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When the Big Criminals of the Mameluke Egypt Defeated the Big Criminals of Cyprus in 829 A.H.
When the Mameluke Sultan Barsbay Conquered Cyprus

When the Mameluke Sultan Barsbay Conquered Cyprus

When the Big Criminals of the Mameluke Egypt Defeated the Big Criminals of Cyprus in 829 A.H.





Published in April 20, 2020

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy





A historical background:

1- Acre, the last Levantine city and stronghold occupied by the Crusaders, fell in 690 A.H. to the hand of the Mameluke sultanate Khalil Ibn Qalawun; yet, Crusades never ended by the fall of Acre; the remnants of the Crusaders settled in Cyprus as their foothold. From Cyprus, many Crusaders sent their military ships to attack many ports of the Mameluke sultanate in Egypt and the Levant. This drove the Mameluke sultan Barsbay to invade and annex Cyprus to the Mameluke sultanate in 830 A.H.

2- Years earlier, Cyprus was invaded by King Richard I of Britain (or the Lion Heart: or Richard Cœur de Lion) who was the stubborn adversary of the Ayyubid sultan Saladin. Cyprus later on became the foothold of all Crusaders which sent them military aid and reinforcements; it became the temporary station for many Crusades; hence, after the fall of Acre, Cyprus became the last haven for the remnants of Crusaders who were expelled from the Levantine region and were joined by other Europeans pirates and adventurers who raided the Mameluke ports and cities. The most dangerous and worst military campaign by Crusaders of Cyprus was the one that stormed the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Egypt, as Europeans looted and mascaraed there in the month of Saffar, 767 A.H., during the reign of the Mameluke sultan Shabaan Ibn Qalawun.  


The military campaign of Cyprus against Alexandria, Egypt, in 767 A.H.:

1- At the time when the Crusaders attacked Alexandria from their Cyprian foothold, the military leader-general of the Mameluke troops, Yalubgha, was journeying in the spot of departure and arrival of caravans in Al-Sharqiyah Governorate, in the east of the Nile Delta, while the sultan Shabaan Ibn Qalawun journeyed outside Greater Cairo, and amidst their pleasures, both men received news that seventy-ship fleet of the Europeans/Crusaders (known as theFranks at the time in the Arab culture) attacked Alexandria. This European fleet was filled with warriors and arms; the Crusaders invaded Alexandria on the 21st day of Saffar, 767 A.H., and this military campaign was led by king James I of Cyprus. After invading Alexandria, James I led a victory parade while his soldiers massacred the residents of the city; many people died in the stampede while they hurried in fright to get out of the gates of the wall of Alexandria.         

2- Shabaan Ibn Qalawun announced a general mobilization; when the Mameluke troops reached Alexandria, they found out that the crusaders left the city after they pillages and destroyed it completely, and they also massacred more than five thousand people and enslaved and captured nearly the same number; they returned to Cyprus with their spoils and captives. The Egyptian historian Ibn Eyas writes the following about Alexandria: (...From that fateful day on, the city of Alexandria remained in troubled conditions for a long time; it lost its importance and lacked money, goods, merchants, and also residents; it became a deserted city...).

3- It is noteworthy that a less-known Alexandrian author witnessed this European military campaign and penned a two-volume book about this plight inflicted on Alexandria; this book is still a manuscript in the Cairo-based Egyptian National Library; this author is M. Ibn Qassim M. Al-Nuweiry who died in 775 A.H., eight years after this plight of Alexandria; he is not to be confused with the known Egyptian author Shehab-Eddine Al-Nuweiry, who died in 733 A.H., the historian and author of encyclopedic works; both authors lived and died in the 8th century A.H.   


Other military raids by Crusaders and Cypriots from the Cyprian foothold:

 During the reign of Barsbay, many attacks against Mameluke Egyptian and Levantine ports came from Cyprus; hence, Barsbay was bent on invading and annexing Cyprus to the Mameluke sultanate; these events of the Mameluke troops and fleet conquering Cyprus were recorded by three of the most famous historians of the Mameluke Era as eyewitnesses of such events, but our focus will be only on two of them: Al-Makrizi and Ibn Hajar.

