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The Foxes of Venice

The Foxes of Venice

By Marco D’Amico, Concordia University

If truth is the heart of history, then memories and relazioni can be used as a source. [1] – Sebastiano Foscarini, in Collegio, il 29 luglio 1684

Venice in 1565 - Venice, engraving by Hogenberg and Braun from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum

Historians have focused on the Italian League of 1455 as the catalyst for the development of Venetian diplomacy; most notably in the development of the role and purpose of an ambassador. According to historians like Michael Mallet, the moment the five major Italian powers came together to limit wars, to settle differences amicably and to frustrate foreign intervention in Italy, a new era of Italian diplomacy came into being.[2] Emerging as one of the major maritime powers of Europe in the late fifteenth century, there is much debate regarding how such a small republic was able to rise to such impressive levels of international prestige. Historian Donald Weinstein, among other historians, credits Venice’s “ideal geographical location” and “extensive trade networks” as the factors which allowed the Republic of St Mark to thrive in ways that other powers of the time did not.[3] The conquering of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of maritime powers such as Spain and Portugal pushed Venice to the brink of collapse. As a result, the Republic of St-Mark, which did not have nearly as many natural resources or territory as its peers, was forced to refine its diplomatic practices and create new forms of resources if it wished to prosper in a quickly shrinking maritime world. Due to constant struggle for a balance of power, both domestically and abroad, the responsibilities of ambassadors, originally tasked with ensuring good standing abroad, evolved into the first state agent for the collection of information.

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As foreign knowledge became a vital resource of the Venetian Republic, the type of information and the method in which it was recorded began to be regulated by the Venetian Senate. As the Venetian Senate rose to prominence through the rigors of the Italian Wars, their thirst for information, a vital resource for statecraft, had become evident through the ambassadorial legislation that had begun to be imposed by the mid fifteenth century. As ambassadors and their dispatches became more sophisticated and focused under the control of the Venetian Senate from the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the true significant shift in ambassadorial responsibility, which officially occurred during the 1560s, led to the professionalization of the ambassadorial profession. This paper will follow the evolution of Venetian ambassador’s dispatches prior to the implementation of the De Legato and Ricordi per Ambasciatori of the 1560s and the changes that ensued on ambassadorial practices thereinafter. These informative dispatches, evolving from simple Ricordi (unorganised recollection) to informative relazioni (Senatorial dispatch), greatly influenced Venetian state building practices and were thus increasingly important. The shift in ambassadorial responsibilities and reports was thus representative of a time of great uncertainty, secrecy and discovery; an era where the information an ambassador gathered or divulged could influence the direction of an entire state. This paper will focus on the process that led to the professionalization of ambassadorial relations and dispatches as a means to display the shift in the Venetian Senate’s political priorities, as it necessitated and enforced a constant and regular influx of foreign knowledge.

The fruition of this process became evident by the 1560s. The Venetian Senate had managed to redefine the role of its ambassadors from being one who should “advise and think whatever may best serve the preservation and aggrandizement of his own state” to information collectors[4]; collectors that “should be zealous in gathering news from all quarters.”[5] The shift in ambassadorial practice was due to a change in Venice’s political realities, as it found itself stuck in a European balance of power between the Ottomans and the Western powers (Spain, Portugal, and France). Information thus became a coveted Venetian resource, as the Senate sought to collect, store, and reference the information collected by its ambassadors for the purposes of statecraft and foreign relations with other powers. De Legato and Ricordi per Ambasciatori were two works that were issued by Senate members that properly encapsulated the reformed ambassadorial profession, as these writings dictated the priorities and behavioral norms of ambassadorial life.

Written in 1566, De Legato indicated the priorities of ambassadors while on a mission in a foreign country. As the document instructed ambassadors on the types of societal information coveted by the Senate, it imposes an encyclopedic approach to collection of information in foreign lands. The collection of information on such a large scale, and the ensuing revisions made possible through the constant influx of relazioni from ambassadors abroad, facilitated the Senate’s ability to act in a logical manner and simultaneously facilitated the internal reform of administrative or societal facets that were deemed to be lacking in respect to foreign nations (health practices, economic practices, governmental practices, military practices, etc.). In other words, even if the ambassador was sent to foreign lands for a specific mission, the ambassador was also tasked with collecting as much intelligence on the area as possible and documenting his findings in a referenceable way. For example, this guide requested ambassadors to describe the town, peoples and rulers of the foreign lands they are commissioned to visit, but it also encouraged to write about the land’s natural resources, political or military weaknesses, climate and any other “remarkable effect of nature.”[6] Collecting information in this bilateral manner is indicative of the evolution of Venetian diplomacy, as a profession that had once been utilized for the representation of states in foreign lands was, as of the sixteenth century, simultaneously being utilized as an information collector for the growing library of knowledge that became the Venetian archives.

