Anton the Armenian – Venice

Anton the Armenian - VeniceOne of the Venetian streets bears the name of Anton Suryan, who was more commonly known as Anton the Armenian. There is very little reliable information on him, but what we have is quite enough to learn about the uncommon intellect of this man and the key role he played in the history of the Italian city.

The precise birthdate of Anton the Armenian is unknown. He was supposedly born in 1550 in Syria. The surname Suryan is rather famous in Venice as that family has been incorporated in the Great Council of Venice since 1297.

There has been a namesake of Anton the Armenian, Antonio Suryan, who died in 1508. It is considered by some experts that both Suryans have been related to each other.

Nonetheless, Anton Suryan arrived in Venice from Cyprus on a merchant ship at the age of 20, which gave a beginning to the story of Anton the Armenian, a legendary engineer, military, doctor, inventor, and traveler.

Juan Luna, La Batalla de Lepanto, 1887.

Anton in the first place underwent service in the Venetian fleet. Having worked as a carpenter for some time, Anton the Armenian was soon appointed an officer due to his expansive knowledge of shipping and engineering.

It was then when Anton Suryan invented a technology that allowed to lower ships on the water, as well as a mechanism allowing to lift up sunken ships. Apart from that, Suryan developed a technique of cleaning the sea bottom from slime and trash.

Suryan’s mind of an engineer especially demonstrated itself in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. At the peak of the Turkish-Venetian was, Venetian ships clashed against those of the Ottomans. Suryan positioned the canons of the ship “Juan of Austria” in such a way that no cannonball missed its target, resulting in the crushing defeat of the Ottoman fleet.

As a result of the battle, the Ottomans lost 224 ships, while the Venetians lost only 13. The Battle of Lepanto is considered the most massive sea battle of the 16th century. Interestingly, a Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra participated in the battle.

Subsequently, Suryan demonstrated his abilities as a scientist and a doctor. At the time, the population of Europe was dying because of the Black Death. Back in 1571, Suryan cured sailors with the medicine of his own making, and rather successfully. Possibly, thanks to this, or maybe because of hopelessness, the Venetian authorities entrusted Suryan with the Dorsoduro sestieri of Venice. Suryan’s efforts saved many families, and after the Black Plague had been driven out from Venice in 1577, his merit was officially recognized.

Suryan’s contribution to the development of typography is remarkable as well. Though this question isn’t well-researched, some historians argue that Anton the Armenian got acquainted with the technique of woodcut during his trip to China.

Nowadays, the hotel Ca’ della Corte is located in the palazzo of Suryan.


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