04 August 2008

Antonio Marinato's Excellent Adventure

Antonio Marinato of Padua saunters out of formal Venetian records on 1 March 1480 with holes in his boots and a hole in his stomach, a gleam in his eye and a "Ciao, ragazzi!" A constestabele in Venetian employ, he was sent with two other contestabeli and their companies of 50 footsoldiers, fanti, to Nauplion to replace soldiers being let go after a long and mindless war. When he arrived, the local Venetian governor, Bartolomeo Minio, irritated at having troops dumped on him that he neither wanted nor could support, wrote that Marinato and the others were inexperienced, completely lacking in resources, and undisciplined. And that they had been so long en route that the three-months salary they had received when they left Italy had been used up, and they were hungry. He had no money in the Nauplion treasury with which to pay or feed them. Further salaries did not arrive until the end of the year and those were partial.

Which is why it is a little surprising to learn the next year that Marinato and his men owned a boat, a fusta of 16 oars that they could lend to Minio when the administration needed a boat. Minio liked Marinato, observed that his men became extremely well-disciplined, that he had a sharp mind. Minio sent regular reports complimenting Marinato's ability, and used him for special services. So it is only speculation as to how Marinato got that boat, but there was a good deal of piracy going on along the coast--Greeks, Turks, Italians, God knows who-all, and we read of villagers killing a small group of pirates and keeping their boat. And perhaps that boat was borrowed and the Marinato's fanti had their own enterprise on the side, practically full-time, what with no war to fight and no money coming in, despite the contracts they had signed. It is only speculation, but there is no other satisfactory solution to the question of where they got a respectable boat, especially since it was a fusta, and fuste were used almost exclusively by pirates. Minio was a stickler for probity, but he had a lot on his mind, and he definitely would not have wanted to know anything about this.

So, a year and a half after he arrived, Marinato used his
fusta to tow the hulk of a roundship down to Spetses to get wood for fuel for Nauplion. He took a number of workmen along with half of his fanti. On the island, they were attacked by several small boatloads of Turkish pirates. That was 16 October. Marinato and sixteen of his fanti were apparently gone forever, swallowed up into the slave markets along the Turkish coast, or Chios, or Negroponte.

There was an incident that Minio definitely did not know about until it was way too late. A group of Greek and Albanian soldiers at Nauplion, hearing what had happened to Marinato, took out after a band of Turks for vengeance, and got themselves killed--"cut to pieces," the report says but reports always say that and so it may not be an accurate description. Meanwhile, Marinato's own men maintained good discipline and sat tight. No one levanted, which might have been expected with no leader and no legal income.Officials wrote letters, ambassadors made protests, but nothing was heard of tthe missing sixteen and Marinato.

Which is why, one month later, on the evening of 18 November, when Minio was beavering away in his inadequately heated house, trying to bring up to date the financial reports he had to send to Venice every three months, he was somewhat taken aback to see the door swing open, and Marinato leaning against the frame, with a grin and two of the missing sixteen.
"Ciao, ragazzi!"

Is seems that when they were captured, Marinato and the two fanti were put in the charge of a Turk, formerly a Christian from Crete, who was to take them to the slave market on Chios and sell Marinato, specifically, for 4000 aspers. That was the equivalent of 85-88 ducats, more than the annual salary for most Venetian laborers, and a whole lot more than any of the fanti would have been paid, had they ever been paid. Chios had a major international market with discerning clients. At Brusa, the nearest large city on the mainland, he would have brought only about 45 ducats. On Chios, Marinato met a merchant from Coron, and persuaded him into making an indefinite loan of 50 ducats with which he bribed the Turk to (a) recovert to Christianity, and (b) let them go. In the process, he enlisted the Turk in his company, and Minio was to expect the Turk just as soon as he had gone by Crete to visit his family in Candia. He asked if Venice would reimburse the 50 ducats, but that wasn't going to happen.

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