Limassol or Lemesos (Greek: Λεμεσός, Lemesos; Turkish: Limasol, alt. Leymosun) is the second-largest city of Cyprus, with a population of 176,900 (2005), the largest city in geographical size, and the biggest municipality of the island. The city is located on Akrotiri Bay, on the island's southern coast and it is the capital of Limassol District.
Limassol is the biggest port in the Mediterranean transit trade. It has also become one of the most important tourism, trade and service-providing centre in the area. Limassol is renowned for its long cultural tradition, and is home to the Cyprus University of Technology. A wide spectrum of activities and a great number of museums and archaeological sites are available to the interested visitor. Consequently, Limassol attracts a wide range of tourists mostly during the summer season to be accommodated in its several luxurious hotels and apartments. In addition to the existing sights and attractions, a world class marina is currently being built, that will offer a wide range of services and attractions unsurpassed anywhere in Cyprus. The project will be called Limassol Marina and will consist of 1000 berths for small and larger yachts and the whole operation will be managed and operated by high-quality, experienced operators.
Limassol was built between two ancient cities, Amathus and Kourion, so during Byzantine rule it was known as Neapolis (new town). Limassol's tourist strip now runs east along the coast as far as Amathus. To the west of the city is the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area of the United Kingdom.
The town of Limassol is situated between the ancient towns of Amathus and Curium (Kourion). The English King Richard the Lionheart destroyed Amathus in 1191. Lemesos (Limassol) was probably built after Amathus had been ruined. However, the town of Lemesos (Limassol) has been inhabited since very ancient times. Graves found there date back to 2.000 B.C. and others date back to the 8th and 4th century BC. These few remains show that a small colonization must have existed which did not manage to develop and flourish. Ancient writers mention nothing about the foundation of the town.
According to the Synod which took place in 451, the bishop of Theodossiani Sotir as well as the bishops of Amathus and Arsinoe were involved in the foundation. Theodossiani is regarded the same as Limassol was known later as Neapolis. Bishop Leontios of Neapolis was an important church writer in the 7th century.The records of the 7th Synod (787) refer to it as the bishop’s see. The town was known as Nemesos in the 10th century. Constantine Porfyrogennitos refers to the town by this name.
The history of Limassol is largely known by the events of 1191 A.D. that put an end to the Byzantine dominion of Cyprus. The king of England, Richard the Lionheart, was travelling to the Holy Land in 1191. His fiancée Berengaria and his sister Joan, (Queen of Sicily), were also travelling on a different ship. Because of a storm, the ship with the queens arrived in Lemesos (Limassol). Isaac Comnenus, the Byzantine governor of Cyprus, was heartless and cruel, and loathed the Latins. He invited the queens ashore, with the intention of holding them to ransom, but they wisely refused. So he refused them fresh water and they had to put out to sea again or yield to capture. When Richard arrived in Lemesos (Limassol) and met Isaac Comnenus, he asked him to contribute to the crusade for the liberation of the Holy Land. While at the beginning Isaac had accepted, he later on refused to give any help.
Richard then chased him and beat him. Cyprus was therefore taken over by the English. Richard celebrated his marriage with Berengaria who had received the crown as queen of England in Cyprus. So, the Byzantine dominion in Cyprus came to an end.Richard destroyed Amathus and the inhabitants were transferred to Limassol.
A year later, in 1192 A.D. Cyprus was sold to the Templars, rich monks and soldiers whose aim was the protection of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The knights enforced high taxes, in order to get back the money that had been given for the purchase of Cyprus. This led to the revolt of the Cypriots. They demanded that they should get rid of the bond of the promise. Richard accepted their request and a new purchaser was found: Guy de Lusignan, a Frank, a Roman Catholic. Cyprus was thus handed over to the Frankish Dynasty of the Lusignan kings of the medieval Cypriot kingdom.
For a period of about three centuries 1192-1489, Limassol enjoyed remarkable prosperity. Cyprus was characterized by its great number of Latin bishops. This lasted until the occupation of Cyprus by the Ottomans in 1570 A.D. Latin battalions which established monasteries were settled down there.
The settling down of merchants in Cyprus and particularly in Limassol in the 13th century led to the financial welfare of its inhabitants. Its harbor as a center of transportation and commerce, contributed greatly to the financial and cultural development.
