THE HISTORY OF LIMASSOL
HISTORY OF LIMASSOL (LEMESOS)
The town of Lemesos (Limassol) is situated between the ancient towns of Amathus and Curium. The English King Richard the Lionheart destroyed Amathus in 1191. Lemesos (Limassol) was probably built after Amathus had been ruined. However, the town of Lemesos (Limassol) was inhabited since the very old times. Graves that were found there date back to 2.000 B.C. and others date back to the 8th and 4th century B.C. These few remains that were left behind show that a small colonization must have existed which did not manage to develop and flourish.
The ancient writers mention nothing about the foundation of the town.
The history of Lemesos (Limassol) is largely known by the events of 1191 A.D. that put an end to the Byzantine dominion of Cyprus. The king of England, Richard the Lionheart, was travelling to the Holy Land in 1191. His fiancιe Berengaria and his sister loanna, (Queen of Sicily), were also travelling on a different ship. Because of a storm, the ship with the queens arrived in Lemesos (Limassol). Isaac Comnenus, the Byzantine governor of Cyprus, was heartless and cruel, and hated the Latins very much. He did not allow the queens to get off the ship and did not even help them. When Richard arrived in Lemesos (Limassol) and met Isaac Comnenus, he asked him to contribute to the crusade for the liberation of the Holy Land. While at the beginning Isaac had accepted, he later on refused to give any help.
Richard then chased him and beat him. Cyprus was therefore taken over by the British. Richard celebrated his marriage withBerengaria who had received the crown as queen of England in Cyprus. So, the Byzantine dominion in Cyprus came to an end.
Richard destroyed Amathus and the inhabitants were transferred to Lemesos (Limassol). A year later, in 1192 A.D. Cyprus was sold to the Templars, rich monks and soldiers whose aim was the protection of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The knights enforced high taxes,in order to put back the money that had been given for the purchase of Cyprus. This led to the revolt of the Cypriots. They demanded that they should get rid of the bond of the promise. Richard accepted their request and a new purchaser was found: Guy de Lusignan, a Frank, a Roman Catholic. Cyprus was thus handed over to the Frankish Dynasty of the Lusignan kings of the medieval Cypriot kingdom.
For a period of about three centuries 1192-1489, Lemesos (Limassol) enjoyed aremarkable prosperity. Cyprus was characterized by its great number of Latin bishops. This lasted until the occupation of Cyprus by the Turks in 1570 A.D. Latin battalions which established monasteries were settled down there.
The settling down of merchants in Cyprus and particularly in Lemesos (Limassol) in the 13th century led to the financial welfare of its inhabitants. Its harbor as a center of transportation and commerce, contributed greatly to the financial and cultural development.
The King of Germany, Frederick II, urged by the Templars of Cyprus who were enemies of Ibelen, arrived in Lemesos (Limassol) and took over in the town in 1228. He then called John Ibelen to come beforehim, in order to discuss the plans against the Muslims. John Ibelen came before him accompanied by the under-aged King Eric and all the Templars of Cyprus. When Ibelen refused to cooperate, Frederick had no choice but to let him go. The German King took over in Lemesos (Limassol) and in other towns. He appointed his own governors but he finally left Cyprus. The forces of Frederick were finally beaten in the battle of 1229, which took place in Agirta, a village in the Kyrenia area, between the forces ofFrederick and the troops of the Franks, which were led by John Ibelen. The outcome of the battle meant the beginning of the freedom of Cyprusfrom the Germans.
Cyprus was sold in1489 A.D. to the town of Venice by the Cypriot Queen Catherine Cornaro. The Venetianswere not interested in Cyprus. They were only interested in receiving the taxes and in exploiting the country’s sources. They destroyed the Castle of Lemesos (Limassol) in1539.
Travelers who visited Cyprus in the 16th century commented on the poor condition of the local population in the towns of Cyprus.
All the inhabitants of Cyprus were enslaved by the Venetians, and were obliged to pay a tribute of 1/3 of their income, whether this was part of their products of the land, e.g. wheat, wine, oil, or animals or of any other product.
The Turks invaded Cyprus in 1570-1571 and occupied it. Lemesos (Limassol) was conqueredin July 1570 without any resistance. The Turks devastated and burned it. Descriptions of different visitors inform us that the town of Lemesos (Limassol) looked like a village with a considerablenumber of inhabitants. The Christians used to live in small houses of such low height, that one had to bend in order to enter the house. This was deliberately chosen in order to prevent the Turks from riding a horse, to enter the houses.
During the years of the Turkish domination, Cyprus faced a general decline. The Turks did not contribute to any development. Greeks and Turks used to live in distinct neighborhoods.During the years of the Turkish domination, the intellectual standard of the Cypriots had declined. The lack of interest on the part of conquerors, the oppression and the high taxation were restraining factors for the intellectual development of the children. The church playedan important role in the education of the country during the years 1754-1821. During those years new schools were set up in all the towns. Greek intellectuals used to teach Greek history, Turkish and French. The following schools operated in the town of Lemesos (Limassol):
- The Greek School which was established in 1819
- The first public school which was established in 1841
- The Girls’ School which was established in 1861
The British took over in Cyprus in 1878. The first British governor of Lemesos (Limassol) was Colonel Warren. He showed a particular interest in Lemesos (Limassol) and even from the very first days the condition of the town showed an improvement. The roads were cleaned, the animals were removed from the center, roads were fixed, trees were planted and docks were constructed for the loading andunloading of those ships that were embarked away from the shore. Lanterns for the lighting of the central areas were also installed inthe I880. In 1912, electricity finally replaced the old lanterns.
From the very first years of the British occupation, a post office, a telegraph office and a hospital began to operate. In 1880 the first printing pressstarted working. These changes that the British brought about contributed to the development of an intellectual and artistic life.
Schools, theaters, clubs, art galleries, music halls, sport societies, football clubs etc. were all set up and meant a great deal to the cultural life of Lemesos (Limassol).
The rise of the population birth rate during the late 19th and 20th c. (1878-1960) was 70%. The number of inhabitants was 6.131 in 1881, while in 1960 the number had risen to 43.593. The number of the Greek population was estimated at 37.478,while the Turkish population at 6.115.
Job opportunities concerned the wine and ceramic industries, as well as the commerce and tourism developed by the port.
The Turkish-Cypriotinhabitants of Lemesos (Limassol) were transferred to the north of Cyprus in 1975 because of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1974. Accordingly, many Greek-Cypriots who became refugees after they had fled from the north of Cyprus settled down in Lemesos (Limassol).
When Famagusta, one of the most important tourist areas of Cyprus was occupied by the Turkish troops, Lemesos (Limassol) rapidly expanded. Luxury hotels, restaurants and numerous places of entertainment were built, so that the town soon became a center of commerce.