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Venetians in Constantinople

Nation, Identity, and Coexistence in the Early Modern Mediterranean

Eric R Dursteler

Publication Year: 2006

Historian Eric R Dursteler reconsiders identity in the early modern world to illuminate Veneto-Ottoman cultural interaction and coexistence, challenging the model of hostile relations and suggesting instead a more complex understanding of the intersection of cultures. Although dissonance and strife were certainly part of this relationship, he argues, coexistence and cooperation were more common. Moving beyond the "clash of civilizations" model that surveys the relationship between Islam and Christianity from a geopolitical perch, Dursteler analyzes the lived reality by focusing on a localized microcosm: the Venetian merchant and diplomatic community in Muslim Constantinople. While factors such as religion, culture, and political status could be integral elements in constructions of self and community, Dursteler finds early modern identity to be more than the sum total of its constitutent parts and reveals how the fluidity and malleability of identity in this time and place made coexistence among disparate cultures possible.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xiv

The research and writing of this book have consumed more than half of my adult life. Over the years many individuals and institutions have contributed significantly to its completion. While my name alone appears on the title page, and any errors are of course mine, I would like to recognize those who have played especially significant roles in this project...

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pp. 1-22

In early June 1614, fleeing a failed love affair, one of the early modern era’s most intrepid travelers, Pietro della Valle, set out from the Venetian port of Malamocco. A poet, an orator, and a soldier, the twenty-eight-year-old scion of a noble Roman family sailed...

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1. The Venetian Nation in Constantinople

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pp. 23-40

The foundations of the Venetian trading and diplomatic nation in Constantinople date to the earliest days of La Serenissima. Initially a minor outpost in Italy, Venice increasingly became a significant political and commercial partner of the Byzantines. In 1082, in recognition of its assistance against the Normans, the Emperor Alexius I Comenus granted...

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2. The Merchants of Venice

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pp. 41-60

On the first day of the Venetian new year, March 1, 1594, Bailo Marco Venier convened the governing body of the merchant nation in Constantinople, the Council of Twelve, in the great room of the embassy. In attendance were the principal merchants of the nation, gathered to discuss a ship which had foundered carrying valuable merchandise and goods belonging to many of their number. As he did at every such meeting...

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3. The Unoficial Nation: Banditi, Schiavi, Greci [Photo Insert included]

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pp. 61-102

The Venetian nation in Constantinople in the early modern era was, in narrow legal terms, limited to the bailo, his famiglia, and the merchants possessing legal status as full Venetian citizens. These groups arrayed themselves around the institutions and physical space of the bailate, and represented the official nation, sanctioned and recognized by the sponsoring...

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4. Jews, Renegades, and Early Modern Identity

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pp. 103-129

With the burgeoning travel literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, accounts such as Pietro della Valle’s description of his voyage to Constantinople in 1614 became increasingly common.1 Julien Bordier, squire of the French ambassador to Constantinople Jean Gontaut, baron of Salignac, produced a similar narrative of his travels into the ‘‘Orient"...

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5. Merchants, Patricians, Citizens, and Early Modern Identity

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pp. 130-150

The cases of Gazanfer Aga and Righetto are fascinating and suggest the malleable and composite nature of early modern identities. It would not be unreasonable to argue, however, that because Jews and renegades existed on the margins, their experiences cannot be seen as normative. To a degree it is true that these groups inhabited the interstices of society...

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6. An Urban Middle Ground: Venetians and Ottomans in Constantinople

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pp. 151-186

Cultural confrontation, what Samuel Huntington has called the ‘‘clash of civilizations,’’1 has fascinated historians from the earliest days of Herodotus’s History of the Persian Wars. Tales of human conflicts have seemed more compelling, and perhaps more representative of the human condition...


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pp. 187-246


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pp. 247-248

Works Cited

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pp. 249-282


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pp. 283-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780801889127
E-ISBN-10: 080188912X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801891052
Print-ISBN-10: 0801891051

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 6 halftones, 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science