HISTORY ETHNOGRAPHY NATURE WINE-MAKING SITE MAP
Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
 
 
 
 
 
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HISTORY OF CYPRUS

Cyprus in the middle ages. Cyprus: Historical and Descriptive. From the earliest times to the present day. New York, 1878

The Chain of Mount Olympus

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With the improved cultivation of the land and such developed commerce large sums of money were made, and in proportion as the wealth of the island increased an equal change in its inhabitants arose, and self-indulgence and gross extravagance began to sap the strength of the upper classes. The highest prosperity of Cyprus may be said to have continued for two hundred years. In 1337 its misfortunes recommenced. The Genoese fell upon the  island and met with little or no resistance from the inhabitants, who were quite unprepared for the attack.
Famagusta became the head-quarters of these merciless oppressors, who at once stretched forth an iron hand upon the trade of the country. Cyprus never rallied from this blow. A feeble attempt was made to drive out the invaders, but the Genoese called in the assistance of the Egyptian Mamelukes, who compelled the Cypriotes to pay them tribute.
Now arose a scene of anarchy and rapid decline; every man's hand was against every man, and private revenge took the place of law and order. The interposition of the Venetian rule at this time must be regarded as a decided improvement on such a state of things. Katherine, the daughter of a lofty Venetian patrician, was given in marriage to James, the now insignificant prince of the unfortunate island, and jointly shared his throne. The marriage was celebrated in 1421, and the Venetian Senate adopted the queen as a daughter of St. Mark. In 1473 James died, and the Venetian Government at once assumed charge of his son. This child, however, dying, Katherine was persuaded by the Senate to abdicate in their favor. Meanwhile Charlotte Lusignan, only daughter of John the Third, who had married her cousin Louis, son of the Duke of Savoy and Anna of Cyprus, went to reside in Rome, where she died in 1487, bequeathing her claims to Charles, Duke of Savoy, in consequence of which the sovereigns of that dynasty assumed the titles of kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem. (This interesting fact will explain the feeling with which our interference with the island has been regarded in Italy.)
The Venetian rulers at once attempted to restore order and foster expiring commerce, but without much success.
In 1571 the last traces of Cyprian glory disappeared under the blighting shadow of the Turkish banner. The people did not surrender without a
struggle, but they were much enfeebled, and their Venetian rulers had already more possessions than they could maintain by force of arms. All Europe trembled before the successful troops of Suliman the Third. In 1566 the Cypriotes were commanded to fortify their capital, the city was to be reduced to a third of its then size, and surrounded by walls, moats, and eleven bastions, all buildings beyond these limits to be destroyed. The nobility and people willingly obeyed, and consented not only to execute the order, but bear all attendant expenses. Mansions and villas were torn down to make way for the fortresses. Even the Dominican cloister, which contained the graves of their kings, was sacrificed, and of the eleven gates that then surrounded Nikosia only three were allowed to remain standing.
Selim the Second, Suliman's successor, had a strong taste for Cyprian wine, the companion in his carousals being a Portuguese Jew called Miguez Nassy. This man had once professed Christianity, but had found it convenient to renounce his faith. He is said to have incited Selim to put his son on the throne of Cyprus. In order to accomplish this end Selim appeared before Limassol in 1570, with the Turkish fleet. The arsenal in Venice was set in flames at this time; this act is supposed to have been committed by incendiaries sent thither to Nassy for that purpose.

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Created at June 2008
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