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The Long Journey of Gracia Mendes

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Marianna D. Birnbaum

Chapter 7. The Ottoman Empire and the Jews

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With ships of Tarshish in the lead
To bring your sons from afar
And their silver and gold as well
For the name of the Lord your God,
For the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.
—Isaiah 60:9

  • * Since I write about the Ottoman Empire from the European stance, I refer to its capital as Constan (...)
  • 1 As a trained humanist, Usque used his native language elegantly. Fidelino de Figueiredo writes abo (...)
  • 2 In the sixteenth century, Iberian Jews thought of the Ottoman Empire as East European Jews thought (...)

1In a section of his Consolaçam, Samuel Usque describes the Ottoman Empire* as the great consolation of the Jews because there the gates of free-dom are open and Judaism can be freely practiced.1 Life there is said to restore the human character. Here, the Jew can return to his ancient practices, abandoning the religion that has been forced upon him by those among whom he has wandered. In that section of his work, Usque refers to the “double life” the conversos have to lead in Christian Europe. He emphasizes the toll it takes on their conscience. Usque’s claim expresses the consensus of the Jews and conversos who have chosen the Ottoman Empire as their new home.2

2Yet the Ottoman Empire did not differ principally from other countries because, as everywhere, the Jewish presence was tolerated as an act of magnanimity by the ruler; however, in the Ottoman Empire, Jews were accorded a special status. Spanish and Portuguese Jews could revive a consciousness lost because of the Expulsion, and the social fabric of a vanished Iberian life was reconstituted under relatively felicitous circumstances.

  • 3 199 Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire: Conquest, Organization and Economy (London, 1978), p. 98. ( (...)

3Most important, in the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was one of the most advanced and best-administered states in the world, and modern in meritocracy and tolerance. Each social class and all sources of wealth were regarded as obliged to preserve and promote the ruler; hence all types of economic activities were regulated by the state alone.3

4The cities were multi-ethnic. Originally the leadership was non-Muslim, and not Ottoman. While the former soon changed, many important posts remained filled by Balkan Slavs who had converted to Islam. In the Arabic speaking lands, the Ottoman conquest did not much change the daily life of the population. They merely exchanged one Muslim power for another.

5However, for the Jews, newly arriving from different parts of Europe, the change in lifestyle was monumental. Socially, they were less integrated than their local co-religionists, although earlier those too had been expelled from their homes and had undergone forced transfers.

  • 4 200 Inalcik, p. 102.

6As in most European countries, in the Ottoman Empire capital was created by commerce, handicrafts, and agriculture. The Jews, as members of the rising merchant class, could fit well into the ideals of Istanbul society, where they were supported by the sultan, especially during Grand Vizir Rustam’s and Sīnan Pasha’s time, who, as well as his advisors, promoted the case of Jewish merchants.4 Their privileged position brought some local hostility against them; the guilds had viewed Jews as their enemy, but competition for business cut through all religions. In Bursa, Italian agents as well as Jewish traders waited eagerly for the caravans and competed aggressively for the goods arriving from Persia.

THE LEGAL STATUS OF JEWS

7The foreign trade in which Jewish merchants were involved was conducted mainly with Italy, primarily with Venice, Ancona, and Pesaro, often by way of the Adriatic. Ancona was also the base for trade with Florence. Regarding England and France, in the beginning the Jews served merely as brokers, however, they actively participated in the trade between Constantinople, Salonika, Ragusa, Valona, Venice, Seville, and Lisbon, up to Amsterdam, and through the Balkans to Austria, and later with Poland and Russia. During the sixteenth century, Jewish merchants competed in shipping merchandise to Italy or to the shores of the Black Sea and the Danube, whereas the Islamic merchants traded primarily in Moscow and in Poland.

8There was also local industry in Bursa. Silks coming from the looms in private dwellings sold well in Europe; some Bursa weavers became quite wealthy. This source too was tapped by most of the traders.

9Unlike the most advanced European countries, sixteenth-century Turkey had few up-to-date network of roads. Trade and commuting were carried on by caravans, and the roads that the traders used developed into a chain of “highways” with inns or caravanserais and related supporting systems. Those roads were used especially for intrastate travel, whereas most major international trade was conducted on the seas. However, in some parts of the empire, bridges and roads built during the medieval period, or as far back as the Roman period, were used. The Ottoman army, however, proved excellent using roads and highways in warfare.

  • 5 Minna Rozen, “Strangers in a Strange Land: the Extraterritorial Status of Jews in Italy and in the (...)

10The legal status of a Jewish subject in the empire was determined by Islamic rulings. As opposed to the Muslims, in the Ottoman Empire the Jews belonged to the “dhimma,” that is, non-Muslim subjects of the Muslim state, protected persons, enjoying a considerable measure of freedom, even if their inferiority was stressed in the rulings. The Jews paid property and poll taxes (cizye), as well as customs duties, all of which went to the government. Therefore, the dhimmi—although separated by faith—were a part of the Muslim order.5

  • 6 For more on this function, see Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky, “Jewish Lay Leadership and Ottoman Autho (...)

11Within the Jewish community, the memunim, also called the parnasim, were appointed offices. Men of distinction, the memunim fulfilled bureaucratic functions. They were responsible for the collection of taxes, often having to advance the sums until they were gathered.6 Like the rabbis, they held religious authority and were backed by the Ottoman government. As go-betweens, they helped to enforce the laws.

12Some of them were Jewish “courtiers,” who ever since the rule of Murad II in the fifteenth century filled diplomatic positions and acted as economic advisors to the sultans. They were also physicians, businessmen, and suppliers of goods, and held great power and influence over their coreligionists.

  • 7 Rabbi Moses ben Baruch Almosnino lived in Salonika during Süleyman’s rule when the city’s populati (...)

13Outside Constantinople, Jewish communities frequently sent their emissaries to the Imperial court. For example, Rabbi Moshe Almosnino received the renewal and expansion of privileges for the Salonika Jews during his 1576 visit to the palace.7 It is from their correspondence that foreign legates had to bribe the grand vizir, the commander of the palace police, or the head eunuch to get to see the sultan. The same applied to the Jewish emissaries. The Jewish lay leaders also had contacts—based on bribery—with the muftis of Constantinople and Jerusalem.

  • 8 Minna Rozen, p. 131. The Porte also intervened on the behalf of individuals, for example in 1566–7 (...)

14Jews in the Ottoman Empire were treated differently from those in the Christian countries of the West, as indicated by the Porte’s support while they did business in Europe. The sultans saw the Jews as a dynamic and productive urban element. Their loyalty was proven, and in turn the Ottoman government always stood up for the traveling Jewish merchants, to the great displeasure of Venice. The bilateral treaty signed between Venice and the Porte at the conclusion of the war of 1537–40 (October 3, 1540) clarifies and records those concessions.8

  • 9 This happened, possibly, at Joseph Nasi’s instigation and insistence.
  • 10 In Venice, the Ghetto Vecchio, established in 1541, provided living space for the Levantine mercha (...)

15The Venetians distinguished between Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Levantines. During the war of 1570–73, when Venetians were trapped in the empire, and in retribution the Venetian government imprisoned the Levantine merchants on their territory, the Christian traders were exempt. During the negotiations of 1571, the Ottomans declared that the Venetians would receive their sequestered merchandise only after the Jews too had their goods returned to them.9 When traveling for the Empire to places such as Venice, the Jewish diplomat or merchant would carry a safe conduct (aman), entitling him to freedom of trade and movement.10 In the Ottoman Empire a sharp distinction was drawn between Muslim and non-Muslim subjects. Jews were left not merely to their own religion, but to their own laws and administration in matters that did not concern the Muslims. Greeks, Armenians, and Jews were permitted to trade, and travel unhindered. They shared the same status with all non-Muslims, and they were protected by the ahl-al-dhimma, the special law, which made them feel safe in the empire. They were considered more loyal than Christians, since no enemy of the empire supported them. Even if the Jews were ordered to wear certain colors and not build or renovate their houses of worship, such regulations were seldom enforced. When it came to the rich, their trespasses were generally overlooked.

16Their representative, the kahya, a Turkish-speaking fellow Jew, was respected in both communities. Their kehalim (congregations), supported by members such as the Kahal of Lisbon or the Kahal of Portugal, remained in close contact with their former communities. In the same sančak (administrative region), the larger kahals had more influence, and rabbis and the beit din (religious court) handled their litigations. Cases involving non-Jews were adjudicated by Muslim courts. By ancient privilege, confirmed by each sultan, Armenians and Jews were exempt from blood tribute, devshirme (the training of children to become janissaries), and military service.

  • 11 For more on this subject, see Joseph R. Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottom (...)

17After the fall of Byzantium (1453), Jews living in the provinces were also affected by the sürgün (the expulsion of individuals or entire groups); thousands of them were transferred to Constantinople. Jewish families from Egypt, as well as those originally from Europe, were forced to move. Yet, they felt relatively safe because the order of eviction did not apply to them as Jews: they shared the fate of non-Muslims.11

  • 12 After the Turkish victory at Mohács (1526), 60 Hungarian-Jewish families were moved to Sofia; they (...)

18The sürgün continued into the sixteenth century. In 1522, Süleyman exiled the Salonika Jews to Rhodes. Although 150 families were moved there, they constituted but five percent of the population. They were active, rich, respected; they developed Rhodes. It seems from the records that community leaders could influence decisions affecting certain individuals, although they could not change decisions regarding categories.12

19After the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus in 1571, 1,000 Jewish families were transported from Safed to Cyprus as the result of a decree issued in 1576. A second decree would have resulted in the removal of another 500 families; however, it was not enforced, owing to Jewish appeal and the intervention of the kadi of Safed, who explained that such a ruling would lead to the ruin of imperial revenues and the collapse of Safed. Instead, 100 Jews who had wished to move from Salonika to Safed were resettled in Cyprus against their will. The sürgün was Mehmed the Conqueror’s policy; it was applied across the board, to all inhabitants of the Empire, not only to Jews.

  • 13 Avigdor Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton, 1992), p. 7. By 1540, there were 1,5 (...)

20Despite such displacement, the Jewish population of the victorious Ottoman Empire grew steadily. By 1477, the Jews of Constantinople registered 1,647 households—eleven percent of the city’s inhabitants.13 The sürgün notwithstanding, most Jews saw the Christian world as the one that had expelled them, whereas the Islamic world welcomed them.

21Indeed, even the sürgün, although affecting them, had a special purpose: considered a productive, city-building element in the empire, the Jews for that very reason became sürgüns. They were “imported” foreigners, chosen to rebuild Constantinople into an Ottoman capital.

22Before 1453, a small Romaniot Ashkenazi community lived in Byzantium, and the meeting of the two Jewish populations was not without conflict. The Ashkenazim and the Sephardim disagreed on many legal and social matters, such as family law, the treatment of the conversos, the kashrut (Jewish dietary law) and other customs. The Sephardim later absorbed the Romaniot community. In Salonika, where the Romaniot Jews were moved by the sürgün, a Sephardic dominance was created during the sixteenth century.

  • 14 Levy, p. 6. Arba’ah Tuvim, a code of Jewish law, compiled by Jacob ben Asher (c. 1270–1340), was t (...)
  • 15 Seder Eliyahu Zuta. Published in Jerusalem, 1976. Quoted by Hacker, p. 23.
  • 16 Sometimes influential Jews were able to use the sürgün system for their own purposes. For example, (...)

23The experience of European Jewish and converso immigrants was useful for the development of the less-urbanized regions, in effect, making the Jews reluctant colonizers of sorts. Thus, in addition to the principal Jewish centers such as Constantinople and Salonika, Edirne, Safed, and Izmir developed as important sub-communities. Izmir became the main port city in the late sixteenth century. By 1515, Salonika turned into an active cultural center. It had a Hebrew printing press that served the needs of an evergrowing Jewish population.14 In 1517, there were 3,143 Jewish households and 930 tax-paying bachelors on its books. The sürgün system even had its Jewish defenders. Originally from Crete, Rabbi Elyah Kapsali (1420–96/97?), when describing the fall of Byzantium, rejoiced over the defeat of the Greeks and welcomed the conquering Turks as God’s just punishment.15 He referred to the sürgün as a voluntary resettlement and minimized Bayezid’s tough policies regarding the religious minorities. Kapsali’s Seder Eliyahu Zuta displays strong pro-Muslim bias, the author avoiding criticism of the emperors rather emphasizing their sympathy for the suffering of the Jews, in Spain and Portugal.16

SOCIAL LIFE AND CUSTOMS

  • 17 Among the most important are Nicolas de Nicolay’s drawings made in the Ottoman Empire in 1568, in (...)

24Information about sixteenth-century Jewish life in the Ottoman Empire can be culled from several sources. In addition to their own records and those of the Ottoman state, information has come down to us that reflected a Christian point of view. Texts and illustrations published by contemporary European travelers enable us to visualize Jews on the streets of the capital, as well as in their homes and places of worship, and in their conduct of business.17

25Jews living in the Ottoman Empire adjusted well to local customs. Mehmed II the “Conqueror,” invited the Jews in 1453 into the empire. In his Divan, Grand Rabbi Moise Capsali represented the Jewish community in the Diaspora. Already Rabbi Capsali had prohibited Jews to wear Sabbath headgear, a native habit to the Spanish Jews, but not in Constantinople. The style in clothing of the Ottoman Jews was influenced by Persian and Chinese fashion, but also included elements from European trends.

