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  • 1. SEMIOTIC ASPECTS OF THE BOOK ENTITLED DONNA GRACIA NASI OF BEKI BAHAR: OTTOMAN CONQUEST OF CYPRUS SENIOR LECTURER DERYA AGIS GIRNE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETING E-MAIL: or Abstract In this study, I intend to analyze ‘Donna Gracia Nasi,’ the play of two acts written by the Turkish Sephardic writer Beki Bahar, from a cognitive semiotic perspective. I wish to examine the symbolic family relations of Donna Gracia Nasi, a descendent of a Spanish Jewish family, who converted into Catholicism, and as a consequence, became a Marrano. However, she continued to practice Judaism. Through a detailed analysis of the historical names of the places and linguistic metaphorical descriptions of the places where she lived, I wish to discover the Sephardic famous woman’s ideas on the desire of Joseph Nasi, her nephew to conquer Cyprus. Joseph Nasi contributed to the conquest of the island of Cyprus by the Ottomans who had to defeat the Venetians, the previous inhabitants of the island. Consequently, in my study, I apply the theory of Cognitive Pragmatics developed by Anna Wierzbicka in the 1990s in order to understand the symbolic cultural emotions of Donna, or Dona Gracia Nasi who lived also in Venice, and decipher the metaphorical expressions, i.e. names of historical places in the book written by Beki Bahar. This study demonstrates the importance of the conquest of the island of Cyprus by the Ottomans via the help of a Sephardic Jew, who became a Marrano for surviving, and had relations with the Venetians by deciphering the metaphors used in the biographical play narrating the life of Dona Gracia Nasi, who lived in-between various cultures like her nephew.
  • 2. KEY WORDS: Cognitive Semiotics and Pragmatics, Ottoman Cyprus, Sephardic Culture, Dona Gracia Nasi (La Senyora), Joseph Nasi as the governor of the Ottoman Cyprus 1. Introduction This study investigates the emotions involved in the political and personal affairs of Dona Grasya Nasi, the aunt of Joseph Nasi within the linguistic cognitive pragmatic point of view of Anna Wierzbicka’s Cognitive Pragmatics. The biographical book “Donna Grasya Nasi” was written by the Turkish Sephardic female writer Beki Luiza Bahar, and it was published in Istanbul in 1993 by Isis Press. The book consists of a historical play of two acts. Before our analyses, a brief history of Sephardim is given in the next subsection. Consequently, we will talk about the lives of Dona (Donna) Grasya Nasi and Joseph Nasi before beginning to analyze the whole play from a cognitive pragmatic perspective. 1. 1. History of the Sephardim in Ottoman Lands Spanish Jews began to immigrate into the Ottoman Empire, since in 1492, the Catholic monarchs of Spain, Queen Isabella of Castille, King Ferdinand of Aragon, and their Prime Minister Torquemada expelled from Spain the Jews, who had rejected to be converted into Christianity (Gerson - Şarhon, n. d., para. 1). These Jews settled in Istanbul, Safed, Salonika, Jerusalem, and Cairo: the communities were divided into groups in accordance with their origins, i.e. Cordova, Aragon, Leon, etc. (Gerson - Şarhon, n. d., para. 3). They assumed the name ‘SEPHARAD’, which means Spain
  • 3. in Hebrew, and they called themselves ‘SEPHARDIM’ (‘Sepharads’) (Gerson - Şarhon, n. d., para. 4). The Jews who were expelled from Portugal in 1497 and from Navarra in 1498 (Gilmer, 1986, p. 16) also came to the Ottoman Empire. Many Sephardim settled and lived in the Ottoman Empire. Shaw (2002) states, “the Ottoman Empire had for centuries provided a safe haven for Jewish refugees from Europe” (p. 246). The Jews could settle wherever they wanted to live and practice each profession freely in the lands of the Ottoman Empire (Levy, 1992, p. 19). 1. 2. The Life of Donna Grasya Nasi If we are required to present you Dona (Donna) Grasya Nasi, below is some information, regarding her life: Gracia Mendes Nasi (Gracia is archaic Portuguese or Spanish for the Hebrew Hannah, also known by her Christianized name Beatrice de Luna Miques, 1510- 1569) was one of the wealthiest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe. She married into the eminent international banking and finance dynasty of Mendes, and was the aunt of Joseph Nasi, who became a prominent figure in the politics of the Ottoman Empire. Dona Gracia was born in Lisbon, Portugal, into an ancient, venerable family of marranos, originally from Aragon, that could flee to Portugal when the Catholic Monarchs expelled the Jews in 1492 (see Alhambra decree and History of the Jews in Spain). In 1528 Gracia and Francisco Mendes married in a public Catholic wedding and then in a Crypto-Judaic ceremony with the signing of a ketubah (“Gracia Mendes Nasi,” 2007, para. 1, 2, 3).
