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Map of Cyprus. Ferrandus Bertelli, 1562

Map of Cyprus. Ferrandus Bertelli, 1562

GIOVANNI MARITI. Travels in the Island of Cyprus

Translated from the Italian by Claude Delaval Cobham, C.M.G.,
Cambridge: at the University Press, 1909

Chapter I.
A general view of the Island and Kingdom of Cyprus

Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, and dependency of Turkey in Asia, lies in long. 52' 45' and lat. 35'' 30', between the coast of Syria and that of Cilicia now called Caramania. It has had various names. Pliny, v. 31, calls it Acamantis, Cerastis, Aspelia, Amathusia, Macaria, Cryptos and Colinia. In other historians it bears the names of Chetinia, Aerosa, Paphos, Salamina; and in the poets Cythera, from the goddess Venus who, they say playfully, was there nursed and brought up, and to whom were erected there several temples, of which the most conspicuous were in the cities of Paphos, Cythera and Amathus. Cyprus once comprised nine kingdoms «quondam novem regnorum sedem» says Pliny, afterwards the Kings of Egypt reigned there, and then the Romans. From the Empire of the West it passed to that of the Greek Emperors of Constantinople, from whom it was wrested by the Arabs in the days of Heraclius. The Emperors soon recovered their sovereignty, but Isaac, a prince of the family of the Comneni, who ruled the island with the title of Duke, usurped the supreme power, and through the weakness of the Empire remained in absolute and peaceful possession, until in 1191 Richard I, King of England, took his throne and his life, and sold the kingdom to the Knights Templars. These, owing to their harsh behaviour towards the natives who followed the Greek rite, saw that they could not long hold it in peace, and were obliged to restore it to Richard, who made over his rights to Guy Lusignan. Carlotta, the last scion of that family, was expelled in 1460 by her natural brother Jacques. She married Louis of Savoy, through whom those Dukes take the title of Kings of Cyprus. Jacques died, and his widow Carlotta Cornaro being childless gave the kingdom to the Venetians in 1489. They could not hold it against the Turks, who took it from them in 1570, and still hold it undisturbed. Ferdinand de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, attempted the conquest of the island, and might have succeeded, say the historians, had he been better served by the commander of his forces.
This most beautiful island has a circuit (including its bays) of 600 miles. It is 200 miles long, and 65 broad and is crossed and divided by a range of mountains running from east to west: the highest of these are Olympus, S. Croce and Buffavento.
The greatest of her plains is that of Mesaria, of 78 miles in length, and 30 in breadth.
Her streams and torrents which flow even in winter are but few, so subject is the island to drought. It is said that in the days of Constantine the Great no rain was seen for full thirty years, and the land lost many of its inhabitants.
In ancient times there were many cities, but now the names only of a few remain attached to their old sites; of the rest the very locality is forgotten. The notable towns which still exist are Nicosia and Famagusta, which rank as walled

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