31 August 2008

The Tenant from Naples

 In 1540, the Minio brothers--Alvise, Almoro, and Francesco-found themselves in severe financial trouble. After several years during which they were not paying their sister Lucrezia's dowry, an amount they had offered, plus not handing over the gold ducats left her in her mother's will, Lucrezia's husband, Leonardo Malipiero, brought suit on her behalf. He obtained a judgment against the brothers for more than 8,000 gold ducats. A considerable amount of Minio real estate was assessed and put up for sale at auction, including:
  • a farmhouse with a burnt roof and a field, beside a river
  • a vineyard and plowland near a church of S. Maria
  • a run-down house at S. Margherita
  • three 4-room workers' flats at S. Zane Bragola, valued at 240 ducats.
  • a palazzo at S. Zulian, valued at 1300 ducats.
  • the family palazzo on the campo at S. Moritzio, valued at 1100 ducats.
The auctions did not go well, and Leonardo was given the rents for the interim. The brothers rented a floor in the S. Moritzio palazzo for themselves. S. Zulian was rented to a Misser Zuam Thomaso from Naples for two years for 55 ducats a year. Zuam Thomaso got a very good deal as this was 25 ducats less than the 80-ducat rent of 3 years earlier. The lease specified--this is important--that the owners would supply beds, ironmongery, keys, and window glass. Zuam Thomaso left at the end of his lease in 1540, and the S. Zulian house was then rented to Ser Antonio Stampa, also from Naples. The rent was due every four months.

For that reason, it was four months before Leonardo noticed that there was no rent from S. Zulian . He sent his agent, Ser Baptista di Antonio, to inquire. Ser Baptista reported back on 8 July 1540 that Ser Antonio Stampa from Naples was missing. This is what was missing with him:

  • the door of the inner staircase with its ironmongery.
  • the glass from the veranda windows on the inner court
  • the glass from two windows beside the small door on the mezzanine
  • the firebox from the small room by the door on the mezzanine
  • a shelf and two glass windows from the kitchen
  • all the glass from the ground floor windows onto the courtyard.
  • the trundle bed from under the great bed in the upper chamber
  • all the bedding from the two upper chambers
  • the keys for the bedrooms and the storerooms
  • the keys for the back door, the mezzanine door, the office, and the great door.
Those of us who have had tenants will know how he felt.

Over the next few years, Almoro left Venice, Leonardo died, Lucrezia remarried, Francesco and Alvise died, Lucrezia died. In 1561, 31 years after the original judgment in the case, Alvise's son Oratio was still paying Lucrezia's second husband, Agustin Ferro, interest on the dowry.

25 August 2008

A Most Beautiful Red Parrot

In the summer of 1485, diplomat Giovanni Dario and the Ottoman court had to attend the hunting camp of the Sultan, Beyazid II. The weather was exceptionally hot, everyone had to live in tents, and cold water was unavailable. Dario was seventy-one and could not get neither doctor nor medicine for the pains in his chest. He wanted a taste of wine--impossible in Beyazid's ambit. He craved bed rest, but he was got out of bed to come observe the reception of the Egyptian ambassador. It took all day. The ambassador had brought gifts, a lot of gifts, for the Sultan, who remained invisible. The pashas invited Dario into the shade of their pavilion--they were sitting on carpets on the grass, and they had a stool brought so he would not have to lower his aching, weighty body to the ground. Then the procession of gifts began. 
The first was a great cat as large as a lion, with black spots: it had, he said, a terribilità. Then came six Arabian horses, the first with gilded saddle and trappings, and then three racing camels. "After this came the little presents," he wrote: three parrots in cages, four black eunuch boys, six swords, iron maces, battle axes, helmets, shields, saddles. Behind these came a procession of slaves, each one bearing two bolts of cloth--double weaves, scarlets, silks. All of these gifts were the preface to the Ambassador who advanced wearing green damask embroidered with gold and a cape of sable down to the ground. In July.
The ambassador was allowed fifteen minutes inside the imperial tent, then he was sent out to sit with the pashas and Dario. He directed that a large long scroll be cut open and read. As Dario said, "It was a very long reading." This was followed by a banquet of many dishes served on Chinese porcelain. He particularly liked a serving of vegetables with a lemon sauce. 
That was the first day. The second day Dario was got out of bed again, this time for the reception of the Indian ambassador. He too had brought gifts, the first of them in a chest, and when Dario arrived at the pavilion, the ambassador and the pashas were rummaging in the chest, pulling out handfuls of jewels and passing them around. Dario was handed a dagger in a gold sheath ornamented with twenty-two large rubies, more little rubies, turquoises, and topped with a large pearl. Then the ambassador was allowed his fifteen minutes in the imperial tent. Again there was a procession of gifts--the grounds were full of slaves waiting their turn to march past, it was still very hot, and Dario noted that of all the diplomatic corps present, he was the only one invited to sit in the shade.  
The pashas were making an inventory, and they reported 2600 bales of silk, eighty bales of scarlet cloth, more brocades, and then tray after tray laden with porcelain, followed by horse tails (these were Beyazid's symbol) cane lances, various Indian luxuries, and ending the procession, a single most beautiful red parrot.
This parrot, or one like it, came back to Venice with Dario. It appears in Venetian paintings of the period, as in the Carpaccio detail above. What also came back, or the idea of it, or a Venetian painter had seen one in the East, was the great cat with black spots, its terribilità no longer in evidence here in this painting by Mansueti set in a Venetian house decorated like Dario's--this painting of a lonely Turk and his cheetah that has no place to run.