26While not consistently, Muslims wore yellow leather shoes. The rest of the population was expected to wear black or other dark colors. In principle, non-Muslims were forbidden to wear fine fabrics or expensive furs such as ermine or sable; instead they wore smaller turbans made of less fabric than the Muslims wore, and never white ones, the sacred color of Islam. Jewish dress code therefore was guided not merely by the need to preserve tradition or to distinguish themselves from the Muslims or the Christians. Jews had to be careful not to dress more luxuriously than the Muslims, who were forbidden by their own laws to display wealth on their clothing. Cautious not to cause envy, most Jews followed those rules.

27Jews also wore Italian birettas or square caps. Urban women had indoor and outdoor clothing of great variety, and the rich followed the Italian fashion of wearing dark colors. There was no distinction between textiles used by the different Jewish communities, but the Sephardic Jews retained some distinctive features on their clothing.

28Naturally, very little information can be accepted with certainty since the garments, as well as the Jews themselves, were stereotyped. Christian travelers from Europe were astonished to find the Jews, so much despised by them, in leading positions in the Ottoman world.

29Jewish religious life was also allowed to flourish. The restrictions imposed by Bayezid II were lifted, and Jews were again permitted to build new synagogues.

THE WESTERN VIEW OF LEVANTINE JEWS

  • 18 Nicholas de Nicolay, 1567 Lyons edition, quoted by Halil Inalcik, Jews in the Ottoman Economy and (...)
  • 19 “A Tragedy written by Thomas Goffe, Master of Arts, and Student of Christ-Church in Oxford, and Ac (...)

30In the second half of the sixteenth century, in the eyes of Europeans, Ottoman economy was dominated by conversos and Jews. Christian prejudices are pointedly expressed in Nicholas de Nicolay’s report on his 1551 voyage to the Ottoman Empire. He wrote, “The Jews are full of malice, fraude, deceit and subtill dealing … [T]o the great detriment and damage of Christendom, [they] have taught the Turk several inventions, artifices and machines of war, such as how to make artillery, arquebuses, gunpowder, cannonballs and other weapons. They have in their hands the most and greatest traffic of merchandise and ready money that is in the Levant.”18 European Christians remained hostile, unimpressed by the Jews’ success among the Ottomans, perpetually insisting on their “treacherous” nature. In Thomas Goffe’s “The Raging Turke (or Baiazed the Second),” at Selim’s request the sly Jewish doctor undertakes to kill the ailing Bayezid.19

  • 20 Hans Dernschwam’s Tagebuch einer Reise nach Konstantinopel und Kleinasien (1553/55), ed. Franz Bab (...)

31Hans Dernschwam was an unsympathetic if astute observer of Jewish life in the Ottoman Empire. He left for posterity a treasure trove of information.20 About the local Jews he wrote as follows:

  • 21 Dernschwam, pp. 106–7.

A countless number of Jews live in Turkey, who differ in nationality and language, but irrespective of their mother tongues, they stick together. And regardless from which country they have been expelled, they all gather in Turkey, in a heap, like vermin. They speak German, French, Czech, Polish, Greek, Turkish, Assyrian, Chaldaic—but also other languages. Each is wearing his clothes according to his own tradition—in general, long ones— the kind the Italians and Turks wear, namely a caftan, which is like an overcoat, worn over a finely woven material or silk robe, tied with a belt.
The Turks wear white turbans, the Jews wear yellow; some foreign Jews wear Italian birettas, and those among them who claim to be physicians or surgeons, wear elongated red caps (“piretlen”) with pointed tips. They almost fill Constantinople: they swarm like ants. The Jews themselves talk about how many they are. In the past year, in 1553, Jewish taxpayers numbered fifteen thousand and thirty-five (that is, without counting women and children). At the same time the Christians, who had to pay the poll taxes, called hrač— namely the Greeks, the Armenians, and the Karamans—were six thousand seven hundred and eighty-five.21

32Neither number seems accurate, but the claim reflects Dernschwam’s prejudice. During the sixteenth century, the Christian population was calculated larger than the Jewish.

33According to Dernschwam, the Jews met with just as much contempt in the Ottoman Empire as in other parts of the world. He says that Jews owned no livestock; instead they possessed a large number of houses, entire streets, even whole sections:

  • 22 Dernschwam, p. 107.

They do not live there, however; they use it as additional income. They live in the houses of others and pay rent. Those houses are mostly owned by the clergy or by Turkish mosques. If those houses burn down, the clergy has to rebuild them. They [i.e. the Jews] live in miserable houses, squeezed, one upon the other, close to the sea, in the lower part of the city, where not without reason, the plague breaks out every year.22
Not far from Adrianople, on the shore of the Aegean, there is a town called Salonika. Here, as it is said, more Jews live than in Constantinople, allegedly twenty thousand. Many are engaged in weaving broadcloth; their merchandize is available all over Turkey. It is situated opposite to Valona, a town under Venetian rule, between them a large bay, just like between Sicily and Africa [sic]. There are many Jews in Alexandria, in Cairo, Aleppo, Antioch, Syria, and Jerusalem. When the Jews get old, and if they have the money, they visit the Holy Land and Jerusalem, still hoping that they will meet there from all the countries of the world and get [the city] under their control. The rich Jews support these Jerusalemites, because there one cannot earn any money; there is no money there, at all.
Just as earlier, here too, they have different sects. The common Jews, who are called Israelites, can be found in every country. They have many literate men among them, whom they call rabbis. They adhere to the five books of Moses, to the prophets and to other earlier writings, and they follow the Ten Commandments.

34Dernschwam also mentions the Jews’ “ancestry,” their eating habits, the kosher laws, as well as some special Jewish holidays:

  • 23 Dernschwam, p.107 and 109. (“Juden schulen sollen zw Constantinopel in 42 sein oder mer, ein jede (...)
  • 24 Dernschwam, pp. 109–10. Another German traveler, Salomon Schweigger, who arrived much later in Con (...)

There are some among them who claim that they derive from Aaron’s clan, they are—one may say—the high priests, the Cohens. They do not wear special garb … Some Jews claim to be the descendants of Levi; they are the priests … There are at least forty-two synagogues in Constantinople and each Jew attends the synagogue of his nation.23
The Jews don’t lend to the Turks; they don’t trust them. In Turkey, Jews can go wherever they want, to Egypt, to Cairo, to Alexandria, Aleppo, Armenia, to the Tartars … they may even go to Persia, India, Russia, Poland, and Hungary. There is no corner of the world from where Jews would not have come to Constantinople, and there is no merchandise with which the Jews would not deal or trade. As soon as a foreign ship arrives from Alexandria, Kaffa, or Venice, they are the first to show up on the docks. They bring precious stones from India, which come through Persia to Constantinople; some stones bring in 200 florins even if they are not worth more than a single florin...
The Jews tease us, because the Turks cannot arrest them or carry them off as slaves and sell them. But they consider it a miracle that after the fall of Buda, the local Jews were moved here by the Turks, and instead of being sold as slaves, they were let go free; all they had to do was pay taxes. Had they sold the Jews of Buda, it would have caused the total financial collapse of the Turkish Jews, because they—according to tradition—would have had to ransom their coreligionists. For example, recently a Turkish boat was captured, with many Jews on board. The ship was taken to Malta and those Jews were ransomed by the Jews of Constantinople.24

35Although Dernschwam had seen and talked to Christian galley slaves who had waited to be ransomed for years, he has no praise for the Jew, who considers it his foremost duty to free his coreligionists from slavery.

  • 25 Luigi Bassano, Costumi e modi particolari della vita de’Turchi (Rome, 1545), 7.113; rpt., ed. Fran (...)

36Luigi Bassano, originally from Zara, and for a while a paid spy of the king of Portugal, passed the years 1532–40 in Turkey. He also comments about the freedom Jews enjoyed, pointing out that in Constantinople, Salonika, and Bursa, Jews were permitted to have their own schools, were brazen in their public dealings, and had palaces and openly conducted services in their synagogues and at their burials.25

  • 26 Moses ben Baruch Almosnino, Extremos y grandezas de Constantinopla (Madrid, 1638). The original pr (...)
  • 27 Almosnino, p. 14. It should be noted that the first Ottoman survey of 1478 does not show Jews, bec (...)

37However, Rabbi Almosnino of Salonika drew a less idealized picture of contemporary Jewish life in the empire.26 In a number of critical remarks, the sage also complained about the lack of a civilized life. As he put it, “Except for conversation, there is not much to do.”27

  • 28 Amnon Cohen, “On the Realities of the Millet System: Jerusalem in the 16th Century,” Christians an (...)
  • 29 Cohen, 2.18.

38Although by the 1560s the Christian population in Jerusalem exceeded that of the Jews, the opposite was true earlier. During 1553–4, their numbers were 11 % and 10 %, respectively, while by 1650, only 8 % of Jerusalem’s population were Jews.28 There were no Christian or Jewish quarters in Jerusalem; but the Jews kept moving closer to the Temple Mount, probably, as always, for reasons of common religious practice and safety.29 There were Jewish butchers serving Jews only. The population included Jewish physicians, goldsmiths, tailors, as well as moneylenders, who dealt with the entire population. Jews did own property, which they were also permitted to sell. While socially distinct from the majority, they were solidly incorporated into Jerusalem’s Ottoman society, economy, and administration.

  • 30 Jacob Reznik believed that Gracia always wanted to go to Palestine “like all the Jews.” See Le Duc (...)

39The rebuilding of Jerusalem during the rule of Süleyman the Magnificent did not fail to impress the Jews of the Diaspora. Their immigration was promoted. The Turks saw in the Jews not just a dynamic and productive urban element, but a minority more loyal to the sultanate than the local Christians. Although the professed dream of the exiled was to “return to Jerusalem,” Gracia too picked Constantinople, because after the fall of Byzantium, Jews were concentrated there, engaged in commerce and trade, under Ottoman rule.30

GRACIA’S ARRIVAL IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE

40Since the spice trade was in the hands of the Ottoman Empire, the Mendes family’s move there was not merely religious, but also a business decision.

  • 31 A. Urošević, “Putovanje Vlatka Košarić a iz Carigrad u Dubrovnik u 16 veku,” Glasnik Geografškog D (...)

41Very little is known about Gracia’s travel from the Republic of Ragusa to Constantinople. Since there was an established “Ragusan Road,” it is likely that the Mendes family followed it. A journey made by two travelers from Constantinople to Dubrovnik took seventeen days. Reversing their path, we can establish the probable route Gracia and her party took.31

  • 32 In principle, the entire journey could have been made by boat. As early as 1270, the first Ragusan (...)

42Gracia and Reyna traveled with a large number of servants, handmaids and other members of their household. Inexperienced travelers, they are likely to have prolonged their journey to as many as 30 days. However long it took their route would have been similar to Košarić’s. 32

43Having rejected Jerusalem as her new home, Gracia could have chosen Salonika as her place of refuge. Although the city was called the “second Jerusalem,” it had more Jews and a more lively economic life than Jerusalem offered. During Roman times there was already a Jewish colony there; during the fourteenth century, learned Byzantines maintained communication with Jewish scholars. By the end of the fifteenth century, Salonika also had a small Ashkenasi community, refugees from German territories, France, and Hungary. There were a greater number of educated men and respected scholars in Salonika than in Constantinople, where mostly rich traders lived. Because of the influence of the rabbinate, Salonika was considered the spiritual center of Jews in the empire, although historically wherever Jews settled centers of learning had been established.

44The greatest attraction of Constantinople was that it was a new capital. It had a population of close to 250.000 and was the center of large-scale enterprises and financial dealing. The latter included lending to the state, a tradition in Gracia’s family, as well as the lucrative business of tax farming and supplying the imperial palace and army. By the middle of the sixteenth century, Jews numbered about fifty thousand and were involved in domestic and foreign trade.

45Religious life flourished relatively freely. The restrictions imposed by Bayezid II had been lifted, and Jews were permitted to build new houses of worship. The capital boasted 44 synagogues, not the 42 Dernschwam claimed.

46Concessions on food, wine, cotton, wax, and other goods were sold by the State. Only those who were licensed and lived close to the source could deal in those items. Proximity to the palace helped in obtaining licenses. As in Europe, monopolies were established and individuals with connections to the palace held trading concessions in essential commodities.

  • 33 Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 68. The letter that carried this story was from March of 1553, but was attach (...)

47Little is known of Gracia’s first impression of her new place of residence. On November 11, 1553, Don Alphonso de Lancastre, ambassador extraordinary of John III of Portugal (1502–57), claimed in his report to the king that “Gracia was sorry to have come to Turkey,” and would gladly return to a Christian country. Gossip has it that she was discouraged and tried to obtain a safe conduct to France. The ambassador wrote that Gracia was still a Christian, and her daughter was still free to marry.33 Whatever she may have thought of her new homeland, the next years were the most successful and prosperous in Gracia’s life.

48Gracia’s wealth seems to have elicited the envy of the powerful. The sultan allegedly demanded annually 10,000 ducats for her residence permit, to be paid through Rustam Pasha.

49As it turned out, instead of Gracia’s returning to Europe, in November of 1553, “Jehan Miquez” embarked from Ancona for Constantinople, planning at the time to return in three months. Earlier, Miques tried desperately, and in vain, to get a pontifical ruling to validate his marriage to Gracia la Chica, so as to remove “his wife” and her assets from Christian Europe. This request, of course, could have been merely a ruse to quell suspicion regarding his real plans. He would not have decided to stay in Constantinople against the will of Gracia, who had arranged for his trip by way of Ancona, where a janissary waited for him with a letter of safe conduct from Prince Selim, the future sultan.

  • 34 Dernschwam, p. 116. Pera, today Beyoglu, is north of the Golden Horn. The text is also quoted by G (...)

50Having settled in Constantinople, Nasi was circumcised in April 1554. By this ritual he publicly reentered the Jewish community. Two months later, he married his first cousin, Reyna. According to Dernschwam, the great wedding party included illustrious guests, including Michel de Codignac, the French ambassador, who left his Pera residence to participate in the festivities.34

WHO IS A JEW?

