Monday, June 7, 2010

Outremer - The Kingdom of Cyprus

The Kingdom of Cyprus was founded during the Second Crusade, when Roger of Sicily's ships lay in the harbor at Alexandrette after having transported Henry and Eleanor's army by sea. They were waiting word of the success or failure of the crusade from Edessa, when the remnants of Conrad of Germany's army came limping in from Armenia. Conrad had been betrayed by the Byzantines, meeting his death in the mountains of Asia Minor at the hands of the Turkish Sultanate of Roum, and his men were angry and bitter against the Byzantines.

Roger, on his way from Italy, had been harried on his way to Alexandrette by the Byzantine fleet, and was smarting himself. Conrad's nephew, Frederick Barbarossa, commanded the remnants of the Holy Roman Emperor's army, and he was exceedingly angry. A young man, and a talented general, Frederick swore vengeance for the death of his uncle against the Emperor of Byzantium. Roger, Conrad's sworn enemy, needled Frederick, asking him what he intended to do. Frederick stated he intended to take a "bite out of the flank" of Byzantium.

In a game of cards, Frederick won the use of Roger's fleet, and he told Roger to take him to Cyprus. Landing at Larnaca, Roger deposited Frederick and his central European army and awaited the result. Sweeping up to the capital at Lefkosia, Frederick in a stunning move, stormed the city and took the governor of the province captive.

Within the year, Frederick left to take the throne of Germany, and ultimately become Holy Roman Emperor, leaving the island to his second in command, Vladislav II, Duke of Bohemia. Vladislav took the title King of Cyprus and Bohemia in 1150, and began the long association between the two countries. In 1162, the Knights of St. Wenceslaus were formed as a fighting order, sending warrior monks both to the Wendish Crusades in Europe and the fighting in the Holy Land.

The Dynasty of Vladislav, starting with the third son of Vladislav, Ottokar, and the Knights of St. Wenceslaus violently suppressed the Greek Orthodox Church and language in Cyprus, eventually wiping it out. It was eventually replaced by the Roman Church and the Bohemian/Czech language. The ties between Bohemia and Cyprus remain tight, with many nobles holding lands in both kingdoms, though eventually the kingdoms were split. The Knights retain great holdings in Cyprus, and often go to the mainland to help in the wars of their traditional allies Antioch and Armenia.

Cyprus is a rich agricultural land, with excellent seaports. Its grain feeds the rich coastal cities of the Holy Land,and the island supports a large and industrious population. Modern European farming techniques have been successfully imported, and the clever Cyprian-Bohemians have brought in their traditional crafts of crystal glass-making and armament manufacture.


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