Travels in the Island of Cyprus: with contemporary accounts of the sieges of Nicosia and Famagusta / translated from the Italian of Giovanni Mariti by Claude Delaval Cobham, Zeno Booksellers & Publishers, 1971.
“Κατ’ αρετήν ουδεμίας των νήσων λείπεται - it yields to no other island in excellence”
Strabo, Geography, XIV. 20
Giovanni Filippo Mariti (1736-1806) was an Italian (Florentine) abbot and writer. He was the son of Marcantonio di Luigi and Alessandra Moriano. Orphaned at a young age from his father, his mother, remarried a merchant from Volterra, who moved the family to Livorno. While there Mariti expressed great interest for natural science studies and learned English and French.
After his step-father’s advice, Mariti decided to travel to the East. He first visited Palestine and then in 1760 visited Cyprus. He stayed on the island for seven years and served as an official in the Tuscan consulate in Larnaca. During his diplomatic post, he began writing his most famous work, that later got translated into several languages, entitled: “Travels to the island of Cyprus”.
Given his high-ranking position, he traveled widely around the island and explored the main cities “Throughout the island and kingdom of Cyprus there is no part so bare of trees as the neighborhood of Larnaca”, and villages of the island. Mariti, a meticulous and detail-oriented explorer, took notice of the infrastructure of the 18th century Cypriot society and shed light into an until then unknown situation. He got interested in the ancient history and went as far as learning the ancient names for the cities "The city of Famagusta was formely called Arsinoe, after the sister of Ptolemy Philadelphus, its founder." "Its oldest recorded name is Letra, an after its restoration by Leucon, son of the first Ptolemy of Egypt, was called Leucoton. Now the Greeks called it Lefcosia, the Italians Nicosia [...].”
He also took a particular interest in the Cyprus fauna “[…] among the wild plants is found the little bee orchis, which we call fiore ape, and the Greeks μέλισσα, from its likeness to a bee.”, “Among birds the commonest are francolins, partridges, woodcock, quails, thrushes […]", "The tarantula of Cyprus is a spider of dark hue […] Its bite is very dangerous but not mortal.", "Among the venomous beasts there is a kind of snake, which the Greeks call κουφή, or deaf, whose bite is mortal.”
Among other things that caught Mariti’s attention, was the viticulture of the island and the traditional ways of making and storing wine products. Out of this interest came another book by him “The wines of Cyprus”.
“Travels to the island of Cyprus” stand out even today, because of Mariti’s keen eye and almost objective view of Cyprus in the 18th century.
Join us in the Research Centre of CVAR and request to view Maritis works along with many more delightful books.
The Book Of The Month series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).