Republic of Venice


The Republic of Venice (Italian Serenissima Repubblica di San Marco ”Most Illustrious Republic of Saint Mark”) after the city”s emblem, the Lion of Saint Mark, also known as the Republic of Saint Mark or the Republic of the Lion, was the capital of Venice from the 7th century to the present day.

The wealth of the noble republic resulted from the fact that it acted as a trans-shipment point between the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, monopolizing important goods at the same time. It used as main trade routes the rivers of Upper Italy and especially the Adriatic Sea. The power-political fragmentation of Italy was also advantageous for them. In the process, the nobility exclusively exercised the profitable long-distance trade (Levant) and increasingly controlled the political leadership – up to the abolition of the People”s Assembly.

About the early period report mainly legends and only a few historically reliable sources. Only from the 13th century is there a broad written tradition, which can then, however, be compared in extent with that of Rome. State-controlled historiography contributed significantly to the creation of legends. It often projected back into the past the peculiarities of Venetian society that were perceived as groundbreaking. In doing so, it concealed or reinterpreted much of what contradicted the ideals of cohesion, justice, and balance of power.

The maritime power managed to play a first-rate role in the politics of the Mediterranean, despite few resources and a scattered dominion. Almost from the beginning, Venice maneuvered between the great powers, such as Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire or the papal power, rigorously using the clout of its war fleet and its superior diplomacy, deploying trade blockades and professional armies. In doing so, it had to fend off competition from Italian trading cities, such as Amalfi, Pisa, Bologna, and especially Genoa. Only the large territorial states such as the Ottoman Empire and Spain pushed back Venice”s influence militarily, and the emerging trading nations such as the United Netherlands, Portugal and Great Britain economically. France occupied the city in 1797; shortly before, the Great Council had voted to dissolve the Republic on May 12.

Settlement of the lagoon

The starting point of the settlement of Venice was a group of islands around and in the lagoon, which the sediments of the Brenta and other small rivers pushed further and further into the Adriatic Sea. Thus, the Grand Canal is the extension of the northern branch of the Brenta. The population of the fishing settlements along and in the lagoon thus created, which date back to Etruscan times, increased due to refugees who, according to legend, sought safety there in 408 from the Visigoths of Alaric, and especially in 452 from the troops of Attila the Hun. When the Lombards invaded northern Italy in 568, another stream of refugees reached the lagoon. The legendary founding date of Venice, March 25, 421, could be a reminder of the early immigrants.

However, Venice is by no means a foundation of refugees, because already in the 5th century the northern lagoon was densely populated, numerous artifacts point to Roman settlements and roads. The legend of the refugee foundation probably arose only in the 10th century, it was last maintained by Roberto Cessi. The latter saw a strong contrast between the Germanic and Venetian worlds, a view that has since given way to the idea that this contrast between a barbarian and a Roman civilization did not exist in such a way. Instead, one assumes two strongly mixed societies. The Roman period was strongly influenced by ecological changes in the lagoon, especially by the rise of the water level. Early medieval trade was much more based on waterways, while Roman roads deteriorated or sank into the water. Finds of amphorae prove at the same time a widespread Mediterranean trade, which included Constantinople but was not directed to the metropolis.

The building ground of the city, in addition to the island of Rialto, which was made the core of Venice in the early 9th century, were the neighboring Luprio,, Mendicola, Olivolo and Spinalunga. Dense pile grids of tree trunks were driven into the subsoil to expand the settlements. The fleet also devoured large quantities of wood.

Byzantine rule

With the conquest of the Ostrogothic Empire under Emperor Justinian I (Restauratio imperii ca. 535 to 562), the lagoon came under Eastern Roman-Byzantine rule. However, the conquest of large parts of Italy by the Lombards beginning in 569 forced Emperor Maurikios to grant greater autonomy to the remaining peripheral provinces, and thus the Exarchate of Ravenna was created at the end of the 6th century. The exarch appointed the magister militum as military and civil commander-in-chief of the province. He was in turn subordinated to tribunes in the lagoon. The capital of the province was Oderzo, which was conquered by the Lombards in 639 and destroyed in 666. Thus the province largely disintegrated and the lagoon was increasingly left to its own devices. The episcopal see was moved from Altinum to the safer Torcello in 635. Nevertheless, trade with the mainland, especially in salt and grain, played an important role as early as the 6th century and apparently increased in the 8th century. In contrast to their peers outside Venice, the Venetian nobility, most of whom traced their roots back to Rome, probably already acquired their wealth around 800 not only from immobile property, but increasingly in trade.

Paulicius – if one follows the tradition – was elevated to the first doge in 697. A few decades later, a Dux (leader or duke) Ursus is mentioned for the first time. The transfer of his official residence took place under his successors, first to Heraclea and later to Old Malamocco. In 811, during the tenure of Doge Agnello Particiaco, Rialto became the final official residence.

In the election of the first Doge, in accordance with Venetian tradition, the so-called twelve “apostolic” families of Badoer, Barozzi, Contarini, Dandolo, Falier, Gradenigo, Memmo, Michiel, Morosini, Polani, Sanudo and Tiepolo appear for the first time.

Venice first showed itself to be increasingly independent of Byzantium in the incipient Byzantine iconoclastic controversy (726

Between Byzantium, the Lombards and the Frankish Empire

With the second conquest of Ravenna by the Lombards (751), Byzantine rule in northern Italy came to an end. Nevertheless, Venice appreciated the continued formal dependence on Byzantium, because only this enabled it to maintain its independence: first against the Lombards, but even more against the Franks (the Frankish king Charlemagne conquered the Lombard Empire in 774). The latter”s son, King Pippin of Italy, made several attempts to conquer Venice between 803 and 810, even a siege of the city was ultimately unsuccessful.

In the Peace of Aachen, Venice was finally recognized as part of the Byzantine Empire in 812. This and the transfer of the Doge”s seat to the site of today”s Doge”s Palace around 810 formed the foundations for the later special development of the city in relation to the rest of Italy.

Within the lagoon, whose capital was now only Venice, there was by no means unanimity during this process. The fourth Doge Diodato, son of the probably first Doge Orso, apparently fell victim to the fighting between prolangobard and probyzantine factions in 756. The probyzantine successor Galla, who had overthrown him, also fell victim to assassination after a few months. Domenico Monegario, in turn, led a pro-Langobard faction until his fall in 764, which benefited Venice”s Upper Italian trade. At the same time, the first attempts were made to limit the doge”s power by two tribunes. Maurizio Galbaio, who held the Doge”s office from 764 to 787, tried to impose a Doges dynasty against strong opposition by making his son Giovanni his successor. But he fell out with the clergy of the city and was finally defeated by a Profrantean faction led by Obelerio, who then had to flee with his family in 804 in the run-up to the siege by King Pippin, a son of Charlemagne.

