History of Venice

Mother Earth Travel > Italy > Venice > History

According to official historic chronology, one of the first, important events in the history of Venice was the election of the first doge, a type of magistrate, in 697 by the Byzantines, whose name was Paoluccio Anafesto. The domination of Byzantium is much talked about but has little factual basis. However, the city was already an established historical reality in 811 when it moved to Rivoalto, which is now called Rialto, from the islands around Torcello and Malamocco. Agnello Partecipazio was the doge at this time. The remains of St Mark were brought to the city in 829, rescued by two keen fishermen.

The current appearance of the city was more or less in place by the year 1000, under Pietro Tribun. The ordination of power took place in 1177, when Alessandro III met with the Emperor Federico, to negotiate relations between the papacy, the council and the empire. However, in 1204 the situation changed when, after providing ships and equipment for the fourth crusade, Venice first received help to reconquer Zara, and then also kept a large part of the booty of the crusade. This unusual crusade started out to conquer Jerusalem, but ended up sharing out the remains of the Byzantine Empire. Venice won control of a huge part of these spoils which made up an empire. Thanks to a commercial policy that also set up a strict military stronghold, the territories became their rightful property.

The state evolved with the decree of the Great Council in 1297. This act only permitted citizens to participate if their ancestors had served on the Council. As a result the number of nobles in power increased which guaranteed, in theory, that they would continue to hold power even if a rival faction took over. As a result, political struggles were poisoned by many private feuds. According to Bartolo da Sassoferrato, although it is true that the nobility were not much respected by the people, they had more respect than in other cities which were governed in the same way. The population mostly accepted their government, and, as there was such a large population, there were few internal divisions and the majority were reasonably well off, which meant that the society was fairly stable.

It was not until a century later, in 1380, that Genoa was no longer considered a problem. After the war of Chioggia, the struggle with the Ligurian city ceased, it was no longer a military obstacle and only commercial rivalry remained even though they now had control of the eastern routes.

Events that took place around the middle of the fifteenth century would change the fate of the Mediterranean forever. The expansion on the mainland, and the conquest of a great part of Lombardy was the driving force in successive alliances to overthrow an overwhelming power, the first of which was the definitive fall of Constantinopole to the Turks. The trade routes which were the basis of the Italian states, became insecure, and the mercantile trade started to decline. The final straw was the discovery of the American continent. The Mediterranean was on the brink of becoming a kind of lake under the threat of the Ottoman Empire. For many, it was the beginning of the end.

Although Venice had a somewhat overrated victory at Lepanto, Cyprus fell and the ultimate insult was the loss of Crete in 1669. Thirty years later, Venice regained possession of Morea for a period of twenty years. The Turkish wars ended in 1718 with the overwhelming victory of the Turks. Venice then enjoyed its last century of freedom under the rule of the nobility as in 1797, Napoleon handed it to Austria, after having pretended to undergo negotiations. In 1805 he returned to Venice and completed the domination of the city. The industrial structures were knocked down and the city became a shadow of its former self. In 1848-9, it was invaded again by the Hapsburgs, and in 1866, it was united with the Kingdom of Italy.