Military Pay, Venice, 1570
Although a relatively small city state in an era of emerging nation-states, Venice, “The Most Serene Republic,” remained a major international player until well into the seventeenth century, maintaining a powerful navy and a small army on the enormous profits of her extensive colonial holdings. Pay for the army, composed largely of mercenaries, was quite favorable. So much so, in fact, that the Republic rarely had trouble filling the ranks. Indeed, so lucrative was pay that late in the sixteenth century the famous Itrano brigand Marco Sciarra, “a most daring robber, and captain of a numeorus troop of banditti,” enlisted with his entire band, some 1,500 highwaymen, including 600 light cavalrymen.
|Day Wages, 1570|
Captains, usually independent contractors, were paid under the terms of their individual agreements with the Republic.
Note, by the way, that in Shakespeare’ Othello, Iago ranked as an “ensign.”
Homemade Booze, Eighteenth Century Style
Warriors and alcohol have frequently been associated with each other throughout history, and not soley for diversionary reasons either, considering the quality of the water in much of the world across the ages. Normally the soldiers and sailors could procure the stuff easily, on the local economy, since, the Moslem world aside, alcohol – whether wines, beers, or spirits – was quite widely available, indeed, probably more so than it is even today.
Still, occasionally soldiers and sailors wold find themselves running out of suitable potables. And then, of course, whenever they’ve been able to, they’ve improvised, often producing a suitably intoxicating fluid from the most unusual of ingredients, albeit usually lacking in taste, bouquet, and character.
In 1710 William Dampier, a sometime British privateer with a taste for letters, noted in his memoirs the recipe his band of merry men had developed to address their thirst in the absence.
|Take ten or twelve ripe bananas and mash them well in a trough, put two gallons of water on them and this in two hours will ferment and froth like wort. In four hours it is fit to bottle and drink, but this will not keep longer than thirty hours.|
Dampier went on to add that this banana brew “drinks brisk and cool and is very pleasant,” a matter about which one must wonder.