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The Ottoman Occupation of Cyprus in Johann van Kootwyck’s Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum et Syriacum

Spyridon Tzounakas - Associate Professor, Department of Classics and Philosophy, University of Cyprus

 

Abstract

Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum et Syriacum by Johann van Kootwyck [Johannes Cotovicus] constitutes a valuable source of information for the history of Cyprus during the 16th century. The author presents the experiences of his visit to the island in detail and describes various aspects of Cyprus’ geography, history, society and economic and political life. As a rule, his writing is characterised by scientific accuracy; thus, in most cases, he gives the impression of being an objective narrator. However, where there are references to the Ottoman occupation of Cyprus and the Turks of the island, he did not hesitate to reveal his negative stance towards them.

This paper demonstrates that van Kootwyck presented the Ottoman occupation of Cyprus as a disaster that affected almost every aspect of life on the island, even the cultivation of the land. In this framework, the paper investigates various explicit or implicit comments that illuminate the author’s views on the Turks, focussing on the intellectual, moral and psychological features he attributes to them, for example brutality, unreliability, fraudulence, corruption, lustfulness, idleness and laziness. Special emphasis is put on his description of the siege of Famagusta, which seems to confirm this foreign traveller’s theoretical judgements.

As the paper concludes, van Kootwyck’s hostility towards the Ottomans, which in all probability was intensified by his religious opposition to Islam, resulted in a more favourable depiction of the Greeks of Cyprus. At the same time, the author adroitly compared the previous Christian rule of the island with the Ottoman one and skilfully supported the former. This comparison is presented in a way that recalls classic stereotypes and points to a clash between two worlds, the West and the East.

 

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