Maritime republics

The maritime republics (Italian: repubbliche marinare) of the Mediterranean Basin were thalassocratic city-states which flourished in Italy and Dalmatia during the Middle Ages. The best known among the maritime republics are Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi. Less known are Ragusa (now Dubrovnik), Gaeta,[1] Ancona,[2] and Noli.[3]

From the 10th to the 13th centuries they built fleets of ships both for their own protection and to support extensive trade networks across the Mediterranean, giving them an essential role in the Crusades.

Le Repubbliche Marinare
Map of the maritime republics in the 11th century and their coats of arms
Naval Jack of Italy
Flag of the Italian Navy, displaying the coat of arms of the best known maritime republics (clockwise from the upper left): Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi


The maritime republics were city-states - the Mediterranean counterpart of the Hanse towns of northern Europe. They were generally republics and formally independent, though most of them originated from territories once formally belonging to the Byzantine Empire (the main exceptions being Genoa and Pisa). During the time of their independence, all these cities had similar (though not identical) systems of government, in which the merchant class had considerable power.

The maritime republics became heavily involved in the Levantine Crusades of the tenth to thirteenth centuries. They providing Crusaders with transport and support, but most especially took advantage of the political and trading opportunities resulting from the fighting. The Fourth Crusade of 1202-1204, originally intended to liberate Jerusalem, actually entailed the Venetian conquest of Zara and Constantinople.

Each of the maritime republics had dominion over different overseas lands, including many Mediterranean islands (especially Sardinia and Corsica), lands on the Adriatic, Aegean, and Black Sea (Crimea), and commercial colonies in the Near East and in North Africa. Venice stands out from the rest in that it maintained enormous tracts of land in Greece, Cyprus, Istria and Dalmatia until as late as the mid-17th century.

Origins and development

The economic growth of Europe around the year 1000, together with the hazards of the mainland trading routes, made possible the development of major commercial routes along the Mediterranean coast. The growing independence acquired by some coastal cities gave them a leading role in this development. These cities, exposed to pirate raids (mostly Saracen), organized their own defence, providing themselves substantial war fleets. Thus, in the 10th and 11th centuries they were able to switch to an offensive stance, taking advantage of the rivalry between the Byzantine and Islamic maritime powers and competing with them for the control of commerce and trade routes with Asia and Africa.

Map of Constantinople (1422) by Florentine cartographer Cristoforo Buondelmonte
Map of Constantinople (1422) by Florentine cartographer Cristoforo Buondelmonti, showing (a greatly enlarged) Pera trading quarter at the north of the Golden Horn, with the peninsula of Constantinople to the south.

The independent cities formed autonomous republican governments, an expression of the merchant class that constituted the backbone of their power. The history of the maritime republics intertwines both with the launch of European expansion to the East and with the origins of modern capitalism as a mercantile and financial system. Using gold coins, the merchants of the Italian maritime republics began to develop new foreign exchange transactions and accounting. Technological advances in navigation provided essential support for the growth of mercantile wealth.[4] Nautical charts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries all belong to the schools of Genoa, Venice and Ancona.[5]

The Crusades offered opportunities for expansion. They increasingly relied on Italian sea transport, for which the republics extracted concessions of colonies as well as a cash price. Venice, Amalfi, Ancona,[2] and Ragusa were already engaged in trade with the Levant, but the phenomenon increased with the Crusades: thousands of Italians from the maritime republics poured into the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, creating bases, ports and commercial establishments known as "colonies". These were small gated enclaves within a city, often just a single street, where the laws of the Italian city were administered by a governor appointed from home, and there would be a church under home jurisdiction and shops with Italian styles of food. These Italian mercantile centers also exerted significant political influence locally: the Italian merchants formed guild-like associations in their business centers, aiming to obtain legal, tax and customs privileges from foreign governments. Several personal dominions arose. Pera in Constantinople, first Genoese and later (under the Ottomans) Venetian, was the largest and best known Italian trading base.

