Viaje de Turquía is frequently regarded as advocating cross-cultural and religious toleration on the basis of its portrayal of sixteenth-century Constantinople. The Ottoman capital is depicted as a thriving metropolis in which religious minorities are permitted to observe their respective faiths, a representation that stands in stark contrast to the text’s pointed references to religious intolerance, moral hypocrisy and social inequality in Spain. Given that Viaje de Turquía’s composition in 1556–58 coincided with the period in which the Inquisition and the legally endorsed preoccupation with purity of blood (limpieza de sangre) had come to dominate Spanish society while at the same time the Ottoman Empire had become Habsburg Spain’s fiercest military and political rival, advocacy of this kind was not merely controversial but a categorically forbidden and consequently dangerous undertaking.1
It is therefore unsurprising that Viaje de Turquía remained unpublished until the twentieth century, when it was included by Manuel Serrano y Sanz in a compendium of memoirs entitled Autobiografías y memorias (Madrid, 1905), nor that its flattering portrayals of the Turks and their judiciously organized, culturally diverse Empire have occasioned a scholarly consensus as to the text’s overarching objectives. These are widely regarded as being focused on highlighting the cultural and intellectual sophistication of a powerful and tolerant Islamic society with the aim of critiquing Spain’s failure to recognize the intrinsic value of the religious minorities it has either expelled or obliged to convert to Catholicism. 2
Nevertheless, as the ensuing study will demonstrate, the formulation and perpetuation of this enduring assumption disregards the fact that Viaje de Turquía’s portrayals of Jewish characters are consistently derogatory and antisemitic. This conspicuous gap in our current understanding of the text further entails scholarly neglect of one of the most significant means by which Viaje de Turquía, renowned for its reformist and Erasmian allusions, effects its discursive rehabilitation of a lapsed and corrupt Catholic faith: through the depiction of the central protagonist Pedro de Urdemalas’s conflictive yet spiritually and intellectually transformative encounters with Spanish Jews in Constantinople.3 More specifically, by means of its portrayal of the acrimonious relationship between the aforementioned, enslaved Christian hero and a privileged community of Judeo-Spanish physicians living under Ottoman imperial rule, the text draws crucial parallels between two situations presented as broadly analogous: Christ’s persecution at the hands of the Pharisees and his subsequent crucifixion by the Roman imperial authorities, and Pedro’s mistreatment by the Sephardi physicians and the constant threat of execution held over him by the Ottomans. Both situations test and corroborate the faith and resolve of the Christ-figure and eventually culminate in his transformation: in the case of Jesus of Nazareth, by means of his resurrection three days after being crucified; in that of Pedro de Urdemalas, through the symbolic completion of his protracted voyage towards spiritual rebirth following the three days over which he narrates the story of his enslavement and subsequent flight from captivity. The significance of these recurring references to Trinitarian theology is reinforced by the trio of central characters among whom we witness – and ideally with whom we share – the cathartic and redemptive effects of the dialogic journey.
A fundamental aim of this study is therefore to challenge and ultimately alter scholarly perceptions of a text widely acclaimed for its espousal of Renaissance humanist ideals, and, by extension, to underscore the fact that those ideals were by no means unanimously concerned with achieving harmonious coexistence with the Other. Indeed, at times Renaissance humanist literature was dedicated to the vehement opposition of peaceful interreligious coexistence, most notably in several texts now widely recognized as antisemitic written by the highly influential sixteenth-century theologian and pioneer of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther (1483–1546). Luther produced a number of writings over the course of his life in which he collectively charges Jews with spiritual blindness and accuses them of possessing an inherently defective nature, identifying the Jewish as a race of people unlike, inferior to and directly at odds with Christians and not solely as a group whose religious beliefs are different to those of Christians. The best-known of these is a work entitled The Jews and Their Lies (1543), at the beginning of which the author warns his readers to be on their guard against the Jews, ‘knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer selfglory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously’ (Luther 268), and at the end of which he states:
My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews but also to become the foe of the Jews’ malice, lying and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. (Luther 293)4
Richard Marius identifies the opinions expressed above as part of a larger body of similarly antisemitic views expressed by Luther, in which the Jews are classified as the enemies of Christianity:
Luther’s hatred of the Jews is a sad and dishonorable part of his legacy, and it is not a fringe issue. It lay at the center of his concept of religion. He saw in the Jews a continuing moral depravity he did not see in Catholics. He did not accuse papists of the crimes that he laid at the feet of Jews. (Marius 482)
Viaje de Turquía contains a number of passages that draw heavily on the vituperative language employed in Luther’s treatise on the Jews as well as in medieval works by Spanish authors in which Jewish characters are cast as both calculated villains and irrational evil-doers.5 In light of this fact, the clearly antisemitic elements of Viaje de Turquía discussed in this analysis will oblige us to reconsider, if not discard entirely, the notion that the defence or restoration of convivencia in Spain constitutes the text’s overriding concern. The latter, as will be established in due course, seeks to expose and thereby remedy the scriptural illiteracy of the Catholic Church, which, by lapsing into a pedantic obsession with doctrines and practices disconnected from – and inconsistent with – the true meaning and teachings of Christ, is represented as moving ever closer to a purely outward, literal appreciation of the New Testament akin to the perceived Jewish understanding of the Tanakh, or Old Testament. By describing and condemning the mounting emphasis on the importance of the letter over the spirit displayed by the Catholic clergymen and their followers described by its three interlocutors, the dialogue implies that the Catholic Church has become more ‘Jewish’ than Christian. Thus the narrative insinuates that the Church has enslaved Catholics to spiritual ignorance in much the same way as Judaism enslaves its adherents to blindness to the truth of Christ, whose sacrifice was intended to free them from unquestioning obedience to religious laws that are both obsolete and spiritually vacuous.
Indeed, while Viaje de Turquía parodies and subsequently undermines the widespread contemporary notion that the Ottoman Turks were the fulfilment of the biblical prophecy of the Antichrist, it concurrently configures its Jewish characters as both the enemies and the inverse reflection – the distorted and distorting image – of Christ and Christianity. In order to achieve this end, the text draws from a substantial repository of antisemitic stereotypes readily provided by medieval Spanish literature, particularly those found among Gonzalo de Berceo’s thirteenth-century Marian miracle poems, the Milagros de Nuestra Señora, and alludes to ideas firmly established in Christian theology and rhetoric both pro and contra Iudaeos.6
This latter point is borne out in Viaje de Turquía’s ideological indebtedness to the doctrine of Jewish witness expounded by Saint Augustine of Hippo, the early medieval theologian whose writings exerted a profound influence on medieval and early modern Christian theology and would undoubtedly have been known to highly literate, sixteenth-century thinkers and writers such as the anonymous author of Viaje de Turquía.7 In a number of early fifth-century works, Augustine developed his theory that the Jews had an ongoing role to play in Christian salvation and that this role was as a living testimony to the truth of Christianity. Scattered throughout the world in diasporic communities, Jews brought with them their sacred scriptures bearing the prophecies of Christ. For Augustine, the veracity of these prophecies was enhanced by their perpetuation among a people who were hostile to Christianity. It therefore followed that all well-ordered, Christian societies should ensure that Jewish communities remain, since by serving as a negative example, they might increase the number of true believers and serve as a warning of what Christians might become if, like Jews, they turned away from God:
Thus, the Jewish people will never perish […]. They make visible to the Christian faithful the subjection that they merited because they, in the pride of their kingdom, put the Lord to death. And so ‘the Lord God placed a mark upon Cain, lest anyone coming upon him should kill him’ (Genesis 4:15). (Augustine 12.12–13)
A profoundly Augustinian influence is detectable in the fact that the most pivotal section of Viaje de Turquía, that in which Pedro narrates his experience of life as a slave and his ensuing spiritual rebirth, takes place in Ottoman Constantinople, a city in which a large number of Sephardi Jews were invited to settle following their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Since Jewish characters are central to Pedro’s story, the need to locate it in a city in which Jews continue to interact with Christians acts as tacit admonishment of Spain’s expulsion of its Jewish population. A reprimand of this kind is not provoked by the anonymous author’s deeply held convictions as to the moral correctness of convivencia but, rather, has an ideological and, indeed, theological basis in the Augustinian imperative that Jews persist in Christian societies as living reminders of the spiritual peril that could befall Christians who fail to understand – and thus live according to – the true spirit of their faith. Pedro is only able to fully realize himself as a Christian against the backdrop of Jewish disbelief, obduracy and opposition. The absence of openly practising Jews in Spain thereby necessitates setting the protagonist’s experiences in the Turkish capital, a society in which Jews can observe their religious practices and rise to positions of power over Christians without the need for dissemblance.
