Marino Sanudo Torsello, Byzantium and the Turks: The Background to the Anti-Turkish League of 1332-1334

Marino Sanudo Torsello, Byzantium and the Turks: The Background to the Anti-Turkish League of 1332-1334

By Angeliki Laiou

Speculum, Vol. 45, No. 3, (1970)

Introduction: Marino Sanudo Torello (ca.1270-1343) stands out among the many crusading propagandist of the early fourteenth century. He shared with all of them the desire to recover the Holy Lands, and with some of them the belief that this task could only be accomplished by an attack on Egypt; but he was unique in his knowledge of the political and economic forces at work, in the practicability of many of his suggestions, and in the influence his ideas had on political developments. Perhaps the single fact that best explains Marino Sanudo’s work as a crusading propagandist is his nationality: he was a Venetian, son of a member of the Senate, born around 1270. He was a relative of the Sanudi who governed Naxos and Andro, and spent a considerable portion of his life in the “Romania,” that is, the Byzantine Empire and those parts of Greece which were under Latin rule. He acquired a profound knowledge of the the affairs of these area, of the temper of the inhabitants, of the dangers presented by the advances of Turks and Mongols; in other words, Sanudo was an expert on the affairs of the East, and was treated as such by his country as well as by the Popes and other European potentates with whom he corresponded. His nationality also greatly influenced his thought. Although he wrote, “I am not in the service of any man or commune,” and he may have believed it, his crusading projects always took into account Venice’s political and economic interests; and in the latter part of his life he probably acted as an official or unofficial Venetian envoy to the King of Naples, the Pope, the King of France.

Marino Sanudo’s work as a propagandist of the crusade has been discussed by Magnocavallo, and by Atiya among others. This article in concerned with a particular aspect of his work, that is attitude toward and his relations with Byzantium. This subject has never been treated in any detail, and yet it had ramifications of great importance. Insofar as Sanudo reflected official Venetian policy, his attitude toward the Byzantines, which developed concomitantly with his rising concern about the Turks, clarified the policy of Venice in the Levant. Marino Sanudo’s work reflected the increasing fear of the Turks that spurred Venice, the Pope, and the Byzantines to gloss over their mistrust of one another, and to form, in 1332-1334, the first European alliance against the Turks. Because they complemented and explained each other, the changes in Venetian policy and in Marino Sanudo’s attitude will be discussed together.

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