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Uncommon Dominion

Venetian Crete and the Myth of Ethnic Purity

By Sally McKee

Publication Year: 2000

From 1211 until its loss to the Ottomans in 1669, the Greek island we know as Crete was the Venetian colony of Candia. Ruled by a paid civil service fully accountable to the Venetian Senate, Candia was distinct from nearly every other colony of the medieval period for the unprecedented degree to which the colonial power was involved in its governance.

Yet, for Sally McKee, the importance of the Cretan colony only begins with the anomalous manner of the Venetian state's rule. Uncommon Dominion tells the story of Venetian Crete, the home of two recognizably distinct ethnic communities, the Latins and the Greeks. The application of Venetian law to the colony made it possible for the colonial power to create and maintain a fiction of ethnic distinctness. The Greeks were subordinate to the Latins economically, politically, and juridically, yet within a century of Venetian colonization, the ethnic differences between Latin and Greek Cretans in daily material life were significantly blurred. Members of the groups intermarried, many of them learned each other's language, and some even chose to worship by the rites of the other's church. Holding up ample evidence of acculturation and miscegenation by the colony's inhabitants, McKee uncovers the colonial forces that promoted the persistence of ethnic labeling despite the lack of any clear demarcation between the two predominant communities. As McKee argues, the concept of ethnic identity was largely determined by gender, religion, and social status, especially by the Latin and Greek elites in their complex and frequently antagonistic social relationships.

Drawing expertly from notarial and court records, as well as legislative and literary sources, Uncommon Dominion offers a unique study of ethnicity in the medieval and early modern periods. Students and scholars in medieval, colonial, and postcolonial studies will find much of use in studying this remarkable colonial experiment.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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A Note on the sources

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pp. vii-xiv

Since almost all the material presented in this book comes from archival sources, I ought to explain what those sources are and the parameters within which I interpreted them. In the course of my research, it occurred to me that some scholars of Venetian Crete have a greater familiarity with Candiote society than they do with the sources they studied to gain that ...

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pp. 1-18

Crete is Greek, despite the variety of imprints on its landscape and population made by Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, and the people of western Europe, the Latins. No one would deny that Cretans speak demotic Greek, or a dialect of it, and have done so for centuries. The legendary ferocity of the Cretan people came to stand for the Greek nation as a whole during the ...

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Chapter One. The Colony of Crete: ''Our City's Eye and Right Hand''

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pp. 19-56

IN I368, POPE URBAN V wrote to the Latin archbishop of Crete to express his concern that the Greek church in the Venetian colonies was gaining ascendancy over the indigenous populations that Venice ruled. After studying the reports he had received of Greek priests ministering to those faithful to the rites of the Greek church, he instructed the archbishop to invoke the ...

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Chapter Two. The Candiotes and Their City

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pp. 57-99

MOST OF THIS CHAPTER concerns the feudatory group, partly because the various segments of Candia's population are not equally represented in the sources. Like aristocracies everywhere, they are easier to study than people of little or no property, whose lineage concerns had little impact on Candiote society. But the feudatories of Candia merit being placed at center ...

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Chapter Three. ''The Obligation of Our Blood''

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pp. 100-132

IN SHAKEPEARE'S Troilus and Cressida, Hector's appeal to Ajax on grounds of kinship ought to strike the modern reader as ironic. The idea of a person's mixed ethnic heritage manifesting itself corporally like a patchwork quilt is meant to be ludicrous, the Trojan's noble sentiments notwithstanding. His sentiment is furthermore ironic because, when one takes the time to think ...

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Chapter Four. High Stakes in Venetian Crete: ''Venetians by Name and Custom, Enemies by Design and Character''

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pp. 133-167

ON 8 AUGUST 1363, the Candiote feudatories had received word that another tax was about to be imposed on them by the Venetian Senate. The new levy, they learned, was to go toward the cleaning and upkeep of Candia's port. The feudatories objected, viewing the tax as more beneficial to the Venetian merchants who passed through the port than to themselves. ...

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Chapter Five. Conclusion: The Myth of Ethnic Homogeneity

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pp. 168-178

THE TRADITIONAL VIEW OF Venetian Crete, with its heavy emphasis on monolithic, fundamentally antagonistic ethnic groups, is in part the product of the particular way the sources have been manipulated by scholars. The governmental and literary sources, such as the council deliberations and court records, show that ethnic categories in Crete operated on two ...

Appendix 1. Occurrence of Cognomina

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pp. 179-183

Appendix 2. Sale of cavalleria involving Lingiaco Mavristiri, Candiote Jew1

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pp. 184-188


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pp. 189-246


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pp. 247-260


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pp. 261-272


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pp. 273-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780812203813
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812235623

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2000

OCLC Number: 759158251
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Uncommon Dominion

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Subject Headings

  • Crete (Greece) -- Ethnic relations -- History.
  • Ethnicity -- Greece -- Crete -- History.
  • Crete (Greece) -- History -- Venetian rule, 1204-1669.
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