CYPRUS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Cyprus: Historical and Descriptive. From the earliest times to the present day. New York, 1878
When standing amidst the grand relics of a past age which meet the eye at every turn in the capital of this beautiful island, or when wandering about its dirty narrow streets, I could not but reflect on the manifold changes this fine city has undergone, and picture the days when she stood in the zenith of her fame and beauty.
The career of Cyprus is without a parallel in the history of the world. Here we find established in the very heart of the East, on Phœnician Grecian
foundations, a mighty kingdom distinguished by its high display of all that adorned the finest age of chivalry, and in spite of all the agitations which beset the outer world, retaining these traditions till the close of the sixteenth century, when the Turks swept down upon her, carrying ruin and destruction in their train.
It will be worth one's while to linger for a few minutes whilst we note the history of Cyprus during these four centuries. “This sweet island,” as
the poets of the country are fond of calling her, was for nine hundred years under the dominion of the Byzantine kings, until in 1191 it was seized upon in a burst of anger by our own impetuous and rash Cœur de Lion, whose indignation had been excited by a refusal to allow his queen, Berengaria, to land.
He at once forced a landing at Limasol, stormed the city, overthrew the prince's army, and overspread the whole island, compelling the people to submit to him.
A prince of the house of Comnena was at this time on the throne. Richard, for the first time aware of the value of his new possession as a gathering point and resting-place in any further attempts upon the Turks, and yet unable to take the government upon his own shoulders, resolved to make money of his lucky acquisitions, and offered the crown to Wido (Guido) Lusignan, ex-king of Jerusalem, for the sum of 100,000 ducats. During the time of Richard's possession he conducted himself with much severity to the inhabitants. Half the land was at once appropriated to the use of himself and his followers, a certain portion was set aside for his personal expenses and the endowment of churches and monasteries, and the rest divided and allotted as feudal tenures to his followers.
Such an El Dorado was not to be regarded with indifference by the adventurous knights of Christendom, and numbers followed in the wake of Richard to receive their share of the titles and baronial fiefs that were being lavished around.
As years went on, and one place after another was wrested from Christendom, monks and priests, to find a comfortable resting-place, turned their steps to Cyprus.
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