Navigation – Plan du site

Diasporas, Space and Imperial Subjecthood in Early Modern Venice: A Comparative Perspective

Diasporas, espace et appartenance impériale dans la Venise moderne : une perspective comparée
Giorgos Plakotos
p. 37-54

Résumés

L’article introduit le concept de « diaspora » pour examiner les groupes d’immigrants et de réfugiés, juifs, chrétiens orthodoxes et catholiques, sujets de l’État impérial vénitien, et leurs implantations dans la ville. L’historiographie a traditionnellement étudié ces groupes isolément les uns des autres, tenant pour acquise leur cohésion sans considérer pleinement le cadre institutionnel de l’État vénitien qui façonnait leur formation communautaire, et les a examinés comme des formations pré-nationales devant être incluses dans des récits historiques nationaux. L’article cherche à problématiser ces approches et à discuter la valeur de la « diaspora » dans l’étude de ces groupes. Il suggère que ces implantations peuvent être analysées comme l’institutionnalisation de groupes diasporiques en communautés de sujets impériaux à travers la police et le discours de l’État, et que ce processus implique l’administration de l’immigration et l’espace urbain.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1 Gasparo Contarini, De magistratibus et Republica Venetorum libri V, Venice, Apud Baldum Sabinum, 15 (...)
  • 2 Francesco Sansovino, Venetia città nobilissima et singolare, Venice, Appresso Iacomo Sansovino, 158 (...)
  • 3 Thomas Coryate, Coryats Crudities (1611), London, Scolar Press, 1978, p. 171.
  • 4 It should be noted, however, that these discursive constructions served mostly as “topoi” rather th (...)

1Other visitors marvel at the crowds frequenting the city and the people of every kind, as if Venice were the emporium of the whole world”, wrote Gasparo Contarini in his influential treatise (1543) on the Venetian constitution1. Some years later Francesco Sansovino wrote about Venice in his guidebook: “It is singular because it is convenient to all nations to reach it and do business2.” In the early seventeenth century the English traveller Thomas Coryate commented: “Here you may both see all manner of fashions of attire, and hear all the languages of Christendome […] a man may very properly call it rather Orbis than Urbis forum3.” These are among oft-cited references in current historiography that seeks to essentialize the “cosmopolitan” and diverse population of early modern Venice4. An underlying principle of this approach is the acceptance of notions of (pre-)national formations and the idea of community in early modernity. Although this new historiography has developed against an earlier historiographical paradigm that emphasized the idea of “minority” or studied diverse groups of population in isolation from each other, they both share an understanding that is based on coherence and preconceived notions of “nationhood” and community.

  • 5 Francesca Trivellato, The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno and Cross-Cultu (...)
  • 6 It should be noted that Greeks, Slavs and Albanians as diasporic groups, refugees and immigrants fr (...)
  • 7 Rogers Brubaker, “The ‘Diaspora’ Diaspora”, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 2005, 28, p. 1-19.
  • 8 On subjects: E. Natalie Rothman, Brokering Empire: Trans-Imperial Subjects between Venice and Istan (...)
  • 9 On Venice as an empire: Maria Fusaro, Political Economies of Empire in the Early Modern Mediterrane (...)

2This essay seeks to problematize this image of early modern Venice and rethink its “non-Venetian” communities or “minorities”, its Greeks, Slavs, Albanians and Jews. To this aim, it introduces the notions of diaspora and subjecthood within an overarching institutional framework of normative structures5, that of imperial administration and imaginary6. In using the concept of diaspora I fully share Rogers Brubaker’s concern and critique that the proliferation of “diaspora” runs the risk of losing its analytical rigour and turning into “vacant signifier” in historical analysis7. My purpose is to use diaspora in a narrow sense. This use of diaspora is entangled with the concept of subjecthood and processes of institutionalization8. This essay is informed by the idea of Venice as the metropolitan centre of an imperial formation, which was actively involved in projects and acts of subject-making through the production of jurisdictional categories of difference and sameness9.

  • 10 Giuseppina Minchella, Frontiere aperte: Musulmani, ebrei e cristiani nella Repubblica di Venezia (x (...)
  • 11 See for instance: Margaret C. Jacob, Strangers Nowhere in the World: The Rise of Cosmopolitanism in (...)
  • 12 Francesca Trivellato, The Familiarity…, op. cit., p. 18, 70-101.
  • 13 Francesca Trivellato, “A Republic of Merchants?”, in Anthony Molho, Diogo Ramada Curto (eds.), Find (...)

3To elucidate those arguments this essay provides a survey of the main historiographical directions that research has followed in the last decades and a historiographical reflection on the analytical and descriptive categories that scholarship has adopted. The survey will address how the notions of “minority” and “community” have been used in diverse historiographical traditions. As already mentioned, these notions that have dominated scholarship recently coexist with an emerging historiography that privileges Venetian openness and cosmopolitanism10. Scholarship on early modern Venetian history has increasingly been attracted to the idea and appeal of cosmopolitanism to capture the diverse population of the city. Although in certain social and cultural milieus, such as those around science, literary and philosophical societies and the “republic of merchants11”, the Enlightenment ideal of cosmopolitanism may be used to describe interaction, exchange and interpersonal and group relations, the unproblematic appeal to the ideal of cosmopolitanism is a rather slippery ground for the period before the eighteenth century, even for commercial entrepôts and metropolitan centres as Venice. Francesca Trivellato, who has coined the term “communitarian cosmopolitanism” for the worldview and experience of Sephardic merchants in eighteenth-century Livorno and their relations with non-Jews, has warned against “romanticized images of cosmopolitanism” or reading pre-modern cross-cultural trade relations in the light of “cosmopolitan flavour” that historians and literary critics have attributed to Mediterranean societies12. She has rightly observed that inequality in early modern societies was not only de facto but also de iure13. Thus, as with cross-cultural trade practices, Venice’s “minorities”, viewed in this article as diasporic groups under processes of subject-making, should be understood within the structures, strictures and hierarchies of the Venetian state. To this aim, the article elaborates on the rich scholarship that has been produced and draws on institutional sources, such as petitions, letters and decrees, and narrative sources to address the institutionalization of imperial subjecthood.

Historiographical trajectories

  • 14 For biographical details and scholarly activity: Jacopo Bernardi, “Commemorazione di Giovanni Velud (...)
  • 15 He first outlined the history of the community in an essay that was included in a major work of nin (...)
  • 16 Giovanni Veludo, “Cenni…”, art. cit., p. 100.

4Historiography on the Greek presence in Venice has been decisively shaped by the work of the nineteenth-century intellectual, historian and librarian Giovanni Veludo who served as a director of the Marciana Library14. He was the first historian of the Greek community15. His work mapped out the creation of the Greek community through the establishment of its pillar institutions, the confraternity of S. Nicolò and the church of S. Giorgio. Drawing on the intellectual milieu of historicism Veludo conceptualized the Greek presence in the city and crafted a powerful narrative that incorporated the Greeks of Venice into the national body. He was the first to associate the presence of Greek immigrants and refugees in Venice with the fall of Constantinople and forcefully argued for and projected into the past an unambiguous and unaltered Greek Orthodox identity. He also introduced descriptive terms such as “colony” that later historiography repeatedly employed. In an explicit reference, the Greek colony of Venice “planted the seeds for the modern Greek civilization16”.

  • 17 It is worth noting, however, that the few members of the Byzantine elite that found refuge in Venic (...)
  • 18 Olga Katsiardi-Hering, “From the Ottoman conquest to the establishment of the modern Greek State”, (...)
  • 19 Iannis Hassiotis, “Past and present in the history of modern Greek diaspora”, in Waltraud Kokot, Kh (...)

5The establishment of the Istituto Ellenico di Studi Bizantini e Postbizantini di Venezia in the 1950s signaled more systematic research into the Orthodox population of the Venetian maritime state and the Greek community of the city. The research initiative also consolidated the interpretive precedent set by Veludo. The lines of enquiry focused on the institutional formation of the community, the Byzantine heritage, its demographic rates and its educational contribution to the Greek speaking world under Ottoman and Venetian rule. A major underlying principle was the idea of community and its incorporation in the national narrative. In this historiographical tradition the idea of community and its coherence are taken for granted17. More recently the notion of diaspora has been introduced to Greek historiography to describe migrations of Greek populations before the establishment of the Greek state in the nineteenth century. Here the notion of diaspora has been instrumental in sustaining a common Greek cultural heritage for the pre-modern period for populations living under imperial rule, mostly Ottoman but also Venetian. Thus, Venice became the “first flourishing hub of the Greek diaspora18”. From this perspective, the Greek presence in Venice has been seen as part of a so-called first phase of the Greek diaspora, which spans the period from approximately the mid-fifteenth century to the creation of the Greek state19.

