Asia Minor, immediately started the process of Hellenising Cyprus and its civilisation, by giving it Greek characteristics. Historical evidence links the present population of the island to the very first settlers from the Greek mainland. The Achaeans (a Greek race in ancient Greece) gave their name to the coast east of Kyrenia -the coast of the Achaeans. Remains of people of Achaean origin, their artefacts and bones can be found in the famous Castle of Kyrenia, where a museum was set up just before the Turkish invasion in the summer of 1974.

Lycophronas states that Kepheas, an Achaean from Dyme and Oleno in Achaea, built Kyrenia. Strabo testifies that Dyme was 60 stadia from Araxo and later, in 756 BC, it was amalgamated with the neighbouring city of Oleno and other cities. One of these cities was named Kerynia. Some tombs belonging to this "Kerynia" were found in July 1970. Pausanias mentions that many Myceneans established themselves in this Greek city. It was famous for its temple of Eumenides, which had the miraculous power of sending the impious and murderers mad.

The name Kerynia is very often found in many parts of ancient Greece. A mountain in Peloponnesos is called Kerynia. There is also another mountain in Peloponnesos called Kerynia, where a stag with golden horns used to live and it is known as the "Kerynitis Stag" that was dedicated to Artemis by the nymph Taigete. It was this stag that Hercules hunted for a year before he was able to catch it.
Kerynia was one of the Several Kingdoms of Cyprus. The descendants of their founders ruled these small states. As the descendants of Teucer ruled Salamis, so the direct descendants of Kepheas ruled Kyrenia.

During its long history, Cyprus inevitably was succumbed to its powerful neighbours as they periodically ruled the Eastern Mediterranean. Yet the local kings still ruled the Island's Kingdoms ensuring that their nationality, language, customs and traditions were preserved. In July 1974, the Turks invaded Kyrenia. They committed atrocities beyond imagination. They murdered thousands of innocent civilians in cold blood, attacked and raped defenseless women and young girls at gunpoint and destroyed Christian churches and many other Greek monuments. They forcibly expelled all its Greek inhabitants from their homes and colonized the occupied area with mainland Turks. They systematically embarked in looting the Greek and English properties. They forcibly transferred, deported and murdered prisoners of war.
The Turkish invaders were euphemistically dubbed by the then Turkish Prime Minister as "peacemakers", whilst the invasion itself was given the name of the 'Attila Plan".

Here is how St. Augustine (who died in 604 A.D) in his book "On the Invasion of the Vandals and the Huns" describes the Hordes of Attila in Middle East, which 13 centuries later could describe the 1974 Turkish Invasion of Cyprus.

"The Barbarians wasted everything with hostile cruelty. They found a province well cultivated and plenteous, the beauty of the whole earth. They carried their destructive arms into every corner of it; they developed it by their devastation, exterminating everything by fire and sword. They tortured their prisoners with exquisite cruelty, to force a discovery of their hidden treasures. The more they discovered the more they expected, and the more implacable they became. They regarded neither the infirmities of age nor of sex, neither the dignity of the noble nor the sanctity of the priest; but the more illustrious their prisoners, the more barbarously they insulted the Cultivated lands they left wastes populous cities with scarcely an inhabitant".

In the seventeenth century A.D. the walls were built all the way around the town in order to defend it and the port against the Arab raids. The interior walls are still visible but the harbour is now open to the sea. To the southeast of the modern harbour lies the old Roman harbour,protected by breakwaters at its north and south ends.

The fairy castle of St. Hilarion, built on a mountain peak 2,200 feet above the sea level, is the most impressive of the three castles on the Kyrenia mountain range. In the past, the site was called Didymus (twin), being one of the twin peaks on the Kyrenia range. The castle was named after the humble hermit Hilarion for whom a church was also built. During the 10th century, the Byzantines built a church and defensive walls on the site.

During the Lusignan reign, it was eventually converted into a fortified castle and was also used as the summerhouse of the Lusignan royal family. The castle of Buffavento (meaning `the definer of the winds'), built in the 11th century AD, forms part of a defence scheme, which includes the St. Hilarion and the Kantara castles. It stands at 3,131 feet above the sea level and is mainly interesting to see the account of its commanding position. The shattered walls still retain their outstanding position, high against the passing clouds.

Touring

Bellapais Abbey

This exquisite Gothic building in the beautiful mountain village of of Bellapais was built by Augustinian monks in 1205 AD.and was knows as ‘Abbey of our lady of the Mountain’.The name Bellapais comes from the Greek ward eqiskopia (meaning bishopric).The Frank,unable to pronounce the ward accurately referred to the building as ‘’Lapais’’.In time the Abbey came to be known as,’’Abbeye de la paix’’.

St. Hillarion Castle

This fairytale castle,said to be Walt Disney’s inspiration for the film’’Fantasia’’,occupies the mountain-top that overloooks Girne.Originnally the site of the castle was the abode of a hermit named Hillarion upon which a monastery was later built in his honour.The building was later fortified by the Byzantines and the castle existed in conjunction with Kantara and Buffavento,along the northern coast,with the aim deterring attacks from seafaring Arabs.
During Lusignan rule the castle was further and was also used as the king’s summer residence.The castle fell into disuse during Venrtain times due to the development of new military technolong which made its upkeep unnecessary.

Buffavento Castle

At analtitude of 954 meters, Buffavento,which mean ‘’wind defying’’,has an apt name. Along with st.Hillarion and Kantara the caste was build by the Byzantines to ward off Arabattacks.The Lusignans,during their rule,extended and further fortifiel the castle,but tended to use thecastle as a prison rather than a military stronghold.The Venetians,finding they had litte use for the castle dismantled and abandoned it.Although there is relatively little left of the castle structure,a walk to the castle from the road below is a rewarding experience giving amazing views of the Girne mountain range to the east and west,the sea to the north,and the central plain to the south.

Antiphonitis Monastery

This beautiful and monestery built in the twenty century is worth visiting not only out of historical isterest,but also for its imressive forest location.The church within the monestery is in particulary good condition, although some of the Byzantine murals have been removed or damager.Please be aware that a sturdy vehicle is needed on the road to the monastery.

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