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Janus of Cyprus: Wikis


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Janus of Cyprus (Genoa, 1375 – Nicosia, June 29, 1432), sometimes John II of Cyprus, was a King of Cyprus, King of Armenia and a Titular King of Jerusalem from 1398 to 1432.

Janus succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father James I. Born in Genoa, where his father was a captive, his mother, Helvis of Brunswick-Grubenhagen gave him the name Janus which was the name of the god who founded Genoa, according to a mythological tradition.

When his father, who was a captive in Genoa, was elected King, he made an agreement with the Genoese to release him to go to Cyprus; he negotiated with them and signed an agreement on 2 February 1383. Under that agreement, the Genoese had new privileges for commercial activities. However, under Genoese demand, his father left his son Janus in their city as hostage. James sent a noble to Genoa, John Babin, as act as stepfather of his son. As the Cypriot historian Leontios Makhairas wrote, James ordered a special tax which required the Cypriots - both nobles and people - to buy an amount of salt in order to collect the amount of money needed to release his son from the Genoese; this was achieved on October 1392, when Janus was 18 years old.

After his father's death on September 9, 1398, Janus took over the throne of Cyprus, when he was 24 years old. He was crowned in Saint Sophia Cathedral November 11, 1398.

He had nine children. After January, 1400, he married Anglesia Visconti (d. at Reggio, October 12, 1439), daughter of Bernabò Visconti, Lord of Milan, but the marriage was annulled and they divorced in 1408 or 1407/1409 without issue. In 1411, he married Charlotte de Bourbon-La Marche (1388 – of the plague January 15, 1422 and buried in Nicosia), daughter of John I, Count of La Marche and Catherine of Vendôme, at Nicosia, and they had six children:

  • Jean II or III de Lusignan (1414–1458)
  • Jacques de Lusignan (d. ca 1426)
  • Anne de Lusignan, Princess of Cyprus (ca September 24, 1418 (or 1419) – Geneva, November 11, 1462), married at Chambéry on November 1, 1433 or February 12, 1434 Ludovico I, Duca di Savoia (Geneva, February 21, 1402/1413 – Lione, January 29, 1465) (although Anne was born on September 24, the year she was born is uncertain, might be 1418 or 1419)
  • Marie de Lusignan (d. after April 29, 1437)
  • Unnamed twins (b.7 November 1415)

Out of wedlock, he had three more children:

  • Aloysius de Lusignan (1408 – after 1421)
  • Guy de Lusignan (d. after 1433), legitimized by the Pope Martin V in 1428 along with his cousin Phoebus de Lusignan, illegitimate son of Pierre de Lusignan, grandson of Jean de Lusignan and second wife Alix d'Ibelin, married before 1432 Isabelle Babin, the parents of:
    • Jacqua de Lusignan (b. 1432)
    • Eleonore de Lusignan (b. 1433)
  • a daughter de Lusignan, married 1427 Garceran Suarez de los Cernadilla, Admiral of Cyprus

As King he tried to take back Famagusta, which was under Genoese rule, in 1402. The administrator of Famagusta, who was the Genoese Antonio de Karko, according to writings of Amati was the Janus' godfather who was born in Genoa. Janus conspired with a priest who was the spiritual father of de Karko, in order to return the city to the Cypriot King, by which the priest was to become Bishop of Famagusta. Involved in that conspiracy was Peter Makhairas, brother of Leontios. They made secret keys for the City Gates and there were many preparations to take over Famagusta and to murder de Karko by Brother Gregory and to open the gates for Janus' soldiers. However, at the last moment the plan was betrayed, and the conspirators, who were in Famagusta, were arrested; 28 of them were executed and this resulted in Famagusta remaining in Genoese hands.

