The ultimate changes in the social status of parici in Venetian Cyprus

Katerina Korre, «Human bondage. The ultimate changes in the social status of parici in Venetian Cyprus (1560-1571)», Cypriot Cultural Details, Mia Gaia Trentin & Iosif Hadjikyriakos (eds), Oxbow Books UK 2015, p. 197-209.

The scarce information that we find in the Venetian sources concerning the social status of paroikoi (villeins, parici) during the Venetian occupation of Cyprus (15th-16th c.) paints a dark picture of the Venetian administration’s aims and measures for the island. It is an undisputed fact that the personal status of parici in Cyprus worsened in comparison to that of the former Luzinian period.
This paper closely examines a compelling attempt by Cypriot villeins to point the finger at corrupted administrative officers and to press charges against the feudatari (feudatories). We discuss the social status of this group a few years before the war of 1570-1 and compare this status to that of small landholders on the Venetian mainland within the wider framework of contemporary religious disputes, revolts and the spread of Humanism. Furthermore, we examine the central government’s response alongside the measures taken to protect Venice’s second largest colony against Turkish threats, on the one hand and on the other, in relation to Spanish promises. Cyprus’ economic potential is discussed as well as the position taken by other Cypriot social groups on the villein matter.
This research focuses on the humiliating treatment of a social class forced into submission, a state that eventually became implicit for the villeins. This state was characterized by endless drudgery and humiliation based on an anachronistic sense of human life. However, enforced obedience proved inefficient in preventing individual defections to the enemy, the desertion of entire villages and, on occasion, even more violent reactions from the oppressed. Despite being confined to Europe’s corner, the social phenomenon of the human distress of Cyprus’ parici was analogous to similar events in the heart of the continent. In the end, this phenomenon bore the signs not only of a distress of the Venetian regime itself, but of the distress of a whole socio-political system based upon the human bondage.

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