1- In Shabaan, 825 A.H., the number of military campaigns by Crusaders who attacked the Egyptian coasts increased; at one time, two ships of the Crusaders attacked the port of Alexandria, and upon spotting a merchants' ship with goods worth 100 thousand dinars, they tried to attack this ship to steal such goods; a maritime battle ensued; the residents of Alexandria helped the merchants; eventually, the Crusaders burned the merchants' ship; the arrows of alexandrine archers never reached the two ships of the Crusaders. The battle ended in the victory of the Crusaders who headed towards Cyrenaica (or Pentapolis/Barqa: the eastern coasts of today's Libya) which was part of the Mameluke sultanate at the time; they attacked and lootedCyrenaica and then attacked Alexandria once more before they headed to the Levantine coasts to attack other ports there.     

2- In Ramadan, 826 A.H., rumors spread that the Crusaders in Cyprus were preparing to launch military attacks to raid the Egyptian ports; Barsbay issued his commands to the Mameluke princes and they got ready with their troops to defend the ports of Alexandria, Rosetta, and Damietta. Their preparations were done on the 7th of Ramadan; yet, no European raids took place.  

3- In Rajab, 827 A.H., the ships of the Crusaders managed to capture two ships in Damietta with their many goods and about 100 men; Barsbay was so furious that he confiscated all goods and money of European merchants in both Egypt and the Levant.


The small military campaign of Barsbay against Cyprus:

1- Because Cyprus was still a permanent base of military campaigns launched by European pirates and adventurers, this gave the Mameluke sultan Barsbay a good reason to attack Cyprus, especially that he was infuriated by the above-mentioned events and desired to take revenge. Thus, in Ramadan, 827 A.H., two Mameluke ships moved from the Cairene district Boulaq through the River Nile while carrying arms and 80 warriors among the best Mamelukes, and then, the two ships reached the Mediterranean and headed towards the Levantine port of Tripoli, where they were joined by other two Mameluke ships from the Levantine region; the four ships began to wait for the chance to attack and capture any ships of the Crusaders. 

2- These four Mameluke ships made wonders indeed; the two Egyptian ships were joined by two ships from the Levantine cities of Beirut and Sidon; this made the number of warriors (Mamelukes + volunteers) reach 600 besides 300 horses on the four ships together. Meanwhile, Cyprus at the time was divided among several rulers because its residents varied between original Cypriots and the remnants of the European Crusaders who left the Levant and were joined by other European pirates and adventurers. A battle took place between the Europeans and the Mamelukes in Shawwal, 827 A.H. Victory was achieved by the Mamelukes; when they returned to Egypt in Zu Al-Qaeda, 827 A.H., they brought along with them many spoils plus 1600 captives as per the historical narrative by Ibn Hajar or 23 captives as per the historical narrative of Al-Makrizi. We tend to think that the historical narrative of Al-Makrizi is the right one regarding the number of European captives; Ibn Hajar at the time was not very much accurate in his writings and he provided less details; this is because he was always busy assuming many posts at the same time especially as a judge; in contrast, Al-Makrizi was an independent writer who devoted his time entirely to recording history. 


The first large-scale military campaign of Barsbay against Cyprus:

1- The victory achieved by the small military campaign encouraged Barsbay to prepare another four war ships to conquer and invade Cyprus in Muharram, 828 A.H., within the River Nile bank in Boulaq. The work lasted for four months, and many timber/wood were brought mostly from old palaces in the Cairene district of Sariaqos which had many Mameluke Sufi mosques and madrassas.  

2- In Rabei Akhar, 828 A.H., a military tower was built in northern Sinai in the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea; it took the shape of a square and each of its four sides was 30 arms long; this tower was filled with arms, and 25 warriors, including 10 cavaliers, lived in it to keep watch. The one who oversaw the building process of this tower was the Mameluke prince Zayn-Eddine Abdel-Qader who brought stones for the tower from the ruins/monuments of the Al-Farama city in Sinai. The Bedouins of Sinai helped the Mameluke troops to guard the coasts of Sinai, and this center of such guards/warriors was this tower which became like a maritime military base.

