Italian Regions: Venice


Figure 1.-- .

Venice was a republic for much of modern Italian history. Venice was in fact the richest, most poweful, anf longest lasting republic in history. We can not say democracy, but Venice was the dominant republic in history. Venice unlike many Italian cities was not important during the Roman era. The marshy islands of the Venetian lagoon were considered in hospitable. The isolated easily defensible islands, however, became refuges during the barbarian invasions of the 5th centuries and 6th centuries AD>. The refugees built villages on rafts. At first wooden posts driven into the subsoil for these rafts. Such primative beginnings became the foundations of the famed Medieval and Renaissance palaces. Early Venice had a tenous relationship with Bizantium which provided some security. Through much of the Republic's existence there was a varying, but crucial relationship with Byzantium. The Repubblica Serenissima played an important role in building provided ships from its growing navy and mnerchant fleet played an important role in the Crusades. The Venetians played an even more important role in the 4th Crusade (1202) in which the Venetians and their Norman allies seized and pillaged the city and set up a Latin Republic. The Venetians came to dominate much of the Eastern Mediterannean. The rule of the doge was overseen by the Great Council on which members of the city's powerful and moneyed families sat. Venice was involved with controntations with other Italian trading city states, especially Genoa. After several inconclusive battles, the Venetian fleet defeated the Genoese at the Battle of Chioggia (1380). The fall of Constantinople (1453) was a turning point for Venice. The Portuguese explorer Vasca da Gama rounded Cape Horn making possible direct trading links with the East (1498). This ended the monopoly Venice had by controlling the Eastern Mediterranean. Venice did not have the ability in the long run to compete with the Ottomons and the much larger nation states that were developing in Europe. The Turks had developed a navy to destroy Byzantium and that navy now began to sweep the eastern Mediterranean. This is the effective end of Venetian maritime empire. Thus Venice was a shadow of its former self when the Napoleonic Wars began in Europe.

Roman Era

Venice unlike many Italian cities was not important during the Roman era. The marshy islands of the Venetian lagoon were considered inhospitable.

Barbarian Invasions

The isolated easily defensible islands, however, became refuges during the barbarian invasions of the 5th centuries and 6th centuries AD. Atilla and the Huns destroyed Aquelia was a particularly important event. The few survivors escaped into the marshes. The refugees built villages on rafts. At first wooden posts driven into the subsoil for these rafts. Such primative beginnings became the foundations of the famed Medieval and Renaissance palaces. The early population centered Rivo Alto which becane known as the Rialto where the highest point in the lagoon was located.

Government

Venice was a republic for much of modern Italian history. Venice for a variety of reasons unlike the rest of Europe evolved into a republic. There was no grant of land to a Feudal lord. The Venitians began electing a chief magistrates or doge (697).

Byzantium

Early Venice had a tenous relationship with Bizantium which provided some security. Through much of the Republic's existence there was a varying, but crucial relationship with Byzantium. Venetian commerce to a large degree rose and fell with the varying ifortunes of Byzantium. Venice's relationship to Byzanyium varied greatly over time. Venice was first a client state, a virtual colony of Byzantium. A Byzantine emperor referred to Venice as Byzantiumís "favorite daughter". Gradually the two trading centers became partners and rivals in both trade and war. Ad Venetian power grew, they became more of an ally and exempted from duties paid by Byzantine territories. Finally Venice headed by the elderly Doge Dandolo and assissted by Normon troops, sacked Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade (1204).

St. Mark

Venice adopted St. Mark as their patron saint. The apostle's remains were smuggled out of Alexandria (828). St Mark's Basilica was built to house them (1094).

Navy

The Repubblica Serenissima played an important role in building ships for th Byzantine Empire. Venice provided ships from its growing navy and mnerchant fleet to the Crusaders and thus played an important role in the Crusades. The profits involved played a major role in the rise of the Venetian Empire. As a city whose fortunes were based on maitime trade, the Venetians began to develop a navy to protect their merchant ships and to safeguard sea routes to immportant trading partners. They established a shipyard called the Arsenale--the most renowned boat building facility of the Medieval world. Many of the Byzantine It developed into a huge, pre-modern industrial complex producing military, mercantile, and ceremonial boats. The Arsenale built masny ships for the Byantine navy. The boat building and seafaring technology developed by the Venetians and other Italian trading states, especially Genoa, was to provide much of the technolohgy for the European voyage of discovery of the 15h cenntury.

The Crusades

The Venetian fleet played an important role in the First Crusade organized by Pope Urban II (1095). Venice greatly benefitted from transporing the Crusaders and their supploes to the Holy Land as well as the expanded trade with ports in the eastern Mediterren. Venetians played an especially important role in the 4th Crusade (1202) in which the Venetians and their Norman allies seize and pillage the city and set up a Latin Republic. Booty from Byzantium such as the famed four horses can still be found in Venice.

