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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

GIOVANNI MARITI. Travels in the Island of Cyprus

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cities. One might add Larnaca, where are the European mercantile houses. There are also seven large forts, in each of which is a Disdar or Commandant. Cyprus surpasses every other Greek island in the number of natives illustrious for their birth, dignity, learning and saintliness. Strabo, Geography xiv. 20, says of the island" κατ απετην ουδεμιας των νισων λειπεται it yields to no Other island in excellence." Many ancient historians have thought that the air was bad and unwholesome, a prejudice which causes foreigners to stay here a short time so that they cannot fully test its climate. But it is the general opinion of all who have lived here some few years that the air is good. The tertian and quartan fevers which are seen to prevail so frequently and for so long a time not only in Cyprus but also throughout the Levant, spring from causes other and more avoidable than the air. I learnt from experience that I myself gave occasion to the relapses which made this malady hang about me for quite ten months. The great heat causes constant and copious perspirations, and with these upon one to expose oneself to the least draught produces a check, which is followed inevitably the next day by a fever. The use of strong drinks is another cause, and the free use of certain fruits, particularly cucumbers, pumpkins and water-melons, which are difficult to digest. The villagers everywhere suffer often from these fevers, especially in summer; they let blood and leave the cure to nature without a change of diet except that they abstain from fruit. But this treatment is not enough for Europeans, who have to be more careful lest the malady grow more severe. A relapse can be avoided by taking sparingly of any food, and if this is not effective, riding is a remedy of approved excellence: at least it keeps off the obstructions which frequently follow this kind of fever. Turks and Greeks use the same treatment; the latter, wearied sometimes of the tiresome persistence of the disease, after the fourth or fifth attack have recourse to a large potion of the excellent and generous wine of the island, which usually cures most of them, if taken just when the shiverings point to an early recurrence of the fever.
There are various religions current in the land for, although it is ruled by Muslims, Islam is not the prevailing faith, most of the inhabitants being schismatic Greeks. There are many Armenians, then come the Maronites who observe their own rites in the matter of feasts and fasts, but having no churches of their own they officiate, and fulfil the duties of Catholic Christians, in the Latin churches. The number of Latin Catholics is much smaller than that of the sects named above, for they are only the Europeans settled in the island, among whom are the fathers of St Francis (Minori Observanti) called Padri di Terra Santa, the name I shall give them in my book, for they are known by it throughout the Levant.
The Turks have a Molla, who ranks as the head of their Law; the Greeks an archbishop and three bishops; the Maronites an archpriest, and the Latins two curates, one for the French, another for the Italian colony, everyone being free to follow his own religion.
The English have neither church nor house of prayer, but when they are in sufficient numbers they would assemble in the house of their consul, and then they would be obliged to maintain a minister of their religion ; but such is now wanting.
Greek and Turkish are the common languages, with the result that both one and the other are corrupted. Greek has here perhaps adhered with greater purity to the ancient vocabulary, but the pronunciation is entirely spoiled: an effect, they say, of the Venetian domination. The Greek commercial class frequently use Italian, French very little indeed. It is very remarkable that all orientals learn our Italian tongue with more ease than the other languages of Europe.
The Cypriots are generally well formed, tall and good looking, sober and temperate. The women have mostly good eyes, but ugly features, and few are seen of any special beauty: they are tall, spirited, little industrious, and luxurious: they are long lived, and often re-marry when they are already greatgrandmothers. All Greeks like amusement, but the Cypriots to excess; and though they be never so much oppressed by the government they never lose their liveliness. The men dress alia Turca, like those of Constantinople, and so too the women of any position, except as to the adornment of the head, which is high and striking, a fashion of very ancient date, which they say has been preserved here more faithfully than in the other Greek islands. Their general costume, alia Cipriotta, is more scanty than the other alia Turca it consists of a kind of tight vest, and a skirt of red cotton cloth, the outer garment, which they call benisce (Turkish, binish) is of cloth, velvet or other silk stuff. This is a long mantle, which starts from the shoulders, and passing over the arms, almost reaches the ground. It is not closed in front, but leaves the body exposed down to the feet. The under garments are of silk, made in the country, and like white

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