Reprint – Towers and swallowtails. North emblem and north roundel.

The pictures – all the images appear for me, whether in edit mode or preview or on posting, but it seems that a fair few in this post have not appeared for readers. If you have a problem, just let me know and I’ll reformat them.

The author’s rights are asserted.

What follows is a shorter version of a post from ‘Voynich Annotated News’, October 25, 2021 entitled, ‘Correcting an Identification in my analysis of the voynich map’. It was a summary of work undertaken over several years, and I’m only reprinting this summary-of-a-summary of my research to save time in treating the map’s North roundel, North emblem as examples of the current groundhog-day in regard to the ‘Merlons’ theme.

As ever, you’re welcome to use and quote any of what follows, so long as you allow your own readers to read and evaluate the original from which you’ve taken it. They are entitled to know how information entered the study of this manuscript, and fudging credits denies them their right to weigh and evaluate arguments and evidence. It’s churlish behaviour and the sole cause of this ‘groundhog’ day phenomenon that has developed since the early 2000s. The excuse of theft as a form of ‘checking’ is rubbish. Just direct your chosen ‘second’ to the source you want evaluated. That’s how it’s done.

I’ve cut a little from the 2021 post, but have added a couple more images and notes, re-numbered the Figures and since it’s a very long post, I’ll wait a while before making another post here.


The 2021 post

Apart from hoping it may assist someone work on the written text, I’m reprinting this as a quick way to provide a broader historical perspective on the ‘swallowtail’ motif used in more than one place in the Voynich map.

As I explained when publishing summaries from the full analytical study, walls of such a type had quite a long history in map-making and in that context signified the limit or boundary of empire – all within the empire or the barrier through which one passed into the power of an emperor – and not merely a western or Christian empire.

In the Voynich map, the best known instance has come to be called a ‘Castle’ and is found in the North roundel.

Eventually, after a lengthy period of research and despite a couple of false starts, I was able to conclude from the primary document and numerous other sources, topographic, documentary, archaeological and iconographic, that the maker meant it as a token for Constantinople-Pera and that this North Roundel was part of the map’s final recension, or recensions which I date through the period 1330-1350. I’ll reprise some of that matter later in the post; some of my sources were published with the original study-summaries from 2010-2015 are are not repeated here.

Of especial interest is that during the twelfth century, the Jewish author known as Benjamin of Tudela visited Constantinople and Pera, noting that the Karaite and the Rabbinic Jews lived outside Constantinople proper, in separate, walled, areas and with only a communicating gateway. The area was Pera (Galata) and would then be initially then shared by, and later given into the control of, the Genoese. The following drawings show the area after the Genoese had built (or rather re-formed) its tower.

FIGS 1, 2.

[2023] – I add two more drawings from the full analytical study. The first is an effort at literal landscape yet shows that Constantinople and Pera might be conflated in drawing, even if named separately. The second shows how, in fifteenth century Italy, a token image for Constantinople understands that the ‘swallowtail’ can serve as a generic sign for ‘imperial boundary’.

FIG 3. – French galleys of Captain Polin in front of Pera at Constantinople in August 1544.

FIG. 4 Detail from a copy of Gregorio Dati’s Sfera, National Library of Helskini. Italian, 15thC

I’ll come back to the Pera (Galata) Tower and the North roundel a bit later. At the moment the point is that I think this custom of separate enclaves for Karaite and Rabbinic Jews was one brought by those communities themselves, and while I find no evidence of such customs in Cairo (for example) it gives us added reason to accept the possibility that the same custom had obtained further north in earlier centuries and during what I shall describe very vaguely as the Khazar period.

The ‘North’ emblem

Above that North roundel in the Voynich map we have a detail whose earlier tentative identification is the one I now [2021] want to expand/emend. This emblem used for ‘North’ is quite unlike the other three emblems used for the map’s cardinal directions in being neither impersonal nor pure formality,* but representing a place which was presumably the one furthest north known to the original maker. (Fig. 5)

*the rising and the sinking sun mark east and west; ‘south’ is denoted by a very old sign for the under-world (as the world below the ocean). These three I explained and documented in earlier-published research summaries and won’t repeat it all here.


A casual glance naturally suggests to eyes familiar with the customs of Latin medieval art, the tripartite division of Isidore’s ‘T-O’ diagram of the whole world, but the impression is soon dispelled when the details are considered. I’ve already treated this matter, but it will be useful to repeat the essentials here.