Commercial Empire

The Venetian Empire was based on maritime commerce. Venice developed a thriving commercial empire which grew during the Crusades. The Venetians came to dominate much of the Eastern Mediterannean. The rule of the doge was overseen by the Great Council on which members of the city's powerful and moneyed families sat. The goal of Venice in building an empire was not to rule other people or propagate the Christian faith which was later to motivate Spain to the west. The Venetians were interested in commerce. The Venetian Republic was goverened by practical merchants. The famed doge and ruling Council of Ten were elected ny Venice's Grand Council of around 2,000 men, many of whom were the city's leading merchants.

Silk Road

The sacking of Constantinople in the 4th Crusade left Venince in command of the western terminus of the Silk Road. This meant that Venince ontrolled the commerce between Western Europe and the East. The orofits involved were enormous. At the sme time, the Pax Mongolica from the mid-13th to the mid-14th centuries permitted expanded trade between East and West. This was the time tht the Polo brothers with young Marco reached China.

Rivalry with Other Italian States

Venice was involved with controntations with other Italian trading city states, especially Genoa. After several inconclusive battles, the Venetian fleet defeated the Genoese at the Battle of Chioggia (1380).

Mainland Territory

Venice than began expanding its mainland territory, especially after the city population was devestated by the Plague (1348).

The Ottomans

The rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century was a major factor in the decline of the Venetian Empire. The Ottomon conquest of Constantinople (1453) was a major turning point in Venetian history. The Ottomans were a land power, but realized to take Constantinoplke that they were need a navy. After they take Constantinople they increase their naval force and gradually take the eastern Mediterrnean trading ports that Venice had acquired in the 13th century. Thus the Ottomans slowly strangled Venice as a great trading center.

Decline of Venetian Empire

The fall of Constantinople (1453) was a turning point for Venice. The Portuguese explorer Vasca da Gama rounded Cape Horn making possible direct trading links with the East (1498). This ended the monopoly Venice had by controlling the Eastern Mediterranean. The Council of Ten locked the city's Jews into the Ghetto (1516). Also Europe was changing. Venice did not have the ability in the long run to compete with the Ottomons and the much larger nation states that were developing in Europe. The Turks had developed a navy to destroy Byzantium and that navy now began to sweep the eastern Mediterranean. The Turks took both Cyprus in (1570) and Crete (1669). Other plagues struck killing as much as one-third the population (1630). The Turks force Venice to surrender Morea (1718). This is the effective end of Venetian maritime empire.

Renaissance

Venice played a role in the Renaissance. The Crusades in which Venice played a kry role helpd to bring Europeans in contact with the Islamic world which at the time surpassed the West in refinement, scholasrship, and technology. As a result of their contact with the Islanic world, several schools were established in Venice to translate Arabic books on medicine, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and encyclopedic collections of information about the natural world. As Islamic scholars had access to classical worls of Greece and Rome lost to the West, Venice also helped stimulate interest in classical studies.

European Voyages of Discovery

The great European voyages of discovery of the 15th and 16th centuries were fundamentally economic enterprises. They were conducted by the European countries of the Atlantic coasts to establish direct trade contacts with China and the Spice Islands (Indonesia) that was being blocked by Byzantium/Venice and the Arabs. At the time, trade in silk, porcelin, and spices from the East carried over the Silk Road had to pass through Turkish, Arab, Byzantine, and Italian middleman, making them enormously expensive. The crusaders failed to break the Islamic wall separating still primitive Europe from the riches of the East. Circumventing the land Silk Road and the sea Spice Route would have profound economic consequences for Europe and the world. The ballance of power would shift from Eastern to Western Europe and eventualkly to northern Europe. Two nations led the early explorarions in the 15th century--Spain and Portugal. These two countries pioneered the sea routes that would lead Europeans to Asia and the Americas, but the Dutch, English, and French were to follow in the 16th century.

Napoleon

Thus Venice was a shadow of its former self when the Napoleonic Wars began in Europe. The Italian political and territorial picture, which at the end of the 18th century seemed to have stabilized, rapidly disintegrated in the face of Napoleon Bonaparte's first military campaign across the peninsula so as to successfully attack the Austrian Empire on its southern flank. This meant the end of the now enfeabled Republic. The Peace of Paris (May 16, 1796) reached with the neighboring kingdom of Savoy. The Grand Council of Venice with no real army of its own, voted itself out od existence (May 1797). [Norwich] The Peace of Campoformio with Austria (October 17, 1797) marked the end of an independent Venice. The latter was exchanged with Austria for the Duchy of Milan, which went to form the Republica Transpadana (November 1796).

Austria


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Sources

Norwich, John Julius. Paradise of Cities: Venice in the 19th Century (Dounleday, 2003), 336p.






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Created: August 30, 2003
Last updated: October 15, 2003