Ottoman Empire

The Island of Cyprus.  Probably the best place on Earth.  

An inspiration to all of us who love the island on which we live.

For this trip back into the history of the Island of Cyprus, we are going to need to hang on a little more tightly to each other than in our past adventures. As I explained earlier, my friends call me Omorfos, not because I am handsome, but because they consider me easy to be around and speak what is on my mind that comes from my heart. I want to share with you the history of this beautiful island which will always be a part of who I am, but without exposing a little bit of myself, could never fully tell the story the way I feel it deserves to be told.

As a student in school, I always felt such sorrow when studying the wars and turmoil associated with the Ottoman Empire. Today, as a man in my 30’s, I realize something that only comes with the passage of time. While taking photos of my beautiful island, I know that the sunset and the ocean have no political opinions nor do they mention any preferences – they just smile upon us all without a care in the world. While riding in the meadows on my horses surrounded by scenery too spectacular to be captured on camera much less by words, there is no conflict other than the wind or the rain.

The island has no “worry-lines” because memories are only measured by the sun rising and setting. Change is embraced and welcomed as each day passes and the land adapts to climatic variations, and the true colors remain splendid – year after year and century after century. Our Cyprus and our world entire are glorious because they ignore all of us and our little differences and just continues to turn without pause. Let us follow that example of nature and strive to be one with this little slice of paradise, take my hand as we stroll together back to the 16th century.

The Start of the Ottoman Empire:

With sixty thousand troops attacking in 1570 Cyprus fell under Ottoman control. There was significant resistance especially from the cities of Nicosia and Famagusta, and many citizens of the island were massacred. The first Turkish Governor of Cyprus was Lala Mustafa Pasha. Venetians and the Roman Catholic church set up an alliance with the surrounding Papal states, but ultimately they departed the island in 1573. With the removal of the Roman Catholic influence and the population shift, it marked the first demographic change since antiquity and the fall of the Byzantine Empire.

Turkish soldiers were offered ownership in parcels of land to stay, and craftsmen and peasants were brought in from the island of Anatolia. The feudal system was abolished, and the millet system was established in Cyprus. The leader of the church of Cyprus was set up as a mediator to negotiate with the Ottoman rulers. Literacy declined, and the economy started a slump which persisted for the next 250 years. Taxation of the residents became extreme during the economic decline and resulted in approximately 30 bloody uprisings during the first 100 years after Ottoman control was established.

Letters of Outcry From the Time:

Multiple letters were written to European leaders by those who were unhappy with the mismanagement of local rulers. In a letter from the Archbishop Timotheos to King Philip II of Spain cruel tortures, looting of homes, kidnapping of first born male children to serve as soldiers and a long list of other atrocities were highlighted. According to practically all pleas for the liberation of the extreme island taxation topped the list along with about any human rights violation ever recorded. In 1703 the jurisdiction of Grand Vizier set up military and civil administration. As a result of the new ruling system taxation actually become even more demanding upon the people.

After a series of plagues, bad crops and earthquakes a new ruling “Pasha” decided to double the taxes in 1764. Chil Olsman, the leader and nearly twenty of his friends, were killed by Greek and Ottoman Cypriots alike. They were fined to pay damages to the families of the slain, and the amount was assigned as twice as much for the Greeks as the Turks. A rebellion took place, and Khalil Agha, from Krynia, become the leader until he was beheaded.

The Greek Independence Movement:

The fallout from the 1821 Greek War of Liberation had the Governor, Kuchuk Mehmed, make an example on the island by executing 486 Christians on July 9th in the central square. While all of the prominent, including some religious leaders, were beheaded in the city of Nicosia the Archbishop Kyprianos was hanged. After Greece gained independence in 1829 Cyprus remained under Ottoman rule until 1878. Improvements were made for the people during the last 30 remaining years of the 307-year Ottoman reign, but nothing significant came of it. After the Russians defeated the Turks in 1877, Great Britain was vested administration on July 9, 1878. In exchange for Cyprus, the UK agreed to side with Turkey in the Russian-Turkish War.

Sites From the Past:

Today there are numerous mosques, bathhouses, and bazaars which remain from the Ottoman Empire. One of my favorite views is the sunset over Hala Sultan Tekke mosque when driving to and from Makenzy, Larnaca. Selimiye Mosque in Nicosia is another of the beautiful relics from the past. Much of the historical points of the era are preserved and are accentuated by the luster of the island’s natural setting.

For those who have never traveled to see the plethora of ruins preserved for thousands of years, varying in condition from stellar to actual “ruins” based on the centuries it is a must see for any and all who appreciate world history. The land itself rests proudly in the water and is a fitting tribute to the poise which remains as a center point of the culture and natural charm.

Welcome To My Island:

As a part of the Cyprus Project which helps inform and invite all to come and savor the splendor which is our home, each of the many eras will be discussed and highlighted along with the present day scenic spots and some entertaining “must see” places while visiting the island.

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