ASHKENAZI, SOLOMON BEN NATHAN:
Court physician of King Sigismund II., Augustus of Poland (1548-72), and Turkish diplomat; born probably about 1520; died 1602. A descendant of a German family settled in Udine (Italy), he came in his early youth to Cracow, probably in the train of the Italian wife of Sigismund, Bona, and owing to his ability obtained the position of first physician to the king. Later he removed to Constantinople, where he displayed great skill in diplomatic affairs as member of the staff of Grand Vizier Mahomet Sakolli, who entrusted him with many delicate commissions. During the Turkish war with Venice for the possession of Cyprus (1570), Ashkenazi was engaged in the preliminaries for a treaty of peace. At the election of the Polish king in 1572, Turkey had powerful influence. Ashkenazi, who then practically managed the foreign affairs of Turkey, decided in favor of Henry of Anjou, and won over the grand vizier to his side. When Henry, afterward King Henry III. of France, became king of Poland, Ashkenazi wrote to him: "I have rendered to your Majesty most important service in securing your election. It was I who effected all that was done here" (Charrière, p. 932, note). It was partly due to Ashkenazi's influence that the decree of banishment of Jews from Venice was revoked, July 19, 1573. In 1576 he was appointed envoy extraordinary of the Porte to Venice, with full power to conclude peace. But the republic was unwilling to receive the Jew, Ashkenazi; and not until the grand vizier insisted was he finally acknowledged. Thereafter the Venetian authorities paid him great honor and attention. He was received in state audience and signed the act of peace in behalf of Turkey. He left three sons: Nathan, Samuel, and Obadiah. His wife seems to have had some knowledge of medicine. After Ashkenazi's death she was called to the sick-bed of Sultan Mohammed III., and cured him of smallpox. Ashkenazi's son Nathan came from Constantinople to Venice in 1605, and was treated by the doge Grimani with great consideration.
- The data for the biography of Ashkenazi are to be found chiefly in the reports of the French ambassador to the Porte, and of M. de Ferriers, French ambassador to Venice (published by Charrière, Négociations de la France dans le Levant, vol. iii., passim), as well as in the reports of the Venetian ambassador Marcantonio Barbaro (Alberi, Relazioni degli Ambasciatori Veneti, vol. xvi., Florence, 1863). See also Joseph ha-Kohen, 'Emek ha-Bakah, ed. Levteris, Cracow, 1895, p. 167. Zunz, 'Ir ha-Ẓedeḳ, confounds the subject of this notice with Solomon of Kalahorra (pp. 68 et seq.). Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, ix., passim, and note 7 (also the Hebrew translation by Rabinowitz, vol. vii. 426);
- M. A. Levy, Don Joseph Nasi, etc., Breslau, 1859, 8.