In the Sultan’s Realm: Two Venetian Reports on the Early Modern Ottoman Empire
(Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2018) is Professor Eric Dursteler
’s translation of two final diplomatic reports (relazione
) that Venetian ambassadors delivered upon their return to that Most Serene Republic at the turn of the seventeenth century—Lorenzo Bernardo in 1590 and Ottaviano Bon in 1609. These were polished and summative works performed before the assembled government of Venice detailing the politics and culture of the Ottoman Empire and its dealings with other powers. They offer insight about the work—and sometimes game—of early modern diplomacy; they aspire to a explain the character and spirit of the Sultan and his empire, in the process revealing even more about Venice and her agents.
In this discussion, Professor Dursteler describes the early modern Mediterranean world, its arrangement and political issues, and its changes in the wake of the Battle of Lepanto (1571). He also talks about slavery, corsairs and piracy, and the Ottoman devşirme system (“blood tax” or “child levy”) that enslaved children from tributary states into its imperial administration, military, and harem. At the same time, this integration of cultures contributed to the multi-national and cosmopolitan empire (or ‘composite state’) unlike any other in the Mediterranean. Dursteler discusses gender and sex in the imagination of Early Modern Venice and in the cultural memory of both the West and East, and how it has changed. Finally, Dr. Dursteler invites us to think comparatively about early modern fears of the plague, and our current crisis—this was recorded in April of 2020—of pandemic.
Eric Dursteler is Professor of History at Brigham Young University.
Krzysztof Odyniec is a historian of the Early Modern Spanish Empire specializing on culture, diplomacy, and travel. He completed his PhD in 2017 at UC Berkeley and he is currently writing a book on the first resident ambassadors in Habsburg Spain.