Forced settlement

Forced population transfers were an important part of Ottoman demographic and economic policy. The plan was the achievement of the same demographic change as the ones attempted in Istanbul, Rumelia, and Trabzon, to transfer as many Muslim settlers that were needed to invert the ethnic and religious balance between local Christians and Muslim colonizers [author]. Barkan guesses that [only] 30% of the banished went of their own volition. He further guesses that 7% of the heads of families had committed crimes, whether major [such as murder] or minor. Jennings says that: “The first Ottoman Muslim to establish themselves in Cyprus were 1000 janissaries, 2779 cannoneers and various unmarried volunteers who were left to garrison the island’s five castles. Presumably, some already had wives at that time, and undoubtedly others took Christian Cypriot women as wives or concubines”. Furthermore, the district of Canik was required to provide Muslim Turkish brides for some unmarried Ottoman soldiers. For none of these options, we know any numbers. A fundamental aspect of the process of settlement in Cyprus was that every Ottoman settler was fully entitled to go there to receive free homes and land and to be exempted of taxation for two years. A register of 1572 lists 1689 families ready for transferal to Cyprus. Resistance to banishment was strong at every stage: Some prevaricated, or even refused to go, some fled, and others failed to appear at the ports of embarkation; still, others escaped after reaching Cyprus, whether legally or illegally finding ships back to Anatolia. Those who objected to settling in Cyprus seem in fact to have had little to lose, for in most cases the only punishment was being sent back to Cyprus. What proportion of the migrants resisted is no better known than the number of migrants. Also, in 1575 the Venetian B. Sagredo reported that the Ottomans were always sending new families to live in Cyprus because most of them died in the great heat [Ronald Jennings, 1992].


In accordance with Islamic law, Ottoman subjects were divided into two broad classes: Muslims and zimmis, although other zimmis – the minorities were often identified as Maronite (Suryani), Armenian (Ermeni), Latin Christians (Nasara), or Jew (Yahudi). Jennings estimates that around 850 Gypsies also lived in Cyprus in 1572, either Hellenised or Islamised. By 1598 the policy of population transfers from Anatolia had ended [Ronald Jennings, 1992]. According to Adamantia Pollis (1998) Orthodox and Muslims were classified by the administration, local and central, as reaya people that is who do not belong to the sphere of administration but to the great mass of tax-paying cultivators. On the other hand, Orthodox and Muslims who had political and financial power belonged to a different class and were perceived by people of the same religion as oppressors. The abovementioned class included of course officers of the local administration, Muslims who owned significant estates as well as those who leased taxes but also the Greek-speaking High Clergy of the Church of Cyprus and a number of local dragomans [Michalis Michael, 2009].

An unknown writer on the Boustronios’s Chronikon manuscript wrote that a deadly incident occurred during 1570-1571 that allegedly killed 2/3 of the population [Georgios Boustronios, 15th cent. – Andros Pavlides, 1982]. According to Jennings, the first Ottoman budget, from 1571-1572, mentions 23,000 payers of the head tax, who were all male non-Muslims [zimmis between the age of 15-75], which with families means between 70,000 and 80,000 non-Muslims in villages and urban areas [taking into consideration the plague, the people that fled the island, the killed and the slaves taken from Nicosia and Famagusta, the real number is close to that. That means around 120,000 vanished within a few years, according to the previous population estimate at the end of the Venetian Rule, of which according to V. Costantini’s research, 55,000 of the vanished residents originate from Nicosia only (2019)] [Ronald Jennings, 1992].