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Similarly to the De Legato, the Ricordi per Ambasciatori, also written in the 1560s, presents fourteen paragraphs of step-by-step guidelines to succeed as an ambassador. Encouraging ambassadors to “avoid suspicion and gain the trust of their hosts” and “not waste time” in obtaining “news from all quarters”, it is clear to see the dual role ambassadors were being asked to play.[7] Juxtaposing the responsibility of collecting information next to that of foreign diplomat forced ambassadors to begin writing more refined dispatches, referred to as relazioni, while also increasing the need for secrecy and dissimulation.[8] The method in which an ambassador collected, divulged and hid information consequently became more difficult, as they “could not tell anything to other agents or ambassadors “and must “above all, avoid being caught in lies, pass doubtful information or mention their source to foreign courts.”[9] The wording of this document speaks volumes to the changing realities of Venetian diplomacy, but also to the Senate’s policy on information collection and how to process and utilize it as a resource or a means of power, both domestically and abroad. Following the Machiavellian ideal of “whoever wishes that others should tell him what they hear must tell them what he hears”, the Venetians were able to combine their use for information as both a form of domestic policy making and foreign political leverage, as “the best way to gain information is to give it.”[10] Ultimately, this change in ambassadorial protocol could not have occurred without a change in Venice’s domestic political landscape, most notably through the growing prestige of Venice’s Senate. Such a claim will become clear through the following analysis of Venetian politics in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as this paper parallels the evolution of Venetian political realities with that of their foreign diplomatic approaches.

K014717The original role of Venetian ambassadors in the 13th century was merely to represent the interests of the Republic in foreign lands.[11] Ambassadors were usually old and experienced merchants who would relay information back to their relatives in Venice; relatives whom were usually part of the ruling class of the Republic. Between 1240 and 1425, ambassadors relayed dispatches (Ricordi) back to the Great Council of Venice, but none were classified, archived or even referenced for political purposes. Historian Donald Queller established that there was “no written evidence” of these dispatches between the Great Council and their ambassadors, which consequently alludes to the lack of surviving evidence being relayed from ambassador to State. In fact, much of the information and riches that were uncovered by Venetian ambassadors, who were sly and wealthy merchants, were kept to themselves rather than relayed over to the State. The Great Council had attempted to curb any potential conflict of interest through the implementation of various incentives and fines, but, by the 1400s, most of these initiatives were swept under the rug. The fact that most ambassadors were elderly merchants in their sixties and seventies gave them a sort of political immunity from the State, as control over the Venetian Republic became a generational claim. This generational prestige based on age would ultimately, according to historian Robert Finlay, “explain Venice’s frequent misfortune in wartime.”[12] By the mid-fifteenth century, due to the expenses of war, the Venetian Senate allowed a younger generation of diplomats, reformers known as the Giovanni (Youth), to buy their way into the Senate. This influx of youth led to a complete restructuring of the Senate, where the younger diplomats favored state-based information banks and societal control rather than individual monetary gains.

Although the Great Council had issued multiple warnings pertaining to possible conflicts of interests, it was only in the fifteenth century that the Senate, now imbued with a new youth-sponsored reform , had decided to intervene with the use of a multitude of laws. By 1444, the Senate had begun to tighten the reins on ambassadors in light of their current power struggle with other Italian city-states.[13] Due to the realities of perpetual war, the Venetian Senate met with greater frequency and lamented that, in times of war, the “Republic had special need of the services” of ambassadors; yet a significant amount of citizens had begun to refuse ambassadorships due to the growing amount of state regulation. [14] The Senate had begun a top down reform of diplomacy in Venice by the beginning of the fifteenth century; it began to restrict the activities of the Doge, the head of State, with any foreign diplomat. In 1441, the Senate would establish a set of regulations relating to how foreign embassies were to be treated and questioned, which meant that they monopolized the very flow of foreign and domestic knowledge. [15] Through the limitation of their salary, benefits and political advantages, the Venetian ambassador became an employee of the state; one molded by his employers to fit their specific “needs”. Ultimately the faceless oligarchy of the Venetian Republic guarded its powers with fantastic jealousy and secrecy, while also sustaining their existence with a constant influx of knowledge from their ambassadors.

