On the southern coast of Cyprus, an island country located in the Eastern Mediterranean, is the city of Larnaca. This is the third largest city on Cyprus and serves as the capital of a district carrying its name. It is also the oldest continually inhabited city in the country. While other ancient cities were abandoned, it remained populated and its economy has been growing for decades thanks in large part to the tourism industry.
The Early Years
Founded approximately 6,000 years ago, Larnaca was originally called Kition or Kittium. According to legend, Khittim, the son of the Biblical figure Noah, was the founder of the first settlement. During the 13th century BC, the Mycenaean Greeks established the Kition City Kingdom that served as a major copper trading center and a bustling port. Mycenaean temples, Cyclopean walls, and other remains from this period have recently been found. Artifacts dating to between 1200 and 1000 BC indicate that significant political change took place during this time. Kition was part of the Achaemenid or Persian Empire and many inhabitants revolted against Persian rule. In 322 and 342 AD, severe earthquakes destroyed the city, silting the harbor, and forcing survivors to move the seafront south. In the Ottoman Period, the seashore just south of Larnaca Castle became a commercial port. During the Byzantine period, it became a very important city. The Basilica of Saint Lazarus erected in the 9th century AD is just one of the many captivating monuments that emerged during this period. During Ottoman rule, this city took center stage as the commercial and diplomatic hub of the country. With the construction of the Kamares aqueduct in 1747, the city began receiving water from six miles away. In 1878, the British landed here and quickly took over, not ending their rule until 1960. Since then, it has followed the rest of Cyprus by developing very quickly. The population grew from 22,000 in 1973 to 65,000 in 1974 due to an influx of more than 40,000 Greek-Cypriot refugees during the Turkish invasion.
Historical Areas to Visit
Many historically significant monuments remain today including the ruins of the city of Kition, the aqueduct, and the Church of St. Lazarus, a tribute to the brother of Martha and Mary. The church contains a marble sarcophagus under the Holy of the Holies. The underground chapel of Ayia Phaneromeni is believed to have once been a pagan tomb and reportedly has magical properties. The Fort of Larnaca erected in 1625 by the Turks is now a museum and its inner courtyard serves as a theater and open-air garden. Approximately five miles west of the city is the Hala Sultan Tekke that contains the tomb of Umm Haram, who was reportedly the foster mother of Muhammad. She died in 647 AD while accompanying Arab invaders. Many artifacts from ancient times can be found at the Larnaca District Museum. Pierides Museum features the unique collection of the Pierides family, representing four generations. In addition to reptiles, birds, and animals, the Municipal Museum of Natural History of Larnaca contains fossils from ancient eras.