History of Limassol (Lemesos)

History of Limassol

History of Limassol is very rich. Cyprus has been inhabited for thousands of years and it has always been a strategically important location fought over by many nations. And the town of Limassol (or Lemesos as it is called in Greek) has played an important role in the course of the Cypriot history.

Antient town

Limassol has been probably built on the ruins of an antient town of Amathus. Which, in turn, was destroyed by the English King Richard the Lionheart in 1191. However, scientific evidence indicates that the area itself had been inhabited as long ago as 2,000 B.C.

The events of 1191 set the new era in the history of Limassol. At the time, the town was under the Byzantine rule. King Richard and Isaac Comneus, the governor of Cyprus, had a quarrel over the latter’s treatment of the King’s sister and fiancé. Comnenus didn’t let them disembark in Limassol during a storm. He also failed to provide support to King Richard in the liberation of the Holy Land.

This conduct by Isaac Comnenus cost him Cyprus as Britain conquered the island. In 1192, the British sold it to the Templars. Who, in turn, imposed high taxes so that the island’s purchase price would pay off. This resulted in a revolt by the Cypriots. Richard found another buyer for Cyprus, Guy de Lusignan, a Frank and a Roman Catholic.

Period of growth and wealth

From 1192 to 1489 history of Limassol saw a period of growth and wealth. The town’s port became the centre of commerce. The Franks built monasteries and a lot of bishops travelled to Cyprus. The island truly flourished financially and culturally.

In 1229, the Franks fought against the Germans, who were under the rule of Frederick II. The German King occupied Cyprus for about a year. The battle took place in the Kyrenia region and the Franks won.

In 1489, the island was sold once again. This time by Catherine Cornaro, the Queen of Cyprus. The buyer was Venice. Thus, started a rather dark period for the Cypriots as Venice would only collect taxes and enslave the locals.

Then came the Turks and occupied Cyprus. As the Venetians, the Turks did not seem interested in the island’s growth. The taxes were still high and general population did not have access to any education. To improve the situation, the Church stepped in. Public schools were established by the Church in Limassol, but only in the end of the 17th century.

British rule

The conditions changed though when the British came in 1878. Being a great colonial empire, the British knew how to take care of their colonies. They appointed Colonel Warren to govern Limassol. This was when the town started to grow and develop. The British fixed the roads, cleaned the streets, and set up the harbour to be able to receive ships. In general, the life on the island began improving. Hospitals, post offices, telegraphs, schools, and clubs were established. Cyprus saw a considerable rise in population, from 6,131 people in 1881 to 43,593 in 1960.

The British left in 1960, but they left a solid ground to build upon. Cypriots have been developing and growing their towns and cities since then regardless of the obstacles which came across after the departure of the British. Limassol is an excellent example of a prosperous and thriving city with great history behind it.

The source: Limassol Municipality