  • 20 Haris Exertzoglou, “Reconstituting community: Cultural differentiation and identity politics in Chr (...)
  • 21 A promising line of research that has been rarely followed is the comparative study of Greek commun (...)

6However, one is tempted to ask whether and to what extent the introduction of the notion of diaspora has changed the underlying principle of nationalizing the past that had shaped earlier historiography, as long as diaspora remains embedded in the language of community and nationhood20. At the same time, when diaspora is employed in macro-historical perspective often inevitably results in imposing uniformity to social and cultural processes of the past. Paradoxically, with the emphasis on the fall of Constantinople and the end of Byzantine rule the historiography on the Greek presence in Venice underestimates the political landscape that had been created in the eastern Mediterranean since the fourteenth century with the gradual emergence of a Venetian colonial state. This has been a historiographical paradox since a rich scholarship has extensively examined the so-called “Greek areas” of the Venetian maritime state. However, by placing the Greek presence within the Venetian imperial formation and the dynamic between colonies and metropolis a different picture emerges, as this article will argue21.

  • 22 Benjamin Ravid, “The religious, economic and social background of the establishment of the ghetti o (...)
  • 23 Cecil Roth, The Jews in the Renaissance, New York, 1953.
  • 24 Benjamin Ravid, “How ‘other’ really was the Jewish other? The evidence from Venice”, in David N. My (...)
  • 25 See his critique to Roth in Robert Bonfil, “How golden was the age of the Renaissance in Jewish his (...)
  • 26 David Ruderman, Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History, Princeton, Princeton University Press, (...)

7On the other hand, the ghettoized Jewish presence in the city bears less the burden of national historiography. It has been mostly conditioned by the notion of community. In an earlier phase a major strand of this historiography recognized the repressive nature of Jewish life in the ghetto but also emphasized that from the perspective of the Venetian authorities the establishment of the ghetto was a pragmatic compromise between religious precepts about the presence of Jews among Christians and economic considerations. The result of this compromise, in the words of Benjamin Ravid, was that “the position of the Jews was better than it had been in the ante-bellum decades” (i.e. before the war of the League of Cambrai and the establishment of the ghetto). “For the first time in over a century, since 1397, they were legally allowed to live and engage in moneylending in the city of Venice, albeit segregated behind ghetto walls […] The phenomenon of the ghetto was double edged. While the institution restricted the Jews, it did recognize their legal right to live in the city. Thus, all parties benefited22.” This approach partly echoes Cecil Roth’s harmonious view on Jewish life in the Renaissance23. Later historiographical developments tend to view the ghetto areas in Venice and elsewhere on the Italian peninsula as porous institutions that, although they were meant to separate physically and culturally the Jews, nevertheless they did not prevent cultural exchanges and social encounters24. Despite Robert Bonfil’s argument that the ghettos marked a period of Jewish introvertness and alienation25, some current historiographical trends are summarized in David Ruderman’s words: “There was also a positive side to these new conditions: the ghetto provided Jews with a clearly defined place, geographically and politically, within Christian society. […] the closure paradoxically opened up new opportunities for cultural dialogue and interaction with the Christian majority as Jews saw themselves a more organic and natural part of their environment than ever before26.”

  • 27 For a critique on the idea of community in Jewish historiography: Jacqueline Genot-Bismuth, “The Un (...)
  • 28 Donatella Calabi, Ennio Concina, Ugo Camerino, La città degli ebrei. Il ghetto di Venezia. Architet (...)
  • 29 David Malkiel, A Separate Republic. The Mechanics and Dynamics of Venetian Jewish Self-Government, (...)
  • 30 Stefanie Siegmund, The Medici State and the Ghetto of Florence. The Construction of an Early Modern (...)

8More or less explicitly these historiographical currents have been shaped by the fundamental question on Jewish modernity and acculturation. A basic premise, however, remains Jewish collectiveness in terms of community regardless of the non-Jewish bureaucratic logic and structures of the host states and societies that articulated the Jewish presence in the ghettos. As this essay will argue, the ghetto, in particular the Venetian ghettos after 1516, were fundamental acts of community building on the part of the state. It was the ghetto that as a physical space and legal entity constituted Jews as a community in Venice. In this view, this essay seeks to rethink the very idea of community in understanding the ghettoization of Venetian Jews, the redefinition of Jewishness and the symbolic employment of space in Venice27. To this aim, it will address the ghetto as a physical and bureaucratic space that turned a population of Jewish refugees into a “community”, into “the city of the Jews28”, or a “separate Republic29” in the next centuries. Despite differences the creation of the Venetian ghetto bears some similarities with the Florentine ghetto established in 1571 to segregate the Jewish population of Tuscany in the sense that ghettoization followed common discursive patterns as a far as the production of authority and otherness were concerned30.

  • 31 It is worth noting that the earliest comparative perspective is found in Agostino Sagredo, Venezia (...)
  • 32 John Martin and Dennis Romano write: “…Venice hosted colonies of Greeks, Germans, and Turks. The Gr (...)
  • 33 These terms feature in the title of important comparative works: Giorgio Fedalto, “Le minoranze str (...)
  • 34 Benjamin Ravid, “Venice and its minorities”, in Eric Dursteler (ed.), A Companion to Venetian Histo (...)

9Beyond these historiographical traditions scholarship has often sought to discuss immigrant groups from the Venetian overseas dominions and the Jewish population from a common and comparative perspective31. Normally this scholarship reproduces the underlying principles informing the historiographical traditions that privilege nationhood and community32. Usually the major descriptive categories that this scholarship has adopted have been those of “foreigners”, “foreign communities”, “minority” or “Levantines33”. Recently Benjamin Ravid provided a working definition of “minority” as referring to “those immigrants into Venice and their descendants who continued to maintain aspects of their non-Venetian identity as an identifiable group, primary by retaining the religious rites or aspects of the culture of their place of origin34”. This definition implicitly but neatly captures the uses “minority” has been put to in a long tradition of Venetian historiography. However, in this context the use of “minority” is latently informed by notions of agency that transcend the bureaucratic strictures imposed and the structures through which the Venetian elite produced and articulated ideas of difference and sameness. In the same traditions, “minority” is often used interchangeably with “foreigner”.

  • 35 For a recent discussion: Claire Judde de Larivière, Rosa Salzberg, “Le peuple est la cité. L’idée d (...)
  • 36 G. Priuli, I diarii di Girolamo Priuli (AA. 1494-1512), Roberto Cessi (ed.), vol. 4, Bologna, Zanic (...)

10Foreigner” is a term that bore strong connotations as a social category in the hierarchies and imaginary of Venice and it was deeply ingrained into the vocabulary of both the Venetian elite and non-Venetian observers. Venetian society was usually conceptualized in terms of a bipartite or tripartite model. According to the bipartite model, the Venetian society was divided between nobles and plebeians whereas the tripartite view distinguished three orders: nobles or patricians, who ruled the state, cittadini, who usually staffed positions in the bureaucracy, and finally plebeians, the great majority of people who resided in the city. In this view, being a Venetian was by privilege reserved for the patrician and cittadini classes and consequently citizenship was highly conditioned by entrance in one of these classes. Thus, the official discourse of belonging, schematically described as the bipartite or tripartite model, was highly exclusionary. Discourse often equated all those who resided in Venice, but did not belong to the patricians and cittadini, with foreignness35. The oft-cited quotations from commentators such as Girolamo Priuli or Philippe de Commynes that “apart from the patricians and some cittadini, the rest are foreigners” or “most of their people are foreigners” were not just descriptive statements to be taken at face value as reflecting the multitude of foreigners in the city36. They were reiterations of a discourse of exclusion because foreignness had not only to do with origin, culture or religion (with the exception of the Jews) but mostly with the Venetian political constitution.

From diasporic groups to imperial subjects

  • 37 Magna multitudo Graecorum, que in hac civitate commoratur et catholice sub obedientia sancte roman (...)
  • 38 Recently, Andrea Zannini argued that quantification of “foreigners” is almost impossible: Andrea Za (...)
  • 39 Patricia Labalme, Laura Sanguineti, Venice, cità excelentissima. Selections from the Renaissance Di (...)
  • 40 I Diarii di Marin Sanudo, Rinaldo Fulin et. al. (eds.), 58 vol., Venice, Fratelli Visentini, 1887, (...)

