29 November 2013

His sworn brother

Detail from icon of Ag. Menas, ca. 1600.

After a battle at Itylo killed 700 Turks,1 Kladas was pursued further south and was within a couple of days of being captured. But when Kladas arrived at Porto Quaglio/Πορτο-Κάγιον three ships were waiting. Stefano Magno says they had come from Ferdinand II, King of Naples and Apulia -- , to learn Mehmed's intentions towards Apulia, although Mehmed had been besieging Otranto since the previous July -- and on one of the ships was a Zuane Francesco Zanco from Venice, fratello zurado or ἀδελφοποιητὸς of Kladas. Kladas, and many of his followers, escaped.  Minio says, Et scampò el Clada . . ..  

With an extensive use of subjunctives, it is possible to work out a scenario, apparently unmentioned at the time:  Kladas made his effort at revolt under the impression that he would receive extensive aid.

Kladas had been in Venice as recently as September when he received a knighthood from the Doge. It was not only his fourth trip, but he had just spent a whole year in Venice. He turns out to have had this Venetian sworn-brother of whom we have no earlier record, possibly a relationship created and solidified in Venice, although Zanco could well have turned up in Koroni earlier and, given that he was working for the King of Naples, he probably had. Nearly all of Magno's information comes from Koroni sources.

Kladas’ last trip to Venice had been to protest the loss of lands through the peace settlement. When he met Dario and Halil Bey in Koroni, they confirmed to him what was already known, and that the Signoria’s equivocal responses to him had been outright lying. It is a reasonable assumption that when Kladas returned to Koroni after receiving his knighthood, he was planning a revolt.

In this scenario, Francesco Zanco, his sworn brother, in the employ of Naples' Ferdinand II, was an agent-provocateur who encouraged Kladas to think that aid might be forthcoming from Ferdinand who was deeply interested in creating Venetian discomfort, as well as Ottoman. The Kingdom of Naples had taken an intense interest in Byzantine and Moreote affairs for forty years, on more than one occasion offering aid that never materialized -- John was to have a fleet, Constantine was to have troops and settlers in the Morea, Constantine, Thomas, and Theodoros were to have Spanish brides.  There were always tantalizing offers, sympathetic agents. 

In late July of 1480, an Ottoman fleet had attacked and besieged Otranto, raiding as far as Lecce. A few days before the attack, Ferdinand had signed an alliance with Milan, Florence, and Ferrara, against Venice and the Pope, and when he then asked Venice for aid at Otranto, Venice decided that peace with the Ottomans was preferable to rescuing Apulia. So Venetian-Ottoman hostilities offered a hopeful possibility that fall for Naples and Otranto.

Subsequent events do nothing to contradict this. The Apulian ships first offered Kladas aid in the King's name, and then took him off Mani and to Apulia where he was given the title of magnifico from Ferdinand II and a generous allowance. In Apulia he met the Duke of Calabria, a cousin of the late George Castrioti of Albania, and Castrioti's son, John, who were taking advantage of the Ottoman concentration on Otranto to attack Valona. Castrioti was married to Eirene Branković, granddaughter of the Despot Thomas who had been Kladas' overlord until 1460. Another participant was Thomas' son, Andreas Palaiologos, whom Kladas must have met as a child in the Morea twenty years earlier. This effort was a failure, and the Kladas and Kastrioti followers then served the Kingdom of Naples in Italy.

Unless someone can spend time in the Neapolitan archives, that single mention is all we have for the sworn brother.

1The number of 700 is intriguing: during the 15th century, 700 and 800 turn up continually in reports of Ottoman killings in battle. Eight hundred were beheaded at Tavia in June 1423. 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 Methoni 9 August 1500. 

22 November 2013

Lancer, Lace, Lyric, Lark

When that thin veil of grief descended on November 22, 1963, irrevocably dividing hope from the future, I could not have anticipated that the grief would come again so fresh fifty years later. I have lost, this country has lost, the art of language in political discourse, the love of rhetoric in the service of justice. Our basic cultural myth is, essentially, creation by the word, and I have seen in these fifty years the degradation of political process and commonality by the insistence on a increasingly simplistic vocabulary.  Language creates ideas, creates our reality.

Take this one example of language: where once the President and First Lady were known to the Secret Service as Lancer and Lace, they have now for several administrations been known at POTUS and FLOTUS -- sounds that can only evoke public lavatories.

These were the Secret Service codes fifty years ago:

The First Family:

Vice Presidential Group:

SS 100 X
Carpet Cork
Central Volcano

Official Family:

Secret Service Agents:

White House Communications:


20 November 2013

13 November 2013

On vacation: My left knee

My left knee.

My left knee was replaced yesterday by a new polyethylene and steel knee. Scroll halfway down on that link & look at Part 7 to see the elegant saw used to trim the bone, a miraculous improvement on the hammer and chisel my son-in-law tells me was used on his mother's knee.

In October 1989, I fell in the street on a banana peel. Despite the comic tradition, it was not humorous. The injury has been a source of constant pain and progressive debilitation, and an erosion of the many pleasures my knee and I had shared.

My knee and I have great memories. Together we cycled hundreds of miles in Nigeria and the Argolid.  We hiked Yorkshire and Cornwall, the Argolid, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Pyrenees.  We fenced.  
We knelt to polish floors, to weed and plant bulbs in the garden, to track earrings under furniture.  We knelt in churches (we recommend the kneelers in St George, Venice). We explored most of the calli of Venice, the streets of Manhattan, great areas of Athens and London and Washington, Rimini and Ravenna and Otranto.  We bounced babies. We once engaged in self-defense. We climbed a lot of Greek mountains. We crawled under and behind a lot of furniture, through the tunnels of Nauplion, and in the Altamira Caves.  We want our life back.  I have promised my knee a trip to Greece, once we are recovered, where we fully intend to be leaping from mountaintop to mountaintop.  

Wish us well.

06 November 2013

On vacation: Light

Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1900.

Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1900.

With appreciation to Irene Connelly who introduced me to this artist.