02 November 2010

The Capi

 Manessis icon, 1546
S. Giorgio dei Greci, Venice,
(probably) Comin Manessis, d. 1565
  
There are very few pictures of named kapetanioi to be found. I have identified, with help from a friend, a total of five -- all of them painted in Italy in Italian style -- and only one is a real portrait, though one other shows a recognizable face. All five of them, in Italy, considered Nauplion as their home town and that is mostly because of the accident of history that let Methoni and Koroni be taken by the Turks in 1500, and let Nauplion stay Venetian for another 40 years.

 Manessis icon, S. Giorgio dei Greci, Venice,
Ioannis Manessis, son of Comin.


  Manessis icon, S. Giorgio dei Greci, Venice,
Giorgios  Manessis,
son of Comin.

They never dressed that way in Greece.  In this icon the Greek-Albanian Manessis men have become Italian soldiers. These three shown here as donors of one icon were all capi of stratioti.  Comin may just possibly have been Nicolò or Todoro (d. 1545): the records are confusing. Members of the family were prominent in the Venetian-Ottoman War (1463-1478), and in those years owned land in Mani, in the mountains above Kardamyle.  

During the war, five Manessis capi whom the Venetian command considered homini da conte had to beg for food for their families because they were near starvation, and men in one of the Manessis villages finally made a private peace with the Turks to avoid starvation.  Later they went back to fighting for the Venetians and one of them, Marino, was captured and flayed by the Turks for his treason.  The Venetians felt a strong obligation to families who had risked so much for them, and after the war, made sure they had positions as capi and land for their families near Nauplion.


 Stratioto Demetrios Palaiologos, in Venetian dress

Theodoros Palaiologos, father of the man in this picture, was given a fief with a castle at Thermissi, in Nauplion territory, in 1479 (he was aged about 30) in return for leading troops in the Venetian-Ottoman war of 1464-1478. For the next thirty or so years, Theodoros, and Demetrios in turn, when they weren't off fighting somewhere else, were difficult tenants for the Nauplion administration: they ignored the tax requirements, and used their men for private raids into Turkish territory, and their Greek tenants complained to the Venetians about their violence. 

After the peace treaty was signed, Theodoros was rehired to lead a small band of horsemen in Friuli. He was made military governor of Zakynthos in 1485, and married Maria Kantakouzene of Corfù in 1486. He fought for Venice in the terrafirma in 1489-95.  After that, Venice found Theodoros useful as a spy, an interpreter, and a minor diplomat.  His name is remembered in Venice now as one of the men who persuaded the Senato to establish a Greek rite church in Venice. He died in 1532.

The position of capi passed from father to son. Demetrios eventually moved to Venice and became a member of the Greek confraternity there.  He probably died in 1570, shortly after making his will  He identified himself as "da Costantinopoli," probably figuring that with his name, Constantinople would be more advantageous than Nauplion or Zakynthos. Some of the family had escaped from Constantinople in 1453.

The  picture of Demetrios appears at the end of the Gospel of John in a gospel book of the mid-14th century, made in Constantinople.  The text behind his head reads X(ριστο)ῦ τοῦ Θ(εο)ῦ Δημήτριος Παλαιολόγος: the servant of Christ the Lord, Demetrios Palaiologos.  The book is now in the National Library of Russia. The artist, probably Markos Vathas or a member of his workshop,painted a number of Italian-style images in the book.  There are also several imperial-type images added to the book by a Greek-style painter, which Demetrios probably commissioned.


 Mercurio Bua, by Lorenzo Lotto
1527-1530

Mercurio Bua (1478-1452?) was a son nephew of one of the leading archons and capi of the Morea, Petro Bua, who fought outside the Morea for the Venetians once the peace treaty had been signed. Members of his family led the Bua revolt at Nauplion in December 1480 in support of the Kladas revolt when he was an infant.  After Petro Bua died, in 1489, Mercurio (formerly Maurikios) moved to Venice and changed his name to something Italians could manage  Although the family had originally moved from Albania to Ioannina to the Morea over several generations, Mercurio identified himself as coming from Nauplion.

