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Ashkenazi, Solomon


ASHKENAZI, SOLOMON (c. 1520–1602), Turkish physican and diplomat; born in Udine, northern Italy. His father Nathan apparently belonged to the *Basevi family, the name "Ashkenazi" indicating German origin. After studying medicine at Padua, Solomon went to Cracow, where he served for 16 years as court physician at the court of Sigismund ii Augustus. In 1564, he settled in Constantinople, where he was physician and dragoman to Marcantonio Barbaro, the Venetian Bailo, and to the grand vizier, Mehmet Sokollu. During the war with Venice which broke out in 1570 (largely through the influence of Joseph *Nasi, duke of Naxos) Barbaro employed him for secret communications with the grand vizier, Nasi's political rival. After the Turkish disaster at Lepanto, Ashkenazi conducted the preliminary negotiations which led to the peace treaty of 1573. In the following year he was sent to Venice as the vizier's personal representative to propose an alliance to the Venetian government. It was determined that he should be treated as though he were an ambassador from the sultan, and he was formally received in this capacity by the doge and signoria in 1574. During the following decade, as "Aleman Oglou," Ashkenazi continued to wield great influence. He claimed to be responsible for the exertion of Turkish support when Henri de Valois was elected to the Polish throne in 1573, and when the Polish throne was again vacant in 1574–5 he promised to secure the support of the Sublime Porte for the duke of Ferrara. He advised the grand duke of Tuscany on procedure when the latter wished to resume diplomatic relations with Turkey in 1578. In 1583 his services were used to settle a minor dispute between the English and Venetian representatives. In 1586 he signed the preliminary articles of the treaty with Spain on behalf of the sultan. In 1591, he used his influence to secure the appointment as voivode of Moldavia of Emanuel Aron (who was probably of Jewish extraction). When he went to Jassy in 1593 in the hope of obtaining compensation for his efforts, he was handed over to the prince of Transylvania and thrown into jail; ultimately, the English ambassador in Constantinople secured his release. He died shortly afterwards. His final diplomatic activities took place under greatly changed circumstances during the reign of the Sultan Murad iii, whose attitude to the Jews in the empire was negative.

His widow, Boula Eksati, inherited some of his medical secrets, and early in the 17th century cured the boy-sultan Ahmed i of smallpox. His son, Nathan Ashkenazi, likewise a physician, was officially received by the doge when he visited Venice in 1605, probably on a secret diplomatic mission, bringing letters of recommendation from the sultan.


M. Brosch, Geschichten aus dem Leben dreier Grosswesire (Gotha, 1899), 34–42, passim; C. Roth, The House of Naxos (1948); M.A. Levy, Don Joseph Nasi (Ger., 1859); Rosanes, Togarmah, 3 (1938), 349–54; C. Roth, in: Oxford Slavonic Papers, 9 (1960), 8–20. add. bibliography: A. Galanté, isis, 9, 86–87; idem, in: Sinai, 3 (1940), 462–73; A. Aschkenasy, in: rhmh, 128 (1979), 5–10; S.W. Baron, Social and Religious History, 18, 130–31, 484–85; B. Arbel, in: G. Benzoni (ed.), Gli ebrei e Venezia (secoli xiv–xviii) (1987); B. Arbel, in: Il mondo ebraico (1991), 105–28; M. Rozen, in: A. Rodrigue (ed.), Ottoman and Turkish Jewry, Community and Leadership (1992), 157; A. Levy, in: A. Levy (ed.), The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1994), 76–77, 720; B. Arbel, Jews and Venetians in the Early-Modern Eastern Mediterranean (1995), 77–94.

[Cecil Roth /

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]

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