The history of the various maritime republics is quite varied, reflecting their different lifespans. Venice, Genoa, Noli, and Ragusa had very long lives, with an independence that outlasted the medieval period and continued up to the threshold of the contemporary era, when the Italian and European states were devastated by the Napoleonic Wars. Other republics kept their independence until the Renaissance: Pisa came under the dominion of the Republic of Florence in 1406, and Ancona came under control of the Papal States in 1532.[2] Amalfi and Gaeta, though, lost their independence very soon: the first in 1131 and the second in 1140, both having passed into the hands of the Normans.

Espansione di Amalfi

Expansion and influence of Amalfi

Espansione di Pisa

Expansion and influence of Pisa

Repubblica di Genova

Expansion and influence of Genoa

Repubblica di Venezia

Expansion and influence of Venice

Repubbliche marinare - fondachi anconitani

Trade routes of Ancona

Repubbliche marinare - fondachi e consolati ragusei

Trade routes of Ragusa

Genoese Holdings

Genoese Holdings in the 12th-13th cnetury

Venetian Holdings

Venetian Holdings in the 15th-16th century

Pisan Republic

Pisan Holdings in the 12th century


Flag of the Republic of Amalfi

Amalfi, perhaps the first of the maritime republics to play a major role, had developed extensive trade with Byzantium and Egypt. Amalfitan merchants wrested the Mediterranean trade monopoly from the Arabs and founded mercantile bases in Southern Italy and the Middle East in the 10th century. Amalfitans were the first to create a colony in Constantinople.

Among the most important products of the Republic of Amalfi are the Amalfian Laws, a codification of the rules of maritime law which remained in force throughout the Middle Ages.

From 1039 Amalfi came under the control of the Principality of Salerno. In 1073 Robert Guiscard conquered the city, taking the title Dux Amalfitanorum ("Duke of the Amalfitans"). In 1096 Amalfi revolted and reverted to an independent republic, but this was put down in 1101. It revolted again in 1130 and was finally subdued in 1131.

Amalfi was sacked by Pisans in 1137, at a time when it was weakened by natural disasters (severe flooding) and was annexed to the Norman lands in southern Italy. Thereafter, Amalfi began a rapid decline and was replaced in its role as the main commercial hub of Campania by the Duchy of Naples.


Flag of the Republic of Pisa

In 1016 an alliance of Pisa and Genoa defeated the Saracens, conquered Corsica and gained control of the Tyrrhenian Sea. A century later they freed the Balearic Islands in an expedition that was celebrated in the Gesta triumphalia per Pisanos and in the Liber Maiorichinus epic poem, composed in 1113–1115.

Pisa, at that time overlooking the sea at the mouth of the Arno, reached the pinnacle of its glory between the 12th and 13th centuries, when its ships controlled the Western Mediterranean. Rivalry between Pisa and Genoa grew worse in the 12th century and resulted in the naval Battle of Meloria (1284), which marked the beginning of Pisan decline; Pisa renounced all claim to Corsica and ceded part of Sardinia to Genoa in 1299. Moreover, the Aragonese conquest of Sardinia, which began in 1324, deprived the Tuscan city of dominion over the Giudicati of Cagliari and Gallura. Pisa maintained its independence and control of the Tuscan coast until 1409, when it was annexed by Florence.


Flag of Genoa

Genoa began to gain autonomy from the Holy Roman Empire around 1096, becoming a medieval commune and participating in the First Crusades. Initially called Compagna Communis, the denomination of republic was made official in 1528 on the initiative of Admiral Andrea Doria.

The alliance with Pisa allowed the liberation of the western sector of the Mediterranean from Saracen pirates, with the reconquest of Corsica, the Balearics and Provence.

The formation of the Compagna Communis, a meeting of all the city's trade associations (compagnie), also comprising the noble lords of the surrounding valleys and coasts, finally signaled the birth of Genoese government.