Under the Particiaco dynasty, the enlargement of the city made significant progress. Its self-confidence grew, but it still lacked a spiritual elevation, a symbol of the importance of the city.

After the theft of the relics of St. Mark from Alexandria (828), where there was already a Venetian merchant colony, St. Mark the Evangelist became the patron saint of the city. The Republic was consecrated to him and the symbol of the Evangelist, the winged lion, became the emblem of the “Republic”. Even today it can be found throughout the area of former Venetian possessions. This was another step towards independence, now vis-à-vis the Patriarch of Aquileia, who claimed spiritual supremacy and thus demanded access to Venetian bishoprics. Venice”s claim was symbolized by the transfer of the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist to Venice. As custodian of this high-ranking relic, Venice was able to emphasize its spiritual position and independence from the Patriarch of Aquileia by having the saint, to whom the founding of the patriarchate was attributed, “physically present” in Venice.

But the political failures of Doge Iohannes Particiaco, who had to flee Venice in 829 and seek refuge with the Frankish Emperor Lothar while the Byzantine tribune Caroso ruled the lagoon for six months, contrasted sharply with this symbolic success. Only with the help of the Franks could the Doge return. He had Caroso blinded and banished, since as a senator of Constantinople he could not be executed. At the same time, the Byzantine office of tribune was soon to disappear. But already in 832 Iohannes was banished to a monastery.

Venetia” was now understood to mean an area stretching from Grado to Chioggia. In the Pactum Lotharii, in which Emperor Lothar I. Venice with numerous rights (840), 18 different places are mentioned, among them Rialto and Olivolo (Castello). Their independence was thus definitively recognized.

Under the Doge Tribunus Memus, the inclusion of these two island complexes in a common defense system took place, from which the actual city of Venice emerged. This effort was triggered by attacks from the Hungarians, who had penetrated as far as the lagoon in 900. Within the city, a group of wealthy merchants, mostly from the noble families, solidified. Unlike their counterparts on the mainland, they held trade in high esteem.

The Dogi dynasty of the Particiaco

The weakness of the Byzantine Empire prompted Venice to intervene in the raids and conquests launched by Slavs, Hungarians and Muslims (Saracens). Already in 827

Around 880, however, Venice managed to strengthen its position as a regional superpower, a development that even the advance of the Hungarians (900), who destroyed Altino, could not stop. In 854 and 946 Comacchio, which dominated the mouth of the Po, was conquered and destroyed by the Venetians. This, however, brought Venice into conflict with the Papal States, for the latter had become overlord of Comacchio through the Pippine Donation of 754. The conquerors were hit for the first time by papal excommunication.

Meanwhile, the relationship with Byzantium increasingly took on the character of an alliance. This phase of Venetian history was dominated by the Particiaco dynasty (810 to 887, again 911 to 942), although the reign of Pietro Tradonico, which was extremely successful, interrupted the Particiaco dominance from 837 to 864. At the same time there were several treaties with the kings of Italy, such as Berengar I in 888, Wido in 891, Rudolf of Burgundy in 924 and Hugh I in 927.

The Doges dynasty of Candiano, imperial policy of the Ottonians

Already under Pietro II Candiano (932-939), Venice asserted its supremacy over Capodistria (Koper), one of the most important trading places on Istria. For the first time a blockade was sufficient for this, a means of power that Venice had successfully used in the countries bordering the Adriatic for centuries. The Candiano family had already played an important role earlier and in 887 provided a first doge, Pietro I Candiano. However, he died after barely half a year during the fight against the Narentans.

Under the Candiano dynasty, which provided the Doges uninterruptedly between 942 and 976, it almost seemed as if Western European vassalage relations, oriented to the feudal system, could gain the upper hand. Pietro III Candiano (942-959) had to give way to his son Pietro IV, who was supported by the feudal lords of the mainland and King Berengar II. The latter, in turn, leaned on Otto I, who was elevated to Emperor in 962, and who induced the Doge to pay him tribute in exchange for access to the ecclesiastical properties in his territory.

Otto II”s imperial policy towards Venice fundamentally broke with the tradition of his father Otto I, which had lasted since 812. As a result, the pro-Ottoman Candiano dynasty was overthrown in 976. The Doge and his son Vitale, Bishop of Venice, were killed, and the Doge”s Palace and hundreds of houses were burned. The new Doge left her inheritance to the widow of his murdered predecessor, Waldrada, because she was under the protection of the Emperor”s widow Adelheid.

When the Coloprini family, which remained loyal to Otto II, came into open conflict with the pro-Byzantine Morosini and Orseolo, they turned to Emperor Otto. While the first trade blockade, ordered in January or February 981, hardly affected Venice, the second, imposed in July 983, inflicted considerable damage on the city. The Coloprini who remained in Venice were now imprisoned, their city palaces destroyed, and a few years later the returning Coloprini were also killed by the Morosini. Only the early death of Otto II (at the end of 983) possibly prevented the subjugation of Venice to the Empire.

The Orseolo, Rise to Great Power

The reign of Doge Pietro II Orseolo (991-1008) marked the beginning of Venice”s rise as a great power, both economically and politically. In 992, Venice received a privilege from Emperor Basileios II that significantly reduced the trade taxes in Byzantium and favored the Venetians over competing cities. At the same time, the privilege called the Venetians extranei, that is, strangers, which was certainly no longer a designation for Byzantine subjects, not even according to the claim.

The first campaign against the Narentan pirates of Dalmatia succeeded in 997 to 998, and by 1000 the islands of Curzola and Lastovo, which were considered to be hiding places for pirates, were conquered. Further south in the Adriatic, important successes were also achieved. In 1002-1003 the fleet was able to defeat the Saracen besiegers off Byzantine Bari.

Pietro is credited with the ceremony of Venice”s annual marriage to the sea (Festa della Sensa). This state spectacle symbolically underscored Venice”s claim to dominate the Adriatic, if not the entire Mediterranean. The faction of groups focused on the Adriatic and long-distance trade had finally prevailed. The Doge now claimed the title Dux Veneticorum et Dalmaticorum.

This long phase, in which powerful families fought bloody battles with their clientele over the doge”s power and attempted to establish a dynasty, and in which foreign powers in particular repeatedly tipped the scales, has left deep traces in Venetian historiography – but above all it triggered political reforms. These were aimed at turning the powerful doge into a representative figure who was subject to close control and supervision, without completely losing political influence.

Venice”s corporative order already corresponded to the division of labor in the High and Late Middle Ages. The nobilhòmini were responsible for politics and high-level administration, as well as for warfare and fleet management. Their economic basis, however, was long-distance trade, just as it was for the cittadini, those merchants whose families had no access to the politically decisive institutions of Venice. Nobilhòmini and Cittadini provided funds and added value through trade and production, while the Populani, the majority of the population, provided soldiers, sailors, artisans, servants, performed manual labor and engaged in petty trade.