The inhabitants, according to Johann van Kootwyck in 1598, were chiefly Greeks and Turks; the Greeks were generally engaged in commerce or agriculture. Van Kootwyck adds that in Cyprus also existed Maronites, Nestorians, Jacobites, Copts, a few Jews, and fugitives from Palestine [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. In 1604, in Cyprus, there were 30,100 non-Muslim taxpayers, with the assumption that their population ranged somewhere between 93,000-110,000 non-Muslims. In 1624 de Villamond records another plague. In 1626-1931 the non-Muslim taxpayers fell down to 20,000 and kept falling in the following years. Jennings presents an interesting “order to Cyprus governor and kadi” dated back in 1635, but he doesn’t mention who presented it. It nevertheless writes the following: “The taxpayers of the island of Cyprus presented a petition to my exalted presence. Formerly they were 20,000 payers of the head tax but on account of the abundance of taxes and the weight of oppression a few thousand taxpayers fled and abandoned the country, Although only 16,500 head-tax payers remain in their places…”. Hill mentions a serious plague of 1641. Ottoman records tell of one severe plague in 1656. In 1656 [which is the last date that Jennings provides data in his book] the number of the non-Muslim taxpayers crushed down to 12,000 only [Ronald Jennings, 1992]. One severe plague occurred in 1692 when some sources report that 2/3 of the population died.  John Heyman in the 1700s mentions: “The number of inhabitants in the island of Cyprus cannot be determined with any exactness, many removing every year, on account of the prodigious taxes”. In 1738 Richard Pococke claims that “two-thirds of the inhabitants are Christians, and there are 12,000 that pay the tribute as such, exclusive of the women and children. They are mostly Greeks; there are indeed near Nicosia some few villages of Maronites and in the city of Nicosia a small number of Armenians, who are very poor” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].

Another plague in 1760, according to Giovanni Mariti, it lasted around six months and reportedly took the lives of 20,000 inhabitants.  During the 1760s Abbe Giovanni Mariti mentions that besides Greeks and Turks, in the island lived “a multitude of” Armenians, “a great many” Maronites, Latins and a few English. Due to the fact that there were no birth and death records, an estimate of the population at that time would be 40,000 residents. The estimate was even more difficult to achieve, taking into consideration the fact that the women were “much more numerous than the men”. Also, because of the constant emigration, the taxed citizens were approximately 12,000 [Giovanni Mariti, 1791]. Another source, Archimandrite Kyprianos, alive in the 1760s, estimated the number of the rayahs [Kyprianos separated the population into Turks and rayahs] liable to the payment of the 21.5 piastres to hardly 7500, without counting 1500 cripples, blind people, old people [75 years +], paupers and children of eleven years and under”. In another section, he adds that the Turks were 5000-6000 taxable [Mariti’s figures make sense] [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. Regarding the impact on the population of Ottoman rule, Carsten Niebuhr in 1766 indicates that “many Christians either converted to Islam or emigrated to escape haraç [taxation]” [Ronald Jennings, 1992].

According to a 1777 census which Archimandrite Kyprianos (1788) presents, there were 10,487 families of Christians in Cyprus, making an estimated population of 37,000. The Turks, mentions Kyprianos, according to native sources were for the first time more than Christians, 47,000, something that he personally doubted. Sibthorn in 1787 mentions: “The poor Greeks pay a Kharaj of forty or fifty piastres, and annual emigrations of large numbers are the consequence of this oppressive despotism”. Edward Clarke in 1801, whilst talking about taxation, he mentions: “Their whole aim seems to be, to scrape together barely sufficient, in the course of the whole year, to pay their tax to the Governor. The omission of this is punished by torture, or by death; and in cases of their inability to supply the impost, the inhabitants fly from the island. So many emigrations of this sort happen during the year, that the population of all Cyprus rarely exceeds 60,000 persons. An incident of plague during the year 1813 is mentioned by William Turner. According to John Kinneir in 1814, “The population does not exceed 70,000 souls, and is said to be daily decreasing; half of this number are Greeks under their Archbishop, and the remainder Turks”. Henry Light in 1814: “This island, which is said to have been divided in former days into nine populous kingdoms, is now reduced to between eighty and ninety thousand inhabitants: which according to common report is daily diminishing”. William Turner in 1815 sums up the population to “60,000 and 70,000 souls, of whom about 40,000 are Greeks” adding that “Accordingly the peasants of Cyprus, both Mahometans and Greeks — not a single Jew is allowed to live in the island — are so insufferably plundered that their labour is barely capable of supporting their existence, and they yearly desert in great numbers to the coasts of Caramania and Syria”. According to Spyridon Trikoupis and Ioannis Philemon writing in 1860, the population in Cyprus in 1821 was around 80,000 Greeks or Christians, and 20,000 Turks. Following the 1821 massacre and consequent emigration, Charles Frankland observes in 1827: “the whole population consists of about 25,000 souls [?], of which five-sixths are Greeks. The island remains in a state of uncultivation, owing to the rapacity and tyranny of the government, and is depeopling very fast” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. According to E. Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou (2019) in the decade following 1821 about 25,000 Cypriots abandoned the island, of whom several hundred fought as volunteers for the liberation of Greece [Euphrosyne Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou, 2019].