Sanudo said he was a small man, but this did not seem to affect the regard in which he was held.  Beginning with a small band of men, twenty-five or so, he acquired a tremendous record during his career as condottiero, rather than a capo or kapetanios, and eventually was awarded the title of Count of Aquino and Roccasecca from the Holy Roman Empire.  He was twice widowed: this portrait shows a small skull and fallen rose petals beside his hand, and is thought to have been painted in commemoration of one of those losses.

This painting shows something else.  This is not the face of a proud man, which he certainly was, or of a comfortable man, which he had achieved along with the knowledge of a very good and fashionable portrait painter, or of a man who has won an extraordinary number of battles.  He poses as a duty. He seems to be bracing his weight with his right hand and leaning against the wall.  For years, various people had been commenting that he had gout, and once that he had had to miss a festival because he was in bed with gout. Shortly before this portrait was painted, Sanudo wrote that his body was full of gout. As gout advances it affects not just the feet, but joints over the whole body.  The crystal deposits can be felt in many places under the skin and even break through. Bua was in excruciating pain, as well as grief, for this portrait.

When Mercurio Bua died in Treviso, in 1542, he was given a magnificent tomb in S.ta Maria Maggiore.



One of the interesting things in the stories of these men is that  four, whom outsiders might identify as Albanian, identified themselves as coming from Nauplion -- originally a Greek city but by 1500  Frankish and then Venetian for nearly 300 years. The fifth man had the name to enable him to claim Constantinople.  The modern insistence on nationalism comes from immature egos, and is an advantage only to suppliers of armaments. To insist on these men as Albanians is to completely ignore the culture in which they lived.  They spoke and wrote Greek and Venetian, and worshiped as Greek Orthodox.  They lived by choice in Venice and the terrafirma. They were professional military, even though sometimes their bands were as small as 15.  We have no idea what they would claim for themselves, beyond Nauplion.

Venetian documents in the 15th century consider Albanians either [1] people living in that geographical area; or [2] migrant herders in the stato da mar territories.  Stratioti were military who lived on land assignments, an inheritance from the Byzantine tradition, whether they were Greek or Albanian or of some other origin.  Albanians were migratory; they moved about with their flocks and had no fixed address.  They may have been soldiers with capi, but they were not identified as stratioti in the documents and when there was no war they paid no attention to Venetian authority.  The matter of stability was key for Venetians, and the Venetians saw that Albanian loyalty was first of all to the clan, not to Venice.  So one of the things you see with these four men is that, though their families of origin were Albanian, they have become urbanized and ultimately Venetian.



My great appreciation to Ersie Burke for her identifications in the Manessis icon, and her information on all of these men. Her book, Coming to Venice, about stato da mar Greeks in Venice, should be out in a year.  It will have much more substantive information to offer about all these capi and their families.


For Mercurio Bua and his portrait, the source is

Maria Luisa Ricciardi
Artibus et Historiae
Vol. 10, No. 19 (1989), pp. 85-106

Published by: IRSA s.c.

NOTE: While I have put links here to an Italian site on condottieri , the information should be used with great caution.  We have found  a considerable number of errors in family names and places of origin.

12 comments:

  1. I would not say the Manessis look like Italian soldiers. Their uniforms have been influenced, no doubt, but they retain the long, hanging "sleeves" and Comino's (?) headgear is typical of a Balkan stratioto.

    Mercurio's father's identity is I think still a contentious matter. Was his father's name Petros and was he the Petros who held the title of Protostrator (after the death of Michael Rallis I think)? And was this the one called the Lame who had revolted in the 1450s?
    There is a document in Sathas v. 7, p.p. 65-66, 24 Jan 1501, which says that Pietro Bua had no sons (but had grandsons) if I understood correctly. I may have not though.

    Best regards,

    Pavlos

    ReplyDelete
  2. Comin's hat was found all over Europe in the 16th C. The horses' trappings are quite Italian, as are the helmets and the tailoring of the jackets.