20 August 2008

Kidnapping the Bride

In 1361, the most important woman in the Mediterranean was Fiorenza Sanudo--widow, mother to young Niccolò, heiress to the Duchy of the Archipelago, or the Cycladic islands. She was also heiress to two-thirds of the Greek island of Euboea. She is said to have been quite beautiful, but we have no evidence on that point. Given her qualifications as heiress, she could have looked like Grendel's mother and still be called beautiful.

She was interested in the young nobleman, Pietro Rechanelli, captain of Smyrna, a situation that sent the Venetian Signoria into paroxysms of anxiety: Pietro was Genoese, and islands in which Venice took a strong interest could not be allowed to come under Genoese influence. Although the islands were extremely picturesque and had abundant important antiquities above ground, they were also extremely poor and being Duchess of them was worth little more than the paper the title was written on, except that Venice needed access to these islands as safe harbours for ships trading in the Black Sea and down to Alexandria.

The Venetian Signoria wrote to Fiorenza and to both her parents expressing their distress at her careless association, and suggesting that there were a number of perfectly eligible young men in Venice. Her mother wrote back that they were shocked, shocked, that anyone could imagine Fiorenza would be allowed a marriage of which Venice did not approve.

Then another suitor appeared, the brother of the Archbishop of Patras, equally, if not more unsuitable, as he was a Florentine. More letters were written to Fiorenza who was now Duchess and possessor of two-thirds of Euboea in her own right. Contingents of guards were sent out to take over the main defenses on Euboea and in the Archipelago--a young woman grieving for her father could not be expected to be responsible for the defense of such important positions.

Various minor royalties in southern Italy expressed interest and concern. Letters were written in triplicate. The captain of the Venetian fleet was directed to keep all non-Venetian ships out of the Archipelago. The Duke of Crete was directed to kidnap Fiorenza, although that is not how the letter was phrased.

Many of the details of this story are missing, and we only have pieces of official correspondence surviving, but the Duke of Crete sent a ship that returned to Crete with Fiorenza. The Signoria talked to Niccolò "Spezzabanda" Sanudo, a minor condottiere and Fiorenza's first cousin whose father was the leading Venetian official on Euboea. They suggested he might want to visit Fiorenza on Crete. The Duke of Crete was directed to let the young people be alone together. You can see where this story is going.

They were married. The Pope was asked a year after the fact for a dispensation. While they were still on Crete, the Cretan population, provoked by administrative brutality, a lack of representation in goverment, extortionate taxes, and assorted insults, rose up and declared themselves an independent republic.
An embarassingly large number of Venetian colonists participated in the revolt. Niccolò in his role as "Spezzabanda" (this would means something like "Router of Bands" or "Disperser of Hosts") joined with Lucino dal Verme, a major condottiere from Verona who arrived with 1,000 cavalry, 11,000 infantry, twenty ships and eight galleys. After they scoured the island, uprooted fruit trees, sowed fields with salt, beheaded a number of rebels, and buried others alive, head-down, the condottieri declared victory for Venice.