Social Classes

According to E. Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou (2019) from the late 18th century until 1821, there were three classes of Christian Cypriots on the island: the elite of the clergy, the dragoman, notables and the wealthy merchants, the middle class was the rest of the merchants, and the lower class consisted of the peasants [Euphrosyne Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou, 2019].

Conversion to Islam and social mobility

According to Sant-Cassia (1986), apart from joining the Church hierarchy (which could be expensive) “three main means of social mobility were available to ordinary Greeks: through

  • religious conversion [Religious conversion had the greatest advantages for the poor: lower taxes and greater protection in the courts. It was particularly common in times of war between Turks and Christians during which religious tensions rose (Vryonis 1975). Analytically two types of conversion should be distinguished. First, complete apostasy (meaning the adoption of Islam, Turkish names, etc.) was usually consolidated by marriage with the ruling dominant groups and resulted in complete absorption over a number of generations (Karpat 1982).  The second type of conversion was crypto-Christianity, i.e. the public adoption of Islamic practices whilst following Christian rites in the secrecy and privacy of the home. Such converts were known as Linovamvakes and were well established until the early twentieth century (Luke 1921). This type of apostasy seems to have been collective and whole villages were involved]
  • intermarriage [Greek women (rather than Greek men) moved upwards through marriage or concubinage with Turks. In Orthodox marriages, the bride’s father had to pay not only a dowry (which remained in the bride’s name) but also the trachoma or an outright gift to the groom. But in giving his daughter to a Turk he was freed from paying these ruinous sums and received, in addition, a bride-price from the Turkish groom], and
  • through adopting the customs, dress, deportment, language of the ruling class” [P. Sant-Cassia, 1986].

Conversion to Islam and Linovamvakes (Crypto-Christians)

[Linovamvakes are called the Christians who converted to Islam, with the prospect to return back to their previous condition later, when conditions permitted that, being at that point Crypto-Christians in faith]. According to Jennings’s research, more than a third of Muslims appearing at court between 1593-1595  were converts. According to C. Kyrris, great pressures to cooperate and be assimilated were placed on the Christians, particularly the Latins. He estimates that 25,000 people were [directly or indirectly] forced to convert to Islam between 1570 and 1632. Elsewhere he adds: ” … the unfixed number of Latins, i.e. Venetians, French and others, resident in Cyprus, who to save their life and/or property [ there was an economic oppression that included removing their rights to own property] during and after the conquering expedition chose or had to get converted to Islam”.  “The Latin nobility of Cyprus found ways to preserve their family status. Many became Ottoman spahis, either by converting to Islam immediately, or by remaining as Christians for a brief time, becoming spahis nevertheless, and gradually become Islamized. Alternately, they might pass as Orthodox and immediately find ways to attain high positions within that community ” [Ronald Jennings, 1992].

