18 August 2015

On vacation: Marietta's Song




 "Marietta's Song", sung by Anne Sofie von Otter, 
from Die tote Stadt by Erich Korngold, 1920.


Glück, das mir verblieb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Abend sinkt im Hag
bist mir Licht und Tag.
Bange pochet Herz an Herz
Hoffnung schwingt sich himmelwärts.

Wie wahr, ein traurig Lied.
Das Lied vom treuen Lieb,
das sterben muss.

Ich kenne das Lied.
Ich hört es oft in jungen,
in schöneren Tagen.
Es hat noch eine Strophe—
weiß ich sie noch?

Naht auch Sorge trüb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Neig dein blaß Gesicht
Sterben trennt uns nicht.
Mußt du einmal von mir gehn,
glaub, es gibt ein Auferstehn.


Joy, that near to me remains,
Come to me, my true love.
Night sinks into the grove
You are my light and day.
Anxiously beats heart on heart
Hope itself soars heavenward.

How true, a sad song.
The song of true love,
that must die.

I know the song.
I heard it often in younger,
in better days.
It has yet another verse—
Do I know it still?

Though sorrow becomes dark,
Come to me, my true love.
Lean (to me) your pale face
Death will not separate us.
If you must leave me one day,
Believe, there is an afterlife

08 August 2015

On vacation: Oranges


Wrapped Oranges, William J. McCloskey, 1889.
12” x 16”. Amon Carter Museum, Ft. Worth, TX




31 July 2015

On first looking into Chapman's Homer


In recent weeks I have been sorting through Pierre MacKay's boxes and drawers and shelves and desks. The last project so far was the heavy glass-fronted bookcase beside his bed full of, he said, his father's poetry books. Most of these were late 19th-century and early 20th-century editions of all the English poets, perhaps not as interesting to me as they should be. One book stood out, and its photograph is above.

There are several thousand books in this house, quite a few of them important. I have rarely been interested in an old book or a first edition. Books to me are primarily tools. I read with a pencil, fold down corners, make notes, break spines (though not intentionally). A beautiful edition is very nice to look at, but otherwise useless. So nothing in my life had prepared me for the thrill of this book. The blackening along the top edge has a very faint charred smell, souvenir of its surviving a fire in Princeton.  This book that touched fire was, is, Chapman's Homer. This is the book Keats wrote about.

When George Chapman began translating Homer, he issued it in installments beginning in 1598.  It was not until 1616 that he issued his complete Homer -- the first complete translation in English -- with copious marginal notes, fulsome dedicatory poems and prefaces, and remarkable etchings.



Wikipedia has an excellent article about Chapman, a prolific playwright, and possible the rival poet mentioned in Shakespeare's Sonnets.  When Chapman was reissued in 1998 and 2001, the London Review of Books published an eloquent discussion of the man and his work. I will not try to repeat them here, but I urge you to read the LRB because it so well explains how magic happens.  Chapman translated the Iliad in iambic heptameter and rhyming couplets.  Take this of Phoenix from Book 9 -- the spelling takes getting used to:

O thou that like the gods art fram'd: fince (deareft to my heart)
I us'de thee fo, though lov'dft none elfe; nor any where wouldft eate,
Till I had crownd my knee with thee, and caru'd thee tendrest meate,
And given thee wine for much, for love, that in thy infancie,
(Which ftill difcretion muft protect, and a continuall eye)
My bofome lovingly fuftain'd; the wine thine could not beare;

Here is a view from the Odyssey, this in iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets, Odysseus speaking to Nausicaa: 




 And here, John Keats describes what happened to him when he read Chapman's Homer, and what happened to me when I found it in that dark corner of the bookcase:


Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
   And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
   Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
   That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
   Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
   When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
   He star'd at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
   Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
                                                           John Keats








24 July 2015

Cheilas' Cleofe


Mistra in shrouds. Photo by Stella Chrysochoou.