The triumph of Lamba Doria in the Battle of Curzola by Fedele Fischetti
The triumph of Genoese admiral Lamba Doria in the Battle of Curzola
Genoese fortress in Sudak
The Genoese fortress in Sudak, Crimea

The fortunes of the town increased considerably when it joined the First Crusade: its participation brought great privileges for the Genoese communities, which moved to many places in the Holy Land. The apex of Genoese fortune came in the 13th century with the conclusion of the Treaty of Nymphaeum (1261) with the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus. In exchange for aiding the Byzantine reconquest of Constantinople, this led to the ousting of the Venetians from the straits leading to the Black Sea, which quickly became a Genoese sea. Shortly afterwards, in 1284, Pisa was finally defeated in the Battle of Meloria by the Genoese Navy.

In 1298 the Genoese defeated the Venetian fleet at the Dalmatian island of Curzola. The confrontation led to the capture of the Venetian doge and Marco Polo, who during his imprisonment at the Palazzo San Giorgio dictated the story of his travels to Rustichello da Pisa, his cellmate. Genoa remained relatively powerful until the last major conflict with Venice, the War of Chioggia of 1379. It ended in victory for the Venetians, who finally regained dominance over trade to the East.

After a gloomy 15th century marked by plagues and foreign domination, the city regained self-government in 1528 through the efforts of Andrea Doria. Throughout the following century Genoa became the primary sponsor of the Spanish monarchy, reaping huge profits, which allowed the old patrician class to remain vital for a period. However, the republic was independent only de jure, as it often fell under the influence of major neighboring powers, first the French and Spanish, then the Austrians and Savoyards. It was finally subdued by Napoleon in 1805 and annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1815, destroying the economy and forcing the emigration of the best workers and most of the rural population to the Americas.


Flag of Most Serene Republic of Venice

The Republic of Venice, also known as La Serenissima (The Most Serene), came into being in 421 as a result of the development of trade relations with the Byzantine Empire, of which it was once formally a part, albeit with a substantial degree of independence. Venice remained an ally of Byzantium in the fight against Arabs and Normans. Around 1000 it began its expansion in the Adriatic, defeating the pirates who occupied the coast of Istria and Dalmatia and placing those regions and their principal townships under Venetian control. At the beginning of the 13th century, the city reached the peak of its power, dominating the commercial traffic in the Mediterranean and with the Orient. During the Fourth Crusade (1202–1204) its fleet was decisive in the acquisition of the islands and the most commercially important seaside towns of the Byzantine Empire. The conquest of the important ports of Corfu (1207) and Crete (1209) gave it a trade that extended to the east and reached Syria and Egypt, endpoints of maritime trading routes. By the end of the 14th century, Venice had become one of the richest states in Europe. Its dominance in the eastern Mediterranean in later centuries was threatened by the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in those areas, despite the great naval victory in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 against the Turkish fleet, fought with the Holy League.

The Republic of Venice expanded strongly on the mainland, too. It became the largest of the maritime republics and was the most powerful state of northern Italy until 1797, when Napoleon invaded the Venetian lagoon and conquered Venice. The city passed between French and Austrian control over the next half-century, before briefly regaining its independence during the revolutions of 1848. Austrian rule resumed a year later, and continued until 1866, when Veneto passed into the Kingdom of Italy.



Included in the Papal States since 774, Ancona came under the influence of the Holy Roman Empire around 1000, but gradually gained independence to become fully independent with the coming of the communes in the 12th century. Its motto was Ancon dorica civitas fidei (Dorian Ancona, city of faith); its coin was the agontano.[6][7] Although somewhat confined by Venetian supremacy on the sea, Ancona was a notable maritime republic for its economic development and its preferential trade, particularly with the Byzantine Empire. It enjoyed excellent relations with the Kingdom of Hungary and was an ally of the Republic of Ragusa.[8] Despite the link with Byzantium, it also maintained good relations with the Turks, enabling it to serve as central Italy's gateway to the Orient. The warehouses of the Republic of Ancona were continuously active in Constantinople, Alexandria and other Byzantine ports, while the sorting of goods imported by land (especially textiles and spices)[2] fell to the merchants of Lucca and Florence.

