Between Hospitaller Rhodes and Lusignan Cyprus: The Case of
KeywordsRhodes, Cyprus, Zaplana family, Hospitallers, Military Orders, Mediterranean
In this paper the activities of three members of the Catalan Zaplana family in the eastern Mediterranean will be examined and discussed. The family had humble origins but was elevated due to the favour shown to its members by successive kings of Aragon. The first two of its members, Raphael and his nephew Nicholas, joined the Hospitaller order while the third, Nicholas’ brother James, practised piracy and rose high in the service of King James II of Cyprus, only to be exiled after this king’s death, whereupon he reverted to piracy. Their kinship with the remaining recorded members of this extended Catalan family will be examined. Above all, however, their activities, whether in the service of the Hospitaller Order based in Rhodes and King James II or as pirates, will be shown to be interconnected due to the great number of Catalan merchants on Rhodes, the obtaining of high offices within the Order by Catalans and the profits derived by the Hospitallers from accepting and selling the booty that Catalan pirates, often in collusion with Catalan members of the Order brought to the port of Rhodes On Cyprus King James II who had usurped the throne from his sister and the legitimate heir to the throne, Queen Charlotte, was impelled to show favour to Catalan Hospitallers because he required Catalan mercenaries in the civil war with Charlotte’s supporters and wanted to gain recognition from the Papacy and the Grand Master of the Hospitaller Order who was also a Catalan. The three members of the Zaplana family discussed here adroitly exploited the above circumstances to advance their careers, although following the death of King James in 1473 and the Venetian take-over of Cyprus, the forced departure of James and Nicholas Zaplana from the island was as swift as their previous rise to high offices.
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