    Petro Bua of the war of 1464 is commonly identified with Petros Cholos of the revolt of 1453, but not in the same source. That identification is unproven. I have never seen him called Protostrator. Jacopo Barbarigo (Sathas v. 6) refers twice to a Protostrator but not in connection with Bua of whom he is most complimentary. I am following the article on Mercurio I posted above for father-son. I have nothing that relates Petro Bua to Nauplion, which is where I get a problem. There were a lot of Buas in Nauplion -- recall the Bua revolt in support of Kladas. If anyone knows this, it will be Ersie Burke.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Protostrator is Isaac Paraspondilos who is, I think, the grandson of Isaac Asen. He is related to Zoe Paraspondilos, the first wife of Demetrios Asen.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Issac Paraspondilos and Zoe were siblings.

    IP's son, Demetri Megaduca was a famous capo dei stratioti and capo dei capi on Cyprus (he died there in the early 1530s). He married Elisabeta, a daughter of Zorzi Paleologo (Thodaro's younger brother). IP's daughter, Elisabeta, married Jacopo Notara, the only surviving son of Lucas Notaras. Poor Elisabeta had to endure the barbs and greed of her sister-in-law, the dreadful Anna. At one stage Anna lied to the Venetian authorities in an effort to get them to back up her claim her father's money which was in the Banco di San Giorgio in Genoa. She said that Jacopo, had converted to Islam before he died and was no longer a legit heir. But Jacopo surfaced in Genoa, where he lived with his wife and in-laws and showed himself to be very much alive and Christian. Even after his death Anna pursued Elisabeta about the funds. She made it very clear in her will that Elisabeta wasn't worth one single ducat of her estate.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The name of the Manessi father might or might or might not not be Comin; Fani Mavroidi in her book on the Greek scuola said his name was Comin; her sources were Vacalopoulos and Sathas (vl. 8, p. 76 and vl. 9, p. 72). I checked Vac. (vl. 3, p. 82) and he says he got his information from an 1892 work by Papandreou.

    I don't think Demetrio di Todaro Paleologo ever fought in the Morea. In fact, there were TWO Demetri Paleologo in Sanuto . The first is Demetrio Paleologo da Napoli di Romania (and I think this is the chap referred to in para. 4). He's in the early volumes (see Vol III, 402, 430-432 for the requests he put to the Signoria).

    I have the will of a woman named Elena Baleza, daughter of Alexi and Antonia; brothers' names Hieronymo, Pietro and Marco and sisters Franceschina and Lucretia. Resident of San Gregorio parish and wife of Demetri Paleologo (she doesn't say di who). Have not seen the name Baleza since. Elena made her will in 1520 and said zilch about her husband which is not surprising or odd. She may have been the wife of the elder DP da NR.


    Other reasons why Demetri di Thodaro can't be the same as DP da NR (above).  Thodaro Paleologo had 2 sons: the eldest Paolo (named for TP's father) and then Demetri (named for Maria Cantacuzene's dad). There were 5 daughters (Frosina (Francheschina in Venetian), Emilia, Nicolosa, Lucia and Elena). There was an earthquake that destroyed Zante was in 1513; Sanuto wrote that Maria C. was killed, a daughter was severely injured (either one of the 5 above or a 6th who didn't survive in the end-but that's pure speculation on my part) and the "puto" (the young boy) escaped. I believe this putto was Demetri di Thodaro (Sanuto, XVI, 265).

    ReplyDelete
  6. Other reasons why Demetri di Thodaro can't be the same as DP da NR (above).  Thodaro Paleologo had 2 sons: the eldest Paolo (named for TP's father) and then Demetri (named for Maria Cantacuzene's dad). There were 5 daughters (Frosina (Francheschina in Venetian), Emilia, Nicolosa, Lucia and Elena). There was an earthquake that destroyed Zante was in 1513; Sanuto wrote that Maria C. was killed, a daughter was severely injured (either one of the 5 above or a 6th who didn't survive in the end-but that's pure speculation on my part) and the "puto" (the young boy) escaped. I believe this putto was Demetri di Thodaro (Sanuto, XVI, 265).