51The rabbis in the Ottoman Empire had the difficult task of sorting out Jews from the thousands of New Christians, or rather New Jews, in their midst. Among the many rabbinical decisions, several had to address the reasons for a person’s or a family’s history of conversion. The rabbis distinguished the anusim, or forced converts, from meshumadim, or apostates.

  • 35 Benzion Netanyahu, The Marranos of Spain from the Late xivth to the Late xvith Century according t (...)

52In Spain, the rabbinical courts established several guidelines regarding the anusim and the Jewish community. According to their ruling, secret Jews were those who were unable to leave for another country. They violated Jewish law, but were not gentiles. Only those who freely worshiped as Christians and violated the Sabbath were no longer considered Jews.35 As time went by, however, the line of division did not remain rigid. Anusim even within a single generation could turn into meshumadim.

53The rabbis also had to rule over levirate marriage. According to tradition, supported by Biblical teaching, a widow had to marry her deceased husband’s brother. Such marriages tightened the bond to family and community, not to mention preserving wealth.

  • 36 Netanyahu, pp. 211–13. According to the rabbis of Salonika, ever since 1492 Iberian Jews had a cho (...)
  • 37 Netanyahu, p. 39, quoting Simon ben Zemah Duran.

54Salonika rabbinical decisions between 1499 and 1514 refer to the particular status of the conversos of Portugal. By 1497, the rabbis considered marriage contracted after a conversion null and void. Any woman was free to remarry; if her converso husband died without issue, his widow was under no obligation to marry his brother, chiefly because conversos were considered apostates, not victims.36 In January of 1514, however, the second Salonika ruling of the rabbis was adopted, according to which a childless widow was bound under the levirate law to her husband’s brother, even if the latter was a convert and lived in the land of persecution. The ruling was a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that most conversos moved from the Iberian Peninsula to a Christian land rather than to the Ottoman Empire, where they could have freely followed the faith of their forefathers.37

55By the time Gracia lost her husband, she had a daughter. Even by the later Salonika ruling, she was not obliged to remarry. The seemingly curious decision of Gracia’s not marrying her brother-in-law could have been based on the ruling promulgated in Salonika.

  • 38 Cited by Netanyahu quoting ben Zemah Duran (Netanyahu, p. 121). In Portugal, as well as in the Low (...)

56According to Jewish law, if Nasi indeed was married to Gracia la Chica, that marriage had to be dissolved before he could marry Reyna. Was it possible simply to disregard a supposedly consummated marriage between two conversos? With regard to Christian countries, according to Simon ben Zemah Duran, “a marriage is valid if cohabitation of the married couple took place in a locality where Jews, qualified to testify, were available at the time, and where it was brought to their knowledge.”38 Rabbinical decisions in Salonika disqualifying New Christian marriages followed the same policy. Since their vows were not exchanged before Jewish witnesses, nor were any Jews notified about the event, Joseph Nasi’s marriage to the younger Gracia was not binding.

57For kidnapping Gracia la Chica (March 15, 1553), Joseph Nasi did not win a pardon until April 9, 1567. The motion to pardon passed unanimously, with 26 members of the Council voting favorably, as reported by the nuncio to Venice, Michele Bonelli, in a letter to Rome on April 12, 1567. Prior to that date, Nasi repeatedly offered his services to the Republic.

THE MENDES-NASI ENTERPRISE

58Among the prosperous Jewish merchants, the Mendes-Nasi family was probably the richest. In the 1550s, its wealth was estimated at as much as 400,000 ducats. Sultans trusted and supported the family, which had increased trade for the entire empire by using the sophisticated methods and practices they had acquired and refined during their European past.

59The area of Ottoman rule was larger than the Habsburg territories and its military was superior to the opposing Christian armies. Yet, the technological superiority of Europe, especially in the conduct of trade, was apparent. Carts and carriages were superior to camels; European ships were better built and the art of navigation more advanced. The sultanate could only benefit from the experienced and worldly Mendes-Nasi family.

60Gracia and Joseph Nasi were able to move into tax farming (collecting various taxes for the Porte) because they had the wealth to make large cash advances to the treasury. Their familiarity with European political affairs and their strategic placement of agents in the major economic centers of Europe made the family invaluable for the Porte. They soon established themselves as leaders of the Portuguese-Jewish community. Owing to the family’s previously held Christian faith and some quaint religious customs, their activities came into question among the rabbis.

61During the mid-sixteenth century, the Mendes-Nasi family members were the most conspicuous Jewish traders in the Empire. Their immense wealth, their exceptional influence and grandiose lifestyle caught the attention of Christian visitors to the Porte. Dernschwam devotes several pages to Gracia Mendes, in which hatred is mixed with grudging admiration:

  • 39 Dernschwam, p. 115.

In 1553, an old Portuguese woman arrived from Venice in Constantinople with her daughter and entourage. The Jews give different versions about her husband. According to some, his name was Diego Mendes, and his brother was Francisco from Antwerp.
It is said that after the death of her husband, she escaped with her size-able treasures from Venice, where she still has a sister, who should have followed, but was retained for some reason.
The Jews show off with her, calling her Señora. She behaves like one, amidst pomp and luxury and maidservants, two of whom are from the Low Countries.
They say that she was a Marrano woman who became again a Jew. She lives in Constantinople, not among the Jew, but in Galata, in a luxurious villa, surrounded by gardens, which she rents for a ducat a day. The Venetians had her arrested and wanted to keep her, but she made secret arrangements with the emperor’s physician, who hoped to have his son marry the daughter of the Portuguese woman, and the Venetians had to let her go.39

  • 40 Hieronimus Jeruffino’s letter of January 1552, to the Duke of Ferrara, also quoted by Grunebaum-Ba (...)

62Gossip had it that Moses Hamon (1490–1554), physician to Süleyman and Selim II, helped Gracia move to Constantinople, hoping that as a reward his son would get to marry the fabulously rich Reyna.40 Be that as it may, Hamon remained Gracia’s friend, even if his son did not marry either of the Mendes daughters. It is even believed that instead of being offended, he was against a marriage between his son and a reconverted converso from Antwerp, who unaware of rabbinical standards could unexpectedly have a relapse and observe some Christian rites. He wanted his son to marry a Jewish daughter of Jewish parents.

63Considering that Dernschwam worked for many years as a Fugger agent, and that Diogo Mendes had frequent business dealings with the Fuggers of Augsburg, he seems surprisingly ignorant about Gracia and her family, relying mainly on local gossip. Dernschwam faithfully reports whatever he heard in the streets, especially from Jews, as is suggested by the following observation:

  • 41 Dernschwam, p. 115. Except for Dernschwam’s statement, and of those who had quoted him, there is n (...)
  • 42 Dernschwam, pp. 115–16. Several scholars accepted this misinformation as a fact, although it would (...)
  • 43 Dernschwam, p. 116. Samuel was Gracia’s and Brianda’s brother.

Allegedly, her husband was a Marrano, and as he lay dying, he asked her to have his body removed from that Christian country and have it sent to be buried in Jerusalem, which she actually did in 1554, paying him all respect to which Jews there are entitled. She is a smart and efficient [geschwidtz] woman, like Barbara of Cologne,41 she conducts huge overseas business in wool, pepper and grain with Venice, and with the whole of Italy.
She promised her daughter to a Spaniard or Portuguese who served the Roman emperor, one whom the local captives had known personally. He is, allegedly, none other than the son of her sister.42 His name, although the Jews are permanently swarming around him, is always given differently, in order to make it difficult to identify the scoundrel. He is called, allegedly, Juan Miquez, or Six, and he is the son of a physician, by name of Samuel.43

64Although his pen was poisonous, posterity may be grateful to Dernschwam for a detailed portrait of Joseph Nasi. As he claims:

  • 44 Dernschwam, p. 116.
  • 45 Dernschwam, p. 116. I established earlier that Dernschwam was a spy, or at least an “information g (...)

The aforementioned scoundrel arrived in Constantinople in 1554, with about twenty well-dressed servants, who follow him as though he were a prince. He wears silk clothing, with sable lining. According to Turkish custom, two janissaries precede him, in order that no harm should come to him. In 1554, he had himself circumcised. Thereafter, he married the daughter … 44
The above-mentioned Señora and her son-in-law maintain a luxurious household, befitting a prince. Each day, they set the table for eighty. Many people could have been poisoned that way; something is not right with them. She claims that she had left a great fortune in Europe that will soon reach her here. But with their expenses, it will soon shrink, since she richly pays the pashas, and has given several thousands of ducats to the Jewish hospital, and has distributed money among the poor.45

  • 46 His contemporaries found Nasi very good-looking. Even when Nasi was in his fifties, Gerlach, a Ger (...)

65Dernschwam admits to Nasi’s good looks, describing him as a ”tall man with a closely-cropped beard” (that is, the Portuguese type), yet, he cannot forgive Nasi his following the fashion of the European nobility, arranging tournaments and theatrical performances in his garden.46

  • 47 Viaje de Turquia: La odisea de Pedro de Urdemalas, ed. Fernando Garcia Salinero, (Madrid, 1980), p (...)

66Although Andreas Laguna takes most of his information from Dernschwam, his tone is less hostile. In his novel Viaje de Turquia, “Don Juan Micas” arrives in Turkey as a distinguished foreigner, has himself circumcised, “and now he calls himself Joseph Nasi.”47

THE CRISES IN ANCONA AND PESARO

  • 48 Gracia did not expect to see Amatus Lusitanus arriving as a penniless refuge in Salonika.

67In Constantinople, Gracia practically held court in her palatial home, where she entertained the leading Jewish scholars and members of the sultan’s family. Both she and Joseph were known and honored for their philanthropic works. She also renewed her contact with a number of secret Jews she had met in Ferrara and Venice, some of whom settled in Salonika, some in imperial Constantinople.48

68An unforeseen event however was suddenly to change her secure and happy condition.

  • 49 Bernard Dov Cooperman, “Portuguese Conversos in Ancona: Jewish Political Activity in Early Modern (...)

69On September 21, 1532, a day after Clement VII completed the papal takeover of Ancona, a charter was issued guaranteeing the security and free passage of merchants, singling out those “from Portugal and Spain, together with their wives, children, families, servants and goods.”49 The charter reconfirmed the rights of Western merchants to leave for the Levant if they wished, permitting them to take along their families and wealth. Those rights were practically the same as those granted Levantine merchants who between 1514 and 1518 had received individual trading privileges from Ancona.

70Ancona was the first Western port to extend such formal rights to mer-chants from the Levant. It is noteworthy that the Porte was aware of and involved in those grants. The merchants included Orthodox Christians, Moslems, and Jews who began settling in the city, enjoying a quasi-resident status. These new arrivals were distinct from the local infideli, for the Levantine Jews did not have to wear the “O” sign, which was forced upon locals. One condition of the charter of 1532 was that Levantine traders were obliged to deal exclusively with Ancona. Step by step, the Iberian newcomers received the same privileges as their Levantine competitors, a group that included several former conversos who had fled to the Ottoman Empire.

71In 1533, hoping to make their departure for the Levant unnecessary, Clement VII declared that those forcibly baptized should not be considered members of the Church. Florence and Ferrara followed the papal dictum, since it served their own economic interest.

  • 50 Cooperman, p. 303.

72On December 23, 1534, during the papacy of Paul III, an official safe conduct to foreign merchants allotted trading rights to Turks, Jews, and “other infideli.”50 Unlike Venice, where traders, allowed as temporary residents, had to leave from time to time, Ancona was, despite its clause pro tempore commoranti, open-ended. In addition, conversos were to receive a four-months’ grace period in the event the charter was cancelled.

73The Anconan traders, aware of their special situation, hoped even to improve on it by acquiring direct papal protection in order to avoid potentially hostile measures from the secular administration, such as sequestration of property pending payments of debts in other lands.

  • 51 Cooperman, pp. 305–10. Since a regular site for the synagogue was disputed in the city, the Jews w (...)
  • 52 Brian Pullan, The Jews of Europe and the Inquisition of Venice, 1550–1650 (Oxford, 1983), p. 173.

74In 1544, Ancona granted the Levantine Jews (listed among “Turks, Greeks, and other Levantines”) the right to have their own synagogue.51 These generous concessions encouraged New Christians to settle as Jews and base their businesses in Ancona.52 In any question of heresy, the city promised that they would be subject only to the pope himself and would be exempt from religious persecution and charges arising from their former Christian lives prior to their arrival in Ancona. The city had an old, indigenous Jewish population. When Paul III declared the city a free port, the rights of non-Christians were guaranteed, including exemption from special taxation and obligatory display of a badge on their clothing.

  • 53 Peter Earle, “The Commercial Development of Ancona, 1479–1551,” The Economic History Review, ser. (...)

75Ancona’s rise occurred with that of other ports, “as widely dispersed as London, Antwerp, Ragusa (Dubrovnik), and Constantinople.”53 The city flourished thanks to the outsiders who directed their merchandise through its harbor. Native Anconans, benefiting from the boom, encouraged and enticed merchants with low customs fees (sometimes as low as one percent). Until the end of the fifteenth century, Ancona maintained ties primarily within the Adriatic, with the exception of a few annual ships voyaging to the eastern Mediterranean, principally to Constantinople and Alexandria. Like Ragusa, Ancona mediated between the Islamic and the Christian economic world. Her political, and diplomatic role was however much more limited.

  • 54 Earle, p. 37.

