City of Empires Ottoman and British Famagusta (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing)


You may remember a while ago that I was happy to complete and send off a paper, intended as a chapter in a volume on Famagusta. the paper/chapter deals with the 1607 Tuscan/Spanish/English raid on Ottoman Famagusta. Thanks to Michael Walsh and his hard work, the book where the chapter sits is finally out. I am really pleased and thankful to Michael and of course all the colleagues and friends who took part in that Budapest conference all that time ago.

This is from the publisher’s website:

“Despite its undoubted importance, there has never been a volume dedicated entirely to studies of the historic city of Famagusta in the years which followed the siege of 1571. City of Empires: Ottoman and British Famagusta takes an important first step in redressing this imbalance. The four centuries which followed the conflict, as the contributions gathered here demonstrate, are rich research seams for scholars of history, urban design, photography, art history, literature, drama, military history and the post-war mandates. City of Empires also places emphasis on the tangible heritage of Famagusta – twice listed as endangered by World Monuments Fund and now the recipient of an increasing number of international efforts to protect it.”

So, go on, buy it!

A Tuscan raid on Famagusta, 1607 [article]

The Porta di Limisso (Limassol gate) on the southwestern part of the Famagusta walls

The Porta di Limisso (Limassol gate) on the southwestern part of the Famagusta walls

I have just finished and submitted (finally) the article that sprung out from my paper at the Historic Famagusta Conference in Budapest in 2012 (has it really been that long?). My article looks at the raid, carried out by a force of the Knights of St. Stephen, Spanish forces, English and other corsairs. In fact, it included some celebrities who would go on to bigger and greater things, such as the Tuscan admiral Jacopo Inghirami, Don Antonio De’Medici (Grand Duke Francesco I’s son), Pietro Velasco (future Duke of Osuna and Viceroy of Sicily), Richard Gifford (an English merchant and corsair based in Livorno) and his partner Robert (who was either Sir Robert Dudley (Leicester’s son) or more likely Robert Thornton, who in 1608 would lead the first and only attempt to establish an Italian colony in the Americas (in Brazil in particular). There were others, scions of important Italian families of Pisa, Livorno and Siena, corsairs, soldiers, common ‘rubble’.

The attack was very likely the result of the pleas of Cypriot notables who were looking for a political future after the conquest of the island by the Ottomans in 1571. These notables, most of whom had retained their Catholic sympathies, sent pleas to royal courts around Catholic Europe, exaggerating the number of Cypriots who could take up arms and seriously under-representing the Ottoman forces on the island to make it sound feasible to capture the island. One such person, Pedro Avendaño (“Griego de nación de la ínsula de Chipre”, as he is referred to in the Spanish archives) claimed to have led a rebellion on the island in 1606 where he rallied a force 12,000 strong which killed 3,500 Turks, but due to the lack of arms the rebellion was suppressed and 4,000 men fled to the mountains in anticipation of a suitable opportunity, such as the intervention of a christian force, to rise again.

Avendaño’s hugely exaggerated claims failed to raise eyebrows at the Spanish court, but it seems that somebody somewhere swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker, because in June of 1607 the raiders were eagerly anticipating the Greci to come to their support and take up arms, as part of a wildly ambitious plan to control the island.

The raid represents a hilarious example of communication breakdown, shambolic preparations and misinformation. Despite the fact that Francesco Bourbon Del Monte and Jacopo Inghirami, the leaders of the force, had at their disposal a model of the city of Famagusta, as well as the benefit of local informants (one of whom was Girolamo of Famagusta, an experienced navigator and pilot with the forces of Jacques Pierre, a French corsair), the attack ended in resounding failure.

The attack was meant to be carried out at night and in stealth, taking control of the city before the garrison had time to fortify itself. The idea was to breach the walls with explosives (petards) and scale them with ladders at different locations, including the 2 main gates-the sea gate (Porta del Mare) and the land gate (Porta di Limisso), as well as a postern (porta falsa) on the northern side. The petards failed to breach the postern (which was thought to be hollow but wasn’t), the ladders were too short (despite numerous affirmations to the contrary) and a large part of the force could not make its way round to the marina to attack the sea gate, due to the inaccessibility of the passage, which meant that they became trapped in the moat, between the walls and the companies behind them for three hours. The force that was supposed to attack the land gate was part was on teh ships which became separated from the main force and turned up at the scene a day too late, to put the icing on the cake. Indeed, the descriptions in the archives of Florence, Venice and Siena at times read like the script of Holy Grail 2: İneği getirin!.

The failed attack meant that Del Monte was relieved of his duties and was excluded from the subsequent attack on Bona (Annaba in modern-day Algeria) which brought the Grand Duke of Tuscany a little bit of the glory he so craved.

In the article I discuss the military aspects of the incident, with detailed maps of the walls and the plans of the attack.

In my next article I will be discussing the identity aspects of period of transition from the Venetian to the Ottoman Cyprus.

Medieval Famagusta

Click on the image for more photos of Historic Famagusta

Medieval Histories has recently published an article on Medieval Famagusta, highlighting the urgent need for its protection and pointing to the upcoming conference, Historic Famagusta: A Millennium in Words and Images, as an important landmark in its preservation (Thanks to Karen Schousboe).

You can view the article here.

In addition to this, Michael Walsh  has published a paper, titled ‘Famagusta’ which you can see here.

To say that the time is ripe to intervene and save this amazing historical space is to be stating the obvious. The importance of Famagusta as a crusader trading port in the Middle Ages is well documented. This importance is well reflected on the ground, where the concentration of medieval architecture is immediately obvious even to the untrained eye. This makes Famagusta one of the Eastern Med’s hidden (and forgotten) jewels-one which must receive its due attention from UNESCO and the political authorities on the ground.


More images of Historic Famagusta here.

Limassol Medieval Museum, Cyprus

The Cyprus Medieval Museum, housed at the Limassol Castle, is one of the island’s (and the Med’s) hidden gems. In this collection are displayed wonderful and valuable specimens of the island’s Frankish and Venetian past, ranging from tombstones to Cypriot sgraffito pottery and coins. The tombstones and other stonework were gathered from a number of locations, such as the cathedrals in Nicosia and Famagusta, the Augustinian church in Nicosia (now the Omerieh mosque), and other locations.

Although Crusader heritage is very prominent in Cyprus, both sides of the divide, it is nowhere near as pronounced as it deserves. The main reason for this is that it does not sit in well with either of the island’s nationalisms, which drove the education and antiquity agenda. Tourists are urged to discover the island’s antique past in order to reinforce its case for a Greek identity. However, the Cypriots are missing a trick here. Urging European (and not only) travellers to see the rich remains of the last crusader kingdom should attract considerable amounts of visitors. The cathedrals of Nicosia and Famagusta, the Venetian walls of both cities, and many other castles and churches, remain a much under-exploited resource. The walled city of Famagusta, languishing in political limbo since the 1960’s, is a historical (and archaeological) space of immense value, but one which is gradually crumbling down as the years go by.

A tombstone from the Cyprus Medieval Museum. Click on the image to see more photos