Then Niccolò "Spezzabanda" apparently gave up war, took up trade in a minor way, and did whatever ruling was required in the Archipelago and Euboea on behalf of Fiorenza. She died in 1372. Her son, Niccolò, came of age that year and married another heiress, Petronilla Tocco. He was an erratic and violent ruler, and in 1383 was murdered while out hunting. No one in the hunting party saw who did it, but they all agreed it was strangers. One of the party, Francesco Crispi,declared himself Duke. Venice had never held the prejudice that criminal tendencies kept a man from having administrative competence, and let him have the Duchy, especially since that allowed them to absorb Euboea.

As this story ends, Maria, daughter of
Niccolò "Spezzabanda" and Fiorenza, was quite young but approaching marriageable age. The Signoria of Venice wrote to all those involved that she was not to be allowed to marry without their permission.

16 August 2008

Dear John

John VIII Palaiologos was a man in frequent crippling pain. He was an oldest son who constantly tried to do the right thing which was never adequate, and who lived a life of unremitting stress for which there were no solutions. His first two marriages were no marriages at all, and his third marriage ended by breaking his heart. He is about forty-six in the portrait to the left.

He was twenty-one at the first marriage in 1414 which was political--someone in his position would have expected nothing else--and the bride was a child, Anna of Russia. Constantinople sent a glorious vestment to the Metropolitan of Moscow with pearl portraits of the couple to celebrate the event. The marriage is not likely to have much affected his life. Anna lived in the women's apartments of the palace, and John served as regent while his father, Manuel, was out of the country. In 1416, when Manuel came home, John left for the Morea, and not until he arrived home in 1418 did he learn that Anna had died of the Eighth Death the previous August.

His second marriage was one of a.brace of marriages arranged on one side by the Pope, Martin V, as part of his project to unite the Eastern and Western churches, and on the other by Manuel II as part of his efforts to get military and financial aid for the battered empire. The brides arrived in November 1420 with large endowments Cleofe's story has already been told here. Sophia of Montferrat was quite young, already widowed, distantly related to the Palaiologues. She had blonde braids down to her feet, an ample bosom, a slender neck. They were married at Agia Sophia in January 1419, he was crowned co-emperor, she was crowned the next day, and he never spoke to her again. He couldn't bear her.

The accounts are most unclear about what was wrong. A writer who knew the family said that she was well-mannered, but that John disliked her, and then came to hate her because of his dislike--thie sequence is understandable. But his unkindness, taken together with the fact that his brother Theodoros was simultaneously hostile to the lovely bride chosen for him, suggests problems within the Palaiologos family left unaddressed by contemporary chroniclers and modern historians. It is perhaps not the place to comment that their father, Manuel II, had written a treatise against marriage (except for dynastic reasons) shortly after his own, late, marriage, and that he had kept the manuscript circulating in the palace all those years.

One writer says her face was distorted, and that she was tall. From that, a modern "historian" meanly pronounces Sophia "una gigantessa dalla faccia de gorgone," and claims that she was confined in the palace. Evidence suggests that neither statement was true. Constantinopolitan wits were saying it was a case of "Easter behind, Lent before."
My own thought is that however unfortunate her face, she was also larger than John who was, as the portrait above suggests, physically slight. He was very very conscious of appearances. A religious chronicler said:
This man was crowned with his wife whom they had brought for him with many riches. He accepted her but he did not love her at all. . . . The emperor was extremely addicted to pleasures of the flesh and, for this reason, he had no affection for her.
Another chronicle repeats this. They are monastic chronicles and can be expected to scowl, but they are nearly the only hints we get that John had any life at all that was not being fed into the maw of the state. A secular chronicle mentions one charming interlude, a possibly unwise interlude because a small military action was at stake, shortly before the Sophia marriage:

The Byzantine emperor was at Proikonēsos, at leisure with his lover who happened to be the daughter of a priest, and so he was not there when he was needed.

This is the only time during his father's lifetime that John is reported to have done something he enjoyed. One ventures to hope that this was not the only such interval. Sophia herself lived quietly in the palace with the household staff she had brought from home. John, out of obedience to his father, did not try to end the marriage. But the year after Manuel died, a year after John became emperor in his own right, some time in 1426, Sophia and a few Italian-speaking attendants went for a walk in a garden along the shore. A Genoese boat drew abreast, they boarded, the boat sailed. Somehow no one minded, and Sophia was returned to Montferrat where she lived out her small life in a convent until her death in 1434. It is said that only thing she took with her from Constantinople was the crown with which she had been crowned Empress of the Romans. But the Orthodox used crowns for weddings, and perhaps it was the crown of her marriage.

