Saturday, November 17, 2012

Interview: don Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos

Today we'll be sitting down with Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos and a powerful court official under the Ottoman Sultan Selim.

(Nassi is tall and slender, with thin eyebrows above piercing brown eyes. He sits in a chair at a table rather than reclining on cushions as other Ottoman officials do.)

Me: So, Mr. Nasi, tell me more about yourself.

Nasi: Well, I was born in Spain in 1524. Although my family pretended to be Catholic, we secretly practiced our ancestral Jewish faith. Officially we were called "New Christians," but the more common term was Marrano. It's not flattering. We were always under suspicion and eventually found it a good idea to flee Spain to Portugal. That's why Mehmed always thinks of me as being Portuguese. He's not as knowledgeable as he likes to think.

Me: Mehmed?

Nasi: Sokullu Mehmed Pasha, the grand vizier. We have different opinions on foreign policy.

Me: What do you mean?

Nasi: He would have the Sublime State ally with Venice against Spain, in order to more efficiently prosecute the wars in North Africa. That is all well and good, but Venice controls Cyprus, right next door to us. Should relations take a turn for the worse, Venetian Cyprus would be a major threat to southern Anatolia, Syria, and Palestine. And although the Venetians paid us tribute to ensure Cyprus's security, they also shelter Christian pirates who have attacked pilgrims to Mecca.

Paying the Sublime State tribute all while harboring active enemies? Who have attacked Muslims on the Hajj no less? That's an extraordinarily bad idea. I thought the Venetians smarter than this. Of course, given how they mistreat the Orthodox Cypriots, I would expect short-sightedness. They clearly don't remember how Ottomans were welcomed in much of Greece because of how the Italian Catholic lords abused the Orthodox peasants.

(Shakes his head)

From an outside perspective, this feuding between the Catholics and Orthodox is absolutely absurd. It seems to me the Bishop of Rome has a massive ego problem. It seems much of northern Europe shares my opinion. Look at what my friend William the Silent is up to these days. There's more to the split between the Catholics and these "Protestants" than there is to feud between the Catholics and Orthodox, but I digress.

Me: You're friends with the prince of Orange?

Nasi: Yes. I have extensive trading contacts with Europe and we met through mutual friends. Mehmed thinks I'm too focused on Venice, but even though I don't share Mehmed's ideas of creating an Islamic version of Mare Nostrum, I recognize the threat Spain represents. These "Protestants" are quite useful for the Sublime State. The more Spain is kept occupied on its own borders, the less it has to spend on the Mediterranean.

Me: This is all very interesting, but didn't the Ottoman war with the Venetians over Cyprus bring about the Battle of Lepanto? That wiped out most of the Ottoman fleet.

(Nasi winces)

Nasi: That is true. I did not anticipate such a massive turnout by Catholic Europe in support of the Venetians. It was like one of the Crusades of old. Fortunately, the Sublime State was able to replace its losses in ships fairly easily. We also won the land war on Cyprus. The Venetians are still fighting, but if they keep this up, we can expand the war into Dalmatia. That would threaten Venice itself, not just its colonies.

(Nasi smiles)

Mehmed wants an alliance with the Venetians against the Spanish. Forcing the Venetians into vassalage and joining their fleet to ours just might get him that. On our terms, of course.

What consequences might the rivalry between Sokullu Mehmed Pasha and don Joseph Nasi have, especially once dark supernatural forces come into play? Find out in "The Beast of the Bosporus."

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