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144 Working Paper

Venetian Colonialism in the Aegean: Sifnos in the Thirteenth Century


This paper explores the little-known beginning of Venetian rule of Sifnos, one of the Greek Aegean islands presumably apportioned to Venice following the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Where¬as historians have traced the non-Venetian dynasts that ruled Sifnos after around 1310, no one has attempted to investigate the presumably preceding rulers: the Venetian "Soranzos of Sifnos," cursorily mentioned by a couple of scholars. Relying on sources as well as local fieldwork, this paper proposes that, before becoming doge of Venice in 1312, Giovanni Soranzo may indeed have been the first Venetian lord of Sifnos, between c. 1285 and 1310. The exploration of his career, the tragic life story of his daughter Soranza Soranzo and his son-in-law Niccolò Querini, point to Sifnos as a most likely location for the couple's refuge and exile following Querini's involvement in the 1310 seditious acts against the Republic of Venice. This conclusion is informed by a brief examination of apposite coats of arms, proper names and local toponyms.