WILLIAM DREGHORN Famagusta & Salamis. A Guide Book
Fragment about Famagusta from Famagusta & Salamis. A Guide Book
The city of Famagusta is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in the Levant and, in its present state of preservation, is equal to that of the old cities of Carcassone or Ragusa. One full day spent in Famagusta will reveal the history of Cyprus in a nutshell. Much of Cyprus is an outdoor museum, but only here is so much historical interest concentrated, that it is a showplace for all tourists.
Much of the history of the town is obscure as there are no written records and our only source of material is from travellers' accounts of merchants passing through. Some historians declare that it was founded by King Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt in 285 B.C. By the year I 300 A.D. the town was one of the principal markets of the Eastern Mediterranean, the rendezvous of rich merchants and the headquarters of many Christian religious orders as revealed by numerous churches of various denominations still to be seen in the town today. This was the time of the Crusades and when the rich Lusignan family ruled Cyprus, and hence the period I 200 to I 489 in Cyprus history is called the Lusignan dynasty. Famagusta was protected by ramparts which encircle the town and the citadel castle guarding the harbour, the best in Cyprus. This citadel or Othello's tower is the first main focus of attention for visitors.
The period I 300 to I 400 is known as the golden age of Famagusta and was regarded as such by visiting merchants. who brought back tales of fabulous wealth in the various places. After I 400, rival factions of Genoese and Venetian merchants settled there. The Genoese caused much strife until finally the Venetians took command of all Cyprus and transferred the capital from Nicosia to Famagusta in I489. The Venetians were in command for 82 years and it was from Famagusta that the whole island was governed.
The invention of gun-powder and the use of cannon made it necessary for the Venetians to remodel the entire defences for the use of artillery, the new type of warfare. The medieval square towers were replaced with round ones and all along the walls and citadel numerous cannon portholes were inserted.
The Turkish armada arrived outside the town in I 570 and put it under siege for a year. In 1571 not only Famagusta, but all Cyprus was under Turkish rule and remained so until I 878. The end of colonial rule in I 960 led to the intensification of intercommunal strife between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots which concluded in I 974 with Turkish Cypriot rule in North Cyprus.