A port in eastern Cyprus. Famagusta (mod. Ammochos- tos), inhabited by a Greek population, was conquered in 1191 by King Richard I of England in the course of the Third Crusade (1189-1192). After a brief period of rule by the Templars, it became part of the newly founded Frankish kingdom of Cyprus.
The rise of Famagusta into the major city, port, and trading center of the island began in the 1260s. This development was closely connected with the massive arrival of Frankish, Syrian, and Armenian refugees from the ports of Outremer as they were gradually lost to the Muslims. The large number of Arabic-speaking Syrians subject to the king gave rise to the appointment of a ra’is (president of the court) to deal with their judicial matters. The concentration of Frankish refugees accounts for the choice of Famagusta as the coronation venue of the Cypriot rulers as kings of Jerusalem after 1291. The ethnic variety within the city’s population persisted in the following centuries.
Famagusta remained under direct royal rule. There is no evidence that it ever obtained municipal franchises. Genoa, Pisa, and Venice were granted commercial privileges in Cyprus, yet no quarters in the city, which was thus spared the political and territorial fragmentation found in several Levantine ports. The growing economic role of Famagusta, boosted by the fall of Outremer to theMamlûks in 1291, also attracted settlers from the West. It prompted the Western maritime powers to transfer their main representatives in Cyprus to the city within the following decade. Around 1300 the nationals of the maritime powers formed sizeable communities, the growth of which was furthered by the naturalization of foreigners.
Famagusta’s commercial role underwent changes closely connected with political and economic developments in the Mediterranean. The city became a major transit station between the West and Egypt after Pope Nicholas IV decreed an embargo on trade with the Mamlûk territories in 1291. Its importance declined somewhat with the resumption of direct Western links with these territories in 1345, and it also lost much traffic during the Genoese occupation of the city from 1374 to 1464. The period of direct Venetian rule (1489-1571) witnessed a moderate growth of the economy and an increase in population. Famagusta was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1571.