Between the Sultan and the Doge: Diplomats and Spies at the Time of Suleiman the Magnificent

Between the Sultan and the Doge: Diplomats and Spies at the Time of Suleiman the Magnificent

By Snezhana Rakova

Centre for Advance Study Working Paper Series, Issue 8, 2016

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

Introduction: This project deals with the times of Suleiman the Magnificent (1522–1566) and the doge Andrea Gritti (1523–1538). However, the basic problem it focuses on is information – the information that Venice collected through its diplomatic envoys in the capital on the Bosporus and which is preserved to this day in the Venetian archives.

Of course, the gathering of information on the Turks, the appearance and development of the so-called genre “delle cose dei Turchi” certainly did not first arise at that time. Interest in the subject goes back to Byzantine times and naturally continued after the conquest of Constantinople. Venice was in a most advantageous situation in this respect, for it had knowledge about the territories and its population accumulated over centuries, as well as commercial and economic ties of centuries’ standing with various cities and ports. This knowledge and these skills were handed down over the years by its officials, merchants and diplomats and preserved through documents in its archives.

Venice played a major role in collecting information and carrying it over from the East to the West. Merchants were the most active factors in this activity. Subsequently, especially in the 16th century, these processes achieved a completed form with the development of diplomatic practices and the functioning of the Venetian system of governance, developed into numerous offices and chancelleries of the Serenissima. Their most outstanding manifestations were the famous Venetian relazioni – the reports by diplomatic envoys of the Republic, ceremoniously presented to the Senate. Te first preserved written texts of this kind date back to the late 15th century.

Click here to read this paper on

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!