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by Archaeology Newsroom

Ancient Cyprian sculpture

The geographic position of Cyprus in the centre of the then known civilized world of antiquity has determined not only its historic route, but also its cultural expression.

Cyprus had developed close relations with the neighbouring East until 1400 BC, when Mycenaean merchants settled on the island. From then on, Cyprus started a progressive orientation towards the Greek world and during the twelfth and eleventh centuries BC it was systematically colonized by the Greeks as a result of the disasters the mainland country had gone through. During the Mycenaean age, a very characteristic style of art developed on the island, an art displaying a good number of Eastern and Greek features. In the Geometric and Archaic period, the art of Cyprus appears to oscillate between Greece and the East and to be affected some times by Greek, at other times by Eastern artistic factors depending on the historic circumstances. The influence of the East had been periodically reinforced as much by the Phoenician colonization as by the successive occupation of the island by the Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians. However, starting from the year 499 BC, on the date of the Ionian revolution, Cyprus developed such strong and creative bonds with Greece in the spiritual field that the Greek way of life, morals and customs as well as art became predominant. Monumental scultpure makes its first appearance on Cyprus around 650 BC and its first stylistic phase is called Early Cyprian. It exhibits a lively modelling and strong expression and although it is obviously affected by the art of the East, it manages to retain its distinct Cyprian character. The two successive phases which follow, the Cyprian-Egyptian and Neo-Cyprian style, show less inspiration. The Cyprian-Greek style appears around 540 BC and is closely related to Greek art which was transmitted to the island by the Greek cities of Ionia, therefore the works belonging to this style have a strong Ionian flavour. At the beginning Cyprian-Greek art has a dynamic quality and is full of initiatives but progressively it starts fading and becomes stylized, The sculpture of the classical period in Cyprus includes certain works which are Greek creations, however most of its products are purely Cyprian, following the Greek model and exhibiting an outstanding variety. The best of these Cyprian works of the classical period have kept their Cyprian identity. From the classical period on Cyprian art starts loosing its autonomy as it enters the sphere of the Greek world. It now becomes a peripheral, provincial art and its style shows nothing more than a combination of local, conservative, Archaic as well as eclectic artistic elements.