  • 4. Her husband, Mendes was working with his brother Diego; they had an important trading company and a bank (“Gracia Mendes Nasi,” 2007, para. 4). The daughter of Mendes and Dona Grasya Nasi was called Reyna; she married Joseph Nasi; “the House of Mendes probably began as a company trading precious objects, but, with the boom in spice trade following the Portuguese explorations leading to the sea route to India, they became important spice traders” (“Gracia Mendes Nasi,” 2007, para. 5). Besides, his brother Diego established a branch of their bank “in the Habsburg Netherlands city of Antwerp with the help of a member of their family, Rabbi Abraham Benveniste;” consequently, Dona Grasya Nasi moved to Antwerp to work with Diego (“Gracia Mendes Nasi,” 2007, para. 5). After the death of Diego, she assumed the responsibility of the Mendes commercial empire (“Gracia Mendes Nasi,” 2007, para. 6). Besides, “it is believed she was the driving force in the publication of the Ferrara Bible from Sephardic source texts; the second, public printing of this document was dedicated to her” (“Gracia Mendes Nasi,” 2007, para. 7). Under Dona Gracia, the House of Mendes dealt with Henry II of France, Henry VIII of England, Charles V of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, Maria of Austria, Regent of the Low Countries, Popes Paul III and Paul IV, and Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. These dealings involved commercial activities, loans, and bribes. Payments to the Pope delayed the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal. In 1544 she fled to the Republic of Venice. In 1551, a bubonic plague epidemic broke out, and the Jews, who were blamed for causing it, were forced out of the city. She tried to help those evicted but she was arrested once her sister denounced her as a Jew. After she was freed she moved to Ferrara, where she lived openly as a Jew for the first time in her life. At that time she adopted her Jewish name, Gracia Nasi (“Gracia Mendes Nasi,” 2007, para. 8 - 9). Additionally, “in 1556 the Pope sentenced a group of Marranos who had returned to Judaism in Portugal to death by fire. In response, Dona Gracia organized a trade embargo on the port of Ancona in the Papal States. She built synagogues, yeshivas and hospitals. One of the synagogues is still standing in Istanbul and is named after her (La Señora)” (“Gracia Mendes Nasi,” 2007, para. 10). She died in a place close to Istanbul (“Gracia Mendes Nasi,” 2007, para. 11).
  • 5. 1. 3. The Life of Joseph Nasi Regarding Joseph Nasi, we can cite the following about his life: “Turkish statesman and financier; born in Portugal at the beginning of the sixteenth century; died at Constantinople Aug. 2, 1579. His father, a younger brother of Francisco and Diogo [Diego] Nasi-Mendez, and a member of the Marano (sic. [Marrano]) family Nasi which had fled to Portugal from Spain during the persecutions at the end of the fifteenth century, died at an early age” (my correction included; Singer & Schloessinger, 2002, para. 1). Joseph Nasi settled in Istanbul in 1554; he became known as Yasef Nasi after his brit mila in Istanbul (Yanarocak, 2008, p. 9). Concerning the importance of Joseph Nasi for the Ottoman Empire, the following explanation should be given: All the Maranos in Venice were banished in the year 1550. It was probably at this time that Joseph asked the republic of Venice for one of the neighboring islands where the exiles might find refuge and whither the heavy emigration of Portuguese Jews might be diverted. His request, however, was refused. When Gracia, in consequence of the incautious statements of her aunt (who bore the same name), was imprisoned on the charge of relapse into Judaism and her property was confiscated by the republic, Joseph appealed to Sultan Sulaiman II. (1520-66) at Constantinople, and through the influential court physician Moses Hamon he succeeded in attracting the attention of the sultan to the commercial and financial advantages which Turkey would gain if the Nasi family and other rich Jewish houses should settle in the country. The sultan thereupon sent an ambassador to Venice with the command to release Gracia and her property. Two years, however, elapsed before the negotiations with the republic were completed and Gracia was able to proceed to Constantinople. She was followed the next year (1553) by Joseph. Here at last he could openly profess Judaism. He adopted his family name, Joseph Nasi, instead of his Christian one of João Miguez, and married Reyna, the beautiful, much-courted daughter of Gracia.