Two arcs of what I’ve called (for want of a better term) palisades denote the boundary of a central area which is divided into three parts with one twice the size of the other two – these being more or less equal in area. The wider world represented by the map is linked to this place by two types of road, or perhaps better, one road and one pathway.

The one is drawn as a wide, high-road, literally a ‘high-way’ because it is shown as being on an embankment, something which suggests to my mind an area prone to flooding or to other natural events likely to make a ground-level road impassable. The smaller and lesser track is drawn, instead, like a rutted cart-track though adorned with pattern found seen elsewhere in the manuscript and evidently serves as a token for for ‘water’ or ‘-of water’. These features are labelled in FIG 6.

FIG. 6

I’ve also drawn a red ring around something which appears to lie at the foot of the embankment, or to have been used (as rubble?) for the embankment’s base. It looks rather like a single ‘swallowtail’ – but whether the maker intended this detail to convey that idea, or whether it’s an accident or drawing or had some other significance, I’m unable to say.

I now have reason, however, to refine my view of the smaller, rutted-looking ‘water’ path, which I had read as reference to some path through marshy ground, or a ford, but more recent information allows me to suggest that it actually denotes a rough path by which women or servants went out to fetch water. We might speak of it, then, as the women’s gate or the servants’ entrance.

The primary document allowed me too to define fairly well the area in which this furthest-known ‘North’ site must have lain, and to suggest that either Old- or New- Serai might be meant. I’ll reprise that matter further below but the point of this post is to add two other possible sites, in the same area, and both of which have been identified as Sarkel. One is now underwater; the other lies relatively close and since debate continues among archaeologists, this other site is diplomatically described as “the Tsimlyansk’s right-bank fortress”.

Thanks to the work of a seventeenth-century scholar named Ivan Satsyperov, we have a description and groundplan of the first site as it was before the the construction of a new dam in the 1950s made of it ‘Sarkel-the-drowned’. In the words of a modern archaeologist it had been “the most perfect of all the known white-stone fortresses of the Khazar Kaganate.” Sarkel is recorded as having been a Khazar capital and bricks found during excavations included some inscribed with what archaeologists call ‘Turkic’ tamgars. It should be emphasised, however, that the language and culture of the Khazars has left little trace in the historical or in the archaeological record; insufficient to allow any coherent argument that (for example) Voynichese is Khazar.

Even by the medieval centuries, Sarkel had lost something of its native character, being provided with walls and battlements in Byzantine style under the advice and direction – as it is thought – of Byzantine engineers.


Here is the seventeenth-century groundplan.

FIG. 8

FIGs 7 and 9 should make clear the site’s position in relation to the medieval Genoese trading ‘colony’ of Caffa, the Genoese presence in the Black Sea becoming rapidly more pronounced and extensive from about 1291, when loss of the old Crusader-held ports in the Holy Land, combined with a deserved antagonism from Mamluk Egypt, had all but lost the Genoese their access to the eastern trade. The high overland road east from the Black Sea offered an alternative route and one which, for a while, they succeeded in having as their monopoly in terms of Latin competition.

Caffa was not the only Genoese holding around the Black Sea but was probably the most important, and there too we still find evidence of ‘swallowtail merlons’ though just who built them is uncertain. Caffa was still, as it had been since the time of the Greeks and Romans, in an area where many peoples, languages and cultures came together.

As most readers will know, it was to be from Caffa, in ships flying in mid-winter for home in January of 1348, that plague would come to both Genoa and Venice.

Note: the wiki map (FIG 7, above) places Trebizond incorrectly. This shown below is correct (FIG 9). The red marker shows the location of the Sarkel(s).

FIG. 9

(For more detailed information about the Byzantine-Persian update to Ptolemy’s Tables, termed the ‘Persian syntaxis’, which emerged from work done out of Trebizond by two Byzantine scholars during the ‘Mongol century’ when Sarai (or Serai) served as the Mongol administrative capital, see source-materials and references in earlier posts to voynichrevisionist).

FIG. 10 Access to the Black Sea required permission from Constantinople and the Latin (western Christian) centres were not much employed until after 1290. For some decades Venetian access was actively opposed by the Genoese, who had gained favoured nation status in Byzantium by their refusal in 1204 to take any part in the Latins’ rape of Constantinople.

I’m not trying to argue that the Voynich map’s ‘North emblem is any careful portrait of any one of these four fortified sites. What I hope to show is that the evidence of the North roundel and of the North emblem are consistent with the historical, pictorial and archaeological evidence and neither contradicts the other [in terms of the map, overall].