In art, Ancona was one of the centers of so-called Adriatic Renaissance, that particular kind of renaissance that spread between Dalmatia, Venice and the Marches, characterized by a rediscovery of classical art and a certain continuity with Gothic art. The maritime cartographer Grazioso Benincasa was born in Ancona, as was the navigator-archaeologist Ciriaco de' Pizzicolli, named by his fellow humanists "father of the antiquities", who made his contemporaries aware of the existence of the Parthenon, the Pyramids, the Sphinx and other famous ancient monuments believed destroyed.

Ancona always had to guard itself against the designs of both the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy. It never attacked other maritime cities, but was always forced to defend itself. It succeeded until 1532, when it lost its independence after Pope Clement VII took possession of it by political means.


St. Blaise - National Flag of the Ragusan Republic
Dubrovacka republika
Republic of Ragusa before 1808
Painting of Ragusa from 1667

In the first half of the 7th century, Ragusa began to develop an active trade in the East Mediterranean. From the 11th century, it emerged as a maritime and mercantile city, especially in the Adriatic. The first known commercial contract goes back to 1148 and was signed with the city of Molfetta, but other cities came along in the following decades, including Pisa, Termoli and Naples.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade, Ragusa came under the dominion of the Republic of Venice, from which it inherited most of its institutions. Venetian rule lasted for one and a half centuries and determined the institutional structure of the future republic, with the emergence of the Senate in 1252 and the approval of the Ragusa Statute on 9 May 1272. In 1358, following a war with the Kingdom of Hungary, the Treaty of Zadar forced Venice to give up many of its possessions in Dalmatia. Ragusa voluntarily became a dependency of the Kingdom of Hungary, obtaining the right to self-government in exchange for help with its fleet and payment of an annual tribute. Ragusa was fortified and equipped with two ports. The Communitas Ragusina began to be called Respublica Ragusina from 1403.

Basing its prosperity on maritime trade, Ragusa became the major power of the southern Adriatic and came to rival the Republic of Venice. For centuries Ragusa was an ally of Ancona, Venice's other rival in the Adriatic. This alliance enabled the two towns on opposite sides of the Adriatic to resist attempts by the Venetians to make the Adriatic a "Venetian bay", which would have given Venice direct or indirect control over all the Adriatic ports. The Venetian trade route went via Germany and Austria; Ancona and Ragusa developed an alternative route going west from Ragusa through Ancona to Florence and finally to Flanders.

Rector's palace
The Rector's Palace and, behind it, the Sponza Palace

Ragusa was the door to the Balkans and the East, a place of commerce in metals, salt, spices and cinnabar. It reached its peak during the 15th and 16th centuries thanks to tax exemptions for affordable goods. Its social structure was rigid, and the lower classes played no part in its government, but it was advanced in other ways: in the 14th century the first pharmacy was opened there, followed by a hospice; in 1418 the trafficking of slaves was abolished.

When the Ottoman Empire advanced into the Balkan Peninsula and Hungary was defeated in the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Ragusa came formally under the supremacy of the sultan. It bound itself to pay him a symbolic annual tribute, a move that allowed it to maintain its effective independence.

The 17th century saw a slow decline of the Republic of Ragusa, due mainly to an earthquake in 1667 which razed much of the city, claiming 5000 victims, including the rector, Simone de Ghetaldi. The city was quickly rebuilt at the expense of the Pope and the kings of France and England, which made it a jewel of 17th-century urbanism, and the Republic enjoyed a short revival. The Treaty of Passarowitz of 1718 gave it full independence but increased the tax to be paid at the gate, set at 12,500 ducats.

Austria occupied the Republic of Ragusa on 24 August 1798. The Peace of Pressburg of 1805 assigned the city to France. In 1806, after a siege of a month, Ragusa surrendered to the French. The Republic was finally dissolved by order of General Auguste Marmont on 31 January 1808 and was annexed to the Napoleonic Illyrian provinces.


Relationships between the maritime republics were governed by their commercial interests, and were often expressed as political or economic agreements aimed at shared profit from a trade route or mutual non-interference. But competition for control of the trade routes to the East and in the Mediterranean sparked rivalries that could not be settled diplomatically, and there were several clashes among the maritime republics.