3- In Jamady Awwal, 828 A.H., news came that the Europeans/Crusaders initiated their moves to attack the Levantine coasts; the Mameluke troops were ready; a battle took place near Safad, a Levantine city, and another battle took place a month later near Tripoli, another Levantine city. This prompted Barsbay to send two new ships to the Red Sea from Boulaq which were carried by camels through the desert to Suez; this aimed to prevent the  ships of the Crusaders from entering into the Red Sea so as not to let them have a chance to attack the Hejaz region (where Mecca and Yathreb are located) in Arabia ruled by the Mameluke sultanate.

4- In Jamady Akhar, 828 A.H., Barsbay examined the Mameluke troops prepared for the military campaign to conquer Cyprus, and he commanded each of the military leaders/princes to add ten Mameluke soldiers of their own troops to join the campaign; of course, the sultan did his best to swiftly build and prepare more ships, but sadly, he confiscated timber/wood from people by force without paying them, and he made his men fell many trees owned by people against their will; to make things worse, Barsbay made common people, within forced labor or corvée, carry timber/wood to Boulaq. As expected, Al-Makrizi in his book, (Al-Solok), disapproves of such misdeeds of Barsbay; he likens the sultan to a man who purposefully prayed without performing ablution and while intentionally disregarding the Qibla direction in Mecca!    

5- On the 13th of Rajab, 828 A.H., Barsbay gave 20 dinars to each of the 600 warriors of the military campaign he prepared; the Mameluke princes, who were the military leaders of this campaign, provided additional 300 warriors/soldiers; callers roamed the streets of Greater Cairo to urge the able-bodied male youths who had the skills to be trained to join the 'jihad' within this military campaign, if they liked, in return for a financial reward given to them in advance.   

6- On the 20th of Rajab, 828 A.H., 300 cavaliers reached Tripoli on horseback; Barsbay demanded the shipment of oars which were fabricated in Latikia; the ship carrying this load of oars was attacked by the Crusaders who killed all men on board and confiscated the ship and its load. 

7- On the 12th of Rajab, 828 A.H., after the Friday congregational noon prayers, Barsbay examined the ships ready for the campaign in the River Nile bank in Boulaq; at first, four ships only moved on the next day amidst the cheering of the crowds in Cairo. Another ship moved a day later, two ships two days later, the penultimate one on the 20th of Rajab, and the last one on the 3rd of Shabaan. The Mameluke prince Girbash was the military leader of this campaign against Cyprus.  

8- Gliding on the surface of the River Nile, all ships reached Damietta and moved through the Mediterranean to reach Tripoli; this fleet was completed when other ships joined it from the Levant; there were forty ships loaded with horses, cavaliers, soldiers, and volunteers among common people (i.e., non-Mamelukes) who were willing to fight. This Mameluke fleet reached Famagusta where Cypriots lived in Cyprus (i.e., away from Limassol where the Crusaders/Europeans lived in Cyprus at the time). On the 20th of Ramadan, 828 A.H., the Mameluke warriors pitched their tents and resided in Famagusta, and its ruler announced his loyalty and unconditional obedience to Barsbay. Upon hearing this piece of news, the Crusaders in Limassol prepared for war.   

9- The Mameluke warriors began to raid the estates and villages in the western side of the island of Cyprus; they captured and killed many Europeans there and amassed many spoils. A week later, they embarked the ships of the Mameluke fleet and moved near the coasts of the island while leaving only 400 soldiers from the Mameluke army in land moving in the same direction along with the fleet; many skirmishes and fights occurred between them and the Cypriots in land. A maritime battle occurred between the Mameluke fleet and the ships of the Crusaders; after a long time and fierce fighting, the Crusaders were eventually defeated. The Mameluke soldiers of this military campaign of Barsbay emerged victorious.  

10- Apparently, such a battle and such fights and skirmishes were only a test; Janus the king of Cyprus was preparing for a battle in land led by his own brother; of course, the Crusaders seized the chance of seeing the Mameluke military campaign being divided within the land and the sea to attack the Mameluke fleet, but the Crusaders were defeated; when the Crusaders engaged into a battle in land, the Mameluke warriors also defeated them, killing many among the European troops. The horses of the Mamelukes were brought from the ships to the island and the Mameluke soldiers killed and captured many Europeans and pillaged and burned down many villages in Cyprus; the ships of the Mameluke fleet were brimming with spoils and captives.   