The monody by Nikiforos Cheilas is the last of the four monodies delivered at the mnemosyne for Cleofe in late May of 1433. I have used them frequently in entries here for information, and have looked individually at those by Plethon, Pepagomenos, and Bessarion. This by Cheilas was the third delivered that day, and the one that probably would have been most remembered by those who heard him. On first reading, it appears to rush from one high point of emotion to the next, at times almost near hysteria, but it is the most literary of the four, and demonstrates the most concern for rhetoric.

Cheilas begins, and ends, with a justification for mourning (and includes a dig at Plethon and Pepagomenos, accusing them of showing off), both times bringing the mourning directly home by listing the mourners: the godly despot, the despots, his relatives, her most dear daughter, the priests, the monastic orders, the senators, the others, and the cities and villages.  These at the beginning are all present at the mnemosyne, while at the conclusion, he gives a shorter and different list, more poetic and more poignant: all kingdoms, groves and meadows, the Graces, widows, orphans, captives, the impoverished, and your subjects.

This identification with the listeners carries throughout as he talks about Cleofe and their grief in ways that they would wish they could have thought of, moving back and forth between factual statements about her life, and then rhapsodical images of what they have lost.  The image of light is preeminent: it is one of the oldest and most persistent of the topoi of Greek mourning. "The land of Hesperia sent her, a light flowing out from a golden race, but she shone back with a radiance that made all the brilliance of that race seem less." "O ornament of queens, or rather, queen among all queens, as you shown out, surpassing them in all your virtues."  (Here he used βασιλὶς βασιλίδων in a graceful recognition of the Palaiologos βασιλεὺς or βασιλέως βασιλεων.) "You, our sun, have set." Then inverting the metaphor he says, "What a change has come to hide away what was sweetest and best, igniting the entire flame of griefs and wretchedness."

Earlier he inverts a metaphor to great effectiveness: "You gave us then a celebration, showing us all something new, a reason to sing sweetly, songs worthy of your goodness and of the good fortune that came to us from you, . . . But now you set us to deep grieving, to uttering long cries of pain, to weaving a tragic song, antiphonal to our former hymns, singing farewell to the hopes we had in better times."

He inverts another metaphor, working with κιβωτὸς, ark: "O, bitter ark, that made away with such beauty. The psalmist of old even danced before the ark, when it was returning whence it came, but before this bitter ark which carries off our great queen to the tomb, it is entirely right for us to stand and wail continuously, and to mourn, and do everything short of trying to exhume her from it."


Cheilas reminds his listeners of Cleofe's intelligence, of her quiet and effective assistance in council, of her diligence in Bible study, and her self-discipline.  He indicates a more intimate knowledge when he tells of her standing in prayer all night, and that she had said quietly to a few that she would not live through this childbirth. He is the source for the information that she died on Good Friday at noon, and was buried almost immediately.  He confirms and supplements information in Pepagomenos and Bessarion.

Towards the end, Cheilas lets loose a cascade of metaphors: "She departed leaving behind amazement . . . O, shell of our common existence, what a change has come to hide away what was sweetest and best . . . O, who was it that did not spare this loveliest and most beautiful eye for us, cutting it out? Who was it that made this loveliest object and image of all the virtues and graces vanish? O, what a thing has been looted from us in her beauty, what loveliness has been destroyed? What light is now hidden under the bushel? O, what a sun has abruptly gone down into the tomb and is now miserably concealed? What a tongue full of grace has been imprisoned in final silence. Where has such loveliness ever before been extinguished? When has a flower so utterly withered, how has that precious gem been shattered?"

His conclusion is quiet, gentle, after the summary of the mourners: "Accept these words offered by us to you, O, in all things for us best and most holy, and most regal lady, they are entirely insufficient, but we could not mourn our loss in silence."

