Family Zénehat, Undated Business Letter, c. 1670

My name is Aahil Zénehat and it is the year 1670. My family and I live here in the region of Galata within Constantinople. We live here happily within the Ottoman Empire. I have followed the tradition, set by my forefathers, of staying out of politics. However, recently with the empire at war with the Venetians it has become difficult to ignore politics. Yet, the Cretan War was recently brought to an end with the surrender of Candia.[1] Just during the last year Candia surrendered and this surrender resulted in the defeat of the Venetians within Crete. While I do not care for these politics or try to take sides, I do feel badly over the fate of my Venetian friends who are affected by this defeat.

However, they are not the only ones who are affected by the Venetians’ defeat. Here in Constantinople we have been affected by the surrender as well. We are affected by it because of the numerous Cretans moving here in the hopes of escaping from the awful piracy that is now plaguing Crete. Many also have come here as janissaries in hopes to seize all the opportunities they possibly can.[2] I have spoken to some of these Cretans and it is really interesting to hear what they have said about their previous home. Most of these individuals are renegades who have forsaken their previous ways in favor of joining the Islamic faith.[3]  They have all spoken of the fear and dread felt by everyone in Crete about the piracy that is so prevalent there. And that was not the only big problem in Crete.  According to the Cretans, there were also problems with agriculture and class tension. They often speak of problems obtaining enough wheat to sustain the island, because of the fact that the major crop on the island has been grapes so that the island’s landowners could make wine to sell.[4]

[1] Molly Greene, A Shared World: Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002), 18-19.

[2] Ibid., 33-44.

[3] Ibid., 39-40, 95.

[4] Ibid., 62-67.


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