Conversion and Convergence in the Venetian-Ottoman Borderlands
By E. Natalie Rothman
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Vol. 41:3 (2011)
Introduction: In the spring of 1627, an unusual party set foot in the Venetian Casa delle Zitelle, an institution for teenage girls in danger of “moral corruption.” Heading the delegation was Ahmed Ağa Šatorović, the former Ottoman dizdar (castellan) of K lis, a strategic fortress at the edge of the Ottoman province of Bosnia. Ahmed’s entourage included his brother-in-law Hassan, some slaves, and two interpreters appointed by the Venetian government, one for Turkish, and one for Slavic. Ahmed was also carrying a letter from Sultan Murad IV urging the Venetian doge to see to the release of Ahmed’s daughter, who had resided in the Zitelle for the past five years, from her supposed imprisonment. In response, the group was taken on two carefully orchestrated tours of the premises, where Ahmed was united with his daughter. The visit concluded with a tearful but satisfied father bidding farewell to a daughter who by 1627 had become a model Catholic convert and a staunch Venetian. This outcome is noteworthy considering that the affair embroiled the highest echelons of the Ottoman and Venetian states. It is all the more remarkable given the two sides’ conflicting claims about the circumstances of the girl’s departure from home and conversion in 1622, the significance of Dalmatia for Ottoman and Venetian geopolitics, and the long history of intercommunity strife in this Venetian-Ottoman-Habsburg borderlands region.