11The late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries marked the institutionalization of groups of immigrants and refugees in Venice. A comparative approach to those immigrants and refugees reveal common patterns in their discursive constitution on behalf of the Venetian authorities. On various occasions in the late fifteenth century the authorities referred to “a great multitude of Greeks [who] live in this city in the Catholic way obedient to the Holy Roman Church”, “their great number which is increasing day by day and it should not be ignored” or “they flow to the city from every place37”. Historiography has often taken these references at face value as merely reflecting social reality38. However, this was a powerful rhetoric that reemerged when Jews from the Venetian mainland (terraferma) took refuge in Venice after the Republic’s army was defeated at Agnadello (1509) and the French army overrun Venetian territory. Thus, in 1515 the diarist Marin Sanudo decried the Jewish presence in the city by crafting a discourse on uncontrollable space due to the visibility and size of an undesirable population: “I do not wish to ignore a depraved custom that has developed from the continuous commerce that people have with these Jews, who inhabit this city in great numbers at San Cassan, Santo Agustin, San Polo, Santa Maria Mater Domini […] This year they were out and about until yesterday, and this is a very bad thing39.” A few weeks later Sanudo wrote about the Senate’s plan to segregate the Jews on the Giudecca and resorted to the same discourse: “The Jews, who are many in this place, in several houses and neighborhoods, and set a bad example for all Christians, must be sent to live in the Giudecca40.”

12In all cases this rhetoric associated urban space, authority and, in the case of Jews, morality. These words were not merely descriptive but were imbedded in an emerging discourse among the Venetian elites and bureaucracy that conceptualized crisis or immorality in terms of urban space. Narrating the dramatic events unfolding in Venice in the aftermath of the Republic’s spectacular defeat at Agnadello (1509), the patrician Girolamo Priuli wrote:

  • 41 I Diarii di Girolamo Priuli [A.A. 1499-1512], Roberto Cessi (ed.), vol. 4, Bologna, Zanichelli, 193 (...)

So much chatter, and so many words and so many outlandish lies without any foundation were told in the squares, and under the loggie, and at the Rialto, and in churches and barber-shops that one could not know what was true. And anyone was permitted to say whatever he liked and to think one thing at night and spread it around in the morning […] Actually, there was no order at all and anyone was allowed to do it without regard to his status or condition, to say whatever he liked, whatever came to mind in the squares and under the loggie and anywhere […] And these vulgar conversations in the Venetian squares have damaged the Venetian Republic41.

  • 42 Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan, Venice Triumphant. The Horizons of a Myth, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Un (...)

13In this passage, Priuli discursively constituted the crisis during the War of the League of Cambrai as a collapse of hierarchy and authority as far as the administration of speech and urban space were concerned. The growing concern about morality, authority and public space had been part of a discursive shift in the signification of the lagoon environment since the second half of the fifteenth century; Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan has aptly described it as “a rhetoric of perils”. By the early sixteenth century, the surrounding water had been transformed in the Venetian imagery from a protective environment for the city to a menace, and critically required renewed and rigorous governmental management and intervention42. As this new rhetoric and the concern about the conservation of the city involved the reorganization of the administrative apparatus with new magistracies, other projects, which sought to reorganize space and/or population, were also invested with bureaucratic regulations.

  • 43 The major settlements of those diasporic groups and immigrants (including their institutions, such (...)
  • 44 An exception remains the work of Freddy Thiriet, La Romanie vénitienne au Moyen Âge. Le développeme (...)
  • 45 Brunehilde Imhaus, Le minoranze…, op. cit., p. 40-49; see also, David Jacoby, “I Greci e altre comu (...)

14Diasporic groups from the Venetian maritime state increasingly reached the Venetian metropolis in the fifteenth century. Their presence in the city was symptomatic of the expansion and consolidation and later retreat of Venetian rule in the eastern Mediterranean and it was dictated both by economic and social factors and the exigencies of the Venetian state43. These groups originated from the Dalmatian coast, and the islands and mainland areas of the Greek lands, which after the Fourth Crusade and the gradual establishment of Venetian rule were often referred to in the official language as “Romania”. It is worth noting that scholarship has not properly addressed the semantic shift that the use of the term “Romania” signified for the new polities, including the Venetian one, that were established in former Byzantine areas44. Despite the pitfalls the existing documentation entails and the lacunae that exist, research undertaken in the Venetian archives, especially by Brunehilde Imhaus, has revealed that the influx of immigrants from areas of the Venetian maritime state coincided with and was highly affected by the consolidation of Venetian rule in the late fourteenth and mostly in the fifteenth century. The data suggest that migration to Venice was mostly confined to the dynamic relation between the colonial metropolis and its periphery. Often the annexation of new lands to the Venetian state, as it happened with Corfu in the late fourteenth century, signified the influx of Venice’s new subjects to the city. This dynamic within the colonial regime was often affected by external forces, mostly the Ottoman expansion, although it is not always possible to establish a direct link between Ottoman conquests and migration to Venice. Thus, on the basis of existing data the fall of Constantinople in 1453 as a catalyst that led to massive migration to Venice, as historiography often maintained, is not substantiated45. Venice became a hub for diasporic groups of immigrants and refugees from its overseas dominions.

  • 46 Brunehilde Imhaus, Le minoranze…, op. cit., p. 280-283.

15The second half of the fifteenth century marked the institutionalization on behalf of the Venetian state of certain diasporic groups from Venetian colonies. The institutionalization was modelled on the familiar bureaucratic form of the confraternity (“scuola”). In 1447 immigrants from Albanian areas were allowed to establish the Scuola of S. Maria e S. Gallo. Until 1442, immigrants used the church of S. Severo, where they also ran their confraternity, although unofficially, since the Council of Ten had ordered its dissolution. In 1426 immigrants from Dalmatia were allowed to officiate in the church of S. Giovanni del Tempio. Earlier they officiated in the chapel of the Hospital of S. Caterina d’Alessandria. In 1451 the Council of Ten authorised the establishment of their Scuola of S. Giorgio e S. Trifone, and an area was conceded for the edifice of the confraternity46.

  • 47 Archivio di Stato di Venezia (ASV), Consultori in jure, busta 427. English quotations taken from th (...)

16Finally, in 1498 a new confraternity came into being, that of the Greeks. After a petition submitted in the same year on behalf of the “Università dei Greci” by two artisans, the government allowed the establishment of the Scuola of S. Nicolò. The petition brought as an example the government’s earlier concession towards the Slavs and Albanians and stressed the service that the Greeks had offered to Venice for the conquest of Dalmatia, as “at that time most of the galleys of your illustrious government were manned by the people of the Levant”. The petitioners clearly stated the philanthropic nature of the confraternity emphasising the assistance towards “widows and orphans who have lost their husbands and fathers in the service of Your Serenity”. No reference was made to their religious status47.

  • 48 For instance: Heleni Porfyriou, “La presenza greca: Roma e Venezia tra xv e xvi secolo”, in Donatel (...)
  • 49 Some of these clans, although misleadingly referred to as “Byzantine”, are identified in Ersie Burk (...)
  • 50 ASV, Consiglio dei Dieci, Parti miste, filza 28, n° 51, “Però essendo noi reduti in questa terra co (...)

17In 1511, another diasporic group petitioned the Venetian state for the permission to erect a church of the Greek rite dedicated to S. Giorgio. The church, which was completed later in the sixteenth century, is often represented in historiography as a subsequent development in the establishment of the Greek community. The church and the confraternity feature as the community’s twin institutions48. The petitioners were a group of soldiers, the so-called “stradioti”, originating from Albanian and Greek areas of the Venetian state. Their petition was framed in terms of service, loyalty and honour: “We have been brought to this land by your excellencies to serve as your soldiers and as defenders of your glorious State.” Compared with the petition for the confraternity no reference was made on behalf of any collectivity apart from the “stradioti” themselves and their families. The “stradioti” were elite corps that were deployed both in the mainland and maritime possessions of Venice, they maintained strong ties with local communities and were usually recruited from powerful local clans49. The petition to build a church was structured around exclusivity and social distinction. They officiated in a chapel where “there is such a mixture of people, tongues, voice and services, both Greek and Latin, at the same time that it creates a confusion worse than that of Babylon”. They had no place to bury the dead. “They mingle our bones with those of galleymen, porters and other low creatures.” Custom (“celebrating divine service according to the Greek rite”) did not undermine overarching categories of allegiance that conditioned Venetian imperial designs: “We believe that your lordships regard us true and Catholic Christians50.”

  • 51 I use the edition of the letter in Manoussos Manoussakas, “The first permit (1456) of the Venetian (...)

18Historiography, often reproducing the bureaucratic language of the Venetian state, has treated these confraternities and churches as “national” institutions that epitomized communal status. However, a close reading of the petitions that set in motion the institutional response of the Venetian state reveal their embeddedness into the language and aspirations of the Venetian rule. The petitions stressed loyalty, sacrifice and service to the Venetian state. These confraternities and churches were mostly institutions that defined the relation between diverse Venetian subjects of the maritime state and the metropolis. This is clearly illustrated in the petitions for the S. Giorgio church and the confraternity of S. Nicolò, which reveal diverse conceptualizations of imperial subjecthood. In the first case, the petition was exclusively structured around group identity. In the second one, identification was produced through the evocation of protection and charity. There is no evidence to suggest that these two petitions were stemming from a coherent population that identified itself as a community. Indeed, the permission for the erection of a church granted by a ducal letter referred exclusively to “our loyal stradioti51”.