The early institutions emerged in a society that needed written documents relatively rarely and kept them in a limited way. Thus arose the Small Council as an advisory body to the Doge and the Arengo, a kind of popular assembly that probably still had co-determination rights in the early days but soon became a mere acclamation body. While the Arengo increasingly lost importance, the influence of the Small Council grew, whose six members represented the city sixths (sestieri) that made up Venice.

Extensive written evidence in the form of council minutes and sureties already exists from the early 13th century. From then on, the documentation of the constitutional development as well as the domestic and foreign policy of Venice is extensive, incomplete and in its density probably only comparable to that of the Vatican.

This was in close interaction with the institutions, which were constantly changing and developing. Always observed was the principle of a careful balancing of power and mutual control of the various bodies; this principle was one of the reasons for the unique stability of this state in troubled Europe. The aim of all the reforms was to prevent the domination of a single family, which was common in the city-states of Upper Italy and with which Venice itself had had such bad experiences. The flip side, however, was a strict police and informer system.

Between 1132 and 1148, the sole rule of the Doge was contrasted with a body that developed into the Great Council. Here representatives of the most important families had a seat and a vote. Around 1200 it comprised little more than 40 members, but at times it grew to over 2,000 members. With the year 1297 came the so-called closure of the Great Council (Serrata), a lengthy process that lasted until the 14th century. Hereby the access to the Great Council, with the right of active and passive election of the Doge and of all the leading offices, was limited to the families capable of belonging to the Council. “Life-long hereditary membership in this council gave all members of the ruling class the security that they would not suddenly find themselves excluded.” On September 16, 1323, it was clarified that those whose father or grandfather had sat on the Great Council were admitted to the Great Council. In 1350 the twelve great families included the Badoer, Baseggio, Contarini, Cornaro, Dandolo, Falier(o), Giustiniani, Gradenigo with its collateral line Dolfin, Morosini, Michiel (according to tradition a branch of the Frangipani), Polani and Sanudo. They were followed in rank by the twelve other families Barozzi, Belegno, Bembo, Gauli, Memmo, Querini, Soranzo, Tiepolo, Zane, Zen, Ziani and Zorzi. (The Belegno were later succeeded by the Bragadin and the Ziani by the Salamon.) In the range after these came 116 councillor families called curti or Case Nuove (including such notable ones as the Barbarigo, Barbaro, Foscari, Grimani, Loredan, Mocenigo, Pisani, Polo, Tron, Vendramin or Venier) and 13 families who had immigrated from Constantinople. Later, some more native and immigrant families were co-opted. In the 15th century, the patriciate was conferred on an honorary basis to about 15 “foreign” noble families who had rendered services to the Serenissima, mainly through military support.

On August 31, 1506, the registration of the children of the families eligible for the Council was regulated in a register of births (Libro d”oro di nascita) and since April 26, 1526, there is the Libro d”oro dei matrimonio, in which the marriages of the Nobilhòmini were registered. Only those who were registered in these lists, later called the Golden Book, and who were re-registered when they reached the age of majority, belonged to the Grand Council (maggior consiglio) for life. The Grand Council was not an actual legislature, but had to be heard on all proposed legislation. At the same time, all political offices were filled here, so that it was occasionally referred to as the “electoral machinery.”

A kind of presidium of the Great Council was the Signoria, the highest controlling body. It included – in addition to the Doge and the Small Council – the heads of the Quarantia, the presidents of the supreme court. In the mid-13th century, the Grand Council gave rise to the Senate, originally a council of veteran merchants and diplomats that dealt with trade and shipping issues. Since all other political issues in Venice revolved around these matters, the senators, initially called pregati, gradually drew many kinds of tasks to themselves, forming a kind of government. Conversely, this caused all the long-distance merchant families to concentrate their influence here, where all economic matters were negotiated and decided.

In addition, from 1310 there was the Council of Ten, a supervisory body in which, as in almost all important bodies, the Doge also had a seat and a vote. The Council of Ten had been created after a noble revolt to prevent further unrest. It was a kind of supreme police and administrative body endowed with extensive rights. It is characteristic of Venice that this organ of public control and supervision at times competed sharply with the Senate, especially in times of crisis.

One of the highest offices after the Doge was that of the Procurators, also elected for life, who were a kind of Ministry of Finance and Treasury. They resided in the Procuraties in St. Mark”s Square.

In addition to these main bodies, special bodies arose for each major complex of issues, such as those dealing with the settlers” revolt in Crete, the cleaning of the canals and water management regulation in the lagoon, public manners and fashion, etc. All offices – except that of doge, procurators and chancellor – were filled only for a short time, for one or two years at most. Often the responsibilities and duties of different bodies overlapped, which also served to control each other. In the event of misconduct in office, advocatores investigated and, if necessary, brought charges against those responsible. A regular professional training did not exist until the end of the Republic, so that all positions were filled by more or less experienced laymen.

In the Doge”s Palace, the Chancellor, the only post not held for life by a Nobilhòmine, was in charge of correspondence. He was the only one whose qualifications were subject to verifiable criteria, while all the others had only to be judged suitable and elected. Other subordinate administrative posts were also filled by cittadini, but only those who, as well as their father and grandfathers, had been born in Venice by lawful marriage and had been registered in the so-called “Silver Book” were eligible.

The political leadership, including the financial organs, clustered around St. Mark”s Square, while Rialto Island formed the economic center.

Power in the Adriatic, trade hub between East and West

In addition to the conflicts with the Holy Roman Empire, especially with the Patriarch of Aquileia, it was above all the Normans of southern Italy who threatened Venice”s position of power in the Adriatic. At the same time, Hungarians and Croats were pushing towards the Adriatic coast. When in 1075 the Dalmatian cities asked the Normans for help against the Croats and the Norman leader Robert Guiscard, on a campaign of conquest towards Constantinople, already had a foothold in Albania, Venice”s trade routes through the Adriatic threatened to be closed off. This fear was to remain with the city and prompted it to prevent the rule of a single political power over both shores of the Adriatic by all means. This was the only way to secure Venice”s livelihood, long-distance trade.

Venice had already received privileges earlier, but its commercial supremacy was mainly based on two privileges. The city had gained these by supporting Henry IV in the investiture dispute with Pope Gregory VII on the one hand. On the other hand, it supported Emperor Alexios I of Byzantium against the Turkish Seljuks and the Normans of southern Italy, who threatened Constantinople from the east and west at the same time. By the privilege of Henry IV, merchants of the Holy Roman Empire were forbidden to take their goods beyond Venice to the East. Conversely, Greek, Syrian or Egyptian merchants were not allowed to offer their goods in the Empire. Thus, Venice acted as a broker between the two empires, a function expressed through trading houses for the various merchant nations, whose fees and duties brought large amounts of gold and silver into the city.

