Medieval Armies DBA Page

Lusignan Cypriot:
Variant Army #162c

By David Kuijt


The DBA army lists are often a little simple; at the back of the DBA manual the authors admit that, and recommend that omissions be corrected by taking the DBM army list for a given army and translating it into a 12-element DBA army list.

Cyprus under the Lusignan Kings

Cyprus was a Byzantine dominion until 1191, when it was captured by the Third Crusade under Richard the Lionheart. He sold the kingdom to his friend, Guy of Lusignan, King of Jerusalem. Cyprus soon became one of the most important supports for the Crusader Kingdoms in the middle east; after their fall it stood alone, the easternmost surviving outpost of Latin forces. The dynasty Guy of Lusignan founded ruled Cyprus until 1489.

Civil war over succession was fairly common. The first major instance was when Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, came crusading in 1228. As the overlord of Cyprus, he had given its governance to five Cypriot knights known as the bailis. In 1229 John of Beirut invaded. He defeated the bailis and won Cyprus by 1230. The conflict spilled over onto the mainland; in 1231 Frederick's forces besieged Beirut. When John sailed to relieve Beirut in early 1232 the bailis regained control of Cyprus. In the summer of 1232 John was defeated at Casal Imbert. He returned to Cyprus, fighting several battles with Frederick's forces there and recapturing Cyprus by mid 1233.

The Hospitaller (Knights of St. John) and Templars both had large holdings in Cyprus. When Acre fell in 1291 both military orders moved their headquarters to Cyprus. When the Templars were dissolved a decade or two later the Knights of St. John got their holdings in Cyprus. The Knights of St. John moved their headquarters to Rhodes in 1310, but they maintained some troops in Cyprus until 1459.

Under the Lusignan dynasty Cyprus had relatively stable government. This, and its favorable position astride the east-west trade routes, brought it considerable wealth and prosperity. Under the energetic Peter I in the middle 14th century Cyprus was at its zenith, raiding Muslim coastal cities, and even sacking Alexandria in 1365.

Peter I (1359-1369) began by raiding coastal towns of the Turkish Emirates, where Muslim pirates had been preying on Cypriot shipping. The mainly Armenian inhabitants of Corycus handed over their city to him in 1360; it remained in Cypriot control until 1448. Peter captured and held Adalia in the Teke Emirate the next year (retained until 1373), and followed that up with a series of raids on Turkish coastal towns. In 1362-1365 he sought aid in Europe. With the blessing of the pope he gained enough support to attack and sack Alexandria, the major port of the Mamluks, in 1365. A number of raids on Mamluk ports in Syria and the Levant followed.

But Cyprus, though wealthy, was isolated. By the 14th century it was an island entirely surrounded by Islamic powers, and the only help it might hope for was from Genoese and Venetian fleets that it trusted only a little more than the Mamluks and Turks. When Peter I was assassinated in a palace coup in 1369 Cyprus went into a century of decline.

In 1373 the Genoese captured Famagusta in support of a claimant to the throne. The wealth of Cyprus allowed the Genoese to resist all efforts to displace them until 1464.

A Mamluk invasion in 1426 forced Cyprus to recognize Mamluk suzerainty and pay tribute. Mamluk forces even assisted the King of Cyprus against rebels from 1440-1446.

By the late 15th century the Venetians were the only Christian naval power strong enough to protect Cyprus from the twin millstones of the Mamluks and the Ottoman Turks, and in 1474 Venice was declared protector of Cyprus. The Venetians occupied Cyprus for the next fifteen years, until in 1489 the last Lusignan Queen sold the island to Venice.

#162c Lusignan Cypriot (1191 AD - 1489 AD)

Based upon DBA Army Book IV, army 26.

Note that armies 169a and 169b are variant army lists giving more detailed definitions of Genoese and Venetian forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. These lists are described in more detail in the page on Italian Armies in the Eastern Mediterranean).

The Enemies list gives all the historically reasonable opponents. I don't have direct evidence of major land battles between Cyprus and the Seljuq Turks (#124) or the Ayyubid Egyptians (#143). As mentioned elsewhere (in the page on Early Ottoman, and in the variant army lists for Late Byzantine Army Variants), there is no DBA army list to represent the forces of the Anatolian Turkish Emirates between the destruction of the Seljuqs in 1281 and their final absorption by the Ottomans in the middle and late 15th century. The Ilkhanids (#159a) are a good representation of a DBA Anatolian Turkish army, so they are included in that vein.

The Allies list gives all the nearby powers that could have intervened to assist Cyprus against an invasion, or that Cyprus might have intervened militarily to assist in some other military effort. Armies that appear here and not in the Enemies list could still be used as historically reasonable opponents for Cyprus, as intervention on behalf of a claimant to the throne was a normal occurence among the powers of the region.

Army Notes

The knight elements represent Cypriot feudal or mercenary knights and turcopoles.

The single cavalry element could either be a force of separately-deployed deployed turcopoles, or possibly (after 1440) an allied force of Mamluks.

Auxilia would be Catalan mercenaries; they should only be used after 1320.

The light horse element could be ex-Genoese forces (Bulgarians, Greeks, and Tartars) from 1373-1374, or Karamanli Turkoman mercenaries after 1415, or Venetian Stradioti after 1474.

The extra knight element could be Lombard or other mercenary cavalry participating in the civil war in 1231-1232; or Hospitallers, or other mercenaries or crusaders.

The hospitallers maintained a presence in Cyprus from 1291 until 1459; during that period one of the knight elements, up to one of the spear elements, and up to one of the crossbow elements might be hospitaller troops.

Venice occupied Cyprus from 1474 until the last Lusignan queen sold it to them in 1489. In that period one of the knight elements should be Italian Condotta, and the light horse should be Venetian Stradioti.

Last modified: February 11, 1999. Changed the army listing from 4x 4Cb to 4x 3Cb, removed one Kn element (the army had 13 elements - oops). Thanks to Alex Aimette for spotting the errors.

Page created: February 6, 1999

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