    According to the death registers of San Giuliano parish Venice, Demetri di Thodaro died on 6 August 1571, "...d'anni 90 amalada da vechiezza: The only problem with this is that if DP was as old as the register claimed, he would've been born in 1481, 5 years  BEFORE his parents married (1486). So let's say that d'anni 90 simply means "pretty damned old" as it usually did in the death registers. Furthermore, Demetri di Thodaro made his first appearance in Sanuto in 1524 and was referred to as a "giovane" which means he was at the right age to take up fighting (I think that was 15 ???) See Sanuto, XXXVI, 564-5. Anyway, he was a mere soldier in 1524, albeit a favoured one along daddy's side, at Cattaro. TP's older son, Paolo by this stage (1524) was not only commanding his own troops, but also had a wife and 6 daughters (no sons). Paolo was killed in 1525.

    I put DP di T's birthday between 1505-1509 (that's assuming he was in his teens in 1524 when he was a stratioto). He succeeded to his own command after his father's death in 1533 (TP died in 1532). He was made a Cavaliero di San Marco on 21 May 1554 when he would've been close to, if not, 50. His first wife was Laura di Giacomo Seguro dal Zante, which fits nicely since Thodaro Paleologo and the family spent a long time on the island where he and his younger brother Zorzi were capi dei capi.

    One more interesting morsel on Demetri di Thodaro: in Feb. 1533 a certain Lucietta Martini, whose father was the proto of the marangoni al Arsenale filed in the ecclesiastic court to have her marriage to Demetri di Thodaro Paleologo annulled on the grounds of bigamy. The early 1530s were not a swell time for young DP; his father died on 3 September 1532 and by December 1532 he'd given power of attorney to his brother in law, Marco Seguro to arrange DP's inheritance of his mother's dowry; the paperwork was all in Zante, and given what happened 2 months later with Lucietta it's no wonder DP wasn't busting a medal to go to Zante. Maria C. had stipulated in her will that upon her death her entire dowry was to go to Thodaro; after him to Paolo and from there to Demetri. Well, Paolo pre-deceased his dad by 7 yrs so TP had use of the dowry and in 1532 this became DP's. 

    btw, I've looked at the annulment and i) the handwriting is difficult and ii) it's in Latin which isn't my forte and iii) it's 100 pages. But the whole NR gang is there, plus the Seguro dal Zante and I wish someone had the stomach to attack it and publish it because I'm sure it would tie up a lot of loose ends about our Demetri di Thodaro.

    ReplyDelete
  7. More: According to the death registers of San Giuliano parish Venice, Demetri di Thodaro died on 6 August 1571, "...d'anni 90 amalada da vechiezza: The only problem with this is that if DP was as old as the register claimed, he would've been born in 1481, 5 years  BEFORE his parents married (1486). So let's say that d'anni 90 simply means "pretty damned old" as it usually did in the death registers. Furthermore, Demetri di Thodaro made his first appearance in Sanuto in 1524 and was referred to as a "giovane" which means he was at the right age to take up fighting (I think that was 15 ???) See Sanuto, XXXVI, 564-5. Anyway, he was a mere soldier in 1524, albeit a favoured one along daddy's side, at Cattaro. TP's older son, Paolo by this stage (1524) was not only commanding his own troops, but also had a wife and 6 daughters (no sons). Paolo was killed in 1525.

    I put DP di T's birthday between 1505-1509 (that's assuming he was in his teens in 1524 when he was a stratioto). He succeeded to his own command after his father's death in 1533 (TP died in 1532). He was made a Cavaliero di San Marco on 21 May 1554 when he would've been close to, if not, 50. His first wife was Laura di Giacomo Seguro dal Zante, which fits nicely since Thodaro Paleologo and the family spent a long time on the island where he and his younger brother Zorzi were capi dei capi.

