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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume II: The later Crusades, 1189-1311

XVII: The Kingdom of Cyprus, 1191-1291,   pp. 599-629 PDF (17.1 MB)

Page 620

 The law, as expounded in these and other treatises of the thirteenth century,
was the law laid down by the high courts of Jerusalem and Nicosia; it was
the feudal law of the west modified by conditions in the east; not French,
as Hugh of Brienne found out when he appealed to that law in 1264; not imperial,
as Frederick II learned when he tried to claim the regency of Cyprus without
reference to the high court of Nicosia. Only in the Assises de la cour des
bourgeois, where the Franks took over from the law in use in the east rules
applicable to the lower classes, is much Roman law to be found.55 
 The chief governing body in Cyprus was the high court of Nicosia, composed
of the Cypriote barons and presided over by the king or his representative.
It chose the king, and, when necessary, a regent for the kingdom. It had
jurisdiction over the nobles in all questions, except religion, marriage,
and testament, which were reserved to the ecclesiastical courts, and except
for cases involving the nobles with their inferiors, which were dealt with
by the cour des bourgeois or low court. The latter, consisting of twelve
"jurats", chosen by the king, and presided over by the viscount of Nicosia,
a knight also chosen by the king, exercised jurisdiction likewise in all
cases concerning non-noble Franks. The viscount, head of the police and collector
of dues from the bourgeois, was assisted by an official with the title of
mathesep.56 The grand officers of the crown were the seneschal, constable,
marshal, chamberlain, and chan cellor. 57 The thirteenth-century registers
of the secrete royale, the central office of the treasury, have unfortunately
been lost, and other accounts are lacking; so information on the revenues
of the kings of Cyprus is scarce, except for casual mention of customs duties,
special taxes, and the like. Besides the regular feudal levies, the army
included the arrière ban of all men capable of bearing arms, and the
mercenaries. Important among the latter were the lightarmed native horsemen,
the Turcopoles. For a fleet, the thirteenth century rulers of Cyprus depended
largely on procuring ships from the Genoese. 
 The general lines of Cypriote institutional development had been marked
out by the first two Lusignans. Whatever the chroniclers may say about Guy's
generous concessions even to artisans, the territorial fiefs were probably
granted largely to French barons, many of whom had lost their lands on the
mainland though they 
 LaMonte, Feudal Monarchy, pp. 100—101; Grandclaude, Etude critique,
pp. 123 ff. 
 56 For special privileges of the Syrians, see Hill, History of Cyprus, II,
52. Mathesep derives from Arabic muhtasib: inspector of weights and measures.
 57 For lists of the holders of these offices, see LaMonte, Feudal Monarchy,
pp. 256—257. 

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