Cyprus

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Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean.

After the division of the Roman Empire, Cyprus fell under the rule of Byzantium. It was invaded by Arabic warriors around 688CE, but the then-Emperor, Justinian II, came to an agreement with the Muslim caliph Abd Al-Malik that the two powers should govern the island jointly. This lasted for three centurues, despite the fact that the two parties warred almost continuously on the mainland of Asia Minor.

In 965 Byzantium flexed its muscles and reconquered Cyprus, installing governors. In 1185 Isaac Comnenus, then governor, and himself a scion of a minor Byzantine royal line, rose in rebellion and tried to seize the throne by having himself declared Emperor by a pet Patriarch. He failed, but Byzantine reprisals came to little more than nothing when a Scicilian pirate, Megareites, captured the troopships shortly after they'd landed the Imperial army (one of whose generals was elderly, and the other blind). In fact, a major reason for the invasion was the promise of the Byzantine Emperor to the Egyptian sultan to close the Cypriot ports to the fleets of the Second Crusade.

One of the Crusader leaders, Richard the Lionheart, took exception both to this attitude on the part of the Emperor, and to reports he had received that Comnenus was a tyrant. He landed on Cyprus, seeking (he said) his sister Joanna and his bride-to-be, Berengaria of Navarre, who had been shipwrecked there after a storm. As a sideline he defeated Comnenus, before marrying Berengaria in Limassol cathedral (who he then took to Palestine on crusade, before sending her back to Europe). He left troops on the island, and Comnenus in custody (in silver chains because he had sworn that he would not be chained in iron). Later, retreating from Jerusalem, Richard repented of the idea of holding Cyprus (it was a long way from England, after all), and sold it to the Knights Templar.

They, however, found the local populace unsympathetic and, retaining the right to garrison troops there (under whose guidance and command a healthy trade in sugar and in Commanderia wine was established), they sold governance on, to Guy de Lusignan, who established there a Kingdom, which was later to shelter the last remnants of the Kings of Jerusalem. Toward the end of the fifteenth century, Venice coveted the strategic location, and begen a series of attacks, culminating in a(nother) deal -- this time, that the Cypriot Queen Catherine would leave them the island in her will. Which she did and they took over in 1489.

In turn the Turks invaded and took over in 1570 and three years later, the Pope's efforts having failed to secure a Christian coalition to recover the island, the Venetians abandoned it. The Turks (wisely) gave land in Cyprus to their soldiers, on the condition that they settled there, whilst establishing local self-government for the Greek and Orthodox communities, and the isle of Aphrodite achieved a degree of peace for the rest of the medieval period.

This article was originally adapted from the Wikipedia page on the history of Cyprus.