76In the 1520s the cloth trade of Ancona became important; it extended to Lyons in the west and the Ottoman Empire in the east. Even Florence used Ancona, because the city had developed a market within its walls, selling directly to foreign merchants. Weakened politically and militarily, Venice could no longer dominate Adriatic trade. In Ancona, Italian merchants sold textiles from Antwerp to traders in the eastern Mediterranean. Jews, Turks, and Greeks participated in that trade. The most powerful was the new group of Levantine/Portuguese merchants, who also played an important role in the animal hide trade.54 Among this group, many were permitted to reside in the port city.

  • 55 Cooperman, p. 311.

77Prior to the unforeseen catastrophe, a large number of conversos more or less openly reverted to normative Judaism. Papal toleration preceded that of the Italian rulers because the Vatican recognized the shifting pattern of world trade and adjusted to it. The most significant document, signaling a turning point in papal policy, was its safe conduct to “Ponentine” Jews, signed on February 21, 1547, inviting “each and every person of either sex from the Kingdoms of Portugal and Algarve … including New Christians” to Ancona.55 In his brief, the pope encouraged the “New Christians … stemming from the Jewish nation” to settle there.

  • 56 Cooperman, p. 313.
  • 57 For more on this aspect, see Viviana Bonazzoli, “Ebrei italiani, portoghesi, levantini sull piazza (...)
  • 58 Cooperman, p. 314. In 1543, members of the Abravanel family opened a bank in Ancona with a papal l (...)

78As everywhere else where they enjoyed a degree of safety, the Ancona Jews manifested their distinctive ethnicity. Although not protected from the Inquisition, they did not worry about the Holy Office. In this relatively relaxed prosperity of 1549, some 35 Portuguese converso families decided to form a bank.56 As the city agreed to their conditions, an ambassador was sent to Rome for papal approval. The Portuguese asked for the same terms the local Jewish bankers enjoyed, showing that they had become economic competition for the Italian Jews of Ancona.57 After banking privileges were approved, the Portuguese became as favored as the powerful Bonaventura banking house, with identical conditions—a challenge to the “Italian monopoly.”58

  • 59 Cooperman, p. 315.

79But after the death of Pope Paul III on November 10, 1549, papal commissioners immediately opposed the request that the pope should personally judge conversos in cases of heresy. The envoy himself—a Christian Anconan, one Rafaele Graziani—sharply criticized the demand: “What do they want: to live as Jews or as Christians?” Knowing that the Portuguese conversos wanted to have it both ways, he added, “senza ordine et timor di justicia.”59

80The new pope, Julius III (1487–1555), having first reconfirmed the earlier papal concessions, complained on March 22, 1552, that the Portuguese were not paying for their privileges. Moreover, he charged that many Jews were engaged in money lending without license, not paying the “vigesima,” the usual Jewish tax. His charges were baseless. The Portuguese had been exempted from those taxes, but the pope did not want to lose that income.

  • 60 Cooperman, p. 327.
  • 61 Cooperman, p. 299. See also pp. 298–301.

81Finally, a compromise was reached. The Portuguese bankers were to pay 1,000 scudi annually to the papal treasury and grant 1,800 scudi on “loan” (of which 1,000 would be returned after four years). According to a special bull, the bankers were exempted from all other taxes, except for their part in the 300,000 ducats general customs levy that the townspeople had to share equally. Even the 1,000 scudi the bankers had to pay for concessions was to be applied to those general payments. However, converso interest rates were limited to 25 percent. Frequently the banks had to pro-vide interest below market rate to the city. Therefore, the banks offered bribes, as they did in Venice, where Jewish bankers put their banks to use for settlement privileges, often at a loss. More importantly, however, the papal indulgences purchased for Ancona were used later elsewhere “as a much larger effort on the part of the nation—the Portuguese conversos—to combat the Portuguese Holy Office with any available tool.”60 The evidence of papal tolerance in Ancona created a model “according to which an individual’s religious behavior could be ignored by the state.”61 The Anconan precedent soon emulated in Italy and even in France.

82Meanwhile, as New Christians proliferated in Europe, a proper regulatory policy became top priority for the Church. Reorganized in 1536, the Inquisition was supposed to deal with that problem, even if some governments decided to welcome the “cristaos novos” into their realms.

83The ascension to the papal throne of Paul IV (Giovanni Pietro Caraffa, 1476–1559), a well-known anti-Jewish zealot, instigated major change. Paul IV is remembered for nepotism on a grand scale; as a reorganizer of the Inquisition, and a fierce opponent of Elizabeth I of England as well as the Lutherans. His favorite target was, however, the New Christians. Even before his papal election, as the head of the Roman Inquisition, Caraffa had urged Julius III to turn against the Portuguese converts. In terms of Ancona’s Jewish and converso history, he was the cause of the greatest tragedy to befall them. In 1556–57, Paul IV ended the papal toleration of Jews and conversos. He revoked the previous safe conduct granted to Portuguese Jews. Persecution mounted and even resulted in auto-da-fés.

84Initially, Paul IV reconfirmed their safe conduct, a possible strategy to keep them off guard. In 1555, when the Ancona conversos were arrested, 24 of them dying at the stake, the suddenness of the events raised a shock wave that reached even to Constantinople.

  • 62 In the end Fallongonio fled to Genoa, with 300,000 ducats in his pocket, but the next commissioner (...)

85Paul IV appointed as apostolic commissioner a well-known Jew-baiter. His trusted man, Giovanni Vincenzo Fallongonio of Naples, was to deal with the Anconan New Christians. Immunity could no longer be bought as in the past. Many conversos were imprisoned; many sold to Malta as galley slaves. Ultimately, about 30 managed to escape, because Fallongonio was not averse to bribery.62

  • 63 For more on Lusitanus, see footnotes 79 and 80.

86Amatus Lusitanus, the famous physician and a friend of the Mendes family since their common stay in Antwerp, was forewarned; he was fortunate to reach safety in Pesaro, where he arrived with only the clothes on his back.63

87Those “reverted” Christians, who had escaped from Ancona to Pesaro, were welcomed by Duke Guidobaldo II della Rovere. The duke hoped to use them in his plans to develop international commerce and move his capital from Urbino to Pesaro. In Pesaro, the refugees from Ancona joined a small Portuguese community that had migrated there after the 1551 plague in Ferrara, where they had been accused of poisoning the wells. Thus Pesaro became a haven, and a commercial power, competing with Ancona.

LEADING THE BOYCOTT AGAINST ANCONA

88Jews and conversos in Europe, as well as those of the Levant held different and conflicting views regarding the prospects afforded by the new turn of events. When the Pesarans asked for a boycott against Ancona, the world of Jewish and converso trade fell into turmoil.

89The rumors of the arrests of some of her own agents in Ancona reached Gracia in the fall of 1555. She knew many of the victims personally: one, Mosso, was her factor.

90When the Pesaro conversos first approached Gracia, during the time the first auto-da-fés were performed, she and her son-in-law persuaded the sultan to intervene in Rome. Gracia asked for and received an audience from Sultan Süleyman who promised to investigate her charges. The family thus began its well-organized and well-financed boycott of Ancona in support of Pesaro.

91Although this was not the first economic boycott of early modern trade, it was the first one organized by Jews, let alone a Jewish woman.

  • 64 In Lettere di Principi, ed. Girolamo Ruscelli (Venice, 1581). Ruscelli, a friend of Duarte Gomes, (...)

92Gracia wanted to know about the fate of her agents, as well as six of her employees who had been murdered at sea on their way to Vidin. Probably at her instigation, on March 9, 1556, Süleyman wrote to the pope and demanded the release of the men, whom he called his subjects. The sultan also requested the release of their confiscated goods.64 The papal response of June 1, 1556, was curt: those who had never professed to be Christians were free to leave with their assets. But to the sultan’s claim that the Portuguese were his subjects, the pope contended that the defendants had never been in the Levant and were merely heretics.

  • 65 Rosenblatt, p. 30. Gracia had four factors working for the family business in Ancona: Yacobo Mosso (...)

93For those Portuguese who had been baptized, which was the case of Yacobo Mosso, and who in Ancona had returned openly to Judaism and refused to repent, there was no mercy. It was public knowledge that at least part of Mosso’s goods belonged to the Mendes-Nasi enterprise. On June 13, 1556, Mosso was burned at the stake; his assets, however, were returned to his employers.65

  • 66 Commemorated by Joseph Ha-Cohen, in his Emek Habakha (Valley of Tears), p.131. For more on this, s (...)

94During the spring and the summer of 1556, several auto-da-fés were held in the Campo della Mostra. Those who refused to be penitent were strangled and then burned. Some 25 were killed. One committed suicide by jumping into the flames, another by leaping from the window of his prison cell. Allegedly, those burned at the stake loudly prayed the “Shma Yisroel, while engulfed by flame.”66

95By the mid-sixteenth century, about 50,000 Jews lived in Constantinople. Representing strong economic power, they were prepared to show their clout.

96The decision to support an economic boycott against Ancona was Gracia’s. Seeking legal support for her plan, she instructed Rabbi Juda Faraj, the spokes man of Pesaro, to persuade the chief rabbis of Constantinople (Rabbis Joseph ibn Lev, Abraham Yerushalmi, Solomon Bilia, and Abraham Saba) to support the boycott and to talk their congregations into following it. Rabbi Faraj received the signatures of the leading rabbis and took them, as commanded by Gracia, to Rabbi Joshua Soncino, one of the most respected rabbis of the empire, a supporter of Ancona. The rabbi refused to sign, despite the signatures of his illustrious colleagues, because he believed that in addition to increased external persecution, his support of the boycott would also increase internal conflict among Jews.

  • 67 Marc Saperstein, “Martyrs, Merchants and Rabbis: Jewish Communal Conflict as Reflected in the Resp (...)

97The best sources for evaluating the severity of the strife among Jews of the towns involved in mutual enmity are the responsa of the Ottoman rabbis, which also shed the clearest light on Jewish social and communal history for that period. “The legal question asked of rabbis in the great cities of the Ottoman Empire provides important background material, revealing the patterns of trade between these cities and those of the Adriatic Coast of Italy, in which Jews, and especially the conversos of the Portuguese Diaspora played a leading role.”67

  • 68 Saperstein, p. 216.

98Some rabbis believed that since two popes had granted rights to Portuguese conversos to practice Judaism, Pope Paul IV’s decrees were not “the legitimate and binding law of the land,” ignored by the conversos; instead, the pope himself disregarded the established law.68 Those rabbis concluded that the papal decrees therefore had more to do with the Church’s desire to confiscate Jewish property again.

  • 69 The pope indeed removed the Duke of Urbino from his position as captaingeneral of the papal army, (...)

99The Pesaro faction claimed that Duke Guidobaldo III accepted them (thereby going against the will of the pope), only on the condition that they divert trade from Ancona to Pesaro through a boycott organized by Jewish merchants of the Ottoman Empire.69 They insisted that only a full boycott of the Ancona port could guarantee the safety of the Pesaro conversos.

100Concerned about their own interests and futures, the remaining Jews of Ancona vehemently opposed the boycott. They claimed that it threatened the old Jewish population of Ancona with reprisals directed against them.

101For example, Rabbi Moses Bassola wrote to the Ottoman rabbis and asked, in a circular letter, that they reconsider the boycott or, at least, permit

  • 70 Saperstein, p. 220.

102each city’s Jewish inhabitants to decide for themselves. The papal decrees and the ensuing boycott indeed hurt Ancona, as seen in the city council’s petition to the pope, asking him to move the inquisitorial proceedings away from Ancona because they were antagonizing Oriental merchants and “adversely affecting the city’s commerce.”70 Already at the start of the boycott, local merchants claimed that the city had become abandoned and derelict. They complained that Turkish Jews and non-Jews took their ships to Venice. The pope, however, denied their petition. Thus Gracia, the moving spirit behind the Levantine retaliatory boycott, was satisfied because, at least in the beginning, it contributed to a sharp decline in Ancona’s trade.

  • 71 Samuel Usque described the event in Consolaçam, for the year 1553.
  • 72 Indeed, Rabbi Bassola died in Safed in 1560.

103Meanwhile, the Anconans reminded the rabbis living in the empire that the duke’s brother and his cronies had earlier entered the synagogue of Pesaro, dragged out the Torah scrolls, torn them up, and wrapped them around a pig, which was then carried into the ducal palace amidst great merry-making.71 Therefore, it was incorrect to claim that the Jews would be better off in Pesaro. They should have all left for the Ottoman Empire that had granted them religious freedom.72

104The Anconan Jews argued that no harm would befall the Pesaro con-versos if the boycott were abandoned; and that by their selfish actions the Pesarans themselves jeopardized the safety of all Jews in the Papal States.

  • 73 Roth, p. 148. Rabbi Soncino, a man of Italian background and great learning, died in 1569. His res (...)

105Supporting the views of the Anconans, Rabbi Joshua Soncino of Constantinople first voted against the boycott, and then in four separate answers considered the possible scenarios and dangers to Jewish communities. He circulated his views and conclusions throughout the Levant and was promptly joined by the non-Spanish rabbis, whose congregations had no vested interest in the boycott. Since they had a chance to live openly as Jews in the Ottoman Empire but chose to stay in a Christian land, Rabbi Soncino made the Iberian Jews of Ancona responsible for their own fate: not to be mourned and not to be avenged. The rabbi was particularly offended by any Jew who left Salonika and returned to Italy in order to do business there as a mercante levantino.73

106Summoned by Nasi to the family palace, Rabbi Soncino conditionally gave his signature to the boycott, but proposed to send an envoy at his own expense to secure the opinions of the Jews of Venice and Padua. In turn, Gracia sent her special messenger to the Ancona merchants, threatening them with economic reprisals. Nasi applied financial pressure of his own, threatening to terminate support for those rabbis who did not follow the family’s resolutions. The Ashkenazi and the Romaniot communities finally acquiesced to the Mendes pressure; nevertheless, the most vocal opposition, led by Rabbi Soncino, was strong enough to make the boycott unworkable. Not all Levantine merchants were Jews, and not all Levantine Jews traded with Portuguese conversos.

