On a day like today in the history of Cyprus

Nothing happened today in the history of Cyprus. That is to say, nothing happened which the fathers of our history thought worthy of writing about, from Herodotus to Bustronius  all the way to Kyrris and Papadopoullos. No king was crowned. No conquerors landed. No archbishops were executed. No dragomans abused their power. No Venetian merchant had a blazing row with their French counterpart. No temples were built. Nobody staged a coup d’etat. No goddesses were born, no saints martyred, nobody received 39 lashes.

On a day like today, as on every day in history, the peasant woke up at the break of dawn, to toil with the land (their own or their lords’), the slave gathered the cotton and chopped the sugar cane, a woman gave birth under a carob tree, and many more died at birth. Another woman had to marry the one her parents chose (or the one that was left available if she was poor). On a day like today, the tax collector priest or agha came to the village to bleed the peasants dry. On a day like today, the Cypriot labourer carried, cut, fixed, built, bought and sold for the glory of those whose names history did record. On a day like today, the Roman slave in the Skouriotissa mine died from the fumes, from exhaustion, from beatings. On a day like today, the CMC miner of Skouriotissa had to buy the more expensive imported grains, because the British colonialists had an empire to consume their products. On a day like today, three lads from the union were beating up a scab. On a day like today, the Cypriot language survived because the mother spoke it to the child. The Church did not save it, because on a day like today (just like today) it was too busy counting the Venetian ducats, the hyperpyra, the kurush and the Dutch dollars, and had no time for nation-saving or such crap.

On a day like today, nobody rebelled for freedom supposedly. On a day like today, people made up songs and jokes to mock authority and subtly get their own back. On a day like today, a peasant was quietly threshing his wheat and barley away from the village threshing floor, to avoid the taxman. On a day like today, somebody walked miles to go the fair or the town market to sell their halloumi, timber, perhaps a goat or a sheep. On a day like today, the locust landed and ate the crops, the plague landed and ate humans. On a day like today, the monastery bought another little piece of land, the usurer got another one for free. The middle man lent money to the cotton producer on unfavourable terms by force so that he could gain super-profits.

On a day like today, the grand and powerful wrote their names and put their coat of arms onto buildings those without a name had built. On a day like today, a neighbourhood had a feast because someone had slaughtered a pig. On a day like today, somebody thought of using tripe to wrap sheftalies. On a day like today, somebody had a shit and used a fig leaf to wipe his arse.

On a day like today, life went on without fanfare, without the knowledge of the glorious anniversary. When you spend your life bent over, you have little time to worry about posterity. You worry about feeding the mouths, not dying of starvation or cold, not encountering the bands of bandits/rebels/invaders/tax collectors/priests as they descended to squeeze you or slay you. Isn’t this what history is? Why are we concerned with anniversaries, the notables, the elite? Because they were always the only ones who could write, and so they wrote about themselves and their friends. Nobody wrote about Lougrou, Yusufis, or the other anonymous who led heroic lives struggling to just live.

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This post also appears in Cypriot here

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