Just before his conclusion, Cheilas said: "Therefore I think that for all time and among all nations, this account, both as a written and as unwritten message will be sent out, and you will be remembered among all men until day and night yield to one another." As far as survivals are concerned, they never mentioned her again.
 

Translation by Pierre A. MacKay.



17 July 2015

The black saint of the Holy Roman Empire

St. Maurice (detail) 1520-25.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently published a monograph about an addition to the collection, a panel by Lucas Cranach the Elder (and his workshop) showing St. Maurice who is wearing the most gorgeous clothes in the whole world.



Here is the whole St. Maurice panel, and below, a second St. Maurice whose panel is still attached to his altarpiece in the Marktkirche, Halle.








Both of these panels are based on this drawing of a reliquary statue of St. Maurice.




Both drawings from the Liber ostensionis, 1526/27.


According to an account written about 450 AD, St. Maurice was a member of the Egyptian Theban Legion which was composed of Christians. Sent to France and ordered by the Emperor Maximian (ca.250-ca.310) to persecute Christians, they refused, and eventually were all executed. Another version of the story written a little later says that they were martyred for refusing to worship the Roman gods.

By 515 the ruler of Burgundy built a basilica and monastery in Valais for the throngs of pilgrims who were coming to visit Maurice's relics. In the 10th century Maurice's cult was promoted by Otto the Great who ultimately pronounced Maurice patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire.

Statue of St. Maurice, ca.1240-50.
Cathedral of St. Maurice and St. Catherine. Magdeburg.



St. Maurice and the Theban Legion. 

South German Master (early 16th C).
Private collection, NYC.



This panel painting of the Theban Legion dresses them in the spirit of the Vatican's Swiss Guards. The feathered headdresses look as if the painter knew of the tradition that produced. Ag. Alexandros from Kastoria in northern Greece.






The Meeting of St. Maurice and St. Erasmus.
 Matthias Grünewald, ca. 1520-24. Alte Pinakothek, Munich.


Finally, this Grünewald panel of St. Maurice who gives him the most extraordinarily luminous armor.







10 July 2015

Evliya's sea battle


The Ottoman Fleet of Tarik-y Bayezid (ink and gold leaf on vellum) 
16th century, which is early for Evliya.



This week, a section from Evliya Çelebi's Setyahatname, about a famous pirate and a battle at sea off Clarentza in 1668. The translation is by Pierre MacKay.  The bolded headings in the   text represent Evliya's red-ink marginal comments on the original manuscript
                                                                        * * * * * *
Departing from [Vostitza], I went for 3 hours southwards to the Kamenítza river, which comes down from the Kalâvryta mountains and flows into the gulf at this spot. It is a small river, and crossing it on horseback, I came to the village of Mustafa Paşa. This is a great bequest trust for the mosque of Mustafa Paşa in Gebze, which is a day's journey away from Üsküdar. The tributary populace is all Albanians. Another 3 hours from there is the
village of Mertéza, which is a zeamet-class fief of the Commander of the Levy for Morea. It tributary populace is all Greeks. This village is at the skirts of the "Black Mountain" of Morea, where all the infidel frigates have little landing places in the forest. They hide here and capture travellers and passers-by, and then sail away. From this village we went into the limitless plain of Gastúni and passed by prosperous villages with mosques,
inns and great houses, and through gardens and orchards like the gardens of Irem, and so came to Glarénza).

Description of the entire castle of Glarénza
It was founded by the Bundukani Venetians. In Greek, Glarénza (Larence) means . . ., and that is the reason for the name.

In the year . . ., it was a conquest of Sultan Beyazid the Saintly, but the conquest was made with great toil and suffering, and since the castle was largely useless he demolished it in several places. Since Patras and Chlemútsi are both close by, he left this castle in ruins although, when it was still standing, the saying goes that on the whole island of Morea there was no stronger nor more thickly populated | fortress. There are huge great pieces of the wall fabric lying about in many places, and it could easily be repaired if there were any occasion for it. It was a stout, five-sided fortress on the seashore with freshwater sources and two harbors where one may lie safe from all eight winds without fear or apprehension. The Algerian privateers, when they are cruising at sea looking for a prey, come in to cast anchor and lie at this harbor of Glarénza whenever they perceive the hill of Chlemútsi.