11- The Mameluke prince/leader Girbash feared that the spoils and captives would be a too big load or burden which would hinder a decisive battle, especially that news reached him that the king of Cyprus sought the help of the rest of Crusaders in Europe; he sent a letter to Barsbay to ask for permission to return swiftly to Egypt and sent news of the victory, the captives, and the spoils. News of victory reached Cairo on the 9th of Shawwal, 828 A.H., and this letter sent to the sultan Al-Ashraf Barsbay with glad tidings of victory was read aloud, in Al-Ashrafiyya mosque built by the sultan, to all judges, the supreme judges, and merchants and landlords; it was read aloud again in Amr Ibn Al-As mosque in Cairo and then in Alexandria, main cities of Lower Egypt, and main cities in Upper Egypt. Streets of Greater Cairo were decorated to celebrate the victory. 

12- The ships of the victorious Mameluke troops reached the River Nile bank at Boulaq on the 25th of Shawwal, 828 A.H., and they brought 1600 captives and huge amount of spoils which were carried by 10 camels, 40 mules, and 170 men/carriers. Barsbay examined and demonstrated the captives and spoils in a huge party to celebrate the victory; he commanded that all captives would be sold into slavery and that all spoils would be classified and evaluated; the Mameluke prince Einal was deputized by the sultan to sell the captives; many people of different classes in Greater Cairo bought these slaves while bearing in mind the command of Barsbay that no one should separate offspring from their parents and relatives from one another; this means that in many cases, several enslaved European captives who belonged to one family were bought together by one purchaser. Each soldier and volunteer of this military campaign was given a gift of three dinars and a half by the sultan Barsbay himself.         

13- The defeat of the Crusaders and the Cypriots infuriated all Europe; Janus the king of Cyprus was so furious that he promptly sent ships of Crusaders to raid the coasts of Sinai, Egypt, shortly before the Mameluke fleet reached Cairo with the captives and the spoils; Barsbay knew that the Europeans would never hesitate to take revenge sooner than expected by anyone; he decided to prepare a larger and stronger military campaign to conquer and annex Cyprus to the Mameluke sultanate so that no dangers would come from this island ever again to threaten the Egyptian and Levantine coasts.   


The second large-scale military campaign of Barsbay against Cyprus and capturing Janus the king of Cyprus:

1- On the 2nd of Rajab, 829 A.H., the military campaign moved in successive parts from Greater Cairo led by four Mameluke princes and military leaders: Taghribirdi the leader of infantry troops, Einal the leader of the fleet, and Taghri Birmash and Morad Khaja as assistants in leadership. The ships of the fleet which carried the warriors moved successively from Cairo to Rosetta through the River Nile. The last ship moved from Cairo on the 11th of Rajab.     

2- Two weeks later when all ships of the Mameluke fleet, carrying all troops of the military campaign, gathered at Rosette in the Mediterranean Sea, they headed towards Cyprus, but sadly, four ships sank; Barsbay was beside himself with rage and toyed with the idea of issuing a command of retreat; yet, he sent the Mameluke prince Girbash to the fleet to examine all conditions and return with a report and the right decision to the sultan; this Mameluke prince decided that the military campaign should go on within its mission of invading Cyprus no matter what. 

3- On its way through the Mediterranean Sea, the Mameluke fleet receive news about four ships of the Crusaders heading towards Alexandria to raid the Egyptian city. Part of the ships of the Mameluke fleet intercepted and attacked the ships of the Crusaders before they reach Alexandria; when the rest of the Mameluke ships joined the battle, the Crusaders retreated swiftly. The Mameluke fleet reached Alexandria to begin the maintenance of the ships and also to deliver the good news of the first victory after this short battle.   

4- On the 20th of Shabaan, 829 A.H.,  the Mameluke fleet moved from Alexandria and headed towards Cyprus, reaching it after few days; the Mameluke troops headed for Limassol; meanwhile, Janus the king of Cyprus was preparing his military troops in Nicosia (i.e., the capital of Cyprus) to face the Mameluke invaders.    

