History of Venice

History of Venice




There are no surviving records about the origins and the foundation of the city of Venice. It is assumed that the city was randomly inhabited and therefore founded by fleeing local population of the nearby cities and countryside under the invasions of Germanic tribes and Huns. At that time the area was a part of the Western Roman Empire.
The first sources describe Venice as islands on which inhabitants lived in houses like “marine birds” with their boats tied next to the houses “like they are domestic animals”. The same resources claimed that local population was little developed in comparison to the nearby cities and that they lived only from fishing and salt production.
What is sure is that the origins of Venice stay unknown and hidden under the vail of uncertainty and that the process ofdevelopment of the city lasted for a long period of time (probably from 7th to 9th century).


Under Octavian August, Roman Imperator, together with the Veneto Region and Istria, Venice became the 10th province of the Empire. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, this region often changed hands between Goths, Lombards, Francs and Byzantine. This period was followed by continuous movements of the people from the mainland, because most of these tribes were not able to use ships and organize fleets. Byzantine (The Eastern Roman Empire) tried to take back the lost territories after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. After long lasting wars (during 7th century), the territory under the control of Byzantine in this region was reduced only to the Venetian Lagoon and some towns on the banks of the lagoon.

A new force was rising in this region, the Franks. The Franks defeated the Lombards and a war broke out between Byzantine and the Venetians on one side and the Franks on the other. In 812, a peace treaty was signed in which Byzantine acknowledged Carlo Magno as the emperor but in return Venice remained under the rule of Byzantine.
When exactly Venice became independent is unclear, because this event came without violence, it was more an evolution process. Most probably this happened somewhere between 9th and 11th century, but Venice remained closely tied to the Byzantine Empire for a long period of time. This close relationship started to deteriorate in the 12th century and ended in the 13th century when the Venetians with the 4th Crusade never reached the Holy Land but instead conquered Constantinople and divided Byzantine territory together with other conquerors.
All until the permanent fall of The Eastern Roman Empire to Turks (the Ottoman Empire) in 1453, Venice fought viciously with Genoa for the trade supremacy in the East.
After this event, the Venetians turned to conquering inland the Italian Peninsula to the West and managed to substantially increase their influence in this region.

In the first years of the 16th century, an alliance was created between the Austrians, France and new Pope Giulio II in order to stop the expansion of Venice. This resulted in a war in which Venice lost a large part of its territories in the North of Italy which was then occupied by France. Realizing that the North of Italy now belonged to France, Pope Giulio signed a peace treaty with Venice and included it in a new alliance, this time to fight against France. Venice refused and turned to France signing a treaty to fight against the newly formed alliance. In this conflict Venice managed to consolidate its territories but at the end it was located between very powerful states: the Hapsburg, Spanish, French and Ottoman Empire, without any possibility of expansion. Even though the majority of Venetians were Catholics, the other religions were allowed in the Republic. This fact was the reason for hostile behavior of the Papal State towards the Republic. With the discovery of America, the trading routes dominated by Venetians became little important. On the other hand, constant advances of the Ottoman Empire resulted in loosing of a large part of the Venetian territory in the East. Both these two factors marked the decline in the importance of the Venetian Republic on the world scene.

On 12th May 1797, Venice surrendered to Napoleon Bonaparte and the last Duke of Venice, Ludovico Manini, abdicated. The same year, according to the treaty of Campoformio, Venice fell under the rule of Austria along with other territories.

Did you know?

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, one of the greatest composers of all times, was born in Venice. He was a Baroque composer mostly known for its instrumental concertos, choral pieces and more than 40 operas. His best work is a number of concertos known as The Four Seasons.

The name of the city Venice was derived from the people “Veneti” who lived in this area before the whole region was incorporated into the Roman Empire, around 220 BC. The territory occupied by these people is not known for sure nowadays, it occupied the area of modern Veneto region (a part of modern Italy) but other areas as well.

The whole city of Venice together with the Lagoon is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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