The central character through which the dialogue exemplifies the figure of the Jew as a negative ontological template for the ideal Christian (that is, for the spiritually awakened, reformist Catholic aspiring to live in imitation of Christ) is the Judeo-Spanish chief physician of Sinan Pasha’s court, Moisés Amón, also referred to in the text as ‘Amón Ugli’ or simply ‘Amón’.8 Amón’s portrayal constitutes the most overtly derogatory and strikingly antisemitic configuration of Jewish attributes in the dialogue, a feature that is further complicated by the fact that he is evidently a fictionalized version of the noted physician Moisés Amón (c.1490–1554), a famously accomplished Ottoman medic of Sephardi descent who by all accounts was well loved and highly respected by his coreligionists as well as by his Ottoman master, Sultan Suleiman I.9 The decision to cast Amón in such an unsympathetic role is thus profoundly ironic, since the fictional rendering stands in stark contrast to the historical figure from whom his name and professional status derive. Notably, the historical Amón is referred to by the Sephardi historian and mathematician Judah Ibn Verga as a ‘famous prince and great physician’, while the sixteenth-century Italian explorer and travel writer Niccolò Nicolai singles him out from among the Jews of the Ottoman Empire as ‘a person of great honour, great activity, great renown and great wealth’ (qtd. in Gotthard and Kayserling). In contrast, the Amón described in Viaje de Turquía embodies the very worst of the myriad flaws attributed to the Sephardi physicians of Sinan Pasha’s household, leading them not in professional excellence and personal honour but, rather, in a number of cowardly and clumsily executed attempts to advance their professional status in blatant disregard for their master’s physical wellbeing and Pedro’s professional reputation. Amón’s (in)capacity as spokesperson for and leader of his corrupt and incompetent Jewish colleagues thus inverts and distorts the functions of accomplished physician, erudite scholar and respected Jewish community leader performed so outstandingly by his historical counterpart in the Ottoman royal court.
Instead, it is Pedro to whom the characteristics and abilities for which Moisés Amón was admired in real life are attributed in Viaje de Turquía. Like the real-life Amón, who was ‘a fine linguist, enjoying great favour on account of his knowledge and skill’ (qtd. in Gotthard and Kayserling), Pedro shows a remarkable capacity to rapidly acquire proficiency in foreign languages and acts as a fearless advocate of his religion. Even the historical Amón’s considerable feat of convincing Sultan Suleiman I to decree that any accusations of blood libel levelled against Ottoman Jews should be considered not by any judge of the Empire but by the royal court is both obliquely referenced and inverted by Pedro’s account, according to which the Jews are indeed associated with blood due to their timorous aversion to purging it. In fact, the majority of Pedro’s professional grievances with the Jewish physicians revolve around their stubborn opposition – articulated most stridently by Moisés Amón - to bleeding their Ottoman patient of the excessive and infected blood that is accurately diagnosed by Pedro as the cause of Sinan Pasha’s affliction.
This curious emphasis on the Jews’ abhorrence for bleeding, the treatment Pedro considers most effective for his master’s ailment and which he enthusiastically and expertly applies, is repeatedly attributed the Sephardi physicians’ greed and cowardice. The point in the narrative at which we are first alerted to the conception of a direct correspondence between these venal qualities and the refusal to use bleeding as a medical treatment occurs when Pedro remarks upon an unscrupulous, Italian barber-surgeon responsible for treating him and other ailing captives during a bout of severe illness on an Ottoman galley:
en sangrar era muy cobarde, por lo cual entre ciento y treinta enfermos que estábamos, cada día había una dozena o media al menos de muertos que entresacar […] los bellacos de los barberos, con el mayoral, llamábanme mato, que quiere dezir en italiano loco, porque les hazía que me sangrasen muchas vezes, y eran como dixe tan avarientos, que aun mi propia sangre les dolía (‘he was very cowardly when it came to bleeding, which meant that, out of a hundred and thirty patients, each day there would be at least half a dozen or a dozen dead bodies to remove […]Those malicious barbers, along with the overseer, used to call me the mato, which in Italian means madman, because I insisted that they bled me on several occasions. As I said, they were so greedy that even the loss of my own blood pained them’). (García Salinero 157–58)10
Although the same cowardice, greed and incompetence are evidenced in the Jewish physicians with whom Pedro is obliged work in Constantinople, in their case these flaws are exaggerated dramatically by the fact that, unlike the Italian barber-surgeons, their aversion to blood is depicted as so ingrained – innate, even, and certainly irrational – that they simply cannot be persuaded to use bleeding as a treatment. This is demonstrated most explicitly in the description of Amón’s dramatic reaction to the fact that Pedro is able to cure Sinan Pasha when finally given the freedom to administer his preferred treatment without hindrance from his Sephardi adversaries:
Fue grandíssima confusión para los medicos mis contrarios que al cabo de quarto meses hubiese salido con la hidropesía curada, y de tal manera pesó al Amón Ugli, que cayó malo y dentro de y dentro de ocho días fue a ser medico de Belzebut (‘The fact that I had cured my master’s dropsy after just four months was a very great source of confusion to the physicians who were my adversaries, and so heavily did it weigh upon Moisés Amón that he fell ill and within eight days had left to serve as personal physician to Beelzebub’). (García Salinero 233)
Since Christ’s messianic status was demonstrated in part by his ability to heal the sick and bring the dead back to life (itself a symbolic enactment and foretelling of the Messiah’s capacity to heal the world through the unification of Israel), this episode performs the dual function of highlighting the messianic implications of Pedro’s achievement while emphasizing that it is yet again obstinately denied by the intractable Jews. The pathological nature of this denial is borne out by Amón’s sudden sickness and death, both of which serve as allusions to the Jews’ metaphorical blindness (their stubborn denial of Christ as Messiah and their role in committing deicide), which, according to certain interpretations of the Gospels, affects the entire Jewish people.11 This is most powerfully accentuated in Pedro’s aforementioned quip that, upon death, the greatest of his Sephardi adversaries went straight to Hell in order to serve the Jews’ perennial master, the Devil, in the form of Beelzebub.