Nevertheless, the relationship with its old ally, the Byzantine Empire, soon proved to be particularly conflictual. The empire had become increasingly defensive against the Turkish Seljuks after the Battle of Manzikert (1071). Venice offered Emperor Alexios I the support of its fleet in the fight against the Turks and the Normans and received trade privileges in return, exempting its merchants from all duties from 1082. In addition, a large merchant quarter was established at the Golden Horn. Through this, the Venetians succeeded in dominating the Byzantine Empire economically within a few decades. This domination went so far that the economic foundation of the Byzantine state was threatened. The Oriental Schism (1054) and the First Crusade of 1096 to 1099 further contributed to the estrangement between Venice and Byzantium.

But the Crusades opened new opportunities for the Italian trading cities. In order to intervene, Venice, after having stayed away from the Crusade for a long time, sent out 207 ships in 1099, under the command of the doge”s son Giovanni Vitale and the bishop of Olivolo. In December, a naval battle took place off Rhodes with rivals from Pisa, after whose defeat the Venetians took relics of St. Nicholas from Myra. Venice received freedom from taxes and colonies in all the cities yet to be conquered in the nascent Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Conflict with Hungary, Frederick Barbarossa and the Peace of Venice

With the Kingdom of Croatia, which belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary in personal union and was supported by the Pope, there were already since the early 10th century repeatedly conflicts about the cities of Istria and Croatia and about the bishop”s seat Grado. In the process, Venice”s opponents allied with the Normans and captured the son of Doge Domenico Silvo (1070-1084) in a naval battle off Corfu. The antagonism of the Normans was again based on the fact that they were trying to conquer the Byzantine Empire, while the Doge, who was married to a daughter of the Emperor, was pursuing trade interests there. Emperor Alexios I conferred the title of Duke of Dalmatia and Croatia on the Doge. At the same time, however, Ladislaus installed a nephew as king in Dalmatia and Croatia. In 1105 to 1115 the conflict escalated into a war, during which Venice was able to recapture some coastal towns. In 1125 Split fell.

In 1133-1135 the Croats again conquered Šibenik, Trogir and Split. At the same time, Padua tried to shake off the Venetian salt monopoly, and Ancona tried to dispute Venice”s supremacy in the Adriatic. Pope Eugene III had Venice and its doge excommunicated. In internal power struggles, the powerful Badoer and Dandolo were temporarily deprived of their power. The situation became particularly dangerous when a marriage alliance between Hungary and Byzantium began to emerge.

The field of conflict was further expanded by Frederick Barbarossa”s involvement in Italian politics. In 1167, Venice joined forces with the Lega Lombarda, a confederation of cities in northern Italy supported by the pope (cf. Ghibellines and Guelphs). Even with the Normans of southern Italy, Venice was now in league because, another constant of Venetian policy, the city had no interest in an overbearing neighbor on the mainland. In 1177, Frederick I and Pope Alexander III agreed to a peace treaty in Venice mediated by Doge Sebastiano Ziani.

Under Emperor Manuel I. (1143-1180), whose mother was Hungarian, Byzantium succeeded in subjugating significant parts of Rascia, which today belongs to Serbia. In 1167, the Hungarians defeated him, making Byzantium once again Venice”s immediate neighbor.

Open conflict with Byzantium, Fourth Crusade

Relations with Byzantium had been extremely strained for decades. Since the privilege of 1082, Venice increasingly insisted on a monopoly-like position in Constantinople. This led to serious conflicts, especially with Pisa, which increased during the wars for the Holy Land. Doge Domenico Michiel sailed with 40 galleys, 40 cargo ships and another 28 ships to Jerusalem in April 1123 in support of Balduin II, defeated an Egyptian fleet off Ascalon and on July 7, 1124 Tyros fell. The Doge, although refusing the royal crown of Jerusalem, sailed with his fleet against Byzantium when he heard of the privileging of the Pisans by Emperor John. In the process, the fleet sacked Rhodes, Samos, Chios, Lesbos, Andros, Modon and Cephallenia. In 1126 the emperor renewed the trade privilege of 1082.

Emperor Manuel I. (1143-1180), John”s son and successor, pursued not only a policy of restoration in Asia Minor and Italy (Ancona was a Byzantine bridgehead for almost two decades), but also a rapprochement with Hungary. Both goals of Byzantine policy were directed against the interests of Venice, since if they had been realized, Constantinople would have extended its sphere of power to Istria and, moreover, would have gained power over Venice”s sea routes by controlling the Adriatic.

Emperor Manuel also wanted to revoke the 1082 agreement. He seized all Venetian property on March 12, 1171, in an apparently completely surprising action, and in one night imprisoned the Venetians throughout his domain. Although a Venetian fleet under the personal leadership of Doge Vitale Michiel II carried out a revenge campaign, it was forced to withdraw without achieving anything. In Venice, this led to turmoil, in the course of which the Doge was murdered in the open street. The Latin pogroms of 1182 under Manuel”s successor Alexios II Komnenos claimed even more victims. However, the competing Italian cities were more affected by this than Venice, whose merchants regained access to the Byzantine market in 1185, albeit under much greater restrictions than before 1171. With a victory over the Pisan fleet, Venice was able to reassert its trade monopoly in the Adriatic in 1196. Alexios III issued Venice a far-reaching trade privilege in 1198.

The catastrophe of 1171 apparently led to the overcoming of social tensions and antagonisms within the ruling class. The six city quarters (sestieri) were created, each represented by a representative in the Small Council, control and management organizations for trade and production were set up, the food market was strictly regulated, war-economic efforts were made. In addition, all wealthy people were subjected to a rigorous system of mortgaging, whereby large amounts of money could be raised at short notice in exchange for interest to pay for wars, but also to ensure the city”s food supply.

Doge Enrico Dandolo used the Fourth Crusade (1201-1204) to conquer the still rich metropolis of Constantinople on the Bosporus – by far the largest city in Europe. He was helped in this by the fact that the Byzantine Empire was beginning to disintegrate, for Trapezunt, Lesser Armenia, Cyprus and parts of central Greece around Corinth had already broken away from the capital. The crusader army, suffering from a lack of money and gathering at Venice from 1201, accepted Dandolo”s proposal to reconquer Catholic Zara (Zadar) – to compensate Venice for the passage to the Holy Land or Egypt on Venetian ships. After the conquest, the escape of a Byzantine pretender to the throne gave Dandolo the pretext to move before Constantinople. After two sieges, one of the greatest plunders of the Middle Ages took place. It brought enormous treasures to the south and west of Europe. In Venice, the quadriga on St. Mark”s Church was a symbol of Dandolo”s triumph. Numerous Venetians set out to secure a piece from crumbling Byzantium. The most important territorial booty for Venice was the island of Crete.

