Слике страница

'It seems, however, to be certain that, with the help of the Persians, a Tyrian named Abdemon had seized the throne, and not only paid tribute to Persia, but endeavoured to extend the Persian power over the rest of the island. To Salamis itself he invited Phoenician immigrants, and introduced Asiatic tastes and habits, so that apparently all previous efforts to give a firm Hellenic character to the town were rendered futile. But, meantime, there was growing up a spirited boy, who traced his descent from the line of Teucer, and in whom were combined the highest natural gifts. Bodily, he had no rival in beauty, or strength, or skill ; mentally, he was endowed with all that was necessary for a great leader. Such is, in brief, the description which the ancients have left us of Evagoras. Abdemon, the Tyrian usurper, saw how the presence of this youth captivated the people of Salamis, and took measures to be rid of him effectually. But the scheme was discovered, and Evagoras escaped to Cilicia, where he gradually collected round his person a band of fifty faithful friends, ready for any service to which he might call them. Crossing from Cilicia, they obtained during the darkness entrance at one of the gates of Salamis, and, amid general alarm and confusion, fought their way against great odds to the citadel and seized it. There appears to have been little further resistance. Evagoras became king, and from the beginning to the end of his reign spared nothing to make Salamis a flourishing and powerful city.'—Cesnola, p. 200.

The throne so romantically recovered had long to be held against the whole power of the Persian monarchy, and despite the discouragement caused by the desertion of allies. When peace was finally concluded, Evagoras was left in undisturbed possession of Salamis, after a ten years' contest, which had cost the Persians 50,000 talents.

We are constrained to pass over the subsequent fortunes of Cyprus until it fell under the iron sway of Rome. During the struggles between the generals of Alexander, it was the occasion of a fierce conflict between Ptolemy and Antigonus, each of whom made extraordinary efforts to secure so rich a prize. It eventually became a dependency of Egypt, and was generally governed by some member of the royal family as viceroy—the last of whom, an uncle of Cleopatra, incurred the enmity of Clodius, under circumstances with which every one is familiar, and in revenge the Roman demagogue procured the passing of a decree by which Cyprus was annexed to Rome. This unscrupulous measure was strongly opposed and disapproved by Cato; but when its execution was committed to him, he carried it out with his wonted integrity and energy. The spoil was sold for 7,000 talents, all of which Cato sent into the treasury of the republic, retaining only for himself a statuette of Zeno. It is said that the stern censor feared the possible effect on the Romans of a public display of the

[ocr errors]

vessels of gold and silver, the treasures of jewellery and stuffs of priceless tissue, the costly furniture and equipage found in Cyprus, so that he only allowed the chests containing the money they had produced to be borne in his triumph.

The way for the introduction of Christianity had been prepared by the settlement of a large Jewish population in the island, and Barnabas, a Levite of Cyprus, was conspicuous among the early converts. In Salamis the Jews had several synagogues (Acts xiii. 5), and it has been conjectured with much probability that the farming of the copper mines by Augustus and Herod may have helped to increase their numbers. In Cyprus, as elsewhere, Jewish turbulence was repressed with stern Roman severity. In the reign of Trajan the Jews rose in insurrection.

‘One Artemio placed himself at their head. They massacred 240,000 of their fellow-citizens; the whole populous city of Salamis became a desert. The revolt of Cyprus was suppressed; Hadrian, afterwards emperor, landed on the island and marched to the assistance of the few inhabitants who had been able to act on the defensive. He defeated the Jews, expelled them from the island, to whose beautiful coasts no Jew was ever after permitted to approach. If one were accidentally wrecked on the inhospitable shore he was instantly put to death.'— Milman, History of the Fews, iii. 111, 112, quoted by Conybeare and Howson. The fanaticism of the Jews had doubtless been aroused by cruel ill-treatment, and the sea that broke upon the shores of Cyprus had run red with their blood.

From the time of Trajan to that of Constantine there are but brief records of events in Cyprus, and the scanty annals are full of disaster. A terrible drought prevailed for seventeen consecutive years at the commencement of the fourth century. The harvest failed, and the famished inhabitants fled in such numbers that the chroniclers of the time speak of the island as utterly depopulated. Touched at the sight of such wide-spread desolation, the Empress Helena, on returning from her pilgrimage to Jerusalem, spared neither gifts nor prayers for its relief. Scarce had she disembarked, when at her intercession abundant rain fell from heaven upon the thirsty land. At her instance, the Emperor Constantine remitted their taxes to all Cypriotes who returned to their farms, and gave free grants of land to settlers from Syria and Asia Minor. With a lavish hand

With a lavish hand she not only founded churches and religious houses, but strove to secure their lasting prosperity by gifts of priceless relics. On Mount Olympus, within the area of the ruined temple of Jupiter, she laid the first stone of a church which was to be largely constructed of the displaced marbles of the heathen fane, and endowed it with the cross on which the penitent thief had expired. Thenceforth the peak has been called Mount Santa Croce. Camps of Cæsar, says M. de Mas Latrie, are not more plentiful in France than traces of S. Helena's bounty in Cyprus.' To her the church at Kouklia, erected on the site of the temple of Venus at Paphos, owes the dust that fell from the Cross itself, and that of Omodos not only a fragment of the true Cross itself, but part of the cords wherewith the Holy Sufferer was bound. The ruthless hand of time and of Turkish misrule has now involved heathen and Christian temple alike in one incongruous ruin.

