The Flag of Cyprus: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

© Fadlan

Written by Taiwo Victor

Published: January 21, 2023

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Cyprus might be an island country, but it has seen the rise and fall of several empires, been subject to colonial governance of different countries, and survived them all to be what it is today. And the country holds one of the oldest recorded histories in the world, making it a target location for tourists and history lovers.

Cyprus is strategically located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and is also the third-largest island in the Mediterranean, with a land area of 9,251 km² (3,571 square miles). The island country sits in a location that’s east of Greece, west of Lebanon and Syria, south of the coast of Turkey, north of Egypt, and northwest of Israel. However, while its geographical setting is in Western Asia, the country’s geopolitics and cultural ties are predominantly Southeastern European. 

As an island, Cyprus is divided among the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is a country recognized only by Turkey, and the British Sovereign Base Areas of Dhekelia and Akrotiri. Nicosia is the capital of the Republic of Cyprus as well as the largest city, and the spoken languages in the country are Turkish and Greek.

Cyprus has been occupied, influenced, and populated by Greeks, Egyptians, Assyrians, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Italians, French, Ottomans, and British. Let’s go on to see how it was founded, how it became an independent country, and what influenced its flag design.

The Founding of Cyprus

Cyprus, Europe

Cyprus is the third-largest island in the Mediterranean.


Different tools, burned animal bones, and other relics discovered at Aetokremnos prove that humans had contact with Cyprus about 12,000 years ago. However, no one knows if these people were permanent residents or hunter-gatherers who visited the area once in a while.

The first recorded history of Cyprus began in 8,000 BC when stone age farmers resided in the region. By 4,000 BC, these people were already creating copper and pottery tools; by 2,500 BC, the inhabitants of Cyprus had learned how to make bronze. Cyprus continued to become more developed, with many towns and palaces springing forth. Furthermore, Cyprus began to trade with other Mediterranean areas, allowing them to come in contact with other forms of civilizations.

Fast forward to 800 BC, some great empires began to rise in the Middle East, with the Assyrian Empire as the first. Although this empire never conquered Cyprus, they received tributes from the rulers between 708 BC and 669 BC. Unfortunately, the island came under the Persians’ rule in 545 BC. This was until the Greeks conquered the Persians after 333 BC, with Alexander the Great leading the charge. After Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his empire was divided between his generals. General Ptolemy and his successors went ahead to seize Egypt and later came to rule Cyprus. 

Not long afterward, Rome rose to power and soon seized Cyprus in 58 BC. Cyprus then became a part of the Roman Empire. Around 45 AD, Paul and Barnabas introduced Christianity to Cyprus. 

In the 4th century AD, the Roman Empire was divided into the East and West, with Cyprus becoming a part of the Eastern Roman Empire. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, the Eastern Empire triumphed and was later known as the Byzantine Empire. Cyprus flourished under Byzantine rule, but with the empire’s decline in the 12th century, a Byzantine prince declared Cyprus independent in 1184. This independence was short-lived, as Richard I, the then King of England, took control of Cyprus in 1191. Then, he sold the island to Guy de Lusignan, a Frenchman.

The Lusignans dominated Cyprus for three centuries until it became a feudal kingdom. In the 14th century, Venice and Genoa, two Italian cities, were becoming powerful. Then, in 1472, the king of Cyprus at that time, James II, married a Venetian woman. Unfortunately, James died in 1473, and the queen had to abdicate the throne in 1489.

Most Cypriots preferred Turkish rule to the oppressive Venetian regime, but it wasn’t long before some citizens started rebelling against the Turkish government. In the 19th century, the British occupied Cyprus, although Turkey still ruled the region. However, after the Turks joined Germany in World War I, Britain formally took over Cyprus. Cyprus became a British Crown Colony in 1925 and even fought for the British in World War II

At this point, Cypriots formed two arms – the Greek Orthodox Cypriots, who wanted to unite with Greece, and the Turkish Cypriots, who wished the British rule to continue. Due to this, EOKA, a Greek Cypriot organization, was established in 1955, with the Turkish Cypriots forming their organization, TMT, in 1958. This led to inter-communal fighting.

Finally, Cyprus gained independence, with Archbishop Makarios elected as the first president. However, this wasn’t the end of the story, as the Greeks proposed changes to the country’s constitution in 1963. The Turks kicked against this, which led to more inter-communal fighting. All efforts to end the fight by the UN proved abortive, and in 1974, the Greeks staged a coup. In response, the Turkish forces raided Northern Cyprus in July 1974, and the island became divided. 

In 1975, the Turkish who had invaded Northen Cyprus named itself the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus, and in 1983, they declared themselves independent. Now, this section is known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

History of the Flag of Cyprus

On the 16th of August, 1960, the flag of Cyprus was officially adopted.

© Brumby

The flag of Cyprus was officially adopted on the 16th of August, 1960. Before this, the island had no flag and flew the Greek and Turkish flags. Then the flag of the British colony was used as the country’s official symbol from 1922.

The flag of Cyprus was designed by Ísmet Güney, an art teacher, who won a competition. This competition required the winning flag to have no connection to Turkish or Greek flags and no religious connotations. After careful consideration, the first president of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, and his Vice President chose Mr. Güney’s design.

The flag’s design is made up of a white field, with the map of the whole island at the center and two olive branches below the island’s shape. This design has remained the country’s flag since 1960, although there was a slight modification in April 2006. This time, the olive branches were made longer, and their color was also modified.

This flag was flown across all of Cyprus until the Turkish Invasion in 1974 and the subsequent creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Although this region is only recognized by Turkey as an independent state, it also has its flag based on the Turkish flag design.

Till now, citizens of Cyprus are known to fly the country’s flag alongside the Greek or the Turkish flag, although the flag of Greece is often flown along with the island’s flag.

The Symbolism of the Flag of Cyprus

The white background on the flag of Cyprus represents the tranquility and peace of the country.


The white field on Cyprus’s flag represents the island’s tranquility and peace. The country’s map is a copper-orange color, which signifies the area’s huge deposits of copper ore. There are two green olive branches below the country’s map which symbolizes peace between the two communities on the island – Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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