Who are these unfamiliar strangers of Tatar slaves unlikely to be met in Italian cities such as Florence, Genoa, and Venice in the Later Middle Ages? This article aims to reveal the ethnic identity of Tatar slaves mentioned in European documents of the Later Middle Ages, analyzing a register of slaves created in Florence in 1366. In 1366, the government of Florence ordered citizens that bought slaves to report their purchase of slaves and to pay taxes (35 Florin to 1 Florin tax). The analysis of this register of slaves permits us to confirm whether Tatar slaves frequently appearing in the Italian records of the Middle Age belonged to the same ethnic group or not.
Travel accounts, chronicles, and the papal correspondence revealed that the term of Tatar was used as a common word referring to Mongol. In general, Tatar slaves were regarded as Mongols in Medieval Europe, although in strict sense, the Mongols are ethnically different from the Tatars, that is an umbrella term for different Turkic ethnic groups bearing the name Tatar. However, it is likely that all Tatar slaves mentioned in the Florentine register of slaves did not belong to the same ethnic group in that they did not share common physical characteristics enough to regard them as one category. We may conclude that Tatars slaves encompass a broader group, even though the term of Tatar defines the Mongols. However, it is certain that Mongol slaves were so numerous to come across routinely in Italian cities in the Later Middle Ages.