Jews as Purveyors of Italian Humanist Learning in the Ottoman World
Vasileios Syros is a Senior Research Fellow at The Medici Archive Project, beginning in Fall 2021. His teaching and research interests converge at the intersection of the history of Christian/Latin, Jewish, and Islamic political thought. Syros has published Marsilius of Padua at the Intersection of Ancient and Medieval Cultures and Traditions of Learning (University of Toronto Press, 2012); Die Rezeption der aristotelischen politischen Philosophie bei Marsilius von Padua (Brill, 2007); and Well Begun is Only Half Done: Tracing Aristotle’s Political Ideas in Medieval Arabic, Syriac, Byzantine, and Jewish Sources (ACMRS, 2011). His work has appeared in Renaissance Quarterly, Viator, Journal of Early Modern History, and Journal of World History. Syros has taught at Stanford University, McGill University, and The University of Chicago.
Recent years have seen a substantial and growing body of literature exploring relations between Renaissance Italy and the Ottoman empire. One of the major lacunas in this area concerns the role of the Jews in the transmission of Italian humanist ideas in the Ottoman world, especially in the aftermath of the expulsion from Spain (1492). In order to address this need, I will focus on the Crónica de los Reyes Otomanos (Chronicle of the Ottoman Kings) of the Sephardi writer Moses ben Baruch Almosnino (ca. 1515–ca. 1580) in Thessaloniki (present-day Greece). The aim of this project is to identify a shared set of fundamental questions and concerns present in Almosnino’s oeuvre with major fifteenth-century Italian texts on the correlation of architectural magnificence and good government. Additionally, the project will demonstrate that the conceptual apparatus and certain motifs of the Crónica attest to the persistence of humanist ideas in the Ottoman context.