Pisa and Venice

Bohemond daimbert
Dagobert sailing in a ship flying St George's cross

Towards the end of the 11th century, the First Crusade in the Holy Land began on the initiative of Pope Urban II, supported by the speeches of Peter the Hermit. Venice and Pisa entered the crusade almost simultaneously, and the two republics were soon in competition. The Venetian naval army of bishop Eugenio Contarini clashed with the Pisan army of Archbishop Dagobert in the sea around Rhodes. Pisa and Venice gave support to the Siege of Jerusalem by the army led by Godfrey of Bouillon. The Pisan force remained in the Holy Land. Daibert became the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and crowned Godfrey of Bouillon first Christian King of Jerusalem. Venice, in contrast, soon ended its participation in the first crusade, probably because its interests lay mainly in balancing Pisan and Genoese influence in the Orient.

Relationships between Pisa and Venice were not always characterized by rivalry and antagonism. Over the centuries, the two republics signed several agreements concerning their zones of influence and action, to avoid hindering each other. On 13 October 1180 the Doge of Venice and a representative of the Pisan consuls signed an agreement for the reciprocal non-interference in Adriatic and Tyrrhenian affairs, and in 1206 Pisa and Venice concluded a treaty in which they reaffirmed the respective zones of influence. Between 1494 and 1509, during the siege of Pisa by Florence, Venice went to rescue of the Pisans, following a policy of safeguarding Italian territory from foreign intervention.

Venice and Genoa

The relationship between Genoa and Venice was almost continuously competitive and hostile, both economically and militarily. Until the beginning of the 13th century, hostilities were limited to rare acts of piracy and isolated skirmishes. In 1218 Venice and Genoa reached an agreement to end the piracy and to safeguard each other. Genoa was guaranteed the right to trade in the eastern imperial lands, a new and profitable market.

War of Saint Sabas and the conflict of 1293–99

Conflict between the two Republics reached a violent crisis in the struggle at Saint-Jean d'Acre for ownership of the Saint Sabas monastery. The Genoese occupied it in 1255, beginning hostilities with the sacking of the Venetian neighbourhood and the destruction of the ships docked there. Venice first agreed to an alliance with Pisa regarding their common interests in Syria and Palestine, but then counter-attacked, destroying the fortified monastery. The flight of the Genoese and of the baron Philip of Montfort, ruler of the Christian principality of Syria, concluded the first phase of the punitive expedition.

Just one year later, the three maritime powers fought an uneven conflict in the waters facing Saint-Jean d'Acre. Almost all the Genoese galleys were sunk and 1,700 fighters and sailors were killed. The Genoese replied with new alliances. The Nicaean throne was usurped by Michael VIII Palaiologos, that aimed at reconquest of the lands once owned by the Byzantine Empire. His expansionist project suited the Genoese. The Nicaean fleet and army conquered and occupied Constantinople, causing the collapse of the Latin Empire of Constantinople less than sixty years after its creation. Genoa replaced Venice in the monopoly of commerce with the Black Sea territories.

This period of conflict between Genoa and Venice ended with the Battle of Curzola of 1298 (won by Genoa), in which the Venetian admiral Andrea Dandolo was taken prisoner. To avoid the shame of arriving in Genoa in shackles, Dandolo committed suicide by smashing his head against the oar to which he was tied. A year later, the Republics signed a peace treaty in Milan.

War of Chioggia

Bozcaada 125
Part of the Venetian fortress on Tenedos, an island now Turkish

Towards the end of the 14th century, Cyprus was occupied by the Genoese and ruled by the signoria of Pietro II of Lusignano, while the smaller island of Tenedos, an important port of call on the Bosphorous and Black Sea route, was conceded by Andronikos IV Palaiologos to Genoa in place of the concession of his father John V Palaiologos to Venice. These two events fuelled the resumption of hostilities between the two maritime Republics, which were expanding from the east to the west of the Mediterranean.