In the episode immediately preceding the one described above, Amón and his fellow Sephardi physicians perform and thus reaffirm their Jewishness by exhibiting dishonestly, greed, cowardice, lack of professionalism and medical expertise, envy of Pedro’s knowledge and skill in the practice of medicine, as well as the irrational obduracy with which they are prepared to hinder the latter at every step, to the obvious detriment of their own patient. Having wrongly construed that Sinan Pasha has died of his illness (a condition described as a form of dropsy or oedema) due to their own incompetence, Amón and his coreligionists secretly flee the Pasha’s household to escape the shame and punishment they believe they will have to face as a consequence. When they discover that the Pasha is not in fact dead, the Jewish physicians return in a state of utter astonishment at their patient’s revival. Upon hearing Pedro’s account of this situation, in which the protagonist underscores how he saved the Pasha’s life despite the Jews’ best efforts to end it, Pedro’s interlocutor Juan de Voto a Dios marvels at the stubbornness of the Sephardi doctors, which seems to him so excessive that it outdoes that of the Jews who witnessed the life and resurrection of Christ: ‘Pues, ¿qué Diablo de gente es? Mayor pertinaçia me paresçe esa que la de los judíos pues lo que tantas vezes veían, creían menos’ (‘What kind of Devil are these people? Their obstinacy seems even greater to me than that of the ancient Jews, since the more they saw the truth, the less they believed it’) (García Salinero 215). Juan’s statement readily draws upon the well-worn notion as to the intractability and spiritual blindness of the Jews, who were granted the privilege of witnessing the coming of their own Messiah yet who denied his divinity and actively called for his crucifixion.12 It also suggests that the diabolical stubbornness of the Sephardim working in Sinan Pasha’s household is so excessive that they can no longer be assigned to the same category of Jew as their biblical forefathers. The latter, although complicit in the original act of deicide, had not benefitted from the same opportunities to reconsider and renounce their disbelief through contact with subsequent Christian works and teachings as had their Iberian descendants, nor had they encountered Pedro de Urdemalas, whose ability to heal the sick and maintain his faith under coercion clearly sets him in parallel to Christ.13
What is more, the terms in which Pedro describes his attempts to cure his Turkish master overtly correlate the process of healing with that of converting the Ottoman nobleman to Christianity, a potential (albeit unfulfilled) conversion to which the Turk is less ill-disposed than his injudicious and literal-minded Jewish medics. Indeed, the latter group’s inability to fulfil the tenets of their own religion, let alone to comprehend the figurative undertones of Pedro’s symbolic journey in the footsteps of Christ, is conspicuously highlighted by the protagonist:
Quanto a lo que dezían [los judíos] que era esclabo y no guardaría fidelidad, yo era christiano y guardaría mejor mi fe que ellos su ley; desto era el Baxá buen testigo; y en la fe de Christo tanto pecado era matarle a él como a un príncipe christiano. […] ¿a quién importaba más su vida que a mí? (‘As for what they [the Jews] said about me being a slave and therefore being incapable of remaining loyal, I was a Christian and would observe my faith far better than they observe their laws, a fact to which the Pasha bore witness, since according to the Christian faith it would be as much of a sin to kill him as it would be to kill a Christian prince. To whom could his life matter more than to me?). (García Salinero 212)
Mátalas Callando’s reaction to Pedro’s account of the Sephardi physicians’ panicked return following their failed escape reasserts his friend’s Christ-like status while emphasizing the diabolical nature of the Jews’ efforts to persecute and slander their Christian colleague before the imperial authorities: ‘No faltara allí confusión; maravíllome no alegar el testo del Evangelio: in Belzebut, prinçipe demoniorum ejicit demonia’ (‘There’d have been no lack of confusion there. I’m amazed that they didn’t quote from the Gospel: “It is only with the help of Beelzebub, prince of demons, that this man casts out demons”’) (García Salinero 217). Mátalas Callando’s reference to the Gospel of Matthew 12: 24 echoes Pedro’s earlier statement, made in reference not only to the Jewish physicians but to Jews in general, that ‘el Diablo en fin los trae engañados. Sé que más cosas vieron hazer los judíos a Christo, y con todo siempre estubieron pertinazes y están; y los turcos no ven, si quieren abrir los ojos, el error en que están’ (‘the devil ultimately has them fooled. I know that the Jews saw worse things done to Christ and in spite of everything persisted in their obstinacy, as they still persist to this day, and the Turks would see, if only they cared to open their eyes, the error in which they stand’) (García Salinero 213, emphasis in original).14
When viewed against the backdrop of sixteenth-century Renaissance Humanism, it is clear that the dialogue’s portrayal of the Jewish physicians’ innate irrationality and diabolical influence taps into a rich vein of Reformist thought in which the medieval stereotype of the Jew remained in status quo. To borrow from Joshua Trachtenberg’s pertinent appraisal of the latter phenomenon:
The Reformation produced a marked change in the superficial culture pattern of a large part of the West; yet under the surface the Middle Ages still dominated – and dominates – the approach of the masses toward the ‘Jewish question’, which remains as the Middle Ages conceived it: essentially the problem of the good fight against the forces of Satan. […] their [the Jews’] unbelief is still the same as their ancestors’; even the plain sense of Scripture does not convince them. Reason may be won over. Human blindness can be overcome. But Satan is at the right hand of the Jews, and does not permit them to understand. (Trachtenberg 217–18)
Amón’s justification as to why he and his Sephardi colleagues absented themselves without prior explanation or authorization during the Pasha’s most urgent moment of medical need is recalled by Pedro as a crucial illustration of the Jews’ diabolical gift for treachery and manipulation. His recollection, cited below, implies that the Jews’ lack of respect for and understanding of their own system of beliefs is both compounded by and conflated with their enduring conviction that they remain God’s Chosen People despite their rejection of the Messiah:
respondieron lo mejor del mundo, que el Diablo que los guía, como yo después les dixe, les faltó al tiempo que más era menester. Salió Amón…y dixo: Señor, yo, en nombre de todos te juro por el dios de Abraham y por nuestra ley embiada del çielo, que tienes en casa al que has menester, y que si ese no te cura, nadie del mundo baste a hazello. (‘they gave the best response I could’ve hoped for, since the Devil that guides them, as I later told them, let them down just at the moment he was most needed. Amón came forward… and said ‘Sire, on behalf of us all, I swear to you by the God of Abraham and by our law sent from heaven, that you have in your house the one you need to cure you, and if he can’t do it, then no one in the world is up to the task’). (García Salinero 217)
By swearing falsely upon ‘the god of Abraham’ and thus breaking the third of the God-given commandments communicated to the Hebrew people via the prophet Moses (pointedly the latter’s namesake), Moisés Amón effectively commits perjury and thereby demonstrates that he has broken the terms of the very contract – divinely ordained – that establishes him as a Jew. Thus, by willingly flouting his legal and moral obligations in breaking the oath, which he swears not only on his own behalf but ‘on behalf of us all’, Amón condemns himself – and by extension all those whom he represents, whether merely his fellow Jewish physicians or the entire Jewish people – by the very law he professes to follow.15 In this way, the portrayal of the Sephardi physician’s dishonest nature additionally serves to confirm the commonly held perception of Jews as being so entirely irrational that they fail to understand or correctly adhere to their own religion while concurrently holding up their Jewishness as confirmation of their superiority.
Through Amón, Pedro therefore unambiguously reaffirms the longstanding notion that the Jews are guided by Satan and demonstrates their willingness to swear upon their own faith in order to uphold lies, since at no point do the Sephardi medics genuinely accept Pedro’s diagnoses or treatments nor indeed the legitimacy of his role as physician. Pedro then quotes Amón explaining that their unplanned absence was the result of a desperate expedition to find suitable herbs and flowers with which to save the Pasha’s life. This is followed by an account of how, once no longer in the Pasha’s presence, Pedro entreats the Jews to desist in their attempts to make an enemy of him, warning them that ‘maldita la honrra jamás ganéis, porque por virtud del carácter del baptismo sé las lenguas todas que tengo menester para confundiros, y ganaréis conmigo más por bien que por mal’ (‘You’ll never gain cursed honour, because by virtue of baptism I know all the languages I need in order to confuse you, and you’ll get further with me by doing good than by committing evil’) (García Salinero 217–18).
