CYPRUS AND ITS POSTAL HISTORY
Á brief geographical and historical note
By Íicos Rangos
Cyprus, an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, is known as the island of Aphrodite. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia. Its population at the end of 1993 was about 722 800 composed of 84,1 % Greek Cypriots, 12,9% Turkish Cypriots, and 3% foreigners residing in Cyprus. Prior to the invasion the two communities lived together in roughly the same proportions (4 Greek: 1 Turk) in all the six administrative districts.
Politically and culturally Cyprus belongs to the group of European countries. The bonds of Cyprus with Hellenism and Byzantium are predominant. After independence in 1960 Cyprus became á member of the United
Nations and of the Commonwealth. It is also á member of the Council of Europe and of the Universal Postal Union. Cyprus has á Customs Agreement with the E.E.C. and has applied for full membership of the European Union.
The history of Cyprus is among the most ancient in the World. The first traces of its civilization made their appearance almost 8,000 years ago. The predominant language of the island is Greek notwithstanding the fact that many conquerors passed through the island because of its important geographical position.
The history of Cyprus can be divided as follows:
8,000 B.C. - 3,000 B.C.: There are rich findings from the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age.
3,000 B.C. - 1,050 B.C.: Bronze Age. Great prosperity in Cyprus. The Mycenians settle in the Island, and they establish-city Kingdoms on the Mycenaean model and introduce the Greek language and religion in the island.
1,050 B.C. - 709 B.C.: Findings of the Iron Age.
709 B.C. - 540 B.C.: Occupation of Cyprus by the Assyrians and Egyptians.
540 B.C. - 333 B.C.: Cyprus becomes part of the Persian Empire. During this period there are the 10 kingdoms of Salamis, Kitium, Paphos, Soloi, Kourion, Lapithos, Kyrenia, Marion, Amathus and Tamassos.
294 B.C. - 58 B.C.: Cyprus becomes one of the Centres of the Ptolemaic Empire. 58 B.C. - 330 A.D.: Roman Period.
330 A.D. - 1191 A.D.: Byzantine Period with rich religious, artistic and architectural heritage. 1191 A.D.: Occupation of Cyprus by Richard of England.
1192 A.D. - 1489 A.D.: Cyprus a kingdom of the Louisianans. 1489 A.D. - 1571 A.D.: Venetian occupation.
1571 A.D. - 1878 A.D.: Turkish Administration. Cyprus becomes part of the Ottoman Empire.
1878 A.D. - 1960 A.D.: British Administration. In É960 Cyprus became independent.
In 1974 the Turks invade Cyprus again and put under occupation 37% of its territory.
Naturally the Postal History of Cyprus reflects the island's turbulent history and as such is rich and interesting. We could say that of á11 the Commonwealth countries Cyprus Postal History is the most interesting.
Á. Period before É878
The postal history of Cyprus begins with the Venetians. They were the first to organize postal communications. Letters from dignitaries of the time, from merchants, from Embassies and Consulates were taken by their own ships to á11 towns of the Mediterranean. The first known letter sent from Famagusta to Constantinople bears the date 17/8/ É 353. Ìany other letters followed without postmarks.
Instead of postmarks appear the initials "C.D.G. = CHE DIO GUARDI" God is guarding it. Én Turkish times we come across egg-shaped postmarks with the words: VENDAMAR and in the middle the lion of St. Mark of Venice. The confidentiality of the letters in those days was secured by means of sealing-wax. Én the meantime in 1845-1864 the first hand made stamps appear. During that period postmarks were used for the first time by the Austrian Post Office Lloyd of Larnaca.
At the time letters travelled with great slowness and in complex conditions and the result was á continuous increase of expenses. The problem was aggravated when the settlement of postal fees among states was to be made. The first postage stamps were issued in England on 10/1/ 1840 and depicted Queen Victoria. The idea for using the postage stamp belongs to the English educationist Rowland Hill (1795-1879).
In Cyprus the first modern stamps appeared in 1864 and were stamped with the known circular postmark "LARNACCA DI CIPRO" again from the Austrian Post Office. Big stamps of Turkish issues of that period are also found. Those stamps were used in the island by the Turkish Post Office of Cyprus which opened in Nicosia in 1871 and closed in 1878. It must be pointed out that in those seven years few letters were sent from Cyprus with Turkish stamps since the Turkish population of the island was illiterate.
Â. Period of British Postage Stamps 1878-196Ð
On 8 July 1878 Cyprus came under British Administration. On the 27th of the same month a British Post Office opened at Larnaca while the Lloyd Post Office closed down 6 months later after á continuous service of 33 years. After that Post Offices were opened in á11 towns and used postmarks bearing the date and the corresponding characteristic number 942 Larnaca, 969 Nicosia, 974 Kyrenia, 975 Limassol, 981 Paphos and 982 Famagusta. Á general characteristic of the time was that á11 Post Offices on the Island operated under the control of the General Post Office of England and that the postage stamps of á total of 10 values used on the island were the same British postage stamps issued from 1858-1880.
From É April 1880 to 30 June 1881 British stamps of the time were overprinted "CYPRUS". The overprinting was done at the Government printing Press in Nicosia. From 1.7.1881 until 1928 Cypriot stamps were issued with the Royal portraits of Victoria, Edward VII and George V. The stamps of these series were called "De La Rue Key Plate" from the name of the company that issued them. They are á11 monotype and depict ïnly portraits of the respective kings bearing the words "Ñïstage and Revenue". The £1 stamps of the series 1922-23 and the £5 of 1928 perhaps have lost á lot because of their monotonous appearance but have gained á lot because of being rare.
From 1928 to 15 August É960 the Royal portraits were phased out and Cyprus postage stamps depicted scenes related to Cypriot reality.
C. Period after the Independence
On 16 August 1960 Cyprus became an Independent Republic. On that particular day a commemorative series of 3 stamps was put into circulation while the Definitive series of Queen Elizabeth was overprinted in Greek and Turkish with the Words "CYPRUS REPUBLIC".
The Republic, through the Department of Postal Services began issuing regularly á limited number of series each year. These are meant to cover postage revenue and to portray, through the stamps, the history, cultural heritage and natural attractions of Cyprus.
From 1960 to the present 7 definitive series of stamps have been issued consisting of 97 stamps, 157 commemorative series comprising 496 stamps and 7 series of refugee stamps with 7 stamps.