The King continued his effort to take back Famagusta (which also had Kyrenia under its rule) and that caused conflict with them. In 1403, the Governor of Genoa, de Mengre, had talks with Janus' representative George Billi and the talks ended with an agreement. The conflicts ended but the two cities remained under Genoese hands. A while afterwards Janus tried to take over Famagusta again. As Makhairas says, he forced the Cypriot people to pay special taxes to assemble an army and machines for siege and he besieged Famagusta. The siege lasted for three years but it proved useless since there was access from the sea to the city. In 1406, the siege ended and the Genoese tried to occupy Limassol but they were defended.

Two years later, the island was affected by epidemics. Simultaneously, there were many raids of locusts on the island, which caused destruction to agriculture. A new epidemic arrived in 1419-20 and that probably caused the death of Janus' second wife Charlotte. Because the King was very distraught, the body of the dead queen was moved out of the palace where her funeral was, in order to not be seen by Janus. She died on January 15, 1422.

Meanwhile, because Cyprus was still a permanent base of campaign of pirates and adventurers, after raids around Cypriot costs, Janus had repeated discussions with the Sultan of Egypt via the Sultan's representatives. Janus didn't manage to stop those raids and that gave the Saracens reason to invade Cyprus. Also in those raids, there was participation by Cypriot nobles and officials of the Kingdom who were getting richer from the looting.

Barsbay, the Sultan of Egypt, sent military forces to Cyprus several times. A small force, around in 1424, hit Limassol and in 1425 the Egyptian army hit Famagusta, which was delivered by the Genoese and then they attacked and pillaged Larnaca together with the area beside it, Kiti, Dromolaxia, Kellia, Aradippou and Agrinou. After Larnaca, they went to Limassol, where they pillaged as well and they took over, without difficulty, the city's castle.

In the summer of 1426, the Mamluks conducted their big attack on the island. Their army arrived in the island with 180 ships in Avdimou. The leaders of the army for that war were Tangriver Mohamed and Inal el Kakimi. Their army contained more than 3,000 men and included Mamliks, Turks and Arabs. Limassol got occupied again. Janus got his own army and moved from Nicosia to Limassol. He asked from help from the forces in Europe, who didn't come - the Genoese were his enemies, and the Venetians and others didn't want to destroy commercial relations with the sultan.

Following the Battle of Chirokitia (July 7, 1426) against the Mamluks, King Janus was captured by the Egyptian forces of Al-Ashraf Sayf-ad-Din Barsbay, Sultan of the Burji dynasty. After ten months of captivity in Cairo, he was ransomed. During his captivity his brother Hugh of Lusignan, Archbishop of Nicosia, took charge of Cyprus.

After their victory the Mamluks pillaged Larnaca again and then the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia. The royal family retreated to the fortified Kyrenia and were rescued. The invaders took a great deal of loot and captives and left the island.

That disaster, together with the previous raids, the war operations of Janus against Genoese, the epidemics and the invasion of locusts caused the Cypriot serfs who lived in conditions of utter poverty to revolt. The leader of the Cypriot revolutionaries was a person called Alexis who was declared as King in Lefkoniko. The revolution was big, and was supported by the people who elected their own leaders in many places of Cyprus.

Meanwhile, Janus was humiliated in Cairo- tied up with chains and riding a donkey, they took him in front of the Sultan and he was forced to kneel and worship 9 times the land on which he stepped. The release of Janus was effected after the mediations of Europeans, who offered money for the collection of the required ransoms. Also Cyprus had to offer the Sultan annual tax based on 5.000 duchies. That tax continued to be offered, even after the end of the Frankish rule in Cyprus. Together with Janus, some of the captives managed to buy their freedom after their families collected money. Some others remained as captives and were sold as slaves.

While Janus was captive, in Cyprus, the nobles and the royal family members were trying to face the Alexis' Rebellion and concurrently began to try for the release of Janus. With help from Europe, the rebellion was repressed after 10 months. The leader of the rebels was arrested as a caprive. After terrible tortures, he was executed in Nicosia on May 12, 1427, the same day that King Janus arrived in Paphos from Cairo.

Regnal titles
Preceded by
James I
King of Cyprus
Titular King of Jerusalem
King of Armenia

Succeeded by
John II


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