Only a relatively small part of the Byzantine Empire fell to the conquerors, while sub-empires (e.g., the despotate of Epirus) formed in Asia Minor and Greece, which in the following decades increasingly pressed the Latin Empire, which had been founded with the significant participation of Venice; the Empire of Nikaia finally succeeded in reconquering Constantinople in 1261. However, these struggles not only overstretched the resources of the Greek sub-empires, but also relieved the Turkish emirates, which were able to stabilize their settlement and power structures. In the process, the Beys of Aydın and Mentesche transformed their coastal dominions into maritime powers and thus became a serious threat. On the other hand, Venice established a consul there, maintained trade contacts, and used Turkish mercenaries to hold its colonial empire together.

Colonial Empire, Genoa”s Competition, Attempts at Overthrow

For nearly half a century, Venice benefited from the establishment of the Latin Empire, which it effectively controlled. The treaty arrangements explicitly secured the Serenissima”s rule over three-eighths of the empire, a rule that Venice exercised, however, only according to its commercial interests – and its limited military capabilities. It accordingly established a colonial empire in the Aegean in the years that followed, with Crete as its main focus. A chain of fortresses stretched from the eastern coast of the Adriatic through Crete and Constantinople to the Black Sea (cf. Venetian Colonies). Under the protection of the Mongol Empire, it soon opened up trade deep into Asia. In 2004 and 2005 Venetian glass beads were found in Alaska, which must have reached there sometime between 1400 and 1480 as trade goods overland and across the Bering Strait. The most famous Venetian traveler to Asia is Marco Polo.

But this supremacy did not remain unchallenged. The most powerful rival was first Pisa, then Genoa. For a long time, Genoese had tried to prevent the conquest of Crete and had temporarily occupied the island themselves. In addition, the Byzantine pretender in exile in Nikaia, Asia Minor, allied with Genoa. In 1261, the allies surprisingly succeeded in reconquering Constantinople. Venice had to cede part of its territory and privileges to its archrival Genoa. This permanent conflict between the two upper Italian trading metropolises escalated in the 13th and 14th centuries into four wars, each lasting several years. In 1379, the Genoese, in alliance with Hungary, even succeeded in conquering Chioggia for a year.

At the same time, Venice tried to assert itself in the disputes between the Hohenstaufen, above all Frederick II, and the Pope. Finally, Charles of Anjou succeeded in breaking the power of the Hohenstaufen in southern Italy (1266, finally in 1268). Since Charles continued the Norman policy and tried to conquer Byzantium, he was the given ally of Venice to regain its privileges there. But in 1282 the Sicilian Vespers put an end to the common plans and Sicily fell to the Iberian kingdom of Aragon. It took another three years for Venice to be readmitted to Constantinople, but on unfavorable terms. It also came into conflict with Charles” successors, who managed to acquire the royal crown in Hungary. Thus, there was once again a danger of sealing off the Adriatic, and Venice lost its supremacy in Dalmatia.

Another development put Venice”s rule in danger, the emergence of the signories, such as that of the Scaligeri in Verona or the Este in Ferrara. After Venice had increasingly succeeded since about 1200 in playing off the neighboring mainland cities against each other, subordinating them to its interests through trade blockades, overthrows or military force – these cities included Ferrara, Padua, Treviso, Ancona and Bologna – the signori threatened its supremacy. This form of rule in the cities of northern Italy soon brought several of these rather rapidly growing centers into one hand, making Venice politically vulnerable to blackmail. Venice felt particularly threatened by Milan and Verona.

Nevertheless, Venice managed to maintain its supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the fact that more than half of the population died in the first wave of plague in 1348 and despite the fact that in 1379 the Genoese, in alliance with Hungarians, almost conquered the city. Moreover, in 1310 a noble uprising led by Baiamonte Tiepolo shook the Republic, in 1355 the Doge Marino Falier attempted a coup dӎtat, and in 1363 the Venetian settlers in Crete rose up in a years-long revolt against the rigid policies of Venice.

Prosperity, Expansion in Italy, Ottoman Empire

The Peace of Turin (1381) ushered in a new phase of prosperity, especially since Genoa, weakened by internal struggles, no longer posed much of a threat. After long battles with Hungary, which threatened their bases in Dalmatia, the Venetians even managed to conquer all of Dalmatia between 1410 and 1420. But they did not succeed in extending their old dominion in southern Istria to the north; the northern part came under the influence of the Habsburgs. The demarcation of the borders was fixed from about 1500, when the County of Gorizia fell to the Habsburgs by inheritance, thus removing Trieste from Venetian influence. On the other hand, Corfu came to Venice by purchase in 1386, as well as the Ionian Islands and a number of towns along the Albanian coast.

Meanwhile, the Turks – first under various dynasties, then led by the Ottomans – succeeded in conquering Asia Minor. In the mid-14th century, they crossed into Europe and increasingly reduced Byzantium to its capital, becoming rivals of Venice. For despite the reconquest of 1261, the passage through the Bosphorus, which Constantinople protected, was of paramount importance to Venice. This was even more so when the last trading post in the Holy Land fell in 1291. As a result, Venice had to concentrate on the trade routes via Lesser Armenia and Tabriz, as well as via Famagusta, Constantinople and the Black Sea. This, in turn, intensified the rivalry with Genoa, which – even in times of relative peace – repeatedly led to raids on the enemy”s bases and to open piracy.At about the same time, Venice began to expand into the mainland, the Terra Ferma, where the nobility already owned extensive lands and where Venetians often held the office of podestà. The policy of conquest that began in 1402 was fiercely contested in Venice, because it inevitably led to conflicts with the Empire, the Pope and the most powerful states in Italy. Thus, the attacks on Ferrara, which Venice had conquered as the first mainland city in 1240, had already failed, as did the war from 1308 to 1312. In both cases, Venice failed mainly because of papal resistance. In 1339, however, Treviso was conquered by Verona in the course of a war against the Scaligeri, although this conquest was not finally completed until 1388. In the years following 1402, the year of the death of the Milanese Gian Galeazzo Visconti, who had ruled large parts of Upper Italy, Venice brought to itself dominion over all of Veneto and Friuli, as well as over the Dalmatian coast.

With these conquests, Venice challenged the King of Hungary and of the Holy Roman Empire Sigismund, whose rights were thus violated in both cases. After all, the threatened Aquileia was an imperial fiefdom, and as King of Hungary, Sigismund had been entitled to the coastal cities of Dalmatia since the Peace of Turin (1381). Thus the first war broke out between 1411 and 1413, but despite blockade measures it did not lead to any results. In 1418-1420 there was a second war between Venice and the king, at the end of which Feltre, Belluno, Udine and the rest of Friuli fell to Venice.

