Joseph Nasi

Joseph Nasi

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Don Joseph Nasi was a Jewish diplomat and administrator, member of the House of Mendes, and influential figure in the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 during the rules of both Sultan
Ottoman Dynasty
The Ottoman Dynasty ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1299 to 1922, beginning with Osman I , though the dynasty was not proclaimed until Orhan Bey declared himself sultan...

 Suleiman I and his son Selim II
Selim II
Selim II Sarkhosh Hashoink , also known as "Selim the Sot " or "Selim the Drunkard"; and as "Sarı Selim" or "Selim the Blond", was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1566 until his death in 1574.-Early years:He was born in Constantinople a son of Suleiman the...

. He was a great benefactor of the Jewish people.

A Court Jew
Court Jew
Court Jew is a term, typically applied to the Early Modern period, for historical Jewish bankers who handled the finances of, or lent money to, European royalty and nobility....

, he was appointed the Lord of Tiberias
Vassals of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Crusader state of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, created in 1099, was divided into a number of smaller seigneuries.-Introduction:According to the 13th century jurist John of Ibelin the four highest barons in the kingdom proper were:* the Count of Jaffa and Ascalon...

, with the expressed aim of resettling Jews in Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 and encouraging industry there; the attempt failed, and, later, he was appointed the Duke of Naxos and the Seven Islands
Duchy of the Archipelago
The Duchy of the Archipelago or also Duchy of Naxos or Duchy of the Aegean was a maritime state created by Venetian interests in the Cyclades archipelago in the Aegean Sea, in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, centered on the islands of Naxos and Paros.-Background and establishment of the...

. Nasi also brought about war with the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

, at the end of which Venice lost the island of Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 to the Ottomans. After the death of Selim, he lost influence in the Ottoman Court, but was allowed to keep his titles and pension for the remainder of his life.

Early life


Nasi was born in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 as a Marrano
Marrano
Marranos were Jews living in the Iberian peninsula who converted to Christianity rather than be expelled but continued to observe rabbinic Judaism in secret...

(practicing Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 in secret), and was a friend of Maximilian
Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian II was king of Bohemia and king of the Romans from 1562, king of Hungary and Croatia from 1563, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation from 1564 until his death...

, nephew of the Habsburg
Habsburg Spain
Habsburg Spain refers to the history of Spain over the 16th and 17th centuries , when Spain was ruled by the major branch of the Habsburg dynasty...

 King
Spanish monarchy
The Monarchy of Spain, constitutionally referred to as The Crown and commonly referred to as the Spanish monarchy or Hispanic Monarchy, is a constitutional institution and an historic office of Spain...

 Charles I of Spain
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

. He escaped to Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 after Charles decided to confiscate the Mendes fortune, and, after the Holy Inquisition
Portuguese Inquisition
The Portuguese Inquisition was formally established in Portugal in 1536 at the request of the King of Portugal, João III. Manuel I had asked for the installation of the Inquisition in 1515 to fulfill the commitment of marriage with Maria of Aragon, but it was only after his death that the Pope...

 began operating against Portuguese Marranos, moved to Antwerp, in the Habsburg Netherlands
Seventeen Provinces
The Seventeen Provinces were a personal union of states in the Low Countries in the 15th century and 16th century, roughly covering the current Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, a good part of the North of France , and a small part of Western Germany.The Seventeen Provinces were originally held by...

, with his aunt, Doña Gracia Mendes Nasi
Gracia Mendes Nasi
Gracia Mendes Nasi was one of the wealthiest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe. She married into the eminent international banking and finance company known as the House of Mendes...

. He studied at the University of Louvain
Catholic University of Leuven
The Catholic University of Leuven, or of Louvain, was the largest, oldest and most prominent university in Belgium. The university was founded in 1425 as the University of Leuven by John IV, Duke of Brabant and approved by a Papal bull by Pope Martin V.During France's occupation of Belgium in the...

, but had to flee the Inquisition in 1547. He then moved to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and later to Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, before finally leaving for the Ottoman realm in 1554, Where he married Doña Reyna the daughter of his aunt Gracia Mendes Nasi
Gracia Mendes Nasi
Gracia Mendes Nasi was one of the wealthiest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe. She married into the eminent international banking and finance company known as the House of Mendes...

.

Ottoman Court


When he arrived in Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

, Nasi made a fortunate decision in supporting the future sultan Selim, against his rival Bayezid; as a result, he was favored by the Seraglio
Seraglio
A seraglio or serail is the sequestered living quarters used by wives and concubines in a Turkish household. The word comes from an Italian variant of Turkish saray, from Persian sarai , meaning palace, or the enclosed courts for the wives and concubines of the harem of a house or palace...

, and eventually became a high ranking diplomat and minister.

Due to his trading connections in Europe, he was able to exercise great influence on Ottoman foreign policy. Among his achievements were negotiating peace with Poland
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

, and influencing the new election of the Polish king. He was awarded the monopoly
Monopoly
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

 of the beeswax
Beeswax
Beeswax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees of the genus Apis. It is mainly esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols...

 trade with Poland, and of the wine trade with Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

, and maneuvered in the latter country to keep princes favorable to his policies in power. In 1561, Nasi backed Ioan Iacob Heraclid
Ioan Iacob Heraclid
Ioan Iacob Heraclid , also known as Jacob Heraclides, was a Greek soldier and ruler of Moldavia from November 1561 to November 1563, most notable for being the first officially Protestant monarch in Eastern Europe....

 to rule as despot, supported Alexandru Lăpuşneanu
Alexandru Lapusneanu
Alexandru Lăpuşneanu was Prince of Moldavia between September 1552 and 18 November 1561 and then between October 1564 and 5 May 1568....