107Regarding various attitudes toward the boycott, documents show clearly that individual communities’ responses were based primarily on their own economic interest. Most Jews in Salonika were artisans or weavers, making, among other items, uniform headgear of cloth for the janissaries. The city limited its import of cheaper materials from Ancona. Therefore, Salonika was ready to participate because it had been competing with Ancona in the textile industry — especially if Constantinople, Adrianople, Bursa, and Avlona were to follow suit.

108Deciding on its own participation, Constantinople pledged to maintain the boycott until the following Passover, which was eight months away. It would then stop, unless the rest of the cities went on with it. Adrianople supported the plan, but only with a barely-achieved majority vote, whereas Bursa rejected the idea outright, calling it nothing else but a selfseeking plot of the Pesaro conversos. Even before Passover of 1557, the boycott was either not fully observed or secretly circumvented. Both sides bombarded the various Ottoman Jewish communities with requests for support.

  • 74 See also Paul Grunebaum-Ballin, “Un épisode de l’histoire des juifs d’Ancone,” Revue des études ju (...)

109When Gracia first approached the rabbis of the empire, she assumed that she could carry out her plan because of her family’s power. She wanted excommunication for those who broke the boycott.74 Rabbi Joseph Caro, author of Shulhan Arukh, and his son-in-law, another scholar from Safed, backed the boycott because they had been supported by the Nasi family. In addition, Joseph Nasi successfully pressed the German synagogue to proclaim the boycott.

110It is obvious that personal financial losses added to Gracia’s moral out rage and desire to avenge the cruelty committed against the conversos in Ancona. The Porte also claimed to have suffered financially. Having convinced Rustam Pasha, Gracia achieved the recall of the consul and informed him the empire had sustained a direct loss of 400,000 ducats. The release of Turkish employees and residents was also demanded because they had been merely visiting Ancona.

111The Mendes-Nasi family had strong ties in Ancona with the Portuguese conversos. The Jewish businessmen, represented by Soncino’s faction, were not, however, their trading partners. The Portuguese conversos of Ancona were killed, expelled, or moved to Pesaro. Over and above their moral indignation, the Mendes-Nasi family members were spurred by their own economic interest when they insisted on supporting Pesaro, whereto their surviving business partners had fled.

112Compelled by similar economic motivations, Salonika immediately backed the boycott. Among the Ashkenazim and the Romaniots, of whom only a few traded with the Portuguese conversos, the vote was more symbolic, for the disturbances did not cut into their business. Therefore, through lack of unified support, a bold and impressive idea ultimately came to naught for the usual reason: the special interest groups won out. Gracia was defeated; trade with Ancona revived, and in 1558, the disappointed duke, perhaps seeking his way back into the pope’s good graces, banished all con-versos from Pesaro.

113Even after the Ancona fiasco, Gracia’s relationship with the Porte remained cordial. In 1565, almost ten years later, Gracia asked for an audience with Süleyman, in the course of which she complained about pirates who seized a ship in the port of Santorini with goods belonging to her agents and sold the merchandize in Naxos. On January 20, 1565, Süleyman ordered the Bey of Naxos, Santorini, and Paros to return the property.

NEW FACES IN CONSTANTINOPLE

  • 75 There exists a similar medal from the same period, possibly by Pastorini, portraying an older woma (...)

114Expelled from Venice in early 1556, during the Ancona affair, Brianda, Gracia la Chica, and her fiancé, Samuel (Bernardo) Nasi, lived in Ferrara where they found refuge. However, when they decided to join the rest of the family in Constantinople, the duke created numerous difficulties. Selim (the future sultan, and at that time influential with Süleyman) sent Hassan, Rustam Pasha’s envoy, in early 1556 with horses and other gifts to the Duke of Este. He arrived via Ragusa, and asked, also in the name of Joseph Nasi, for the release of Gracia the younger and her “husband.” The request took a long time to be granted. Gracia la Chica and Samuel, who had earlier declared himself a Jew, were married still in Ferrara, in 1558, when the bride turned eighteen. They celebrated a Jewish wedding. It is generally assumed that the famous medal was Gracia’s gift to the newlyweds.75

  • 76 See chapter 4, esp. the section, “Inquisition by Proxy.”

115The pope and the emperor resisted letting the couple emigrate. A major fortune that affected several countries was involved. Also, Agostino Enriquez and Duarte Gomes, who had testified before the Inquisition, were still in Europe. After the explosion of events in Ancona, their situation worsened; in 1557, both Gomes and Enriquez were again denounced, although later released.76 On March 6, 1558, Rustam Pasha was advised that the duke, who had first refused to let Samuel go, had “permitted the Jew, brother of Zuan Miches,” to leave with his safe conduct from Constantinople.

116Bernardo’s long, uphill battle to leave, ended on May 2, 1558 (recorded on May 31), when a Venetian safe conduct was issued to him and his wife, valid for a single transit and subject to regular customs payment.

  • 77 According to Grunebaum-Ballin, Gracia la Chica and Samuel were still in Ferrara on November 1, 156 (...)

117Since Gracia la Chica’s marriage happened at the last moment before the Grand Inquisitor, Cardinal Ghislieri, began his campaign against the “Marranos,” the ducal permission must have cost a fortune. At least that was what Enriquez later claimed when he refused to transfer to the Ottoman Empire much of the money Gracia had invested in Ferrara.77

  • 78 Roth, p. 118.

118Rabbi Soncino proved his integrity when in 1562, he was asked to adjudicate that case. Soncino judged against Enriquez, who by then was calling himself Abraham Benveniste, in Gracia’s favor.78 The rabbi’s argument is most revealing of how Jews and conversos dealt with one another. According to his ruling, Gracia was not obliged to renegotiate with a Jew a transaction she had agreed upon with a Christian.

119After Cardinal Ghislieri broke up the humanist circle of New Christians in Ferrara (1558), Abraham Usque, the printer, disappeared from view. He appeared later with his son and assistant to open a press in Constantinople. Usque even headed a Hebrew printing house and served the Nasi family by traveling for them between the Empire and Italy.

  • 79 He came to a decision to move on, when his hopes to get an official position in Ragusa were frustr (...)

120Another old friend of Gracia’s to arrive in Constantinople was Amatus Lusitanus, who from Ancona moved to Ragusa, thence to the sultanate. Amatus had been the object of vicious attacks in Ancona. He hoped to work in peace in Ragusa without having to disguise himself as a Christian. He did not remain long in the Ragusan Republic, but during the three years he served the city, he remained a Jew, and ultimately followed those Jews and conversos who decided to settle in the Ottoman Empire.79 The year 1558 found Amatus in Salonika, where he arrived with the help of the Mendes family, especially Joseph Nasi.

  • 80 His grave, unlike so many Jewish graves, was not destroyed by the Nazis, or postwar reconstruction (...)

121Showing his gratitude, Amatus dedicated his Centuria Curat Ionum to Nasi. The Portuguese physician settled in Salonika, where he practiced among Jews and Muslims until he died in 1568, victim of an epidemic of plague.80

GRACIA AND THE RESETTLING OF SAFED

  • 81 Inalcik, p. 123. Antoine Geuffroy, a merchant traveling for the Fuggers, drew a positive picture o (...)
  • 82 See his letter to the French court of September 13, 1563, published by Ernest Charrière, Negotiati (...)

122Very early, Süleyman realized that protection of the Mendes-Nasi families met the increased need of the empire for ready money. Nasi’s close contacts with the Porte are proven by the fact that between 1562 and 1565, the sultan sent several firmans (the firman is an edict baring the sultan’s signature) to the king of France demanding that he pay without delay the 150,000 scudi due Nasi. When his message went unheeded, the sultan sequestered French merchants calling on Levantine ports.81 Petromol, the French ambassador, was convinced that Nasi wanted to become the king of a Jewish state in Tiberias and was therefore demanding his money from France.82

  • 83 Quoted by Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 78.

123Whether Gracia or Joseph actually received the gift of Tiberias and the surrounding land remains an unsettled question. By 1560, Gracia obtained a concession from the sultan, which was confirmed and extended to Joseph Nasi, in 1561, to rebuild the town of Safed and resettle it with Jews. However, Ha-Cohen wrote, “Joseph Nasi found grace in the eyes of Süleyman who gave him the ruins of Tiberias, with seven villages.” He stated that the sultan’s message to the pasha of Safed was: “Whatever this man wants, do it.”83

  • 84 Voyage en Palestine, cited by Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 79.
  • 85 Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 79.

124It was rumored that Süleyman gave that land to Nasi in the fall of 1563, as a reward for his support of Prince Selim against Prince Bayezid. Yet in a number of contemporary works discussing Safed, Gracia is mentioned as the spiritus rector of the renewal. Fuhrer ab Heimendorf wrote that Gracia had the authorization of the sultan to build up Tiberias, which he claimed had 40,000 inhabitants, mostly Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal.84 The priest Giovanni di Calaorra complained that no intervention could succeed, because she had the support of Grand Vizir Rustam, and of Ali Pasha.85

125The gift included the towns of Tiberias and Safed, and several villages. Whoever was the original recipient of the imperial favor, both Gracia and Joseph were involved in the project. Nasi ordered the restoration of the walls around Tiberias and the rehabilitation of the town. Rabbi Joseph ben Ardut, who had been enlisted by Nasi to help oversee the work, arrived in 1564.

126By imperial order, all skilled workers in mortar and masonry had to help reconstruct the walls. Some Muslim laborers, believing that when the walls stood again, the rule of Mohammed would end, abandoned the site and went into hiding. Others attacked the local Jews. After the execution of two rebel leaders, the work on the walls was completed by 1565.

  • 86 Some scholars claim that, originally, Nasi wanted to prevent the establishment of any Talmudic aca (...)

127Earlier biographers of Gracia assumed that while Joseph had agriculture and trade on his mind, Gracia was interested in Safed for spiritual reasons. Considering Gracia’s astute attention to profit, perhaps new business opportunities offered by an invigorated region were not so far from her mind either.86

  • 87 An example is the work of the Elizabethan physician and entomologist, Thomas Moffet, The Silkworme (...)

128Nasi, who first had grandiose plans for Safed, had mulberry trees planted there in the hope of starting a silkworm farm, as if he were intent on repeating his business in Lyon. This plan demonstrates Nasi’s fine sense for new investment. Owing to an increased demand for silks in Europe, there was a steadily growing interest regarding the methods and rewards of sericulture.87 In the face of local animosity, Nasi later abandoned the development of Safed. Solomon Abenaes (Ibn Yaish), another Portuguese Jew who succeeded him at the court, continued some of his planning.

  • 88 Alice Fernand-Halphen, “Une grande dame juive de la Renaissance,” Revue de Paris (September, 1929) (...)

129Many Jews in Italy, primarily from Core, were disappointed in their hope to resettle in Safed after Nasi gave up the idea and reneged on his promise.88 During the second half of the sixteenth century, several towns were revitalized, among them Safed, which developed as a major textile center. By 1565, however, had Nasi lost interest in Tiberias; after 1566 he began to focus on Naxos.

130In general, Jewish life in Safed was different from what Jews and con-versos living in the Diaspora had dreamt. Arab jealousy flared up; Druz and Bedouin gangs repeatedly attacked the Jewish settlers, especially after the death of Nasi.

JEWISH PATRONAGE IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE

  • 89 Geveret was destroyed in the fire of 1660, which also swept through entire districts. Rabbi Yom-to (...)

131In Jewish circles, the Mendes-Nasi family was widely known for its patronage and philanthropic activities. Even its enemies recognized the contributions the family made (within the Ottoman concept, patronage was not a particularly Jewish feature; the patron–client relationship was a broadly pervasive Ottoman social pattern). Nasi was credited for example with the building of new synagogues, among them the “Della Señora,” (“Geveret”) in Izmir and a new yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Joseph ibn Lev. The rabbi, earlier active in Bursa and Salonika, was of Spanish parentage. He fled Salonika after the plague and arrived in Constantinople in 1545, where he was to head the Academy for many years. His successor was Yom-tob-Cohen.89

132Nasi supported Rabbi Almosnino and his Salonika congregation. During his trips to Constantinople, Almosnino stayed at Joseph’s palace. It is known that Nasi intervened with the sultan at least once on his behalf.

  • 90 Quoted by Abraham Danon, “La communité juive de Salonique au xvième siècle,” Revue des études juiv (...)

133Gracia, who venerated rabbis and scholarship, supported the founding of a Talmudic academy in Tiberias. With income from various properties in Salonika, she founded and supported a Midrash school (Bet Midrash) for the study of rabbinical literature. For the first head of the foundation, she chose Rabbi Samuel de Medina, the great Talmudist, whom Rabbi Almosnino calls “erudite in both sacred and profane literatures, and author of both types of texts.”90 The Midrash was run like a modern home for visiting scholars. The visitors pursued their studies under the supervision of the principal, who was elected on a rotating basis.

  • 91 Heinrich Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, 3d ed. (Leipzig, 1891), pp. 28–9. Doctor Hamon might have b (...)

134Patronizing such institutions was a sign of piety, as well as wealth. Doctor Moses Hamon too established and supported a yeshivah in Constantinople and brought Rabbi Jacob ben Joseph Tawus to the institution, a respected scholar who translated the Pentateuch into Persian. At his own expense, Hamon had Tawus’s work printed with an Aramaic and an Arabic translation.91

  • 92 He was probably related to Isaac Hamon of Granada, physician to one of the last Muslim rulers ther (...)
  • 93 His copy of Dioscorides, or De materia medica, as it was known by its Latin title, presently house (...)

