Prologue: Hugues de Lusignan and the Kingdom of Cyprus
The origin of the Kingdom of Cyprus can be traced back to the Third Crusade. This campaign was in turn a result of the disaster at the Battle of Hattin where Guy de Lusignan (1150-1194), King of Jerusalem, lost his kingdom to Saladin. It was during the following crusade (in 1191) that Richard I of England conquered the island while en route to the Holy Land. For the next two years the island would serve as a supply depot and naval base for the campaign in the Levant. After a convoluted series of exchanges Richard finally sold the island to the, now crownless, Guy de Lusignan for the handsome sum of 60,000 gold bezants. The de Lusignan's were nothing if not survivors.
Following Guy's death in 1194, it was his brother Aimery (1145-1205) who accepted the crown of Cyprus from the German Emperor Henry VI in1197. In exchange Cyprus would become one of the first components in Henry's unrealised dream of a Hohenstaufen Mediterranean. For the next several decades the island would thrive as a centre of Latin trade in Outremer.
The seemingly unlikely scenario of a de Lusignan once again ruling Jerusalem came to pass when Hugues III of Cyprus accepted lordship of the rump kingdom in 1267. Combining the two thrones did little to halt the incessant infighting in Levant politics however and the inevitable collapse came after a decade of determined Mamluk campaigning. Henry II could do nothing but provide sanctuary when Acre finally fell in 1291. For the second time in a century a de Lusignan king had lost the Holy Land.
The Eastern Mediterranean in 1337
Hugues de Lusignan
Born 1293 - died 1339
Ruled 1324 - 1339
Hugues IV of Cyprus
Eventually the lordship of both Cyprus and Jerusalem reached Hugues IV who was crowned following the death of his uncle Henry II in 1324. He was to be the first King of Jerusalem never to have ruled on mainland Levant. Unlike his uncle Hugues exhibited little urge to reclaim the lands lost to the Mamluks of Egypt. Indeed the loss of Acre and the Levant had led to the great flourishing of commerce that had turned Cyprus into one of the most important centres of trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. Much of Hugues' efforts were devoted to managing this flow of trade in the face of competing Papal and Italian (primarily Venetian and Genoese) interests.
It was this very lucrative trade that was under threat in 1337 as a series of particularly severe raids on Italian shipping in the region caused wide scale disruption to commerce. The implosion and collapse of the Sultanate of Rum in the mid 13th century had led to the rise of several petty warlords in Anatolia. Almost all of these engaged in piracy to bolster their incomes and they were, over time, slowly strangling trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. The most obvious victims of this were Cyprus, which relied heavily on trade to supplement the meagre income (7 gold bezants) from the island's lands, and the Italian trading houses. Aside from the Italians there was also strong pressure for action from within the Cypriot court with Hugues' son Guy, the kingdom's marshal, actively advocating permanent action be taken.
Southern Anatolia in 1337
Hugues had been a largely passive king who had never taken to the pretence of trying to reconquer Levant. Instead he was content to rule Cyprus rather than engage in the folly of crusades. Furthermore he was acutely aware of the dangers of inciting the mainland Muslims. Peace was maintained through a complex series of constantly shifting alliances and truces. Intervening in Anatolia ran the very serious risk of uniting the various petty Sultans by distracting them from their petty bickering and quarrelling.
However the pressure exerted by both his eager son and the Italians, coupled with deteriorating trade revenues, could not be ignored. In the early months of 1337 Hugues embarked on a tour of Western Europe to try and summon support for a crusade against the Turks. Given the mounting tensions between the kings of England and France and the continuing warfare in Italy it is not surprising that little was achieved from this venture. What crusading enthusiasm could be mustered was directed almost uniformly towards Jerusalem, the Pope would reissue a call to retake the Holy Sepulchre in July, with little attention given to the Turks.
On returning to Cyprus in early 1338 Hugues found himself with little choice but to rely on his own soldiers. His allies the Hospitallers in Rhodes had pledged a small detachment but would not commit the order itself. Despite the eagerness of his son, the onset of an unknown illness delayed Hugues' departure from Limisol until late November 1338. The small navy's destination was the Sultanate of Karaman directly north of the island.
Hugues Lands at Seleukeia
After a short and uneventful voyage Hugues arrived in Seleukeia in the first week of December 1338. There he was met by the combined armies of Saltuk of Karaman who had clearly been warned of the Frankish approach. The armies were evenly matched but eyewitness accounts, admittedly exclusively Christian, attest to the superior skill of the Frankish tactics. The result was a bruising encounter that forced Saltuk to retreat north to the refuge of Ikonion with less than a third of his army intact. Immediately Hugue's forces began to invest the city and, on 5 January, Seleukeia surrendered to the Christians. Four days later Hugues took the decision to march inland. The victory over the dishevelled forces at Ikonion was swift and comprehensive. The fortifications fell less than a month later, on 2 March 1339
This campaign can be differentiated in almost all crusades in the Eastern Mediterranean since 1250 in that it was more than a raid or mere piracy. Contemporary accounts suggest that Hugues was committed, or perhaps resigned, to administrating the new lands as part of his personal demesne. This can only be viewed as a war of conquest. When, in May 1339, Muslim nobles in Seleukeia objected to prolonged infidel rule they were brutally suppressed and forced conversions carried out throughout the province. While stoking anger amongst the neighbouring Muslim lords, these actions, and their success, are indicative of preparations for permanent occupation.
The Kingdom of Cyprus in 1338
By committing Cyprus, however reluctantly, to the occupation of lands in Anatolia, Hugues had passed a major crossroads in the Kingdom's history. The former problem of piracy shrunk into insignificance when compared to the new reality of defending Frankish rule in its new lands. At the same time the campaign, matched by the neighbouring Muslim conquest of Armenia Minor, ensured that Christendom retained a foothold, however tenuous, in Outremer.
On 22 November 1339 Hugues de Lusignan died of his illness, possibly dysentery, aged 46. He was survived by his wife Alice d'Ibelin; sons Guy, Pierre, Jean and Jacques; and daughters Eschive and Marguerite. Hugues was succeeded on the throne by his eldest son and Marshal Guy de Lusignan.