Facts about Cyprus

Area: 9,251 sq km
Capital: Nicosia
Language: Greek, Turkish
Currency: Euro
  Turkish Lira
Population: 784,301
Coastline: 648 sq km

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Three Hundred Years of French Rule

With Guy's purchase a period of French domination starts, that was about to last for almost three hundred years. During Frankish rule (1192-1489 A.D.), Cyprus was involved in the feudal system of Medieval Europe, and in fact, was divided into two predominant categories. On the one hand there was the feudal class, mainly of French origin, and the foreign merchants (mostly Italians) and on the other hand, there were Greek inhabitants, among which serfs and laborers. Cypriots had never before endured such a harsh rule like the French one was, with this introduction of a feudal system. It was the feudalism which granted power to the barons who had supported Guy in his crusades in the Holy Land. There was a modified legal constitution, yet, some local laws and customs were retained. However, Guy de Lusignan was never crowned King of Cyprus. Amalric, Guy's brother became the first monarch, who gained the power in 1194 and was granted the Crown of Cyprus by the Holly Roman Emperor, Henry IV in 1197. After Guy's death in 1194, Amalric became Lord of Cyprus and in 1197 was crowned and recognized as the first King of Cyprus. The French monarchs kept holding the title King of Jerusalem and were crowned (in absentia) at the cathedral of St Nicholas in Famagusta as this one was the closest one to the Holy Land.

Orthodoxy oppressed

The decrease of Orthodox Bishops and the oppression of the Orthodox religion were other changes that the French rulers brought in the island. Although not totally forbidden, the Orthodox Church was forced into less wealthy areas and the great revenues amassed by the Orthodox Church were reallocated to the Church of Rome. Although having survived many persecutions, the Orthodox Church was finally suppressed by the Catholic one during this epoch. This act of religious suppression caused massive anger among the natives and the relationship towards their overlords became disrupted. It was easy to distinguish the lifestyle of the local people contrasting to the immigrants, whose highlife was marked with measurable wealth. The antimony between the native poor and their rich masters was also demonstrated by the extension of the buildings like monumental churches, abbeys, castles and palaces. Over the next three centuries the situation was about to change and the Cypriot people were to draw reasonable benefits from the French rule.

Successors of Amalric

Amalric, the current king of Cyprus was succeeded by his son Hugh I in 1205. His rule finished in 1218 when he died in the Crusade, leaving a son, Henry, of only nine months to become a king under the reign of the infant king's uncle, Philip of Ibelin, and his mother, Alice of Champagne. It was not long before war broke out between Philip and Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, who tried hard to empower the island. However, Frederick was not successful and two attempts to take control of the island failed. The victory at Agridi in June 1232 ensured the independence of the island just as the young King Henry came of age. In 1253 Henry I died and his only son Hugh II died at the age of fourteen, leaving the crown to pass to a cousin, Hugh III. Being inspired by the Western intellectual and cultural reforms, his reign is marked with the brilliance of his court and he is also known for the devotion to Cyprus as he spent most of his time in the island and not traveling throughout the Mediterranean. After Hugh III his eldest son John I ruled for a brief two years and in turn John I was suceeded by his brother Henry II. His reign was full of bad luck and misfortune. He suffered from epilepsy and he also lost his last mainland possession when Acre fell in 1291. He was all the time arguing with his brother, Amalric Prince Tyre. Finally, Amalric deposed him and in 1310 had him deported to Armenia. In the same year the assassination of Amalric happened and the rightful king was to take the throne.

Reign of Hugh IV

In 1327 Henry II died, leaving his nephew Hugh IV to succeed. He, in contrast, became one of the great Kings of Cyprus. Although treating the others intolerantly and being tyrannical, he was known as an inspired promoter of the arts and beautiful things. He was the very person responsible for the building of the Abbey at Bellapais in Kyrenia district. It was also during this period, that many impressive Gothic monuments were established, among which the cathedral of Agia Sofia (Nicosia) and Agios Nikolaos (Famagusta). There had also grown many majestic buildings and fortifications, particularly palaces, churches, towers, walls etc in Nicosia, as being the seat of the Lusignan kings. Moreover, it became the seat of the Latin Church. Not only the walls of Nicosia, but also those of Famagusta were built during this era.

Reign of Peter I

Hugh IV was succeeded in 1359 by his son Peter I, who then started a short, but glorious reign. There were two intellectuals guiding him during the early stages of his rule, namely his chancellor, Philip of Mézieres, a truly loyal servant, and also a papal legate, Peter Thomas. Peter I had the same nature as his father had, so to say, with a violent temper, inheriting also a deal of immorality. However, his excesses were kept well under control by his trusted advisers and moreover they were supporting him to attempt to regain the kingdom of Jerusalem. He visited many courts of Europe and in 1364 he set off on his crusade seizing Alexandria. His army was, however, interested only in the plunder. In 1366 his most trusted and loyal councilor Peter Thomas died and his Queen Eleanor was constantly unfaithful. All the barons had turned against him and he gave himself up to his passions and excesses. Peter I ended up his life being assassinated by a baronial conspiracy in 1369, yet, his ignominious rule was marked by otherwise a perfect control.


