In Venice, an epidemic is an old (plague doctor’s) hat
To visitors of Venice and Venetians alike, the measures against the coronavirus outbreak should ring a bell or two. During the historic outbreaks of plague, quarantine, fumigation and social distancing were the norm.
Venice and the Fascists: Heel-clicking in Piazza San Marco
Venice assumed a peculiar role in Fascist Italy – as the principal link between ancient Rome and Fascist modernity. Given its propaganda value, Venice was also where the first meeting of Mussolini and Hitler took place in 1934.
Before Cyprus was part-Greek and part-Turkish, it was all Venetian. After trading there for centuries, Venice gained a foothold in Cyprus when its king married a Venetian whom Venetian merchants elbowed out of the way.
The story of the Byzantine crown jewels is a sad allegory of the empire itself. Two centuries before Byzantium’s conquest by the Ottomans – the jewels were pawned to Venice by a broke empress in the middle of a civil war.
Venetian Albania was a relatively brief colonial enterprise. The links between Venice and Albania intensified after the loss of the colony to the Ottomans when the Albanian nobility and the Catholic clergy took refuge in Venice.
Few traces of the Venetian presence remain in modern Albania. This is despite the fact that there once was Venetian Albania – a collective name for the possessions of the Republic of Venice that existed from 1396 to 1797.
The Republic of Venice, or La Serenissima as it liked to style itself, had many democratic virtues: it was founded on equality, cherished free speech and it was able to defend itself and prosper. Was it, however, a democracy?
Despite all the romantic hype about getting lost in Venice without a map, there is one map every visitor to this city should seek out as I do whenever I visit the Museo Correr: Jacopo de’ Barbari’s bird’s-eye print of Venice.
Schiavoni, or Slavs, came to Venice from the Venetian ports in present-day Croatia. In Venice, dozens of places remain named after them, above all, the Riva degli Schiavoni – the lagoon city’s own Champs-Élysées.
The conquest of coastal parts of Dalmatia marked Venice’s first true overseas adventure and the springboard for the founding of its maritime empire. Unlike other colonies, Dalmatia remained Venetian till the end.
In the absence of pre-1800s photography, view paintings, or vedute, now serve as visual proof of Venetian buildings that no longer exist. They possess unique value for research of places for which no other evidence survives.
Sotoportego San Geminiano with the funerary plaque of Jacopo Sansovino on the pavement under the arcades of Ala Napoleonica – the Napoleonic Wing – is all that remains of San Geminiano, one of Venice’s lost churches.
The infamous Fourth Crusade is often dubbed the Venetian Crusade due to the leading role played by Venice in this venture which concluded with the sack of Constantinople in 1204 – a turning point in medieval history.
The Fall of Venice may have been forced by a foreign power but it was the culmination of a long decline, during which it failed to adapt to the rise of more powerful nations or the discovery of new trade routes.
Throughout its history, Venice was often at odds with Rome and in each instance it acted autonomously. One of its founding principles was the state’s control over all religious matters within its reach.
Commerce was what brought Venice and Byzantium together but also pushed them apart as the circumstances changed. Mutual trading continued well into the Ottoman era long after Byzantium had ceased to exist.
Like Venice’s early church relations, Venetian politics from the settlement of the lagoon until the 9th century was about pro- and anti-Byzantine factions, with regular attempts by various clergymen to exert temporal influence.
The relationship between Venice and the Ottomans is about pragmatism overcoming religious and political differences. Together, the doges and the sultans became rich through trade, even as they fought multiple wars.
For 300 years from the mid-13th century, the Mamluks took charge of the long-distance spice trade. As the new middlemen to control the movement of goods by land and sea, they linked Cairo with Europe, naturally via Venice.
Venice’s expansion on the mainland in the first half of the 15th century led to four ruinous wars with Milan and a peace treaty that established a balance of power built on diplomacy and transformed the map of Italy.
Described as the least comprehensible war in history, the War of the League of Cambrai was fought by everyone who had an interest in Italy while factions in the war were at one time allies and at others enemies.
Venice’s historic shipyard and armory – the Arsenale – is a pre-industrial example of mass production with centralised organisation, standardised processes and quality control, all of which anticipate the modern factory.
The Venetian plebiscite of 1866 came out in support of joining the Kingdom of Italy. It’s been argued, however, that it was just a formal endorsement of an Italian occupation of Venice that had already taken place.
Despite being surrounded by water, Venice has always feared fires. Wood is its bedrock and the wooden piles that support its foundations have been likened to an inverted forest. It’s also what the inside of all buildings is made of.