  • 52 Nikolaos Moschonas, “La comunità greca…”, art. cit., p. 231.
  • 53 Fani Mavroidi, “I Serbi e la confraternita greca di Venezia”, Balkan Studies, 1983, 24, p. 515.

19Over the years, each institution, especially the confraternity, evolved according to the shifting situation in the Venetian maritime state. In the sixteenth century, as the Ottomans expanded their conquests over Venetian possessions, immigrants and refugees from former colonies, continued to reach Venice. This is manifested in the first catastico of the members of the confraternity for the years 1498-1530. Members from the Venetian colonies of Corfu, Cyprus, Crete, Zante, Cefalonia, Lepanto and Negroponte figured prominently52. From the perspective of the Venetian state the permission and foundation of the confraternity epitomized the establishment of imperial subjecthood in terms of geographical provenance and/or religious affiliation. The confraternity was an institution for subjects from particular areas of the Venetian dominions, that were categorized as “Greci” due to their religious status (“rito greco”). The term “Greci” from the perspective of the Venetian state served as an imperial category for subject-making that merged geographical origin and religious affiliation, although these two properties were not always inextricably associated. Up to the mid-sixteenth century the confraternity included members originating from western or central Balkans53.

  • 54 On “nazioni” in Livorno, Francesca Trivellato, The Familiarity…, op. cit., p. 70-101.
  • 55 Brunehilde Imhaus, Le minoranze…, op. cit., p. 278-279, 285.

20Confraternities can be seen as imperial institutions in the sense that under the bureaucratic category of “nazione54” they reordered geographical areas of the Venetian state by turning specific colonial outposts into geographical units, by unifying them into an “imaginative” geography. They also turned diasporic groups from those areas into subjects in the metropolis by assigning them well-defined boundaries and coherence. This is substantiated by the statute books (“mariegole”) of the S. Maria e S. Gallo (the only surviving copy dates from the 18th century) and the S. Giorgio e S. Trifone (1451) confraternities which prescribed that the treasurer (“gastaldo”) and the “vicario” had to be from Albanian or Dalmatian areas respectively. The 1455 catastico of the Schiavoni confraternity reproached its members who were also registered in the Albanian confraternity55. Thus diasporic groups of immigrants and refugees from towns and areas of the imperial periphery were turned into “Schiavoni”, “Albanesi”, and “Greci”. It was a fundamental act of subject-making that embedded diasporic groups into the system of privilege and service and into Venetian imperial aspirations and designs.

  • 56 Similarly, the Venetian state sought to maintain ties with local elites of former colonies through (...)
  • 57 ASV, Senato Mar, Secreta, Registro 28, cc. 148v-149v: “Per quelli che decideranno di restare non ma (...)

21Recognition through institutionalization was the example par excellence of the act of subject-making which was a broader project that most often sought to establish relations and allegiance between the state and individuals or families, who were deemed worthy of entering into a seemingly reciprocal relation of privilege, protection and loyalty56. During the siege of Scutari (Skadar) in 1478 the Venetian Senate instructed Antonio da Lezze, the commander of the Venetian forces, to take care and make relevant arrangements for the local population, mostly members of the elite, so as “for those who decide to remain there not miss our gratitude and our love. We will always keep them as the dearest ones. Those who wish to depart and join us will be welcomed and received with special generosity and kindness and we will always protect them so that they will be able to live with their families under our protection”. In the same communication, references were made to “our loyal subjects” and to the town of Scutari as “the dearest one”. It is worth noting that this language of affection intersected with the concern over the state’s administration of population. Da Lezze was instructed to “provide registers of all those who wish to leave Scutari for Venice according to their rank and profession, so as to arrange their reception according to their status57”.

  • 58 Lucia Nadin, Migrazioni e integrazioni: il caso degli Albanesi a Venezia (1479-1552), Rome, Bulzoni (...)
  • 59 Ibid., p. 139-141; Silvia Moretti, “Gli albanesi a Venezia tra xiv e xvi secolo”, in Donatella Cala (...)
  • 60 See, the analysis in Lisa Jardin, Jerry Brotton, Global Interests: Renaissance Art between East and (...)

22Religious symbolism served to reinforce political and geographical identification. The scuola of the Albanians was dedicated to the Virgin, protector of Scutari. In the early sixteenth century, when colonies had been lost, the pictorial cycle executed by Carpaccio for the decoration of the scuola was dedicated to the life of the Virgin. It has been suggested that the commissioners might have been Venetian patricians with strong ties to former colonies in Albania areas58. Later, the same confraternity further served as a site where mnemonic ties between the metropolis and its former colonies were established and reproduced. In the 1530s the façade of the confraternity building was decorated with a relief depicting the siege of Scutari. An inscription commemorated the loyalty to Venice of those originating from Scutari and acknowledged the Senate’s favour towards them59. Thus, the confraternity, even in its material form, continued to epitomize the principles that shaped diasporic subjecthood. In a similar vein, the decoration of the confraternity of the Schiavoni, also by Carpaccio, with its anti-Ottoman and conversionary connotations might have served as a mnemonic and imperial site of triumph and aspiration60.

  • 61 As this article has argued petitions submitted to the Venetian government for the establishment of (...)
  • 62 Nikolaos Moschonas, “La comunità greca…”, art. cit., p. 235.
  • 63 Fani Mavroidi, Aspetti della società veneziana del ‘500. La confraternità di S. Nicolò dei Greci, R (...)
  • 64 The administrators (“gastaldi”) of the Albanian Scuola of S. Maria e S. Gallo were mostly artisans (...)

23Historiography has often equated confraternities with the overall presence of “foreigners” to produce the idea of community. However, it is hard to trace the various ties between institutions and diasporic populations. On the one hand, existing documentation does not support this association61. On the other hand, this view disentangles these institutions from their place and function within Venetian society. Confraternities of imperial subjects were modelled on the almost ubiquitous Venetian small confraternities (“scuole piccole”). Small confraternities were charitable and devotional institutions. At the same time they were deeply ingrained into the operation of the state. They epitomized devotional “spontaneity” and state regulation. In a similar vein, diasporic confraternities were charitable and devotional institutions that secured for their members, and especially those who were responsible for their administration, a privileged relation with the Venetian state. Membership was highly regulated by the authorities and was affected by shifting concerns. For instance, in 1498 in the approval for the confraternity of the Greeks the Council of Ten determined membership up to 250 males and unlimited females. During that period artisans appeared to have a leading role. Almost a century later, in 1572 a new regulation for the administrators (“Capitolo di 40 e zonta”) was drafted and approved by the Venetian authorities. This regulation stipulated that the administration of the confraternity should include members from former and current colonies62. In 1533-1562 female membership fell sharply. Whereas, before 1530 a significant number of confraternity members were artisans, later merchants figured prominently63. Diasporic confraternities were “elite” institutions. Normally, their administration was in the hands of prominent members, defined at least on the basis of their profession64. Also, these confraternities as “elite” and imperial institutions mediated between prominent and lower members, between the Venetian state and its subjects, between the metropolis and its imperial imaginary.

Jewish refugees, diasporas and the ghetto “community”

  • 65 ASV, Senato Terra, Registro 19, cc. 95r, 29 March 1516: “Tamen non die esser de voler de alcun del (...)

24As we saw earlier, the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries marked a period when a new rhetoric which associated urban space, authority and morality emerged, especially as far as the Jews were concerned. This was illustrated in the Venetian government’s decree on the establishment of the Jewish ghetto in 1516: “No godfearing person in our state would wish to see them, after they [the Jews] arrived, dispersing throughout the city, to share houses and go wherever they like day and night, committing misdemeanours and abominable acts. All this is well known and shameful to discuss and is causing great offence to God and this well-ordered Republic. It is therefore highly necessary to take effective action65.”

  • 66 For an update and concise account of the development of the ghetto: Benjamin Ravid, “The Venetian g (...)
  • 67 On Jewish settlements on the mainland before the establishment of the ghetto: Gian Maria Varanini, (...)
  • 68 Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan, “Towards an ecological understanding of the myth of Venice”, in John Marti (...)