The following period of regency was even more troubled then any other because of the late king's only son being weak, sickly and not of age. The royal parts set up deep opposition within the council and these rifts were growing with old, continuous feuds between the Genoese versus Venetians who had long been granted privileges at the royal court. The task of putting the country together showed pointless against people determined on waging a profitable war. During the feast that followed the coronation of Peter II a wrangle had broken out between the nobles of Genoa and Venice, which ended up in a full scale battle. In 1373 the Genoese landed in force and plundered the island. They robbed out all the major town and cities, the abbeys and churches and the treasury was wholly stolen. After maintaining a hold on the city of Famagusta, with was now one of the richest cities in the Middle East, and having taken all they wanted and capturing James the Constable, they left.

Frankish period ending in Egypt seize

The luckless young king continued his ruling by his mother whose hatred for her brother-in-law grew with no limits. Although she succeeded in having Prince John assassinated, she could not manage to get at James who was imprisoned in a jail in Genoa. In 1382 the unlucky Peter II died, leaving no child from his marriage to Valentina Visconti, who was the daughter of the Duke of Milan. After Queen Eleanor had been sent into exile, she had nothing to do with the rule of the country. The heir to get the throne was James the Constable, who was, however, still in jail. He succeeded in getting the ransom demanded and returned to Cyprus to reestablish his kingdom. He happened to do this with a bit of success and died in 1398. Following was his son Janus who got married with Charlotte of Bourbon. When it seemed that the country had started to gain prosperity once again, the Egyptians invaded in 1426, which was most likely incited by the Genoese. They almost wiped out Janus' troops and took him prisoner, and in the following stage Cyprus fell into the vassalage of Egypt.

End of French kings

After Janus died in 1432, his entirely weak and incompetent son John II took the throne. He was in return dominated by his mistress, his wives and his illegitimate son James. His inglorious reign ended in 1458, followed by his only legitimate child, Charlotte. She in turn was deposed by her illegitimate brother, hand in hand with the Sultan of Egypt. Although the majesty of French rule was speeding to the end, James tried hard to make a last ditch attempt to retain some of the glories of the past. He reorganized his kingdom he had empowered and forced the Genoese out of Famagusta. He turned to Venice because of money and allies and got married with Catherine Cornaro. Later James II died, in what we today call, under suspicious circumstances, as there was no adequate explanation ever given. His son James III, who was born after his father's death, died at the age of one and Catherine took the control as a queen. She was desperately facing against the force of Venice for thirteen years, finally capitulating to a power too strong to confront. She abdicated in 1489 yielding Cyprus to the Venetians. The Cypriots were not happy to see an end to the dynasty that had ruled for the past three centuries. They got used to the prosperity around them and could not bear the idea of rule from Venice. Yet, any struggle for rebellion was immediately knocked off with cruel punishment.

Amalric was succeeded by his son Hugh I in 1205. His rule ended after the Crusade of 1218 when he died the following year leaving a son, Henry, of only nine months to become king under the regency of the infant king’s uncle, Philip of Ibelin, and his mother, Alice of Champagne.

It was not long before war broke out between Philip and Frederick II, the Holly Roman Emperor, who cast covetous eyes on Cyprus and wished to replace the regency with his own choice of bailiffs who would control parts of the island and be loyal to him. However, in this Frederick was unsuccessful and two attempts to take control of the island failed and a victory at Agridi in June 1232 just as the young King Henry came age assured the independence of the island. Henry I died in 1253 and his only son Hugh II died at the age of fourteen, leaving the crown to pass to a cousin who became Hugh III.

His reign is marked by the widespread interest in Western intellectual and cultural reforms. He was renowned for the brilliance of his court and for the fact that he spent most of his time in Cyprus and not journeying about the Mediterranean.

He was succeeded by his eldest son John I, who ruled for a brief two years. He in turn was succeeded by his brother Henry II. His was a reign marred by misfortunes. He suffered from epilepsy, a condition viewed with much suspicion at the time. He also lost his last mainland possession when Acre fell in 1291. He was continually falling out with his brother, Amalric Prince Tyre. Eventually, Amalric deposed him and had him deported to Armenia in 1310. In the same year Amelric was assassinated and the rightful king was restored to his throne.

Early settlers

Expansion and trade

The Iron Age

Persian Rule

Hellenistic Period

Roman period

Byzantine rule

Three Hundred years of French Rule

Venetian Rule

Ottoman Rule

British Control

Union with Greece

The country remains divided

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