No less than fourteen bishoprics existed in Cyprus in the days of Constantine, and this eventually became the fixed number of its dioceses-a number which the Greek Christians religiously endeavoured to maintain against ill-judged innovations of the Roman Church in later days. A serious question as to its ecclesiastical independence was raised by the claim of the Patriarch of Antioch to extend his jurisdiction over the island, and the suit was contested with varying fortune, until the timely discovery by a peasant of the body of S. Barnabas with a copy of S. Matthew's Gospel lying on his breast, and the judicious offer of so inestimable a treasure to the Emperor Zeno, who was arbiter of the dispute, effectually turned the scale in favour of Cyprus. Zeno not only confirmed the independence of Cyprus, but granted special privileges to the Archbishop, which he still retains. ‘Amongst these were the assumption of purple silk robes, the insignium of a gold-headed sceptre, the title of Beatitude, and the privilege, only customary with the emperors, of signing in red ink.'

The annals of Cyprus for the next five hundred years are singularly meagre. M. Mas de Latrie assures us that its condition at this period justifies the expression, 'Happy is the people that have no history!' The contending powers of Islam and of the Easterr. Empire were too fully occupied to turn their attention to Cyprus, and the island enjoyed a season of peaceful prosperity, which was enhanced by the introduction of the silk-worm by Justinian I. (whose name and that of his queen, Theodora, was long dear to the Cypriotes), as well as by the arrival of many industrious refugees from the desolated provinces of Armenia and Syria. In this dearth of more stirring incidents, the legend of the foundation of the monastery of Kykkou, recorded by Mas Latrie, gives a striking picture of the thoughts and habits of the time.

About the year 1092, Manuel Voutomitis, Duke of Cyprus, was hunting in the mountains of Myrianthoussa. There, in the midst of forests still abounding in deer, were a great number of religious communities and solitary oratories, where holy anchorites lived secluded from the world. One of these monks, named Isaiah, terrified at meeting the duke, turned hurriedly from the path without saluting the cortége. Voutomitis ran after him, severely reprimanded, and even went so far as to kick him. The foot which struck the holy man instantly withered, and Voutomitis only obtained its restoration by promising to bring to Cyprus the very portrait of the Virgin painted by S. Luke, and called the Eleousa, which the emperors of Constantinople guarded in the palace. Alexis Comnenus, when solicited by both Voutomitis and Isaiah, who came together to carry out so difficult a negotiation, could not be induced to agree to such a sacrifice. After long waiting, Isaiah was about to return to Cyprus without the picture, when first the emperor's daughter, and then Alexis himself, were seized with the same malady that had struck Voutomitis. Alexis was terrified by so ominous a seizure, and his hesitation was finally removed by an apparition of the Virgin, who promised to restore him to health if he complied with the prayers of Isaiah. The gift of the holy picture was accompanied by a grant of money to erect a religious house on the site of Isaiah's cell, and from that time forward Our Lady of Kykkou became a favourite object of veneration in Cyprus. Riches and lands poured in upon the monastery, whose possessions extended to Constantinople, Smyrna, Thessaly, and even Russia. In times of severe drought the holy picture is borne with much ceremony into the open country, and no one can deprive the Cypriote of his conviction that it will, if he deserves it, obtain by its intercession the needed rainfall. Even the Mussulman holds the Eleousa in high reverence, and bows his turbaned head as she passes by ; and many a secret offering is sent her from the harem, with a prayer for the healing of a child or for the gift of maternity.

The arrival of the Crusaders was far from being regarded with unmixed satisfaction by the Oriental Christians, and smouldering suspicion often broke out into open hostility. The proud contempt of Eastern refinement was repaid with interest by that of Frank intrepidity. The royal line of Constantinople had been stained by every crime and polluted by every vice, and Isaac Comnenus, a scion of the Imperial family, had seized the island of Cyprus, and was reigning there as an independent sovereign, when a part of the fleet of Richard Cour de Lion was wrecked upon its shores. The shipwrecked Crusaders were plundered, roughly handled, and then carried off as prisoners to Limasol, and permission to land or even to anchor in calm water was at first in hospitably refused to the vessel which bore Queen Berengaria and her sister, and was subsequently, if we are to credit the Frank historians, only offered with the intention of extorting a heavy ransom for them, as soon as they were in his power.

Richard was anxious not to be delayed upon his way to join the French King at St. Jean d'Acre, and hoped by a personal interview with Isaac Comnenus to come to terms. But the wily Greek was only trilling in order to gain time.

He met Richard with apparent frankness, suggested reasonable objections to the proposal that he should join his forces to those of the Crusaders, charmed the Western monarch by his engaging manners and the implicit confidence with which he voluntarily offered to place his daughter as a hostage in Richard's hands, and then decamped in the night, but halfdressed, and at full speed, to rejoin his army at Kolossi. The first shock of the opposing armies was unfavourable to Isaac, whose cause did not inspire any enthusiasm amongst a people who regarded him as an usurper and a tyrant. A few days sufficed for the subjugation of the open country, and the fortresses unbarred their portals at the bidding of the vanquished prince, whose banner was laid by King Richard on his return home on the tomb of his patron saint at Bury St. Edmunds.

The pages of M. de Mas Latrie recount in ample detail the events which led to the establishment of Guy de Lusignan first as king of Jerusalem, and then as lord of Cyprus. On leaving the island Richard I. had entrusted the charge of it to the Knights Templars as a gage for a large sum of money they advanced to him ; but their rule provoked so much discontent that they were eager to resign their trust and to recover their loan, when Guy de Lusignan offered to discharge their claim, and to pay a further sum for the sovereignty they esteemed so lightly. The distinctive feature of the new Cypriote kingdom was the authority enjoyed by the High Court of the realm. All knights holding their fiefs direct from the crown were by right members of this body; whose power was independent of and superior to that of the sovereign. Privileges and protective rights, carefully defined, guaranteed the lieges individually, and the High Court collectively, against any exercise of arbitrary authority by the king. And, although the moderation and ability of many of

« ПретходнаНастави »