- The Greeks of Venice, 1498–1600: Immigration, Settlement, and Integration by Ersie C. Burke
Ersie Burke's book traces the movement of Greek peoples into Venice at a crucial time in intellectual history, and it is a kind reminder to us all that the history of humanity is the history of human movement through space and territory carrying with it knowledge, and a sense of identity. Whether it is escaping conflict, persecution, natural disasters, or in search of better opportunities, it is those movements that often constitute the very communities that are subject to them, and it is in that transience and in the double dynamics of loss and adaptation that these communities live on and exist.
Burke's study examines these double dynamics of loss and adaptation, and articulates it in the very structure of the book, divided in two large sections, dealing first with the processes of arrival and settling, then with integration in the complex process of becoming Venetian. Burke focuses on the mapping of the material cultures that made those processes possible, perhaps at the expense of intellectual history: by comparing different personal, familial, commercial, religious, and professional environments, she paints a suggestive and rich tapestry of early modern cultural history. Special attention is given to the role played by religious communities, and in particular by marriage ritual and church groups. Organizing the book in two large sections also facilitates a discursive transition and dialogue between a first evidence-based section, and a second section with sharper attention to identity issues, which fleshes out different elements of Greek identity with relation to its religious, class, professional, and national factors, all duly examined by the author.
This is an important book about a critical process in a crucial period of intellectual history, with long-lasting cultural and intellectual consequences in the transmission of classical knowledge: for instance, in the scholarship on Plato and Aristotle, in the history of early printing, and in the teaching of classical and post-classical rhetoric. All of these disciplines that constitute the core of Renaissance Humanities emerge into the European curriculum through Greece via Venice, and I personally would have liked to see some more detail on these intellectual aspects; for instance, on the role of the Greek communities in the rise of the Venetian printing industry, or in academic circles, or in the teaching of Hermogenean rhetoric. But that, indeed, may require another book, at another time. [End Page 253]