Witness of a seafight, in a tale worthy of future remembrance
Your poor and humble servant hid my horses away in the hills and came back on foot with two of my servants to Glarénza, where the three of us concealed ourselves in a corner of the great field of ruins, and inspected the island of Cephalonia, out in the gulf, with a telescope.This island is under the domination of the Venetian Franks, and while we were making a survey of all the details that were clearly visible through the telescope--the towers and wallsof the castle, the landing places, and the infidels themselves, both great and small--eight Muslim frigates appeared, flying green standards, with pennants waving in the wind.  
It happened that certain of our warrior heroes from Naupactus, namely Dorak Bey and Mısırlı Oğlu, were bringing their ships back from an expedition when ten frigates emerged from the harbor of the afore-mentioned infidel castle of Cephalonia and fell unexpectedly on Dorak Bey's squadron. The ships of Islam came into close engagement with the infidel frigates all across the face of the sea, and there was a huge battle. Your humble servant could not endure the rain of spent cannon and rifle shot falling in the ruins of Glarénsa castle, and retired to hide in a corner, but certain it is that our brave heroes made a fine, vigorous fight of of it.

Now our ships were returning from an expedition, and all eight of them were crammed full of infidel captives and loaded down with immeasurable amounts of tightly packed booty acquired as the spoils of war. The crews themselves were battle-ready, but the ships were not properly loaded for an engagement. The ten galleys of the enemy, on the other hand, were first-rate ships, fully armed and not loaded down. Moreover they had caiques and rowing boats coming up behind to help. Our ships of the Muslim fleet, therefore, | became apprehensive about the close-packed cargo of infidel prisoners, fearing that they might have a chance to raise their heads against us in the course of the fight. As a result, all eight Muslim frigates broke off from the engagement and as soon as they were free cried, "Full speed ahead!" and pulled on the oars with all their strength, heading in to shut themselves up in the harbor of Glarénza castle, from which we had been watching them.

When they saw my poor self there, the heroes were delighted, and in the twinkling of an eye they had unloaded all the booty, the heavy cargo and the infidel prisoners with their hands bound behind their necks. They turned this all over to me, and I brought down my slaves and my horses, and mounted my own horse to stand guard over the infidel captives while | I sent one of my slaves up to a village in the hills to tell the tributary populace to come down here fully armed. As soon as they arrived, we massed the infidel captives into the middle of our party, loaded them up with all the heavy cargo and marched them up away from the castle ruins and into the hills where we left them safe. 

Meanwhile, Dorak Bey, with his eight frigates now free and unencumbered, selected five hundred of the youngstalwarts who were gathering round from all four sides to look at the battle and tumult, and filled his ships with them. Then he sailed back out of Glarénza harbor again and pulledahead at full speed against the infidels. The noise and tumult of the close-fought melée and the exchange of fire was heard all the way to Patras and Chlemútsi, and young warriors rushed along the roads to get into ships in time to bring aid to the hero, Dorak Bey. He then took up a position in the middle of the ten enemy frigates, and filled the gun-crews tending the infidel cannon with so much lead and cannon-shot that he made prizes of eight of the enemy ships all at once. The other two turned about and ran back into the harbor of Cephalonia.

