Elijah of Pesaro and his Description of Famagusta, 1563
The geographic position of Cyprus and its function as a way station between Europe and the Levant produced a rich collection of travelogues that include descriptions of the island. Many, if not most of these descriptions have appeared in print and have often served scholars in studying the condition of Cyprus during the various phases of its development.
These travelogues can be divided into three types. The first includes virtual travel diaries, based on noted written during the voyage itself, thus recording authentic impressions that had been put into writing. A second type consists of reconstructions, entirely composed after the travellers' return to their hometown. The third type includes 'armchair travellers', who never visited the sites that they describe, but only compiled data from writings by other authors. In fact, even those travellers who actually visited the countries described in their travelogues often borrowed elements from their predecessors. Besides, the great majority of all such descriptions of Cyprus reflect a very superficial and cursory contact with the island, which normally lasted merely a few days.
Elijah of Pesaro's description of Famagusta is an exceptional case in this respect. He was not a passing traveller, since he settled in this town and later even married there. His detailed description, though selective and reflecting his own interests, appears to be entirely his own. It is therefore of special value for any scholar interested in the history of the town during the last years of the Venetian rule of Cyprus. This
paper will therefore analyse the components of Elijah's description, and evaluate its reliability as well as its contribution to our acquaintance with Famagusta' history.