V, 2009, 1

Another history: the campaign of 1497 in the “Diaries” of Marino Sanudo | p. 39–50

1497, Beyazid II, circulation of news, Marino Sanudo the Younger, Polish-Moldavian war


Marino Sanudo the Younger was one of the most prolific authors of the beginning of the 16th century. His famous work – The Diaries (I Diarii) – is a very important corpus of letters and reports (avvisi) gathered by the author from all the corners of the Mediterranean. For 1497, along many pieces of evidence concerning the Venetian interests in the Levant, there are 15 reports mentioning a Polish „crusade” directed against the Ottoman Empire. In fact, these documents present, in a distorted manner, the Polish-Moldavian war of 1497 which ended with the Polish defeat at Codrii Cosminului. Although these documents are well known by Romanian historiography, no historian has tried yet to explain why the Venetian reports included by Sanudo in his Diaries mirrored the Polish expedition in such a phantasmagoric way. Analyzing the circulation and spread of news in Venice at the end of the fifteenth century could offer some clues for an explanation.   It should be emphasized that from 1492, when the Venetian bailo Girolamo Marcello was expelled from Constantinople, until 1503 the Republic of Saint Marcus had no diplomatic representative at the Ottoman court. Thus, the sultan had cut the main and the most reliable source of information for the Venetian government and, until the peace settlement of 1503, the Republic depended on private reports for the events occurred in the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, the reliability of such documents can be questioned as long as their authors (merchants, navigators, spies) could hardly verify the credibility of the rumors spread by Ottoman officials. It is precisely what happened in the case of the Polish-Moldavian war of 1497.  The Venetian reports spoke about a Polish crusade aimed to conquer the cities of Licostomo and Moncastro because the Polish king John Albert claimed that the two cities were the target of his expedition but also because the Ottoman government spread and amplified deliberately this interpretation of the event. Furthermore, the Ottomans exaggerated the dramatic situation in the Turkish camp and even claimed that the Polish king succeeded in the conquest of the afore-mentioned cities and the Black Sea coast alike up to Crimea. Such rumors were aimed to maintain and develop an optimistic etat d’esprit in the Venetian camp in an age when the sultan Bayazid II secretly prepared to launch an offensive against the Venetian empire in the Levant.