  • 6. Through his letters of introduction Joseph soon gained influence at the court of Sultan Sulaiman. In the struggle for the throne between Sulaiman's two sons, Salim, prefect of the province of Kutaya, and Bayazid, the younger but far more talented, Joseph from the first adopted Salim's cause and succeeded in influencing the sultan in his favor. In the decisive battle at Konia between the two rivals, Bayazid was defeated. He escaped to Persia, and was there murdered with his four sons. After this success Salim made Joseph a member of his guard of honor, while Sulaiman gave him Tiberias in Palestine and seven smaller places in its vicinity as his property, to be used exclusively for Jewish colonization (Singer & Schloessinger, 2002, In Turkey, para. 1). . Moreover, “Salim made Joseph a duke and gave him the islands of Naxos, Andros, Milo, Paros, Santorina, and the other Cyclades, which had hitherto belonged to the regent of Naxos” (Singer & Schloessinger, 2002, Duke of Naxos, para. 1). . Furthermore, the most important issue regarding Joseph Nasi is the following: In Sept., 1569, a great fire broke out in the arsenal at Venice. Nasi learned of this almost immediately, and at once urged Salim to carry out his long-cherished plan for the conquest of Cyprus. Salim finally allowed himself to be involved in a war with the Venetians and deprived them of Cyprus in 1571. There is a story that Salim in a fit of drunkenness promised Joseph the title of King of Cyprus, and that Joseph had already placed in his house the armorial bearings of the island, with his own name beneath them (Singer & Schloessinger, 2002, Political Influence, para. 2). Nasi had secret agents in Venice and learnt that Venice became weak before deciding to invade Cyprus; the Ottoman army obtained Nicosia in 1570 and Famagusta in 1571; however, due to the influence of Sokollo, he could not become the king of Cyprus (Yanarocak, 2008, p. 9).
  • 7. 2. Cognitive Pragmatics Kövecses (2000) explains the theory of Wierzbicka in the following way: Wierzbicka’s mental predicates include “want” and “feel.” “Want” can be seen corresponding to my “desire,” while “feel” corresponds to the category of “emotion.” Wierzbicka’s action, event, movement includes the three primitives “do,” “happen,” and “move.” We can take “happen” to correspond to my “passivity” aspect. The primitives “there is, live” for existence, life may be regarded as the counterpart of my “existence” dimension. The evaluators “good” and “bad” have the obvious function of my “positive – negative evaluation.” Finally, Wierzbicka’s intensifier category has “very, more,” which can be seen as corresponding to the aspect of “intensity.” Here is a list of Wierzbicka’s and Harkin’s (2001) primitives in accordance with Wierzbicka’s theory of cognitive pragmatics:
  • 8. Substantives: I, YOU, SOMEONE (PERSON), SOMETHING (THING), PEOPLE, BODY Determiners: THIS, THE SAME, OTHER Quantifiers: ONE, TWO, SOME, MANY / MUCH, ALL Attributes: GOOD, BAD, BIG, SMALL Mental predicates: THINK, KNOW, WANT, FEEL, SEE, HEAR Speech: SAY, WORD, TRUE Actions, events, movements: DO, HAPPEN, MOVE Existence and possession: THERE IS, HAVE Life and death: LIVE, DIE Logical concepts: NOT, MAYBE, CAN, BECAUSE, IF Time: WHEN (TIME), NOW, AFTER, BEFORE, A LONG TIME, A SHORT TIME, FOR SOME TIME Space: WHERE (PLACE), HERE, UNDER, ABOVE, TOUCH (CONTACT), BELOW, FAR, NEAR, SIDE, INSIDE Intensifier, Augmentator: VERY, MORE Taxonomy, partonymy: KIND OF, PART OF Similarity: LIKE Table 1. Wierzbicka’s and Harkin’s (2001) universal hypothetical conceptual primitives for emotions
  • 9. Moreover, Pavlenko (2002) observes Wierzbicka’s proposals (1992, 1998, 1999) that the relationship between emotions and the body is encoded and stressed in Russian to a higher degree than that in English, and that in emotion discourse, English defends the adjectival pattern, whereas Russian the verbal one. She tested 40 monolingual Russians and 40 monolingual Americans, and found that the expressions with the body are culturally, socially, and linguistically specific, as Wierzbicka claimed. Our study will apply the theory of Wierzbicka originally to a play of two acts, depicting a historical event via the biography of Dona Grasya Nasi. 3. Explanation of the Primitives in the Play We can analyze the most important emotions in the book describing the life of Dona Grasya Nasi by analyzing her sentences. We can start our analyses with the sentence with which Dona Grasya Nasi introduces herself: “I am Beatrice Mendez De Luna Grasya Nasi whom those from Istanbul like to call Senyora, I began to write my life to history this autumn evening at Bogaz in Ortakoy.” In this sentence, the following Wierzbickan explanation will help us understand how Dona Grasya Nasi is loved and respected. Somebody is loved Something bad happened This person felt this This person did something good for that bad thing This person is loved
