Cyprus Arts, Language and Literature

Cyprus Arts, Language and Literature

Archaeology and arts. – Archaeological research in Cyprus has left a lot to be desired. Ernesto Renan had proposed to her at the time of his mission in Phenicia, and had it executed by the Marquis De Vogué, who brought back a collection of Cypriot antiquities to the Louvre. But the main activity was carried out by General Luigi Palma di Cesnola, a Piedmontese who served as consul of the United States of America in Cyprus and ended up director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The collection that he transported to America is very rich, but collected with tumultuous explorations, not in order, not accompanied by documents, often accompanied by fantasies that deliberately or not alter even the facts. Further confusion arose from the German scholar Ohnefalsch Richter with a cumbersome book of his (Kyprus, die Bibel und Homer, 1893). Nor did the English administration do much better, at least until the Myres and the Ohnefalsch Richter studied and published the collections of the Island Museum. Then followed excavations made with method and precision by Dümmler and especially on behalf of the British Museum by Murray, Smith and Walters. For these new researches, the knowledge of the stone age on the island has not been greatly enriched, but notably that of the copper and bronze civilization with burial tombs, poor pottery with engraved or painted geometric ornaments, a notable abundance of copper tools first and then bronze. In this early Bronze Age, there are noteworthy testimonies of advanced Mycenaean civilization, which came here from other centers of the Aegean, and perhaps a little late and less elevated. Dussaud thinks that ornamental forms and motifs passed from Cyprus to Syria and Phenicia, and that certain contaminations of Egyptian and Assyrian things are rather to be ascribed to Cyprus than to Phenicia. Among these, the beautiful metal paterae with cantilevered figures spread from the coasts of Syria to Preneste and Cere, which most scholars assign precisely to the Phoenician artistic industry (see Clermont Ganneau, Imagerie phénicienne, Paris 1880, and Dussaud, Civilizations préhelléniques, Paris 1922, page 183; cf. but in the opposite sense Poulsen, Frühgriechische Kunst).

Even during the classical age the abundant sculpture and art of Cyprus remains somewhat on the periphery of Greek art and does not completely lose some oriental accents.

Language and literature

The Cypriot inscriptions. – Ancient Cyprus presents us with a singular problem: that of a special group of its inscriptions and monetary legends with a special non-alphabetic but syllabic sign. They naturally gave rise to various attempts at interpretations, but it was then seen with absolute certainty, especially for the studies of the agsyriologist G. Smith, that those texts are not very ancient (mostly 4th century BC). and that the mysterious signs hid Greek words in the Greek dialect of the island. The texts are now interpreted, but it is not known where the signs came from, nor is it clear how the Cypriots so close to the Phoenicians did not adopt the alphabet, and went to resort to a sign that was anything but suitable for rendering Hellenic sounds. Some inscriptions in this style of writing, but which do not look like a Greek text. For Cyprus religion and languages, please check

Literature – Some medieval texts and the copious production of folk songs mean that the Cypriot dialect can be particularly studied. The most important prose documents are: 1. The Assizes of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Cyprus, a book of laws introduced by the Crusaders in their Eastern kingdoms. The assizes of the high court (13th century) have come down to us in the French editorial office, those of the lower court in the Greek translation (14th century?). 2. The Chronicle of Cyprus, by Leontius Machera, from Constantine the Great up to 1432 (the additions up to 1458 are by another author). 3. The chronicle of Giorgio Bustrone, continuation of the previous one (1458-1501); both chronicles are in Cypriot dialect with many Frenchisms and Italianisms.

The contribution made by Cyprus to Greek folk poetry is very rich; here are the oldest documents in Cypriot dialect: some songs belonging to the cycle of Digenis Acrites (v.). Others (10 and 11 from the Sakellarios collection) narrate the loves of a king of Cyprus and go back to the time of French domination; the 13th refers to the fall of Cyprus in 1571. And alongside these, of historical inspiration, love songs, religious songs, couplets, etc.

In a manuscript of the Marciana (16th century) a Petrarchian songbook was found: it deals with a few hundred poems, some of which paraphrased or translated by Petrarch; sometimes verses from the Italian original are interspersed with the Greek text. Overall, the songbook is not without artistic merits and the sonnet and the octave are treated with singular skill. Despite the artificiality of the form and the strong literary influence, the language clearly retains the characteristics of the dialect of Cyprus.

In the Cypriot lexicon the influence of French and Turkish is relatively scarce; the French terms that appear in the assizes and chronicles do not survive in later documents and in the modern dialect. The influence of the Veneto, on the other hand, was very strong and lasting, which soon made itself felt, for commercial exchanges.

Cyprus Arts