There was a third marriage for John the next year, his own decision, to the princess Maria of Trebizond. The young Bessarion, who was from Trebizond and related to her, and who appreciated womanly attractions, made the arrangements. If this painting above by Pisanello (who knew both Bessarion and John--and who might have seen a portrait of her), if this small and memorably lovely woman is actually intended to be Maria, we have a sense of the woman they might have seen. John apparently fell completely in love with her, and she with him. What fragmentary reports we have of their marriage shows her riding with him on hunts--wearing masses of rubies and other jewels, taking care of his guests, and sending letters to him when he was away.

While he was away having the worst experience of his life in Ferrara-Florence, trying to save the empire, when the picture above was painted, Maria and Zoe, wife of John's brother Demetrios, both contracted plague. Someone in the palace wrote to someone in Florence saying that the women were ill, but it was decided not to tell the brothers, because John would get upset and take to his bed and things would drag out even longer. Some of the delegation learned, as they were struggling to sail home against the winter storms, that Maria had died of the Tenth Death, on 17 December, but it was decided again to keep the information from John because he was a bad sailor at the best of times, and with this he would insist on going ashore indefinitely..

When the brothers arrived back in Constantinople on the first of February, they were met at the dock by a large and sober group from the palace led by their brother Constantine. Someone confided to Demetrios that Maria had died, but not to tell John. Someone else confided to John that Zoe had died, but not to tell Demetrios. The party walked in silence up to the palace, each brother stoically grieving for the other, to be met by their mother, Helena, who took them to her suite and told them that they were both widowers.

John buried Maria in the family church of the Pantokrator and collapsed into depression. When he himself died nine years later, the unforgiving Othodox clergy denied him funeral rites because of his support for Church Union, but his family buried him in Maria's grave.

12 August 2008

The Great Deaths

The First Death happened in 1347.
The Second Death in 1362.

The Third Death in 1373.
The Fourth Death in 1381. 
The Fifth Death in 1390.
The Sixth Death in 1396.
The Seventh Death in 1409.

The Eighth Death in 1417.
The Ninth Death in 1423 when the Albanians came to Tavia.
The Tenth Death in 1440.

So it is written in the fragmentary chronicles of the Morea, so fragmentary they rarely tell us anything but the year. The First broke out in September, the Fifth in April. The Seventh took 10,000 people in Constantinople in 1409 and was still requiring deaths in Nauplion at Christmas 1410.

In 1416 in Greece, they heard of plague around the Black Sea. If you lived in a port city, you simply waited for it to arrive. In 1417 it reached Constantinople and then the Morea in the summer and stayed for a year. It, or a new Death, broke out in Constantinople in 1419 and lasted into1421. The Ninth erupted in the Morea in 1422 or 1423 from an earthquake, lasting all through 1423. That particular year was remembered because the Turks broke down the wall at the Isthmus of Corinth in May, ravaged into the heart of the Morea and--the chronicles say--the Albanians came to Tavia. The Albanians, mostly recent immigrant herding clans who preferred war, were the only opposition to the Turks. Eight hundred Albanian heads were left at Tavia in June.

[Tavia is now Davia, but the eight hundred is its own kind of Great Death, a summer Turk-born contamination. Eight hundred were beheaded at Negroponte on 12 July 1471. Eight hundred were beheaded at Otranto on 14 August 1480. Eight hundred were beheaded at Modon on 9 August 1500. Eight hundred shows up in chronicles and eye-witness reports like a liturgical response.]

The Byzantine year began in September, so deaths reported in one year usually spill over into another year in our calculations. The chronicles stop numbering after the tenth episode of Death, but it is nearly always there in the records. The Venetian Senato warned the ship carrying Manuel II home from the West was warned not to stop there because of the plague that struck in the winter of 1401 and went into the spring. Negroponte had plague in the summer of 1426, Patras in 1430 when people were were weak from the famine of the previous year. A "terrible" plague hit Constantinople in 1435, and the beginnings of the Tenth took the wives of John VIII Palaiologos and his brother Demetrios. It came again in 1447 and1448, moving down to Negroponte where it devoured two-thirds of the city's population over two years, into the Morea, and then to Italy where it fed for four more years. Crete and the Morea were attacked in the summer of 1456 with plague that lasted into the next year. The 1460 plague in Negroponte moved on to Modon for 1461.

