The Venetian Period in Cyprus 

Preparations for War

During the sixteenth century the greatness of Venice began to decline. She had to fight against a league of European powers for her possessions on the mainland of Italy, and against the Turks for her overseas territories. The power of the Turkish fleet had so increased that the invasion of the Adriatic was threatened and Venice itself had to be fortified against a possible attack. 

The fortification of Cyprus was naturally resented by the Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, who considered, not without reason, that Venice had no right to fortify against himself a part of his own dominions. The matter came to a head on the accession of his son, Selim II, in 1566. The conquest of Cyprus appealed to the Sultan not only as a means of adding to his revenues but also securing the command of the eastern Mediterranean and thereby the safety of the pilgrimage to Mecca, which had been molested by the crusading galleys based on the harbours of Cyprus. Selim II, therefore, made preparations for equipping a fleet and collecting a force of all arms in Asia Minor for the invasion of Cyprus, giving other reasons to his action, since he was then at peace with Venice. 

The Venetian ambassador at the Sublime Porte soon informed the Senate at Venice that the preparations were in fact directed against Cyprus. The Venetians thereupon fitted out a fleet and sent a reinforcement to Cyprus the distinguished soldier Girolamo Martinengo, with some 3,000 infantry. 

The Senate were unwilling to send their fleet to Cyprus without first obtaining help from the European Powers. They appealed to the Pope, who agreed to form a league against the Turks. But, of all the European Powers, Spain alone sent ships to Sicily to await the direction of the Pope. Portugal, France, and Germany approved of the league, but sent no help. Meanwhile, the Turks hastened the preparations and sent an envoy to Venice demanding the cession of Cyprus. The Senate returned a defiant reply, and war was declared. 

  • From: Newman, P., (1940), "A Short History of Cyprus", Longmans, Green & Co., London.

Chronological History