According to Girolamo Dandini in 1596: “For of 30,000 or more inhabitants at Nicosia, there are scarcely 4,000 or 5,000 Turks, and there are not 12,000 or 13,000 of these in all the island, most of whom are renegades who have adopted Islam to enjoy greater quiet; so that it should not be hard to protect the island from the tyranny of the Turk and to re-establish the Christian faith. For as soon as these renegades saw a Christian army they would discard the turban and resume the hat, and turn their arms against the Turk” [this of course, never happened during these centuries, and so many thousands of Turkish Cypriots live today all over the world without knowing that their ancestors had been Christians and definitely not Turks for centuries…]. William Turner writes about the Cypriots in 1815: “Many professed Moslem are in secret Greeks, and observe all the numerous fasts of that church. All drink wine freely, and many of them eat pork without scruple in secret, a thing unheard of in Turkey. They frequently marry the Greek women of the island, as their religion permits a Turkish man to marry an infidel woman, though to guard against abandonment of Mahometanism, it forbids a Turkish woman to marry an infidel” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].

An entirely opposite opinion is stated by Ali Efdal Ozkul (2019), who brings forward the Nicosia sharia court judicial records as a convincing argument to his claim. According to those, an estimated number of merely 515 people [and their children under 7 years old] converted to Islam during the Ottoman rule in Cyprus… He supports that this should be the case since every conversion should be registered in the Nicosia court. About half of those conversions regarded females, of which one good reason they had to convert to Islam [he states] was to get a divorce since the Church of Cyprus did not permit that [Ali Efdal Özkul, 2019].

Employment and social welfare

Up to 1640, women were only working in traditional agriculture, with the only exceptions being the weaving of cotton and wool cloth. The traditional system was oriented to providing women with a reasonable level of maintenance or support whether married, divorced, or widowed, through the court, (which was generally used by both Muslims or non-Muslims, men or women) [Ronald Jennings, 1992]. According to Cornelis van Bruyn in 1683, the Greeks were nearly all occupied in agriculture [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. According to Özkul’s research, in the 18th century, “non-Muslims and Muslims worked together in almost all the island’s various forms of employment. As elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire, artisans in Cyprus formed partnerships with each other” [Ali Efdal Özkul, 2019].

The vakfs were pious foundations that were formed of donations, regardless of race. They primarily provided loans, rented property, built mosques, and pay the salary of an imam. It was usual for the donor to assign his descendants as administrators of the foundation [Ronald Jennings, 1992] [being provided with a stable job and a great salary]. The Aya Sofya vakf was the first that was founded in 1570, and there ended up the most of the estates of the Latin Rulers and citizens. The vakf system was reorganized as an office called “Evkaf-ı Hümayun Nezareti” in 1826 and El-Hac Yusuf Efendi was appointed as the first director in Cyprus [Netice Yildiz, 2009].


According to Jennings (1992) typically marriages were arranged by the woman’s father or another close male relative. According to judicial registers, marriages between Muslim men and Christian women existed, but it was impossible for a Christian man to marry a Muslim woman [Ronald Jennings, 1992].  Also, G. Mariti learned in the 1760s that it was impossible for a Muslim lover to have intercourse with this mistress, and women were guarded in the strictest manner. It was considered a crime for a woman to be found in company with her intended husband. The Muslims were able to take three kinds of wives: lawful wives, concubines [Concubine in polygamous societies is a woman who lives with a man but has a lower status than his wife or wives], and slaves; they marry the first, cohabit with the second on giving them a certain allowance, and purchase the third. They were allowed to marry up to four wives [Giovanni Mariti, 1791]. According to Jennings and the judicial records, little evidence of Muslim polygamy is found, which was probably uncommon in Ottoman Cyprus, at least up to 1640 [Ronald Jennings, 1992]. In 1738 Richard Pococke claims that “the Mahometan men very often marry with the Christian women, and keep the fasts with their wives. Many of them are thought to be not averse to Christianity”. William Turner in 1815 claims that “when a peasant marries he takes his wife with nothing else than a box containing the few clothes she may have, and he is thought uncommonly fortunate if his father-in-law is able to give him with her a mule or a donkey” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].