In that part of the world, at a time when Latins were trading through the Black Sea after the loss of Acco, and some were taking the ‘highway’ towards the east from this region, the sites of the two Sarkels, and of the Mongol’s New Serai are found established by a river, some certainly divided into three parts, and having a main entrance towards the highway with a lesser path, unpaved than thus rutted, which emerges from an adjacent boundary and leads to the water.

Here is an archaeologists’ reconstruction of what might be termed the ‘Sarkel layout’.

FIG 11 and see also Mikhail Artamonov

The relation between the two closely-adjacent Khazar sites and the later Mongol site of New Serai can be seen from the following map, though I’ve had to take this on trust from a wiki site, so it should be treated with a little caution.

For information about the two Khazar fortresses, I am indebted to Valerij Flyorov, whose article can be read at ‘’.

FIG. 12

We know that between Serai and the Genoese-held enclave of Caffa, there was frequent contact even after the advent of Plague and to as late  as 1380-82, four decades later.  

Ciocîltan, for example, speaks of it when arguing that the several treaties with, and substantial concessions made by, the Tatar Il-Khans to the Genoese were largely due to the Tatars having to concentrate on a drawn-out campaign against the Russians.

the third Genoese-Tatar treaty served the same end. Tatar relations with the Genoese in 1381-2 were thus subordinated to Russian concerns and developed very smoothly, as proven by frequent Caffan contact with the authorities in Solkhat and with the imperial capital in Serai.

  • Virgil Ciocîltan, The Mongols and the Black Sea Trade in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries (Brill. 20120). p.234. 

Serai can be described in modern terms as the capital of an empire, but for medieval Europeans and Byzantines one suspects designation of ‘imperium’ implied antiquity and ancient civilization, such as that associated with Memphis, Alexandria, Rome or Constantinople itself. 

The Voynich map’s North roundel versus its North emblem.

Within the larger part of the Voynich map are various indications which have allowed me to date the map’s final recension and its North Roundel to the first half of the fourteenth century, and thus to the period known as the ‘Pax Mongolica’, the time when first Old Serai, and then New Serai, served as the Mongol administrative capital.

This same time saw the northern, overland routes eastward – the so-called ‘Silk roads’ – which had always been traveled by groups of merchants, finally see Latin faces among the many different peoples who used those roads linking the Black Sea to China.

A guide was written around 1335-1343 on behalf of a Venetian banking company describes the practicalities of travel and trade along one of the northern routes between the Black Sea and China and recommends the trader hire in Sarai a dragoman able to speak Cuman – from which we learn that a language of which today little trace remains was, in the mid-fourteenth century, a lingua franca spoken across thousand of miles.

That reference to Sarai (or Serai) is in Pegolotti’s Pratica della mercatura.

The two SARAIs (SERAIs)

I see today that the wikipedia entry has been greatly expanded and much improved since I first published the post, so now (2023) I’m leaving out much of what I wrote in this section, including several of the maps.

Instead see: ‘Sarai‘ (wikipedia)

When I did the research itself (in the 2010s), I had no idea that there was a film in the making which would require a reconstruction of one of the Serai sites as it had been during the Mongol century. I don’t vouch for the accuracy of the reconstruction, but note her that it also shows a walled area near water, with a lesser track (just visible on the left) down to the river and a high road upon an embankment – just visible to the extreme right. Enlarging the image will allow you to identify it by the white car which is seen on a road that had been a postal Highway even before the days of Alexander the Great. I assume that the various tracks in the foreground have been made for the movie crew’s four-wheel drives. I suspect – though evidence is wanting – that the medieval site is actually the high ground which you see with some sparse vegetation and a broader expanse of white sand or soil visible. Film-crews are not usually permitted to build new structures on genuine archaeological sites.

FIG. 13. Photo credit:

More photos of the reconstructed site, including the ‘beehive’ roofs of a kind we usually associate with hot, dry sites such as Harran and Edessa in Syria, or with Africa.

The two (or three) SARKELs

Koen Gheuens’ current project.

Added note (26th Feb. 2023). What are now usually called ‘swallowtails’ in Voynich-related dicussions are technically described as ‘fishtail’ merlons.