5- A fierce battle took place around the castle of Limassol; on the 27th of Shabaan, 829 A.H., the Mameluke invaders managed to destroy the castle and to massacre many Crusaders there; the spoils were huge; the Mameluke troops remained inside Limassol for six days of plundering; they left the city on the 1st of Ramadan; they divided themselves into two groups in the land and in the sea; on their way to Nicosia, they were surprised by the Cypriot troops of king Janus waiting for them. A decisive battle ensued; the Cypriots were defeated and king Janus was captured; among the captured and massacred soldiers were many 'Muslim' Turkmens who allied themselves to the Crusaders and were sent to Cyprus by Ibn Qirman a ruler who hated the Mamelukes and considered them as his enemies. 

6- After this victory of the Mamelukes, their sea and land troops were joined, and the Mameluke prince/leader Taghribirdi received Janus the captured king of Cyprus; the troops marched to Nicosia and they received the news that fourteen ships of the Crusaders came to help the Cypriots; the Mameluke fleet managed to defeat the ships of the Crusaders in short battle and the Mamelukes managed to confiscate one ship owned by their enemies after massacring many Crusaders. Al-Makrizi writes the following: (...One of the warriors of the campaign trusted by us told us frankly that at least 1500 European fighters were killed...). After the victory achieved in the maritime battle, the Mameluke troops headed towards the capital while they massacred and captured many Europeans and looted and gathered huge amounts of spoils; once they reached Nicosia, they invaded the city and plundered and sacked it and broke into the palace of the king of Cyprus; they stayed for some days in Nicosia before they embarked into the ships of the fleet to return to Egypt on the 12th of Ramadan, 829 A.H., along with the spoils and the captives. The residents of Famagusta sent a letter to Barsbay to beseech him to grant them security and safety; they feared meeting a similar fate of the defeated Europeans in Limassol and Nicosia.

7- Glad tidings of victory reached Greater Cairo as heralds and drummers announced the news in the streets and in the palace of Barsbay; callers announced that decorations of victory would be covering all streets of Greater Cairo; the letter bearing the glad tidings of victory was read aloud in Al-Ashrafiyya mosque; Barsbay sent a smaller fleet to guard and help the Mameluke fleet of the military campaign during its journey back home; this smaller fleet accompanied the larger, victorious one until all ships reached Alexandria.  


The victory parade:

1- During the Lesser Bairam of 829 A.H., the Mameluke ships reached Alexandria and then reached Boulaq, in Cairo, through the River Nile, on the 7th of Shawwal, 829 A.H., along with all spoils and captives including king Janus of Cyprus. Al-Makrizi writes the following: (...It was a witnessed unparalleled day which we never saw its peer...). On the next day, the Mameluke troops of the campaign paraded in all the main streets of Greater Cairo along with the spoils and captives including Janus, and most residents of Greater Cairo, thousands of men and women, gathered to watch the victory parade, as per Al-Makrizi. This victory parade was headed by the Mameluke cavaliers followed by the infantry troops and then the volunteering fighters from both Egypt and the Levant who joined the campaign. Behind them were carriers of the spoils including the crown, horses, and folded banners of Janus, and the last people within the procession of this parade were more than 1000 enfettered captives (men, women, and children). Behind everyone was the humiliated king Janus, tied up with chains and riding a mule along with two of his military leaders, while the Mameluke princes Einal and Taghribirdi rode their fine horses on the left and on the right of Janus; once they reached the garden of the palace in front of the sultan Barsbay, Janus was made to dismount the mule and his headwear was removed, to humiliate and insult him further, after which he was forced to kneel and worship many times the soil on which he stepped. Soon enough, Janus was made to stand, in chains, before the sultan Barsbay who sat on a huge chair surrounded by his statesmen and viziers...etc. Among the attendees, as per Al-Makrizi, was the honorable emir/ruler of Mecca Barakat Ibn Ajlan, an envoy of the Ottoman sultan, the ruler of Tunisia, some Turkmen princes who allied themselves to the sultan Barsbay, some Arabian rulers, and some Mameluke governors who ruled some Levantine cities in the name of the sultan Barsbay. After the sultan examined the spoils and the captives, he commanded that Janus would be brought to him in chains and bareheaded; Janus was forced to kiss the ground under the feet of the sultan Barsbay; the suffering, humiliation, and lack of strength of Janus made him faint; some Mameluke servants helped him regain his consciousness; the sultan Barsbay commanded them to put the captured king of Cyprus into a chamber specially prepared for him inside the palace. Al-Makrizi writes the following to describe that day: (...It was a great day which we never witnessed anything like it when Allah supported His Religion with glory...)(!). the exclamation mark is added by us and not by Al-Makrizi, of course.    

