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John Pettitt holding the “Ryder Cup” 1985

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Venetian Period

VENETIAN PERIOD (1489 - 1571)

The Venetian rule was worse than the Frankish for the Cypriots. The Venetians treated Cyprus as a colony and tried to export the island's resources by imposing large taxes. The Venetians were aware of the impending Turkish invasion and hurriedly constructed the Nicosia and Famagusta walls. In Nicosia the walls were smaller than the previous Lusignan ones, with 11 bastions and 3 gates and a moat. In the process they destroyed a lot of the fine buildings from the Lusignan rule. Currently the walls of Nicosia and the gates, especially Famagusta Gate, are a prime example of the Venetian period architecture. Squat, rounded towers were also built at Xylofagou, Pyla, Kiti and Alaminos in Larnaca district, while the castle of Kyrenia was strengthened. The Venetians also exploited the salt production from the Salt Lake in Larnaca. An important handicraft of this period was the laces of Lefkara. Apparently Leonardo de Vinci was so impressed by the laces of Lefkara that he bought a cloth to take back to the cathedral in Milan. But while the new conquerors built their stronghold the residents on the island continued to live in poverty.

The Ottoman Turks needed only the capture of the island to gain control of the Eastern Mediterranean and in 1570 Sultan Selim ll demanded the cessation of Cyprus to Turkey, claiming that its conquest by Egypt in the last century made it legitimately a part of the Sultanate. Venice refused and so the Turks declared war on Cyprus. They invaded Larnaca and were met with no resistance, as the Cypriots were happy to see the demise of the Venetians. The Venetian strongholds of Nicosia, Kyrenia and Famagusta were the only opposition found on the island.

The first to fall was Nicosia, after a siege of six weeks where walls were finally broken into by the resolute efforts of the Turks. When the news of the Nicosia capture reached Kyrenia garrison they quickly surrendered as they were undermanned already.

Only Famagusta was left and Mustapha Pasha held back for several months until he received reinforcements. They came in the spring of 1571. Then he launched his attack on Famagusta, and after five months the Venetian commander Bragadino was forced to surrender.

Once the European powers learned of Cyprus' capture they took a somewhat late action. In October 1571 a fleet put together by the Holy League of Spain, Genoa and Venice defeated the Turks in the great sea battle of Lepanto, at the entrance to the Gulf of Corinth. But this did little to change the continuing expansion of the Ottoman Empire or the future of Cyprus who was now abandoned for more than three centuries to Turkish rule.

THE TURKISH PERIOD (1571-1878)

The Cypriots welcomed arrival of the Ottoman Turks mainly because of their recognition of the Greek Orthodox Church. One of the first actions of the Turks was to restore the Archbishopric. They also abolished the feudal system and freed the serfs. But it did not make the Cypriots any happier as the Turks were able to exploit the Church for their own benefit - for the purpose of collecting taxes. Most of this tax money went to Istanbul and the Cypriots had very little benefit from it.

In 1821 the revolution against Turkish rule in Greece resulted in an emotional response from the Greek-Cypriots. So to avoid any spread of revolt on the island the Turks took brutal action. They executed the island's leading churchmen including the Archbishop. This silenced the Greek-Cypriots but also alienated them.

After Greece won her independence the cracks in the Ottoman Empire began to accumulate. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 new powers began to show their strength in the Mediterranean. The most active were the British who had a sea-route to India via the Canal. Cyprus was suddenly on the map again as an important strategic base in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In 1877 the war between Russia and Turkey provided the opening move. In return for a defense agreement by which Britain would come to Turkey's aid if Russia made further incursions on Turkish territory. Turkey was to cede Cyprus to Britain. By this agreement - the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1878 - the British were to remain in occupation of the island as long as the Russian threat continued.

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