Divorce could occur due to domestic violence, adultery or irreconcilable differences. Divorce was very common in the 17th century and the witnesses had to testify before the court. The decision was made by the kadi. A divorced woman was obliged to remain at her former husband’s house or to be placed in the care of a respected person until she had waited long enough to remarry. Most marriages [of Muslims only?] were conducted at home in the presence of witnesses and they were fully recognised [Mustafa Öztürk, 2019]. According to Özkul’s research, the most common reason for the divorce between Muslims were the irreconcilable differences, as violence cases were few. Having divorced in a sharia court, the woman could claim the whole of her dowry back [Ali Efdal Özkul, 2019].

Collective complaints might be made by town quarters, or by villages, against people who drank excessively, committed rape, acted lasciviously, or behaved in a rowdy way. It was not rare for people of a quarter or village to make a collective request that a person, or persons, be required to be expelled from the community permanently [Ronald Jennings, 1992]. Religion was an obstacle between converted Muslims and non-Muslims as according to Erdoğru they had to terminate all ties with the non-Muslim family members [This could be the reason why Muslims and non-Muslims were grouped together in separate quarters, mentioned among others by Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou [Euphrosyne Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou, 2019]] [Ali Efdal Özkul, 2019].


According to de Villamond in 1589, “the Turks as a rule never eat at high tables, but sit on the ground like tailors, resting their arms on their knees, and in this fashion eat like pigs. And although their law forbids them wine, yet they will drink to excess without scruple or shame”. William Turner mentions in 1815: “He [the Archimandrite] told me that the Turks here are much milder and less bigoted than in other parts of Turkey, many of them in private even eating pork, and all of them being very sociable and friendly to the Christians” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. According to Michal (2009), religious identity was prevalent in daily life, especially in a state that divided its population into communities on the basis of religious faith [Greek Christian sector – Turkish Muslim sector] [Michalis Michael, 2009].



William Lithgow had been during the beginning of the 17th century in Cyprus. He described the Cypriots as generally strong and nimble, of great civility, hospitality to their neighbours, and exceedingly affectionate to strangers. They were very civil, courteous and affable, and notwithstanding their delicious and delicate fare, they were much subjected to melancholy, of a robust nature and good warriors, if they carried arms. According to Cornelis van Bruyn in 1683, “the Greeks of the country are naturally polite and good-natured”. In 1750, Abraham Dumonds gives a very bilious characterization of the Cypriots. According to him: “The men are worse than beasts, the women more ugly than fancy can conceive human females to be” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. During the 1760s Abbe Giovanni Mariti describes the Cypriots as “well made” and “tall”; the women had “nothing beautiful but their eyes” and “their features were destitute of delicacy”. Only a few of the European women living on the island, also, were remarkable for their beauty. It was not uncommon to see widowed great grandmothers to marry again [Giovanni Mariti, 1791]. Archbishop Constantius in 1766 gives a detailed description of the Greeks: “The Greeks who inhabit the island, the much-suffering and long-suffering descendants of that wonderful Teucer, brother of Ajax the son of Telamon, are well proportioned and good looking: the more refined classes especially, and the dwellers in Leucosia, Larnaca, Scala, and some few in Lemesos, are sociable, affable, sumptuous and hospitable, ready, quick-witted, fond of amusement, a little given to ostentation, fond of work, thrifty, and apt at business, to which the great spur is gain, that inevitable ill, whether to a commonwealth of men or to each individual member thereof. But the peasants of the island are sensual, lazy, rough, most difficult to guide even with the whip and threats, with no natural inclination of their own to good. The inhabitants of Carpas in the east are little better than savages”. Regarding the Greek women he writes the following: “the softer sex is lich in the gifts of the Graces, and full of charm and beauty. Among the primates of the island, who do not encourage the jealous prejudices of Asiatics, the women enjoy their ease and liberty, whence they are well-mannered and affable” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].


