Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Kyrenia Castle - Cyprus

Defending Roman Cyprus

Kyrenia Castle is located at the east end of the old harbor in Kyrenia, Cyprus.

Countless Roman fortifications dot the far flung borders of the Empire.  In many cases it is nearly impossible to view the original floor plans. The fortifications have been built and rebuilt over and over by the Romans themselves as well as by those who conquered the territory involved. The current look of Kyrenia Castle may be fairly close to the original with changes over the years.

Kyrenia has existed since the 10th century BC. Excavations have revealed Greek traces that date back to the 7th century BC, but the site was developed into a city under Roman rule.

Research carried out at the site suggests that the Byzantines built the original castle in the 7th Century to guard the city against the new Arab maritime threat.

The first historical reference to the castle occurs in 1191, when King Richard the Lionheart of England captured it on his way to the Third Crusade. He did so by defeating Isaac Comnenus, an upstart local governor who had proclaimed himself emperor.

After a short period, Richard sold the island to the Knights Templar, and then to his cousin Guy de Lusignan, the former king of Jerusalem. This began the 300 years of the Frankish Lusignan Kingdom of Cyprus (1192–1489).

In 1570, Kyrenia surrendered to the Ottomans. The Ottomans too made changes to the castle, but the British removed these during their occupation.

The Kyrenia Castle is considered one of the most impressive and strongest castles to survive to the present day.  Within the current castle, there are various rooms and towers, as well as a main courtyard.

Some of the castle highlights to explore include the Saint George Byzantine Church, dungeons from the Lusignan period, Venetian Towers, Lusignan Tower and Great Hall, Kyrenia Archaeological Museum, Neolithic Settlement of Vrysi Village Museum, Akdeniz Village Tomb,  Kyrenia Shipwreck Museum,etc. 

The Saint George Church was built in the 12th century by the Byzantines.

According to a sign at the site, "Originally built as a Byzantine Basilica in design of a cross, it was later converted into a church.  It was enlarged by a later addition of a narthex in the Lusignan period....  Part of mosaics on the church floor have survived to the present day.  The church which had originally been outside the Castle in both the Byzantine and Lusignan periods, was later enveloped by the new walls into the Castle in the Venetian period.  In this period, the dome was removed and the church was utilized as a passage to the northwest tower.  The dome was later rebuilt in the British colonial period." 

The Holy Monastery of the Virgin of Kykkos on Cyprus was
founded around the end of the 11th century by the Byzantine
Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081–1118).

Byzantine Cyprus

After the division of the Roman Empire into an eastern half and a western half, Cyprus came under the rule of Byzantium. The cities of Cyprus were destroyed by two successive earthquakes in 332 and 342 AD and this marked the end of an era and at the same time the beginning of a new one, very much connected with modern life in Cyprus. Most of the cities were not rebuilt, save Salamis which was rebuilt on a smaller scale and renamed Constantia after the Roman Emperor Constantius II, son of Constantine the Great, residing in Constantinople. The new city was now the capital of the island.

In 650 AD Arabs made the first attack on the island under the leadership of Muawiyah I. They conquered the capital Salamis - Constantia after a brief siege, but drafted a treaty with the local rulers. In the course of this expedition a relative of the Prophet, Umm-Haram fell from her mule near the Salt Lake at Larnaca and was killed. She was buried in that spot and the Hala Sultan Tekke was built there. After apprehending a breach of the treaty, the Arabs re-invaded the island in 654 AD with five hundred ships. This time, however, a garrison of 12,000 men was left in Cyprus, bringing the island under Muslim influence.

In 688, the emperor Justinian II and the caliph Abd al-Malik reached an unprecedented agreement. The Arabs evacuated the island, and for the next 300 years, Cyprus was ruled jointly by both the Caliphate and the Byzantines as a condominium, despite the nearly constant warfare between the two parties on the mainland. The collected taxes were divided among the Arabs and the emperor.

Under Basil I the Macedonian (r. 867–886) Byzantine troops recaptured Cyprus, which was established as a theme, but after seven years the island reverted to the previous status quo. Once again, in 911, the Cypriots helped a Byzantine fleet under admiral Himerios, and in retaliation the Arabs under Damian of Tarsus ravaged the island for four months and carried off many captives. The isolation of Cyprus from the rest of the Greek-speaking world assisted the formation of a separate Cypriot dialect. This period of Arab influence lasted until the 10th century.

In the year 958, when a resurgent Byzantine Empire under the leadership of Nikephoros II Phokas conquered the island. The actual conquest was under the Byzantine general Basil.

In 1185, the last Byzantine governor of Cyprus, Isaac Komnenos, from a minor line of the Komnenos imperial house, rose in rebellion and attempted to seize the throne. His attempted coup was unsuccessful, but Komnenos was able to retain control of the island.

In the 12th century A.D. the island became a target of the crusadersRichard the Lionheart landed in Limassol on 1 June 1191 and conquered the island ending 1,100 years of Roman rule.

Kyrenia, Castle Tour

Kyrena Castle

The castle courtyard

(Exploring Cyprus)      (Cyprus in the Middle Ages)      (Kyrenia Castle)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very well preserved castle