This conquest was accelerated under the leadership of Doge Francesco Foscari (1423-1457). In 1425, a Venetian army defeated the Milanese at Maclodio (in the province of Brescia) and pushed the border to the Adda River. But in 1446 Milan, Florence, Bologna and Cremona allied against Venice. Venice won again at Casalmaggiore, and in Milan the Visconti were overthrown. Venice temporarily allied with the new lord of Milan, Francesco Sforza, but switched back to its enemies in the face of his increasing power.

It was not until the Peace of Lodi in 1454 that a provisional border was drawn: the Adda was established as the Venetian western border. These conquests and several attempts to conquer Ferrara, to which the Papal States laid claim, meant that the Papal States and most other Italian states now saw Venice as their fiercest rival.

Venice had an advantage in these protracted wars as a central financial center, because it could more easily pay the large sums of money devoured by the professional armies of the condottieri, who now fought the wars in Italy. But its opponents tried to shake up this position with various monetary and economic policies. The means ranged from trade blockades to the issuance of counterfeit coins (see Economic History of the Republic of Venice).

Many of these means were not available to the Ottomans, who had become a great power with the first siege of Constantinople (1422) at the latest, and who now set about conquering the numerous small dominions. Venice defended Thessaloniki in vain from 1423 to 1430. The Hungarians were also repulsed. In 1453, the Ottomans finally succeeded in conquering Constantinople. The trade with the Aegean and the Black Sea, which was still important, was suddenly cut off. Nevertheless, Venetian diplomacy succeeded in tying up new threads, so that the quarters in the now Ottoman capital could once again be occupied. In 1460, Ottoman troops captured the last significant Byzantine bastion of Mistra, making the Ottoman Empire the immediate neighbor of the Venetian fortresses of Koron and Modon in the Peloponnese. In 1475, the Crimea was added, causing a collapse of trade mediated by Genoese. Even in the period before the conquest of Constantinople, a wave of Greek refugees began to head west, making the Greeks the largest community in Venice. Their approximately 10,000 members were granted the right to build an Orthodox church, San Giorgio dei Greci, in 1514. Likewise, the number of Armenians increased, and they consecrated their church, Santa Croce, as early as 1496. In addition, there were Jewish refugees from Spain, from where they were expelled in 1492.

In 1463-1479 Venice was again at war with the Turkish superpower. Despite isolated Venetian successes, the Ottomans conquered Negroponte Island in 1470. Even attempts at alliance with the Shah of Persia and attacks on Smyrna, Halicarnassus and Antalya failed to produce any tangible results. When the rulers of Persia and Karaman were defeated by the Ottomans and Skanderbeg, who had defended Albania, died, Venice continued the war alone. Although it was able to defend Scutari against the besiegers at first, it still lost the city two years later. The High Gate even attempted an attack in Friuli as well as in Apulia. It was not until January 25, 1479 that a peace agreement was reached, which was confirmed five years later. Venice had to renounce the Argolis, Negroponte, Scutari and Lemnos and, in addition, pay tribute of 10,000 gold ducats every year.

Venice seemed to focus all the more on the Italian mainland. Against the resistance of Milan, Florence and Naples, it tried to conquer Ferrara in league with the Pope. Despite heavy defeats on land, it managed to conquer Gallipoli in Apulia. In addition, in the peace of 1484 Venice fell to Polesine and Rovigo. In the battles against the French King Charles VIII, who tried to conquer Italy in 1494, and in connection with the Spanish conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, the Venetian fleet occupied a large part of the Apulian coastal towns.

Overall, Venice had largely forfeited its supremacy in the east, but still profited from Mediterranean trade to an extent that made it the richest and one of the largest cities in Europe. In addition, meliorations on the mainland upgraded the yields, so that extensive profits flowed to Venice from there as well. With about 180,000 inhabitants, it almost reached its maximum population, with about two million people living in its colonial empire. The city”s inward expansion, through land reclamation and draining of swamps, taller houses and denser development, accelerated. In addition, immigrants from all over the trading area increasingly shaped the city. Persians, Turks, Armenians, inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire, Jews, plus residents of numerous Italian cities found their own trading houses, quarters and streets. In addition to long-distance trade and trade in salt and grain, the glass industry and shipbuilding grew to become the most important sources of income.

Wars for Upper Italy, loss of the colonial empire

Under the leadership of Pope Julius II, the League of Cambrai tried to reverse the Venetian expansion. Emperor Maximilian I reclaimed Terra Ferma as alienated imperial territory, Spain demanded the Apulian cities, the King of France Cremona, the King of Hungary Dalmatia. The Venetian army suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Agnadello on May 14, 1509. Nevertheless, in the same year the Serenissima managed to recapture the lost Padua, and soon Brescia and Verona rejoined Venice. Despite the reconquests, Venetian expansion came to a halt. In 1511, however, a new coalition was formed against French expansion into Italy, but Venice turned away from it in 1513. From 1521 to 1522 and from 1524 to 1525, Venice supported King Francis I of France against the Pope and the Habsburgs. From then on, the Republic pursued a policy of strict neutrality toward the Italian states, but repeatedly allied itself against the Habsburgs, as in the League of Cognac (1526 to 1530).

During the wars with the Ottomans from 1499 to 1503 and from 1537 to 1540, Venice was allied with Spain. In 1538, the admiral of the federal fleet, Andrea Doria, suffered a heavy defeat at Prevesa against the Ottoman fleet, which succeeded for the first time in asserting its superiority at sea. The Duchy of Naxos was taken possession of by the Ottomans. Venice, with its comparatively few resources, was only with difficulty able to play in the concert of the great powers of the time. Thus, from 1545, the city was forced to resort to galley prisoners chained to the rowing bench, similar to other naval powers.

For the last time, Venice played a role in world politics in 1571, when it contributed 110 galleys to the alliance fleet, which totaled 211 ships, within the framework of the Holy League. In the naval battle of Lepanto, not far from the Greek Patras, this fleet was able to defeat the Ottoman one, capturing 117 of its 260 galleys. But Venice could not take advantage of it – the island of Cyprus had already been lost before the naval battle (the loss of the island was recognized by treaty in 1573) and it had long since lacked the forces to reconquer it. Moreover, the Ottoman fleet again comprised 250 warships not long after.

From the Venetians” perspective, the Turkish wars (five to date) continued to have top priority. In doing so, they tried not to get drawn into disputes of the kind that the Uskoks repeatedly triggered through their piracy. The Uskoks were Christian refugees from the Turkish-occupied areas of Bosnia and Dalmatia. They had been settled in the border areas for defense after Lepanto as subjects of the Habsburgs. When Venice took military action against them in 1613 and attacked Gradisca, it found itself in a conflict with the Habsburgs that lasted several years and was not settled until 1617. In that year, the Spanish Viceroy of Naples tried to break Venice”s domination of the Adriatic, with little success. The Spanish envoy involved in this was recalled, and three of his men were hanged. The distrust of Spain”s intrigues went so far that in 1622 the – as it later turned out – innocent envoy Antonio Foscarini was executed between the columns of the Piazzetta. Politically, the city was divided. On the one hand, the so-called giovani. the young. resisted the Pope”s interference in Venetian politics, supporting Protestant rulers across denominational lines. They also distrusted the Catholic Habsburgs, especially the Spanish. The leader of this anti-papal and anti-Jesuit group, which did not want to grant the Pope any prerogatives in secular matters, was Paolo Sarpi. The opponents of the giovani were the vecchi, the ancients, also called papalisti, papal supporters. They supported Spain, which already ruled most of Italy.

