Foreign Research in Italy

(November 12-December 17, 1997)

HORII Yutaka

posted on March 2, 1998


In November and December, 1997, I was sent on foreign dispatch by Unit 1, Group C to conduct a survey in Venice. My schedule went roughly as follows: I left Japan on November 7, stayed in Istanbul from November 8-10, during which time I had a meeting with Professor SUZUKI Tadashi of The University of Tokyo, Institute of Oriental Culture, who is the Group Leader of Group C. I then went to Venice to conduct the survey from November 12 to December 17 and returned to Japan on December 19.

The main purpose of this survey was to research historical documents related to the research theme of Group C, ''State and Law in the Islamic World''. According to Group C's research plan, the objectives for the first 3 years of the Project will be to clarify the power structures of states in the Islamic world and the legal structures of society and to compare their characteristics with other cultural areas. This survey was conducted to achieve these objectives for the area, period, and themes that are within the scope of my research. The theme I submitted for the purpose of this survey was ''Survey on Document Sources Related to the Norms and Actual Conditions of the Relationship between the Ottomans and Mamluks and Venice''.

In researching the ''State and Law in the Islamic World'', there are several reasons for the importance of examining the sources preserved in Venice. Venice has a long history as a major East-Mediterranean trading post. The trends of Islamic states and societies sometimes threatened the very existence of Venice, which formed the residents' societies in the areas of the East-Mediterranean coastline. Some of the documents related to the foreign policy of Venice show us many records related to the activities of envoys, consuls, and residents. Therefore, through these documents it should be possible for us to understand the ruling regime of Islamic states as well as the legal norms and their applications in the Islamic area. In addition, because the activities of Venetian envoys, consuls, and residents are closely related to the government of Venice, records related to them should give us a view of the characteristics of the ruling structures and legal norms of non Islamic areas as well. It is hoped that by surveying the historical documents in Venice, we can uncover clues to find comparisons and relationships of the rulership structures and legal norms between the states of the Islamic world and the European-Christian world.

The research that I am conducting will focus on the Eastern Mediterranean world from the latter half of the 15th century to the first half of the 16th century. In short, the situation at the time can be described by saying that many states including the Ottomans and the Mamluks were in the process of being merged into one system by the expanding land and sea power of the Ottomans. This period was clearly one of great change in the Eastern Mediterranean world. However, even today the effect of these changes upon the Muslim-controlled areas and the relationship between Islamic and Christian states has not been sufficiently clarified. Of course, I Diarii of Marino Sanuto, which is one of the most important sources in Venice has been made available to the public, but it is still necessary to consider its content from the document sources. For this and other reasons, the historical documents in Venice which have not been made available to the public are considered important.

That said, it is very difficult to find records related to all of the areas under Ottoman and the Mamluk rule from the huge volume of sources extant in Venice. In this survey, in principle I limited the scope of the area to Egypt and Syria. The main reason I set this limitation on myself was that I believe that the most typical changes in the Eastern Mediterranean world into the early modern age can be found in the process of the destruction and downfall of the Mamluks and the construction of the Ottoman system of rule in Egypt and Syria.

I conducted research at the following 3 institutions during this survey.

  • Archivio di Stato di Venezia (Venetian State Archives, hereafter referred to as ASV)
  • Civico Museo Correr (Correr Museum)
  • Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Marciana Library)

Of these, the one I spent the most time at during my stay was ASV. While conducting my survey at ASV, I was assisted greatly by Dottoressa Maria Pia Pedani-Fabris, an archivist there who is a specialist on the relationship between Venice and the Islamic states of the Mediterranean world, especially the Ottomans. Without her assistance which included advice concerning the survey and instruction on deciphering documents, this survey could not have been successful. She also provided me with information on researchers studying Islam both in Italy and in other countries. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her valued assistance.

The documents to which I dedicated the most in-depth study at ASV were the deliberations (deliberazioni) of the Senate (Senato) which had the power to make decisions concerning foreign policy: the Secreti which are related to the foreign policy and the Mar which are related to the general policy toward the Eastern Mediterranean area. These are basic documents essential in gaining an understanding of the policies of Venice toward the Eastern Mediterranean area, however it is thought that up until now they have not been used in reference to 16th century Egypt and Syria.

For making research of the Secreti and the Mar, I began by reading the Rubriche, an contemporary index of deliberations.

