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HISTORY OF CYPRUS

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Pietro Casola
Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the year 1494
page 2

 

After Mass and after dinner, taken in a certain house near the quay facing the sea, which appeared to me a warehouse -- a storehouse for merchandise, because there were many bales of cotton and boxes of sugar there, which also served the company in the lack of other beds -- I went to see this city or remains of a city. I saw from the ruins and beautiful walls, that it must have been a large and beautiful place, but there is not a single good house in the whole city. I saw the said church reposefully, because in all Limasol there was not a place so suited for repose on account of the shade there. I saw nothing worth mentioning except the high altar. There is a beautiful altar-piece with certain figures in gilded wood, and the tomb of one of our Milanese named Fra de Corte, which has a Pieta painted above. All the other churches are in ruins. I saw that in the said city the inhabitants do not spend very much money in covering their dwellings, because they are covered with green boughs or with straw. If it rained there as often as it does in Lombardy perhaps they would adopt another system of roofing. It never rains there. I went to the castle, which is guarded by a soldier. Certainly it must have been a fine strong place; neverthless it is also tumbling down, and nothing is being done to repair it. What little remains standing is a notable sight, and within, there is the best water to be found in that country. I drank some of it, albeit in a shoe, and it revived my spirits which were dried up in my body.
When I asked the cause of the destruction of such a great city, I received various explanations. Some said it was due to earthquakes, other attributed it to the many incursions of the Moors. The captain told me, when I spoke to him on the subject, that it had been thus destroyed by a King of England** to avenge a niece who was oppressed by a King of Cyprus on the way from the from the Sepulchre. When I asked why the Signoria did not seek to repopulate it, standing as it does on the sea, he told me that people do not care to settle there on account of the earthquakes, and also because it is a very unhealthy place. The inhabitants have in truth an unhealty appearance. They all appear to be ill. True there are only a few of them.
I do not write about the size and wealth of the island of Cyprus, in which the city of Limasol is situated, because I could not get any reliable information; however, it is commonly said to be five hundred miles in circumference. I heard much about the abundance and delicacy of the sugar, cotton and other good things. I can say little about what I saw of the island. The captain would not give anyone leave to go to Nicosia or to Famagosta, the principle cities of the island of Cyprus, because a guard at Limasol told him that the people were dying (2) there, and there was no prospect of improvement. Certain merchants who had come with us went to Nicosia with their woollen cloths and proved the truth of what the guard said, for when we returned we found they were dead.

2. i.e., Dying of the plague.

I can only speak of a great farm not far from Limasol, which belongs to a certain Don Federico Cornaro, a patrician of Venice, and is called Espicopia***, where they make so much sugar, that, in my judgment, it should suffice for all the world. Indeed it is said to be the best which goes to Venice, and the quantity sold is always increasing. It seems to me that no one ought ever to die there. It was very interesting to see how they make the sugar -- both the fine and the coarse -- and so many people at work. There were not less than four hundred persons there, all employed -- some in one way, some in another. It was interesting too, to see such a number of utensils; it was like another world to me. There were cauldrons of such a size that if I described them no one would believe me. One of the factors of the aforesaid Don Federico told me that every man was paid every Saturday. The said factor was an Italian, but he knew Greek. There was also a great quantity of cotton in the fields, but it was not yet ripe for gathering. It was also a great pleasure to see so many trees in the woods, loaded with carob-beans, bazane ultramarine, as we call them. They were still green, and the taste was bitter; when they are ripe they are sweet. Everything in that island pleased me, except that they make their wine with resin, and I could not drink it.
I did not see any other people of the said island save certain peasants living in the neighbourhood of Limasol, who came to sell their fruits, which, however, were few, and to buy some of the things which the galeotti had brought to sell -- cloths and other goods. They speak Greek. I know little about the island, because I was afraid of endangering my life.
While the captain was on shore, as I said, there came a messenger from the Captain of the island,(3) who showed him a letter received from the Vice-Consul of Tripoli in Syria (a city belonging to the Sultan), which informed the said Captain of the island that there were four armed light galleys belonging Camalio, a Turkish pirate, in the river of Tripoli, and that he was expecting two others which were at Lisso, and that they were hourly waiting to go in chase of and plunder, anyone less strong than themselves, and that he (the Vice-Consul) had heard, amongst other things, that they were waiting for news of the arrival of the pilgrim galley in order to plunder it if possible. This letter made our captain very anxious and also many of the pilgrims who heard the news; they were few, however, because the rest were dispersed here and there among the ruins in order to remain in the shade.

3. In 1494, the Captain of Cypru was Ser Cosmo Pasqualigo, son of the late Ser Paolo (v. Segretario alle Voci, Reg. vi.), The official residence of the Captain was at Famagosta.

After taking counsel with those who were present, our captain wrote back to the aforesaid Captain of the island at Famagosta, asking him to send word whether the galleys of the Signoria of Venice had been sent, as they ought to have been, to make the sea secure, in order that Venetian ships could go on their way in safety; and to reply at once so that he might know what to do.

 

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