Nicosia, also known as Lefkosa in Greek and Lefkoşa in Turkish, is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Cyprus. It is situated along the Pedieos River in the Mesaoria Plain, between the Kyrenia Mountains (north) and the Troodos range (south). The city also serves as the archiepiscopal seat of the autocephalous (the right to elect its own archbishop and bishops) Church of Cyprus.
Nicosia was ruled by the Byzantines (330–1191), the Lusignan kings (1192–1489), the Venetians (1489–1571), the Turks (1571–1878), and the British (1878–1960), and thus reflects the ups and downs of Cypriot history as well as Eastern and Western influences. Nicosia, also known as Ledra in antiquity, is a mediaeval corruption of the Byzantine name Lefkosia. In the 7th century BCE, the city was a kingdom, and since the 4th century CE, it has been a bishopric. Since the 10th century, it has served as Cyprus’s seat of government. The city’s walled fortifications, built by the Lusignan kings and later rebuilt by the Venetians to cover a smaller area (3 miles [5 km] round), did not prevent invasions by the Genoese in 1373, the Mamlks in 1426, and the Turks in 1570. The Cathedral of St. Sophia stands silent witness to the city’s religious and political transformations. Begun in 1209, finished in 1325, and pillaged by invaders, it was converted into Cyprus’s main mosque in 1571. It was renamed the Selimiye Mosque in 1954 after Ottoman Sultan Selim II, during whose reign Cyprus was conquered.
The city’s boundaries were extended beyond the existing circular Venetian walls during the twentieth century, and the old town within them was rebuilt. As a result of the Turkish intervention in 1974, a portion of Nicosia’s northern section, including the former international airport, has remained within the operational boundary of the United Nations Forces in Cyprus separating the Republic of Cyprus (south) from the Turkish Cypriot-administered areas (north). In the mid-1970s, the city received an estimated 35,000 Greek Cypriot refugees from the north.
The manufacture and processing of cotton yarns and textiles, cigarettes, flour, confectionery, soft drinks, footwear, and clothing are among Nicosia’s light industries, which primarily serve the local market. Nicosia is well-connected by road to the rest of the island’s major cities. In 1974, a new international airport was built in Larnaca, about 21 miles (34 km) southeast of Nicosia. Many archaeological treasures are housed in the city’s Cyprus Museum. The majority of the population in the surrounding area works in agriculture, and crops grown include wheat, barley, vegetables, and fruits, as well as goats and sheep. 302,600 people (estimated in 2005).