25Until the establishment of the first ghetto, which was later named ghetto nuovo (new ghetto) Jews were not allowed to stay in Venice unless for limited periods. Jews resided on the Venetian mainland, where some Jews had been granted a charter in 1503 to engage in moneylending66. Jews were among the refugees that sought shelter in Venice after the defeat at Agnadello and the Venetian loss of mainland territories67. Their presence in the city during a period of political turmoil and heightened tension sparked criticism by members of the Venetian elite and the clergy. As I argued earlier, the Jews served also as a metonymy for the elite’s concern of loss of control. It was in a climate of eschatological expectations and economic considerations that the decision for their segregation was taken. The establishment of the ghetto was a project that involved a new urban arrangement for Jewish individuals and families subjected to a tight bureaucratic process. New specialized magistracies (the “Ufficiali al Cattaver”) were established and older ones (the “Cinque Savi alla Mercanzia”) were later involved in the supervision of the ghetto and Jewish activities. As late as the eighteenth century new magistracies were added (the “Inquisitorato agli ebrei”). As a spatial and legal entity the ghetto constituted religious identity as an important classificatory principle. Thus, as early as 1516 the establishment of the first ghetto suggests that urban space became a crucial social site upon which the Venetian state actively pursued to be, in Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan’s words, “the unique arbiter of meaning for those who inhabited its territory68”.

26The walled-up island, a former foundry, in the sestiere of Cannaregio, on the outskirts of the city that became the ghetto was a new physical and bureaucratic entity and arrangement for Jewish individuals and families. The rules that governed the operation of the ghetto (for instance, curfew time for the opening and closure of the gates), the presence of the Jews there and in the city, where they were required to wear a distinguishing headgear, remained intact until the end of the Republic (1797). The bureaucratic production of Jewishness involved not only the control imposed on the ghetto’s residents but also the inextricable association of their presence there with the economic activities they were allowed to pursue and the renewal of a special charter in return for payments and taxes. The Jews were only allowed to lend money at specific rates of interest and sell second-hand goods (“strazzaria”).

  • 69 ASV, Senato Mar, Registro 26, cc. 45v-46r, 2 June 1541: “hebrei mercadanti levantini viandanti”; “r (...)
  • 70 In the late sixteenth century their renewed charter equated their commercial privileges and concess (...)
  • 71 ASV, Senato Terra, Registro 109, cc. 39v-40v, 3 March 1633.
  • 72 The term appears in the 1589 petition submitted by Daniel Rodriga for a charter for Jewish merchant (...)

27The bureaucratic constitution of the Jewish presence is further substantiated in the subsequent expansion of the ghettos in 1541 and 1633 for new groups of Jews to reside. Scholarship has variously pointed out that in the sixteenth century facing competition from other Italian states the Venetian government relaxed its commercial regulations so as to attract merchants in the city. In 1541 a new area, adjacent to the ghetto nuovo, was walled up for Jewish merchants. This was the ghetto vecchio (old ghetto) and was intended for the so-called Levantine Jews. The Senate’s decree described them as “travelling Jewish Levantine merchants” and prescribed that they should “always remain closed up and guarded as those who live in the ghetto nuovo” and should not “engage in banking or in the sale of second-hand goods but only in trade69”. Normally, the term “Levantine Jews” denoted Ottoman subjects. These Jews often had Iberian origin. Many were Iberian conversos who later returned to Judaism in the Ottoman Empire. In the second half of the sixteenth century a new group of Jewish merchants, dubbed “Ponentine Jews” (“Ebrei Ponentini”) became active in the Venetian market. Levantine and Ponentine Jews obtained their first charter in 1589, which stipulated that they were allowed to engage in international trade under the protection of Venice. In this view they were turned into Venetian subjects in terms of the commercial privileges they enjoyed70. Despite the different connotations these terms carried, Levantine and Ponentine Jews were often grouped together in bureaucratic language, such as in the Senate’s decree that in 1633 established a new quarter for Jewish merchants, the ghetto nuovissimo (newest ghetto)71. The presence of Levantine and Ponentine Jews was also governed by charters that had to be renewed. With the spatial and bureaucratic institutionalization of the Levantine and Ponentine Jews Venice became an attractive destination for members of diasporic Jewish groups, mostly Sephardic ones. Gradually, the Venetian government adopted for the Jews who were engaged in moneylending and were the dwellers of the first ghetto the term “Germanic Jews” (“Ebrei Tedeschi”)72.

  • 73 David Malkiel has called the “Università”, the governing institution of the Jews in Venice “merely (...)
  • 74 Donatella Calabi, Ennio Concina, Ugo Camerino, La città degli ebrei…, op. cit., p 81-100.
  • 75 ASV, Inquisitorato agli ebrei, busta 20, busta 32.

28As with diasporic groups from Venetian overseas colonies, the Venetian state was actively involved in the production of distinctive categories of Jewish subjects. Levantine, Ponentine and Germanic Jews constituted separate “nations” (“nationi”) with different definitions of status and privilege which conditioned their different relations with the state73. Until the late sixteenth century the Levantine and Ponentine Jews were exempted from contributing financially to the expenses of the pawnshops operated by the Germanic Jews and the latter were not allowed to engage in the commercial enterprises of their coreligionists until the middle seventeenth century. This diversity was also reflected in the different synagogues (known as “scuole”) in the ghetto74. It was only in the eighteenth century that the Jews were bureaucratically unified under a single charter. This bureaucratic restructure probably reflected gradual changes in human relations and subjectivities in the ghetto. Two seventeenth-century wills illustrate this shift. In 1637 Rizza Grassini bequeathed five ducats only to the “scuola of the Tedeschi Jews”. Some years later, in 1679, Isaac Abram Capon left money to diverse institutions, such as the “scuola” and the “università of the Tedeschi Jews”, the “università of the Spanish and Levantine Jews”, the confraternity of Talmud Torah and his “scuola Canton” (of the Ashkenazitic rite)75. Before that, for centuries, Jews were inscribed into a Venetian system of privileges and obligations as separate “nazioni”.

Conclusion

  • 76 Towards the late sixteenth century the religious status of the Greeks in Venice and the Venetian po (...)
  • 77 Sally McKee, Uncommon Dominion: Venetian Crete and the Myth of Ethnic Purity, Philadelphia, Univers (...)
  • 78 ASV, Consiglio dei Dieci, Parti miste, filza 28, n° 51, “Et etiam per demostrarne che non siamo app (...)
  • 79 Rothman, Brokering Empire…, op. cit., p. 198-210.

29This essay set out to rethink the “minorities” of early modern Venice in a comparative way and to disentangle them from the dominant paradigms of “nationhood” and community. It did not aspire to provide a comprehensive exploration but to map out some new lines of enquiry and interpretative approaches. Communities were not transhistorical formations but were variously embedded into the imperial aspirations and structures of Venice. One of Venice’s main imperial ambitions was the administration of its subject populations and territories76. The conquest of Crete in the thirteenth century, the definition of the “Venetian Albania” in the sixteenth century against the Dalmatian possessions, and the eighteenth-century bureaucratic involvement with the so-called Morlacchi in the last Venetian annexation of Dalmatian areas testify to constant imperial designs through the production of imperial categories77. This concern was also evident in the metropolis itself. This essay argued that the establishment of institutions such as confraternities and churches were acts of subject-making and forged ties between the state and diasporic groups. Projects, such as the ghetto produced Jews as a community. These institutions were not in isolation from each other, at least in terms of discourse. The petition for the Scuola of S. Nicolò referred to the precedent of the Albanians’ and the Slavs’ confraternities. The petitioners for the S. Giorgio church asked the Venetian state to “show us that in your eyes we are no worse than Armenian heretics and the Jewish infidels who here have synagogues and mosques for worshipping God in their own misguided way78”. The production of imperial categories at home involved even non-Venetian subjects. In establishing the so-called Fondaco dei Turchi in 1621 previous categories of alterity (“Turchi della Bossina” and “Turchi anatolici”) were institutionalized despite the complaints of the Muslim merchants who resided there that they did not recognize these groupings79.

30Imperial institutions, such as confraternities, did not remain static as often the concept of community suggests. They were sites of rivalry between diverse groups. For instance, in the seventeenth century the Greek confraternity witnessed the tension between members who followed the Orthodox rite and Catholic members. In the early eighteenth century Catholics established a separate confraternity dedicated to S. Spiridione. However, these seemingly communal or interpersonal rivalries might have reflected broader shifts that require us to rethink the analytical lenses we use. This essay argued that diaspora, disentangled from the modern language of nationhood and community, and subjecthood might prompt us rethink their analytical value and how difference and sameness were articulated in the past.

Haut de page

Notes

1 Gasparo Contarini, De magistratibus et Republica Venetorum libri V, Venice, Apud Baldum Sabinum, 1551, p. 5: “Alios detinebat urbis frequentia et omnium propemodum gentium convectus, ac si commune orbis emporium Veneta civitas est.” All translations are by the author, unless otherwise noted.

2 Francesco Sansovino, Venetia città nobilissima et singolare, Venice, Appresso Iacomo Sansovino, 1581, p. 3: “Singolare perche essendo commoda a tutte le nationi per trafficare e mercantare”.