The Deaths mostly followed the shipping and trade routes, but Pius II's crusade against the infidels, brought plague from Ancona into the Morea in the summer of 1464. They were already dying on the ships, and ultimately three-fourths of Sigismondo Malatesta's army died, but enough survived to carry it from the west coast to Nauplion, and all across the south. It hung on for years, at least through 1468, supplemented by starvation because of the loss of so many farm workers, either because they had gone for soldiers, or had taken sick, or because those living around the cities disappeared into the mountains for fear of plague. When you count up the years of known plague in the Morea, they take in more than a third of the century.

The chronicles tell us that Moreote outbreak in 1423 was caused by an earthquake, and Halley's comet caused the plague of 1456. In fact, the etiology for 1423 may not be completely off: an earthquake could well dislodge rats and the burrowing rodents that carry the plague fleas, and they certainly associated rodents with plague. The ancients called Apollo "the far shooter," the bringer of plague, and also the mouse god, so possibly he was responsible for the comet, too.

09 August 2008

Visiting with the Palaiologues

These are Theodoros and Andronikos Palaiologos, about six and four, possibly a little older. They are portrayed with their parents, Manuel and Helena, and big brother, John, in a formal portrait sent to Paris in 1403 or so, in a picture that can be seen here That same year a Spanish nobleman, Clavijo, visted them and wrote:

The Emperor was seated on a raised dais, carpeted with small rugs, on one of which was spread a brown lion skin and at the back was a cushion of black stuff embroidered in gold. After conversing for some considerable time with us, the Emperor at length dismissed us, and we returned to our lodgings, whither later on his Highness sent up a stag, which his huntsmen had just brought in to the palace. With the Emperor at our audience had been present the Empress his wife, with three young princes, the eldest of whom may have been eight years old.
The eldest was John who was actually eleven, but he was small for his age and fine-boned, having inherited his father's build. When John was emperor, in 1437, another Spaniard, Pero Tafur saw the lion skin again, it or a replacement: "I then entered the Palace, and came to a hall where I found him seated on a tribune, with a lion's skin spread under his feet." But the palace was run-down and though the royal apartments were kept up, John and the lovely Maria of Trebizond and their attendants lived crowded in together. Still, the palace must have been a civilized place to visit:

At the entrance to the Palace . . . is an open loggia of marble with stone benches round it, and stones, like tables, raised on pillars in front of them, placed end to end. Here are many books and ancient writings and histories, and on one side are gaming boards so that the Emperor's house may always be well supplied.
For all his magnificent wardrobe when on show, John seemed to prefer a lack of complications, given the choice. He was an unexpected guest of Giovanni di Jacopo di Latino de' Pigli, out from Florence one day in 1439. De'Pigli quickly prepared a bed for the Emperor--it had white sheets and a green bedspread--but given that it was July in Italy, he reasonably prefered to nap in the garden:
. . . instead he had a sort of couch made on two benches with a little mattress and with a carpet . . . under the arbor, and there he slept until his people produced something for him to eat. When food was provided, he had a small table placed before his couch. I found him some white table cloths, and then he ate alone;
His desire for privacy was strong. De'Pigli thought he had lost the use of his legs because he had come into the house on his horse, dismounting only in the view of close friends. John did have episodes of terrible pain in his legs and could be bed-ridden for days--possibly rheumatoid arthritis? [Late correction: he had severe gout.] The nap gave De'Pigli time to send around to the neighbors for help with lunch--John was travelling with a party of about seventy--and it does sound like a meal put together in a hurry. I like to think I would have done better on the meat, at least for him.
. . . the first food the Emperor ate was a salad of purslain and parsley, with some onions, which he himself wished to clean. After that there were chickens and pigeons, boiled, and then chickens and pigeons quartered and fried in the frying pan with lard . . . he took what he wanted, and sent them along to the others. His last dish was eggs thrown on hot bricks . . . and then they set them before him in a plate with many spices.
After lunch John played backgammon under the arbor and joked with friends. De'Pigli spent the time talking with Cyriaco of Ancona who was one of the party.