The conflict was named the War of Chioggia because the Venetians, after an initial success, were defeated in Pula by the Genoese, who occupied Chioggia and besieged Venice. The Venetians established a new fleet and besieged the Genoese in Chioggia in turn, forcing them to surrender in 1380. The war ended in favour of the Venetians with the Peace of Turin on 8 April 1381.

The capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans of Mehmed II on 29 May 1453 put an end to the eleven centuries of the Byzantine Empire. This event aroused strong feelings that inspired Pope Nicholas V to plan a crusade. To realize his idea, the pope mediated between the two coalitions that were continuing to battle in Tuscany and Lombardy. Cosimo de' Medici and Alfonso V of Aragon entered the Italic League, together with Pope Nicholas, with Francesco Sforza of Milan and with Venice.

While Popes Callistus II and Pius II tried to progress their predecessor's idea and were canvassing the states of the Italic League and other European powers to interest them in a crusade, the Ottomans defeated many Genoese and Venetian colonies. These events showed the superiority of the new great naval and military Ottoman power in the eastern Mediterranean and forced the two Italian maritime republics to seek a new destiny. Genoa found it the growth of international finance, Venice in land expansion.

Land battles and gathering in the Holy League

Battle of Lepanto 1571
The Battle of Lepanto in a painting from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Around the middle 15th century, Genoa entered into a triple alliance with Florence and Milan, with Charles VII of France as its head. Meanwhile, Venice sided with Alfonso V of Aragon, who occupied the throne of Naples. Due to the rivalry of the Italian States, two great coalitions were formed, and foreign intervention in the peninsula was steadily increasing.

To oppose the Ottomans, Venice and Genoa put aside their differences in the 16th century to join the Holy League created by Pius V. Most of the Christian fleet consisted of Venetian ships, around 100 galleys. Genoa sailed under the Spanish flag, as the Republic of Genoa lent all its ships to Philip II. The impressive Christian League fleet gathered in the Gulf of Lepanto under the command of the Spaniard John of Austria to clash with the Turkish fleet commanded by Kapudan Ali Pasha. The Battle of Lepanto was fought from midday on 7 October 1571 until the following dawn and ended in victory for the Christian League.

Genoa and Pisa

To begin with, these two maritime republics, close to one another on the Tyrrhenian Sea, collaborated as allies against the threat of Arab expansion. However, their later rivalry dominated the western Mediterranean.

Allied against Arabs

Marciana Marina - Pisanischer Wachtturm 1
Watchtower in Marciana Marina, Elba, built by the Republic of Pisa as a defence against Saracene pirates

At the beginning of the second millennium, Muslim armies had advanced into Sicily, and were trying to conquer Calabria and Sardinia. To resist them, Pisa and Genoa joined forces to banish the fleet of Mujāhid al-‘Āmirī from the coasts of Sardinia, where it had settled temporarily between 1015 and 1016, threatening the survival of the Sardinian giudicati. Once that was achieved, disputes soon broke out over control of the conquered territories. Due to the limited forces available, the alliance was unable to occupy the large Tyrrhenian island for long.

The many disputes, even the armed ones, were set aside in 1087 when they reunited to fight their common enemy. In the summer of the same year, a massive fleet composed of two hundred galleys from Genoa and Pisa, with some from Gaeta, Salerno and Amalfi, set sail for the Mediterranean coast of Africa. The fleet mounted a successful offensive against Mahdia on 6 August 1087. On 21 April 1092 the Pope elevated the archdiocese of Pisa to the rank of metropolitan archdiocese and placed the bishops of Corsica under its authority.

That same victorious expedition persuaded Pope Urban II that a large crusade to liberate the Holy Land would be possible. Around the 1110s, Pope Paschal II asked Pisans and Genoese to organize a crusade in the western Mediterranean. The expedition was very successful and freed the Balearic Islands from the Muslims. As a sign of gratitude, the pope granted many privileges to the two republics. The Pisan archbishop was granted primacy over Sardinia, in addition to Corsica.

