Larnaca - History

History

Larnaca was founded by Greeks (Mycenaean-Achaeans) in the 14th century B.C. and was known as Kition, or (in Latin) Citium. The biblical name Kittim, though derived from Citium, was generally used for Cyprus as a whole and occasionally by the Jews for the Greeks and Romans. Larnaca is colloquially known as "Skala" (Greek: Σκάλα) meaning "ladder" or "landing stage", referring to the town's status in history as an important port.

Like most Cypriot cities, Kition belonged to the Persian or Achaemenid Empire. In 450 BC, the Athenian general Cimon, died at sea defending the city of Citium in a major battle with the Persians. On his deathbed, he urged his officers to conceal his death from both their allies and the Persians. The quote, "Και Νεκρός Ενίκα" (kai nekros enika) ("Even in death he was victorious") refers to Kimon. A statue of "Kimon the Athenian" stands proudly on the sea front promenade of modern Larnaca.

Like other cities of Cyprus, it has suffered repeatedly from earthquakes, and in medieval times when its harbor silted up (a sign that the island was deforested and overgrazed) the population moved to Larnaca, on the open seafront farther south. The harbor and citadel have now disappeared. Traces remain of the circuit wall and of a sanctuary with copious terra-cotta offerings; the large cemetery has yielded constant loot from illicit excavations for more than a century.

Dig practically anywhere in the area from the tennis club past Chrysopolittissa church and you will find evidence of prior civilizations. Much of the yield near the surface is Roman and Venetian. Visit the museum by the Terra Santa Convent to see not only many exhibits but also the dig in its backyard with Ali Baba's storage jars.

The fort on the Larnaca seafront, with the removal of the Megalos Pefkos (the Big Tree) and a few other restaurants that were established on the sea front after the 1974 invasion, has recently been opened for better viewing.

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