Although Pedro’s overwhelmingly negative descriptions of Jewish characters may initially seem impossible to reconcile with his often positive descriptions of the Ottomans and their forbearance towards the religious minorities over whom they rule, there is in fact an underlying rationale which, once identified, both explains and necessitates this apparent discrepancy in his attitude. Pedro’s depictions of the Ottomans’ treatment of neophytes to Islam are at times painstakingly, even disproportionately flattering, as when he provides an incongruously favourable account of the Ottoman janissarial system, which was predicated upon the obligatory conversion to Islam and military enslavement of Christian boys from Eastern and Southern European families (García Salinero 420–24).16 On the basis of such statements, it is entirely plausible to conjecture, as does Natalio Ohanna (2011a and 2011b) in his analyses of Viaje de Turquía’s promotion of social inclusivity, that Pedro’s improbable admiration for the Ottomans’ recruitment of apostates suggests that a successfully functioning state founded upon the constant integration of new converts proven to be exceptionally loyal to their adopted faith and nation should be held up as worthy of imitation. Accordingly, the text’s description of the lives of the janissaries serves as a negative commentary on the illogical exclusion of those identified as being of converso ancestry from particular positions and professions in Spain:
Tal es así que hacia la mitad del siglo XVI los altos mandos del Gran Turco se concentraban casi exclusivamente en individuos de dicho origen, es decir, en musulmanes nuevos, cuando en el otro imperio la mera idea de una clase gobernante de conversos y moriscos habría sido irrisoria. (‘So much so that in fact towards the middle of the sixteenth century the high command of the Great Turk was composed almost exclusively of individuals of that origin, that is, of new Muslims, when in the other empire the mere idea of a ruling class of conversos and Moriscos would have been laughable’). (Ohanna 2011a 47)
As Ohanna’s observation implies, while the Ottoman Empire grew ever more powerful on the strength of its unimpeded assimilation of converts, Spanish society became increasingly divided due to mounting hostility towards those regarded as ‘other’, whether in terms of their religious or political leanings or their perceived racial origins. Spain had suffered economically as a result of the expulsion of the Jews, losing an estimated two percent of its educated, urban élite with this first exodus, and, with the threatened expulsion of the Moriscos on the horizon in the second half of the sixteenth century, now looked set to lose a sizeable share of its skilled agrarian workforce (Nadeau and Barlow 94). It is no doubt with these economically and socially deleterious examples of the treatment of Sephardi Jewish and Hispano-Muslim populations in mind that Pedro emphasizes the practical advantages of the Ottomans’ willingness to accommodate religious minorities, drawing attention as he does so to Spain’s regressive approach in this regard:
Pedro: – Presuponed […] que no porque se llama Turquía son todos turcos, porque hay más christianos que viben en su fe que turcos, aunque no están subjetos al Papa ni nuestra Iglesia latina, sino ellos se hazen su Partiarca, que es Papa dellos.
Mátalas: – Pues ¿cómo los consiente el turco?
Pedro: – ¿Qué se le da a él, si le pagan su tributo, que sea nadie judío ni christiano, ni moro? En España, ¿no solía haber moros y judíos?
(‘Pedro: […] one shouldn’t assume just because it’s called Turkey that all the people there are Turks, because there are actually more Orthodox Christians living in their faith than there are Turks, although the former aren’t subject to the authority of the Papacy or of our Latin Church but rather to that of their Patriarch, who’s their equivalent of the Pope.
Mátalas: But how is it that the Sultan consents to this?
Pedro: What does he care if a person’s Jewish, Christian or Muslim as long as they pay him their tribute money? Weren’t there once Muslims and Jews in Spain?’) (García Salinero 253)
The age-old custom of exacting tribute payment from vassal peoples, regularly practised in the Christian and Islamic kingdoms of Iberia during the medieval period, was, under the Ottoman millet system, a lucrative way of maintaining political control over non-Muslim subjects while simultaneously affording the latter autonomy in religious matters.17 The overt parallel drawn by Pedro between the Ottoman system of taxation and the erstwhile practice of exacting parias in his native land reveals far greater concern on his part for the financial gain, social cohesion and political supremacy to be enjoyed by a state through its continued safeguarding of subjugated communities than it does about the whether the Muslim Turks – or indeed the Catholic Spanish – attribute intrinsic worth to cultures other than their own. Given that the discussion about tribute payment is rapidly followed by an exchange about the Greek spies who make a dangerous but highly profitable living smuggling runaway Christian slaves to the coast, stressing the financial and socio-political advantages of integration more than likely constitutes the motivation behind Pedro’s accounts of Turkish toleration in this and similar tracts of the dialogue.
The desirability of receiving tribute payment from religious minorities is further underscored in Pedro’s description of the historical judeoconversa heiress doña Beatriz Méndez, also known as Gracia Mendes Nasi, towards the end of the dialogue. Although the Mendes family originated in Spain, they escaped expulsion in 1492 by fleeing from Aragon to Lisbon, where Beatriz was born in 1510, eventually moving to Venice then Ferrara in Italy, and finally to Constantinople in 1533. Pedro prefixes his description of Beatriz’s arrival in the Turkish capital with the following exclamation:
¡Pues judíos, me dezid que que huyen pocos! No había más que yo no supiese nuebas de toda la christiandad de muchos que se iban desta manera a ser judíos o moros, entre los quales fue un día una señora portoguesa que se llamaba doña Beatriz Méndez. (‘Jews, ha! Just you try and tell me that only a few are fleeing Spain! Not a day went by in Constantinople when I didn’t hear news from Christian lands from the vast numbers of them who were leaving in order to live as Jews or Muslims in Ottoman lands, among whom one day I came across a Portuguese lady called doña Beatriz Méndez’). (García Salinero 451)
Both the tone and content of this statement imply that Pedro regrets the fact that large numbers of conversos are fleeing Inquisitorial Spain in order to live either as Jews or Muslims in the Ottoman Empire. The cause of such regret is evidently not because he views Spain’s loss of its Sephardi population as lamentable per se, since in the same episode he equates the phenomenon of judeoconversos converting back to their ancestral religion as a return ‘al Diablo’ (‘to the devil’) (García Salinero 452) and describes the conversion to Judaism of doña Méndez’s converso nephew Juan Micas (Joseph Nasi) as the act of becoming a ‘miembro del diablo’ (‘member of the devil’s cohort’) (García Salinero 453). The true reason for which Pedro views the converso exodus from Spain as unfortunate is made clear in his account of Beatriz and her sizeable entourage entering Constantinople, having already agreed upon the terms of her settlement in the Ottoman Empire with the Sultan, for whom she is an exemplary source of tribute payments:
Pedro: [E]ntró en Constantinopla con quarenta caballos y quarto carros triumphales llenos de damas y criadas españolas. No menor casa llebaba que un duque d’España, y podíalo hazer, que es muy rica, y se hazía hazer la salba; destaxó con el Gran Turco desde Veneçia, que no quería que le diese otra cosa en sus tierras sino que todos sus criados no traxesen tocados como los otros judíos, sino gorras y vestidos a la veneçiana. Él se lo otorgó, y más si más quisiera, por tener tal tributaria
Juan: ¿Qué ganaba ella en eso?
Pedro: Mucho; porque son los judíos allá muy abatidos, y los christianos no; y no les harían mal con el ávito de christianos, pensando que lo fuesen.
(Pedro: ‘[S]he entered Constantinople with forty horses and four triumphal carriages full of Spanish ladies in waiting and servant girls. Her household was no less than that of a duke of Spain, and because she could, being incredibly rich, she made them perform a salute of honour. She had departed from Venice with the Great Turk, and wanted no less from him than the exemption of the members of her household from wearing the distinctive headgear required of other Jews, asking that they be allowed to wear hats and dresses in the Venetian style instead. The Sultan consented, and would have permitted more had she demanded it, so great was the wealth he gained from her in taxes’).
