Cyprus, situated where it is in the Eastern Mediterranean, has, in the course of its troubled history, made the acquaintance of a host of different peoples. The first to arrive on the shores of the island, some ten thousand years ago, were hunters of dwarf elephants and hippopotamuses. The fertile soil and the climate attracted the first permanent settlers from the shores of Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine; these brought with them the Neolithic civilization and established settlements throughout the land, such as those at Kalavassos and Chirokitia.
However, it was the island’s mineral wealth which forged around Cyprus a network of commercial and cultural pathways, linking it with the world of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean. Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, and Egyptians needed the precious copper which Cyprus exported in order to make weapons and tools.
When the Mycenaean “empire” broke up around 1200 B. C., Mycenaean refugees arrived in Cyprus: this was an event of such importance that it has affected the fate and the character of Cyprus down to the present day. This is because these colonists from the Aegean brought with them the Greek language and the Greek gods and heroes, who were to find on the island a new and hospitable home. Ever since then, Cyprus has been, in political and cultural terms, in an unbroken continuity, the southernmost extremity of the Greek world.