Limassol or Lemesos is the second-largest city in Cyprus, with a population of 228,000 (2008). It is the largest city in geographical size, and the biggest municipality on 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 centres 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 number of museums and archaeological sites are available to the interested visitor. Consequently, Limassol attracts a wide range of tourists mostly during an extended summer season to be accommodated in a wide range of hotels and apartments. There are also plans to build a large marina in Limassol. 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,part of the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
Limassol enjoys a Subtropical climate. Here is the highest average annual temperature (25 °C (77.0 °F) during the day and 15 °C (59.0 °F) at night) and the warmest winters in European Union's part of Mediterranean Sea, with average temperature of 18 °C (64.4 °F) during the day and 9 °C (48.2 °F) at night in the period December to February. The summer's season lasts 8–9 months, from March/April to November, although also in the period from December to February temperatures sometimes exceeds 20 °C (68.0 °F). Sea temperature varies from 17 °C (62.6 °F) in February to 27 °C (80.6 °F) in August.
City and district of Limassol attracts millions of tourists each year.
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. Limassol was probably built after Amathus had been ruined. However, the town of Limassol has been inhabited since very ancient times. Graves found there date back to 2000 BC and others date back to the 8th and 4th centuries BC. These few remains show that a small colonisation 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 local bishop as well as the bishops of Amathus and Arsinoe were involved in the foundation of the city, which would be known by the names of Theodosiana and 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 Lemesos in the 10th century. Constantine Porfyrogennitos refers to the town by this name.
The history of Limassol is largely known by the events of AD 1191. 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 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 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 Anglo-Normans. 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 AD 1192. 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 Roman Catholic from Poitou. Cyprus was therefore handed over to the French dynasty of the house ofLusignan, thus establishing the medieval Kingdom of Cyprus.
For a period of about three centuries 1192-1489, Limassol enjoyed remarkable prosperity. Cyprus was characterised by its great number of Latin bishops. This lasted until the occupation of Cyprus by the Ottomans in AD 1570. 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 harbour as a centre of transportation and commerce, contributed greatly to the financial and cultural development.
Claims of the German emperor
The Roman Emperor, 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. After the end of the battle, Frederick made no further claims to the island.
Attacks from Egypt
Limassol was under attack from the Mamelukes of Egypt. The harbour of Limassol had become a refuge for the pirates who pillaged and plundered Muslim land in the Eastern Mediterranean . Thus, a military force arrived in Limassol in 1424, sent by the Mamelukes of Egypt. The Mamelukes devastated and burned Limassol. A year later, they invaded Cyprus again, this time with greater forces. They plunderedFamagusta 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 AD 1489 to Venice by the Cypriot Queen Catherine Cornaro. The Venetians did not have Cyprus' best interest at heart , they were only interested in receiving the taxes and in exploiting the country’s resources. The Venetians destroyed the Castle of Limassol.