Glory to God--Dorak Bey had now conquered eight more ships with his eight and had madeprisoners of all their infidel crews, as well as capturing a proportional amount of cargo, weapons and ordnance materiel. He turned back into Glarénza harbor, therefore, and whenhe dropped anchor, I brought back the prisoners and booty that were up in the hills and turned them over once again to Dorak Bey. At this, the hero Dorak Bey, Mısırlı Oğlu, and the other officers and sea-captains gave me three prisoners in payment for my services, along with two European boy-slaves and a purse of silver thalers. Then the whole expedition reboarded the sixteen ships and after turning the crucifix idols upside down on all he eight infidel ships, they fired a joyous salute of cannon and rifle fire, let out their sails and set out straightaway with the day's prizes for the castle of Naupactus.  

So your humble servant was accidentally the witness of such a sea-fight, and God, in His Greatness, presented me with five captives and a purse of silver. For it was God who rewarded me thus, in that I, a traveller by land, was granted a present of booty taken at sea. Actually, I sent the five captives I had been given to accompany the remaining prisoners of Dorak Bey and the other heroes who were going to Naupactus, and directed one of my slaves to send them on from there to Zekeriya Efendi in Corinth, along with a letter telling him to sell them. So they went off to Naupactus and I went on southwards, and in three hours climbed up to Chlemútsi.

03 July 2015

Justice

In the Venetian “house of the bailo,” Halkis, during restoration. 
 If it was the house of the bailo, justice might have happened here.


I have been looking for information about justice in the Morea. I have a number of examples where people, like Bartolomeo Minio, acted justly, but I have been trying to get an idea of the process. As usual, there is little information, and what there is is almost entirely about the Venetian system.

In the Venetian città in the Morea, justice was to a large extent determined by custom, with decisions made by the governor and his councillors. The governor was to hold a court every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Friday, with fines over a certain amount and imprisonments (other than for soldiers) dependent on the majority vote of his councillors. However, the one surviving personal account of Venetian judicial action is a narrative of -- from the anonymous Greek narrator's point of view -- prejudicial and arbitrary actions.

The anonymous Greek narration concludes with his waiting for the sindici.  Venetian justice provided for two sindici to visit each città every two years to hear complaints that locals might have against the governor and his officials.  This worked a little better than you might think: Michele Salomon served a time in prison and paid a stiff fine for overcharging two stratioti on a horse sale, for engaging in trade with a Turk from Athens in wartime, and for cheating a Naupliot woman in a business deal. Another governor spent six months in jail for adultery with the wife of a Greek citizen of Nauplion.  I can identify no other decisions by sindici for the Morea.

A peasant, hired to murder Giovanni Catello by his brothers, only managed to wound him five time. The governor sentenced the peasant in absentia to be hanged at "the forks", after his hand was amputated. We don't know if the sentence was ever carried out, but this is the only judgment I have found for Nauplion.  I wrote about this in more detail here at "The Forks."

We have a few actual records from the court at Patras, possibly a continuation of the court structure there when Patras surrendered to Constantine. Zakythinos points out that in the surviving records of the court, four of the seven members have Italian names: he sees this as an example of decentralization of judicial authority. This is much more likely to be a factor of wealth and status and in fact, the decentralization of judicial authority is better seen in the judicial control of the archons over their people. There are three surviving records of Patras court actions for the fifteenth century. One shows Thomas Palaiologos as Despot giving a decision about land in 1436 against the Jew Salomon on behalf of Nikolas de Leonessa. A second decision in 1438, again involving Nikolas de Leonessa, was signed jointly by Ioannis Kantakuzenos Palaiologos and Theodoros Erastopulos on behalf of Thomas when he went to John VIII in Florence on behalf of Constantine in Constantinople. In 1440, Nicholaos Neapolites who was also notary of Patras, had the position of judge.