In 1628 Venice was drawn into the struggles for the balance of power within Italy by the Frenchman Charles of Gonzaga-Nevers. Venice allied with France against the Habsburgs, who were in alliance with Savoy. The Venetians suffered a heavy defeat in their attempt to relieve Mantua of the German besiegers. This defeat, combined with the 16-month plague from 1630 to 1632 that cost Venice, a city of 140,000 people, some 50,000 lives, marked the beginning of its decline in foreign affairs. The church of Santa Maria della Salute was built in thanksgiving for the end of the disaster.

In 1638, a Tunisian-Algerian corsair fleet invaded the Adriatic Sea and retreated to the Ottoman port of Valona. The Venetian fleet shelled the city, captured the pirate fleet and freed 3,600 prisoners. At the High Gate, preparations were now being made for the conquest of Crete. The siege of the capital Candia (Iràklion) lasted 21 years. At the same time, Turkish naval units attacked Dalmatia, which, however, could be held. However, Candia capitulated on September 6, 1669, and the last fortresses around Crete held out until 1718.

Change of the ruling family associations

Despite the external upheavals, the rule of the nobility remained stable, the estate sharply delineated from the outside. In 1594, Venice had 1,967 nobles of at least 25 years of age who gathered in the Great Council and represented the nobility as a whole. During the battle for Crete, this nobility exceptionally allowed the admission of a hundred new families in exchange for the payment of 100,000 ducats to bear the burdens of war. Nevertheless, after this aggregation, the 24 “old families” (case vecchie) continued to dominate politics, dating back to before 800. In addition, there were about 40 other families that had access to the core of the exercise of power through numerous offices. Occasionally, new families entered the innermost, less sharply defined core of power, while others had to leave it. In the process, despite the aggregation, the total number of nobles fell to only 1703 by 1719, distributed among about 140 families with numerous branches. Their bond among themselves was favored by the fact that the brothers within a family constituted a commercial society without a contract.

The distribution of wealth was surveyed within the taxable nobility – which was an exception in Europe – in 1581, 1661 and 1711. Of the 59 households that had an annual income from their houses and properties of more than 2,000 ducats per year, only three were not noble in 1581. In 1711, of the 70 household heads who received more than 6,000 ducats, only one did not belong to the nobility. Property and nobility were practically identical, with a few exceptions.

In total, about 7,000 people belonged to the nobility, which dominated the city of about 150,000 inhabitants and the colonial empire of 1.5 to 2.2 million inhabitants, politically and economically. Power continued to be exercised in a rotation of over 400 offices reserved for the nobility, most of which were held annually, except for the doge and the procurators and a few other offices that were awarded for life. A professionalization of politics in the sense of training or study never took hold in Venice.

Last conquests in Greece

Only after the Second Vienna Turkish Siege of the Ottoman army failed in 1683 did they succeed in forming a new alliance. In 1685 a Venetian army under Francesco Morosini and Otto Wilhelm von Königsmarck landed on Santa Maura (Lefkas), then on Morea (today”s Peloponnese), conquered Patras, Lepanto and Corinth and advanced further to Athens. In 1686 Argos and Nafplio were taken. However, the reconquest of Euboea failed in 1688, and although the Venetian fleet achieved naval victories at Mytilini, off Andros, and even the Dardanelles (1695, 1697, and 1698), the actual victors, the Austrian Habsburgs and Russia, did not take Venice”s demands seriously. Finally, the Peace of Karlowitz in 1699 only provisionally secured Venice”s conquests; after all, the Morea peninsula remained Venetian for some time.

In December 1714, the Ottomans began the reconquest. Daniele Dolfin, admiral of the Venetian fleet, was not willing to risk it for the peninsula of Morea. In 1716, the commander-in-chief of the land troops, Field Marshal Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, repelled the Turkish siege of Corfu. Despite this victory and the defeats that the Ottomans suffered at the same time against the Habsburg armies under Prince Eugene of Savoy, Venice did not succeed in enforcing the restitution of Morea, whereas the Habsburgs made great territorial gains in the Peace of Passarowitz (1718). This war was the last between the Ottoman Empire and Venice. Venice”s colonial empire, the Stato da Mar, consisted largely only of Dalmatia and the Ionian Islands. In a realistic assessment of the remaining forces, Schulenburg prepared these possessions for their final defensive struggle in the following decades.

Decline and end

The decisive factor in Venice”s gradual decline as a trading power, and thus as a European power factor, was the increasing loss of importance of trade in the Levant during the Age of Discoveries and the concomitant rise of new powers. These powers also had forms of organization and credit that were not available to Venice. Cut off by its geographic location and by misjudging the importance of the discoveries of the newly opened resources of the New World and the East Indies, and thus cut off from shifting trade flows (the Atlantic Triangle trade and the India trade), Venice was gradually outflanked economically and in terms of power by the rising states of Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. It also did not possess the means for large-scale mercantile economic policy because of its relatively small population and lack of colonies rich in raw materials. Only the producers of glass beads gained huge new markets through the trade of the new colonial powers in America, Asia and Africa. In Europe, Venice specialized in trade in luxury goods, especially glass, and agriculture.

Venice and the Italian city-states as a whole declined from regional powers to local powers, and agriculture became the main activity of a growing part of the nobility.

Nevertheless, Venice managed to expand its defenses, which still exist today, a system that enclosed practically the entire lagoon and was built between 1744 and 1782. Moreover, Venice by no means stayed out of conflicts, as in the Maghreb. In 1778 its fleet operated off Tripoli, in 1784-1787 a war broke out with Tunisia, fought by Angelo Emo”s fleet, in 1795 with Morocco and as late as October 1796 with Algiers.

On his Italian campaign, Napoleon offered Bonaparte an alliance, but the Senate refused. Instead, it supported the armed insurrection on terra ferma as Bonaparte moved against the Austrians. All of northern Italy had become a battleground for French and Austrian troops beginning in 1796. On April 15, 1797, the French general Andoche Junot issued an ultimatum to the Doge accusing the Republic of treason, which the Republic did not accept. After the French fleet was repulsed by the cannons on the Lido on April 17, Napoleon declared that he wanted to be the “Attila for Venice”. On April 18, in a secret addendum to the Leoben Peace Treaty between France and Austria, it was agreed that Veneto, Istria and Dalmatia would fall to Austria. A week later, on April 25, a French fleet was off the Lido. Venice”s cannons sank a ship together with its captain, but the French entry could not be stopped.

