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Laying the Foundations For Cyprus - The Mythical Origins of the Island

Laying the Foundations For Cyprus - The Mythical Origins of the Island

In recent months, the island of Cyprus has seen a renaissance. Tourism is booming, and in the TRNC the North Cyprus Property Boom has been marked as the peak of prosperity for the partitioned island;it has been named as one of the world's chief property hot spots.

Politically, too, Cyprus has seen a new level of stability; after 34 years of division and political tension, Turkish Cypriot president Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias have now set up weekly meetings with the aim of solid reunification plans being realised by the end of the year. In fact commentators are marking out the two leaders as the first pairing in Cyprus to believe genuinely and actually in reunification of the island.

Certainly, the island can flourish. Its landscape is beautiful and fertile, and it has a rich cultural heritage; it lays in the Mediterranean and was part of the ancient Kingdom of Phoenicia, so that it springs from the same roots as the great cultural nations of Greece - and as a result of the Roman appropriation of ancient Greek thinking - modern Italy.

Indeed its importance to ancient Greece is paramount; the island of Cyprus is in Greek myth the home of the love goddess Aphrodite, and it is said that it was on the banks of the island that she first emerged from the Mediterranean, merging the beauty of the land with the beauty of the sea, in the literal meaning of her name - 'foam born' - and her choice of Cyprus as home.

It has been her seat ever since, and the myth, even though it is a myth, shows just how beautiful the Phoenician Greeks though the island; Aphrodite, goddess of love, beauty and lust, so pleasing that it was said that a man would only need look at her to fall irrevocably in love with her, became synonymous with the island, even to the extent that she was sometimes known as Kypris, after the island. Indeed she was referred by Homer, the great composer of the first great works of western literature, the Iliad and the Odyssey, as 'the Cypriote'.

Not for the first time, the metaphorical and the fantastical reflect the actual, and over its many years as the mythical home of the goddess, it has been seen as one of the most beautiful and striking landscapes in Europe.

Indeed it was that beauty which brought investors back to the island in recent years, and it was that beauty which formed the basis for the North Cyprus Property Boom. Cyprus is certainly not barren, and it never has been; what held people off was the political situation. With that easing, and with reunification looking almost certain, that will change.

With the island reunited, political tension will no longer steer people away from the beauty of the island, and it can dominate, as it once did, so that the true face of the island can flourish. Then Aphrodite can return home, and take up her throne on the fertile island.

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Chris Woolfrey writes for a number of websites, including, where he is the resident expert on Cypriot history.

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