Republic of Venice


May 25, 2022

The Republic of Venice, starting from the seventeenth century Most Serene Republic of Venice, was a maritime republic with Venice as its capital. Founded according to tradition in 697 by Paoluccio Anafesto, in the course of its one thousand hundred years of history it established itself as one of the major European commercial and naval powers. Initially extended in the Dogado area (a territory currently comparable to the metropolitan city of Venice) over the course of its history it annexed much of north-eastern Italy, Istria, Dalmatia, the coasts of present-day Montenegro and Albania as well as to numerous islands of the Adriatic Sea and the eastern Ionian Sea. At the height of its expansion, between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, it also ruled the Peloponnese, Crete and Cyprus, most of the Greek islands, as well as several cities and ports in the eastern Mediterranean. The islands of the Venice lagoon in the seventh century, after having experienced a period of substantial population increase, organized themselves in the maritime Venice, a Byzantine duchy dependent on the exarch of Ravenna. With the fall of the exarchate and the weakening of Byzantine power, the Duchy of Venice arose, led by a doge and established on the Rialto island, it became prosperous thanks to maritime trade with the Byzantine Empire and with other eastern states. In order to safeguard the trade routes between the 9th and 11th centuries, the Duchy waged several wars which ensured it complete dominion over the Adriatic. Thanks to the participation in the Crusades, the penetration into oriental markets became ever stronger and between the 12th and 13th centuries Venice was able to extend its power in numerous eastern trading posts and trading posts. The supremacy on the Mediterranean sea led the Republic to the clash with Genoa which lasted until the fourteenth century, when, after being victorious, Venice began the expansion on the mainland. However, the Venetian expansion led to the coalition of the Habsburg monarchy, Spain and France in the League of Cambrai which in 1509 defeated the Republic of Venice in the battle of Agnadello. While retaining most of its mainland possessions, Venice was defeated and the attempt to expand the Eastern dominions caused a long series of wars with the Ottoman Empire that ended only in the eighteenth century with the Peace of Passarowitz of 1718, and which caused the loss of all possessions in the Aegean. Although still a flourishing cultural center, the Venetian power was definitively defeated by Napoleon who put an end to the Republic of Venice in 1797 with the ratification of the Treaty of Campoformio. Throughout its history, the Republic of Venice was distinguished by its political order. Inherited from the previous Byzantine administrative structures, it had the figure of the doge as head of state, a position that became elective from the end of the ninth century. In addition to the doge, the administration of the Republic was directed by various assemblies: the Maggior Consiglio, with legislative functions, which was flanked by the Minor Council, the Quarantia and the Council of Ten competent in judicial matters and the Senate.

Origin and evolution of the name

During its long history, the Republic of Venice took on various names, all closely linked to the titles attributed to the doge. During the eighth century, when Venice still depended on the Byzantine Empire, the doge was called Dux Venetiarum Provinciae (in Italian: Condottiero, or doge, of the Province of Venice), and was then simply defined Dux Veneticorum (in Italian: Doge dei Veneti) only from 840, following the signing of the Pactum Lotharii. This commercial agreement, stipulated between the Duchy of Venice (in Latin: Ducatum Venetiae) and the Carolingian Empire, de facto sanctioned the independence of Venice from the Byzantine Empire. In the following century the references to the Byzantine dominion disappeared and in a document of 976 we speak of gloriosis