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The article examines and discusses the impact of piracy on the Lusignan kingdom of Cyprus. The pirates originated from Western Europe on the one hand, notably the Genoese and Catalans, and on the other from Turkish lands. The relations of the Lusignan kingdom with the pirates changed over the course of the centuries. References to piracy in the waters around Cyprus in the thirteenth century are largely confined to the acts of the synods of the island’s Latin Church. From the fourteenth century onwards, however, measures with a view to combating piracy, especially that practiced by Turkish marauders based on the emirates along the Eastern Aegean littoral, are recorded, especially under King Hugh IV (1324-1359) and his successor, King Peter I (1359-1369). These efforts culminated in the formation of naval leagues in the first half of the fourteenth century between Venice, the papacy, the Hospitallers of Rhodes, as well as Byzantium and Cyprus occasionally, in order to combat Turkish piracy. The capture of Smyrna in 1344, held by the Latins until 1402, was the crowning success of their operations.

Following its defeat by Genoa in the war of 1373-1374, however, Lusignan Cyprus was not in a position to combat piracy anymore, becoming instead a haven for Catalan pirates who systematically raided the coasts of Mamluk Egypt and Syria. The Mamluk invasion of Cyprus in 1426, leading to the defeat and further impoverishment of the kingdom, put a stop to such raids from Lusignan Cyprus, although Genoese-occupied Famagusta continued to provide facilities for Catalan pirates who raided the coastal areas of Egypt and Syria. Instead, the enfeebled kingdom of Cyprus became a victim of the systematic depredations of Turkish pirates operating chiefly from the emirate of Karaman. At the end of the Lusignan period, following the civil war between Queen Charlotte and her illegitimate half-brother James, who by the year 1464 had emerged victorious, Catalan pirates who had supported James’ cause became prominent officers of state until they were displaced and exiled by the Venetians, following the death of James and the Venetian annexation of Cyprus in 1473.

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In this year… There also arrived the emissaries sent by Karoulos and Pope Leo to the most pious Irene asking her to marry Karoulos and so unite the eastern and western parts.

C. Mango – R. Scott, The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor, Oxford 1997, p. 654


This “Union” of Byzantine East and Latin West might possibly have been realized, if all had gone well with the betrothal of Empress Irene the Athenian to the Frankish king Charles the Great, which the royal and papal emissaries from the West seem to have attempted to conclude in 802. However, the discussions with these emissaries merely precipitated the overthrow of Irene…

Aik. Christofilopoulou, Byzantine History, v. II1 (610-847), Athens 1984, p. 150