3 Thomas Coryate, Coryats Crudities (1611), London, Scolar Press, 1978, p. 171.

4 It should be noted, however, that these discursive constructions served mostly as “topoi” rather than as descriptive accounts and they were part of the so-called Venetian myth-making. Apart from the works of well-known eulogists of Venice these “topoi” can be found among less-known texts, such as the anonymous Fantasia composta in laude de Veniesia, Venice, Appresso gli heredi di Francesco Rampazetto, 1582. In this text Venice is likened to a garden filled with colourful flowers, such as “Turks, Persians, Jews, Germans, French, Spanish, Polish, Indians, Albanians, Greeks, Slavs and Italians” (“In sto zardin gh’è ogni sorte de fiori […] Turchi, Persiani, Hebrei, Todeschi, Francesi, Spagnuoli, Polacchi, Indiani Albanesi, Grieghi, Schiaoni, e Italiani”).

5 Francesca Trivellato, The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2009, p. 9.

6 It should be noted that Greeks, Slavs and Albanians as diasporic groups, refugees and immigrants from the Venetian overseas dominion can be more accurately approached as imperial subjects. The same category can be applied to Jews after the mid-sixteenth century when, in addition to those Jews who were segregated in the first ghetto, new diasporic Jewish groups (the “Levantine” and “Ponentine” Jews) were settled in the city’s ghettos and were engaged in international economic activities. As such, the Venetian state treated them as “subjects” (“sudditi”) in an imperial context. Despite important differences (for instance, the compulsory settlement of Jews in the ghetto), the article seeks to highlight common discursive and bureaucratic strategies that shaped the presence of diasporic groups in the city.

7 Rogers Brubaker, “The ‘Diaspora’ Diaspora”, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 2005, 28, p. 1-19.

8 On subjects: E. Natalie Rothman, Brokering Empire: Trans-Imperial Subjects between Venice and Istanbul, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2012, p. 12-18.

9 On Venice as an empire: Maria Fusaro, Political Economies of Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Decline of Venice and the Rise of England, 1450-1700, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015, p. 3-23.

10 Giuseppina Minchella, Frontiere aperte: Musulmani, ebrei e cristiani nella Repubblica di Venezia (xvii secolo), Rome, Viella, 2014.

11 See for instance: Margaret C. Jacob, Strangers Nowhere in the World: The Rise of Cosmopolitanism in Early Modern Europe, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006; on Venice: Marianna D’Ezio, “Sociability and cosmopolitanism in eighteenth-century Venice: European travellers and Venetian women’s casinos”, in Scott Breuninger, David Burrow (eds.), Sociability and Cosmopolitanism: Social Bonds on the Fringes of the Enlightenment, New York, Routledge, 2016, p. 47-58.

12 Francesca Trivellato, The Familiarity…, op. cit., p. 18, 70-101.

13 Francesca Trivellato, “A Republic of Merchants?”, in Anthony Molho, Diogo Ramada Curto (eds.), Finding Europe: Discourses on Margins, Communities, Images, New York and London, Berghahn, 2007, p. 146.

14 For biographical details and scholarly activity: Jacopo Bernardi, “Commemorazione di Giovanni Veludo (1811-1890)”, Atti del Reale Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, s. VII, 38, 1889-1890, p. 701-729; Margherita Losacco, Antonio Catiforo e Giovanni Veludo interpreti di Fozio, Bari, Edizioni Dedalo, 2003, p. 173-200.

15 He first outlined the history of the community in an essay that was included in a major work of nineteenth-century Venetian historiography under the editorship of Agostino Sagredo: “Cenni sulla colonia greca orientale”, in Venezia e le sue lagune, 2 vols., Venice, Antonelli, 1847, vol. 1, p. 78-100. On the importance of this work for nineteenth-century Venetian historiography: Claudio Povolo, “The creation of Venetian historiography”, in John Martin, Dennis Romano (eds.), Venice Reconsidered: The History and Civilization of an Italian City-State, 1297-1797, Baltimore and London, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, p. 503-504. Veludo later expanded his work, which was published in Greek under the title The Greek Orthodox’ Colony in Venice: A Historical Study, Venice, Saint George Press, 1872 [in Greek].

16 Giovanni Veludo, “Cenni…”, art. cit., p. 100.

17 It is worth noting, however, that the few members of the Byzantine elite that found refuge in Venice after the fall of Constantinople kept themselves aloof from the “community” and its institutions: David Jacoby, “I Greci e altre comunità tra Venezia e oltramare”, in Maria Francesca Tiepolo, Eurizio Tonetti (eds.), I Greci a Venezia: Atti del convegno internazionale di studio, Venezia, 2-5 novembre 1998, Venice, Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 2002, p. 59-64; on the migration of members of the Byzantine elite to Italy: Thierry Ganchou, “Le rachat des Notaras après la chute de Constantinople ou les relations ‘éstrangères’ de l’élite byzantine au xve siècle”, in Michel Balard, Alain Ducellier (eds.), Migrations et diasporas méditerranéennes (xe-xvie siècle), Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 2002, p. 149-229.

18 Olga Katsiardi-Hering, “From the Ottoman conquest to the establishment of the modern Greek State”, in Ioannis Hasiotis, Olga Katsiardi-Hering, Evridiki Ampatzi (eds.), The Greeks in Diaspora, 15th-21st century, Athens, 2006, p. 37 [In Greek].

19 Iannis Hassiotis, “Past and present in the history of modern Greek diaspora”, in Waltraud Kokot, Khachig Tölölyan, Carolin Alfonso (eds.), Diaspora, Identity and Religion: New Directions in Theory and Research, London and New York, Routledge, 2004, p. 96; Dimitris Tziovas, “Introduction”, in Dimitris Tziovas (ed.), Greek Diaspora and Migration since 1700: Society, Politics and Culture, Farnham, Ashgate, 2009, p. 1

20 Haris Exertzoglou, “Reconstituting community: Cultural differentiation and identity politics in Christian orthodox communities during the late Ottoman era”, in Minna Rozen (ed.), Homelands and Diasporas: Greeks, Jews and their Migrations, London and New York, I.B. Tauris, 2008, p. 138.

21 A promising line of research that has been rarely followed is the comparative study of Greek communities in different geographical areas with the potential of placing them into a broader Mediterranean context. Although for a later period, see: Mathieu Grenet, La fabrique communautaire: les Grecs à Venise, Livourne et Marseille, v. 1770-v. 1830, unpublished PhD Thesis, European University Institute, 2010. This work also provides important insights into the notion of “community”.

22 Benjamin Ravid, “The religious, economic and social background of the establishment of the ghetti of Venice”, in Gaetano Cozzi (ed.), Gli ebrei di Venezia: secoli xiv-xviii, Milan, Edizioni Comunità, 1987, p. 222, 228.

23 Cecil Roth, The Jews in the Renaissance, New York, 1953.

24 Benjamin Ravid, “How ‘other’ really was the Jewish other? The evidence from Venice”, in David N. Myers, Massimo Ciavolella, Peter H. Reill, Geoffrey Symcox (eds.), Acculturation and its Discontents: The Italian Jewish Experience between Exclusion and Inclusion, Toronto, Toronto University Press, 2008, p. 19-55.

25 See his critique to Roth in Robert Bonfil, “How golden was the age of the Renaissance in Jewish historiography?”, History and Theory, 1988, 27, p. 78-102.

26 David Ruderman, Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2010, p. 62.

27 For a critique on the idea of community in Jewish historiography: Jacqueline Genot-Bismuth, “The Università Degli Hebrei and the Nationi of the Venetian ghetto (1516-1630): A reconsideration of the presuppositions of contemporary Jewish historiography”, in Yedida K. Stillman, George K. Zucker (eds.), New Horizons in Sephardic Studies, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1993, p. 14-36.

28 Donatella Calabi, Ennio Concina, Ugo Camerino, La città degli ebrei. Il ghetto di Venezia. Architettura e urbanistica, Venice, Marsilio, 1991.

29 David Malkiel, A Separate Republic. The Mechanics and Dynamics of Venetian Jewish Self-Government, 1607-1624, Jerusalem, The Magnes Press-The Hebrew University, 1991.

30 Stefanie Siegmund, The Medici State and the Ghetto of Florence. The Construction of an Early Modern Jewish Community, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2006.

31 It is worth noting that the earliest comparative perspective is found in Agostino Sagredo, Venezia e le sue lagune. Along with Veludo’s essay a short essay on the Jews was included: “Cenni sulla comunità israelitica di Venezia”, p. 103-107.

32 John Martin and Dennis Romano write: “…Venice hosted colonies of Greeks, Germans, and Turks. The Greeks lived in a well-defined community in Castello. […] The Jews, themselves a multiethnic community of German, Italian, Iberian, and Levantine origins, were confined to the Ghetto from 1516 on. […] The Slavs and the Armenians tended to live in the sestiere (district) of Santa Croce”: John Martin, Dennis Romano, “Reconsidering Venice”, in John Martin, Dennis Romano (eds.), Venice Reconsidered…, op. cit., p. 21.