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Francesco Guicciardini
Francesco Guicciardini

As Guicciardini observed, the first decades of the sixteenth century taught the Venetians that “knowing well the art of defense” was better “than engaging the enemy in battle.”[16] By the mid- fifteenth century, the best possible defense for this maritime republic lay in the constant collection and utilization of knowledge for purposes of statecraft and policy making. Consequently, dispatches were being written regularly in 1425 and legally enforced by 1524; ambassadors were expected to send periodic and concise relays of information back to the Senate on a regular basis.[17] These dispatches were read, censored and stored by the Senate, however, what was included within these dispatches varied depending on the ambassador and his personal relations with the foreign administrations. The focus of diplomats in the fifteenth century was to report on their relationship with foreign leaders and the general activities of the foreign state in which they resided.[18] Due to its competition between Italian city states and the Ottomans, the Venetian Senate’s growing need for pertinent and timely knowledge ultimately forced the diversification of the role of the ambassador, as the foreign diplomats were forced to evolve into multi-tasking information collectors.

As embassies were costly enterprises to maintain, ambassadors were sent to specific locations for specific political and economic interests. One example of the early forms of Venetian dispatches can be found in the letter of Ambassador Pietro Pasqualigo, who wrote back to the Senate in 1501, after having met with the Portuguese King, Manuel I. The ambassador was sent to Portugal after the Senate caught wind of Portugal’s discovery and colonization of the New World. The Senate strategically sought a rapprochement with the emerging maritime empire due to the impending Ottoman threat in the Adriatic Sea.[19] Having previously ignored Portugal for the better part of a century, Venice immediately sent Pietro Pasqualigo to Portugal in an effort to learn of Manuel I’s intentions in the New World, while also attempting to reaffirm their friendly relations and gain an ally in Venice’s impending war with the Ottomans. Upon hearing of the Portuguese voyages of Cabral, the Senate established a “greater importance on the voyages than the Turkish War or any war that might take place.”[20] It is interesting to observe the Senate’s view of Portugal shift from that of a potential political ally to a political competitor that was harboring coveted knowledge; knowledge that, according to the Senate, could change the very fabric of European reality. The Senate’s prioritization of foreign knowledge displays a change that is indicative of the realities of the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries; a reality that displayed the importance of information, most notably through the ambassador’s ability to both extract and conceal valuable knowledge.

In what records were salvaged of his relazione to the Senate, Pasqualigo’s discussion with the King presented a very disorganized burst of ideas.[21] This speech, which included topics like the New World and the “Turkish threat”, was used as a means to praise the Portuguese King in an effort to grant the cunning Venetian sanctuary in Lisbon; unknowingly allowing the fox to uncover the secrets of the lion’s den .[22] Displaying mastery in flattery and dissimulation, the Venetian ambassador had ensured his relationship with the hegemon of the state, while simultaneously uncovering information that was kept secret by the monarchy through informants or sailors. Although Pasqualigo never received a response from Manuel I that would shed light on the matters of the New World, the ambassador was able to gain most of his information through his interactions with sailors in Lisbon harbor through bribes, acquaintances and, in certain occasions, the trading of information. Upon analysing the relazioni of Pasqualigo, Weinstein mentions that Venice’s downfall was its lack of ambassadorial presence in Portugal, as it did not consider Portugal to be a power worth investing their time in. In relation to such scenarios as the aforementioned Portuguese mission, Venice, by the late 1400s, had begun establishing permanent embassies in an effort to ensure a constant relationship with foreign states and a constant influx of foreign information, an idea that was previously refuted by the Council and the Senate of Venice.[23] Therefore, the sixteenth century saw a quick change in Venice’s international and ambassadorial policy; one where Ambassadors were chosen differently, dispatched based on the Senate’s convenience, forced to write their findings, encouraged to spy and, on some occasion, divulge certain information in exchange for foreign knowledge or to stave off their international peers. [24]

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Similarly to Pasqualigo’s dispatch, this report on behalf of an unknown ambassador, which we will refer to as the Dispatch of 1500 for the purposes of this paper, was written at the very beginning of the sixteenth century. The unknown ambassador did not share the same professionalism as that of Pasqualigo, as his dispatch appears to be more of a critique than that of a detailed report. It contains an extraordinary mix of information and misinformation; however it did not include any valuable information to Venetian diplomacy.[25] Describing both English women as very” passionate and violent lovers” and men as “discreet lovers,” this relazione from the year 1500 indicates general and yet unrelated opinions about a people rather than any form of practical or strategic knowledge that could benefit the Senate. [26] Although the Dispatch of 1500 did relay information about the love life of English citizens, it is clear that the standardization of ambassadorial priorities when abroad was not something that occurred instantly. Such a standardization process needed time and refinement to reach the prestige that had been bestowed upon the Venetian relazioni; something that will become evident through the analysis of ambassador: Sebastian Giustinian.

Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors, 1533, oil on panel.  National Gallery, London
Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors, 1533, oil on panel. National Gallery, London

As the Senate’s standardization of the ambassadorial profession increased, the ensuing relazioni that would be dispatched by Venetian ambassadors became much more detailed; essentially these dispatches were the Senate’s attempt at producing webs of referenceable knowledge which they could then utilize to contextualize their current international and domestic quarrels and act upon them. Consequently, the relazioni of Sebastian Giustinian, the ambassador of London during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547), are far more concise and informative than those of Pasqualigo or the Dispatch of 1500. These relazioni, written in 1517,display a significant difference in structure, as the ambassador’s response to the Senate included a significant amount of context.[27] Although the year of 1517 is not significant the history of the relazione per se, the use of 1517 allowed one to acknowledge a significant change in the content of the relazione from what had previously been included by former ambassadors. For example, Giustinian’s relazione mentioned to the Senate what information he chose to conceal from the English Court, effectively “omitting such parts” that did not “seem suited” for his “purpose.”[28] According to the English Court, Giustinian was sent to Henry VII after a misunderstanding between London and Venice in an effort to reconcile relations between both maritime empires. However, once the pleasantries were documented, Giustinian’s purpose in London became clear, as his relazioni focused on the “intelligence” he had gained from court officials and other ambassadors.[29] Although he did not provide an in-depth analysis of English society or English politics, Giustinian was adept in obtaining inside information on the dealings of other European powers ( Spain, Portugal, Holy Roman Empire) with lesser states (Flanders, Tournai, and Scotland).[30] This coveted information thus allowed the Senate to slither through the restrictive political confines that it had been limited to by the emergence of new foreign powers, while also serving as a referenceable compendium of knowledge that could be used for future policy making.

Through the comparison of Pasqualigo and Giustinian’s relazioni, it becomes evident to the reader that a greater importance had been placed on the secret collection of knowledge than the ambassadorial relations with foreign leaders of state. With Giustinian writing twenty relazioni in 1517 alone, the frequency of the relazioni had increased from the usual norm of two or three per year. Furthermore, Giustinian’s relazioni also included various postscripts in each individual letter; discussing topics like “warlike preparations” of foreign powers, possible “confederacy between all the Princes of Christendom” and possible secret “marriage alliances.”[31] These postscripts, which displayed a significantly profound focus on secret information that could serve the Senate, demonstrate a shift in the kinds of information that was coveted by the State. Pasqualigo’s relazioni are concise depictions of his relationship with King Manuel I, but he does not seem to have a penchant for a diverse and constant flow of coveted information. In contrast to Pasqualigo, Giustinian records his own personal relations with the English Court , informative insights into English state affairs, and, most importantly, any droplet of foreign state affairs ( English or other) that would be of service to Venetian statecraft and policy making. Proof of this is found in one of Giustinian’s relazioni as he apologizes to the Senate for not reporting anything for twenty-seven days, as he claimed that “nothing has happened worthy of your knowledge.”[32] Giustinian’s choice of words further cement the growing influence the Senate had on ambassadorial responsibility, as the ambassador’s perception of valuable knowledge was ultimately defined by the Senate to serve their purposes and assist them in state craft.

Queller states that “a fully developed Venetian relazione of the sixteenth century or later was quite different from a final report on the conduct and outcome of a mission” and “that they would provide a broad and comprehensive synthesis.”[33] Queller also believes that “Venetian ambassadors performed their duty so well,” and later attributes this increase in diplomatic efficiency to the Senate’s grasp of control on ambassadors.[34] Consequently, the role of ambassadors became professionalized through the creation of such a document. Ambassadors were tasked with collecting a wider range of information, as the Senate sought to create its own information bank and utilize it for its own political purposes. The following passage, taken from the Ricordi per Ambasciatori document, will display the kinds of information the Senate was interesting in collecting:

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1) The ambassador should describe the land, its boundaries; its provinces, principle cities, ports and fortresses; bishops and archbishops principal rivers, villages mountains, woods and passes.

