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Cyprus Ceded to Turkey by Venice

The last Lusignan king of Cyprus, James II, died in Cyprus in 1473. His son by the Venetian Catherine Cornaro died in the following year. Catherine Cornaro ruled the island for some years until the Venetian rulers forced her to relinquish the island to their control.   She did so in 1489, and the island belonged to the Venetians from that time onward.  Their rule would abruptly end when Cyprus was ceded to Turkey by Venice in 1571. This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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The Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War

Venice and the Ottoman Empire had been at each other’s throats since the Ottoman conquest of Morea in 1460. Venice lost a great part of its Mediterranean colonies during the first three Ottoman-Venetian Wars. To add insult to injury, Venice was forced each time to sue for peace with the Ottomans in the last three wars. The peace treaty signed by Venice and the Ottoman Empire in 1540 lasted for only 30 years until war flared up again.

Piracy was a common problem in 16th century Mediterranean. While Ottoman Corsairs dominated the Barbary Coast, European pirates also preyed on ships in different parts of the Mediterranean. Some of them attacked the Ottoman merchant ships that plied the waters between Istanbul and Egypt. This disrupted communication and trade between the Ottoman province of Egypt and the capital. Venice landed in hot water once again when the Ottomans learned that its administrators in Cyprus sheltered these European pirates.

CyprusCyprus Ceded_to_Turkey_by_Venice
Sultan Selim II

The Venetians and the Ottomans had signed a treaty right after Sultan Selim II’s rise to the throne. With the Venetian protection of the pirates, Selim and his court agreed to break the treaty and occupy Cyprus once and for all. Preparations to attack the island started in 1569 with Lala Mustafa Pasha as the commander the Ottoman army. The inexperienced Muezzinzade Ali Pasha led the Ottoman fleet, and he was assisted by the veteran admiral Piyale Pasha.

News of Ottoman attack against Cyprus trickled to Venice soon after, so the Venetians hastily repaired their fortifications on the island. The Venetian rulers had few allies to turn to as they prepared their defense.  Their administrators in Cyprus were corrupt which made them unpopular among the locals. The Habsburg rulers were also reluctant to help Venice as there was no incentive for them to join an alliance. Besides, Venice had not been helpful in the past when Austria and Hungary were at war with the Ottomans.

The pope came to the rescue when he convinced the Habsburg rulers to help Venice. However, they would only help defend the island if the Venetians would also help them crush the Ottomans in the Barbary Coast. Venice had no choice but to agree.

It seemed that the alliance was too late. The Ottomans easily breached and occupied Famagusta on the eastern part of the island on August 1, 1571. Nicosia on the central part of the island fell in September 1571. The Habsburg fleet led by Philip II of Spain and his half-brother Don Juan of Austria sailed from Italy to Greece in the same month.

In the early days of October 1571, the Ottoman fleet led by Muezzinzade Ali Pasha sailed back to Greece and docked off the coast of Lepanto (Nafpaktos). Don Juan’s fleet encountered the Ottoman navy in the Gulf of Patras and a fierce naval battle ensued. The Habsburg fleet defeated the Ottoman navy on the 7th of October 1571. Thousands of Ottoman seamen died in the Battle of Lepanto, including Admiral Muezzinzade Ali Pasha.

Incredibly, a decisive Venetian-Habsburg victory did not happen even after the Battle of Lepanto. Fighting continued off the coast of Morea, however there was no clear winner. Venice was worn out, and it finally gave up its claims to Cyprus in 1573. The Venetian representative in Istanbul negotiated a peace treaty with the Ottomans in the same year.

Picture by: By Belli değil –, Public Domain, Link
Carsten, F. L., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History, The Ascendancy of France: 1648-88. Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, 1961.
Faroqhi, Suraiya, ed. The Cambridge History of Turkey: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603–1839. Vol. 3. Cambridge U Press, 2006.
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. NY, NY: Basic Books, 2007.
Kia, Mehrdad. The Ottoman Empire. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.
Shaw, Stanford Jay. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey : Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
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