33 These terms feature in the title of important comparative works: Giorgio Fedalto, “Le minoranze straniere a Venezia tra politica e legislazione”, in Hans Georg Beck, Manoussos Manoussacas, Agostino Pertusi (eds.), Venezia: Centro di mediazione tra oriente e occidente, secoli xv-xvi: aspetti e problemi, 2 vols., Florence, 1977, vol. 1, p. 143-163; Giorgio Fedalto, “Stranieri a Venezia e a Padova”, in Girolamo Arnaldi, Manlio Stocchi (eds.), Storia della cultura veneta, 6 vols., Vicenza, 1976-1986, vol. 3, p. 499-535; Donatella Calabi, “Gli stranieri e la città”, in Gino Benzoni (ed.), Storia di Venezia dale origini alla caduta della Serenissima, 12 vols., Rome, 1991-1997, vol. 5, Alberto Tenenti, Ugo Tucci (eds.), Il Rinascimento: società e economia, p. 913-946; Donatella Calabi, Paola Lanaro (eds.), La città italiana e i luoghi degli stranieri, xiv-xviii secolo, Rome, Laterza, 1998; Brunehilde Imhaus, Le minoranze orientali a Venezia 1300-1500, Rome, Il Veltro, 1997.

34 Benjamin Ravid, “Venice and its minorities”, in Eric Dursteler (ed.), A Companion to Venetian History, 1400-1797, Leiden, Brill, 2013, p. 449.

35 For a recent discussion: Claire Judde de Larivière, Rosa Salzberg, “Le peuple est la cité. L’idée de popolo et la condition des popolani à Venise (xve-xvie siècles)”, Annales. Histoire, sciences sociales, 2013, 68, p. 1113-1140.

36 G. Priuli, I diarii di Girolamo Priuli (AA. 1494-1512), Roberto Cessi (ed.), vol. 4, Bologna, Zanichelli, 1938, p. 101; P. de Commynes, Mémoires, J. Calmette (ed.), vol. 3, Paris, p. 114.

37 Magna multitudo Graecorum, que in hac civitate commoratur et catholice sub obedientia sancte romane ecclesie vivit”: Quotations taken from G. Fedalto, Ricerche storiche sulla posizione giuridica ed ecclesiastica dei greci a Venezia nei secoli xv e xvi, Florence, Olschki, 1967, p. 31; Nikolaos Moschonas, “La comunità greca di Venezia: aspetti sociali ed economici”, in Maria Francesca Tiepolo, Eurizio Tonetti (eds.), I Greci a Venezia…, op. cit., p. 222-223

38 Recently, Andrea Zannini argued that quantification of “foreigners” is almost impossible: Andrea Zannini, Venezia città aperta: Gli stranieri e la Serenissima xiv-xviii sec., Venice, Marcianum Press, 2009, p. 38.

39 Patricia Labalme, Laura Sanguineti, Venice, cità excelentissima. Selections from the Renaissance Diaries of Marin Sanudo, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008, p. 337.

40 I Diarii di Marin Sanudo, Rinaldo Fulin et. al. (eds.), 58 vol., Venice, Fratelli Visentini, 1887, vol. 20, p. 138: “che li zudei, quali sono in questa terra molti in diverse caxe et contrade et danno mal exempio a li christiani tutti, siano mandati ad habitar a la Zueca.

41 I Diarii di Girolamo Priuli [A.A. 1499-1512], Roberto Cessi (ed.), vol. 4, Bologna, Zanichelli, 1933-1937, p. 108: “Tante zanze et tante parole et tante nove busarde et senza fondamento se dicevanno per le piaze et per le loze et per Rialto et ecclesie et botege de barbieri in la citade predicta, che non se poteva intendere una veritade, et a tutti hera licito dire quello li piaceva et pensarssi la nocte una nova et la matina publicarla […] Ahora veramente non hera ordine alchuno, et hera licito a chadauno, de ogni grado et conditione, se fusse, dire quanto li piaceva et che li fusse venuto in bocha et in piaza et in le logiette et per ogni locho […] Et questi parlamenti vulgari sopra le piaze venete ha facto grandissimo damno ala Republica Veneta.

42 Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan, Venice Triumphant. The Horizons of a Myth, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002, p. 36-45.

43 The major settlements of those diasporic groups and immigrants (including their institutions, such as confraternities and churches) were in the eastern areas of the city, in the parishes of the sestiere of Castello, around the state Arsenal. More or less directly the Arsenal, one of the biggest industrial establishments in premodern Europe, provided important opportunities for employment for overseas immigrants. Towards the late sixteenth century the sestiere of Castello became predominantly an area for workers and immigrants: Ennio Concina, Venezia nell’età moderna: struttura e funzioni, Venice, Marsilio, 1989, p. 77, 88-89. For a later period: Jean-François Chauvard, “Scale di osservazione e inserimento degli stranieri nello spazio veneziano tra xvii-xviii secolo”, in Donatella Calabi, Paola Lanaro (eds.), La città italiana…, op. cit., p. 85-107.

44 An exception remains the work of Freddy Thiriet, La Romanie vénitienne au Moyen Âge. Le développement et l’exploitation du domaine colonial vénitien (xiie-xve siècle), Paris, De Boccard, 1959.

45 Brunehilde Imhaus, Le minoranze…, op. cit., p. 40-49; see also, David Jacoby, “I Greci e altre comunità…”, art. cit., p. 48-49. For a careful reconstruction of the chronology and geography of Venice’s acquisitions and losses in its overseas dominions: Benjamin Arbel, “Venice’s maritime empire in the early modern period”, in Eric R. Dursteler (ed.), A Companion…, op. cit., p. 131-136.

46 Brunehilde Imhaus, Le minoranze…, op. cit., p. 280-283.

47 Archivio di Stato di Venezia (ASV), Consultori in jure, busta 427. English quotations taken from the publication of the petition in David Chambers, Brian Pullan, Venice. A Documentary History 1450-1633, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2001, p. 333-334.

48 For instance: Heleni Porfyriou, “La presenza greca: Roma e Venezia tra xv e xvi secolo”, in Donatella Calabi, Paola Lanaro (eds.), La città italiana…, op. cit., p. 32-33.

49 Some of these clans, although misleadingly referred to as “Byzantine”, are identified in Ersie Burke, “Surviving exile: Byzantine families and the Serenissima 1453-1600”, in Ingela Nilsson, Paul Stephenson, Wanted Byzantium: The Desire for a Lost Empire, Uppsala, Uppsala University Press, 2014, p. 109-132.

50 ASV, Consiglio dei Dieci, Parti miste, filza 28, n° 51, “Però essendo noi reduti in questa terra condotti dale Excellentie Vostre per vostri militi e defenssori del vostro glorioso stato […] E perché anche messidandose in ditto logo a un tempo diverse genti, lingue, voci, et officii Grechi e Latini si fa una confusion che passa quella di Babylonia […] Et non obstante che si messida le nostre osse cum ossame di galioti, fachini e de ogni altra vil condition di homeni […] celebrar li officij divini more Greco […] Anzi, credemo che le Signorie Vostre ne reputa per veri e catholici christiani”; English quotations from David Chamber, Brian Pullan, Venice…, op. cit., p. 334-336.

51 I use the edition of the letter in Manoussos Manoussakas, “The first permit (1456) of the Venetian senate for the Greek church in Venice and cardinal Isidore”, Thesaurismata of the Greek Institute for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies, 1962, 1, p. 111 [in Greek]: “fidelibus strathiotis nostris”.

52 Nikolaos Moschonas, “La comunità greca…”, art. cit., p. 231.

53 Fani Mavroidi, “I Serbi e la confraternita greca di Venezia”, Balkan Studies, 1983, 24, p. 515.

54 On “nazioni” in Livorno, Francesca Trivellato, The Familiarity…, op. cit., p. 70-101.

55 Brunehilde Imhaus, Le minoranze…, op. cit., p. 278-279, 285.

56 Similarly, the Venetian state sought to maintain ties with local elites of former colonies through a system of patronage (“grazie”): Monique O’Connell, Men of Empire: Power and Negotiation in Venice’s Maritime State, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009, p. 98-102; Noel Malcolm, Agents of Empire: Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits, and Spies in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean World, New York, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 35-55.

57 ASV, Senato Mar, Secreta, Registro 28, cc. 148v-149v: “Per quelli che decideranno di restare non mancherà comunque la nostra riconoscenza e il nostro amore e sempre li avremo per carissimi. Tutti quelli che vorranno partire e venirsene da noi, saranno da noi recolti favoriti e accomodati con particolare carità e benignità e sempre li proteggeremo, affinché con le loro famiglie possano vivere sotto la nostra protezione […] pervenire l’elenco di tutti coloro che lasceranno Scutari per Venezia specificando gradi e professioni, così da programmarne l’accoglimento in rapporto allo stato di ognuno.” The same discourse of worthiness, service and privilege governed petitions (“suppliche”) of subjects from Greek areas of the Venetian state: Ersie Burke, “… to live under the protection of Your Serenity: Immigration and identity in early modern Venice”, Studi Veneziani, 2013, 67, p. 123-155.