Although at various points in the narrative Pedro openly acknowledges the economic benefits enjoyed by the Ottomans in allowing Jewish and Christian subjects to reside in their territories, it is in his account of a conversation with Juan Micas that Pedro reveals the Ottomans’ disdain of their Sephardi subjects and the fact that they are even less tolerant towards them than Spain’s inquisitorial authorities:
Quando menos me caté que ya era hecho miembro del diablo. Preguntado que por qué había hecho aquello, respondió que no por más de no estar subjeto a las Inquisiçiones d’España; a lo qual yo le dixe: Pues hagos saver que mucho mayor la ternéis aquí si bibís, lo qual no penséis que será mucho tiempo, y aquel malo y arrepentido; y no pasaron dos meses que le vi llorar su pecado, pero consolábale el diablo con el dinero. (‘I soon discovered that he had already become a member of the devil’s cohort. Upon asking why he had converted back to Judaism, he replied that it was because he no longer wished to be subject to the authority of the Spanish Inquisition, to which I responded by warning him that he’d suffer far worse living as a Jew here in the Ottoman Empire, and that it wouldn’t be long before he regretted the evil he’d committed. Not two months had passed before I saw him lamenting his sin, although the devil consoled him with money’). (García Salinero 453)
This passage is vital in bringing to light Viaje de Turquía’s entirely unsentimental portrayal of the Turks’ mercenary attitude towards religious minorities. The Turks are ultimately depicted neither as exceptionally tolerant nor as capable of reasoning or debate, since they are described as quick to turn to violence as a means of reinforcing their views or achieving their desires: ‘No cabe demandarles razón de cosa que hagan, porque lo tienen de defender por armas y no disputar’ (‘There’s no point demanding to know the reasoning behind their actions because they defend them with weapons and not with debate’) (García Salinero 389). Pedro remarks upon the Turks’ irrationality, which he explains as deriving from their adherence to Islam, a religion based upon the selective appropriation of Mosaic laws and Christian doctrine with the aim of appealing to the simple-minded:
para atraer Mahoma a su vana secta a los simples que le siguieron, ordenó su Alcorán tomando de la ley de Moysén y de la nuestra sancta, de cada una lo que conosçió ser más apacible y agradable a la gente. (‘to attract simple-minded followers to his vain sect, Mohammad ordered his Koran to be based on aspects of the law of Moses and of our holy faith, taking from each what he knew to be more pleasant and agreeable to the people’). (García Salinero 386)18
Having established the inherently flawed and consequently inferior nature of the Islamic religion, Pedro is, as Encarnación Sánchez García notes, ‘in no fear of being misinterpreted and can, therefore, recognize Islam’s merits’ (Sánchez García 154). Thus, the Ottomans’ integration of minorities into their society is categorically not presented as the result of any ethical or sentimental concern for the welfare of a particular religious community, nor is it attributable to complex systems of theology or philosophy, since the potential existence of either is thoroughly ruled out by Pedro’s denunciation of the crudeness of the Turks’ creed. Instead, Ottoman toleration constitutes a wholly pragmatic mode of behaviour in which any aversion to religious others is subordinate to the practical, monetary needs and social stability of the Empire, a fact borne out by Pedro’s explanation of the Turks’ reluctance to persuade non-Muslims to convert to Islam: ‘No pueden […] hazerles más de persuadírselo tres vezes, y si no quisieren, dexarlos, si no es que algunos los amenaçan; pero estos tales ya van contra su ley’ (‘They’re not allowed to try and persuade people to convert more than three times in total, and if the potential convert refuses, they must leave them in peace. It’s not that they never use threats, but it’s against their law to do so’) (García Salinero 175).
In this regard, the attitude ascribed to the Turks can be characterized as a kind of economic or administrative morality, since avoiding forcible conversions to Islam other than among subjects specifically selected for professional recruitment is not only the more profitable option but the one necessary for the optimal administration of their Empire. Indeed, it is on this, the question of statecraft, that the broader significance of the Ottomans’ expedient approach to religious difference ultimately rests. In spite of the defective nature of the Ottomans’ theological beliefs and their failure to connect faith with reason, the Turks themselves are shown to be capable of effective government both over their own people as well as those of other nations and religious affiliations subject to their power. Spain, on the other hand, nominally adheres to the only true faith, Christianity, yet is misguided – not to say blinded – by corrupt practices condoned and encouraged by the Catholic Church, which, in conjunction with the state, fails to properly instruct and unite even those Spaniards whose ancestors have been professing Catholics for generations, let alone those who have been brought under the auspices of the Church more recently by means of the long arm of the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
Pedro’s appreciation of the economic and practical advantages of integrating new converts or religious others into one’s society, in the Ottoman fashion, corresponds with his view that the very least a successfully functioning state can do is enable its citizens to take up gainful employment and feel that they occupy a valued place in society. We see how the injustice of Pedro’s lack of expertise or training in a trade or profession, a lack for which he holds his parents culpable, as well as Spanish society more broadly, hits him full force during a conversation he recalls having had with a fellow captive in the Ottoman Empire:
Como yo vi que ninguno sabía, ni nunca acá le deprendí, ni mis padres lo procuraron, de lo qual tienen gran culpa ellos y todos los que no lo hazen, imaginé quál de aquellos podia yo fingir para ser bien tratado y que no me pudiesen tomar en mentira, y acordé que, pues no sabía ninguno, lo mejor era dezir que era médico, pues todos los errores había de cubrir la tierra, y las culpas de los muertos se habían de echar a Dios. (‘Realizing I knew none of these [trades], having never learnt them here in Spain and my parents never having attempted to ensure I acquire any skills – a great failure of which they’re guilty, as are all parents who fail to do this – I tried to work out which I could fake in order to be well-treated without being found out. I decided that, since I knew none of them, the best thing to do was to say I was a doctor, since any mistakes would be buried in the earth, and the blame of the dead is heard only by God’). (García Salinero 133)
So, Pedro simultaneously undermines doctors’ perceived expertise while suggesting that the ability of captives to hold a respected profession in Ottoman lands denotes a civilization in which social mobility and the motivation to achieve success regardless of one’s background are far greater than in his native Spain. Learning a trade or having a useful vocation not only allows one to earn an honest living while avoiding the degradation of poverty, it likewise has an edifying effect on the intellect, allowing for freedom of conscience even if, as in Pedro’s case as a slave-physician, it restricts freedom of action. It is by assigning each Turkish citizen a productive role in their society that the Ottomans facilitate unity among the followers of their Islamic religion – a fact pointed out with bitter irony by Pedro when Juan asks him how often Turks pray each day:
Çinco, con la mayor devoçión y curiosidad: que si ansí lo hiziésemos nosotros, nos querría mucho Dios. […] De tal manera entended que […] no queda ánima viba de turco ni turca, pobre ni rico, desde el emperador hasta los moços de cozina, que no lo haga. (‘Five times, with the greatest of devotion and curiosity. If we Catholics did this, God would love us dearly. […] You have to understand that […] there’s not a single living soul, not one Turkish man or woman, whether rich or poor, from the Sultan in his palace to the servants in the kitchen, who doesn’t join in’). (García Salinero 389)
This observation further stresses that the unity and social mobility facilitated by the Turks’ social and religious systems run counter to the concurrent situation in Spain. Just as the unified practice of Islam is encouraged by the Ottomans’ well-ordered civilization, in which opportunities to learn and exercise worthwhile skills free from concern with lineage abound, the unfounded conviction dominating Spanish society that nobility and religious belief constitute inherited traits gives rise to a fragmented, unjust and conflictive social order and inadvertently encourages insincere adherence to Catholicism through the observance of outward rituals upon which the religion itself is overly reliant.
Melveena McKendrick’s analysis of the Spanish nobility’s response to increasing social mobility in the sixteenth century encapsulates its problematic nature and suggests how the threat of an ever-growing middle class led to purity of blood becoming an essential means by which the elites carved out a new and exclusive form of self-definition:
In the face of accelerating upward social mobility that increased their numbers and diluted their exclusiveness […] the Spanish nobility became obsessive about its identity and integrity. In the Middle Ages, centuries of warfare had rendered this identity and this integrity unproblematic, for war against the infidel itself defined the noble classes and the noble ideal. In the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries the gradual loss of function and the accelerating emergence of social-climbing middle classes made other forms of self-definition essential, and central to these was limpieza de sangre (‘purity of blood’), by which the others stood or fell. Restrictive barriers had to be erected where before none had been necessary, and the respect society owed its nobles had to be jealously guarded.