2) It is necessary to discuss the natural resources: climate, water, fertility, mines, animals; whether the country consists of mountains, woods, plains or swamps, and where; what part is more inhabited; and any other remarkable effect of nature.

3) He must discuss the inhabitants, their customs and habits; their color, stature, disposition; their religion; their preparation for war by land and sea; their arts and commerce; the aristocracy, its wealth, nobility and following; the nature and condition of the common people.

4) Finally it is necessary to come to the ruler: his ancestry, person, life and customs, how he is like by his subjects; his income and expenses; his guard; his court and with that rulers he has friendships and enmities.[35]

According to Queller, this document “is highly systematic, formal and even humanistic in tone.”[36] Describing the relazione as “organised essays of the country visited”, the historian views the implementation of this new structured approach to ambassadorial dispatches as a means of “providing information to the profit of Venice” through the collection of “empirical data” with a notable “humanistic influence.”[37] Consequently, this document represents the very essence of Venice’s power during the sixteenth century, as ambassadors began to utilize this document as a means to properly structure and include all empirical data sought by the State. Evidence of such a shift in practice is made possible through the analysis of Gianfrancesco Morosini and Girolamo Lippomano’s relazioni from Madrid and Istanbul, and their importance in shaping Venice policy on the eve of the Habsburg-Ottoman wars.

Morosini liked to depict the social structures of the countries in which he served. According to the summary of his dispatches, historian James C. Davis describes Morosini’s dispatches as concise summaries of “the distribution of wealth in Spain, the magnificence and political impotence of its rulers and the regional differences in the King’s control.”[38] Essentially following the relazione structure that had been put in place twenty years earlier by the Venetian Senate, one can immediately observe Morosini’s professionalized approach as he begins his dispatch with the following passage: “Most of the men in this country are small in stature and dark in complexion, haughty if they belong to the upper classes or prudently humble if they are common people, and unsuited for any kind of work.”[39] Following the outline imposed by the Ricordi per Ambasciatori, the primary focus of the ambassador is to relay a structured societal analysis of foreign lands. The ambassador continues his explanations by discussing the royal family, not for military purposes, but to understand the family line and all its members individually. Describing King Philip II as a king of “separate states”, the ambassador then describes the governmental structure from towns to provinces to the State.[40] Going on to describe the lives of nobles, professionals and city dwellers, Morosini’s description of Spain under Philip II is written in essay format, divided into the four subcategories that had been brought forth by the Ricordi per Ambasciatori document.

Venice by Francesco Guardi (1712–1793)

After his first all-encompassing relazione of 1581, Morosini was succeeded by Girolamo Lippomano, as Morosini was transferred to Istanbul due to the Ottoman threat in the Adriatic sea. Before turning our attentions to Morosini’s work in Istanbul, it is imperative that one observe the work of Lippomano, as, building upon the work of Morosini, continued to describe all the facets of Spain. Writing in 1586, Lippomano described the inhabitants of Spain, King Philip II and the royal family in depth, while also taking a great deal of time to discuss the “friendships and enmities” of the King. It is interesting to note that all forms of information were neatly organised, but that any major changes that occurred in Spain between 1581 and 1586 were written in cipher to avoid the suspicion of a paranoid monarch. The following passage illustrates the aforementioned phenomenon, as Lippomano, who had read all of Morosini’s relazioni before leaving for Madrid, attempted to amend certain truths: “Anyone who ponders this king’s way of life, how he enjoys staying in Spain and how unwillingly he wrestles with problems, is sure to conclude that when he can the king will stay at peace with everyone and keep far from the noise of battle. If he does start a fight with anyone, it will be with the infidels (Turks), because he could attack them without having to go in person; his soldiers would run all the dangers.”[41] Lippomano had utilized his third section, the section which discusses the monarch and the royal family, had directly refuted Morosini’s depiction of the King as a “strong leader” and had instead proven, through the gathering of information through Spanish records and other ambassadors, that the King of Spain was actually more cowardly than previously thought. [42]

Lippomano’s relazione allows one to see Venice’s growing understanding of Spain’s societal structures and international relations. Consequently, all ambassadors can travel to their targeted areas after having studied the plethora of information provided in the relazioni of ambassador such as Morosini, while also allowing the Senate to tap into these “archives of gold” when attempting to decide on a political course of action. In 1588, upon hearing that Spain, who would take part in the Ottoman-Habsburg war five years later, had begun to build their armies to attack the Ottomans, the Senate sent the following dispatch to Lippomano: “From many quarters we hear of the success of the Armada in numbers and victories. We order you to offer our congratulations and appreciation to his Majesty.”[43] The Ottoman-Habsburg wars, a war fought primarily for religious purposes between the Catholic Habsburg monarchs and the Muslim Ottomans, forced Venice to take a stance on the matter. Venice ultimately chose to align itself with the Habsburgs, but it was not without the consultation of the relazioni that had been written by Lippomano and Morosini; in both Madrid and Istanbul.

