Family Sanudo, 1718

Alberto Sanudo to his father on Crete

Dear Father,

The year is 1718 and my name is Alberto Sanudo.  My family resides on the island of Crete where my father is the leader of the local military force designated to protect the island.  Three weeks ago I was sailing in one of my twelve merchant ships around the southern edge of Morea when a corsair from Malta attacked my vessel and captured my ship.  He then left my crew as well as me on a barren rock where we were lucky enough to be rescued by a ship sailing just a few miles behind us.  I have sent a representative to the Tribunale degli Armamenti to plead my case before them.  The Knights of Malta do not know this, but I have enlisted the help of Mario, my Catholic friend, to act in my behalf to gain a better chance of success.  He already has the proper passports and documentation to safely and legally reach the Tribunal.  I have already spoken with the French consul in Venice and made him aware of my case as well as getting the notary public to sign off on the twenty eyewitness accounts of the event.  I even went as far as paying Mario to acquire a letter from the bishop of Morea.  With all the evidence as well as the strong documentation I will present I have faith that I will be compensated in some degree.  Another factor in my favor is that I can argue that the waters in which I was attacked were still in Venetian hands due to the fact that the way, though not in the favor or the previously mentioned, is still ongoing.  I just hope that this endeavor will not land me in debt with all the expenses of paying for the accommodations for my friend as well as for the proper documentation.

Very respectfully,

your son Alberto



Family Sanudo, 1690

Mario Sanudo

I was going through our family records last week and came upon an interesting case that happened over 100 years ago in the 1580s.  It was a case where one of my grandfathers was forced to sue a Greek merchant.  It all started when this Greek merchant began to steal from my grandfather’s ships. Though our family has been long known for protecting our island of Crete we acquired a few merchant vessels as a gift for our services in the Janissary Corps.  This gave our family even more power in the region and this caused other competitors to resort to illegal measures to try and keep up.  The added pressure from the Ottomans and the Habsburgs leaving the Mediterranean after the battle of Lepanto in 1571; this allowed for pirates to move in.  The Greek Merchant was Eastern Orthodox and this gave him some respite from the Christian pirates of Malta.  What this merchant would do is tell the Christian pirates when our ships would set off and once captured he would gain a portion of the profit.  As he was operating out of Candia made him subject to our laws as well.

So once my grandfather acquired a number of witnesses he took him to our courts.  As a result of the evidence my grandfather was awarded two of the merchant’s ships.  He then allowed the Greek to continue to run the vessels with the promise to pay an annual percentage from the two vessels.

Now I understand how our family got to become so prominent in the merchant fleet of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Family Sanudo, Undated Journal Fragments from the Year 1678

….Hello all, my name is Giuseppe Sanudo.  The year is 1678 and I have found myself in Algiers.  I am currently in the Janissary corps which has brought my father great honor as I am very proficient at my duties.  I have ended up in North Africa as a crewman on one of the most prestigious corsairs in the Southern Mediterranean.   We oftentimes fly the flag of friendly countries to gain ground on the European merchant ships, this has proved to be a very effective method.  Once we bring the captives to port it is one of my secondary duties to figure out who has the most potential of gaining a ransom or more importantly who has skills as a shipwright.  It seems as though all the good ones end up in Constantinople for some reason or another.  The unskilled workers I have ordered back onto the boat to put them to use as oarsmen.[1]  The conditions my captain puts them under are terrible.  The hardtack that they give them is not fit for a dog; luckily I am not a dog.

…My name is Carmela Sanudo I was captured on my voyage to go live with my brother Giuseppe. He has a very good job and has plenty of room for me, or that is had plenty of room for me.  We were boarded by a Dutch renegade who was extremely rude as well as violent.  He chained us below deck and did not feed us until just before we reached landfall two days later.  Once on shore I was given to the Dey of Algiers as a house servant.  Some say I was worth more than the galley slaves my brother use to speak of in his letters; I guess it costs more for me to look presentable and let everyone know that the Dey is wealthy enough to give his slaves new garments and a hot meal.  I hope to talk to the Dey and somehow let him know that my brothers ultimately work for him as a Janissary.   Maybe this along with a price from my brother, if he sees it fit, will grant me my freedom.

[1] Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, The Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 69-85.

Family Sanudo, 1615

My name is Basilion Sanudo the year is 1615 and I am currently the head of the Sanudo family.  Times are becoming more complicated for my family in these times.  The jobs on Crete are not as plentiful as they once were.  I am having trouble finding work for my sons, and I do not wish for them to fall into debt.  All is not lost though; the powerful Ottoman Empire is just north of us and I believe that this may be the answer to our problems.   I suggested to my sons Arrigo and Adalfieri that it would be wise for them to make a move north and try and find work elsewhere.

My son Arrigo found his way into the Turkish arsenal in Constantinople working on the ship as a caulker which from what he has told me that he earns 20 akce a day.[1]  From what I understand there is already 3000 Candia people in Galata.[2]  Arrigo plans to stay there for some time so he went through the bailo to transfer his house to me.  I have also been in contact with the baili to see if he could grant him a document of fede; this would help him socially as well as open more opportunities for him economically.  I believe that my argument is sound enough for this to work.  After all I reminded the bailo that it was my family that helped defend some of his trading interested in Crete and that I may be willing to lend more of my family if need be.  Arrigo tells me that he has converted to Islam; though I personally believe he is doing this to gain favor with his Ottoman superiors.  He always was the one to anything to get ahead in any situation.

My other son Adalfieri took work on a Venetian merchant ship but unfortunately I have bad news in his case.  I learned that recently his ship was captured by privateers I’m guessing either the Knights Stefano or Hospitaller.[3]  If I know him he will do anything to get back home so I think he has become one of them but I cannot be certain.

[1] Eric R. Dursteler, Venetians in Contantinople: Nations, Identity, and coexistence in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Maryland: John Hopkins University Press,2006), 80.

[2] Idid., 84.

[3] Ibid., 236.

Family Sanudo, c. 1450-1475

Entries from the ricordanzo of Mario Sanudo…

….On July 31, 1453 the news of the fall of Constantinople on 29 May 1453 has just arrived.  It appears that the Ottomans have finally accomplished what many others could not. This is very troublesome to me in the sense that I alone am responsible for the protection of our port city Candie. The Ottoman navy has quickly grown in power and I fear that they will not stop at Constantinople but move on to our allies, the Venetians. Along with the news of the fall of Constantinople came a number of refugees to my shores, mainly a number of painters which I am not totally sure why they decided to arrive; that may be worth asking one.  A decade later my fears came true when the Ottoman-Venetian War erupted resulting in Venice losing the island of Negroponte, which had been under Venetian control for as long as my father and the father of his father can recall. I have begun to prepare my forces for the worst if the Ottomans ever sail south. I am also willing to lend my family members to aid the Venetian forces against the Ottoman threat.

Fortunately they did not reach my defenses but who is to say that they will not in the near future; I grow very weary of the Ottomans.

 ….By 1471 I am no less weary of the Ottomans but I am willing to overlook their activities for this reason: that  trade within my region has reached a peak, making tensions lessen for the time being. The trade of gems and guns coming from the west has also been allowed by the Ottomans who kept the majority of the Byzantine trade system alive. I am also beginning to admire the savvy nature of these Turkish traders and leaders. It actually may prove profitable for  my family if I were to initiate some sort of relations with them before they decided to expand into Crete.