The Mediterranean was a scenery of a lot of civilizations from Phoenicians to the Romans passing antique Greeks that navigated its seas and conquered its lands. A lot of islands or regions were populated by one or other civilization, in some cases, the territory was populated and invaded some many times that it is impossible to track where the origin of each city is. That is the case of the city that we are going to talk today, Citium or Kition on the island of Cyprus.
The origin of Citium is very uncertain, the legend says it has been founded by Khittim, grandson of Noah, but for the archaeological excavations, we know that the zone has been populated around the Bronze Age. Probably with habitants traveling from the lands of Egypt and Palestine attracted for the several natural harbors and richness of minerals in all Cyprus. The site of Citium lies just inland of a large, protected bay. That makes the town an ideal place for commerce.
Until the mid-twentieth century, archaeologists assumed that Citium, located in the area of present-day Larnaca, was founded by the sea-going Phoenicians around the eighth century B.C. This assumption was hard to disprove taking into consideration the difficulties in an excavation at the site and the lacking of a Greek foundation legend. Excavations in the 1950s uncovered a number of Bronze Age materials like pottery or tools, that proof that Citium was founded before the Phoenicians around the Early Bronze Age. Apparently, the city was abandoned suddenly in the thirteenth century B.C without any reason. But a new civilization arrived very fast very and rebuilt the settle. Achaeans inhabitants from Achae in Greece followed the foundations of previous construction and maintained the prominence of the temples and copper workshops.
After the rebuilding of Citium by the Achaeans, the city suffered destruction thanks to an earthquake around 1075 B.C. The city was rebuilt very fast but apparently, the damage caused by the earthquake must have been considerable because the city appeared to have been abandoned shortly thereafter. No items or metallurgical activities have been founded later than 1000 B.C. Apparently, this is the moment when Phoenicians extended its control over the remains of Citium, building it again from rubble into a prosperous city. As the Achaeans had done, the Phoenicians constructed their city on the foundations of past ruins. Apparently, the settlement was probably peaceful and perhaps probably desired. Contacts between Cyprus and Levantine coast were long-standing and on-going. The most remarkable building on this era was the reconstruction of the temple that was offered to Astarte (Phoenician goddess similar in role to the Aphrodite of the Greeks).
During this period, from 800 to 600 B.C., the king of Citium paid tribute to the Assyrians until Sargon II invaded Cyprus and erected a stele a Citium. This is the moment when the Phoenicians broke their relationship with the local authority and imposed their will. Despite the occupation, trade continued flourishing and a lot of Athen’s pottery was founded in Citium. Probably, the headquarters of the Assyrian navy was in the city, taking advantage of the Phoenician expertise of sailing.
When Assyrian eventually became part of the Persian Empire, also Citium. Some attempts of independence freedom helped by the Greek city of Athens happened during the next years until Greece made peace with Persia signing what became known as the Peace of Kallias. The fighting resumed half a century later when Citium was finally captured by Athens in 388 B.C. Their rule was brief because the city came back to Persia thanks to the Peace of Antalcidas, signed in 386 B.C.
Under the Alexander the Great in the late fourth century, Macedonian expansion ended the Persian rule of Cyprus. But this only opened the bigger fight with Alexander’s death, Cyprus became the battleground for regional control by Antigonus and Ptolemy of Egypt. Once again, the different attacks between the two successors of Alexander destroyed the city. Around this chaotic time, Zeno of Citium (335–263 B.C.) founder of the Stoic school of Greek philosophy, was born in the city.
The city was never fully recovered from the fights between Antigonus and Ptolemy, despite the city was again rebuilt, it never regained its former splendor and importance. The town continued to suffer the effects of earthquakes, and by medieval times the once strategic harbor had silted up. The citizens of Citium eventually built the new city of Larnaca.
Sadly, the worst devastation wasn’t during the Bronze Age or the period after Alexander’s death. It came in 1879 with the British occupation of Cyprus. Eager to dry up marshy lands causing malaria epidemics, the Royal Engineers decided to destroy the Acropolis of Citium and used it to cover the marshes.