135Even in a merchant society, where the majority of people spoke several languages, Hamon was hailed as a famous polyglot. He knew Greek, Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew, and was familiar with standard Latin works.92 The Viaje de Turquia states that Hamon’s books were valued at 5,000 ducats. Allegedly, he had spent 8,000 ducats on his manuscripts.93

  • 94 Charrière, p. 779.
  • 95 Eliakim Carmoly, Don Josef duc de Naxos (Brussels, 1855), pp. 11–13, lists the titles Reyna publis (...)

136Nasi, who also owned a large collection of books and manuscripts, is credited with the founding of a printing press, which must have been considered an important event since it caught the attention of M. de Petromol, the French ambassador, who reported it to his king.94 After Nasi’s death, Reyna continued to publish Hebrew works.95

  • 96 Roth, The House of Nasi, p. 191.

137Although printing gave the authors a much larger reading public than a single patron could supply, even later printers still did much of their work for noble patrons. In many cases a book bore the statement that it had been written at the request of a certain person. In this respect too, Nasi assumed the patron’s role played by European aristocrats. In addition to his printing press, Nasi employed scribes and converted a room in his villa into a workshop for illuminating manuscripts and books. He enjoyed his library and published colloquies with Christian scholars, as recorded by Isaac Onkeneira.96

  • 97 Stephan Gerlach, Tage-Buch (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1674), pp. 89–90.
  • 98 Gerlach, p. 90. “And thereafter, in the company of several Venetians, I ate supper in the house of (...)

138Nasi also gathered his friends and important acquaintances for theatrical and musical performances in his home. After a show the guests were invited to lavish suppers. Stephan Gerlach, a German preacher who functioned as chaplain at the Imperial Embassy in Constantinople, describes the feast in Nasi’s residence with its priceless furniture made by French and local artisans.97 In a journal entry dated March 7–8, 1574, Gerlach records that he attended a performance about the story of Esther, “und hernach mit etlichen Venedigen bey seinem Hoffmeister Francisco zu Nacht gegessen.”98 Nasi also owned an orchestra, a sine qua non of European aristocracy.

THE DECLINE OF THE HOUSE OF MENDES-NASI

  • 99 In the power struggle, Nasi and his group (Lala Mustafa Pasha, Hocˇa Sīnan, and Pīale Pasha) lost (...)

139After Selim II’s death, Nasi’s influence waned at court.99 While Gracia seemed to retain the respect of her contemporaries until her death, Joseph Nasi became increasingly unpopular, not just because people envied him for the power he wielded, and coveted his great fortune, but also because they feared his deep involvement in the politics of the empire.

  • 100 Avram (Abraham) Galanté, Histoire des juifs de Turquie (Istanbul, 1985), 9.60.

140Nasi participated in the negotiation between the Ottoman Empire and Poland (1562) from which the family business profited greatly. He also played a leading role in a prospective settlement between the empire and Moldavia, speaking for Alexandru Lapusneanu, who hoped to reinstate the sovereignty of that province.100

  • 101 For more on the subject, see Geoffrey Parker, The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567–1569, (...)

141Historians have assumed that Nasi instigated the Dutch to rise against Spain, promising them Ottoman support. This involvement too would have served directly his business interests.101

  • 102 Lvov was the only city to receive a toll from those Jewish traders for any merchandise carried int (...)

142Nasi had monopolized the wine trade, from which he was thought to earn about 15,000 ducats each year. He exported wine to Poland from Crete, where he acquired as many as 1,000 barrels. He also acquired a monopoly of the Polish wax trade. He allegedly loaned the Polish king 150,000 ducats for the concession on beeswax. By 1567, Nasi’s agents had received all privileges for five years as favored merchants in Lvov.102 His commercial activities caused great anxiety among the Lvov merchants.

143Nasi’s variegated business and political dealings were carefully monitored by the European courts. Stories about him also found their way into literature and popular culture. As mentioned before, it has been long suspected that Christopher Marlowe modeled his Jew of Malta on Joseph Nasi.

  • 103 Another piece of improbable gossip—spread by local Christians—refers to Selim’s parentage. Accordi (...)

144During Süleyman’s rule, in palace politics he consistently supported the future Selim II, under whose rule (1566–74) Nasi reached the zenith of his career, becoming ruler over the Cycladic Islands. As long as Selim II was alive, Nasi retained his privileged position. Christians around the palace spread rumors that Nasi provided Selim with alcohol, forbidden to Muslims. The rumors were based on the received stereotype: as a ”true Jew,” Nasi destroyed him.103

  • 104 Rosenblatt, p. 157. After the death of Sigismund Augustus (July 7, 1572), Nasi lost his monopoly o (...)

145Nasi also served the sultan, although not always well, in foreign affairs. His earlier friendship with Maximilian helped him to facilitate a truce in 1568 between the emperor and Selim. This truce turned out to be particularly advantageous to Austria. Maximilian sent him old drinking vessels; the Polish king called him his beloved friend, and some scholars believe that Nasi perhaps contributed to Sigismund Augustus’s benevolent treatment of Jews.104

  • 105 See Philip Mansel, Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire, 1453–1924 (New York, 1998 [1996]), (...)

146Even Süleyman wrote at least three letters on Nasi’s behalf to the King of France, helping Nasi collect money he had lent the French ambassador.105

  • 106 Earlier, the Venetians paid tribute to Süleyman in order to avoid a Turkish takeover. But in the s (...)
  • 107 Daniel Friedenberg, Jewish Medals From the Renaissance to the Fall of Napoleon (1503–1815) (New Yo (...)

147Nasi made wars and peace in Europe. In 1570, he gained for the Turks the island of Cyprus, which had been ruled by Venice since 1487.106 It has been claimed that Nasi aided the revolt of the Netherlands against Spain, “as an act of personal revenge for the expulsion of the Marranos.”107 This is absurd; Nasi’s career demonstrates that his every venture was premised on the hope of an immediate personal or economic gain. However, a similar charge of seeking personal revenge surfaced against him during the war following the Turkish annexation of Cyprus.

  • 108 “Die venezianische Regierung lehnte die Forderung des Sultans ab, ihn die venezianische Insel Zype (...)

148Nasi’s power diminished under Murad III’s rule (1574–95). In his quest for influence in Europe, he had even poorer luck. Among the Venetians, he remained forever suspect. During the Venetian–Turkish war of 1570–73, there was a new outbreak of anti-Jewish and anti-converso sentiment. Allegedly, Venice refused to give up Cyprus in order to prevent Nasi from building a Jewish colony there.108 Assuming that contemporary Jews seriously believed that they were forbidden to exercise sovereignty before the arrival of the Messiah, this assertion cannot be valid. The paradigm for Jews in the Diaspora was to live peacefully and unobtrusively among their hosts.

149Venice suspected that Nasi had a hand in the burning of the Arsenal in 1569, a punishment for the city’s discriminating against him when he resided there. Investigation of the suspicious fire led the Venetians to the Ottoman Empire and to Nasi. In 1567, a Hebrew letter addressed to the Venetian Jews, urging them to plot against the Serenissima, was intercepted. The incriminating letter was traced back to Nasi’s group, although there is no direct evidence that Nasi was responsible for it.

  • 109 Showing gratitude to the Holy See, Venice expelled the Jews in 1571. Ragusa, following the change (...)
  • 110 For Venetian attitudes toward Nasi, see Paul F. Grendler, “The Destruction of Hebrew Books in Veni (...)

150Because of the Arsenal fire, Venetian shipbuilding suffered and its fleet was weakened. During the ensuing war, Venice was at the mercy of the Ottoman Empire for grain, until the Holy League came to her rescue.109 Venice blamed Nasi, but Jews and New Christians as well, for the war, calling them agents in the service of Turkish interests, “la faccia della terra, spie dei Turchi e nemici interni.”110

151In October of 1571, the combined fleets of Spain, Venice, and the Papacy destroyed the Ottoman naval forces at Lepanto. The victory was hailed by Christian nations as the greatest day’s work for centuries and celebrated in all the arts. Historians of later periods took a different view, considering it a somewhat anachronistic event: a battle fought with obsolete arms at immense cost. In fact, the achievements of October 7, 1571, were at most temporary. The victors barely recovered from their conquest, although it excited Europe and raised hope of the final expulsion of Muslims from Europe paying scant attention to Turkish efforts in the east and the south. Meanwhile, the Ottomans reorganized: their fleet was rebuilt by 1574, and the Turks retook Tunisia.

  • 111 Solomon Ashkenasi (1520-1601) studied medicine in Padua, lived in Venice, later moved to Poland, a (...)

152In 1573, a separate peace treaty was signed between Murad III and Venice without Nasi, but with the help of Solomon Ashkenasi, a Jewish trader in the empire. Thereafter a period of “reconciliation” followed between Venice and the Jews.111

  • 112 Norman Rosenblatt, “Joseph Nasi. Court Favorite of Selim II,” Diss. University of Pennsylvania, 19 (...)
  • 113 For more on this, see Augustin Arce, “Espionaje y ultima aventura de Jose Nasi (1569–1574),” Sefar (...)

153Having lost power at the Turkish court, Nasi tried in the end to pave his way back to Europe. He wrote to Augustin Manuel, a Jew who from Constantinople returned to Spain (and to Christianity), and whose brother was in Nasi’s employment. In the letter Nasi claimed that “only unexpected events in his life” forced him to become a Jew.112 This letter became soon known in diplomatic circles in Italy and Spain, though not in Constantinople. Nasi’s proposal was to receive a safe conduct from Spain for himself and seventy members of his household, and his possessions; a pardon for his apostasy; freedom from the Inquisition; free passage through all the customs’ barriers to Spain; and a promise that Philip would adjudicate all pending cases and disputes arising from Nasi’s previous business deals. In exchange, he offered his services to the Spanish Crown, claiming that his economic empire and his political power would guarantee his words.113

  • 114 Fernand Braudel, Le Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Phillippe II (Paris, 1949 (...)

154This offer was not Nasi’s first attempt to build a relationship with the Spanish court. When a group of diplomats arrived representing the Habsburgs, on September 11, 1567, Nasi met with them in Adrianople and offered to mediate between Philip II, Maximilian II, and the sultan. This was an entirely private initiative, because Nasi was never invited to attend any of the official meetings. The envoys negotiated only with Grand Vizir Mehmed Sokollu, a brilliant military tactician of Serbian origin (1507–1581), who by then had beaten Nasi in the struggle for Sultan Murad’s trust.114

  • 115 S. Kohn, “Österreich-ungarisch Gesandschaftsberichte über Don Joseph Nasi,” Monatschrift für Gesch (...)

155On December 28, 1567, Nasi again volunteered his services, this time offering to represent Philip II. At that point, Sokollu requested that the king send his own envoys. In a letter of February 28, 1568, Chatonay, the Spanish ambassador, advised his ruler against using Nasi. Conditions for peace were agreed upon without his mediation and the Austrian envoys departed.115 A year later, the Turks attacked Cyprus. The Venetians blamed Nasi for the siege.

156It is plausible that even without an official appointment, Nasi delivered secret intelligence information to Philip II; still his hope of participating in the peace negotiations came to naught. So did his bold plans to return to Europe.

  • 116 Schweigger, p. 175.

157In 1578, Chaplain Schweigger, describing Galata, claimed: “Ich hab nie Kein Juden daselbst wohnhaft gesehen, aber zu Constantinopel wohnen irer viel, wie man meint bei 20,000.”116 Nasi is not mentioned. The prince of all Jews had become a man whose advice was no longer sought and whose consent no longer mattered. When on August 2, 1579 Joseph Nasi died of “mal de pierre,” he was still rich, but without influence and without heirs.

Notes

* Since I write about the Ottoman Empire from the European stance, I refer to its capital as Constantinople and to its inhabitants as Turks (as they appear in sixteenth-century western sources).

1 As a trained humanist, Usque used his native language elegantly. Fidelino de Figueiredo writes about Consolaçam: “E uma obra nobilissima, que honra a lingua Portuguesa.” Historia da literature clasica, vol. 1 (Lisbon, 1922), p. 297 (quoted in Usque’s English translation, 33).

2 In the sixteenth century, Iberian Jews thought of the Ottoman Empire as East European Jews thought of America in the nineteenth: a haven from persecution. For a useful compendium on the subject, see Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society, 2 vols., ed. Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis (New York, 1982).

3 199 Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire: Conquest, Organization and Economy (London, 1978), p. 98. (Variorum Reprints). For details, see especially chapter 12: “Capital Formation in the Ottoman Empire.” See also Mark Alan Epstein, The Ottoman Jewish Communities and Their Role in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Freiburg, 1980). (Islamische Untersuchungen, 56).

4 200 Inalcik, p. 102.

5 Minna Rozen, “Strangers in a Strange Land: the Extraterritorial Status of Jews in Italy and in the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries,” Ottoman and Turkish Jewry, ed. Aron Rodrigue (Indiana University, Turkish Studies, 12) (Bloomington, 1992), pp. 135–36. Bernard Lewis paints a much less benign picture of the “dhimma.” See The Jews of Islam (Princeton, 1984), pp. 14–16, 21–22, 40–44, and passim.

6 For more on this function, see Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky, “Jewish Lay Leadership and Ottoman Authorities during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” Ottoman and Turkish Jewry, ed. Aron Rodrigue (Bloomington, 1992), pp. 88–121. See also ibid., “Structure, Organization and Spiritual Life of the Sephardi Communities in the Ottoman Empire from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries,” The Sephardi Heritage, v. 2 (Grendon, 1989), pp. 314–48. It is interesting to compare the situation with that of Spain: In Aragon, the Castilian Jews had a “Rab de la Corte,” a chief justice appointed by the king. The “collecta” was regionally organized by tax districts.

