Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume III: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
XI: The Kingdom of Cyprus, 1369-1489, pp. 361-395 PDF (8.0 MB)
394 A HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES the Moslem east and, even more, in the Christian west. We hear little enough, except in parentheses, so to speak, of the Cypriotes them selves and of how they fared under their foreign rulers and feudal lords; in the minds of the western chroniclers they seemed scarcely to exist. It was taken for granted that the peasantry, who were largely synonymous with the Cypriote people,30 were there to produce the crops and their share—in manpower and taxes—of the sinews of war, but without any say in the country's affairs. Indeed, the lowest of the three classes into which they were divided consisted of serfs. On the ecclesiastical side we know more, for the records contain full details of the subjection of the ancient autocephalous church of Cyprus to the Latin church of its rulers. While it is unlikely that the Cypriote peasantry under the Lusignan kingdom were politically worse off, despite their passive role, than the peasantry of other Near Eastern countries during the same period, it is not surprising that by the end of the Venetian occupa tion they had come to conceive, albeit more on religious than political grounds, a profound hatred of the Latin xenocracy. Venice, it is true, maintained as the basis of the island's legal system the Assizes of Jerusalem, to which the people were accustomed, and caused them to be translated from French into the Venetian dialect by the chronicler Florio Bustron.31 But when in 1571 the Turks displaced the Venetians they would be welcomed by the Cypriotes as liberators from the detested Latin yoke. It was the barrier of religion rather than that of language that prevented any fusion between the Cypriote people and the French and other Latin stocks in Cyprus during all the centuries of their presence beside them. That the language difficulty had to some extent, at least, been overcome in the later period of Lusignan rule we may infer from the statement of the Cypriote chronicler Leontius Machaeras that "we write both French and Greek in such a way that no one in the world can say what our language is." But the two churches—the intruding and dispossessing, the indigenous and dispossessed—stood rigidly apart. The status and dignity of a kingdom conferred on Cyprus by the Lusignan dynasty were slow to disappear. When Peter Bembo wrote of Catherine's abdication ceremony that a kingdom was thus reduced to a province, he stated a fact but not the theory. Venice took very 30. Only a few Cypriote families, prominent among them the Podocataros, the Synkleti kos, and the Sozomenos, made their way into the nobility of the kingdom, and they were probably descended from the old Byzantine aristocarcy. 31. F. Bustron's original holograph translation, made at the direction of doge Andrew Gritti and "the illustrious lords rectors of this kingdom of Cyprus" in 1531, was in the possession of the late author of this chapter.
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