The Higher Classes

All the nobles formed the elite. In regards to the clergy, Florio Bustron (16th cent.) records that there was a Latin archbishop and three suffragans [as from 1195 according to Mas Latrie] [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890]. The Church formed a higher class [George Hill, 1948].

According to Hill (1948), in course of time, many Cypriots rose to positions of importance in commerce, the army or the administration, and even to noble rank [George Hill, 1948].

Lower and middle classes

The peasants according to Hill were divided into Parici [slaves] the lowest of the classes, working for free twice a week to their masters, paying an annual tax and giving them 1/3 of their production excluding the seeds. Their lord could inflict on them any sort of punishment, except mutilation or death, which only Haute Cour could impose; Perpirarii were free people working with payment. Formerly Parici, they had risen out of that class. These Perpirarii had originally included most of the civil servants and all the rich bourgeois of Nicosia. Lefteri or Francomati, were parici who had been liberated on a payment to their lord or by his mere grace (this freedom was extended to any children born after such emancipation). The children of marriages between this class and the Parici usually descended to the lower grade. Such intermarriages were discouraged. These Lefteri were subject to the jurisdiction not of the lord, but of the ordinary magistrates [George Hill, 1948].

Another class in a different category were the White Venetians. These were native Greeks or Syrians who enjoyed the rights of Venetian nationality. They were under the jurisdiction of the Venetian bailo, in Nicosia, with appeal to the royal judges. A similar, but smaller, class were the “White Genoese”. The Albanians were comparatively latecomers; It is unlikely that the Albanians were introduced before the fifteenth century, when they were imported to stiffen the coast- guard service which, since the abolition by the Lusignans of the original Stratiotai, who had become useless and undisciplined, had been entrusted to the villagers of the coast, who were, however, allowed to buy themselves off from this unpleasant corvee [George Hill, 1948].


Races and religions on the island at that time

According to Hill’s research, in Cyprus lived the conquerors, Greeks, Hellenized from the previous era Syrians, Maronites, Armenians, Jacobites, Nestorians, Jews and heretic Jews (Epicureans). Hill assumes the Armenians to have been favoured by the Lusignans, because “they were too clever in commerce to be neglected, and their religious beliefs made them sympathize more with Latins than with Greeks” [George Hill, 1948]. According to Lusignan, the Maronites were the most numerous sect on the island, after the Greeks, and occupied 30 [33] villages [Hill estimates around 7,000-8,000] [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. Hill also reckons since Benjamin de Tudela witnessed in 1160 not only orthodox but also heretic Jews, “the total number must have been considerable”. Regarding the rest of the races mentioned earlier, Hill states: “The Jacobites, representing the Monophysite heresy which had been condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, were of sufficient importance in Cyprus in 1222 to be included by Honorius III in the order which he gave to enforce on them, with the Syrians and the Nestorians obedience to the Latin Archbishop of Nicosia. It is likely, therefore that they had penetrated into Cyprus before the Latin occupation, but as to this, we have no trustworthy information” [George Hill, 1948].

Population information

A substantial demographic and economic decline in the towns of Cyprus began in the 14th or 15th centuries. The 15th-century Cypriot chronicler Leontios Macheras said: “And in the year 1348 [the Black Death of 1348-1349 in Cyprus] God sent a great plague for our sins, and the half of the island died”. Based on his study of the sources, Hill says: “It was said to have carried off half to two-thirds of the population. Macheras adds additional plague occurrences: “And in 1363 another plague came upon the children, and (the greater part of) the island was destroyed — When the Turks heard that the plague had wiped out the men of Cyprus, and the king was in France, all the Turks together fitted out twelve galleys and appointed a captain called Mahomet Reis, and came to Cyprus and landed at Pentayia and raided many people: and he carried them off prisoners and went away (to Turkey). And from the beginning of June 1438 after Christ, a (great) plague fell upon Lefkosia and the villages, and there were many deaths in all parts of Cyprus, and it lasted seventeen months” [Ronald Jennings, 1992]. In 1470 plague began again, following famine the previous year, lasting 2.5 years and killing “the 3/4” of the people [Georgios Voustronios, 15th cent.]. During the reign of Caterina (1475-1489), according to Mas Latrie (19th cent.), so much had the island been (desperately) depopulated that Venice requested from residents of Corfu and the Peloponnese, as well as from other Greek colonies, to relocate to Cyprus, and be provided with financial assistance as well [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].


According to L. Macheras French was spoken [Leontios Macheras, 15th cent.] as well as the Cypriot dialect [as we read Macheras’s Chronicle it was a mixture of Greek corrupted by the French and Italian]. According to Sakellarios, from the time that Eleni Palaiologina had become a queen, in 1441 [possibly until her death in 1458], Greek was considered the official language of the royal court [Athanasios Sakellarios, 1890].

Employment and social welfare



Hill mentions that it was banned in 1297 non-Orthodox Christians to marry Orthodox Christian serfs without the king’s command because in this way the serfs would automatically gain freedom, and the ban was published by the Viscount every 26th of November [George Hill, 1948].


According to Wilbrand von Oldenburg (1211), the Latins “were rude in all their habits, and shabby in their dress, sacrificing chiefly to their lusts” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].




In 1335, Jacobus de Verona reported that the women, only showed their eyes in public and they were dressed in black, wearing on their heads black mantles. Similarly, the Italian pilgrim Nicolas de Martoni who visited Cyprus in 1394, mentioned that all women were wearing black mantles on their heads so that their faces could hardly be seen. He also added that Famagusta was famous for its courtesans. Women were held into the city and were not allowed to exit without permission, which was rarely granted. The reason lied behind the fact that they were necessary to work in the cloth industry and keep companion to the men [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].


Prostitution existed during this period. Georgios Boustronios gives as an incident that happened in Nicosia within the walls: “And the 21st of October [of 1473] the viscount Morabit ordered that all the prostitutes should relocate to Kamilargion [camels’ inn] and Amaxargion [coaches’ inn] and no-one to be found within the neighbourhood, and if anyone [indeed] found, to be banished out of the [walled] city” [Georgios Voustronios, 15th cent.].

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