According to Girolamo Dandini in 1596, “the Christians, whether’ Greeks or Franks, wear no turban, nor shave their heads, but keep their hair decently cut like us, and wear a hat or black cap. They wear, however, in Eastern fashion, a garment without a collar, falling to the knees or a little lower, with wide sleeves which reach to the elbow. They gird themselves with a sort of sash of linen or other material wound four or five times around. Under their garment, they wear a petticoat over a shirt with a collar, and stockings on their legs and overall another garment without a belt cut very much like the first. They wear generally black or violet or any other colour they may prefer” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].  At 1605 traveller Pedro Texeira mentions that only in Cyprus Christian subjects of the Turks were allowed to wear hats. Greeks wore blue, Armenians wore red, and the Jews blue and red. None could wear white except for the Moors and Turks, and only certain people could wear the green (i.e. soldiers) [Pedro Texeira, 1610]. According to Cornelis van Bruyn in 1683, “the peasants have generally very short hair and very long beards, a fashion which I thought remarkable, but not without its beauty. In the country, they wear high hats with a broad brim”.  “Cyprians do not exceed a middle stature, are rather lean than fat, and rather brisk than strong. They are of a brown complexion, like the rest of the Greeks; and both their eyes and hair black. They are also of a quick and piercing genius”. Later, in 1806, Ali Bey comments: “The Greeks all wear moustaches and shave their chins like the Turks, but oldish people and priests often grow beards. They are forbidden to carry arms, but they all have a knife or dagger concealed about them”. William Turner in 1815 describes the dressing of men: “more common among the Greek male peasants than the other, it was one of coarse cotton, all white, consisting of a short vest tight around the body, with loose trousers down to the feet, fastened round the waist by a drawing tape, or, if the wearer could afford it, by a girdle which was generally red. The turban was mostly of coarse white cotton, they being freely allowed to wear this colour on the head” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. At least since the end of the 18th to the beginning of the 19th century, according to E. Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou (2019), the black vraka (pleated baggy trousers) was established as a typical dressing feature, and by the end of the 19th century was established as the national dress of the Cypriot men. Meanwhile, with an encyclical letter of 1797, the Church threatened with excommunication those Christians who dared to wear dress items characteristic of the Ottoman state’s apparel (red shoes and saches, white turbans, the gold-embroidered red fermeni, braided waistcoat) [Euphrosyne Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou, 2019].


According to Cornelis van Bruyn in 1683, “the head-dress of the women is just a handkerchief tied around the head, brown or grey striped with black, gold or silver, and sometimes embroidered. They dress in all manners of silk stuff. Their chemise has a kind of fringe around the neck and on the sleeves, but this is only the stuff itself worked into a kind of lace”. John Heyman in the 1700s mentions: “The women here, especially at Lernica [Larnaca], are not the most beautiful I have seen — Their hair is covered before but hangs down behind in curls. They also wear those large wide plaited gowns” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895]. During the 1760s, according to Giovanni Mariti, the Greek women were distinguished by their light head-dress. They wore a small vest and a petticoat of red cotton cloth. Their long robe, beginning from the shoulders and ending at the ground, was of velvet or silk cloth. Around their necks, they had gold chains and their arms were ornamented with jewels and pearls. The Cypriot women had beautiful teeth and their hair was divided on the forehead and extended towards the ears. Behind, the hair fell into natural ringlets and the women formed it into 8 to 10 tresses.  Women were fond of perfumes and they covered the head with all kinds of flowers. The Turkish women were modest and reserved in appearance; They were covered from heads to toes with a white, cotton robe. Catholic women were very coquettish and wore elegant dresses. The Cypriot women used henna from the plant Lawsonia inermis to dye their hair, giving them an orange-like colour. Turkish women used it also to rub their nails and palms to make them whiter [Giovanni Mariti, 1791]. Edward Clarke in 1801 gives a detail description of the Greek women: “The upper robe is always of scarlet, crimson or green silk, embroidered with gold. Like other Greek women they wear long scarlet pantaloons, fastened round the ankle; and yellow boots, with slippers of the same colour. Around the neck, and from the head, were suspended a profusion of gold coins, chains, and other trinkets. About their waists, they have a large belt or zone, fastened in front by two large and heavy polished brass plates. They endeavour to make the waist appear as long as possible, and the legs, consequently, short. Naturally corpulent, they take no pains to diminish the size of their bodies by lacing, but seem rather vain of their bulk; exposing their bosoms, at the same time, in a manner highly unbecoming. Notwithstanding the extraordinary pains they use to disfigure their natural beauty by all sorts of ill- selected ornaments, the women of Cyprus are more handsome than those of any other Grecian island. They have a taller and more stately figure; and the features, particularly of the women of Nicosia, are regular and dignified, exhibiting that elevated cast of countenance so universally admired in the works of Grecian artists”. Ali Bey in 1806 says about the Greek women: “The Greeks are quite as jealous as the Turks, and keep their womenkind in such out of the way places that it is impossible to see them. Those whom I met in the street were covered and hidden by a white sheet, just like Turkish women. Those who go about with their faces uncovered are generally old or ugly”. William Turner in 1815: “The general dress, like that of all Greek women, consisted of a white cap, sometimes with a red border or embroidered, according to the circumstances of the wearer, round which the hair flowed loose before on each temple, and terminated behind in one, two, six or even eight tails, generally lengthened by skeins of silk: strings of sequins, rubies or paras hung around the head and neck: a gown tightened at the waist and bound by a simple handkerchief, or by a leathern girdle fastened by silver clasps which generally bore the shape of a circle or of a sloped heart, and an outer robe more or less richly embroidered, flowing to the feet; for this latter, a red cloth is mostly preferred, they being here freely permitted to wear that colour as well as yellow shoes, contrary to the custom in Constantinople. They frequently throw a handkerchief loosely about the head to shade them from the sun, and none of them, even Turkish women, hide their face with scrupulous jealousy”. Charles Frankland in 1827 talks about the henna: ” I observed at dinner that the fair [Greek Cypriot] Consulesses had tinged their finger-nails with henna, a la Turque” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].

