Signs of what were the malaria effects can be understood by the description of several men who visited Cyprus at that era. The French pilgrim Seigneur de Villamont reached Paphos in 1589: ” … all is nearly uninhabited now on account of the unhealthy climate”. The Dutch seaman Jan Somer of Middleburgh (1591-1592), though impressed with the fortifications and agriculture of Magosa, knew that the place had pestilential air and was very dangerous, so what was eaten should be boiled. To Cotovicus certain places had unhealthy air. The former French ambassador Louis des Hayes in 1621 reported that the heat was unpleasant, the land low lying, the water dangerous, and there were so many marshes that the air became corrupt, and a sojourn there was uncomfortable. De Stochove in 1630 heard that Nicosia still had the best air on the island. The Dutch Orientalist C. von Bruyn in 1692 learned that the air was unwholesome during the three or four hot months of the year, especially for foreigners. “People have pale and sickly looks which last all their lives; some die from this, and others have violent fevers”. The presence of this sickness on the island influenced von Bruyn to end his stay in Cyprus. The Corsair Mr Robert in 1696 said Larnaca was “subject to contagious Distempers.” John Heyman in the 1700s mentions: “It is known by experience that the inhabitants of this island seldom attain to any great age, owing possibly to the badness of the air; malignant fevers being common here, especially towards the end of summer; and during our stay in the island, though it was in the spring, a contagious distemper was raging at Nicosia. But the air is most noxious at Famagusta and Larnaca, owing to the vapours rising from the fens and saltpans in the neighbourhood — The whole island does not afford one single river; but several ponds, lakes, and fens”. Drummond in 1745 observed: “These lakes are a blessing in one respect, to the country, but a very great curse to this town of Larnaca; for, to their noxious vapours, the unhealthiness of this place is imputed” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. During the 1760s constant drought prevailed; the rain was scarce. The air was described as wholesome. The excessive heat caused abundant and continual perspiration that was the cause of fever, especially during the summer. Cypriots’ cure for this illness was the “slight bleeding” [Giovanni Mariti, 1791]. The “slight bleeding”, which is not specified by Abbe Mariti, could refer to the slight tearing of the ear lobe that permitted the loss of some blood, which was recorded as a cure for the people suffering from high blood pressure at the village of Trachypedoula [Christos Petrou, 2016]. In addition to this, “exercise on horseback” was considered a remedy of fever by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots [Giovanni Mariti, 1791]. Archbishop Constantius adds in 1766: “In certain spots the stagnant pools of salt and useless water give off a horrible stench, pollute the air, and breed disease”. Hume in 1801 speaks of the fevers caused in the summer that can kill people in Cyprus, having witnessed a person with a fever. Edward Clarke in Larnaka in 1801 experienced the consequences of Malaria: “Our lamented friend, and exemplary commander. Captain Russel, was the first to experience its baneful influence; being seized with a fever, from which he never afterwards recovered. Indeed, the fevers of Cyprus, unlike those caught upon other shores of the Mediterranean, rarely intermit; they are almost always malignant”. Henry Light speaks of the Malaria, as well, in 1814: “The effects of the marshy land are evinced in the countenances of the natives, who suffer every year from agues and fevers, that diminish the population, and regularly appear in the hot months of June, July, August and September”. He adds: “To guard against the effects of malaria a European must leave the plains in the month of June, seek the mountains and not quit them till October: without this precaution, he must inevitably be seized with illness and often is carried off by the fevers that rage with. great violence during the hot months”. William Turner writes in 1815 about Malaria: “When we were about halfway, Ibrahim made me turn aside from the road, a narrow pass between two rocks, to look at the tomb of a poor Greek, who had been found dead on the road, having been ill with the fever…”. At another stage he adds: “Here, and indeed in several villages we have passed, we found many peasants ill, mostly of fever and inflammation of the eyes, very common in Cyprus, who, when they find themselves unwell, lie down listlessly on their beds, and wait patiently until nature works their cure or their death”. Charles Frankland laconic in 1827: “Much ophthalmia and fever at Cyprus” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].

The Plague

[As in the previous periods, the plague continued to slain inhabitants during the Ottoman Rule as well]: An imperial order dated December 1573 was sent to the governor and the chief financial officer of Cyprus in response to the governor’s early letter in which he notified the Porte that their money to pay the salaries of the janissaries was inadequate because so many taxpayers had died from the plague that it became impossible to pay the janissaries [an unknown writer on the Boustronios’s Chronikon manuscript wrote that a deadly incident occurred during 1570-1571 that allegedly killed the two-thirds of the population [Georgios Boustronios, 15th cent. – Andros Pavlides, 1982]. The Venetian State Archives also mention this plague [Vera Costantini, 2019]].

The French pilgrim Seigneur de Villamont, chevalier de l’Ordre de Hierusalem, entered Cyprus on II May 1589 [according to Boustronios’s unknown writer, this year “the deadly incident kept for ten months and many people died” [Georgios Boustronios, 15th cent. – Andros Pavlides, 1982]].

At Larnaka, Villamont, learned of conditions in Famagusta, “where the plague had long been raging, and its inhabitants and those of the country round were nearly all dead. A plague on Cyprus is mentioned for 1624. Hill mentions a serious plague of 1641 when the growing miseries of the people led to emigration to Crete, the Morea, and Corfu [Ronald Jennings, 1992].

Ottoman records tell of one severe plague in 1656:  “There were 15,000 infidels on that island who pay head tax, and 3000 missing. For the past three or four years, only 12,000 taxpayers have been registered, and they cannot endure more because, by the decree of God, the plague is widespread. In the past year and a half, more than half of the 12,000 head-tax payers have died. Very many of the villages are vacant and ruined. It is necessary to register them again” [Ronald Jennings, 1992].

One of the most severe plagues was in 1692 when some sources report that 2/3 of the population died. The pirate Mr Robert (1696) mentions how the island is “subject to contagious Distempers,” and accordingly that Larnaca was abandoned in 1693; 4000 people were “cut off by the Plague” in three months [Ronald Jennings, 1992].

Another plague in 1760, according to Giovanni Mariti, lasted around six months and reportedly took the lives of 20,000 inhabitants [Giovanni Mariti, 1791]. The plague of 1760, according to Archimandrite Kyprianos who was alive at that time, was of such severity that it swept off a third part of the population, Turks and Christians, and left whole villages desolate [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].

An incident of plague during the year 1813 is mentioned by William Turner in 1815: “On the beginning of it, we passed the small village of S. Barbara [Pafos], whose inhabitants were every one of them swept off by the plague two years ago” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].


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