The King of Germany, Frederick II, urged by the Templars of Cyprus who were enemies of Ibelen, arrived in Limassol and took over in the town in 1228. He then called John Ibelen to come before him, in order to discuss the plans against the Muslims. John Ibelen came before him accompanied by the under-aged King Eric and all the Templars of Cyprus. When Ibelen refused to cooperate, Frederick had no choice but to let him go. The German King took over in Limassol and in other towns. He appointed his own governors but he finally left Cyprus. The forces of Frederick were finally beaten in the battle of 1229, which took place in Agirta, a village in the Kyrenia area, between the forces of Frederick and the troops of the Franks, which were led by John Ibelen. The outcome of the battle meant the beginning of the freedom of Cyprus from the Germans.
Limassol witnessed the attacks of the Mamelukes of Egypt. The harbor of Limassol had become a refuge for the pirates who were ravaging the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and were stealing the property belonging to muslims. The lords were getting richer and richer because of the money that was given to them for their assistance to the pirates. Thus, a military force arrived in Limassol in 1424, sent by the Mamelukes of Egypt. The Mamelukes devastated and burned Lemesos (Limassol). A year later, they invaded Cyprus again, this time with greater forces. They plundered Famagusta and Larnaca, and then arrived in Limassol where without any difficulty they occupied the Castle, burned many places, plundered others and then returned to Cairo. The Mamelukes caused even greater destruction in Limassol and other places in 1426. Janus, the king of Cyprus, was defeated by them in Chirokitia and was sent back to Cairo as a prisoner.
Cyprus was sold in 1489 A.D. to the town of Venice by the Cypriot Queen Catherine Cornaro. The Venetians were not interested in Cyprus. They were only interested in receiving the taxes and in exploiting the country’s sources. They destroyed the Castle of Limassol. Travelers who visited Cyprus in the 16th century commented on the poor condition of the local population in the towns of Cyprus.
All the inhabitants of Cyprus were enslaved by the Venetians, and were obliged to pay a tribute of ⅓ of their income, whether this was part of their products of the land, e.g. wheat, wine, oil, or animals or of any other product.
The Ottoman Empire invaded Cyprus in 1570-1571 and occupied it. Limassol was conquered in July 1570 without any resistance. Descriptions of different visitors inform us that the town of Limassol looked like a village with a considerable number of inhabitants. The Christians used to live in small houses of such low height, that one had to bend in order to enter the house. This was deliberately chosen in order to prevent the Ottomans from riding a horse, to enter the houses.
Greeks and Turks used to live in distinct neighborhoods. The church played an important role in the education of the country during the years 1754-1821. During those years new schools were set up in all the towns. Greek intellectuals used to teach Greek history, Turkish and French. The following schools operated in the town of Limassol:
The British took over in Cyprus in 1878. The first British governor of Limassol was Colonel Warren. He showed a particular interest in Limassol and even from the very first days the condition of the town showed an improvement. The roads were cleaned, the animals were removed from the center, roads were fixed, trees were planted and docks were constructed for the loading and unloading of those ships that were embarked away from the shore. Lanterns for the lighting of the central areas were also installed in the 1880. In 1912, electricity finally replaced the old lanterns.
From the very first years of the British occupation, a post office, a telegraph office and a hospital began to operate. In 1880 the first printing press started working. It was in this printing press that the newspapers «Alithia» and «Anagennisis» were published in 1897. The newspaper «Salpinx» was published at the same time.
At the end of the 19th century the very first hotels began to operate. Among these were «Europe» and «Amathus».
These changes that the British brought about contributed to the development of an intellectual and artistic life. Schools, theaters, clubs, art galleries, music halls, sport societies, football clubs etc. were all set up and meant a great deal to the cultural life of Lemesos (Limassol).
Job opportunities concerned the wine and ceramic industries, as well as the commerce and tourism developed by the port.
The current Mayor of the municipality is Andreas Christou - AKEL member as well - and he was elected Mayor of Limassol in December 2006 to serve a five year term.
The development of tourism in Limassol began after 1974 when the Turkish invaders occupied Famagusta and Kyrenia, the basic tourist areas of Cyprus. Limassol has some very good beaches, rich in sand and suitable for sunbathing and swimming. A bathing beach with all the necessary facilities, provided by the «Cyprus Tourism Organisation» (CTO), is operating in the town of Limassol, in «Dasoudi» area.
Limassol is the base for many of the island's wine companies, serving the wine-growing regions on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains (of which the most famous is Commandaria). The most important ones are KEO, LOEL, SODAP and ETKO. The wines and cognacs (brandies) that are produced by the grapes that grow in the countryside, are of excellent quality. They have won several awards in international exhibitions. There is a considerable consumption of wine products in Cyprus by the locals and the foreign visitors. Big quantities are exported to Europe.
The town of Limassol is the biggest industrial centre of the province. There are about 350 industrial units with 90 industry wares. These industries concern dressmaking, furniture, shoes, drinks, food, prints, metal industry, electric devices, plastic wares as well as many other different industries.