Slaves and Concubines

Öztürk in 2019 conducted research on the subject based on the Nicosia kadi’s court records of the 17th century. The sources show that “in the early years of Ottoman rule it was very common to buy and keep male and female slaves. In the late 16th century Cypriot harbours, especially the port of Famagusta, were on one of the busiest slave routes of the Empire. Large numbers of men were brought in as slaves from Africa, the Caucasus and the Balkans. So too were female slaves. It seems that these slaves were bought by rich Cypriot Muslims, who employed them in various jobs in many parts of the island” [including the job of course of the sex slave]. Also, “Famagusta was on the island’s East-West and North-South trade routes and therefore served both as a place from which slaves were moved on elsewhere and as a local bazaar. The slaves and concubines were of Arabic, Persian, Hungarian and Russian origin” [Mustafa Öztürk, 2019]. The early 19th-century observer in Cyprus, American missionary Lorenzo Warriner Pease, noted the presence of slaves. British consular reports in the 1840s had mentioned the trading of 5,000 slaves and the presence of 2,000. Louis Salvator referred to Turks owning slaves and remarked on the number he saw in Nicosia in the early 1870s. Hatay claims that slave-owning in Cyprus was generally but not exclusively among Muslim families. According to Boys Smith slavery ceased with the arrival of the British [Stephen Boys Smith, 2019].


A rare description regarding prostitution was recorder by Edward Clarke in 1801. He mentions by word: “We found the entrance [of Nicosia] filled with beggars. The guard demands a toll from all Greeks passing through. As we rode into the town, we met a long train of women, dressed in white robes, the beautiful costume of the capital, filling the air with their lamentations. Some of these were of the middle age, but all were handsome; as they came on, they exposed their faces and breasts to public view, tearing their hair, and weeping piteously. In the midst of the procession rode a Turk upon an ass, smoking his pipe in the most tranquil manner, and wholly indifferent to their cries. Upon inquiring the cause of this tumult, we were told that these women were all prostitutes, whom the Governor had banished the city, and whom they were therefore conducting beyond the gates” [Claude Delaval Cobham, 1895].

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