Guy de Lusignan died in 1194 after only two years in Cyprus, and the possession of the
island passed to his brother Amaury, who had been constable of Cyprus and Jerusalem and
was therefore in command of the Lusignan forces. He obtained recognition from the Holy
Roman emperor, Henry VI, and in 1197 was crowned first king of Cyprus by the imperial
chancellor in Nicosia. On the application of the king the Pope, Celestine III, sent two
commissioners to Cyprus with the object of introducing a Roman hierarchy and for the
conversion of the Orthodox Cypriots to the Roman communion. As a result of this
commission, a Latin archbishop was established at Nicosia, with bishops at Limassol,
Paphos and Famagusta, all of whom were endowed with the funds which had hitherto belonged
to the Orthodox church. The Orthodox clergy and laity were naturally indignant at the
establishment of the Latin church in the island and at the spoliation of their
ecclesiastical revenues. King Amaury, on the eve of his departure to Palestine to assume
the crown of Jerusalem, assembled the heads of two communions and endeavoured to persuade
them to live at peace and to devote themselves to the welfare of their respective flocks.
On his departure, however, a rebellion of Orthodox population broke
out under the leadership of a Cypriot named Kanakes, who attacked the property of the
Franks. Driven from the island, he took refuge on the mainland, and from there with an
armed galley made raids upon the coasts of Cyprus. Emboldened by success, he made a
descent upon the village of Paradisi, near Famagusta, and carried off the Queen, Eschiva
d'Ibelin, and her family. It was only through the intervention of Leo, king of Armenia,
that the royal family were returned to the king, who came to the harbour of Courico with a
fleet to rescue them.
|Meanwhile, Alexios III, who had usurped the throne of
Constantinople from his brother, Isaac Angelos, designed to recover Cyprus for the Eastern
prepara- tions for a military expedition against Cyprus, Alexios
appealed to the Pope to order Amaury to surrender the island peaceably and so to avoid war
between Christians. He promised, if his appeal were upheld, to give every assistance in
the recovery of the Holy Land.
The Pope, who was anxious to secure his co-operation in the
coming crusade, replied that, as Cyprus had not formed part of the Eastern Empire when
conquered by Richard, it was impossible to expect the present owners to surrender it, and
implored Alexios not to molest Amaury and thereby bring disaster upon the Christian cause
in Palestine. The Pope also requested the kings of England and France to do their best to
dissuade Alexios from his purpose. The Emperor, however, continued his hostile
preparations until his plans were thwarted by the course of the Fourth Crusade.
Salaaddin was now dead and the empire he had created was weakened by civil war among the
Moslems. The centre of power in Islam had shifted to Egypt, and it was therefore against
Egypt that the Fourth Crusade was to be directed. The crusade was therefore of necessity a
maritime enterprise, and for this reason envoys were sent to Venice to negotiate with the
maritime republic for the transport of the crusaders to Egypt. An agreement was made
between the envoys and the Doge of Venice by which transport and active help were to be
given in return for 85,000 marks of silver and the cession to Venice of half the conquests
made by the crusaders.
When the crusaders gathered
at Venice in the autumn of 1202, it was found impossible to produce the money promised to
the republic. The Venetians then proposed to waive their claim to the money if the
crusaders would assist them reconquer Zara, on the Dalmatian coast, which had revolted
from the republic in favour of the king of Hungary. In spite of the protests of the Pope,
the crusaders accepted these terms and Zara was captured. In the camp at Zara was taken
another fateful decision, by which the crusaders were diverted against Constantinople.
Many causes led to this decision.
First, the old crusading grudge against the Eastern Empire
owing to the mistaken policy of the Emperors, who regarded whole of the Levant as their
lost provinces to be restored as soon as conquered, a policy which led the Empire to give
niggardly aid or to pursue obstructive tactics in the crusades. Secondly, the commercial
grudge of Venice, which having received extensive trading privileges from Constantinople
and desiring still more, had been disappointed by the alteration and revocation of these
privileges by Alexios III. Finally, the appeal of the young prince, Alexios, the nephew of
Alexios III, to restore the throne to his deposed father, Isaac Angelos. The prince
offered a large sum of money and a promise to persuade the Orthodox clergy to acknowledge
the supremacy of Pope if the crusaders would espouse his cause. By these promises the
crusaders were induced, in spite of the renewed protests of the Pope, to sail for
Constantinople. By July 1203 Constantinople was reached, Alexios III was in flight, and
Isaac Angelos restored to the throne. But, when the time came for the prince to fulfil his
promises, difficulties arose. After nearly a year of waiting, friction developed into war,
the crusaders stormed Constantinople and divided the Eastern Empire among themselves.
As a result of the Fourth Crusade, Baldwin, Count of
Flanders, became the first Latin emperor of Constantinople; a Venetian, Thomas
was made patriarch; and the crusading movement became henceforth more of the nature of a
political and commercial adventure than a holy war for the recovery of Jerusalem from the
The effect on Cyprus was to sever finally her political
connection with Constantinople and to cause her to depend for support not on the fleets of
Aegean but on the naives of the Western Powers. Such a situation could last only so long
as it remained to the interests of the Western Powers to support the kingdom of Cyprus,
either as an outpost of the crusaders or as an emporium for trade with the East. It
lasted, in fact, for three hundred years.
Newman, P., (1940), "A Short History of Cyprus",
Longmans, Green & Co., London.