Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is located 44 miles south of Turkey and 60 miles off the coast of Syria.
With an area of 3,572 square miles, the island is about the size of Puerto Rico. Some 500,000 Cypriots are Greeks, while about 120,000 are of Turkish descent.
In ancient times, Cyprus was famous for its copper mines. In fact, the name of the island comes from kypros, the Greek word for copper. This word became cuprum in Latin and gave us our word copper.
Through the centuries, Cyprus has been conquered and ruled by many peoples, including the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks, and Crusaders. The British gained control of the island in the nineteenth century, and Cyprus did not become an independent nation until 1960.
After independence, many Greek Cypriots wanted the island to become part of Greece, while the Turkish Cypriots wanted to divide the island between the Greeks and Turks living there. A civil war broke out, and in 1974, Turkish troops invaded Cyprus and conquered the northern part of the island.
In the 1980s, Cyprus remains divided. The southern part is inhabited by Greeks and is called the Republic of Cyprus. The northern, Turkish part declared itself independent in 1975. and set up a government of its own.
Today, Cyprus still produces small amounts of its namesake, copper. But it’s more noted for it wine and cigarettes. In relation to its population, Cyprus produces more cigarettes and wine than all but four countries on earth.