Secreti, Rubriche
reg. 3 (1483-1538)
Mar, Rubriche
regg. 1-2 (1440-1550)

From these indexes, I have made a list of points which I felt to be important according to the above plan. After that, I continued by reading the registers of the deliberations. While actually reading the deliberations, I realized that the list which I made from the indexes were insufficient, and decided to look over all of the registers which I requested. In the limited time I had available, it was impossible to read all of the registers from the latter half of the 15th century to the first half of the 16th century. As a result of my prioritizing documents created around the time of the Ottoman conquest of the Mamluks in 1517, I was able to read the following 20 registers.

regg. 38-40 (1500-1506)
regg. 43-52 (1510-1527)
regg. 15-21 (1500-1529)

The reason I did not include regg. 41-42 of the Secreti in my readings is that I put off reading it because the index did not include pertinent information, and before I could get around to reading them, my time in Venice ran out. However, as stated before, it is necessary to read the actual registers and this should be done in the future. In addition, according to the indexes, in the portion concerning the latter half of the 15th century, many important deliberations concerning the above themes were carried out and these should be read in the future.

While reading the above registers and choosing the important deliberations, it became apparent that the norms which had existed between the Mamluks and Venice had been growing ineffective and, since the Ottoman conquest, had begun to function again, either in the same form or in a different way. I applied for microfilm reproductions on the deliberations which I chose. I am currently awaiting the arrival of the microfilm. When it arrives, I plan to begin a serious analysis of them.

In addition to registers of Senate deliberations, there are also several other documents I had applied to have reproduced. Of these, the following registers which collect the deliberations concerning the management of a fund called the cottimo among the Venetian residents' societies in Alexandria and Damascus are worthy to note.

Cinque savi alla mercanzia
b. 944 (Capitolare del cottimo d'Alessandria, 1321-1587)
b. 944 bis (do.)
b. 946 (Capitolare del cottimo d'Alessandria, II, 1596-1688)
b. 947 (Capitolare del cottimo di Damasco, 1490-1565)

The cottimo played the role of paying the necessary expenses between the residents' societies of the area and the sultanate government. By making use of them with the deliberations of the aforementioned Senate, we will be able to clarify the actual conditions of Venetian residents' societies in Egypt and Syria.

In addition to the above, I copied by hand or applied to have following documents reproduced:

Maggior Consiglio
reg. 25 (1503-1521) (partial, hand copied)
regg. 14-20 (1447-1528) (partial)
b. 31
b. 62 (part of Alexandria)
(All of these documents are from the mid-16th century or later.)
Segretario alle voci
regg. 5-6 (part of the index list of consuls in Alexandria and Damascus)

The above is an outline of the survey conducted at ASV. For the Civico Museo Correr and the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, my intention was to find out what materials they have. However, because I spent almost all of my time at ASV, I was not able to survey them sufficiently. I read only the following two materials which are records of reports of envoys or consuls dispatched to the Mamluks in their last period.

Giovanni Danese, ''Viaggio de Bendetto Sanuto Ambasciatore de Veneziani al Soldano al Cairo nel 1502,'' Biblioteca Marciana, cod. ital., cl. XI,no. LXVI, pp. 377-383.
''Informazioni al Senato e lettre al console di Alessandria, di Damasco di Siria e come anche al Gran Maestro di Rodi sopra diversi affari, 1508-1510,'' Museo Correr, Dandolo P.D., C975/51.

I was able to copy the first of these. By looking at the index card of manuscripts at the Civico Museo Correr, I found that there are many reports related to Egypt after the mid-16th century. It is assumed that these materials are very important to the study of the history of Ottoman-Venetian relationship and Egyptian history; however, it is thought that most of these have never been used. At some time it will be necessary to conduct a thorough survey of these materials.

Lastly, I would like to mention my visit to the University of Venice, Department of Near East and Ancient Studies, Near East Section (Universita di Venezia, Dipartimento di scienze dell'antichita e del Vicino Oriente, Sezione del Vicino Oriente). Thanks to Professoressa Francesca Lucchetta, a specialist of the history of the Islamic thought, I was able to visit this research facility. There, I found many materials in the native languages of the area as well as in Arabic which are related to Arab Studies, which is the main subject being researched by this section. The bulletin of this section is titled Quaderni di studi arabi (they are currently in the process of editing a special issue on the History of Relationship between Venice and the Near East under the supervision of Dottoressa Pedani who I mentioned earlier). Unfortunately, almost all of the professors were in Madrid and I was unable to sufficiently discuss the status of research in Italy. I left a copy of the English version of the IAS newsletter for them and requested that they read it. I hope that someday, we can conduct some kind of mutual exchange between Japanese and Italian researchers.