Morosini’s stay in Istanbul played an equally important part in provided coveted information on the societal on-goings of the mysterious Ottomans. James C Davis believed that Morosini” knew this empire (Ottomans) better than any westerner as they had not only observed first hand for years as Venetian representatives, but traveled its waters as merchants and copied its foreign policies as statesmen.”[44] Davis conclusion is spot on, as Morosini displays the same thematic structure which had been imposed by the Senate twenty years prior to his relazioni. Being stationed in Istanbul directly after his appointment in Madrid had ended; Morosini was tasked with collecting as much about these foreign lands as possible. Acknowledging the importance of his task, Morosini begins his dispatch with the following passage: “Of all subjects this excellent Council can discuss, none is so important and deserves so much more attention as the great sultan of Turkey, his empire, his people, his forces, his wealth, and his form of government.”[45] Morosini wasted no time in diving in to the intricate societal structures of the Ottoman Empire, as he followed the Ricordi per Ambasciatori to the letter and provided detailed information on everything he observed.

For example, Morosini’s in depth description of the “thirty-seven kingdoms” which “spanned three parts of the world (Africa, Europe and Asia)” and were ruled by “princes” who acted as “regional ministers” of the land.[46] Furthermore, Morosini describes the security and military figures of the Ottoman army. Morosini describes the Turkish army through the following passage: “The sultan always had about 280,000 well-paid men in his service. This includes 80,000 high militants called janissaries and 200,000 cavalry called timariots. However, according to witnesses who saw them in earlier times, they are not as good as they used to be. Nonetheless, they are well-made men who are accustomed to hardship and insist on guarding the person of the sultan of Turkey.”[47] Displaying a similar methodology as his relazione of Spain in 1581, Morosini’s 1586 relazione of Turkey provided the necessary bank of information the Venetian Senate needed to begin developing a response to the threat of Turkish invasion, as the Senate was able to use this new information on state administration and military forces for the purposes of international policy and internal reform. Such a claim is confirmed by the Senate’s 1588 response to Girolamo Lippomano in Madrid, as they elected to side with the stronger Spaniards, rather than the “economically-driven and ill-prepared Ottomans.”[48] Morosini’s belief that the Ottomans, who were military centered specifically in Istanbul, left them vulnerable to attacks on its three vast fronts (Africa, Europe and Asia).

The relazioni written by the ambassadors prior to the De Legato and Ricordi per Ambasciatori, as seen through the dispatches of 1501 and Pasqualigo, were mostly glorified gossip reports from arbitrary ambassadors. Without much structure or future purposes, mostly all dispatches were disposed of by the Doge and the pre-reform Senate from 1425 to 1560. Sebastien Giustinian, who was stationed in London during the reign of Henry VII , displayed a certain structure in his analysis, and represented the first instances of the professionalization of the ambassadorial profession. Providing a plethora of referenceable information to the Senate, Giustinian was one of the first ambassadors to weave what would become a web of information banks; ultimately becoming known as the Venetian state archives. The collection of information on such a large scale, and the ensuing revisions made possible through the constant influx of relazioni from ambassadors abroad, facilitated the Senate’s ability to act in a logical manner and simultaneously facilitated administrative or societal reforms in instances where the Senate deemed itself to be lacking in respect to foreign nations . As the Senate’s control over the ambassadorial profession became complete by the 1560s, it released two documents that would ensure that future ambassadors would follow the same approach to the collection of empirical data with a hint of humanist methodology.

