The Medieval Review 17.10.10

Balard, Michel, Laura Balletto, and Catherine Otten-Froux, eds. Gênes et l'outre-mer: Actes notariés rédigés à Chypre par le notaire Antonius Folieta (1445-1458). Soucres et études de l'histoire de Chypre, 75. Nicosie: Centre de Recherche Scientifique de Chypre, 2016. pp. 586. ISBN: 978-9963-0-8140-0. (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Peter Edbury
Cardiff University

As is well known, the collection of notarial instruments preserved in the Archivio di Stato di Genova (Notai Antichi) forms a major resource for the study of social and economic history from the twelfth century to far more recent times. While much of the material comprises registers compiled by legal practitioners working in Genoa and the adjacent territories, there are some which show Genoese notaries operating in more distant localities and so illustrate the activities of Genoese as well as people from elsewhere in other major emporia. In this respect the data from Cyprus, principally the port of Famagusta, is invaluable, and the present volume completes the publication of the corpus of Cypriot materials that survive in Genoa from the late thirteenth century to the mid fifteenth. Previously five volumes of notarial material from Famagusta, most notably the registers of Lamberto di Sambuceto from the close of the thirteenth century and the first decade of the fourteenth, appeared in the series Collana Storica di Fonti et Studi (1982-1987). More recently three volumes, of which this is third, have been published by the Cyprus Research Centre / Centre de Recherche Scientifique (2012, 2013 and 2016).

This final volume consists of an edition of 219 notarial instruments mostly from the pen of Antonius Folieta, who was at work in Cyprus in the years 1445-1458. As is to be expected from the editors--who are themselves leading specialists in the field and who between them have an immense amount of experience in preparing notarial material from Genoa for publication--the documents are edited to an exemplary standard. There is an extended introduction which, besides describing the manuscripts and their location within the archive, relates what is known of Antonius and his forebears, several of whom were also notaries. His early life was spent in Genoa where in the 1430s he is found witnessing notarial acta drawn up by his father's cousin, Blasius Folieta. By 1442 he was in Cyprus where he held a position in the Genoese administration in Famagusta, and he remained on the island until 1458. His last act is dated 5 July 1458, and then on 9 September he composed a further act on Rhodes. This is the final document in this collection. After that he disappears from the sources until 1460 when he was working on Chios. The Genoese archives contain unpublished acta of his from Chios for the years 1460-1467 and 1471-1476 at which point the evidence for his career falls silent.

The surviving notarial material from Cyprus falls into two sections: a cluster of seven documents from 1445-1446 and then a gap. The remaining acts are spread across the years 1452 to 1458 with almost half the total dated 1455 and 1456. The great majority are from Famagusta, the principal Cypriot port which had been under Genoese rule since 1373, but there are a few from Limassol, which was also occupied by the Genoese for much of the 1450s (docs. 208-11), and there is a scatter of documents from Nicosia. The Nicosia documents are of particular interest, as they illustrate the often troubled relations between the Genoese and the Cypriot monarchy. Thus in 1452 the Genoese were lodging a protest about the seizure in defiance of their agreements of two of their fustes that had attacked two Catalan fustes that in turn had attacked a Genoese merchant vessel bound for the Egyptian port of Damietta. The protest was accompanied by instructions from the Genoese authorities in Famagusta that all Genoese in Nicosia should leave the city (docs. 28-9). The following year there was a complaint about the non-receipt of payments owed the Genoese in some cases dating back to the 1430s. Royal finances at the time were in serious disarray, and this document seems to confirm other evidence that particular sources of royal income consistently failed to generate sufficient income to satisfy the payments assigned against them (doc. 38). There were further complaints about non-payment of crown debts in 1453 (doc. 46). In 1455 the Genoese were lodging a protest that King John II (1432-1458), contrary to the peace agreements, had failed to punish subjects of his who had attacked Genoese ships, had given aid to pirates, had allowed the loading of merchandise in his ports rather than at Famagusta and had unjustly seized a Genoese citizen and his goods (doc. 119). There was a further complaint the following year about trading, contrary to treaty, at Salines (doc. 172). From 1457 there are documents illustrating the continued payment of tribute to Genoa that had been demanded ever since the Genoese war of 1373-1374 (docs. 203-4).

In the light of the subsequent political history of Cyprus, perhaps the most interesting document is from February 1458 in which the bishop of Limassol, acting as the king's envoy, complained that a Florentine merchant who was in papal service had allowed the king's bastard son James onto his galley and had brought him to Famagusta, to the king's chagrin (doc. 215). This was a small episode in a much larger story that ended in James's seizure of power and reign as James II (1460-1473). King John's only legitimate child was a daughter, and by the mid-1450s the royal court was preoccupied by the need to find a suitable husband for her who would be acceptable to the leading Cypriots and who could then rule as king-consort. Negotiations were beset by difficulties; intrigue at court and James's self-evident ambition led to the murder of the king's chamberlain. James then left Cyprus--hence his movements as recorded in the February 1458 document--and took refuge for a while on Rhodes; he then returned to Cyprus and murdered James Urri, the viscount of Nicosia and royal auditor. (James Urri, incidentally, is mentioned in the documents edited in this volume: nos. 38, 46, 172.) Then in July the king died, and in 1460 James, who had fled to Egypt, returned with a force of mamluks and the civil war which led to his accession and also to the expulsion of Genoese from Famagusta after their ninety-year occupation was set in train.

For the rest, the collection includes, as is to be expected, acts of a purely commercial nature--for example, loans, receipts and the appointments of procurators--as well as several wills in which the testators asked for burial in either the Franciscan church at Famagusta or the cathedral--further evidence for the absence of any major church-building since the Genoese seizure of Famagusta in 1373. There are references too to the activities of Jews, although it is not always clear whether they were resident or even short-term visitors to the island (docs. 1, 33, 57, 152, 180). There is, in short, much here that is of interest.

Copyright (c) 2017 Peter Edbury

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