The large island in the easternmost basin of the Mediterranean, probably deriving its name from the Cyprus flower (Κύπρος), the Hebrew appellation of which is . Josephus states ("Ant." i. 6, § 1) that the island, called in Hebrew, was named after the city "Ketion" or "Kition." Nevertheless the term "isles of Kittim" (Jer. ii. 10; Ezek. xxvii. 6) indicates that "Kittim" signified all the islands and coastlands of the West, and, according to I Macc. i. 1 (XΧεττείμ) and viii. 5 (Kappaιτέων βασιλέα), included Macedonia, and, according to Dan. xi. 30, even Italy. The inhabitants of Cyprus were at first, perhaps, Carians; in historical times, Phenicians; and later, Greeks. During the last period, as the Judean Agrippa writes to the emperor Caius, the Jews were numerous there (Philo, "Legatio ad Caium," 36; ii. 587, ed. Mangey). They stood in intimate relationship with the inhabitants of the island, and the favorable decree of the Romans regarding Jewish subjects was sent also to Cyprus (I Macc. xv. 23). During the war over the city of Ptolemais between Alexander Jannæus and Ptolemy Lathyrus, King of Cyprus, the Jews suffered severe losses, and Cleopatra III. of Egypt, mother of the Cyprian king, despatched her Hebrew commanders Chelkias and Ananias to the aid of Alexander Jannæus, who thereupon defeated the Cyprians. Referring to this event, Josephus ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 4) quotes the statement of Strabo that the Jews of Cyprus remained steadfast in their allegiance to the party of Lathyrus, notwithstanding the high favor shown them by Queen Cleopatra.In Roman Times.
In Cyprus as in Egypt, the Jews fared well at this time; and a distinguished Cyprian Hebrew, Timius by name, married Alexandra, daughter of Phasaelus and Salampsio, the latter a granddaughter of Herod the Great. This union, however, was without issue ("Ant." xviii. 5, § 4). Christianity was preached here among the Jews at an early date, Paul being the first, and Barnabas, a native of Cyprus, the second, to disseminate the new doctrine (Acts iv. 36, xi. 19, xiii. 5, xv. 39); and according to a legend Barnabas was killed here by the Jews ("Acta Barnabæ," § 23). There is also an account, agreeing well with what is known from classical authors concerning the fertility of Cyprus, that Queen Helen of Adiabene had fruit brought from the island to Jerusalem. Under the leadership of one Artemion, the Cyprian Jews participated in the great uprising against the Romans under Trajan (117), and they are reported to have massacred 240,000 Greeks (Dio Cassius, lxviii. 32). Thisinsurrection was finally quelled after considerable bloodshed (perhaps by Q. Marcius Turbo, who suppressed the uprising in Cyrene and Egypt), with the result that the Jews of Cyprus were almost entirely extirpated. The blood of the Jews slaughtered in Palestine is said to have streamed is far as Cyprus (Lam. R. i. 16, iv. 19); that is, the insurrection and the consequent slaughter of the Jews extended to Cyprus. In further punishment a severe law was enacted, according to which no Jew was thereafter to be permitted to land on Cyprian soil, not even in case of shipwreck; nevertheless Jewish residents were still to be found upon the island at a later period; and the products of the soil, to which Talmudists frequently refer (for instance, the "cumin" of Cyprus, Yer. Dem. ii. 1), were probably brought into the market by them. So rapidly did the Jews multiply that in 610 they were sufficiently numerous to participate in the insurrection against the Greeks under Heraclius.
A scholar, Moses of Cyprus by name, is said to have been arbitrator (in the eleventh century) between the Armenians and the Greeks ("Zeit. für Hebr. Bibl." vi. 116). Benjamin of Tudela found in Cyprus a number of Jewish communities, one of which was guilty of the heresy of observing the Sabbath from Saturday morning to Sunday morning, instead of from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Judah Mosconi also visited the island, as did Menahem ben Perez (Zunz, "Gesam. Schriften," i. 168). In 646, and again in 1154, Cyprus was devastated by the Arabs; in 1571 it was annexed by Turkey, having been wrested from the Venetians on the advice of Don Joseph NASI, who came near attaining to the dignity of the Cyprian crown (Hammer, "Gesch. der Osmanen," iii. 564). In 1878 Cyprus came under English rule.
During the last twenty years of the nineteenth century several attempts were made to colonize Russian and Rumanian Jewish refugees in Cyprus. The first attempt, in 1883, was made by Friedland, and a settlement of several hundred Russians was effected in Orides near Papho. In 1885, 27 Rumanian families settled in the island as colonists, but were not successful (see "Ha-Meliẓ," 1888, No. 71, col. 1136). Nothing daunted, Rumanian Jews in 1891 again bought land here, though they did not themselves emigrate. Fifteen Russian families under the leadership of Walter S. Cohen founded a colony in the year 1897 at Margo, with the help of the Ahawat Zion of London and the Jewish Colonization Association; and in the year 1899 Davis Trietsch again advocated colonization in Cyprus, especially for Rumanian Jews. As a delegate to the Third Zionist Congress at Basel, in Aug., 1899, he attempted to get an indorsement of the project from the congress; but he was met by a decided refusal ("Stenographisches Protocoll des III. Zionisten-Congresses," p. 232). He nevertheless persevered, inducing a dozen Rumanian Jews and, in the spring of 1900, twelve of the Boryslav miners to emigrate to the island. Twenty-eight Rumanian families followed these; and the colonists received assistance from the Jewish Colonization Association. These settlers have farms at Margo, and at Asheriton ("Jewish Chronicle," April 20, 1900, p. 18). The colonists in Cyprus have not prospered; and it is said that the government is opposed to a wholesale immigration of Rumanians ("Bulletin All. Isr." 1900, No. 25, 32). Notwithstanding these reverses, the Jewish Colonization Association has continued to give a small support to the work in Cyprus.
In 1900 there were 36 persons living at Margo ("Palästina," i. 65). In 1902 a pamphlet was presented to the Parliamentary committee on alien immigration in London, bearing the title "The Problem of Jewish Immigration to England and the United States Solved by Furthering the Jewish Colonization of Cyprus." In 1901 the Jewish population of the island was 63 males and 56 females. See W. Bambus, "Jüd. Kolonisation in Cypern," in "All. Zeit. des Jud." 1899, p. 436.
- Davis Trietsch, in Jew. Chron. Sept. 5, 1902;
- Greater Palestine, in Palästina, iii. 154 et seq.;
- E. Oberhummer, Die Insel Cypern, pp. 15-20, 23-32, Munich, 1903.