The De Legato and Ricordi per Ambasciatori, which were released in 1560 and 1566 respectively, acted as the “how to” guide to being an ambassador. As it detailed the structure, types of information and maximum time lapse between dispatches, the Senate had ensured the constant influx of empirical data into Venice. Having access to these information banks allowed Venice to keep its head above water during the flooding of European powers in the Mediterranean. Ultimately, as seen through Morosini and Lippomano, the professionalized essay-styled approach to writing relazioni presented a more scientific form of foreign diplomacy; the dual purpose of assisting in state building and foreign policy. Ultimately, Venice’s rise to dominance in the sixteenth century can largely be attributed to its penchant for information and its reform of ambassadorial responsibilities. Due to the disastrous consequences of ignoring the on-goings of their Mediterranean neighbors, such as their ignorance of Portugal prior to the rise of Manuel I, the Venetian Senate fostered, reformed and sustained a professional approach to foreign relations and information collecting; a methodology that would fascinated intellectuals such as Jean-Baptiste Colbert and Francis Bacon. In the end, Venice’s rise as both an economic and military power during the sixteenth century can be, in part, related to the professionalization of the ambassadorial profession. In his book Della Ragion di Stato, Giovanni Botero cements such a claim through the following passage: “And since counselors and ambassadors are those who deal most often with secret matters, they should be selected for their acute minds, for their taciturnity, and there foresight.”[49] Such a passage, written by a Venetian in 1598, mirrors the Senate’s choice to value knowledge and information over wisdom and age; a shift in political activity that served the small city-state quite well during the sixteenth century. Venice was simply a city-state that sought to create an information bank that would serve the present and the future, as a means to ensure the sustainability of one of the most intriguing states in European history.

My name is Marco D’Amico and I’m a graduate student in history at Concordia University. My interests in history lie in the production and consumption of knowledge and culture in contemporary China. However, being of Italian descent, I became extremely interested in applying the same methods in my current research to something a little closer to home. Hope you enjoy!

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Mattingly, Garret, Renaissance Diplomacy ( New York: Cosimo Classics, 2009), 109.

Queller, Donald E., Medieval Diplomacy and the Fourth Crusade ( London: Valorium Reprints, 1980), pp 655-671.

Queller, Donald E,, “The Development of Ambassadorial Relazioni,” in J.R.Hale, Renaissance Venice (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), pp 174-196, 186.

Queller, Donald E., Early Venetian Legislation on Ambassadors (Geneva, Travaux D’Humanisme et Renaissance, 1966), 36.

Weinstein, Donald, Ambassador From Venice: Pietro Pasqualigo in Lisbon, 1501 ( Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 1960).

End Notes

[1] “Se la verità è l’anima della storia, della verità storica le memorie e le relazioni possono dirsi la fonte.” In N. Barozzi & G. Berchet, Le relazioni degli stati europei lette al Senato dagli ambasciatori veneti nel secolo decimosettimo, serie II, vol. III (Nabu Press, Venezia, 2012), 353.

[2] Michael Mallter, Ambassadors and their audiences in Renaissance Italy, Renaissance Studies Vol. 8 (1994), p 229-243, 230.

[3] Donald Weinstein, Ambassador From Venice: Pietro Pasqualigo in Lisbon, 1501 ( Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 1960), 6.

[4] Garret Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy( New York: Cosimo Classics, 2009), 109.

[5]Maggi, Ottaviano. De legato; libri dvo. 1566. http://books.google.ca/books?id=f2uIm8DIiO0C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false ( last accessed April 9, 2014).

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Settimo, quando occore di dover ottenere qualche cosa importante da loro non mettere tempo in mezzo a farla espedire, studiarsi per ogni via>“Ricordi per Ambasciatori: con un epilogo breve di quelle cosec he si ricercano per fare una Relazione,” reproduced in full in , Donald E. Queller, Medieval Diplomacy and the Fourth Crusade ( London: Valorium Reprints, 1980), pp 655-671, 667.

[8] Donald E. Queller, Medieval Diplomacy and the Fourth Crusade ( London: Valorium Reprints, 1980), pp 655-671, 661

[9] < Con gli altri Agenti o Ambasciatori sia chi si voglia non si scopri mai del tutto, ma cerchi piu tosto di cavare da loro che lasciarsi torre del suo. Sopra ogni cosa, guardarsi di non esser colto in bugia, massimamente in cose d’importanza, percioche a questo modo presto si perderebe il credito. Loande bisogna havere avvertenza dinon esponere le cose dubbie per certe ne sopra il parlare d’altrui> >“Ricordi per Ambasciatori con un epilogo breve di quelle cosec he si ricercano per fare una Relazione,” reproduced in full in, Donald E. Queller, Medieval Diplomacy and the Fourth Crusade, 669.

[10] Niccolo Macchiavelli, Memoriale a Rafaello Girolami quando ai 23 ottobre parti per Spagna all’imperatore,” in Donald E. Queller, Medieval Diplomacy and the Fourth Crusade, 657.

[11] Donald E. Queller, “The Development of Ambassadorial Relazioni,” in J.R.Hale, Renaissance Venice (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), pp 174-196, 186.

