The Reign of Pierre I
King Pierre I, whose reign was the most brilliant of the Lusignan dynasty, was one of the last crusading kings. Vowing continual war against the Moslems for the recovery of Jerusalem, he revived the old Lusignan order of chivalry called -Order of the Sword-, and always wore a naked sword as a reminder of his vow.

Handsome, brave, and impetuous, he was unable, however, to arouse in Europe the old crusading enthusiasm or to obtain sufficient support for his schemes.

The Rule of Pierre I
Immediately on his accession the Armenians appealed Pierre for aid. The kingdom of Armenia existed by this time only in name. The country was occupied by the Turks except for a few fortified towns on the coast, and the king of Armenia had gone to Europe to appeal in vain for help. King Pierre I immediately responded, and in 1361 sent to Courico, which was being invested by the Turks, two galleys with reinforcements, arms and provisions. The occupation of Courico was designed to afford the merchants of Cyprus a secure position on the coast from which to carry on trade with Asia Minor, and also to provide a military base for further conquests on the mainland. Meanwhile, the king made preparations for a descent on Asia Minor. He assembled all the knights in his service and collected a fleet of hundred ships in the port of Famagusta. His object was Adalia, capital of the sanjak of Tekke-ili and one of the strongest fortresses of the Turks in Asia Minor. The Cypriot forces disembarked close to Adalia, and at dawn next day took by assault the fortress deemed to be impregnable. Hearing of this success, the emir of Lajazzo and the lord of Candalor sent embassies to King Pierre offering to pay an annual tribute and to acknowledge his possession of Courico and Adalia.

On the return of the king to Cyprus, the Turkish sultan, Tacca, invested Adalia with considerable forces and, throughout the winter, when the supply of food and munitions by sea was difficult, the Cypriot garrison had great difficulty in repelling the repeated attacks of the Turks. In the spring a successful sortie was made on the Turkish camp, which was taken and burnt. At the same time the admiral of Cyprus after revictualling Adalia, made a descent on Myra and sacked that city. Among the spoil the icon of St. Nicholas was taken by the admiral and transferred to the cathedral at Famagusta. These successes, however brilliantly they might be, could not be secured against the power of the Turks without the employment of larger forces than Cyprus could provide. For this reason, King Pierre I left Cyprus for Europe in 1362 in the hope of obtaining support for a new crusade. But a fatal chain of circumstances delayed him in Europe for nearly three years. The jealousy of the Venetians and the Genoese, now in agreement, was aroused by the successes of the Lusignan king, and they hindered the efforts of his officers to equip fleets for a war which would bring ruin to their trade. On the other hand, the English wars in France and the indifference of the German emperor prevented the Western Powers from giving support to a cause which was becoming more outside the sphere of their interests.

Feast held in London in honour of the King of Cyprus Pierre I Also present were the Kings of England, Scotland, France and Denmark

Feast held in London in honour of the King of Cyprus Pierre I Also present were the Kings of England, Scotland, France and Denmark

Nevertheless in France and England, in Flanders, Poland and Hungary, the king of Cyprus was received everywhere with feasting and tournaments, in all of which he played a brilliant part. The Pope received him at Avignon and promised to preach a new crusade of which King John of France was to be the leader. But, King John died in 1364 and Pierre was left to collect volunteers as best he could. Meanwhile, the Turks had not been idle. Adalia was invested by land and sea, and was with difficulty held against the assaults of Tacca. In 1363 Cyprus itself was in serious danger. While the southern part of the island was subject to an epidemic of fever, the Turks raided the northern coast towns, from Kormatiki to the Carpass, except the fortress of Kyrenia. In 1364 the emir of Damascus, who had hitherto been friendly, sent threatening letters to Cyprus, and the prince of Antioch, who was regent in the absence of his brother, the king, forwarded the letters to Europe as an indication of the growing hostility in the East. King Pierre showed these letters to the Pope, and the indignation they aroused in the West helped to bring volunteers to the supports of the king. Finally, in June 1365, King Pierre, with a force small in number but composed of veteran soldiers, set sail from Venice in the galleys chartered by his chancellor, Philippe de Maizieres.

King Pierre sailed direct for Rhodes, and the Cypriot fleet of a hundred ships joined him there in August. This concentration of force, directed apparently against Asia Minor, caused several of the emirs of Ionia to seek alliance with the king of Cyprus, and with them, in return for an annual tribute, the king made treaties of peace. Then, in alliance with the Hospitallers, he for the first time disclosed his plan of campaign and steered for Egypt to attack the Moslems at the centre of their power. The attack was unexpected, and after a hard battle in which he bore himself always in the thickest of the fight, the king captured the great city of Alexandria. It was a brilliant but a fatal success. The knights of Eurpoe, who had fought well in action, faltered on seeing the forces which barred the way to Cairo, and feared to attempt what St. Louis of France had failed to accomplish in 1244. King Pierre, by their refusal to follow him further, was obliged to evacuate the city after three days pillage, and to return to Cyprus.