7 Rabbi Moses ben Baruch Almosnino lived in Salonika during Süleyman’s rule when the city’s population was largely Jewish. For his major works see footnote 26 below. Almosnino was the first rabbi in Salonika’s congregation, “Livyat Hen,” allegedly appointed to that post by Joseph Nasi. The “Chaplet of Grace” was destroyed by a fire in 1917.

8 Minna Rozen, p. 131. The Porte also intervened on the behalf of individuals, for example in 1566–7, in the case Aaron di Segure, a relation of Gracia and Joseph (Rose, p. 137).

9 This happened, possibly, at Joseph Nasi’s instigation and insistence.

10 In Venice, the Ghetto Vecchio, established in 1541, provided living space for the Levantine merchants.

11 For more on this subject, see Joseph R. Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire,” Ottoman and Turkish Jewry: Community and Leadership, ed. Rodrigue, pp. 1–65.

12 After the Turkish victory at Mohács (1526), 60 Hungarian-Jewish families were moved to Sofia; they made up over half of the town’s Jews.

13 Avigdor Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton, 1992), p. 7. By 1540, there were 1,542 Greek, 777 Armenian, and 1,490 Jewish households in Constantinople (Levy, p.46). See also Amnon Cohen, Jewish Life under Islam: Jerusalem in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass., 1984). According to the compilations of Barkan, only four cities: Constantinople, Salonika, Edirne, and Tricala, had more than 150 Jewish families during the first quarter of the sixteenth century (Hacker, p. 27).

14 Levy, p. 6. Arba’ah Tuvim, a code of Jewish law, compiled by Jacob ben Asher (c. 1270–1340), was the first Hebrew book ever printed in the Ottoman Empire. It left the press in Constantinople, during 1493–4.

15 Seder Eliyahu Zuta. Published in Jerusalem, 1976. Quoted by Hacker, p. 23.

16 Sometimes influential Jews were able to use the sürgün system for their own purposes. For example, after their quarrel, Joseph Nasi got David Fasi exiled from Constantinople. See Roth, The House of Nasi: Duke of Naxos (Philadelphia, 1947), pp. 204–12.

17 Among the most important are Nicolas de Nicolay’s drawings made in the Ottoman Empire in 1568, in which a Jewish merchant (266), a physician (185), and Jewish women and girls are depicted (295 and 296, respectively). The physician wears a tall red hat. The draper’s head is covered by a yellow turban. (Quatre premiers livres des navigations et pérégrinations orientales [Antwerp, 1578]). I also used Lyons, 1567 and the 1580 Venice editions (Les navigationi et viaggi…). For more, see Esther Juhasz, ed., Sephardi Jews in the Ottoman Empire (Jerusalem, 1989), volume prepared for the exhibit, plate 15. The influence of Turkish art is displayed on the embroideries of roses and tulips, but those were more prevalent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At some point, in the late sixteenth century, allegedly all Jews had to wear red hats, as shown in Juhasz, plates 22–23. For more information regarding dress codes for Jews, see Avram (Abraham) Galanté, Documents officiels turcs concernant les juifs de Turquie (Istanbul, 1931). Jews were, in principle, forbidden to ride horses (VII). Galanté devotes pages 183–6 to Gracia and quotes several documents regarding Joseph Nasi (187–94).

18 Nicholas de Nicolay, 1567 Lyons edition, quoted by Halil Inalcik, Jews in the Ottoman Economy and Finances, 1450–1550 (Princeton, 1989), pp. 121 and 246.

19 “A Tragedy written by Thomas Goffe, Master of Arts, and Student of Christ-Church in Oxford, and Acted by the students of the same house” (Oxford, 1968 and 1974). In a strange misprint, “Hamon, Beiazets Physician, Jewish Monke,” appears in Act I, Scene 9, by the name: “Haman.” For more on the Hamons, see H. Gross “La famille juive des Hamon,” Revue des études juives, 56 (1908): 19–20. Moses Hamon was patronized by Sultan Süleyman. In 1550, Hamon was granted permission to sell foreigners 308 tons of wheat, grown on his “arpalik” estate (Inalcik, p. 120).

20 Hans Dernschwam’s Tagebuch einer Reise nach Konstantinopel und Kleinasien (1553/55), ed. Franz Babinger, after the original published by the Fugger Archives (Munich and Leipzig, 1923), esp. pp. 107–17. The English translation is mine. For more on Dernschwam’s journey, see Marianna D. Birnbaum, ”The Fuggers, Hans Dernschwam and the Ottoman Empire,” Südostforschungen 50 (1991): 119–44.

21 Dernschwam, pp. 106–7.

22 Dernschwam, p. 107.

23 Dernschwam, p.107 and 109. (“Juden schulen sollen zw Constantinopel in 42 sein oder mer, ein jede nation geth in ihre schule,” p. 109).

24 Dernschwam, pp. 109–10. Another German traveler, Salomon Schweigger, who arrived much later in Constantinople, complains in 1578, about favors Jews can buy themselves from the pashas, getting away with insulting Christians. See Ein newe Reyssbeschreibung auss Teutschland nach Constantinopel und Jerusalem (Graz, 1964) (first published in 1604).

25 Luigi Bassano, Costumi e modi particolari della vita de’Turchi (Rome, 1545), 7.113; rpt., ed. Franz Babinger (Munich, 1963), There are records in the Archivo General de Simancas in Valladolid, according to which on January 28, 1552, Bassano was paid for services rendered (Estado leg.1320.f.100). For more on Bassano, see Marianna D. Birnbaum, Croatian and Hungarian Latinity in the Sixteenth Century (Zagreb and Dubrovnik, 1993), pp. 342–6 and passim.

26 Moses ben Baruch Almosnino, Extremos y grandezas de Constantinopla (Madrid, 1638). The original preface to the work, by Fr. Geronimo de La Cruz, was written a century earlier, in 1536. First recorded in Ladino, Extremos was transcribed into Spanish by Jacob Consino, a Jew from Oran. The second volume of the work is devoted to Süleyman’s campaign against “Seguitvar” (Szigetvár, Hungary, 1566), and to the death of the sultan. Almosnino showed detailed knowledge of southern Hungary, its waterways, and described the building of a Turkish bridge during the campaign. Some scholars believe that he had accompanied Süleyman to Hungary. Almosnino was also the author of Dreams, Their Origin and True Nature, trans. Leon Elmaleh (Philadelphia, 1934), a work he dedicated in 1565 to Nasi. For more on Almosnino, see Birnbaum, pp. 338–39.

27 Almosnino, p. 14. It should be noted that the first Ottoman survey of 1478 does not show Jews, because they left Salonika during Venetian rule. For more on this, see Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam (Princeton, 1984).

28 Amnon Cohen, “On the Realities of the Millet System: Jerusalem in the 16th Century,” Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), 2.16

29 Cohen, 2.18.

30 Jacob Reznik believed that Gracia always wanted to go to Palestine “like all the Jews.” See Le Duc Joseph de Nasi. Contribution à l’histoire juive du xvie siècle. (Paris, 1936), p. 30.

31 A. Urošević, “Putovanje Vlatka Košarić a iz Carigrad u Dubrovnik u 16 veku,” Glasnik Geografškog Drustva, 22 (1936): 86–9. For more information on trade routes used in the sixteenth century, see Appendix.

32 In principle, the entire journey could have been made by boat. As early as 1270, the first Ragusan boats are mentioned on the Black Sea. See Francis W. Carter, Dubrovnik (Ragusa): A Classical City State (London and New York, 1972), p. 167. As other historians have done, Carter records the journey from Constantinople to Ragusa outlined above (pp.140–142).

33 Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 68. The letter that carried this story was from March of 1553, but was attached to another one from April 15, 1555.

34 Dernschwam, p. 116. Pera, today Beyoglu, is north of the Golden Horn. The text is also quoted by Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 70. Michel de Codignac became a staunch supporter of Nasi in Europe. Many European Christians thought he was bought by the Mendes-Nasi enterprise.

35 Benzion Netanyahu, The Marranos of Spain from the Late xivth to the Late xvith Century according to Contemporary Hebrew Sources (New York, 1966), p. 28.

36 Netanyahu, pp. 211–13. According to the rabbis of Salonika, ever since 1492 Iberian Jews had a choice between conversion and emigration (as opposed to the fate of those Spanish Jews who in 1391 converted under the direct threat of death).

37 Netanyahu, p. 39, quoting Simon ben Zemah Duran.

38 Cited by Netanyahu quoting ben Zemah Duran (Netanyahu, p. 121). In Portugal, as well as in the Low Countries, converso marriages were frequently double ceremonies: A public Christian wedding was followed by a private Jewish one. However, in the case of João Miques and Gracia la Chica, there was no Jewish ceremony.

39 Dernschwam, p. 115.

40 Hieronimus Jeruffino’s letter of January 1552, to the Duke of Ferrara, also quoted by Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 71. In addition, see footnote 19.

41 Dernschwam, p. 115. Except for Dernschwam’s statement, and of those who had quoted him, there is no record of Francisco’s burial in Jerusalem. His grave was never found. The identity of “Barbara” is uncertain. There was a Barbara von Blomberg (1527–97), not in Cologne, but in Regensburg, a mistress of Charles V. Allegedly, she was the daughter of a simple artisan with questionable morals. Her son became Don Juan of Austria. She might have been the Barbara in Dernschwam’s description.

42 Dernschwam, pp. 115–16. Several scholars accepted this misinformation as a fact, although it would have meant that in his first marriage, Joseph was married to his own sister, unless Gracia had a third sister. Given the family’s prominence, it is unlikely that a member would escape all notice, however!

43 Dernschwam, p. 116. Samuel was Gracia’s and Brianda’s brother.

44 Dernschwam, p. 116.

45 Dernschwam, p. 116. I established earlier that Dernschwam was a spy, or at least an “information gatherer,” for the West. (See footnote 20). He recorded unusually detailed descriptions about individuals, and the type of information (regarding physiognomy, behavior, habits) reveals the approach of a detective. It is interesting that he could give some credit to Gracia’s achievements, but was unable to find anything praiseworthy in Joseph, because each facet of Joseph’s personality in which he imitated the Christian world, was offensive to Dernschwam. He was also sharply critical about Gracia’s dressing like a western aristocrat. One could draw a psycho-portrait of Dernschwam on the basis of his critique of the Mendes-Nasi family.

46 His contemporaries found Nasi very good-looking. Even when Nasi was in his fifties, Gerlach, a German chaplain at the Imperial Embassy, referred to him as ”ein schöner Jüngling,” whom much younger women would find still attractive (quoted by Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 152).

47 Viaje de Turquia: La odisea de Pedro de Urdemalas, ed. Fernando Garcia Salinero, (Madrid, 1980), p. 452. The author seemed to have known that Nasi’s father was named Samuel, and that he was Gracia’s brother. He even knew that he had been a physician. The discussion regarding the identity of “Dr. Laguna” falls outside the scope of this book, although I tend to agree with Marcel Battalion who contended that he was not Cristobal de Villalon. Laguna also informed his readers about Gracia (p. 131). In 1564, an Italian cleric talked about “Madonna Brianda, a wealthy Portuguese woman.” Roth (p. 121) thought that he had meant Gracia. It should be remembered that ”Nasi” means “prince” in Hebrew. Only after he became Duke of Naxos, in 1566, did his name and his title coincide. Before his arrival in Constantinople, Nasi was known by a number of names, such as Miykas, Miques, Migues, and Six or Sixs.

48 Gracia did not expect to see Amatus Lusitanus arriving as a penniless refuge in Salonika.

49 Bernard Dov Cooperman, “Portuguese Conversos in Ancona: Jewish Political Activity in Early Modern Italy,” Iberia and Beyond: Hispanic Jews between Cultures. Proceedings of a Symposium to Mark the 500th Anniversary of the Expulsion of Spanish Jewry (Newark, 1998), pp. 297–352. The quotation is taken from p. 302. I have greatly benefited from this conference volume.

50 Cooperman, p. 303.

51 Cooperman, pp. 305–10. Since a regular site for the synagogue was disputed in the city, the Jews were willing to worship in a “moveable” temple. Levantine Jews were permitted to notify the Ottoman consul in criminal cases, and they were promised to have capital cases sent directly to Rome. Levantines would not have to pay taxes imposed on local Jews. Absolution from all past crimes was also stipulated.

52 Brian Pullan, The Jews of Europe and the Inquisition of Venice, 1550–1650 (Oxford, 1983), p. 173.

53 Peter Earle, “The Commercial Development of Ancona, 1479–1551,” The Economic History Review, ser. 2, 22 (1969): 28–44.

54 Earle, p. 37.

55 Cooperman, p. 311.

56 Cooperman, p. 313.

57 For more on this aspect, see Viviana Bonazzoli, “Ebrei italiani, portoghesi, levantini sull piazza commerciale di Ancona intorno alla metà del cinquecento,” Gli Ebrei e Venezia, secoli xiv-xviii, ed. Gaetano Cozzi (Milan, 1987), p. 272, quoting Ariel Toaff.

58 Cooperman, p. 314. In 1543, members of the Abravanel family opened a bank in Ancona with a papal license, which was renewed ten years later!

59 Cooperman, p. 315.

60 Cooperman, p. 327.

61 Cooperman, p. 299. See also pp. 298–301.

62 In the end Fallongonio fled to Genoa, with 300,000 ducats in his pocket, but the next commissioner turned out to be just as cruel as he had been (Roth, p. 141.) While most Christians had opposed the tolerance of Julius III, even after the Church openly withdrew approval of converso settlements during Paul IV’s papacy, they continued to tolerate converso trade.