[12] Robert Finlay, “The Venetian Republic as a gerontocracy: age and politics in the Renaissance,” in Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Vol. 8, no 2, pp 157-178, 167.

[13] Donald E. Queller, Early Venetian Legislation on Ambassadors(Geneva, Travaux D’Humanisme et Renaissance, 1966), 36.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid, 52.

[16]William Hardy McNeill, Venice the Hinge of Europe, 1081-1797 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 25.

[17] Donald E. Queller, “The Development of Ambassadorial Relazioni,” in J.R.Hale, Renaissance Venice, 186.

[18] Ibid, 182.

[19] Weinstein Donald, Ambassador From Venice, 29 `     

[20] 1501, October 18 “Espionage letter of Pietro Pasqualigo from Lisbon to the Doge of Venice,” in Donald Weinstein, Ambassador From Venice, pp 43-51, 45.

[21] 1501, October 18 “Espionage letter of Pietro Pasqualigo from Lisbon to the Doge of Venice,” in Donald Weinstein, Ambassador From Venice, 46.

[22] Weinstein Donald, Ambassador From Venice, 66.

[23] Donald E. Queller, “The Development of Ambassadorial Relazioni,” in J.R.Hale, Renaissance Venice, 180.

[24] Ibid, 180.

[25] A Relation, or rather a True Account, of the Island of England; with sundry particulars of the customs of these People, and of the royal revenues under King Henry the Seventh. about the year 1500 , Camden Old Series Vol. 37 ( April 1847), pp 7 – 54 , 5. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S2042169900003862 (About DOI), Published online: 23 February 2010

[26] Ibid.

[27] Rawdon Brown, Four Years at the Court of Henry VIII, Vol. II ( London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1854) pp 132-163, 132.

[28] “Despatches of Sebastian Giustinian From the Court of Henry VIII,” in Four Years at the Court of Henry VIII, Vol. II ( London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1854) pp 132-163, 132.

[29] Ibid, 136.

[30] Ibid, 137.

[31] Ibid, 141-167.

[32] Ibid, 142.

[33] Donald E. Queller, “The Development of Ambassadorial Relazioni,” in J.R.Hale, Renaissance Venice, 175.

[34] Ibid.

[35] “1) L’ambasciatore deve descrivere la terra, i suoi confini; le sue province, principali città, porti e fortezze; vescovi e arcivescovi principali fiumi, villaggi montagne, boschi e passaggi.

2) E ‘necessario discutere delle risorse naturali: il clima, l’acqua, la fertilità, le miniere, gli animali; se il paese è costituito da montagne, boschi, pianure e paludi, e dove; quale parte è più abitato; e qualsiasi altro effetto notevole di natura.

3) Deve discutere gli abitanti, i loro usi e costumi; il loro colore, la statura, la disposizione; la loro religione; la loro preparazione per la guerra per terra e per mare; le loro arti e del commercio; l’aristocrazia, la sua ricchezza, la nobiltà e successivo; la natura e la condizione della gente comune.

4) Infine è necessario venire al sovrano: la sua ascendenza, persona, vita e costumi, come lui è come dai suoi sudditi; il suo reddito e le spese; la sua guardia; la sua corte e che i governanti non ha amicizie e inimicizie” reproduced in full in Donald E. Queller, Medieval Diplomacy and the Fourth Crusade ( London: Valorium Reprints, 1980), pp 655-671, 664

[36] Donald E. Queller, Medieval Diplomacy and the Fourth Crusade ( London: Valorium Reprints, 1980), pp 655-671, 667. 665

[37] Ibid.

[38] Pursuit of Power: Venetian Ambassadors’ Reports on Spain , Turkey and France in the Age of Philip II , 1560-1600, trans. James C. Davis( New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1970), 70..

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid, 77.

[41] Ibid 83.

[42] Ibid, 75.

[43] Ibid 112.

[44] Ibid 127.

[45] Ibid, 128.

[46] Ibid, 129.

[47] Ibid, 133.

[48] Ibid. 131

[49] “E perche I Consiglieri e gli Ambasciatori sgliono essere ministry ordinary de secreti debbonsi eleggere a cotali office persone, e per natura, e per industria cupe, e di molta accortezza” Giovanni Botero, Della Ragion di Stato: Libri Dieci con Tre Libri delle Cause della Grandezza e Magnificenza della Cita, https://archive.org/stream/dellaragiondista00bote#page/n9/mode/2up. ( Last Acessed April 4, 2014)

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