The Venetian Period in Cyprus 

Siege of Nicosia

The Turkish commanders debated whether to attack first Famagusta or Nicosia. Lala Mustafa decided that, as Nicosia was the key of the island, it should be captured before help could arrive from Europe. The Turkish army therefore marched to Nicosia without opposition and in July pitched their camp to the south-east of the city, on a high ground. The siege was undertaken in the approved method of those days. The first batteries were set up at a distance of about 300 paces from the ramparts, on a front of about a mile extending from the Paphos gate to the Famagusta gate, to attack the four southern bastions of the city. 

Under cover of the fire from these batteries the besiegers occupied the old mediaeval ditch (which had not been completely filled in), and from there they pushed forward zigzag trenches which could not be enfiladed by the defenders on the ramparts. By this means they got within eighty paces of the ramparts, and there set up their second line of batteries from which for four days they bombarded the four bastions, Podecattero, Constanza, Davila and Tripoli. but, as this fire had no effect on the earthworks of the city, they drove trenches up to the counterscarp, the outer edge of the ditch, where they threw up parapets of earth and posted musketeers to drive the defenders from the walls. Under cover of this fire they rove deep trenches across the ditch, protected from the flanking fire of the defenders by ramparts constructed of earth and brushwood. By this means they reached the corners of the bastions and began to cut away the masonry so as to form a sloping approach by which to deliver an assault. 

Meanwhile the defenders had not been idle, but the fire from the ramparts had not been able to stop the construction of trenches and batteries, nor were there sufficient troops in the city to enable them to make a counter-attack. Nevertheless, when the Turks had crossed the ditch and began to demolish the bastions, it was evident that a sortie must be made to destroy the works of the besiegers. The sortie, made at midday when the Turks were sleeping in the shade, had some temporary success. Two batteries were captured, but by scattering to collect loot the Venetians were unable to withstand the counter-attack of the Turks, and were driven back into the city. The defenders then gave up all idea of further sallies, inner lines of defence were hastily constructed across the four threatened bastions and messages were sent to Famagusta to ask for help. They were encouraged by reports that the Venetian fleet was coming to their aid and rejected the proposals made by Lala Mustafa for surrender on honourable conditions. 

The siege had now lasted for six weeks, the summer season was drawing to a close, for fifteen days the various attacks on the bastions had been repulsed, and Lala Mustafa determined to make a great effort to take the city by assault. Being informed from Rhodes that the Venetian fleet was not likely to arrive owing to dissensions among the allies, he ordered all the troops in his ships at Larnaca to come to Nicosia, which he had not ventured to do before. The courage of the jannissaries was revived by the promise of rewards to those who should first cross the walls, and a general assault on the four bastions was ordered. Before dawn on 9 September the Turks advanced to the attack. Scaling the walls of Constanza bastion while the defenders were still asleep, they made themselves masters of the bastion and drove the defenders into the city square. The Tripoli bastion was also stormed, and three guns there were captured and turned upon the defenders in the square. Street by street the Turkish forces forced their way into the city. The last stand was made in the courtyard of the Palace. Summoned to surrender, the defenders agreed to lay down their arms to save their lives. On the fall of Nicosia, the commandant of Kyrenia surrendered without making any defence, and that castle is therefore the only one of the Venetian fortresses that has remained intact to the present day. The remainder of the island, with the exception of Famagusta, followed the example of Kyrenia and submitted to the Turkish forces.

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

Chronological History