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Nicosia - North Cyprus capital city

Some archaeological finds show that Nicosia has been inhabited since 5000 B.C. Although it is more widely believed that Cyprus capital dates back to the Ledra settlement, which was founded approximately 2250 years ago.

In the beginning, Nicosia was a small town as compared to its coastline-situated counterparts that grew faster due to their beneficial geographic position. At that time Cyprus was comprised from several city-kingdoms, and only after the unification of the island in the 4th century A.D. Nicosia could keep up with other towns by exploiting its natural resources.

After the 6th century the city grew even more: the population moved to the central part of Cyprus because of Arab raids on the coastal cities. And in the 9th or 10th century it became the capital of the island, as well as its administration centre and seat of the Byzantine governors of Cyprus.

Nicosia was also the residence of the Templars who bought the island of Cyprus from Richard the Lionheart. Historians link this period to the cultural development of the city.

Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, who bought Cyprus from the Templars, brought many noble people from Europe and Jerusalem to the island. Nicosia was proclaimed the capital of the Kingdom of Lusignans. Under their rule the city developed architecturally: a lot of palaces, mansions, churches and monasteries were built at that period. Nicosia was also surrounded by the walls with gates as the part of the fortifications of the city.

In the 16th century, during the Venetian rule, Nicosia was the administrative centre and the seat of the Venetian Governor. In 1567 the Venetians fortified the entire city which was threatened by the Ottomans. The new star-shaped walls of the capital were designed by an architect and engineer Julio Savorgnano, according to the contemporary methods of defence. The new walls had eleven bastions and three gates: the North Kyrenia Gate, the west Paphos Gate and the east Famagusta Gate. Each heart-shaped bastion was designed to host new artillery and provided better control for the defenders.

The new fortifications were tested in 1570 when the Ottomans started the attack on Nicosia's bastions. This was one of the main campaigns held by the Ottomans within their full-scale invasion of Cyprus. The city fell on the 9th of September 1570 and after the invasion became the seat of the Pasa. The capital was deserted, the walls were ruined, churches were converted into mosques. Although many inhabitants were killed or left the city, Nicosia remained the commercial centre of the island.

The 19th century was a difficult period for Nicosia. Cholera hit the city in 1835, and fire destroyed large areas of the capital in 1857.

In 1878 the administration of the island was officially transferred to British Empire. The city became the colony's capital. During the British occupation Nicosia developed not only within the walls but also outside the historical centre. In 1931 the Kyrenia Gate was opened after one of Nicosia's first buses turned out to be too high to go through the original gate. This and several more openings in the walls were the reason for the further development of the areas outside the city centre. After the World War II the villages around the capital grew in importance. The old city was mainly occupied by shops and workshops.

During the liberation from the British rule in 1955-1959, Nicosia was the main place of political conflicts. In 1960 it became the capital of the Republic of Cyprus. In 1963, in the aftermath of a constitutional crisis, Nicosia was divided into Turkish and Greek quarters due to the conflicts between two ethnic groups. The capital was officially divided by the "green line" in 1974 after the Turkish army entered the island, and remains the only divided capital in the world.


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