Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
uses Google technology and indexes only and selectively internet - libraries having books with free public access


GIOVANNI MARITI. Travels in the Island of Cyprus


interpreter, and he to the archbishop, who sends notice to the several dioceses to make the most convenient arrangements to avoid annoyances or to lessen the demand. The poor subjects might very often be saved from oppression if their archbishop were not from policy, and sometimes from personal interest, ready to lend himself to the exactions of the Muhassil, so that they are often abandoned by the very person who ought to take their part. When the Governor wishes to collect money out of season, ot of his mere caprice, the mode of imposing duties and taxes is curious enough. He may even tax with a certain sum anyone who bears a name which he may select ; as, for instance, anyone called George has, without appeal, to pay a certain sum. Such an exaction falls on members of the Greek community only, who are treated more as slaves than subjects. For voluntary homicide the law imposes on the slayer the capital penalty, and on the village where the homicide took place a tax which goes to the treasury of the Grand Signor, together with the sum levied as blood-money. The bloodmoney for a man killed, of 30 or 35 years of age, is reckoned at 500 piastres : for others a calculation is made of the time which, humanly speaking, the man might have lived, and of the gain which in that residue of his life might have accrued therefrom to the Grand Signor, the sum being often excessive. If the homicide resulted from some accident, or were indirectly planned, the slayer very often escapes all punishment but the payment of some few piastres. The Mehke??ie are the courts before which are pleaded all causes, criminal and civil; in the capital the Molla presides, in the other cities and in the principal villages the Qazi^ judges who acquit or condemn after a short hearing. The Turks have no written civil law, their guide is the Qur'an, their sacred book. Every good Qazi ought to have many texts from it, called Fetawa^ written out in long lists, to which, according to the cases, are given various interpretations, very often opposed to the true sentiments of their lawgiver.
A man who is summoned to a court for debt has no choice but to pay to the Qazi the tenth part of the sum in dispute: this is disbursed by the debtor if he is proved to be such, or by the plaintiff, if his claim be fraudulent or unfounded. A similar fee of one-tenth falls to the Qazi from the property of every person deceased. But the valuation is not very strict.
There are in the island of Cyprus 16 Qaztliqs, which are so many courts, in each of which a Qazi presides, but all are subordinate to their chief the Molla, For although they may hold their posts under a special firmen, or order of the Porte, they cannot give judgment except in a provisional form. In affairs of any consequence they must draw up their i’lam or judgment, and send it to the Governor, who sends it to the Molla without whose consent and approval the Governor cannot examine a matter affecting the life of a subject. The military government of the island rests with the Alay Bey who is the General of the Sipahi or mounted troops, and the Yenicheri Agha, who commands the infantry: their captain is called Zabit and Qolaghasi. There ought to be 3000 Sipahi in the island, and about 8000 Yenicheri (Janissaries), but now one would hardly find 100 of the first, and 2000 of the last, the several commandants having appropriated the pay and perquisites of the many men wanting.
When the Turks took the island there were reckoned 80,000 subjects chargeable with the Kharaj or poll-tax, not counting women, children and old men, who were exempt. This number was maintained as long as the kingdom continued to be prosperous, and the Grand Signor received as his just due, at five piastres a head, 400,000 piastres a year. Wealth soon decreased and with it the population, but the Pashas continued to exact the same sum, and to this end increased the taxes on those who remained; and this course was followed even when the government was transferred to a Muhassil, for these officers raised the amount to 40 piastres a head. Now there are only 12,000 men liable to Kharai and this, as I have said above, is reduced to 21 piastres a head, yet the result is the by no means contemptible sum of 252,000 piastres. Add to this as much again extorted by the Governor, the Chief Justices, the officers of every grade, and you have a revenue of 504,000 piastres. So that we may conclude that the population has notably decreased, and the sums wrung from it increased.
The population thus reduced will scarcely amount now to 40,000 souls in all. But the number is extremely hard to fix accurately, not only in Cyprus but in every other province of the Levant, for Eastern peoples keep no registers of births or deaths, and count the inhabitants only by those who pay the poll-tax, who are less than a third of the whole. I ought to add that in Asia the number of women largely exceeds that of men, a fact which I have observed and proved in all the various tribes among whom I have lived in the Levant. The products of the island were many and rich. In old days there were mines of gold, silver, copper, iron, marcasite (iron pyrites), vitriol and rock-alum: even emeralds

1  2  3  4  5  6  7