• Jesuit Thalassology Reconsidered: The Mediterranean and the Geopolitics of Jesuit Missionary Aims in Seventeenth-Century Ethiopia
  • Language (written in): English
  • Author: Clines, Robert John
  • Source: Mediterranean Historical Review volume 31, 1, (2016): 43–64.
  • Published: 2016
  • ISSN: 0951-8967
  • ISSN: 1743-940X
  • Abstract: During the second half of the sixteenth century, the Society of Jesus relied heavily on Portuguese trade routes in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in order to reach Ethiopia. However, geopolitical shifts, particularly the rise of Ottoman sea power in the Indian Ocean and the Spanish conquest of Portugal in 1580, ended this route’s viability for the Jesuits. In order to sustain Jesuit connections with Ethiopia, Father General Mutio Vitelleschi decided in 1627 to abandon the Portuguese and send four Jesuits with French passports through Ottoman territory and up the Nile, whence they would travel overland into Ethiopia. After arriving in Egypt, however, the Jesuits were arrested, interrogated and expelled by the Ottoman governor, who suspected that they were Habsburg spies. The course of this failed Jesuit effort to reach Ethiopia has three important implications for our understanding of the Mediterranean and its relationship with other sea spaces in terms of early modern empire building and Catholic evangelization. First, the decision to abandon the Portuguese in favour of the French illuminates how the Mediterranean remained at the fore of the Society of Jesus’s missionary efforts. Second, French willingness to protect the Jesuits demonstrates that Louis XIII of France saw the Mediterranean as an important theatre for achieving his political, religious and economic goals. Third, the Ottoman decision to arrest and expel the Jesuits due to fears that they were in Egypt to assist in a Coptic rebellion and concomitant Hapsburg invasion demonstrates both Ottoman anxiety concerning the rise of European religio-imperial ambitions and the Ottomans’ ability to control foreigners travelling through their lands. In sum, these developments illuminate a larger thalassological picture of the Mediterranean, which, like other sea spaces, obtained as an important contact zone where early modern powers competed to build empires and save souls.
  • Note: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09518967.2016.1192256
  • Note: /z-wcorg/
  • Note: http://worldcat.org
  • Subject Keywords:
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