Sphrantzes' instructions as governor of Mistra were "to stay here and govern your command well. You are to put an end to the many instances of injustice and reduce the power of the numerous local lords." But Sphrantzes says nothing about what he did. Governors held their own courts and we have no information as to whether there was a distinction between a despot's court and that of a governor when a city had both. When Constantine gave Sphrantzes those instructions, he was leaving to tend to the Hexamilion and then the rest of his territories, exploring options. Constantine had created several large administrative divisions in the Morea: Corinth under Kantakouzenos, Patras under Alexios Laskaris, and Mistra under Sphrantzes. Monemvasia must have accounted for another division, although it is not named. Constantine also left a Ioannis Eudaimonoioannes as intermediary, mesazon. Perhaps Sphrantzes and Eudaimonoioannes conducted the Mistra court in Constantine's absence, as Palaiologos and Erastopoulos did for Thomas. But there is no specific information. Theodoros sat in the court at Mistra and was complimented by Scholarios:
[Theodoros was] naturally inclined to treat others well, a generous giver, very eager to praise virtue in those who pursue it, and to crown them, but very severe in dismissing those who tended the other way, and astute in exacting penalties against those caught in any sort of evil-doing, decreeing them rather in a sense of reason than of anger, looking more to aid than to deal out to a wrong-doer extremes of punishment for extreme crimes . . .


  "Looking more to aid than to deal out to a wrong-doer extremes of punishment for extreme crimes" was a concept dear to Gemistos and is a point where we can probably identify a very specific influence. In the section of his Laws on sexual misconduct, he calls for a court, συνέδριον, to vote on such matters, and though he writes with approval of burning for those found guilty of pederasty, bestiality, and rape, he wants the court to consider the circumstances of the accused, his education, and whether a period in prison might instead bring about a desired correction. Gemistos is said to have been a judge at Mistra, but we have no evidence for it. Nor do we have any evidence for any action of Theodoros as judge.
It may be a subtle comment on Byzantine justice in the Morea that Mazaris has this to say about the judges in Hades:

Don't be afraid of the judges because they are pagan. For they are genuinely devoted to justice. It is precisely for that reason that they were elevated to the supreme court.








26 June 2015

Giovanni's valetudinarian body


Giovanni Dario between his friends, the Bellini brothers.
Gentile Bellini, Procession at San Marco, 1496.

Every week the New York Times interviews a famous person and asks which three people would be the best dinner guests. I would need several dinners, but for one I would choose Giovanni Dario, Cyriaco of Ancona, and Cardinal Bessarion. We know that Dario and Cyriaco were acquainted, and I can demonstrate the likelihood that Bessarion knew both of them. It is possibly not correct to chose only men for guests, but I would prefer an all- women's dinner another time with Cleofe, Paola, and Battista Malatesta. I have written about Cyriaco and Bessarion in recent months, but it has been a long time since Giovanni Dario was a guest here.

He came to mind because a recent publication by Nicky Tsougarakis in Dumbarton Oaks Papers of 14th-century Cretan notarial documents includes a number from 1356-57 with a Giovanni Dario as witness. This is surely my man's great-grandfather: we know he was a notary, as was my Giovanni – or Zuam or Zuan or Zan (I have all three names in a letter to him from the Signoria).
Dario was born about 1414 in Crete, a citizen of the stato da mar. He was at least the fourth generation of his family to be trained and certified as a notary, following his great-grandfather Giovanni (who also owned sheep) and his grandfather and father (both named Marco). Marco Dario fils was also a gold-worker and jeweller, protomaestro of the goldworker’s guild, a procurator of the cathedral of St. Titus, and a merchant who combined business with travels as an emissary for the duca of Crete. I am quite sure, without evidence, that Marco Dario had something to do with Commander Giovanni Delfino's acquisition of the most beautiful small antiquity in existence, that Cyriaco wrote about in 1445. Cyriaco had visited the Dario property at Pediada in Crete, possibly arranging for a shipment of cheese or wine, while looking for antiquities.