The Cypriot admiral attacked this fleet off the Cilician coast and captured or burnt the Turkish ships.

The Cypriot admiral attacked 
Turkish fleet off the Cilician coast 
and captured or burnt their ships.

The sultan, furious at the shame and the loss he had suffered, took reprisals against the Christian merchants in Egypt and Syria, whom he arrested and deprived of all their property. The Venetians alone, whose share in the expedition remained obscure, managed to preserve their interests and were the first to profit by the withdrawal of the allied forces, by renewing commercial relations with the sultan. The capture of Alexandria by King Pierre had but a temporary effect in the west. The Pope, Urban V, sent messages of congratulation and exhorted the princes of Europe to go to the aid of this -valorous king of Cyprus and intrepid champion of Christendom-. But few knights responded to the call. The kings of Europe remained intent on their own affairs, and the Pope was constrained to give way to the demands of the maritime cities and to advise King Pierre to make peace with Egypt. The king, seeing that he could expect no further help from Europe, gave way to the wishes of the Pope and authorised the Venetians to open negotiations for peace. Meanwhile, he marshalled his forces against the Turks of Asia Minor, who had prepared a fleet to be sent in support of Egypt. The Cypriot admiral attacked this fleet off the Cilician coast and captured or burnt the Turkish ships.

The following year the Grand Caraman himself, the Turkish ruler of Caramania, at the instigation of the Egyptians advanced with all his forces to attack Courico. The Moslems hoped by this diversion to force the king of Cyprus to agree to the terms of peace demanded by the sultan. The king, unwilling to leave Cyprus undefended until peace with Egypt was concluded, sent his brother, the Prince of Antioch, to reinforce Courico. Immediately on landing with his leading troops, the prince attempted a surprise attack on the Turkish camp, but becoming aware of their immense superiority in numbers, he withdrew to the castle to wait for the remainder of his forces. A second attack having been repulsed by the overwhelming numbers of the Turks, the prince realised that he must wait for further reinforcements. After a week of inactivity on both sides, the Turks, hearing of a Mameluke revolution in Cairo, decided to retire behind the Taurus to await developments in Egypt. The prince, being informed by spies of the intended retirement, seized the opportunity of attacking the Turks during their preparations for retreat. Directing his forces in three converging divisions, he advanced against the Turkish position. Their retreat became a rout and a massacre. The Turkish camp with all its arms, munitions, and treasure, was captured, and Grand Caraman sent envoys to sue to peace. A treaty was soon concluded, and the town of Courico was repopulated by merchants from Cyprus and commercial relations were established with the Turks.

The negotiations with Egypt for a treaty, to include the recognition of Cypriot consulates and the reduction of customs duties in the ports of the Levant, were being delayed, and, in order to enforce his terms, King Pierre decided to resume hostilities before the Western knights should have completed their terms of service. Realising that an attack on Egypt was now out of the question, he sailed to Syria, where he captured and pillaged Tripoli and other towns. In 1368, with a view to resuming war with Egypt, the king again left Cyprus to ask to levy a new war tithe in Europe and to enroll fresh troops. But he was soon convinced that a new crusade was no longer possible. The Pope was unable to give him support and advised him to make peace at once with Egypt. King Pierre, seeing himself left with the Hospitallers alone in the attempt to re-establish the kingdom of Jerusalem, the dream of his whole life, consented to allow an embassy to treat with the sultan in the name of himself, the Pope and the Italian republics, whose commerce had been ruined by the war. A truce was quickly arranged which ended hostilities and led to the signing of the treaty which had been under discussion for two years.

Assasination of Pierre I of Lusignan, King of CyprusWhile in Rome, King Pierre received a deputation from the Armenian chiefs imploring him to become their king and to restore their fallen fortunes. The king returned to Cyprus hoping to find among his knights sufficient forces to succour the Armenians and to prevent the total loss of the last outpost of Christendom in Asia. But, hardly he landed in Cyprus than the king was overwhelmed by domestic troubles. The queen, Eleanor of Aragon, whom he had left in Cyprus during his long visits to the West, had proved faithless. The king retaliated on the nobles who had been her favourites and behaved with such haughtiness and tyranny that he alienated the sympathy of his barons and even of his brothers. In January 1369 he was assassinated by a body of nobles with the concurrence of his brothers. His son Pierre, a boy of thirteen, succeeded to the throne under the regency of his uncles, Jean, prince of Antioch, and Jacques, constable of Cyprus.

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

Chronological History