The social unrest occasioned by Spain’s blood purity statutes mirrors the discord between and within the Christian kingdoms of Europe that is obliquely referenced in Viaje de Turquía’s dialogue and openly mocked in its prologue. The apparent humility of this opening section of the text is undercut by bitingly satirical references to the conflict and dissent that are not only dividing Spain internally – ‘el mayor contrario y capital enemigo que para cumplir su deseo Vuestra Majestdad tiene (dexados aparte los ladrones de casa y perros del ortelano) es el Gran Turco’ (‘The fiercest opposition and greatest enemy Your Majesty faces in accomplishing his desires (with the exception of house thieves and dogs in the manger) is the Great Turk’ (García Salinero 88) – but also creating insurmountable disunity among the Christian kingdoms of Europe:
No hay a quien no mueba risa ver algunos casamenteros que dan en sus escripturas remedios y consejos, conforme a las cabezas donde salen, cómo se puede ganar toda aquella tierra del turco, diziendo que se juntasen el Papa y todos los príncipes christianos, y a las dignidades de la Iglesia y a todos los señores quitasen una parte de sus haziendas, y cada reino contribuyese con tanta gente pagada, y paresçiéndoles dezir algo encarasçen el papel, no mirando que el gato y el ratón, yel perro y el lobo no se pueden iunzir para arar con ellos (‘There’s no one who isn’t moved to laughter by those would-be matchmakers who offer remedies and advice in their writings, as sharp as the minds from which they spring, as to how that land can be won back from the Turk. They urge that the Pope and all the Christian princes act as one, and that a portion of the estates of the dignitaries of the Church and of the nobility be removed, and that each kingdom contribute an equal number of paid troops. And thus, thinking that they’ve said something of note, they increase the cost of paper, not realizing that the cat and the mouse, the dog and the wolf, cannot be yoked at the plough and made to work together’). (García Salinero 90–91)
It is at this point that the author first implies that the rise of the Turks is concurrent with the moral demise of Catholicism – represented not only by the Church and papacy but also by the Spanish Habsburg Empire led by Philip II – as well as with the corresponding ascent of the true spirit of Christianity. As Marie-Sol Ortolá maintains in her analysis of Pedro’s spiritual awakening, the definition he offers of his expiated self is forged by the experience of captivity, which has a direct impact on his religious consciousness and spiritual maturation:
The account of his new awareness leads him back to the very beginning of his experience: the battle against the Turks, the shipwreck, the brutal captivity. All suggest the downfall of Catholic Christianity, on the one hand, and the survival of the real spirit of Christ in the hero’s rebirth in captivity, on the other. […] Pedro is no doubt the apostle of the new age, a Christ figure who wants to save the world. […] The Christian ethic that Pedro is going to define extensively to his friends through the tale of his moral reform is useful only if it is confronted with the orthodox view upheld by the Catholic Church. His point is to prove that official dogma is corrupt. (Ortolá 91, 93)
The freeing of conscience experienced by Pedro during his enslavement under the Ottomans and the consequent spiritual rebirth it occasions stand in direct contrast to the intellectually oppressive atmosphere prevailing in Spain, implying that a morally stagnating Catholicism, doctrinally encumbered and freighted with exploitable superstition, lacks the spiritual sincerity to function as the religion of empire. Accordingly, the motivation behind Viaje de Turquía’s ostensibly complimentary portrayal of Turkish toleration is not only, as Jeremy Lawrance contends, ‘to play with the Erasmian paradox that the real barbarians are Europeans’ (Lawrance 29), but, more specifically, to insinuate that, like the barbarian kingdoms of antiquity in the eyes of the Classical Greeks and Romans, Europe now belongs to the tumultuous, narrow realm of the periphery as opposed to the ordered, expansive and expanding territory occupying the centre. It is to this end that Pedro contrasts the size and diversity of Constantinople with the limited physical and conceptual parameters of Spanish towns such as Valladolid: ‘¿pensáis que Constantinopla es alguna aldea de España que se consçen unos a otros?; que no hay día, como tiene buen Puerto, que no haya gente forastera, como en Valladolid natural?’ (‘do you think that Constantinople is like some Spanish backwater where everyone knows each other? Due to it sizeable port, not a day goes by when the number of foreigners entering the city doesn’t surpass the number of people native to Valladolid’) (García Salinero 191).
Casting the Turks as having assumed the mantle of imperial rule from the Greco-Roman world serves to taunt the Spanish ruling classes with the notion that the Ottoman Empire,19 successfully governed by adherents of an inferior faith whose authority is such that Muslims barely constitute the majority in their own capital city,20 has taken on the manifest destiny that once seemed preordained for Spain. Indeed, Pedro’s descriptions of the Turks’ astute stance towards their minority populations suggest that, had the Spanish monarchy retained their Jewish and Muslim subjects following the definitive conquest of Al-Andalus, then Spain, like the Ottoman Empire, would have reaped the rewards of legitimate rule over subjects of diverse creeds and nations within its peninsular borders, as the Christian kingdoms of Iberia had done throughout the Middle Ages. Not only would such a policy have significantly increased its wealth, power and global influence, it would also have afforded Spain a unique status as a Catholic empire of sufficient spiritual and intellectual robustness to accommodate representatives of all three Abrahamic religions, with the lesser two, Islam and Judaism, serving to highlight and augment the superiority of the one true faith while filling the coffers of the state.21 Instead, along with the financial impoverishment and social injustice suffered by its most vulnerable citizens (repeatedly mentioned in the friends’ conversations about hospitals and the poor), the spiritual and intellectual impoverishment of the Catholicism now adhered to in Spain is underscored by the interlocutors’ comments about clergymen whose interpretation of the Gospels favours their literal rather than moral or spiritual meaning. Juan, himself a theologian, admits to being duped by a hugely popular book written by a friar who claimed to have conducted the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When the aforementioned cleric preached during Lent the royal court itself came to hear his sermon, which consisted of nothing more than signalling the distance between where Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and the place of his crucifixion, between the house of Annas and that of Caiaphas, and so on, using the measurements of the church in which he delivered the sermon as his benchmark.22 The same literal understanding of Scripture is critiqued at length by Pedro, who openly declares his belief that the pilgrimage to Jerusalem is based on lack of faith rather than on sanctity, since most pilgrims take more interest in the objects and topography involved in Christ’s crucifixion than in the spiritual significance of his suffering:
yo tengo de fe que Christo fue crucificado en el monte Calvario y fue muerto y sepultado y que le abrieron el costado con una lança, y todo lo demás que la Iglesia cree y confiese; pues ¿no tengo de pensar que el monte Calvario es un monte como otros, y la lanza como otras, y la cruz, que era entonces en uso como agora la horca: y que todo esto por sí no es nada, sino por Christo que padesció?
(‘I take on faith that Christ was crucified on the mount of Calvary and was killed and buried, his side pierced with a spear, and all the rest of what the Church believes and confesses. Should I not therefore believe that Mount Calvary is a hill like any other, and the spear like all other spears, and the cross, which in those days was like today’s gallows – that all these things in themselves are nothing, and that all that really matters is the suffering of Christ?’). (García Salinero 120)
Pedro’s denunciation of this kind of interpretation of Christianity draws attention to the morally and cerebrally stultifying effects of preoccupation with the physical rather than the metaphysical components of the Gospels. His criticisms indicate that whereas Christians are bound by their faith to serve as spiritual witnesses of Christ’s divinity, instead, aided and encouraged by church and state, they prefer to follow a far less demanding – and, indeed, false – route to salvation by seeking to witness the physical manifestations of Christ’s presence on earth. It is as a result of this literal means of understanding – or, more accurately, of misunderstanding – Christianity, that Catholics are susceptible to being deceived by peddlers of false relics and fabricated miracles, precisely the sort of swindle hitherto employed by Juan and Mátalas Callando.