  • 10. Meanwhile, in the work, the sounds of the Ottoman army and the appearance of a flag on a castle metaphorically indicate that the life of Dona Grasya had been saved by the Ottomans. Additionally, the background sound implies that all the Jews and Arabs have to leave Spain for living in the Ottoman Empire if they do not accept to be Christians. However, as a savior, Yildirim Beyazit sent canyons to take the Jews from Spain. This act is highly respected with the following Wierzbickan primitives: Something bad would happen Somebody would die A person did something good This bad thing did not happen in somewhere When somebody moved there Other Jews who did not come to the Ottoman Empire passed on foot to Portugal: Dona Grasya Nasi says, “among them my mom, my dad, some of my close relatives” (Bahar, 1993, p. 3). The family of Dona Grasya De Luna is among the thirty families that immigrated to Portugal from Spain with Isak Abuab (Bahar, 1993, p.3). Some of them received a permanent residency permit, whereas others received a residency permit for eight months; however, the king promised to send them to another place; though, he did not do so, and sold them as slaves, and their children had been expelled to the island of St. Thomé near Africa (Bahar, 1993, p. 3). These descriptions demonstrate the bad side of the inquisitions in Spain. Besides, the play indicates that Beatrice and Brianda are sisters; their brother takes them to the ball of Marranos Mendes, not to the kingdom. Marranos are the Jews who were converted into Catholicism. Therefore, in order to protect Judaism, Marranos were meeting within their community.
  • 11. Meanwhile, the worries of the nanny who makes a cross with her hands as if she were a Christian dominate the whole play as the worries of all Marranos. Her worries can be depicted with the following primitives regarding her speeches about the Inquisitions: Someone feels bad Something bad will happen Somebody will move to somewhere Somewhere can be good Because people will exist there Somewhere can be bad Because people will die there These primitives imply that the inquisitions are the worst human errors. Other primitives indicating the same terrible situation are the following: Someone is a Jew Another made this person a Christian This person is a Marrano now Some Marranos saw their families sad They also became sad Something bad happened They saw something bad (their families being burnt) Beatrice did so. Dona Grasya Nasi utters these words in a sad manner, “I saw my parents being burnt in Spain in 1490.” (Bahar, 1993, p. 9).
  • 12. According to Justinian, the emperor of Byzantium, returning to Judaism, after having been converted into Christianity, will be that of being burnt in a place; Inquisitions were held for the Jews in 1276 and 1278 in Toulouse and 1310 in Paris (Bahar, 1993, p. 9). All of these can be explained with the following primitives: Someone is good (a Jew) Something bad happened to this person (This person became a Christian) This person is a secret (a Marrano) They thought that this person is bad So, s /he has to be sad Something bad will happen to her / him (Sadness is being burnt alive) Moreover, the nanny warns the girls about not talking about religiously illicit acts, such as magic: Brianda was calling her sister a witch, and saying that the books she read were about magic. Someone talks about something bad (magic) Something is bad (Magic and witchcraft are bad) A good person moves somewhere else Because this bad thing does not exist there (A good Jew escapes from them, and s/he feels relieved). As the nanny witnessed the fact that her mum and dad were being burnt in Spain in 1490, she is much more worried about the Inquisitions (see Bahar, 1993, p.9). After the analyses of these primitives on the badness of Inquisitions that made Sephardim be in- between different religions at the same time, we pass to the analyses of the historical names of the places and linguistic metaphorical descriptions of the places.
