Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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GIOVANNI MARITI. Travels in the Island of Cyprus


have been found here. Of some of these there remains but a memory, and the name of the district where they were found. The existing Turkish government allows no search, and no enterprise for their recovery. It used to make a large quantity of oil and sugar. But cultivation of the sugar-cane had begun to fall off even in the Venetian epoch, as it was found more profitable to plant cotton. Saffron and rhubarb gave no inconsiderable return, but these plants have disappeared. Wild goats, deer, wild boars, wild asses and wild cattle have all been exterminated; as well as pheasants, which abounded in Cyprus even after its unhappy absorption in the Ottoman Empire.
The present products are silk, cotton, wool, madder (called Boia, rizari and robbid) muscat and precious wines, cochineal, ladanum, wheat and barley, colocynth, pitch and tar, potash, salt, carobs, timber, and umber, brown and green; with these articles European commerce, of which I shall speak more fully in its proper place, is chiefly concerned.
The island used to furnish oil in such abundance that it was largely exported: now the produce is so greatly reduced that oil is frequently imported. In no less quantity was found giuggwlena, called here sesame from the seeds of which was extracted oil, and as the people of Anatolia still grow it for export to the neighbouring coast of Syria, it used to be a great resource in years when there was a scarcity of olive oil. The plant sesame in height, in its leaves and flowers, is much like that which we call belluo?no, and from the small seed which remains in the husk after it has reached maturity, is expressed the oil. When the island was thickly peopled, the inhabitants were wont to extract oil from sondro (glass wort) also, an expedient they were glad to use when neither olive nor sesame oil sufficed for their wants. In their extreme need they used also the fruit of another plant called Curtuma (Palma Christi) which begins to show its fruit while it is quite small, and grows until a man can stand comfortably beneath it: its leaves are starshaped, and the stem reaches a circumference of a foot, but it is always green and soft and sappy.
The fruit is as big as a French bean, and is composed, like a chestnut, of husk and skin, and, within, a nut rich in oily matter which is used generally, except as a condiment with food.
The soil produces every kind of edible herb, and other wild plants, the better knowledge of which would be of no small honour to botany. Fruit is rare nowadays, because the trees have been neglected, but the island is rich in flowers, and a very little care suffices to rear and develop the most beautiful and delicate plants of Italy, France and Holland. Without culture there spring of themselves hyacinths, anemones, ranunculi, and double and single daffodils, which have as many as 14 bells on one stalk. They grow on the hills, whence the bulbs are transplanted to adorn our gardens: they are in great demand in France and Holland, where they are carefully cultivated ; many thousands are sent there every year. The gardens are very rich in all the species of Citrus especially oranges of an exquisite and most delicate flavour. Among the wild plants is found the little bee orchis, which we call fiore apCy and the Greeks μελισσα, from its likeness to a bee. It sends up one or, at the most, two stalks, and on each stalk there are five or six flowers: the root is bulbous, and its juice is used in the cure of wounds.
The Cypriots cultivate a plant which they call henna; it grows to the height and thickness of a pomegranate tree, which it nearly resembles in its stem and branches, the leaves are like those of the myrtle ; and the flowers like a thick cluster of the flower of the vine. An oil is extracted from it, whose virtues are those of balsam. The odour is very pleasing to orientals, but Europeans find it rank and unbearable. When the flower has fallen, a fruit is formed like a large coriander seed. The leaves, dry or fresh, when boiled in water produce a fine orange dye, with which the Turkish women and a few Greeks stain their nails and the palms of their hands, with the idea that it refreshes the body. They dye their hair with it, as an adornment. And so tenacious is the dye, that it is not easy except by a long lapse of time to efface it.
The Venetians when they were lords here used to dye their horses' coats with this colour; now, so far as regards animals, this custom is confined to white greyhounds and horned cattle. Since the number of the inhabitants has diminished, a large part of the island is uncultivated, and yields only thyme and marjoram. These give a pleasant smell as one passes over the plains, and are used as brushwood to heat ovens and furnaces.
In the caves of a mountain near Paphos is found a very perfect kind of rock crystal, commonly called from its lustre Paphos diamonds: it is cut and polished like other precious stones. It is forbidden under severe penalties to carry off the most minute particle, and to this end guards are set over the spot: but a present will buy some little licence. The same jealousy is shown about the amiantus, a stone found near the village of Paleandros. Various historians testify that by certain processes cloth was made from it, and that to clean this it

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