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Venice's forgotten Glamour

Updated on April 25, 2014

The Beauty of Canals


Venice's Golden Age – History of Expansion & Decline

But there is also an unknown side to Venice – It's history of one of the most powerful city states in the Mediterranean and it's long slow decline to destruction.

In the 9th century Venice, situated in northeastern Italy, began to develop into one of the most influential city states of Europe. It's place on the Adriatic sea made it possible for Venice to develop a strong and nearly unbeatable naval force and trade systems with other city states and countries. This navy eradicated pirates along the Dalmatian coast making Venice into one of the most flourishing trade cities on the Mediterranean between Western Europe and the growing Ottoman empire. Silk and other cloth productions in Venice gave Florence a strong competitor in the fight for trade dominance in Europe and the Middle East. Also the world famous Venetian Glass' popularity was growing immensely. Venice's foundations of power were lain in the late 12th century as the Venetian Arsenal was constructed.

Later on

Before the first years of the 13th century the Republic of Venice, also known as the Most Serene Republic, conquered many territories mainly for trade reasons as these places were stations for pirates which were harmful for Venice's trade system. The head of state of the Venetian Republic is known as the Doge which then was also known as the Duke of Dalmatia and Istria – Both being territories in the Adriatic sea. By the end of the 13th century Venice had conquered most some territories north inland and many islands in the Aegean and Adriatic seas such as Crete and Cyprus.. The republic of Venice stayed in tight relations with Byzantine ,twice being granted trading privileges in the Eastern Roman Empire.

The Fourth Crusade, sacking and burning Constantinople to the ground, forming the Latin empire, was financed by Venetian republic making Venice an imperial power in Europe. Most of the plunder and riches of Constantinople were brought back to Venice, including bronze statutes of horse from the Hippodrome of Constantinople. As Constantinople fell the former Roman empire was divided between the Latin empire and the Venetian republic, making it possible for Venice to form a circle of influence in the areas around the Mediterranean known as the Duchy of the Archipelago.

A Church on Water

A Church in Venice in Water
A Church in Venice in Water | Source

Consequences & Religion

As a consequence of it's trading with the Byzantine empire of declining power and the Muslim world, Venice became the wealthiest and best-situated city state in Europe. At the Venetian republic's peak of it's wealth it had more than 3300 ships at it's disposal. Exactly through these ships and the 36000 sailors operating them Venice ruled the Mediterranean sea. During this golden age for Venice, it's wealthiest citizens supported the architectural and cultural work of the greatest artists.

Concerning religion, Venice's people were mainly Orthodox Roman Catholics but the Venetian republic was famous for it's freedom of religion. It is known that not even one single execution due to heresy was enacted during reformations. Because of the Venetian Republic's ignorance towards religion Venice was threatened with an interdict on may occasions, suffering from a interdict twice. The most famous in 1606.

By the end of the 15th century Venice became the printing capital of the world influenced by the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in Germany. By 1492 Venice's leading printer, Aldus Manutius, invented the concept of paperback books.


Venice's decline began in the 15th century although it's success with the printing press. After the Ottoman empire conquered Constantinople, it's leader Sultan Mehmet II declared war on Venice. The war last around 30 years. During it Venice lost most of it's territories in the Mediterranean. The next factor that helped the decline of the Venetian republic was that Portugal had discovered a sea route to India, through the explorer Vasco de Gama, abolishing Venice's land trade route empire. Then many different European countries such as England, Holland, France and Spain followed the route. Making Portugal the main trade connection to the Eastern world. There were many other factors such as the discovering of the “New World”, the annihilating Black death and the war between France and Spain that were fighting at that time for hegemony over Italy in the Italian wars . The plague killing more that 50,000 people only in Venice ruining it's economy. On the 9 of September 1570 the Venetian empire lost it's most important connection to the Eastern world – the island of Cyprus. An island in a very economically essential position the Republic of Venice lost it to the Ottoman empire, finally limiting it's influence in the eastern parts of Europe and cutting it off from the Middle East. The last Turkish-Venetian war began in December 1714 and finished on the 21 July 1718 with the Treaty of Passarowitz. This was the Venetian republic's final war, which had cause the once great Venetian merchant fleet to decline to a mere 309 merchantmen.

By 1796 The Republic of Venice only owned four galleys and seven galliots, making it impossible for Venice to defend itself from invaders. On October 17 in the year 1797 Venice became a province of the Austrian empire under the name – Venetian Province, as a clause of the Treaty of Campo Formio signed by France and Austira.

Crash History Course - The Fall of Venice

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    • Mathewson profile imageAUTHOR

      Andro Mathewson 

      6 years ago from Germany

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Ivan Tonev profile image

      Ivan Tonev 

      6 years ago from Plovdiv, Bulgaria

      Wow! Just learned my history lesson and it was fun. Thanks a lot! Wonderful article :)


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