Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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GIOVANNI MARITI. Travels in the Island of Cyprus


veils. They have drawers reaching to the feet, and their boots, called mesti (Turkish, mesi) are a kind of low boots of yellow leather, which reach to the instep, under which they wear slippers. They wear no stays, but a little corset ofdimity, which stops below the bosom, the rest being covered only by that plain, fine chemise, and another small piece of stuff which they wear for greater modesty. They adorn their necks and arms with pearls, jewels and gold chains. Their head dress, of which I have spoken above, consists of a collection of various handkerchiefs of muslin, prettily shaped, so that they form a kind of casque of a palm's height, with a pendant behind to the end of which they attach another handkerchief folded in a triangle, and allowed to hang on their shoulders. When they go out of doors modesty requires that they should take a corner and pull it in front to cover the chin, mouth and nose. The greater part of the hair remains under the ornaments mentioned above, except on the forehead where it is divided into two locks, which are led along the temples to the ears, and the ends are allowed to hang loose behind over the shoulders. Those who have abundance of hair make as many as eight or ten plaits. Cypriot women like sweet odours about their heads, and to this end adorn them grotesquely with flowers. The Christian ladies when they go abroad make a great parade of their costumes, while the Turks are covered from head to foot with a white cotton sheet.
The realm of Cyprus was governed for many years by a Pasha, sent by the Ottoman Porte, but the island began to decline from its ancient splendour, and the necessary cost of the maintenance of a Pasha and his court being found to weigh heavily on the people, they petitioned that the practice might be abolished, and that henceforth they might have instead a Muhassil or simple governor, which was at once granted to them. But they soon found the government of a Muhassil to be burdensome, and some years ago begged that they might have a Pasha again. This was refused, and they still find themselves under a yoke which at one time they thought less oppressive.
The revenues of the country are left to the Vezir A’zam, grand Vezir or Lieutenant of the Ottoman Empire. But as he cannot come here to rule it himself, he grants the island to the highest bidder, and sends him to govern it with a Khatti Sherif or august writing, a special order of the Grand Signor, bearing his autograph.
As it is not merit but interest which gives access to this dignity, it is by interest that the governors regulate their actions. They ill-use and harass the people, and impose on them unjust taxes, not only to recoup what they pay to the Grand Vezir but also enough to allow them to leave the country after a year, having made their own fortunes and those of all their train. As the Grand Vezir finds every year in Constantinople men who offer more to get the reins of this kingdom, Cyprus is reduced to a miserable condition for want of money, and of a large yield of its usual rich products results which follow the abandonment of their country by thousands of its inhabitants, one of the greatest disgraces of a state. In all the Turkish dominions there is probably no place where the dues paid by their subjects are heavier; amounting, as they sometimes do, to 200 piastres, which make 100 Florentine scudi yearly per head, without distinction of larger or smaller means. The mere Kharaj or poll tax, imposed by the Grand Signor on his subjects, is only five piastres, while here it was increased to 40 piastres a head. And the people had to consider it a special favour that after many representations and petitions they were able to obtain a favourable rescript that they should not be bound or compelled to pay more than 21 piastres a head. In the year 1764 the tyranny of Chil Osman Agha, the Governor, had reached its height, and the people, the lower class of Turks especially, having grown insolent, committed the detestable excess of killing him, a deed which was soon followed by lamentable consequences, as I shall show in the proper place. I shall give a particular account of these events, at which I was present, and I had besides occasion to be mixed up with the leaders in the negotiations which were conducted by the Tuscan consul.
The suite of the Muhassil is composed of the Khasnadar or treasurer, the Kiaya or secretary, and other subaltern charges entrusted to the Chawushes who are his personal guards, and the Choqadars^ men about the court, who have different duties. Their number is not fixed, but there are generally from 100 to 150, and they have their own chiefs called Bash-Chawush and Bash-Choqadar. There are besides the Sarafs, through whose hands pass all the monies which enter or leave the Treasury, their duty being to test its goodness and value, and to keep the accounts. This office is held by a Greek, and the Terjwnan of the Serai^ or interpreter of the Palace, is also a Greek, who holds his post by a firman or order of the Porte.
When the Governor wishes to impose some tax on the Greek ri'aya, or subjects, he does not address himself to the people directly, but to the

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