WORKING DRAFT. MARCH 29, 2014. DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION
1 Settlement on Cyprus in the 7th Century William R. Caraher R. Scott Moore
The 7th and 8th centuries on Cyprus remain a vexing period for historians and archaeologists alike. The obscure nature of the historical narrative for this period has provided an opportunity for archaeology to fill the gap in our understanding of the history of the island. To do that, archaeologists have reconsidered the traditional view of these centuries on Cyprus as a period of economic, demographic, and cultural decline reflective of the large-scale disruptions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The needs of the capital in Constantinople and the military in both the Balkans and the Levant enlivened the economic networks that engaged the island and the region during the 6th and 7th centuries. These same networks, however, reeled under the collapse of Roman political hegemony. Wars, plagues, and various official efforts to resettle disruptive or displaced populations reshaped the population of the Roman Mediterranean and invariably had an impact on the organization of settlement. In the traditional narrative of Mediterranean history in the 7th and 8th centuries, these economic and demographic changes had a profound impact on the urban fabric, on architectural innovation, and on the extent and intensity of rural settlement.
On Cyprus, Arab raids during the middle decades of the 7th century presented a local anchor to the larger narrative of Mediterranean disruption and decline at the end of Roman antiquity. Further complicating the events of this periods is the complex political situation in the island which may have seen some kind of joint Byzantine and Arab control or at least taxation of the island, as well as the presence of an Arab garrison. A circular reading of archaeological evidence from the island has tended to reinforce a traditional picture of the 7th and 8th century as a period of disruption and change. Archaeologists frequently attribute destruction layers at Late Roman sites on the island to the depredations of the Arabs.
Scholars have used the Arab raids to explain the abandonment of the major urban site of Kourion on the central coast.
Scholars have long attributed to Arab raids the destruction of churches across the island, from the rural basilica complex at Alassa,
to the multiple churches of the community at Ay. Georgios-
the coastal church of Maroni-
or at the site studied by the authors of this volume at Pyla-
on Larnaka Bay.
The transformation of wood-roofed basilicas to barrel- vaulted churches has become emblematic of the Arab raids.
In most cases, the date for the destruction of these building rests on the coincidence of ceramics, coins, and the historical narrative. Archaeological artifacts that should provide a
terminus post quem
consistently reinforce attributions to specific historical events rather than more chronologically indistinct historical processes. The
Metcalf 2009, 573-575 for a summary of the traditional perspective.
See Haldon and Brubaker 2011, 531-572 for the most recent survey of these centuries.
Papageorghiou 1985 for the effect of Arab raids on the basilica churches on the island.
Megaw 1993, but since revised in Megaw 2007.
Florentzos 1996, 2.
Bakirtsis 1995; Papacostas 2001
Megaw 1946; See Stewart 2010 for a critical evaluation of this traditional view and a summary of subsequent scholarship.