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Janus of Cyprus

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Janus of Cyprus

Janus of Cyprus
Born 1375
Died 29 June 1432(1432-06-29)
Spouse Anglesia Visconti
Charlotte de Bourbon
Issue John II of Cyprus
Anne of Cyprus
Father James I of Cyprus
Mother Helvis of Brunswick-Grubenhagen

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


Janus was born in Genoa, where his father, James I of Cyprus, was a captive. His mother, Helvis of Brunswick-Grubenhagen, named him in honor of the god Janus, the founder of Genoa according to mythological tradition.

When his father was elected king, he negotiated an agreement with the Genoese to release him to go to Cyprus, which he signed on 2 February 1383. Under that agreement, the Genoese were given new commercial privileges. However, the Genoese demanded that his father leave his son Janus in their city as a hostage. James sent a noble to Genoa, John Babin, to act as stepfather to his son. As the Cypriot historian Leontios Makhairas writes, James ordered a special tax which required the Cypriots—both nobles and commoners—to purchase an amount of salt in order to collect the money needed to release his son from Genoese captivity; this was achieved on October 1392, when Janus was 18 years old.

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

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

The king continued his effort to take back Famagusta (whose territory also included Limassol, but were defeated.

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, which probably caused the death of Janus' second wife, Charlotte on 15 January 1422. Because the king was very distraught about her death, the body of the dead queen was moved out of the palace where her funeral was, in order to not be seen by Janus.

Meanwhile, because Cyprus was still a permanent base of campaign for pirates and adventurers, after raids around the Cypriot coasts, Janus had repeated discussions with the Sultan of Egypt via the sultan's representatives. Janus was unable to stop the raids, which gave the Muslims a reason to attack Cyprus. Cypriot nobles and officials of the kingdom participated in the raids.

Barsbay, the Sultan of Egypt, sent military forces to Cyprus several times. A small force, around 1424, attacked Limassol, and in 1425 the Egyptian army attacked Famagusta and then pillaged Larnaca together with the nearby area, including Kiti, Dromolaxia, Kellia, Aradippou and Agrinou. After Larnaca, they went to Limassol, which was also sacked, including the city's castle.

In the summer of 1426, the Mamluks launched a large-scale attack against the island. Led by Tangriver Mohamed and Inal el Kakimi, their army contained over 3,000 men and included Mamluks, Turks and Arabs and arrived at the island with 180 ships near Avdimou. Limassol was again occupied. Janus mustered his army and moved from Nicosia to Limassol. He asked in vain for help from the forces in Europe: the Genoese were his enemies, and the Venetians and others did not want to destroy commercial relations with the sultan.

Following the Battle of Chirokitia (7 July 1426) against the Mamluks, King Janus was captured by the Egyptian forces. He was ransomed after ten months of captivity in Cairo. 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 fortified Kyrenia and were rescued. The invaders took a great deal of loot and captives before they 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 king in Lefkoniko. The revolution was big, and was supported by the population, who elected their own leaders in many places of Cyprus.

Meanwhile, Janus was humiliated in Cairo: they took him, tied up with chains and riding a donkey, in front of the sultan, after which he was forced to kneel and worship nine times the soil on which he stepped. The release of Janus was effected after the mediations of Europeans, who collected money for the required ransoms. Cyprus also had to offer the sultan an annual tax based on income from 5,000 duchies. This tax continued to be paid even after the end of Frankish rule in Cyprus. Together with Janus, some of the captives managed to buy their freedom after their families collected money to ransom them. Others remained captive and were sold as slaves.

While Janus was captive in Cyprus, the nobles and the royal family members were trying to deal with Alexis' rebellion and concurrently trying to achieve the release of Janus. With help from Europe, the rebellion was repressed after 10 months. The rebels' leader was arrested and after terrible tortures was executed in Nicosia on 12 May 1427, the same day that King Janus arrived in Paphos from Cairo.

Family and issue

Janus had nine children. Sometime after January 1400 he married Anglesia Visconti (died 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 (born 1388 – died of the plague on 15 January 1422 and buried in Nicosia), daughter of John I, Count of La Marche and Catherine of Vendôme, at Nicosia;

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