The correspondingly derogatory attitude towards perceived Jewish literality is stridently articulated in Pedro’s account of the actions of an unnamed Jew who witnesses the suffering the Spaniard experiences as a result of refusing to abandon his Christian faith. Befitting his Christ-like role as the apostle of a new era of personal Christianity, Constantinople is cast as the location of Pedro’s spiritual martyrdom and, thus, as a reconfiguration of Roman-controlled Jerusalem. It is in this setting that, just as Satan tested Jesus three times in the wilderness, Pedro’s master, Sinan Pasha, makes three attempts to convert his Christian physician to Islam.23 Each time, Pedro rejects the promise of untold wealth and professional success that would accompany his conversion (the satanic hec omnia tibi dabo that Pedro associates with the Pasha) and prefers to undergo even greater humiliation, stricter terms of captivity and more extreme physical suffering in order to remain an exemplary Christian, unfettered by mental and spiritual – if not physical – shackles of bondage. The third and final instance of Pedro’s spiritual martyrdom functions as a markedly profane parallel to Christ’s arduous journey along the Via Dolorosa on the way to his crucifixion at Mount Calvary. For defending his faith against Islam, Pedro is returned to the chains he was made to wear in the earlier stages of his captivity and commanded to resume his previous undertaking as a manual labourer. Still wearing the rich garments he acquired while serving as court physician, he is forced to carry two large slabs of stone, presumably upon heavy wooden poles, the sweat streaming down his face and blinding him in such a manner as to replicate the sweat and blood that spilled into Christ’s eyes beneath his crown of thorns.24 While struggling to carry his consignment of masonry, the Spanish captive is approached by a Jew who, mistaking Pedro for a man of great wealth and status in his native Spain due to his rich attire, insists on helping him by taking one of the stone slabs and laying it in its place:
Mátalas: – Lo que os dixo el judío quando se acabó la paçiencia.
Pedro: – ¡Ah!, dize, ¡ánimo, ánimo, gentil hombre, que para tal tiempo se ven los caballeros! Y llegóse a mí y tomóme él un ladrillo y fuese conmigo a ponerle en su lugar. Respondíle: El ánimo de caballero es, hermano, poner la vida al tablero cada y quando que sea menester de buena gana; pero sufrir cada hora mill muertes sin nunca morir y llebar palos y cargas, más es de caballos que de caballeros.
(‘Mátalas: You were going to tell us what the Jew said when your patience ran out.
Pedro: “Ah!” he said, “Chin up! Chin up, good sir! This is just the kind of situation that calls for a knight!”, upon which he came up to me, took one of the slabs I was carrying and helped me put it in its place. I replied: “The spirit of a knight, brother, is to willingly lay down his life whenever necessary; but to suffer a thousand deaths each hour without ever dying and bear beatings as well as heavy loads is more in the spirit of a horse than in that of a knight.”’) (García.
Alongside its clearly satirical elements (Mátalas Callando’s immediate reaction to this is to exclaim: ‘En verdad que he pensado rebentar por las ijadas de risa, si no templara la falta de paçiencia pasada’ (‘In truth I would’ve laughed ‘til my sides split had the previous loss of patience not tempered the urge’) (García Salinero 184)), the account’s distortion of a crucial episode of the Passion juxtaposes the sincerity of Pedro’s faith and the depth of his inner nobility with the judío’s shallow fixation on the outward signs of high birth.25
The latter’s failure to appreciate the true meaning and value of nobility, in other words, his inability to recognize that Pedro’s dignity lies in his fidelity to his Christian convictions regardless of – indeed, because of – the toll such spiritual commitment takes on his material prosperity and physical wellbeing, acts as outward confirmation of his Jewishness. Throughout the scene his character receives no elaboration other than being identified as un judío, yet the fact that he is motivated to perform a good deed by the shallow trappings of social status, in addition to the harsh penalty he pays for his lack of interpretative skills, reveal the text’s reliance upon the epistemologically loaded and ontologically fixed nature of the monicker ‘Jew’. This serves as a powerful epithet, signifying a raft of associated qualities as undesirable as they are unchanging:
Hallóse zerca de mí un judío […] Y llegóse a mí y tomóme él un ladrillo y fuese conmigo a ponerle en su lugar. […] Quando los guardianes que estaban en la segunda puerta de la casa vieron dentro el judío, maravillados del ávito, que no [le] habían visto trabajar aquellos días, preguntáronle que qué buscaba; díxoles cómo me había ayudado a traer aquella carga, porque yo no podia; respondieron: ¿Quién te mete a ti donde no te llaman?; ¿somos tan necios que no sabemos si puede o no? Y diziendo y haziendo, con los bastones, entre todos, que eran diez o doze, le dieron tantos que ni él ni otro no osó más llegarse a mí de allá adelante.’ (emphases mine) (‘A Jew found himself by my side […] When the guards who stood at the second door of the house saw the Jew inside they were astonished at the sight of his robe, having not seen him working before. They asked him what he was looking for and he explained that he’d helped me carry my load because I couldn’t manage it, to which they replied ‘Who told you to get involved when no one’s asked for you? Do you think we’re so stupid that we don’t know if he can manage or not?’ and as they spoke they drew their batons and the entire group of them, about ten or twelve in number, set about beating him so much that neither he nor anyone else ever dared approach me again’). (García Salinero 183–84)
In this case, the judío’s venality and shallow understanding are intended to exemplify the hermeneutic deficiencies of all Jews, their ancestors having witnessed Christ’s Passion while refusing to accept its true significance. More specifically, he is used as a means of ‘performing’ the obsolescence of Judaism, his act of laying the heavy slab of stone carried by Pedro (the latter’s name deriving from the Greek petrus, meaning rock, evoking Saint Peter, the rock upon whom Christ declared he would build his church) enabling the reader to educe the crucial analogy between the text and an article of theology that appears strategically in both Old and New Testaments, most notably in the Gospels in which Christ asks the Jewish high priests of Jerusalem, shortly before his crucifixion:
Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. (Matthew 21:43, ESV)
The phrase is widely understood in this context as Jesus’s forewarning to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high priests of Jerusalem at the time of his crucifixion, that only those who accept him as their Messiah will inherit the privileged place in God’s divine plan previously held by the Jewish nation. Just as no stone was more important in the construction of the Temple than its cornerstone, since the integrity of the entire structure depended on it possessing precisely the right lines and dimensions, Christ’s spiritual perfection allows him to serve as the cornerstone of humanity’s redemption.26 Given that Pedro’s role mirrors that of Christ within the narrative framework of Viaje de Turquía, the fact that the Jew recognizes his nobility, albeit for the wrong reasons, and consequently lays down the first stone upon which the Spaniard will have to construct his building, suggests a parallel between the position of Judaism as the foundation stone of the Christian faith which superseded it. Furthermore, the Jew’s ignorance of Pedro’s spiritual sacrifice despite the fact that he willingly lays the stone on his behalf reasserts the blindness of all Jews and of Judaism itself to the fact that the advent of Christ has fulfilled the messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures and thereby transformed the Tanakh, the canon of the Hebrew Bible, into the Old Testament.
Compounding his spiritual illiteracy, the literal-minded judío also fails to determine that the power dynamics of the situation in which he finds himself are distinctly not in his favour, for whatever his social status may have been before his enslavement, he is now under the rule of the Turks and subject to a brutal beating at the hands of his captors. Thus, he is cast as the antithesis of Pedro’s self-made man – someone who demonstrates nobility of spirit amid the most undignified and degrading of circumstances – being instead a man unmade by his Jewishness and mercilessly bludgeoned for his foolishness and insolence by the Turkish guards.
Against the secular backdrop of early modern debates concerning the nature of nobility, Pedro can be viewed as a prime example of the Homo Novus, or ‘new man’, part of a continuous tradition of European writing throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and into the seventeenth which argued, as R. W. Truman notes, that a man born into humble circumstances could rise to eminence in the world through the exercise of virtue and ability, and deserved general acclaim when he had done so:
Nobility is essentially an interior thing and does not depend on accidents of fortune, such as being born into an old-established, eminent, and wealthy family. No more is it to do with fine clothes and show. To urge ancestry or wealth as grounds for claiming special eminence for oneself is therefore mere foolishness. For nobility follows from one’s own personal virtue and general excellence. […] If one is to achieve nobility, one’s life must be marked by what [Sánchez de] Arévalo summed up as ‘propria strennuitas’: determination and effort guided by intelligence and prudence and sustained even in circumstances of difficulty and hardship. (Truman 63)27
Although Pedro’s interior nobility conforms in most respects to Truman’s summary of early modern conceptualizations thereof, his means of accomplishing it nevertheless is dependent upon him leaving Spain and enduring the hardships inflicted on him as a slave of the Ottoman Empire. This important detail could be interpreted as underscoring the intellectually and spiritually enlightening effects of close contemplation of the Turkish ‘other’ were it not for the indisputable fact that Pedro’s account of Ottoman Constantinople consistently portrays it as an environment in which Jews and renegados are shown to wield significant power in the upper echelons of society – power that is shown in virtually every instance of close contact to be destructive in nature, whether due to malevolence, intransigence, ineptitude or a combination of these aspects. It is therefore no coincidence that the most intensely heroic of Pedro’s struggles as well as the greatest of his accomplishments, professional as well as spiritual, are consistently contrasted with the professional corruption and spiritual and moral bankruptcy of Jews, since the Sephardim are tacitly acknowledged as having attained their status as court physicians due solely to their privileged Judeo-Spanish ancestry.