's return to the throne in place of Ştefan Tomşa
Stefan Tomsa
Ştefan Tomşa or Ştefan VII was the ruler of Moldavia in 1563 and 1564.-Career:Tomşa served as hatman and came to power as leader of a boyar revolt against the Lutheran Ioan Iacob Heraclid, whose attempts to impose the new usages in Moldavia offended the Eastern Orthodox sensibilities of nobles...

 (1564), and ultimately endorsed Ion Vodă cel Cumplit (1572); he was himself considered a suitable choice for hospodar
Hospodar
Hospodar or gospodar is a term of Slavonic origin, meaning "lord" or "master".The rulers of Wallachia and Moldavia were styled hospodars in Slavic writings from the 15th century to 1866. Hospodar was used in addition to the title voivod...

of either Moldavia or Wallachia
Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

 in 1571, but Selim II rejected the proposal.

During the war between the Ottomans and the Republic of Venice
Ottoman–Venetian War (1570–1573)
The Fourth Ottoman–Venetian War, also known as the War of Cyprus was fought between 1570–1573. It was waged between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice, the latter joined by the Holy League, a coalition of Christian states formed under the auspices of the Pope, which included Spain , the...

, Nasi's negotiations with the Jewish community in Venetian-ruled Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 were uncovered, and, as a result, the Jewish population of Famagusta
Famagusta
Famagusta is a city on the east coast of Cyprus and is capital of the Famagusta District. It is located east of Nicosia, and possesses the deepest harbour of the island.-Name:...

 (with the exception of Jews who were natives of the city) was expelled in June 1568 (see History of the Jews in Cyprus
History of the Jews in Cyprus
- Ancient :Cyprus is the large island located in the east Mediterranean Sea. The first inhabitants of Cyprus were most probably, Carians; in historical times, Phoenicians; and later, Greeks. The first Jews settled during the last age of Greek occupancy. The Jews had close relationships with many of...

). It is believed that he intended parts of Cyprus to be a Jewish colony, and encouraged the Ottoman annexation of Cyprus in the war to that end; he was granted a coat of arms by Selim that indicated he would be given viceregal rank
Viceroy
A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...

 in that colony. Nasi's relative Abraham Beneviste (Righetto Marrano) was arrested in 1570, on charges of having set fire to the Venetian Arsenal
Venetian Arsenal
The Venetian Arsenal was a complex of state-owned shipyards and armories clustered together in Venice in northern Italy. It was responsible for the bulk of Venice's naval power during the middle part of the second millennium AD...

 on Nasi's instigation.

Maintaining contacts with William the Silent
William the Silent
William I, Prince of Orange , also widely known as William the Silent , or simply William of Orange , was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish that set off the Eighty Years' War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1648. He was born in the House of...

, Nasi encouraged the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 to revolt against Spain, a major adversary of the Ottoman Empire (the rebellion was ultimately carried out by the Union of Utrecht
Union of Utrecht
The Union of Utrecht was a treaty signed on 23 January 1579 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, unifying the northern provinces of the Netherlands, until then under the control of Habsburg Spain....

, as the start of the Eighty Years' War). For this and other achievements, he was appointed by Selim to become the Duke of Naxos
Duchy of the Archipelago
The Duchy of the Archipelago or also Duchy of Naxos or Duchy of the Aegean was a maritime state created by Venetian interests in the Cyclades archipelago in the Aegean Sea, in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, centered on the islands of Naxos and Paros.-Background and establishment of the...

; he also later became the Count of Andros
Andros
Andros, or Andro is the northernmost island of the Greek Cyclades archipelago, approximately south east of Euboea, and about north of Tinos. It is nearly long, and its greatest breadth is . Its surface is for the most part mountainous, with many fruitful and well-watered valleys. The area is...

. Represented locally by one Francesco Coronello, Nasi mainly ruled the Duchy from his palace of Belvedere, where he also maintained his own Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

 (kept by his wife and cousin, Doña Reyna, after Joseph's death).

Settling Tiberias


Joseph Nasi is best known to history for his attempt to resettle the towns of Tiberias and Safed
Safed
Safed , is a city in the Northern District of Israel. Located at an elevation of , Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters...

 in 1561. He was the first person to attempt to settle Jews in the cities of Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 by practical means, as opposed to waiting for the Messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

.

Nasi secured a grant giving ruling authority from the Sultan, and, with the assistance of Joseph ben Adruth, rebuilt the walls and the town. He also attempted to turn it into a textile (silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

) center by planting mulberry trees
Mulberry
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....

 and encouraging craftsmen to move there. Arrangements were made for Jews to move from the Papal States
Papal States
The Papal State, State of the Church, or Pontifical States were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia .The Papal States comprised territories under...

, but, when the Ottomans and the Republic of Venice went to war, the plan was abandoned.

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