2- Barsbay later on commanded his Mameluke servants to remove all decorations of celebrating the victory from all the streets of Cairo; Barsbay gave gifts to all Mameluke princes and military leaders who achieved this victory and made them ride fine horses with golden saddles. 


The fate of Janus the captured king of Cyprus:

1- On the 9th of Shawwal, 830 A.H., the merchants of Greater Cairo gathered to buy the spoils: garments, pieces of cloth, pieces of furniture, and silverware. As for the captured king of Cyprus, Janus, Barsbay sent to him envoys who talked to him, in his tongue, about ransoming himself. Yet, Janus told them he had no money and he had nothing but his soul and body under the mercy of the sultan. Upon hearing such reply conveyed to him by the envoys, Barsbay was furious; he made them inform Janus of the sultan's intention to put him to death if he would not ransom himself. Janus feigned being courageous and looked indifferent to such a threat. Barsbay devised another plan: he summoned Janus after he commanded that all captured European people be gathered, while being chained, in the garden of the palace; when the fettered king Janus was brought to the garden of the palace, the captives screamed in shock and put dust on their heads while they lamented their king's capture of which they were not aware before. Janus was made to stand beneath the chair where Barsbay sat within a balcony. Soon enough, some European envoys who were sent to Barsbay vowed to ransom Janus but without accepting any other conditions dictated by Barsbay; Janus was brought back to his chamber of solitary confinement inside the palace; the European envoys were later allowed to meet with Janus to negotiate with him the matter of his being ransomed.     

2- On the 10th of Shawwal, 830 A.H., Barsbay sent to Janus, the captured king of Cyprus, two royal richly embroidered garments and he sent him daily 20 pounds of meat and six chickens; he also allowed Janus to meet with anyone he liked; but what troubled Barsbay slightly was the long negotiations regarding the ransom of the king of Cyprus; at first, Barsbay demanded the sum of half a million dinars. After long negotiations, both parties agreed on 200 thousand dinars as the ransom; Janus was to pay 100 thousand dinars before he left Egypt and the rest of the ransom would be sent upon his return to Cyprus. This was in addition to the annual tribute of 20 thousand dinars paid by Janus to the Mameluke sultanate. Moreover, Barsbay made Janus vow to do his best to stop the raids of Crusaders, especially the Venetians and the Catalans, against all Mameluke ports and to rule Cyprus in the name of the sultan Barsbay.

3- On the 26th of Rabei Awwal, 830 A.H., Barsbay issued a decree to release the captive king Janus of Cyprus and he honored him and gave him gifts including a fine horse with golden saddles; in a procession of pomp, Janus of Cyprus reached Greater Cairo and lived in a mansion of luxury prepared especially for him; he was allowed to walk freely in the streets of Cairo and to visit churches; he and his followers were given allowances/salaries.  

4- On the 5th of Jamady Akhar, 830 A.H., Janus of Cyprus prepared himself to return to his homeland; Barsbay granted him a gift of a richly embroidered garment of honored foreign guests/visitors and saw him off and bid him farewell. On the 26th of Jamady Akhar, 830 A.H., Janus of Cyprus left Egypt and he became the ruler of Cyprus in the name of the sultan Barsbay. Thus, Janus was ransomed after ten months of captivity in Cairo.

5- It is noteworthy that the ruler of Rhodes, a Greek island, was terrified by what happened to Cyprus and its king Janus; he promptly sent a letter to Barsbay to request peace and security in return for a large sum of money as a tribute to the sultan; in fact, Barsbay kindly received the envoy of the ruler of Rhodes and honored him and gave him gifts. This envoy gave Barsbay the gift offered by the ruler of Rhodes in 830 A.H., and this envoy left Egypt along with Janus of Cyprus in the same ship on the 26th of Jamady Akhar, 830 A.H.

6- Both the Egyptians and the Mamelukes knew that king Janus of Cyprus was the son of king James I of Cyprus whose troops pillaged and destroyed Alexandria in 767 A.H.



 May the Lord God curse the military regime generals who occupy Egypt since the 1952 coup d'état and never achieved any victory except against the Egyptian nation.




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