The Venetian Period in Cyprus 

Siege of Famagusta

Lala Mustafa Pasha, leaving a garrison of 4,000 men in Nicosia, led his army to Famagusta in October 1570, and pitched his camp at the village of Pomodamo, three miles to the south of the city. Finding that the fortress could not easily be taken and that the season was now too late to begin a regular siege, he retired to his camp to pass the winter, which was unusually severe. In April 1571 large Turkish reinforcements of men, arms, and provisions arrived from Caramania and Syria, and the siege was begun. 

The first batteries were constructed on a front of 1,000 paces on the south side of the fortress, against the arsenal tower near the harbour to the ravelin which guarded the land gate at the south-west corner. By the end of May the Turks had driven their trenches up to the counterscrap, entered and crossed the ditch, and had begun to mine the ravelin and the arsenal tower. Some of the mines were discovered and captured by the countermining defenders, who were glad to make use of the gunpowder they contained, as the fortress was beginning to run short of ammunition. On 21 June the besiegers succeeded in firing a mine under the arsenal tower. The wall was shattered by the explosion, and immediately the Turks made an assault over the debris. Led by Baglione in person, the defenders repulsed the attack after five hour hand-to-hand fighting. On 29 June a second mine was fired under the ravelin, making a great breach in the walls over which the Turks attacked under the lead of Lala Mustafa Pasha himself. The arsenal tower was also attacked simultaneously, but both attacks were repulsed after six hours fighting. After this the defenders themselves laid a mine under the ravelin to blow it up if it could be no longer held. 

On 9 July a third assault was made on the whole rampart with its three intervening towers between the ravelin and the arsenal. The ravelin was captured, but immediately the defenders fired their mine, and more than a thousand Turkish soldiers perished in the explosion, which left nothing standing that could be used by either side. All through July the Turks destroyed the ramparts by mine and cannon. Again and again they assaulted the breaches, only to be repulsed at the second line of defence constructed of casks and sacks filled with earth. But all that skill and bravery could do was of no avail to the defence. While the strength of the enemy was kept up by daily reinforcements, within the fortress men, munitions and food were failing. The Venetian commanders were at last convinced that further resistance was futile, and on 1 August, 1571 sent envoys to arrange the conditions of surrender. 

Marcantonio BragadinoThe terms agreed to by both sides were that the fortress would be surrendered on condition that all lives were to be spared, that the garrison should be given transport to Crete with their arms and property, and that the inhabitants should be allowed either to remain in safety or to move where they moved. In a single day the terms were settled and signed. The Turks immediately sent forty vessels into the harbour, and on them the sick and the wounded were embarked. By 4 August the whole of the garrison had gone on board the ships and the city was left to the Turks. As soon as they entered it, General Marcantonio Bragadino had complained Lala Mustafa that his soldiers were showing violence to the remaining inhabitants, for which there were not sufficient ships. Mustafa replied that he would take steps to prevent any further violence on the part of his men, that two more ships would be provided, and that he would be glad to meet Signor Bragadino in person. 

The same evening General Bragadino with his principal officers rode out of the city to the pavilion of the pasha, where they were received with great courtesy. Having laid aside their arms, they were introduced into the presence of Lala Mustafa Pasha, who conversed with them for some time. Unfortunately a dispute arose. Mustafa demanded hostages for the safe return of his ships and, when Bragadino refused to go beyond the terms of capitulation, the Pasha accused him of having put to death certain Turkish prisoners-of-war. Bragadino’s reply so enraged Mustafa that he declared the terms of capitulation to have been broken and ordered the whole party to be executed forthwith, with the General Bragadino reserved for the worst fate. After a fortnight of imprisonment, he was bound to the pillory in the square of Famagusta, and killed. Some years later his remains was purchased by his brother for a great sum, carried to Venice, and laid there in a marble urn in the church of Sts. Giovanni and Paolo.

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

Chronological History