Limassol is an important trade centre of Cyprus. This is due to the presence of the UK sovereign base at Episkopi and Akrotiri, and to the displacement of the population in Limassol after the Turkish invasion in 1974. The trade markets are gathered in the center of the town and in the tourist area along the coast that begins from the old harbor and ends in Amathus area. Most of the hotels, restaurants, confectioneries, discos and places of entertainment in general, are to be found in this area.
Limassol has two ports, commonly referred to as the "old port" and the "new port". The new port has the greatest commercial and passenger flow of traffic and it is the biggest port in the free part of Cyprus. The old harbour has a breakwater 250 metres long and it is only able to receive three small ships at a time. It is thus normally used by fishing boats. The new harbour is eleven metres deep and has break-waters that are 1300 metres long. It is able to receive about ten ships depending on their size. Exports of grapes, wines, carobs, citrus fruits and imports of cereals, vehicles, machines, textiles, agricultural medicines, fertilizers, iron etc. are exported and imported through these ports.
Internal migration since the 1960s and influx of displaced persons after 1974 significantly increased the population of Limassol and its suburbs. Greater Limassol today includes the municipality of Limassol (includes the suburb of Agia Fyla) and the municipalities of Polemidhia, Mesa Geitonia, Agios Athanasios and Germasogeia.
Limassol traditionally had a mixed population of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The majority of Turkish Cypriots moved to the north in 1974. Accordingly, many Greek Cypriots who became refugees after they had fled from the north of Cyprus settled down in Limassol. During the 1990s several Cypriot Roma (people) (considered Turkish Cypriots according to the constitution) returned from the North of the island to the Turkish quarter of Limassol.
Limassol is also where the island's small Jewish population is based, with the island's only synagogue.
The rise of the population birth rate during the late 19th and 20th c. (1878-1960) was 70%. The number of inhabitants was 6.131 in 1881, while in 1960 the number had risen to 43.593. The number of the Greek population was estimated at 37.478, while the Turkish population at 6.115.
Stone axes of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic period, potteries and objects of the ancient cities of Curium and Amathus, as well as Roman terra cottas, gold jewellery, coins, sculptures, columns, vases, earrings, rings, necklaces, marble statues etc.
The museum was established in 1985. More than 500 exhibits are housed in its six rooms. The museum was awarded the Europa Nostra prize in 1989. Here, the visitor can study Cypriot culture through the hand-made exhibits.
Limassol is famous in Cyprus for its festivals, like the Carnival and Wine Festival. The Limassol Carnival festival lasts for ten (10) days, with jolly and amusing masquerading. This custom is very old, going back to pagan rituals. With the passage of time it has acquired a different, purely entertaining character, with a large, popular following. The festival starts with the entrance parade of the King Carnival, followed by a fancy-dress competition for children. During the Carnival parade in the main streets, large crowds from all over the island gather to watch the floats with the serenade and other masqueraded groups. Many fancy-dress balls and parties take place at many hotels every night.
During the first quarter of September, the great Wine Festival of Cyprus takes place in the Limassol Municipal Garden, every evening between 8.00 hrs - 23.00 hrs. During the festival the visitor has the chance to taste some of the best Cyprus wines, which are offered free of charge. On some evenings, various groups from Cyprus and abroad perform folk dancing and there are also choirs and others.
In 2008, the Junior Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Limassol.
AEL FC and Apollon Limassol are the two major sport clubs in Limassol, which have football, basketball and volleyball teams. AEL has the records of the most trophies in totally all the sports together. In basketball, Apollon and AEL are very powerful teams. AEL dominates the Cypriot basketball, while it has the record of the most time champions. They were the Cyprus Champions for five concecutive years (the last five years). In football, both teams Apollon and AEL play in First Division. Aris Limassol is another football team which plays in First Division and like AEL is one of the founding teams of the Cyprus Football Association (KOP). AEL women volleyball teams is the permanent champion of Cyprus. There are also teams in athletics, bowling, cycling and other sports.
The football stadium of Limassol is Tsirion, with capacity of 16 000, which hosts the three football teams of Limassol and in the past it hosted Cyprus national football team. It was used also for athletics. There are various other stadiums for other sports in Limassol. The Apollon Limassol basketball stadium, hosted the 2003 FIBA Europe South Regional Challenge Cup Final Four. The two basketball teams of Limassol participated and AEL became the first Cypriot sport team to win a European Trophy. In 2006, Limassol hosted the FIBA Europe All Star Game in Spyros Kiprianou Sports Centre, as it had the year before.