Name: Simon Benedetto Duran
Play by: Danny Nucci
He has dark hair, now peppered with some gray here and there, olive skin and an athletic constitution. His eyes are deep brown and there is always a smile on his lips. Always a stickler for order, he is always dressed in neat, clean clothes appropriate for his lower middle class social status.
A well read and confident doctor, he displays the type of self-discipline one would expect of a man who had succeeded through his own efforts, and of a man who had spent two years with the Navy. However, he cares deeply for those close to him and he respects the others’ knowledge and professionalism without petty envy. He has a high expectation of himself and those he works alongside. He craves order and is constantly seen arranging and rearranging his supplies, cleaning instruments until they shine and keeping his workspace spotless. Social status doesn’t mean much to him, as he won't think twice before admonishing someone of higher status for not taking the prescribed medicine or nursing a poor child injured at work.
The family secrets are safe with him, and he is known to further investigate discretely, “for educational and medical purpose”, his ancestors’ culture, without attracting undue attention and suspicions, since he is a Venetian born citizen for about five generations. Besides Venetian, he is fluent in Florentine, Spanish, French and Latin, having also studied Ancient Greek.
A man of honour and loyalty, he doesn't take kindly to betrayal or dishonesty. He avoids any excessive drinking, gambling, or swearing, and this avoidance is enough to peg him as a devout Christian, when in truth he rarely goes to Church. He is moderately sociable, getting along with most people on a superficial level, but having a few good friends. He attends rarely, but with enthusiasm when he decides to, the social and cultural events Venice offers generously. He enjoys flirting and having an occasional affair, however after a heartbreak in the past, which determined him to join the Navy, he hadn’t got any serious relationship. He says he doesn’t have time for one; the truth is also that he is afraid not to suffer again.
- to get famous and rich.
Simon’s family had been of old Sephardic Jews, having a known Rabbi
of the early 15-th century among them, who incidentally was also specialized in medicine. After fleeing to Algiers during some persecutions of Spanish kings, the heirs returned to Spain, where one could learn and practice their trade. Not all had been rabbis – some were apothecaries and some doctors. Then, in 1492, persecutions enhanced again. There had been people who wanted to die for their faith, and there were people who wanted to live. Therefore, they converted
to Christianism, be it with practicing in secret their initial religion
or not. One of his ancestors
had publicly condemned the conversos
, and, a couple of generations later, another had been one of the conversos
. Irony of fate!
But even if Jaime Duran had converted to Christianism, it didn’t mean that his family wasn’t exempted of later persecutions. It had worked during his lifetime, indeed, so that he could keep his privileges, his apothecary’s and his house in Toledo, but after one century and a half, the Duran heirs and their fellows kept being threatened and persecuted by the Inquisition. Many of the newer Christians
left Spain, in groups or as individual refugees, some settling in Venice or in other Italian states. They received privileges in Venice, where they were protected from the persecutions of the Inquisition.
didn’t live in the Ghetto, because they were Catholics like any others. They had all the neighbourhood’s eyes on them, because they still had to prove they were faithful Christians. However, after a few generations, the sefardis
were fully integrated Venetian citizens, and only the family history, transmitted orally to children and grandchildren, reminded about the Rabbis in the family, about the Inquisition and the fleeing to Venice.
Simon had learnt all these from his father and grandfather. The fascination for medicine and astronomy was also in the family; as the first born son, he helped his father, also a doctor, learning from him in parallel with the general studies. At eighteen, he was sent to the University of Padua. His father dying suddenly half a year later, Simon had to choose if he worked to support himself through the studies or if he returned home to help his family. He asked his younger brother to be the one who remains at home, as he wanted to follow his dream of becoming a doctor. After a few years of hard work and dedicate studies, he further went Southwards, to improve his medical knowledge from the best source, at Schola Medica Salernitana.
When he returned home, he was already 32 and with a medical carreer, having served, i.a., two years as a Navy ship doctor. Now, in Venice for six years, he is working in the Ospedale Grande di San Marco and he lives in a building on the Canal Grande.