- In the Roman times the term
Venice stood for the North-Eastern region of Italy, but following
the collapse of the Roman Empire and particularly the arrival of the
Longobards (568), it started to indicate a part of the small
settlements that were created on the islands of the lagoon between
the Adige and the Piave rivers.
Their economy was based on the trade
activities between the Near-East countries and Northern Europe (Germany
They established a federation legally
dependent on Byzantium but their relations became increasingly
looser as the latter decay proceeded, and they acquired complete
independence towards the end of the 9th century.
Hence, ever since the beginning of the
9th century, the domination of Eraclea and Malamocco were followed
by that of Rivo alto (Rialto, today's Venice).
This event coincided with the failure of
the Franks attempt to conquer the islands.
After driving back the Arab invasions and eliminating in the year
1000 the Croat piracy in the Adriatic sea, the political expansion
to Istria and Dalmatia started, under the leadership of a class of
shipowners and merchants who had managed to prevent some of the
major families (Partecipazio, Candiano, Orseolo) from introducing
the hereditary power system.In order to prevent the closure of the
Otranto canal (the gateway to the East) and of the passes on the
Alps that were so vital to trade with northern countries, Venice had
to fight the Normans, Suevians and Angevins who were trying to
settle along the Albanian and Epirot coasts, and at the same time it
joined the Lombard League to prevent the Emperor from acquiring an
THE REPUBLIC OF VENICE
The Fourth Crusade (1202 - 1204) enabled Venice to found a vast
colonial empire in the Balkan peninsula and the Aegean Sea, which
withstood the restoration of the Byzantine Empire (1261) but
exacerbated the rivalry with Genoa.
This originated numerous naval battles
with alternating victories on both parts.
At the beginning of the 14th century, a period marked by the setting
up of signories, some attempts were made (Baiamonte Tiepolo, 1310;
Marin Faliero, 1355) to turn into a signory the oligarchic
government of Venice too (since 1297 it had been restricted to a
limited number of families) thanks to the support of the populace (sailors,
fishermen), but they failed.
In the meantime Venice started to expand to the hinterland (in
particular after the serious threat faced in 1378 during the war for
Chioggia, when the lagoon was besieged both by sea and land by
Hungary, Padua and Genoa which had joined in a coalition).
As the context was favourable, within few years Venice conquered the
whole Veneto region, Friuli, Brescia and Bergamo starting a long
series of wars against Milan and later on against Florence and
The gains in Puglia (1495) and Romagna (1503) and the ill-advised
idea to help the French conquer Milan in order to acquire the
Cremona area (1499) proved fatal to Venice: it was attacked by
allEuropean powers, set up against it by the pope Julius II (League
of Cambrai) and defeated by the French at Agnadello (1509), which
definitely stopped its expansion in Italy.
Meanwhile, despite its strong resistance,
it lost its dominions in the East under the Turkish attacks, and the
discovery of America diverted trade (to which it owed its prosperity)
from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
That marked the beginning of
Venice’s slow and glorious decline: it fought the Turks in
Cyprus (1571-73) and at Candia (1644 – 86), reconquering the
Morea for some time (18th century), and humiliated the Barbaresques
in Tunis (1784-86).
The Habsburg, eager to unify the Tyrol and Milan, soon became
Venice’s new mortal enemy, but they only managed to achieve
their objective when Napoleon, through the Campoformio Treaty
(1797), ceded the old republic to Austria in exchange for the Duchy
In 1805 it was annexed to the Neapolitan Kingdom of Italy, in 1813
it was returned to Austria and, following the Vienna Treaty, it
became the capital of the supposed Lombard-Venetian Kingdom together
In 1848 it rose against the Austrians and was proclaimed Republic by
On the eve of the Armistice of Salasco it joined the Savoy monarchy.
After the restoration of the republic it fought the Austrians till
August 1849, which marked the end of a long and memorable seige.
At last the third war of independence (1866) marked its annexation