Mostly, though, what John's guests reported was hunting--it was mobility and air, even when his legs were not working-- and he enjoyed having guests. In 1437, just before John left for Italy and the Ferrara-Florence circus, he was host to Pero Tafur:

This day the Emperor sent for me to go hunting, and we killed many hares, and partridges, and francolins, and pheasants, which are very plentiful there, . . . and from that day onwards, when he or the Empress, his consort, desired to hunt, he sent horses for me, and I went with them, and they said that they had great pleasure in my company. . . The Empress rides astride, with two stirrups, and when she desires to mount, two lords hold up a rich cloth, raising their hands aloft and turning their backs upon her, so that when she throws her leg across the saddle no part of her person can be seen.
Maria of Trebizond's riding astride fascinated the Westerners. Bertrandon de la Broquière had seen it a few years earlier and wrote that three eunuchs held up the screen. This is an interesting detail left hanging: was she the only woman hunting? Did she not have ladies-in-waiting? When John and his delegation of nearly seven hundred had left for Italy, Tafur went on to his business in the Black Sea and visited Maria's family in Trebizond. When he came back to Constantinople, he had letters and news for Maria, and spent time with her and and with Constantine who was serving as his brother's regent. Then she and Constantine took him to services at Ag. Sophia and gave him a guided tour of the relics--Constantine held one of the keys to the relic chamber. The next year when Tafur was in Italy, en route home to Spain, he stopped in Ferrara to visit John who was a guest of the Marquis of Ferrara, in a palace on the banks of a river, with gardens:
In the evening I went to wait upon the Emperor of Greece, and gave him letters from his consort and from his brother the Despot. He received me gladly, saying that I was his kinsman and a native of his country. He drew me to him and made me sit there beside him, asking me for news of his country and telling me that I must visit him each day I was there, and that it would give him much pleasure if I were to reside with him. Thus we were very familiar together . . .and he made me dine at his table and showed me many kindnesses.
Cyriaco was with him again in 1444 for a summer hunt. John's interested in clothes extended to his hunting wardrobe, and he had handsome Persian bow and arrow cases. It is unfortunate to have to admit that when he was at Ferrara there were complaints that he and his courtiers had denuded the countryside of game (and had trampled the farms), but in 1444:

The most serene emperor himself, John Palaiologos, and his brother, Theodore Porphyrogenitos . . . left Byzantium to go on a hunt, splendidly accompanied in the usual royal manner by his more high-born principal courtiers . . .The hunters brought to the king's tent from their booty two bristly boars and two fawns. From these the most splendid prince made gifts . . .. And finally, the Cretan falconer Manuel held out a large, long-footed lizard that a peregrine falcon had killed before my eyes in the clear sky. Then the jovial emperor invited me to receive a portion of the prey.
A rare period of happiness for John in those years, but he can never have been jovial. Later that year, Cyriaco visited John's brother Constantine at Mistra. He had nothing special to report about that visit, but once Constantine had taken him to watch an athletic competition in Sparta at which he distributed prizes. The outdoors comes into these accounts of visits with the Palaiologues, again and again, fresh air and movement and space as antidote to the ceremonies and close quarters of the palaces, interludes of release from the squeeze between the Unionists and the Turks and the Anti-Unionists.

For fuller accounts of these visits.

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.

01 August 2008

The Mosque of Ag. Giorgios

In Greece there are many chapels of Ag. Giorgios. Perhaps very few of them are surrounded by trees festooned with kerchiefs and an occasional large pink undergarment. This particular chapel, however, is exceptional, though not for the underwear, nor for its newness, nor for its conventional icons, even though there are a remarkable number of icons of Ag. Giorgios.

It is remarkable because it is an apsed chapel that faces south- south-east rather than east.

The chapel has an extension on the left that nearly doubles the floor space--which is still very limited. Five years ago the whole floor, chapel and extension, was covered with a triple layer of carpets and prayer rugs, with one in front of the altar bearing the image of the great mosque in Mecca, and all of these rugs bearing witnesses to family histories and financial commitment.

The neighbors felt it was all very simple: local Orthodox use the chapel mostly on the feastday of Ag. Giorgios, local Bektashi Muslims use the chapel on Fridays. The congregations shared a mutual devotion to Ag. Giorgios, the expenses of maintaining the building, the same small local agriculture-small shop life. In addition, the Christians appreciated the carpets at winter services

Two years ago, mean-spirited men with a definitive knowledge of God's will came in one weekday, ripped out the carpets, and burned them. Everyone knows who they are--they are not from the village and one of them is an Army officer-- but no one wants to involve the law and there has been no overt reaction. This community has managed its own affairs for six hundred years and would like to keep doing so.

This is a short entry, but it is a small chapel.