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
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.