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Old 02-04-2020, 07:49 PM
3,882 posts, read 2,750,878 times
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Greetings, all. I have been meaning to do this for a very long tine in response to this thread from a couple of years back:


Lots of good reposes, and some mentioned Lepanto. But Venice should get the credit it deserves as being a major heavy-hitter in European politics in the middle ages.

-Though it started off and primary remained a trade empire, with little in the way of standing land armies, and a navy that usually served as a constabulary force, it was the number 1, pre-eminent sea power in Christendom, with no one else coming close. In their "arsenal," they were capable of building one ship a day by employing techniques of assembly line and standardization. No other power on earth could do this. They could build more ships than they could staff! Major powers would sometimes quit without fighting when their ambassadors were brought to the arsenal.

-On their ships, they could carry more soldiers than most other powers, since they were a republic manned by willing citizens rather than prisoners, conscripts and slaves.

-They became a military power by engineering the sack of Constantinople during the 4th crusade (1202). They carried off important icons that they put in St. Mark, and to this day, the Cathedral is adorned with icons stolen from around the Mediterranean world. Also won a war against Byzantium outright in 1302.

-Carved out a small empire with Italian holdings in the Veneto, including important cities like Verona and Pauda, and a chain of ports throughout the Balkans and Greece, culminating in Cyprus.

-Fought a series of up-and-down wars against Genoa (1256-1381) in which they ultimately won the last battle, but had to give up major concessions.

-Able to interfere and win battles in the Wars of Milanese Succession (1454), though the outcome was muddy, with a lot of switching sides (precisely because the Pope feared Venetian power).

-Defeated Ferrara in the Salt War (1482-1484), and captured Rovigo and unincorporated lands near the river Po.

-Created the League of Venice with various powers and defended Italy against Charles VIII of France. France got the better at the main battle of Fornovo (1495), but Charles had to retreat, and died before he could return to Italy.

- 1508, defeated an invading army of the Holy Roman Empire under Maximilian I, and a second army, seizing several territories in the process. Battled on, winning some and losing some against Imperial, French and Papal forces. The following years saw see-saw fighting with much changing of alliances and Venice mostly on the wrong side, but the series of wars concluded with the French and Venetians allying and winning a decisive victory at Marignano (1515).

-The only power capable of checking the Turks at sea. Though they usually lost when it came to blows, they supplied over half of the ships for the great Christian victory at Lepanto (1571). They are thus the most noteworthy power in turning the tide against the Turks.

That is pretty cursory, but it makes the point. They were not a large empire in the traditional sense. They relied primarily on navel power, negotiation, threat, and pay-offs. They depended on good alliances. Their existence in later days was precarious. They always had a new enemy on the horizon. Their defeats were at least equal to their victories. But, at the end of the day, Venice was able to win, either by itself or by contracting good allies, against Byzantium, France, the Holy Roman Empire, other Italian powers of the day, and, at Lepanto, against the mighty Ottoman empire.

Not bad at all for the little empire of the winged lions.
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Old Yesterday, 10:37 PM
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Venice did have to fight on land though. They had land holdings in Cyprus, Crete, etc etc. They had to fight the Ottomans on land at those places. Back then sailors also were amphibious. All those pirate movies had some elements based on facts.

For example, the Genoese pirate/admiral, Giovanni Giustiniani Longo. He was primarily a pirate/privateer/Navy man. But he was known for breaking sieges. He was hired by the last Roman Emperor Constantine XI to lead the final defense of Constantinople against Mehmed II. Netflix has a good show on that called Rise of Empire: Ottomans.

Venice did have slaves, and prisoners manning the galleys alongside citizens though.

What I dont get is where they got all that wood to build the ships. Even Britain eventually used up all their big trees on the isles, and had to look to Canada or the Baltics for supply of timber.
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Old Today, 10:59 AM
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Here's a video on the history of the Venetian Republic:

One thign that I always found interesting about Venice is how it came to be. It was basically founded by refugees from the collapsing Roman Empire, and grew to the point that it was able to break off from the Eastern Empire and become a major European power.
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Old Today, 03:21 PM
Location: western East Roman Empire
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Originally Posted by MPHJ7 View Post

One thing that I always found interesting about Venice is how it came to be. It was basically founded by refugees from the collapsing Roman Empire
Give you rep for this, most people don't know. Venice succeeded independently for a thousand years where Ravenna failed as an exarch after a couple of centuries.

Originally Posted by MPHJ7 View Post
... and grew to the point that it was able to break off from the Eastern Empire and become a major European power.
Personally I don't consider Italy, and even more so Venice, European in the modern sense of the term until it was invaded by continental European powers starting around 1500. In my view, Venice was for the most part a central/eastern Mediterranean power.

To be sure, the Europe-centered view of history prevails, especially in an English-speaking forum.

Anyway, Venice is a great history and it is a shame that the vast majority of tourists who go there have no idea what they are looking at and why it is unique and important.

This too will pass as Venice sinks into the Adriatic.
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Old Today, 03:40 PM
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I highly recommend the book "Venice- a Sea Voyage" by Jan Morris.
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