Giovanni joined his father in business and political ventures to Constantinople, Venice, Rhodes, and other ports of the eastern Mediterranean, apparently picking up useful bits of Arabic and Turkish to add to his Venetian and Italian. He was licensed as a notary in 1450, which certified him as 
doctissimus in litteris grecis et latinis, which means that he was compentent to write legal documents in both languages. That same year he interpreted for Nicolò da Canale, Venetian ambassador first to the court of Constantine XI in Constantinople, then to the court of Murad IV, and finally to the court of Thomas Palaiologos in the Peloponnesos, and may have translated the final agreements from Greek into Latin for Venetian records. Tradition puts him in the camp of Mehmed II as an observe during the 1453 siege of Constantinople, but documents put him in Sitia in eastern Crete.

Like his father, Dario combined government responsibilities with his own business as a merchant. His knowledge of Greek and Latin extended to the classical forms, and he found his friendships among humanists—writers and artists. One of them was the humanist and hunter of antiquities, Cyriaco of Ancona. Both of them them were engaged in the same kind of work, some of it diplomatic, some of it brokering objets des fines arts between Italy, Crete, Egypt, and Constantinople: both were men of great good humor and good conversation, Cyriaco hyperactive and ebullient, Dario quiet and inclined to sit.
By 1465 Giovanni was employed in the cancelleria in Venice which involved him in most aspects of the Venetian government, especially diplomacy within Italy. He received regular raises of salary, and promotions in titles and responsibilities, but it was was clearly the exhausting Venetian-Ottoman war (from July 1463 to January 1478/79 ) that demonstrated his unique value to the Signoria: he was sent at least four times to Constantinople with various patrician ambassadors to negotiate peace, on one trip negotiating with Mehmed's emissary on Mount Athos.  It was to his great advantage that he could speak Turkish. He went at least twice to Egypt to protest abuses against Venetian merchants in Damascus and Cairo. He continued his own business—just before he left on the second Egyptian voyage, he and his brother contracted with a Paduan goldworker to buy metal and worked silver in Cairo, and exchange a silver cup for a pearl, and then he arranged in Alexandria to export wheat, always needed in Crete.

In Venice, he lived near S. Apostoli (just off the Rialto bridge) with a woman to whom he was devoted, though all we can be sure of is her name, Chiara. Their child Marieta was born, probably, in 1473. The household included his sister Salamona's sons—Francesco, Giovanni, and Andrea Pantaleo (who eventually took Dario for their last name), whom he expected to regard Chiara as if she were their mother.

Because the official ambassador to the Sultan had died, exhausted from his many trips between Venice and Constantinople in the last year of the war, Dario was given broad discretion to negotiate, persuade, and cajole the final peace agreement from Mehmed. Mehmed gave him his cahd-name on 25 January 1478(9), and presented him with a horse, and three cloth-of-gold robes. Mehmed sent a kyahya, Lüfti Beg, back with Dario to Venice to receive the Signoria's confirmation of the agreement, and the Signoria gave Lüfti Beg cloth-of-gold robes of his own in return. Mehmed asked for artists: when Dario returned to Constantinople in early summer, he took with him Gentile Bellini and a sculptor. 

In Gentile's painting above, Dario is shown as an elderly man. The painting was made two years after he died, in 1494 at the age of 80.  He had been troubled for some years with heart trouble.  In Turkey in 1485 he had pled with the Signoria to allow him to return to Venice:

To stay here in order to spend uselessly seems to me unnecessary; besides my age and the condition of my valetudinarian body require a better place than this. because if I should have another attack, it will take me with no coming back Here there is neither doctor nor medicine, nor any tending, either physical or spiritual, and one who dies here dies like a dog. It makes me extremely afraid when I think of such danger, and so I hope in the clemency of Your Most Illustrious Signoria that it will not want such a faithful servant to perish in this way, entreating from you a particular grace in reward for my fatigue, that you grant me welcome permission to come home, and that you do not leave me here to die unnecessarily – because if I live it might happen that some other time I might be a useful instrument for some need of Your Most Excellent State . . .