Indirectly I owe to Koen Gheuens my revision of the earlier identification for the North emblem. I was trying to find again the website on which the following structure from Sicily was described as having the oldest known example of ‘swallowtails’ in the Latin (western Christian) world, was said to be known locally as ‘Sarkel’ and had been erected on the foundations of an old Phoenician temple. This was part of research I’d done in 2010-12 and while I never did find the Sicilian site again – it had evidently been since taken down, hunting for the term ‘Sarkel’ led me to the northern sites. Here’s the photo copied from that site. Credits absent, for obvious reasons.

FIG. 14

SARK – ‘ and ;NORTHERN TONGUESjust notes and some musings from a non-linguist’.

Following a storm of three (3) emailed protests about the post’s being so long, I’ve shortened it by more than 1200 words by removing these sections. I haven’t bothered renumbering the Figures. (March 1st., 2023).

BACK TO MERLONS – Asia minor and back to Sicily.

The fortifications shown below are from Semina, off the coast of what was once Lycia. The Turkish government says it was made by Byzantines, though by ‘Byzantines’ they may mean Armenians.

FIG. 15

Other sources describe the fortifications in Simena castle as “erected by the Knights of Rhodes atop earlier fortifications” but no-one knows certainly or attempts to say when that may have happened, or what the precedent fortifications looked like.

For its link to Armenia, I added to the 2021 post a little from an research post which had been published in my first, blogger blog called ‘Findings’.

I include this matter again because the research contributed much to my work on the manuscript and investigation of the Voynich map (between 2010-c.2013).

I found no other reference anywhere in Voynich studies at that time to travellers’ accounts or to merchants and their documents and handbooks. The idea that the manuscript might not be entirely a product of western Christian Europe was treated as laughable and in fact it was not by reasoned argument but by ridicule – because he considered an Asian language possible for Voynichese – that Jorge Stolfi was effectively driven out, and despite Jacques Guy’s best efforts in an article written for the old Times’ educational supplement.

In particular I found no reference made to the Franciscans – and nothing about Odoric of Pordenone, Hugo the Illuminator, Symon Semeonis or John of Montecorvino.. My experiences since then leave me in little doubt that while the content of my research-summaries has gone to swell other Voynichero sites and writings, it will be a rare and marvellous day when original contributions receive accurate documentation by theorists.

However – while Odoric of Pordenone;s account is lived a bit late for us, and Hugo the Illuminator – who set out with Symon Semeonis – died in Egypt on the outward journey, the link with Armenia comes about because we hear from John of Montecorvino, the first Latin Franciscan missionary to China, that part of his preparation involved study in Armenia. We have only one extant source which includes comments by Odoric about his journey and that comes rather late, but it does include a reference to the language of Armenian which, apparently, Odoric had already studied to some extent. (My source here is Yule and the Silk Road Seattle site): .

At Polumbrum [in India], the commander of the ship said to me in the Armenian language, which the rest of the people on board did not understand, that unless we could procure a favourable wind .. he would throw both us and the bones [of Odoric’s deceased fellows] into the sea. … But as the time passed on, and no wind came, I gave one of the bones to our servant, whom I ordered to go to the head of the ship, and cast the bone into the sea; which he had no sooner done, than a favourable gale sprung up, which never again failed us till we had arrived at our destined port in safety.

… I had earlier commented, still in the old blog:

.. Which just goes to show how persistent and conservative are the ways of mariners.

It is a bit surprising to find that (a) Oderic understood Armenian, and (b) that no-one else but the ‘commander’ – pilot – did. And in this case it is unlikely that the pilot himself was Armenian, though Armenian traders figure prominently in some later accounts of the trade routes.

In many cases the Armenians appear to favour the Roman rite even over that of the Greeks, and we hear that one Armenian king, Hethoum II (1266-1307), even abdicated in order to become a Franciscan monk.

from: D.N. O’Donovan, ‘John of Montecorvino and fol. 1r’, Findings, (30th. October 2011).

Montecorvino is said to have served as an adviser to the Sicilian Norman Frederick II before being commissioned to serve as a missionary to China and joining the Franciscan order.

Passing over the oldest, and the non-Latin examples of these fishtail merlons in Sicily, the earliest extant attributed to a ‘Norman’ occurs in what was still a mixed Byzantine-Islamic-Jewish culture in Sicily. (I sent this image to Koen in 2021, but he’d already included Carini).

FIG 15

FIG 17

We know that particular form was no invention of the newly-arrived Norman freebooters, because it occurs as a Persian-style ivory ‘tower’ chesspiece from Byzantium during in the same, twelfth, century. The rook is also called a ‘castle’.

