Larnaka was established as a Middle Bronze Age colony sometime between the 14th and the 11th centuries BC. Then known as Kition, the settlement prospered as a port, thanks to the export of copper and other metals mined in the Troödos Massif and Tamassos to the west. The city flourished well into Hellenistic times despite taking the Persian side in the Greek-Persian wars. Kimon of Athens arrived in 450 BC to subdue Kition, but died prematurely outside the city walls. His statue now graces the Larnaka promenade. Zenon of Kition, the Stoic philosopher and darling of the Athens intelligentsia, was born in Larnaka in 335 BC. His radical philosophies seem not to have pleased Zenon himself at the end of his life; he died by his own hand at the age of 98.
Lazarus brought Christianity to Larnaka and became one of the first bishops of Cyprus. When he died, he was buried in the vault of the church that now carries his name. Little more is known about Kition until the 14th century, when it took the name of Salina because of the nearby salt lake. Larnaka in Greek means ‘funerary chest’; it’s likely that the city received this name as a result of ancient tombs discovered during its development in the 16th century.
Under the Ottomans’ rule, the city was an important port and home to a number of dignitaries. Many of them were emissaries from foreign countries, and a disquieting number were engaged in amateur archaeology. Much of Larnaka’s archaeological wealth was secretly sequestered and spirited away during this time.
During the 88 years of British rule, Larnaka gradually fell behind Famagusta (Mağusa) and Lemesos in importance. It only really received a demographic jolt following the influx of refugees from the North in 1974 and the development of its hitherto backwater airfield as the country’s prime international airport.