In contradistinction to the eternally stubborn, unchanging Jews against whom he must battle in his professional life, we are constantly reminded that Pedro has undergone profound spiritual and intellectual changes that have left him unrecognizable to his friends Juan and Mátalas Callando. Indeed, Mátalas observes on more than one occasion that Pedro has been transformed by his experiences in Turkey, most notably with his remark ‘Es verdad que venís tan trocado, que dubdo si sois vos. Dos horas ha que estamos parlando y no se os ha soltado una palabra de las que solías, sino todo sentencias llenas de philosophia y religion y themor de Dios’ (‘It’s true that you’ve returned so changed that I doubt it’s even you. We’ve been talking for more than two hours and you’ve spoken of none of the things you used to but rather in sentences full of philosophy and religion and fear of God’) (García Salinero 123). Moreover, the metamorphic power of the physical journeys central to the story – Pedro’s initial voyage through the Ottoman Empire, his enslavement leading to a life of servitude in Constantinople and his escape back to Spain – followed by his undertaking of the pilgrimage to Santiago as a means of thanking God for granting him freedom – is consciously mirrored in the spiritual metamorphosis that Pedro informs us he has undergone as a direct result of his travels. In representing the path to spiritual rebirth as one of grave, physical danger to life, the text is not merely narrating a paradox but conveying Christ’s warning that the gateway to true, eternal life entails effort, sacrifice and great personal risk:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13, ESV)
The metaphor of God providing two ways, one good and leading to salvation, the other evil and leading to destruction, appears in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 30:19 and Jeremiah 21:8. Once again, the fact that the Jewish characters in Viaje de Turquía fail to realize that they are paving the way to their own destruction is intimated in the very process by which Pedro finds salvation – in persistently struggling to enlighten the Sephardim in the arts of healing while successfully evading their attempts to destroy his reputation and, ultimately, his life.
The judío who serves as a caricature of Simon of Cyrene further underscores the Jews’ tenacious refusal to change their ways despite the warnings provided by their own scriptures. He shows excessive and misplaced concern for inherited wealth and status in much the same way as the Jewish physicians reveal their reliance upon inherited titles and qualifications while inadvertently exposing the worthlessness of both through their distinct lack of ability, intelligence and integrity. A striking example of this is provided by Pedro’s account of the Judeo-Spanish physician of no particular renown who arrives at Sinan’s court claiming to be a graduate (liçençiado). Flaunting his ill-founded self-assurance by promising to cure the Pasha’s condition in three days, the liçençiado’s utterances and manner are described as having provoked a feeling of disgust in all those who could understand his Spanish (‘quando vino el señor liçençiado començó de hablar de tal manera que ponía asco a todos los que lo entendían’; ‘when the graduate arrived he began speaking in such a way that those who could understand what he was saying were disgusted’ (García Salinero 224). His audience’s reaction is explained when Pedro relates the man’s justification of how the title of liçençiado had been passed down through three generations of his family on the basis of the degree his grandfather obtained from Salamanca before the expulsion. The Sephardi medic is then described as having concluded his brief autobiographical account with the pronouncement that his children were already referred to as ‘liçençiaditos’ (‘little graduates’) (García Salinero 224), a revelation that, though a source of hilarity for Pedro’s interlocutors (Juan remarks: ‘De rebentar de risa era razón, quanto más de reír’; ‘You had reason enough not just to laugh but to split your sides laughing’ García Salinero 224), once again seeks to accentuate the perceived flaw in the Jewish mindset concerning the obsessive regard for heredity most notably manifested in their concern with nobility.
The pervasiveness of this shortcoming among Viaje de Turquía’s Jewish characters conspicuously echoes those identified in Luther’s previously mentioned work, The Jews and Their Lies. Therein, the German theologian repeatedly condemns what he regards as the Jews’ enduring sense of superiority and disdain towards gentiles, identifying the obstinate belief and pride in their noble lineage as the root of these traits and thus as one of the chief factors contributing to their persistent rejection of Christianity:
There is one thing about which they boast and pride themselves beyond measure, and that is their descent from the foremost people on earth, from Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and from the twelve patriarchs, and thus from the holy people of Israel. […] Therefore they boast of being the noblest, yes, the only noble people on earth. In comparison with them and in their eyes we Gentiles (Goyim) are not human; in fact we hardly deserve to be considered poor worms by them. For we are not of that high and noble blood, lineage, birth, and descent. This is their argument, and indeed I think it is the greatest and strongest reason for their pride and boasting. (Qtd in Gill 474)
Given the extensive circulation and popularity of the German reformer’s treatise and his infamous denunciation of the Jews’ perceived obsession with their noble lineage, the irony of the fact that Spanish laws on limpieza de sangre meant that those identified as being of Jewish descent were deliberately excluded from the ranks of Iberian nobility was unlikely to have been lost on the anonymous author of Viaje de Turquía. Indeed, the latitude bestowed by the Turks upon the Sephardim apropos their professional activities, exemplified by the depiction of the Jewish physicians’ favoured status at Sinan Pasha’s court, are repeatedly revealed as being excessive and undeserved due to their incompetence, cowardice, diabolical irrationality and finally their persistently successful yet indefensible claims to inherited privilege.
It must therefore be concluded that, although the antisemitic elements in Viaje de Turquía have not previously been examined in detail nor are acknowledged in the vast majority of scholarly studies, their presence is both incontrovertible and fundamental to a comprehensive understanding of the text. The emphasis on movement evinced in Viaje de Turquía’s dialogic structure as well as in the life-altering journey that determines its content, posits spiritual and social transformation – arguably the greatest aspiration among Renaissance humanists seeking to reform lapsed Christians and Christian societies – as possibilities to be aimed for and achieved through the testing and rejection of truths that are at once unfounded or obsolete yet accorded privileged status.28 It is the Jewish characters in the narrative who exemplify this combination of obsolescence and enduring privilege, and the Ottomans who, having accepted the expelled Sephardim into their Empire, place them in Pedro’s path. This gesture on the part of the Turks is therefore erroneous yet, in providing the opportunity for spiritual transformation no longer available in post-1492 Spain, utterly crucial.
The Sephardim, whose exile from Spain required a perilous journey of more than two thousand miles to the relative safety of Constantinople, within the narrative context of Viaje de Turquía nevertheless constitute figures whose ancestors’ relocation from Spain to Turkey neither brought change nor signalled a capacity for adaptation: rather, their settlement at the heart of the Ottoman Empire is portrayed as having compounded their intellectually stultifying adherence to old ways, thereby rendering them even more grotesquely stubborn and nefarious than their ancient forebears.
Due to its indebtedness to sixteenth-century humanist and reformist thought underpinned by hostility towards Jews and Judaism, and in light of the characterization of the Jewish figures discussed at length in this study, Viaje de Turquía must thus be regarded as a clear exemplar of how early modern humanism and the literature it inspired could be just as dependent upon antisemitic stereotypes as medieval theological and cultural production. As such, it underscores the fact that the cultural flourishing of the Renaissance provided new yet equally authoritative channels through which ideologies founded upon antisemitism could be disseminated and reinforced.