Much of Doña Gracia's life has been devoted to reaching Turkey to escape the Inquisition once and for all. When the Venetian government took its turn and attempted to seize her property, she secured the good will of the Turks. Her journey out of Venice and to Ferrara was taken under the protection of the Sultan. From there she travels to Turkey and then ends her monumental journey in Constantinople.

The reason for the intense concern manifested by the Turkish statesmen in Doña Gracia's transference to Constantinople was not, of course, by any means altruistic. They were interested not in the family but in the family fortune, one of the greatest in Europe, and in the commercial activity that might follow in its wake. It was hardly possible in those days (as it is in these) to enjoy an income from capital by the process of investment, except in land  and in the circumstances of the family history that was out of the question in their case.

If she was not to live on her fortune and progressively exhaust it, Doña Gracia had to use it therefore in trade. Moreover, she had invested a good part of it in merchandise, which continued to arrive long after she had settled in Constantinople, and which had to be disposed of there. The sultan looked on approvingly.

Doña Gracia carried on a large overseas business in wool, pepper and grain with Venice and Italy. Most important probably were the imports of cloth and textiles, which were distributed throughout the [Ottoman] empire, Turkish raw products being exported in return. The operations were on such a scale that Doña Gracia had her own ships to carry the goods; and it was said that she even built them.

So great was the volume of her merchandise that passed through Ragusa [now Dubrovnik] that she was able to conclude a special arrangement concerning it with the government of that republic. She negotiated with the petty republic almost like an independent power.


From: Roth, Cecil. Doņa Gracia of the House of Nasi. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1948.

Map of Travels or DONA GRACIA Introduction



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