Ornament of that form was best suited to easily-worked materials such as ivory, terracotta and clay, but a need to use bricks and stone seems to me a likely reason that the simpler ‘swallowtail’ began appearing in regions under Latin rule.

Ghibelline‘ merlons

In medieval Latin records, the usual terms are not ‘Guelf and Gibbeline’ but ‘Church/Papal party’ and ‘imperial party’ but we know the slang terms had popular currency in parts of western Europe when strife and partisanship were rife.

I suggest that the Latins – particularly in Italy – had adopted the style and the term from a Sicilian precedent. What I suspect is that the term had been originally pejorative, because the final and most persistent resistance against the Latins had been the mountains near a town called Gibellina.

The mountains themselves are sometimes described as the ‘Monti de Gibellina’ – as for example by Ian Lee in an article that you may not find otherwise helpful but which I happen to have by me. His map labelled Fig.1 – p.3) in.

Ian Lee, ‘Entella: The Silver Coinage of the Campanian Mercenaries and the Site of the First Carthaginian Mint 410-409 bc’, The Numismatic Chronicle, Vol. 160 (2000), pp. 1-66.[JSTOR]

Gibellina’ = Ghibelline.

Though the town of Gibellina (Sicilian: Jibbiddina, Arabic: “little mount” – جبل صغير) was obliterated by an earthquake in 1968, by then it was a “small city and commune in the Province of Trapani, the mountains of central Sicily, Italy”.* This region had offered the strongest resistance to the (Latin) Norman freebooters when they attempted to take the island and for its mixed Arab, Phoenician, and Byzantine character the term ‘Gibbeline’ or ‘Ghibelline’ I’d guess was initially a pejorative in the mainland, the courts of Roger and Frederick II being notorious for maintaining a multi-cultural court and this resulting several times in the rulers’ being formally excommunicated. it is understandable that, on the one hand, the Sicilian style ‘merlons’ would be adopted by Italy’s ‘imperial party’ called ‘Ghibelline’ by their opponents, but equally understandable if the imperial party should proudly adopt the term in daily speech as a matter of pride.

(A variant form of the ‘swallowtails’ occurs in North Africa, and is seen in Almeria).

In the Voynich map, the particular form given the old motif for ‘imperial boundary’* appears to me to maintains that traditional sense and while drawn carelessly, the instances seen in the Voynich map appear to me nearest the Sicilian-and-Latin form. *explained illustrated and documented in earlier posts to Voynichimagery.

Swallowtails and a different ‘White Tower’ – the GALATA TOWER

There is no need to assume such merlons were physically present in Constantinople and Pera, although the prominent presence in Pera of the Genoese and other foreign enclaves makes it possible. In my opinion, as I’ve said, the so-called ‘castle’ in the North roundel is a token for Constantinople and/or Pera. As I’ll explain below, the tower’s form in that case points to a last recension, one including the present North roundel for the first time, to c.1330-1350.

The sites around the Black Sea which served as Genoese ‘colonies’ were, like Pera, ‘imperial’ territory in the same sense that modern embassies, wherever located, are deemed the occupier’s native land. In this case, they were imperial twice over, Pera, Caffa and other such sites being under the protection of both the Byzantine and the Latin emperors.

So the great tower in the North roundel I take to be the Galata – the ‘milk-white” – Galata being an alternative name for Pera, to which both Karaite and Rabbinic Jews had been consigned for centuries before the Genoese were, first, permitted to reside there and subsequently given control of the whole area.

The great Tower of Galata is usually credited, too, to the Genoese, but this is not entirely correct. A Turkish government site provides the following information

FIG.18 The Galata in an early hand-painted postcard,

Galata Tower was first built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 507-508 AD. The Genoese rebuilt the current tower in 1348-49. Today, it is observed that the part of the building up to the third floor has a Genoese character and the other floors have an Ottoman character. 

The tower was later raised (1445-6). In the 1500s, after being damaged by an earthquake it was repaired by an architect named Murad bin Hayreddin. III, with bay windows added to the Turkish addition. Finally, after another fire (1831) two more floors were added and the present form of the roof made.

Thus, the version seen in the detail from the Voynich map agrees best with the form of the Galata tower though the period from 1348-9 to 1445-6.

A white horizontal line [of mortar] can be seen about four or five courses below the lowest line of arched windows, marking the end of the older Genoese levels, and start of the later Turkish work – as seen in the following details.