  • 13. Something bad is a problem (Not being baptized is a problem) Someone can kill you for this This is sad However, people can move to somewhere Good things move them to somewhere good (canyons are saviors for people) The place where these good things exist is good (Canyons belong to the Ottoman Empire, which is a paradise for the Jews who were suffering). Those who did not want to be baptized, escaped from Spain to Portugal, whereas others came to the Ottoman Empire on canyons in the period of Inquisitions. Beatrice and her sister Brianda were living in Lisbon during the Inquisitions (Bahar, 1993). These primitives govern the whole play: Somewhere is bad (Portugal) Another place is good (Ottoman Empire) These primitives prevail in the speech of the nanny about the difficulties she encountered in her life: After her wedding rehearsal, the parents of the nanny had been arrested; her fiancé escaped. She went to a monastery to work in the kitchen. One day they sent her away: among the crowd who knew her, she came to Portugal, changing her destiny, as Beatrice says (Bahar, 1993, p. 16 - 17) The nanny has the surname of the Marrano author Fernando Rojas who denied some rules of Christianity and Judaism, and he lived between 1476 and 1541; his work “La Celestina” is the first picturesque play in the beginning of Renaissance in 1449, as Yohel mentions (Bahar, 1993, p. 17). The behaviors of the nanny are similar to those of this figure, as she makes crosses all the time. The escape of the nanny from Spain is depicted with the following primitives: Someone is bad (hated) Something bad (hate) makes this person move (escape)
  • 14. Moving (escaping) is good (it leads to the change of this person’s destiny) This is happy Dona (Donna) Grasya Nasi became an important figure in Judaism, as she saved lives of Jews by giving orders. Consequently, she was known as an highly respectable woman, a “Senyora.” These primitives imply this respect towards her: A person is good (Senyora is a woman respected like a queen) Something good will happen because of this person everywhere Besides, other primitives related to Antwerp, Ferrara, and Ancona are the following: Somewhere is good There are goods there (Antwerp) Good people exist there (Ferrara) Something bad will happen there (Ancona) When nobody hears the good People must move somewhere else (the Ottoman Empire) Grasya Nasi made money in Antwerp, began to practice Judaism again in Ferrara, and tried to intervene the massacre of Jews in Ancona, as previously explained in her life.
  • 15. In fact, traders had to protest Ancona that wished that the Marranos who were practicing Judaism should have been killed; the church and European countries were forcing Jews to be baptized (see Bahar, 1993, pp. 102 - 112); otherwise, they would have been killed, as previously explained in the life of Dona Grasya Nasi. Besides, in the sixteenth century, only the Ottoman Empire respected minorities (Bahar, 1993, p. 84). Furthermore, according to the nephew of Grasya Nasi, somewhere is strategically important; besides, as the Venetians became weaker day by day, their lands in the Mediterranean should be possessed by the tolerant Ottomans – this place is Cyprus: Somewhere is good Nothing bad will happen there This will make everybody feel good (Cyprus) 4. Conclusion To conclude, the life of Donna Grasya Nasi shows us how it is difficult to live hiding one’s own identity by practicing Judaism secretly, being a Marrano. Besides, the life of Joseph Nasi is very important, as he led Ottomans to settle in the strategic island of Cyprus. The cognitive pragmatic theory of Anna Wierzbicka is useful in analyzing the emotions felt by Marranos within the circle of friends of Donna Grasya Nasi. In the future, other researches should be conducted on other literary or historical works using the theory of Anna Wierzbicka in order to conduct interdisciplinary studies in Anthropology, Linguistics, Literature, History, etc.
  • 16. 5. References Bahar, B. L. (1993). Donna Grasya Nasi. Istanbul: Isis. Gerson - Şarhon, K. (n. d.). Judeo-Spanish Language and Culture. Retrieved March 01, 2006, from Sephardic Center: contentId=41&mid=31 Gilmer, P. G. (1986). Judeo-Spanish to Turkish: Linguistic Correlates of Language Death. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Texas - Austin, Linguistics, Texas - Austin. Gracia Mendes Nasi. (December/23/2007). Retrieved April/15/2008 from Kövecses, Z. (2000). Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Culture, and Body in Human Feeling. Paris: Cambridge University Press & Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. Levy, A. (1992). The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire. New Jersey, Princeton: The Darwin Press. Pavlenko, A. (2002). Emotions and the body in Russian and English. Pragmatics & Cognition, 10 (1 / 2), 207–241. Shaw, S. (2002). Roads East: Turkey and the Jews of Europe during World War II. In A. Levy, Jews, Turks, Ottomans: A Shared History, Fifteenth through the Twentieth Century. (pp. 246 - 259). New York: Syracuse University Press. Singer, I. & Schloessinger, M. (2002). “Nasi, Joseph, Duke of Naxos.” Retrieved April/02/2008
  • 17. from Wierzbicka, A. & Harkins, J. (2001). Introduction. In J. Harkins & A. Wierzbicka (Eds.), Emotions in Crosslinguistic Perspective (pp. 1 - 34). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Yanarocak, S. (April/02/2008). “Diaspora Yahudileri: İslam Ülkeleri (13) Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nda Yahudiler,” . Şalom, p. 9.