    ReplyDelete
  8. More. One more interesting morsel on Demetri di Thodaro: in Feb. 1533 a certain Lucietta Martini, whose father was the proto of the marangoni al Arsenale filed in the ecclesiastic court to have her marriage to Demetri di Thodaro Paleologo annulled on the grounds of bigamy. The early 1530s were not a swell time for young DP; his father died on 3 September 1532 and by December 1532 he'd given power of attorney to his brother in law, Marco Seguro to arrange DP's inheritance of his mother's dowry; the paperwork was all in Zante, and given what happened 2 months later with Lucietta it's no wonder DP wasn't busting a medal to go to Zante. Maria C. had stipulated in her will that upon her death her entire dowry was to go to Thodaro; after him to Paolo and from there to Demetri. Well, Paolo pre-deceased his dad by 7 yrs so TP had use of the dowry and in 1532 this became DP's.  btw, I've looked at the annulment and i) the handwriting is difficult and ii) it's in Latin which isn't my forte and iii) it's 100 pages. But the whole NR gang is there, plus the Seguro dal Zante and I wish someone had the stomach to attack it and publish it because I'm sure it would tie up a lot of loose ends about our Demetri di Thodaro.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great information here! So Isaac Paraspondylos the Protostrator is Isaac Lascaris the capo. I wonder how his son, Demetrius Lascaris-Asen-Paraspondylos ended up being called Megadoucas. Not because his sister married the son of Grand Duke Notaras I hope ... But it would explain somewhat how his grandson was said to have walked around Venice in 1575 with ten servants and two trumpeteers.
    Demetrius Palaiologos' wife was, it seems, an uknown daughter of Jacopo Seguro. At least AFAIK. Jacopo was the younger son of Nuzo who fought as a stratioto along with his other son Marco in Cephalonia. Marco was killed climbing the walls of the castle of St George. Jacopo had Marco, the eldest, Constantine, Nuzo, John, Diana, Polyxene, Paula and now we hear Laura. Nuzo was a capo di stratioti and married Paula Balbi. His son Gradenigo became a monk and is the patron saint of Zante, St Dennis.

    Best regards,

    Pavlos

    ReplyDelete
  10. I did not mean to sound disrespectful. I meant St Dionysius.

    Best regards,

    Pavlos

    ReplyDelete
  11. No, no. I just caught this. Zoe Paraspondylos married Demetrios Palaiologos, NOT Asan. In 1436. She is dead of plague when he returns from Ferrara-Florence in January 1440.

    ReplyDelete
  12. To the information concerning Theodoros (stratioto) Palaiologos' family I should like to add that he had another brother, Matthaios, who was the first Hegoumenos of the Anafonitria Monastery in Zakynthos [see: www.elation.gr].
    Furthermore, in the authoritative "Libro Nozze" by Marco Barbaro q. Marco (a manuscript in the Biblioteca Marciana) I have found that in the margin of the recording of the marriage between Theodoros' daughter Emilia and Stai Balbi in 1534 a note in red ink beside the name "Theodoro Paleologo Kv. fu Capo de Stradiotti" says "casa Imperatori de greci", which may add to the credibility of his son Demetrios' assertion about his family being connected to Constantinople, not just to ennoble himself (as in Marianna Kolyva’s hypothesis), all the more so as Theodoro’s wife, Maria, is listed in the genealogical tree of the Kantakouzenos family, according to the Masarelli Vatican manuscript [see: http://fmg.ac/Projects], as being the daughter of Demetrios Kantakouzenos “Sechtanes” (Domestikos of the Megale Ekklesia in Constantinople from 1466 to 1473 and son of Georgios Palaiologos Kantakouzenos “Sachatai”).
    To end up with, Isabetta Megaduca is quoted in Stai Balbi’s will dated July 24th, 1555 in her quality of Emilia’s “zermana”(cousin), together with the name of “Alexio Laschari”.

    With best regards,
    Giovanni F.M. Pirrello (Verona – Italy)

    e-mail: selva nera.sg@libero.it

    ReplyDelete

I will not publish Anonymous comments.