FIG 19 The Turkish additions.

FIG. 20 The mortar line is most obvious about four of five courses below the bay window on the right

Imperial’ merlons are found still in the old Genoese enclave of Caffa on the Black Sea, but whether used on the walls which the Genoese built for Pera (Galata) we do not know.

Postscript 2023:


6 thoughts on “Reprint – Towers and swallowtails. North emblem and north roundel.

  1. Readers with access to – pretty much everyone these days – will find much more on these matters there.

    In particular, I’d suggest reading papers which have been put up on her page by an Italian scholar named Angela Orlandi (Università degli Studi di Firenze/University of Florence).

    Her interests very nicely parallel subjects which have turned up during my investigation of the voynich drawings, the latter leading me to conclude (actually pretty early on) that the manuscript we have was intended to serve a peripatetic profession, and since trade was a concomitant of travel in those days, and ciphers in Europe are used chiefly for reasons of politics and profit, so a mercantile dimension to the work was to be expected.

    Anyway – Orlandi’s site is highly recommended – including the most recently-uploaded paper on a mercantile ‘Catalonia Company’. I’ve already spoken of Datini and of the presence, in the Aegean islands, of the Catalan Company ( which last was mercenary rather than mercantile but is equally relevant, in my opinion, to understanding the intentions and meaning of the drawings in Beinecke MS 408).


  2. Concerning Pegolotti and ‘Serai’. In some translations you will see ‘Tana’ rather than ‘Serai’ because some translators take it that New Serai had been established on the same site as ancient Tanais ‘Tana’. It is a difficult historical and archaeological question, and to do it justice would certainly exhaust the patience of readers whose only interest is in Voynichese. It does have relevance to my conclusion that the Voynich map’s basis is a work first composed during (or perhaps shortly before) the Hellenistic period. Readers of Voynichimagery will be aware of this, and how I came to reach that opinion.


  3. An example of ‘Tana’ being used… this version too has already been quoted at Voynichimagery:

    “The road you travel from Tana to Cathay is perfectly safe, whether by day or by night, according to what the merchants say who have used it.”

    and he offers detailed advice for the (apparently numerous) Latins setting out overland for China:

    “In the first place, you must let your beard grow long and not shave. And at Tana you should furnish yourself with a dragoman. And you must not try to save money in the matter of dragomen by taking a bad one instead of a good one. For the additional wages of the good one will not cost you so much as you will save by having him. And besides the dragoman it will be well to take at least two good menservants, who are acquainted with the Cumanian tongue…”

    I illustrated the ‘dragoman’ with a detail from Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.2.48, folio 255r.   to which I added a caption: During the Middle Ages the word dragoman entered European languages: in Middle English as dragman, in Old French as drugeman, in Middle Latin as dragumannus, and in Middle Greek δραγομάνος.” – wiki


  4. An email from a fan-critic points me and other readers to a very helpful Italian site.
    There it is noted that
    “At the end of the 15th century, the traditional merlon, which was too vulnerable, was replaced by type which was much thicker and had a receding profile on the upper part.
    The association [combination?] of merlons and double flared bombard constitutes the so-called ‘French’ fortification.

    The author of that site, and apparently of that brief article, Dino Palloni, cannot be contacted. A notice on the site says (with a black ribbon) that he disappeared.


  5. Treat with caution the wiki article ‘Tanais’ as it appears at present (March 2023) and in particular a map included in it as

    I am at a loss to understand how the person who made that map, and whoever included it under ‘Tanais’ can imagine Caffa a Venetian possession, or that other centres around the Black Sea in which Venetians were merely permitted resident status, or to anchor ships before the mid-fifteenth century, can be termed ‘Venetian possessions’. A very, very misleading map.

    Not even the text of the main article supports it, saying that the city was ‘refounded around the 14thC by the Venetians’ although their right seems entirely nominal and as early as 1332, up until (nominally) 1471 it was ruled by Genoa, under the name of Tana nel Mare Maggiore and like all Genoa’s Black Sea “colonies” administered from Caffa. In practice, though, the Latins’ tenure and conditions were decided by negotiation with the Mongol rulers.


  6. An Italian site offers an alternative etymology for Gibellina, as Gebel ed in, “between two hills” which seems appropriate for the fishtail merlons. The same site includes a picture of the town with the mountains in the background, as it looked before the 1968 earthquake. Projections of some kind are visible on the top of its highest building but the photo is too small for me to say more about them.

    Photo here


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