13 March 2011

"the valor of our stratioti"

 Sketch of a Turk, Gentile Bellini, 1480.

A couple of years after Minio arranged for pardons for the stratioti who participated in the Kladas affair, Giovanni Dario was in Turkey representing the signoria of Venice at the court of Beyazid II. What happened at that point with the stratioti is best conveyed in Dario's own words:

 * * * * * *
 Yesterday a slave from the Porte arrived here unexpectedly who brought letters from the Most Illustrious Sultan . . . The third letter, which was addressed to me alone, contained complaints by the Ottoman governor of the Morea about the many excesses perpetrated in the Morea by many stratioti and other subjects of Your Excellency, both from Nauplion as well as from your other places in the Morea, and he sent me a good many papers in which are -- all annotated in order -- 56 offenses, including, among others, the insult and rebellion made in the Mani by Kladas and some of the stratioti from Nauplion in time past.

. . . at present there have returned to the territory of Your Excellency some of those banned for the aforementioned excesses -- that was the reason the former governor of the Morea . . . requested and constrained the magnificent messier Bartolomeo Minio . . . that he would pardon them and received them back into favor, because the said governor (who was the more offended and more powerful because of ending the great scandal) had done the same and our administrator was reluctant to consent, and did something that he should not according to our laws . . . This seems an incurable disease and a scandal between us.

* * * * * *
Then two days later Dario had a meeting with the Lords Pasha.  They informed Dario that they knew Venice was not at fault, but the administration of Nauplion and the citizens were sharing the stratioti loot, and had in their houses the robes, the turbans, and swords, and other possessions of the murdered Turks.  In the year since the end of Minio's term, all his restrictions and concern for law and peaceful relations with the Ottomans had been abandoned. The Ottoman governor had been ordered to 'cut to pieces' any Venetian stratioti found in the Morea, and not to accept anyone who was not a merchant or 'original citizen' of the country.  Dario told the Lords Pasha that Venice would have no problem with that. They told him that Piero Busichi was the commander of the thieves, and had become rich from the system.

Piero Busichi was well-known to the Signoria.  Piero was one of four Busichi who had to have special pardons for all their homicides so that they and their troops could be drafted for the Ferrara war.  He first appeared in Venetian records in 1473 when he was hired for 50 ducats a year and a robe worth 100, plus pay for his company of 25 stratioti.  When Ismail Pasha and Minio were trying to settle the Kladas revolt, he acted as go-between.  Then the next year, at the time of the Ferrara draft, he had led a rebellion against Minio for more pay.  He got it.  Five hundred and forty stratioti had enlisted under him for Ferrara and they were so successful that he was given a bonus of 8 ducats for each of them, in addition to the 12 he had already been given.  

As soon as Dario's letter reached Venice orders were given for the arrest of the Venetian governor of Nauplion and a replacement was sent.  Dario wrote again.   

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There was recently brought to the Porte, in a cart, a timariot named Ciri Pasha, robbed and beaten by our stratioti just when he was leaving the Morea, as he said, and 100 ducats taken, and clothes and silk cloth, and other possessions, and the pashas ordered that he should be sent to my house immediately so I might see for myself the valor of our stratioti.   

I responded to those who brought him that I deeply regretted the occurrence, which I did not know about, but I wanted to be informed by them about the persons, so that they could be identified, and would write to Nauplion, and if the malefactors are there, they would settle the accounts and bring them to justice.  They replied that the pasha said that the families of the malefactors were in Nauplion, enjoying his goods and those of others, and also that they aided their husbands to break the law and worse . . .  I, on my part, have written the rettor of Nauplion, and given him information about the names of the malefactors and the stolen items, according to the man who was beaten, and I am informing your Excellency.  

* * * * * *
Dario wrote again, that he had heard from the governor of Nauplion, and from the pashas, that the matter of Piero Busichi had been settled, and that the Ottomans were satisfied with the results. This is all we know about this affair, but occasional Venetian records indicate that the stratioti continued to demonstrate their valor.

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