Very little is known of the Kantara castle's early days. It is thought to have been built by the Byzantines, probably after the last of the Arab raids in the late 10th century. However there are no remains or records dating from that time. Its first mention was in 1191, during Richard the Lionheart's Crusade to the Holy land. It was at Kantara that the self-styled king, Isaac Commenos, sheltered before surrendering to the English King.
In the 13th century, the castle was remodelled by the Lusignans, and during the next few hundred years, the castle often served as a shelter for defeated barons and kings. When the Genoese conquered Famagusta and Nicosia in 1373, Kantara remained undefeated in the hands of the King. It was here too, that Prince John, the king's brother, fled, disguised as a cook, after his escape from the Genoese. The story goes that the prince, having been captured in Famagusta with the rest of the Royal Family, was imprisoned in irons. With the aid of his faithful servant and cook, he escaped, dressed as the cook's scullion, with an old cooking pot over his head, and carrying a frying pan which he was supposedly taking to be re-tinned. After the peace treaty with the Genoese, Kantara was further re-fortified. Most of the castle that we see today dates from around this time.
When the Venetians took over the island in 1489, the castle continued as an important garrison for the defence of the area. However, the art of warfare was changing, and the Venetians strengthened the fortifications at Kyrenia, Famagusta and Nicosia. The castle was abandoned in 1525, though there are records showing the castle as still fortified in 1529. However records show the castle in ruins by 1562.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.