International Influences

Sphinx

Sphinx
Cypro-Archaic II period (ca. 550-500 BC)
Biodetritic limestone
Cyprus Museum, Nicosia

The art of the Cypriot kingdoms reflects a multitude of foreign influences. The little charioteers are Phoenician in style, although their chariot is Greek. The images of Bes and the sphinx trace their roots to Egypt. The trio of standing limestone figures echo archaic Greek sculpture (although the pointed hats derive from Syria), while the seated youth is modeled on Greek art of the classical period.

Phoenician traders introduced the Egyptian dwarf god Bes into Cyprus, along with other Egyptian beliefs and influences. Bes was regarded as a protector against evil and a defender of households.

A new writing system appeared on Cyprus after 1000 BC: the Cypriot syllabary, in which each sign represented a syllable. Here it is used to write Greek, but it could also record the Phoenician and Eteocypriot languages.

The Phoenicians in Cyprus

Phoenicia was an ancient civilization of maritime traders on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. Communities of Phoenician-speaking people established themselves on nearby Cyprus, especially in harbor towns. Kition in particular was the home of Phoenicians as early as the 9th century BC.

The Phoenicians adopted some aspects of Cypriot culture, worshipping Greek gods under Phoenician names. Phoenician inscriptions on gravestones at Kition show evidence of mixed marriages and include names of at least three ethnic groups: Greek, Phoenician, and Hebrew.