58 Lucia Nadin, Migrazioni e integrazioni: il caso degli Albanesi a Venezia (1479-1552), Rome, Bulzoni, 2008, p. 57, 78.

59 Ibid., p. 139-141; Silvia Moretti, “Gli albanesi a Venezia tra xiv e xvi secolo”, in Donatella Calabi, Paola Lanaro (eds.), La città italiana…, op. cit., p. 14-15.

60 See, the analysis in Lisa Jardin, Jerry Brotton, Global Interests: Renaissance Art between East and West, London, Reaktion Books, 2000, p. 18-20.

61 As this article has argued petitions submitted to the Venetian government for the establishment of institutions and the way these petitions were crafted did not suggest communal endeavours. Moreover, as David Jacoby and, more recently, Benjamin Ravid have argued, identifying “foreigners” in legal documents (decrees, criminal records) or tax records, such as the decima tax on real estate entails methodological pitfalls. These documents provide static images, often reflect bureaucratic priorities and are less transparent accounts of those individuals that are being reported. For instance, for individuals registered as “Greco/a” in tax records it is not clear whether they were recent immigrants or whether they held a distinctive place in Venetian society: David Jacoby, “I Greci e altre comunità…”, art. cit., p. 41-42; Benjamin Ravid, “Venice and its minorities”, art. cit., p. 452-456. The study of late-sixteenth century wills drafted by individuals identified as Greeks reveals a variety of attitudes which does not substantiate an exclusive attachment to communal institutions and networks of other Greeks: Ioanna Iordanou, Maritime Communities in Late Renaissance Venice: The Arsenalotti and the Greeks, 1575-1600, Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Warwick, 2008, p. 275-289.

62 Nikolaos Moschonas, “La comunità greca…”, art. cit., p. 235.

63 Fani Mavroidi, Aspetti della società veneziana del ‘500. La confraternità di S. Nicolò dei Greci, Ravenna, Diamond Byte Editrice, 1989, p. 38.

64 The administrators (“gastaldi”) of the Albanian Scuola of S. Maria e S. Gallo were mostly artisans from the textile industry: Lucia Nadin, Migrazioni e integrazioni…, op. cit., p. 105-110.

65 ASV, Senato Terra, Registro 19, cc. 95r, 29 March 1516: “Tamen non die esser de voler de alcun del Stato nostro che desidera viver con timor de Dio, che dapoi redutti i hano andati sparzendosi per tutta la terra, stando in casa con christiani, et vadino zorno et nocte dove li piace, facendo tanti manchamenti et cussì detestandi et abhominevoli, come per tuto è divulgado che è cossa vergognosa dechiarirli cum offension gravissima de la Maiesta divina et non vulgar nota de questa ben instituta Republica. Alche essendo omnino necessario far opportuna et valida provisione.”

66 For an update and concise account of the development of the ghetto: Benjamin Ravid, “The Venetian government and the Jews”, in Robert C. Davis, Benjamin Ravid (eds.), The Jews of Early Modern Venice, Baltimore and London, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001, p. 3-30.

67 On Jewish settlements on the mainland before the establishment of the ghetto: Gian Maria Varanini, Reinhold C. Mueller (eds.), Ebrei nella Terraferma veneta del Quattrocento, Florence, Firenze University Press, 2005.

68 Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan, “Towards an ecological understanding of the myth of Venice”, in John Martin, Dennis Romano (eds.) Venice Reconsidered…, op. cit., p. 56.

69 ASV, Senato Mar, Registro 26, cc. 45v-46r, 2 June 1541: “hebrei mercadanti levantini viandanti”; “restando però sempre ditti hebrei serrati et custoditi, si come sono al presente quelli del ghetto nuovo, non possendo etiam ditti mercadanti hebrei levantini viandanti far banco, strazarie, ne exercitio alcuno, salvo la sua simplice mercantia tantum”.

70 In the late sixteenth century their renewed charter equated their commercial privileges and concessions with those of Venetian subjects (“sudditi”): Benjamin Arbel, “Jews in international trade: The emergence of the Levantines and Ponentines”, in Robert Davis, Benjamin Ravid (eds.), The Jews…, op. cit., p. 89. It should be noted that as late as 1777 when the charter of the Jews was renewed it was stipulated that they did not qualify for the status of “sudditanza” but only for the Republic’s protection in their mercantile activities: Capitoli della ricondotta degli ebrei dei questa città, e dello stato. Estesi in esecuzione a Decreti dell’ eccellentissimo Senato de dì 22 Febbraro 1776 e 23 Agosto 1777 ed approvati col sovrano decreto, Venice, Per li figliuoli del Z. Antonio Pinelli stampatori ducali, 1777.

71 ASV, Senato Terra, Registro 109, cc. 39v-40v, 3 March 1633.

72 The term appears in the 1589 petition submitted by Daniel Rodriga for a charter for Jewish merchants: Benjamin Ravid, “The first chapter of the Jewish merchants of Venice, 1589”, AJS Review, 1976, 1, p. 187-222.

73 David Malkiel has called the “Università”, the governing institution of the Jews in Venice “merely an umbrella organization”: “The Ghetto Republic”, in Robert Davis, Benjamin Ravid (eds.), The Jews…, op. cit., p. 120.

74 Donatella Calabi, Ennio Concina, Ugo Camerino, La città degli ebrei…, op. cit., p 81-100.

75 ASV, Inquisitorato agli ebrei, busta 20, busta 32.

76 Towards the late sixteenth century the religious status of the Greeks in Venice and the Venetian policy on the Orthodox subjects of its dominions became closely associated, especially after the changing attitudes and aspirations of Counter-Reformation papacy: Cristina Setti, “Sudditi fedeli e eretici tollerati? Venezia e i ‘greci’ dal tardo Medioevo ai consulti di Paolo Sarpi e Fulgenzio Micanzio”, Ateneo Veneto, 2014, 13/II, p. 145-182.

77 Sally McKee, Uncommon Dominion: Venetian Crete and the Myth of Ethnic Purity, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000; Noel Malcolm, Agents of Empire…, op. cit., p. 4-17; Larry Wolff, Venice and the Slavs: The Discovery of Dalmatia in the Age of Enlightenment, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2001.

78 ASV, Consiglio dei Dieci, Parti miste, filza 28, n° 51, “Et etiam per demostrarne che non siamo appresso quelle che in peggior stato condition e opinion di quel sonno li eretichi armeni et li infideli Judei, li quali quivi et altrove dove domina le Signorie Vostre hanno synagoge et moschee adorando in lor modo idio mal cognosciuto da loro”; English quotations from David Chambers, Brian Pullan, Venice…, op. cit., p. 335.

79 Rothman, Brokering Empire…, op. cit., p. 198-210.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Giorgos Plakotos, « Diasporas, Space and Imperial Subjecthood in Early Modern Venice: A Comparative Perspective », Diasporas, 28 | 2016, 37-54.

Référence électronique

Giorgos Plakotos, « Diasporas, Space and Imperial Subjecthood in Early Modern Venice: A Comparative Perspective », Diasporas [En ligne], 28 | 2016, mis en ligne le 28 juin 2017, consulté le 15 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/diasporas/540 ; DOI : 10.4000/diasporas.540

Haut de page

Auteur

Giorgos Plakotos

Giorgos Plakotos is a lecturer in early modern european history in the Department of social anthropology and history at the University of the Aegean (Mytilene, Greece). His publications focus on criminal justice, conversion, gender and early modern “ethnography”. He is co-editing a volume on Masculinities and History. Recent works include: “Interrogating conversion: Discourses and practices in the Venetian Inquisition (16th-17th Centuries)”, in Katherine Aron-Beller, Christopher F. Black (eds.), The Roman Inquisition: Centre versus Peripheries, Leiden, Brill, 2017 (forthcoming) ; with H. Benveniste, “Converting bodies, embodying conversion: The production of religious identities in late Medieval and early modern Europe”, in Yaniv Fox and Yosi Yisraeli (eds.), Contesting Inter-Religious Conversion in the Medieval World, London, Routledge, 2016 (forthcoming) ; with A. Dialeti, “Gender, space and the production of difference in early modern Venice”, Genesis. Rivista della Società italiana delle storiche, 2015, vol. XIV, n° 2, Special issue: Anna Badino, Ida Fazio, Fiorella Imprenti (eds.), “Attraverso le città”, p. 33-58.

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Diasporas – Circulations, migrations, histoire est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • Logo Presses universitaires du Midi
  • Logo Framespa
  • OpenEdition Journals