The Venetian bailo in Constantinople wrote:

He is much loved by the paşas. Frankly, Most Serene Prince, I will say that it would be a sin to lose this man because of his fine service, because he is profoundly fatigued because of his personal condition, incurably sick, he has spent the winter in Adrianople with the greatest discomforts of living and continual fatigue . . . I respectfully request that Your Most Illustrious Signoria grant that he be permitted to return with me on the galleys.

It was another year before he was permitted to return, but he came back to the lovely little house on the Grand Canal that the Signoria gave him in appreciation for his work.  I have written about its decoration here, and about its inscription (and Cyriaco) here.
Despite his age and ill health -- he wrote three wills between then and his death in 1494 -- Dario made a final trip to Turkey in 1487, to persuade Beyazid that Venice would not join the Knights of St. John at Rhodes for a crusade against the Ottomans. In his last, handwritten, will of 1493, he directed his procuratori to free his slaves -- some of them Turkish -- with ten years of service and provide them with adequate clothing and money for the next stage of their lives.

In one of his wonderful letters he wrote: io che son de natura quieta et de etade ormai inclinata a la quiete—"I am by nature quiet and now at my age inclined to rest." That quietness shows in the mild face that gazes from Gentile Bellini's great Procession in the Piazza San Marco. Towards the lower left, where the white-robed figures break, standing between the Bellini brothers, is an elderly balding man, somewhat overweight, in the red patrician "toga" with old-fashioned sleeves to which he was entitled as a Secretary, and Guardian Grande of the scuola of  S. Giovanni Evangelistra. The Bellini brothers were members, too, and Dario was the one who paid them for their work.

There are two clear reminders of Dario's Turkish experience in Venice today, in addition to his letters and the cahd-name with its great gold tugra. One is the small Turkish fountain room he had put in his house at the end of the great L-shaped room of the piano nobile. Marble benches center on a fountain in a small square pool, and windows look out on the garden behind. The second is in that Bellini painting. Dario had taken Bellini to Constantinople to paint for Mehmed. In the painting, Bellini shows Dario carrying a Turkish handkerchief. He never saw the work: it was painted two years after he died, a tribute from a friend.




Much of this blog was taken from this article, published in The Turkish Studies Association Journal.  In it you can read translations of Dario's letters about stratioti, the Kladas affair, and exotic visitors and gifts to the Sultan's court.  Giovanni Dario's web page is here.


19 June 2015

Pierre Antony MacKay


Pierre MacKay, my partner and ξυνεργὸς, died quietly on Sunday morning, June 14. Typically for him on Sunday, he was doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, and he went so gently he didn't drop his pencil. Readers of Surprised by Time will be intensely familiar with his work: he is responsible for the wonderful Mistra and Evliya Çelebi translations used here. I am putting a few photographs of him below. His daughters, Camilla and Alexandra, and I are having a gathering here at home on Saturday. We will be using the marvellous Callimachus poem below. It has been very personal to us: every evening for twelve years, when the weather has permitted, we have eaten out under our grape arbor and talked the sun down out of the sky.
Εἰπέ τις, Ἡράκλειτε, τεὸν μόρον ἐς δέ με δάκρυ
    ἤγαγεν ἐμνήσθην δ᾿ ὁσσάκις ἀμφότεροι
ἠέλιον λέσχῃ κατεδύσαμεν. ἀλλὰ σὺ μέν που,
    ξεῖν᾿ Ἁλικαρνησεῦ, τετράπαλαι σποδιή,
αἱ δὲ τεαὶ ζώουσιν ἀηδόνες, ᾗσιν ὁ πάντων
    ἁρπακτὴς Ἀίδης οὐκ ἐπὶ χεῖρα βαλεῖ
 
Someone told me of your death, Heraclitus, and it moved me to tears, when I remembered how often the sun set on our talking. And you, my Halicarnassian friend, lie somewhere, gone long long ago to dust; but they live, your Nightingales, on which Hades who siezes all shall not lay his hand.            by W. R. Paton