On May 12, the last Doge, Ludovico Manin, resigned in favor of a provisional administration, the municipalità provvisoria. Two days later he left the Doge”s Palace forever. On May 16, for the first time in Venice”s history, foreign troops stood in St. Mark”s Square. On the same day the surrender treaty was signed, Venice submitted to French rule. June 4, the day of the establishment of a provisional government, was declared a national holiday as Revolutionary Freedom Day. There were a total of only 962 patricians from 192 families left, almost all of whom lost their offices.

Then, in the Treaty of Campoformio of October 17, 1797, Veneto, Dalmatia and Istria fell to Austria as the Duchy of Venice, while the Republic of the Ionian Islands fell to France. On January 18, 1798, with the arrival of its troops, the Habsburg monarchy began the occupation of the city.

From 1805 to 1814, after the Peace of Pressburg (within the Kingdom of Italy), Venice was again under French sovereignty. A considerable part of its historical art treasures and archives were taken to Paris. After the final suppression of Napoleonic rule in Europe and the Congress of Vienna, which ushered in the Restoration, it reverted to Austria in 1815, together with Lombardy (cf. Kingdom of Lombardo-Venetia), but only part of the works of art and archival pieces returned.

The city rose up against the Habsburgs in the course of the revolutions of 1848 (for Italy, see under Risorgimento) and, under the leadership of the democratic republican revolutionary Daniele Manin, proclaimed the Repubblica di San Marco on March 23, 1848. This was crushed by Austrian troops on August 23, 1849.

After the defeat of the Habsburgs in the war against Prussia and Italy, Venice was annexed in 1866 to the Kingdom of Italy, proclaimed in 1861. In 1997, on the 200th anniversary of the end of the Republic, eight men hijacked a ferry and used it to take a tin tank from the Lido to St. Mark”s Square, where they raised Venice”s battle flag on the bell tower of San Marco, showing St. Mark with a sword. The eight squatters, known as “lions” or “serenissimi,” were sentenced to prison terms of up to six years, but were released after one year.

The density of the medieval Venetian tradition can only be compared to that of the Vatican, although the narrative sources begin only around 1000 with the Istoria Veneticorum of Johannes Diaconus. Especially from about 1220 onwards, the minutes of the councils begin to appear, along with countless sets of rules for the corporations, the important industries and the financial administration.

The number of editions of sources is still small in relation to the holdings of the State Archives, the Biblioteca Marciana and the Museo Civico Correr. In the case of historiography, this is due to the fact that there has always been copying from four authors: Andrea Dandolo, his continuator Raffaino Caresini, and Giangiacopo Caroldo. In addition, there were Martino da Canale and Marino Sanudo”s Urban Lob as important authors. Since Venice strictly controlled the state historiography and appointed appropriate authors, non-Venetian writings are an important corrective.

For the early Middle Ages, diplomataries are available, as well as the editions of the imperial pacta and the numerous treaties with the Italian cities. Of particular importance for the document tradition are the editions of Tafel and Thomas on the older trade and state history of the Republic of Venice.

The oldest surviving minutes were written in the Small Council and date from 1223 to 1229. For the period from 1232 to 1299, the minutes of the Great Council, edited by Roberto Cessi, are a main source.

Typical of the division of existing bodies according to more narrowly defined responsibilities is the Council of Forty (the XL). It came into being around 1220, rose to become an important body, but in the course of the 14th century lost its political significance and became a court of justice. In the 14th century, the XL Nuova was created for civil law, leaving criminal law to the old XL. Around 1420, this was again divided according to new criteria for the allocation of competences, so that now, in addition to the Quarantia Criminal, one also spoke of the Quarantia Civil Vecchia, or Nuova. The oldest preserved volume contains the decisions of 1342

Particularly important for the 14th and 15th centuries are the collections of the Senate, especially Misti, Secreta and Sindicati. The Misti are composed of 60 volumes covering the years 1293 to 1440, though the first 14 are lost. Volumes 1-14 include (almost) only the rubrics of 4,267 resolutions, while the unedited volumes 15 to 60 include over 7,000 leaves. The Secreta begin regularly in 1401 and comprise 135 volumes with 10 register volumes. Only four more of the original 19 volumes survive from the 14th century (Libri secretorum collegii rogatorum 1345-1350, 1376-1378, 1388-1397), making a total of 139 volumes for the period 1401 to 1630. They represented the register in which magistrates and archivists could help themselves. The Sindicati are exclusively instructions to magistrates or envoys from the Senate (see Venetian Diplomacy). Especially the registers for the years 1329-1332 are of great importance, since for this period only the rubrics of the Misti are available.

For the 14th century, the editions available are the Notatorio del Collegio (1327-1383), the Secreta Collegii, the Liber secretorum Collegii Volume I (1363-1366) and (1408-1413), and finally the Regests of the Decisions of the Collegio, the Great Council and the Senate (Regesti dei Commemoriali) edited by Predelli.

The Council of Ten also left records, of which Ferruccio Zago has since been able to publish 5 volumes.

The most important fund for colonial history are the resolutions of the Duca di Candia, the Lord of Crete. A collection of complaints on piracy in the Aegean has already been published by Tafel and Thomas. It sheds light on the conditions between 1268 and 1278.

The numerous inscriptions of Venice have been edited by Cicogna.

It is only from the 15th century that the transmission of the diaries begins. Particularly important are those of Girolamo Priuli and Marin Sanudo the Younger.

For the economic history, the merchant letters and books are of the greatest importance, such as the letters of Pignol Zucchello or the (unedited) letters of Bembo for the late 15th century, as well as the Pratiche della mercatura (merchant”s handbooks) of Giovanni da Uzzano, and especially Francesco Balducci Pegolotti. This is also true of the famous Zibaldone da Canal and the Tariffa de pesi e mesure of Bartholomeo di Pasi. The account books of Giacomo Badoer, which cover the years 1436-1439, have been edited but hardly catalogued.

The numerous statutes (mariegole) are important for the history of the guilds and crafts. In the late Middle Ages begin the records of the large, authority and state bank-like institutions, such as the salt (Provveditori al Sal) and the grain (Provveditori alle Biave), which are not edited.

Huge source editions, on the other hand, were compiled under spatial aspects, especially in the 19th century. These include the editions on Albania, the Belgrade Acta concerning Serbia, the counterpart from Croatian Zagreb, Ferrara, or on Crete.

The documenti finanziari were compiled less according to spatial criteria than according to criteria of financial history.

Maps and town plans became a precise source early on, as evidenced by Iacopo de Barbari”s 1500 plan, the printing blocks of which are in the Biblioteca Marciana.

High and late Middle Ages, modern times


  1. Republik Venedig
  2. Republic of Venice