63 For more on Lusitanus, see footnotes 79 and 80.

64 In Lettere di Principi, ed. Girolamo Ruscelli (Venice, 1581). Ruscelli, a friend of Duarte Gomes, the converso poet, includes the sultan’s letter to the pope (1.177–8). It is not known, how the letter came into Ruscelli’s possession. The letter, also published by Roth (pp. 151–2), was dated March 9, 1556 (964 in the Muslim calendar).

65 Rosenblatt, p. 30. Gracia had four factors working for the family business in Ancona: Yacobo Mosso, Aman and Azim Cohen, and Abraham Mus.

66 Commemorated by Joseph Ha-Cohen, in his Emek Habakha (Valley of Tears), p.131. For more on this, see Avram (Abraham) Galanté, “Deux nouveaux documents sur Doña Gracia Nassy,” Revue des études juives 65 (191): 153–6. To my knowledge, the records of the trials are not extant.

67 Marc Saperstein, “Martyrs, Merchants and Rabbis: Jewish Communal Conflict as Reflected in the Responsa on the Boycott of Ancona,” Jewish Social Studies, 43 (1981): 215–6.

68 Saperstein, p. 216.

69 The pope indeed removed the Duke of Urbino from his position as captaingeneral of the papal army, but that action had to do more with the previous pope’s demise than with the duke’s commercial decisions.

70 Saperstein, p. 220.

71 Samuel Usque described the event in Consolaçam, for the year 1553.

72 Indeed, Rabbi Bassola died in Safed in 1560.

73 Roth, p. 148. Rabbi Soncino, a man of Italian background and great learning, died in 1569. His responsa were published by his grandson in a work called Nahalah li-Yehoshua. For more on his responsa, see Aryeh Shmuelevitz, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire in the Late Fifteenth and the Sixteenth Centuries: Administrative, Economic, Legal and Social Relations as Reflected in the Responsa (Leiden, 1984).

74 See also Paul Grunebaum-Ballin, “Un épisode de l’histoire des juifs d’Ancone,” Revue des études juives 28 (1984): 145–6; and David Kaufmann, “Les Marranes de Pesaro,” Revue des études juives 16 (1888): 61. For a recent assessment of the Jews of Salonika, see Gunnar Hering, “Die Juden von Salonika,” Südostforschungen 58 (1999): 23–39.

75 There exists a similar medal from the same period, possibly by Pastorini, portraying an older woman in profile. She wears the same outfit as the younger Gracia. That medal has no Hebrew lettering, and neither the artist nor the sitter has been identified. It is possible that Gracia commissioned the piece, but left Ferrara before it was completed.

76 See chapter 4, esp. the section, “Inquisition by Proxy.”

77 According to Grunebaum-Ballin, Gracia la Chica and Samuel were still in Ferrara on November 1, 1560. In his dating, the duke responded in June, 1561, promising that their case would be handled properly. Gracia’s business deals reached from Constantinople back to Venice. There, Girolamo Priuli, a senior patrician was elected Bailo in Constantinople, in January 1575. Although years after Gracia’s death, he wrote about his father’s famous case in Venice, owing 300,000 ducats “to that Mendes lady who later gave her daughter in marriage to Zuan Miches.” The diplomat claimed that Nasi, “capo e guide de tutti hebrei i marrani” (chief and leader of all Jews and Marranos) also made claims for expenses and interest, which his father allegedly paid. The allegation affected Jews, conversos, and Turks. For more on this scandal, see Benjamin Arbel, Trading Nations, Jews and Venetians in the Early Modern Eastern Mediterranean (Leiden, 1995), esp. p. 157 and passim.

78 Roth, p. 118.

79 He came to a decision to move on, when his hopes to get an official position in Ragusa were frustrated. Amatus’s treatment was not affected by his religion, because after his departure, the town hired another Jew, Abraham, the surgeon, who then worked in Ragusa for 32 years.

80 His grave, unlike so many Jewish graves, was not destroyed by the Nazis, or postwar reconstruction. It disappeared much earlier. In 1930, Šik looked for it in vain. See Jaroslav Šik, Die jüdischen Ärzte in Jugoslawien (Zagreb, 1931), pp. 9–20.
Diego Pires of Evora (b. 1517, also called Diego or Jacobus Plavius), Amatus’s close friend and companion in many of his places of exile, did not follow him to Salonika. Diego wrote excellent poetry under the Latin name Didacus Pyrrhus Lusitanus. He too received his Jewish education at home and later re-embraced Judaism, choosing the name Isaiah Cohen. Diego retained his Jewish identity throughout his stay in Ragusa, using his Jewish name in his correspondence and in his testament. See Maren Frejdenberg, Židovi na Balkanu na isteku srednjeg vijeka (Zagreb, 2000), pp. 122–124. Diego practiced medicine with Amatus in Antwerp and in Ferrara. Diego also followed Amatus to Ragusa, where he remained for 40 years, until his death (Frejdenberg, pp. 114–5). While living in Ragusa, he was said to have taught in the local school. There is no evidence to support this claim, and it seems unlikely that the Ragusans would have been so tolerant as to permit a Jew to teach their children. However, it is possible that as a poet he was in touch with the student population of Ragusa. Since he lived in the ghetto, he possibly taught Jewish children. Didacus’s volume of poetry appeared in Cracow, but since it was dedicated to the Ragusan Senate, he received 15 ducats from the Ragusan government. Allegedly, Diego was buried at Hercegnovi (Ragusa had no Jewish cemetery at that time). His grave too has disappeared. His life story was recorded by Gjuro Koerber (Rad, v. 216), and by Jorjo Tadić, “Didak Pir,” Zbornik, 1. 239–53.

81 Inalcik, p. 123. Antoine Geuffroy, a merchant traveling for the Fuggers, drew a positive picture of Süleyman, calling him a man of honor who guards the law and loves peace. See Briefve descriptio de la Court du Grand Turc. Et ung sommaire du règne des Ottomans Avec ung abrégé de leur folles supertitions. His original work, Aulae Turcicae… Part II. Solymanni XII & Selim XIII…, (Basiliae, 1577), was republished by Nicholas Honiger. For more modern works about Süleyman and his times, see A. L. Lybyer, The Government of the Ottoman Empire in the Time of Süleyman the Magnificent (Cambridge, Mass. 1913, Harvard Historical Studies, 1913); and Andre Clot, Suleiman the Magnificent: The Man, His Life, His Epoch (London, 1992), a translation of his Soliman le Magnifique (Paris, 1989).

82 See his letter to the French court of September 13, 1563, published by Ernest Charrière, Negotiations de la France dans le Levant; ou correspondences, memoires et actes diplomatiques des ambassadeurs de France à Constantinople, envoyes ou residents à divers titres à Venise, Raguse, Malte et Jerusalem… [dans la collection de documents inedits sur l’histoire de France] (Paris, 1848–60), 4 vols. Ser. I. Histoire politique …, 2:735.

83 Quoted by Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 78.

84 Voyage en Palestine, cited by Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 79.

85 Grunebaum-Ballin, p. 79.

86 Some scholars claim that, originally, Nasi wanted to prevent the establishment of any Talmudic academy or other religious institution in Tiberias. For more on this subject, see Rivkin’s review of Roth’s Nasi biography, Jewish Quarterly Review 40 (194950): 205–7.

87 An example is the work of the Elizabethan physician and entomologist, Thomas Moffet, The Silkwormes and their Flies (1599), facsim., ed. Victor Houliston, 1899. (Renaissance English Text Society).

88 Alice Fernand-Halphen, “Une grande dame juive de la Renaissance,” Revue de Paris (September, 1929): 164–165.

89 Geveret was destroyed in the fire of 1660, which also swept through entire districts. Rabbi Yom-tob-Cohen’s passing was commemorated by Saadiah Lungo (Longo?), who also eulogized Nasi. For more on that poet and his eulogy over Nasi, see Israel S. Emmanuel, Histoire des Israelites de Salonique (Paris, 1936), p. 219.

90 Quoted by Abraham Danon, “La communité juive de Salonique au xvième siècle,” Revue des études juives 41 (1900): 98–117. In this article the author includes biographies of rabbis and the titles of their works. See also Joseph Nehama, Histoire des Israélites de Salonique, III. L’Age d’Or du Sefaradisme Salonicien (1536–1593), prem. fasc. (Salonique, 1936), pp. 201–8, and passim.

91 Heinrich Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, 3d ed. (Leipzig, 1891), pp. 28–9. Doctor Hamon might have been the model of the portrait in Nicolas de Nicolay’s gravure “Medicin juif.” (Plate III)

92 He was probably related to Isaac Hamon of Granada, physician to one of the last Muslim rulers there, and who is believed to have immigrated to the empire about 1493. For more on Moses Hamon, see Uriel Heyd, “Moses Hamon, Chief Jewish Physician to Süleyman the Magnificent,” Oriens, 16 (1963): 152–70.

93 His copy of Dioscorides, or De materia medica, as it was known by its Latin title, presently housed in the National Library in Vienna, contains many marginal notes in Hebrew, possibly in his hand.

94 Charrière, p. 779.

95 Eliakim Carmoly, Don Josef duc de Naxos (Brussels, 1855), pp. 11–13, lists the titles Reyna published. As a comparison, it is worth noting that in England, after the printer Roman Redman died in 1540, Elizabeth, his widow, ran the printing house under her own name until her own death 22 years later. British scholars still consider this achievement unique.

96 Roth, The House of Nasi, p. 191.

97 Stephan Gerlach, Tage-Buch (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1674), pp. 89–90.

98 Gerlach, p. 90. “And thereafter, in the company of several Venetians, I ate supper in the house of his major domo, Francisco.”

99 In the power struggle, Nasi and his group (Lala Mustafa Pasha, Hocˇa Sīnan, and Pīale Pasha) lost to Sokullu Mehmet Pasha, a brilliant strategist and politician who became Murad III’s chief adviser.

100 Avram (Abraham) Galanté, Histoire des juifs de Turquie (Istanbul, 1985), 9.60.

101 For more on the subject, see Geoffrey Parker, The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567–1569, The Dutch Revolt (Cambridge, 1972), who addresses the logistics of Spanish victory and ultimate defeat in the Low Countries.

102 Lvov was the only city to receive a toll from those Jewish traders for any merchandise carried into Poland.

103 Another piece of improbable gossip—spread by local Christians—refers to Selim’s parentage. According to rumor, Selim II was not Süleyman’s son, but a Jewish doctor’s son. Selim’s mother Roxelane wanted to give the sultan a son but gave birth to a daughter instead. Allegedly, at the child’s birth, she exchanged her daughter for the doctor’s son.

104 Rosenblatt, p. 157. After the death of Sigismund Augustus (July 7, 1572), Nasi lost his monopoly on a number of items.

105 See Philip Mansel, Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire, 1453–1924 (New York, 1998 [1996]), p. 126.

106 Earlier, the Venetians paid tribute to Süleyman in order to avoid a Turkish takeover. But in the spring of 1570, Pīale Pasha with a fleet of fifty thousand, passed through the Dardanelles and took Cyprus. Mehmed Sokullu Pasha consistently advocated against taking Cyprus: he wanted to obtain the island by negotiation.

107 Daniel Friedenberg, Jewish Medals From the Renaissance to the Fall of Napoleon (1503–1815) (New York, 1970), p. 44.

108 “Die venezianische Regierung lehnte die Forderung des Sultans ab, ihn die venezianische Insel Zypern zu überlassen, damit der aus Venedig nach Konstantinopel geflohene Marrano Joseph Nassi dort eine jüdische Kolonie gründen könne.” See Steinbach, p. 57.

109 Showing gratitude to the Holy See, Venice expelled the Jews in 1571. Ragusa, following the change in the balance of power allegedly, executed a Nasi relative. The city abolished the special concessions granted to Gracia Mendes in 1552, which had been extended every fifth year.

110 For Venetian attitudes toward Nasi, see Paul F. Grendler, “The Destruction of Hebrew Books in Venice, 1568,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 45 (1978): 16. Maria Gracia Sandri and Paolo Alazraki claim that there was always a Jewish element in Turkish commercial and diplomatic affairs. They use Nasi’s alleged involvement in the Battle of Lepanto, as an example. See Arte e vita ebraica a Venezia 1516-1797 (Florence, 1971), p. 31. It is beyond the scope of this book to comment upon Nasi’s possible involvement in the Battle of Lepanto.

111 Solomon Ashkenasi (1520-1601) studied medicine in Padua, lived in Venice, later moved to Poland, and finally, in 1564, settled in Constantinople. He was a trusted man of the sultans and the Venetian ambassador. Possibly because of Ashkenazi’s services to Venice, the doge financed Ashkenazi’s son’s medical education in Padua. See Steinbach, p. 105.

112 Norman Rosenblatt, “Joseph Nasi. Court Favorite of Selim II,” Diss. University of Pennsylvania, 1957, p. 112.

113 For more on this, see Augustin Arce, “Espionaje y ultima aventura de Jose Nasi (1569–1574),” Sefarad 13 (1953): 278. For more on Philip II’s domestic and foreign policy, see Geoffrey Parker, The Grand Strategy of Philip II (New Haven and London, 1998).

114 Fernand Braudel, Le Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Phillippe II (Paris, 1949), p. 881.

115 S. Kohn, “Österreich-ungarisch Gesandschaftsberichte über Don Joseph Nasi,” Monatschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 28 (1879): 114–15, and 119, respectively. See also Marianna D. Birnbaum, Humanists in a Shattered World: Croatian and Hungarian Latinity in the Sixteenth Century (Columbus, Ohio, 1986), esp. pp. 213–40.

116 Schweigger, p. 175.

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