Sea Trade and Navigation

This Cyprus is so fertile and abounds in products of every kind, that . . . by its native resources alone it builds cargo ships from the very keel to the topmast sails, and equipping them completely, entrusts them to the deep.

– Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman historian, 4th century AD

Cypriots traded with most of the ancient Mediterranean world. Ships sailed to and from Cypriot ports, carrying luxury goods and foodstuffs. Amphorae, the jars used to transport wine and olive oil, were the commonest cargo. Numerous amphorae have been found in the seas around Cyprus—from the Near East, Egypt, Asia Minor, Greece, the Black Sea, Italy, Spain, North Africa—testifying to the range of Cyprus’s merchant fleet.

Underwater archaeology constantly adds to our knowledge of Cyprus’s maritime history. A well-preserved merchant ship, wrecked north of Kyrenia in about 300 BC with a cargo of wine from Rhodes and almonds from Cyprus, was excavated in 1967–69, in one of the most important underwater projects in history. In 2007, divers discovered another shipwreck off the south coast of Cyprus, near Mazotos. Carrying wine from the island of Chios, the ship sank sometime around 350–330 BC.