Written by Strabo circa 7 BC
It remains for me to describe Cyprus. I have already said that the sea surrounded by Egypt, Phoenicia, Syria, and the rest of the coast as far as Rhodia1 consists approximately of the Egyptian and Pamphylian Seas and of the sea at the gulf of Issus. In this last sea lies Cyprus; its northern parts closely approach Cilicia Tracheia, where they are closest to the mainland, its eastern parts border on the Gulf of Issus, and its western on the Pamphylian Sea, being washed by that sea, and its southern by the Egyptian Sea. Now the Egyptian Sea is confluent on the west with the Libyan and Carpathian Seas, but in its southern and eastern parts borders on Egypt and the coast next thereafter as far as Seleuceia and Issus, and towards the north on Cyprus and the Pamphylian Sea; but the Pamphylian Sea is surrounded on the north by the extremities of Cilicia Tracheia, of Pamphylia, and of Lycia, as far as Rhodia, and on the west by the island of the Rhodians, and on the east by the part of Cyprus near Paphos and the Acamas, and on the south is confluent with the Egyptian Sea.
The circuit of Cyprus is 3,420 stadia, including the sinuosities of the gulfs. The length from Cleides to the Acamas by land, traveling from east to west, is 1,400 stadia. The Cleides are two isles lying off Cyprus opposite the eastern parts of the island, which are 700 stadia distant from the Pyramus. The Acamas is a promontory with two breasts and much timber. It is situated at the western part of the island, and extends towards the north; it lies closest to Selinus in Cilicia Tracheia, the passage across being one thousand stadia, whereas the passage across to Sidê in Pamphylia is sixteen hundred and to the Chelidonian islands 1,900. The shape of the island as a whole is oblong; and in some places it forms isthmuses on the sides which define its breadth. But the island also has its several parts, which I shall describe briefly, beginning with the point that is nearest to the mainland.
I have said that opposite to Anemurium, a cape of Cilicia Tracheia, is the promontory of the Cyprians, I mean the promontory of Crommyus, at a distance of 350 stadia. From there, keeping the island on the right and the mainland on the left, the voyage to the Cleides lies in a straight line towards the north-east, a distance of seven hundred stadia. In the interval is the city Lapathus, with a mooring-place and dockyards; it was founded by Laconians and Praxander, and opposite it lies Nagidus. Then one comes to Aphrodisium, where the island is narrow, for the passage across to Salamis is only seventy stadia. Then to the beach of the Achaeans, where Teucer, the founder of Salamis in Cyprus, first landed, having been banished, as they say, by his father Telamon. Then to a city Carpasia, with a harbor. It is situated opposite the promontory Sarpedon; and the passage from Carpasia across the isthmus to the Carpasian Islands and the southern sea is 30 stadia. Then to a promontory and mountain. The mountain peak is called Olympus; and it has a temple of Aphroditê Acraea, which cannot be entered or seen by women. Off it, and near it, lie the Cleides, as also several other islands; and then one comes to the Carpasian Islands; and, after these, to Salamis, where Aristus the historian was born. Then to Arsinoê, a city and harbor. Then to another harbor, Leucolla. Then to a promontory, Pedalium, above which lies a hill that is rugged, high, trapezium-shaped, and sacred to Aphroditê, whereto the distance from the Cleides is 680 stadia. Then comes the coasting-voyage to Citium, which for the most part is sinuous and rough. Citium has a harbor that can be closed; and here were born both Zeno, the original founder of the Stoic sect, and Apollonius, a physician. The distance thence to Berytus is 1,500 stadia. Then to the city Amathus, and, in the interval, to a small town called Palaea, and to a breast-shaped mountain called Olympus. Then to Curias, which is peninsula-like, whereto the distance from Throni is 700 stadia. Then to a city Curium, which has a mooring-place and was founded by the Argives. One may therefore see at once the carelessness of the poet who wrote the elegy that begins, “we hinds, sacred to Phoebus, racing across many billows, came here in our swift course to escape the arrows of our pursuers,” whether the author was Hedylus or someone else; for he says that the hinds set out from the Corycian heights and swam across from the Cilician shore to the beach of Curias, and further says that “it is a matter of untold amazement to men to think how we ran across the impassable stream by the aid of a vernal west wind”; for while there is a voyage round the island