Italian Levantine

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Galata Tower, built in 1348 by the Republic of Genoa in Constantinople and actual symbol of the Italian levantine

Italian Levantines (Italian: Italo-levantini) are people living mainly in Turkey, who are descendants from Genoese and Venetian colonists in the Levant during the Middle Ages[1]

Characteristics[edit]

The name Italo-Levantine is additionally applied to people of Italian (especially Venetian and Genoese) origin, but even with some French or other Euro-Mediterranean roots, who have lived in Istanbul, İzmir and other parts of Anatolia (in present-day Turkey).[2] Italian Levantines have roots even in the eastern Mediterranean coast (the Levant, particularly in present-day Lebanon and Israel) since the period of the Crusades and the Byzantine empire. A small group came from Crimea and the Genoese colonies in the Black sea, after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The majority of the Italian Levantine in modern Turkey are descendants of traders/colonists from the maritime republics of the Mediterranean (such as the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa and the Republic of Pisa or of the inhabitants of the Crusader states, especially the French/Italian Levantines in Lebanon, Israel and Syria) who got special concessions called Capitolazioni from the Ottoman sultans in the 16th century.[3]

There are two big communities of Italian Levantines: one in Istanbul and the other in Izmir. At the end of the 19th century there were nearly 6,000 levantines of Italian roots in the second.[4] They came mainly from the genoese island of Chios.[5]

The community reached more than 15,000 members during Ataturk's times, but now is reduced to a few hundreds, according to Italian Levantine writer Giovanni Scognamillo.[6]

They continue to live in Istanbul (mostly in the districts of Karaköy, Beyoğlu and Nişantaşı), and İzmir (mostly in the districts of Karşıyaka, Bornova and Buca.)

Most Latin Rite Catholics in Turkey are Levantines of mainly Italian background, although a few are ethnic Turks (who are usually converts via marriage to Levantines or other non-Turkish Catholics). Historically the Italian levantine have been strong supporters of the Pope since the Renaissance.

Notable people[edit]

Famous people of the present-day Italian levantine community in Turkey include:

  • Sir Alfred Biliotti, who joined the British foreign service and eventually rose to become one of its most distinguished consular officers in the late 19th century. Biliotti was also an accomplished archaeologist who conducted important excavations at sites in the Aegean and Anatolia.
  • Livio Missir di Lusignano. Historian. His masterpiece is Les anciennes familles italiennes de Turquie.
  • Giuseppe Donizetti, musicist. He was Instructor General of the Imperial Ottoman Music at the court of Sultan Mahmud II[7]
  • Giovanni Scognamillo, writer. He composed "Memorie di Beyoğlu di un Levantino" in 1989.[8]
  • Count Abraham Camondo. He was a Jewish Turkish-Italian financier and philanthropist, and the patriarch of the Camondo family.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Consorti, A., Vicende dell’italianità in Levante, 1815-1915 in: Rivista Coloniale, anno XV.
  • Franzina, Emilio. Storia dell'emigrazione italiana. Donzelli Editore. Roma, 2002 ISBN 88-7989-719-5
  • Missir di Lusignano, Livio. Due secoli di relazioni italo-turche attraverso le vicende di una famiglia di italiani di Smirne: i Missir di Lusignano. "Storia contemporanea", (4) pp. 613–623. Università di Bologna. Bologna, 1992.
  • Pannuti, Alessandro. Les Italiens d’Istanbul au XXe siècle : entre préservation identitaire et effacement. Université de Paris III – Sorbonne Nouvelle. Parigi, 2004