A look at Kythrea (Degirmenlik) history
By Ismail Veli…….
The town of Degirmenlik/Kythrea is situated about 10 miles northeast from the capital Nicosia and is situated just below the Kyrenia mountain range in the scorching plains of the Mesaoria. The original site of this ancient town which was called Chytros after the grandson of the Athenian King Akamas. Some believe that the name derives from the Ionian island of Kythera from where millstones were transferred to Kythrea’s watermills.
The original settlement was just to the east of the present Kythrea and legend also has it that it was sacred to Venus the Roman God of love, beauty, fertility, desire and prosperity. As the settlement was reputed to have been found by the ancient Chytros, grandson of the Athenian King Akamas, it’s clear that the Romans inherited the Mythology of the ancient Greeks. Even Julius Caesar claimed Venus as his ancestor. As a result the Roman and Greek Myths became intertwined.
In 1928 a bronze statue of the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus who ruled between 193 to 211 AD was found in superb condition in the area. Which is now housed in the Nicosia Museum.
Kythrea is really 4 small villages joined together, and lies on both sides of a small river. Nearby is also the famous Baspinar/Kephalovriso which was until the 1970-80’s an immensely popular spring and destination for picnics by Cypriots which has unfortunately dried up. This spring was an important source of water and its demise has led to much debate amongst the local people. The locals believed the spring’s source to be from Anatolia in Turkey. An old local story (probably far-fetched) goes that an old woman from Anatolia came to visit her daughter who had married a man from Kythrea. The old lady went to the spring with her daughter to wash their cloths, and while doing so found a silver vessel at the mouth of the spring which she had lost on the Anatolian side of the stream as it ran near her house.. Geologists disagree with this theory.
During the Middle Ages this spring supplied the flour mills which ground the corn for the capital Nicosia. In addition according to Lusignano it also watered the cotton plantations which were grown in abundance in the area. In 1220 AD Queen Alice granted the Archbishop of Nicosia the free use of the mills of Kythrea for the redemption of the soul of her husband King Hugh. One of the greatest claims to fame however is that cauliflower was grown extensively and from here the vegetable was first introduced to Europe in 1604 AD.
In 1934 a fossil tooth of a pygmy elephant was also found in the area by the historic writer Ruppert Gunnis. There is a small ancient Maronite chapel of Saint Andronicos. It originally contained an inscription in Arabic dated 1692. There are/were other religious buildings in the area St Anna which collapsed in the 1920-1930’s and was also believed to be a Latin Church. A modern church was built in its place which contained a 17th century iconostasis believed to be from the older chapel. There was also an old tombstone of a lady named Avlina Merlin dated 1556. many of the Churches in the area had Latin influence which meant that this was a heavily populated Maronite or Venetian area until 1571.
Today it is a predominantly Turkish/Muslim population. Kythrea/Degirmenlik has mosques for the local population. With the decline of religion and the growth of secularism however it means that most of the time the visits to the mosques are normally on religious days or funeral prayers.
With Famagusta, Nicosia, Salamis and Kyrenia within easy reach it means that the local population are never too far from main towns for shopping or seaside picnics.