from Corycus to the beach Curias, which is made neither by the aid of a west wind nor by keeping the island on the right nor on the left, there is no passage across the sea between the two places. At any rate, Curium is the beginning of the westerly voyage in the direction of Rhodes; and immediately one comes to a promontory, whence are flung those who touch the altar of Apollo. Then to Treta, and to Boosura, and to Palaepaphus, which last is situated at about ten stadia above the sea, has a mooring-place, and an ancient temple of the Paphian Aphroditê. Then to the promontory Zephyria, with a landing-place, and to another Arsinoê, which likewise has a landing-place and a temple and a sacred precinct. And at a little distance from the sea is Hierocepis. Then to Paphus, which was founded by Agapenor and has both a harbor and well-built temples. It is 60 stadia distant from Palaepaphus by land; and on this road men together with women, who also assemble here from the other cities, hold an annual procession to Palaepaphus. Some say that the distance from Paphus to Alexandria is three thousand six hundred stadia. Then, after Paphus, one comes to the Acamas. Then, after the Acamas, towards the east, one sails to a city Arsinoê and the sacred precinct of Zeus. Then to a city Soli, with a harbour and a river and a temple of Aphroditê and Isis. It was founded by Phalerus and Acamas, Athenians; and the inhabitants are called Solians; and here was born Stasanor, one of the comrades of Alexander, who was thought worthy of a chief command; and above it, in the interior, lies a city Limenia. And then to the promontory of Crommyus.
But why should one wonder at the poets, and particularly at writers of the kind that are wholly concerned about style, when we compare the statements of Damastes, who gives the length of the island as from north to south, “from Hierocepias,” as he says, “to Cleides”? Neither is Eratosthenes correct, for, although he censures Damastes, he says that Hierocepias is not on the north but on the south; for it is not on the south either, but on the west, since it lies on the western side, where are also Paphus and the Acamas. Such is the geographical position of Cyprus.
In fertility Cyprus is not inferior to any one of the islands, for it produces both good wine and good oil, and also a sufficient supply of grain for its own use. And at Tamassus there are abundant mines of copper, in which is found chalcanthite and also the rust of copper, which latter is useful for its medicinal properties. Eratosthenes says that in ancient times the plains were thickly overgrown with forests, and therefore were covered with woods and not cultivated; that the mines helped a little against this, since the people would cut down the trees to burn the copper and the silver, and that the building of the fleets further helped, since the sea was now being navigated safely, that is, with naval forces, but that, because they could not thus prevail over the growth of the timber, they permitted anyone who wished, or was able, to cut out the timber and to keep the land thus cleared as his own property and exempt from taxes.
Now in the earlier times the several cities of the Cyprians were under the rule of tyrants, but from the time the Ptolemaïc kings became established as lords of Egypt Cyprus too came into their power, the Romans often co-operating with them. But when the last Ptolemy that reigned, the brother of the father of Cleopatra, the queen in my time, was decreed to be both disagreeable and ungrateful to his benefactors, he was deposed, and the Romans took possession of the island; and it has become a praetorian province by itself. The chief cause of the ruin of the king was Publius Claudius Pulcher; for the latter, having fallen into the hands of the bands of pirates, the Cilicians then being at the height of their power, and, being asked for a ransom, sent a message to the king, begging him to send and rescue him. The king indeed sent a ransom, but so utterly small that the pirates disdained to take it and sent it back again, but released him without ransom. Having safely escaped, he remembered the favor of both; and, when he became tribune of the people, he was so powerful that he had Marcus Cato sent to take Cyprus away from its possessor. Now the king killed himself beforehand, but Cato went over and took Cyprus 685 and disposed of the king’s property and carried the money to the Roman treasury. From that time the island became a province, just as it is now — a praetorian province. During a short intervening time Antony gave it over to Cleopatra and her sister Arsinoê, but when he was overthrown his whole organization was overthrown with him.