First War between Pisa and Genoa

The papal concessions to the archbishop of Pisa greatly increased the fame of the Tuscan republic throughout the Mediterranean, but at the same time aroused Genoese envy, which soon developed into conflict. In 1119, the Genoese attacked some Pisan galleys, beginning a bloody war on sea and land. It lasted until 1133, interrupted by several truces that were sometimes observed and sometimes violated. The clashes were brought to an end by sharing authority over the Corsican dioceses between the two cities.

Second War

When Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa came to Italy to oppose the power of the Italian cities, Genoa gave its support to the imperial cause, although with slight reservations, while Pisa made its support conditional on the emperor taking part in the siege of Milan. In 1162 and 1163 Frederick I granted Pisa great privileges, such as control of the Tyrrhenian coast as far as Civitavecchia.

This reignited Genoa's resentment and rivalry, which once again developed into open conflict. There was a pause in the conflict on Frederick's fourth descent into Italy, but it resumed soon after his departure. Peace was reached on 6 November 1175 with the return of the Holy Roman Emperor to Italy. The agreement favoured Genoa, expanding its overseas territories. Pisa and Genoa took part in the campaign commanded by Frederick's successor Henry VI against the Kingdom of Sicily.

Defeat of Pisa

Litograph of the Battle of Meloria (1284) by Armanino
Lithograph of the Battle of Meloria by Armanino

From 1282 to 1284 Genoa and Pisa reverted to fighting each other. A decisive naval battle occurred on 6 August 1284. Pisan and Genoese fleets fought the whole day in what became known as the Battle of Meloria. The Genoese emerged victorious, while the Pisan galleys, having received no help, were forced to retreat to the port of Pisa. Prisoners taken by the Genoese were in the order of thousands. Among them was the poet Rustichello da Pisa, who met Marco Polo (captured during the Battle of Curzola) and wrote down the adventures of the Venetian explorer.

The Battle of Meloria greatly reduced the power of the Pisan Republic, which never regained its leading role in the western Mediterranean. Pisa had lost thousands of young men in the battle, causing a population collapse. Venice did not intervene to help its ally Pisa in its crisis. Some historians consider this decision to have been an error on the part of Venice, which yielded supremacy of the Tyrrhenian Sea to rival Genoa and simultaneously lost the precious help of Pisa in the east. Despite the setback, Pisa was able to continue its territorial expansion in Tuscany some decades afterwards, thanks to Guido da Montefeltro and Henry VII, Holy Roman Emperor.

In the 14th century, Pisa changed from a commune to a signoria. Fazio Novello della Gherardesca, an enlightened aristocrat, improved relations with Florence, the Pope and Genoa. The treaty with Genoa was just the first of a series of commercial agreements. But in the first years of the following century, under the rule of Gabriello Maria Visconti, the city of Pisa was besieged by Milan, Florence, Genoa and France. Giovanni Gambacorta took advantage of this to rise to power, but he secretly negotiated surrender with the besiegers. On 6 October 1406 Pisa became a possession of Florence, which thus realized its long-held goal of access to the sea. That was the end of the Pisan Republic.

Amalfi and Pisa

Amalfi had already lost complete autonomy from the second half of the 11th century, although it continued running its commercial routes and enjoying a large degree of administrative autonomy, at least in this period. Under the protection of the Norman William II, third Duke of Apulia, in October 1126 the administrators of Amalfi reached a profitable commercial agreement with the neighbouring Pisa, to collaborate in the protection of their common interests in the Tyrrhenian. This agreement was the outcome of a decades-old friendship with the Tuscan republic.

However, Amalfi had no army of its own to protect its commercial interests. That is why Amalfian ships are not often reported to have been engaged in military action against other maritime republics. In fact it was the Pisan army that broke the pact with Amalfi by attacking the coastal city on 4 August 1135 during the war waged by Pope Innocent II and the new emperor Lothair II, Holy Roman Emperor (aided by the republics of Genoa and Pisa) against the Norman Roger II of Sicily, who controlled Amalfi. That war ended in favour of Roger II, who gained recognition of his rights over the territories of South Italy, but it was a severe blow for Amalfi, which lost both its fleet and its political autonomy.[9]

Venice, Ancona and Ragusa

Commercial competition among Venice, Ancona and Ragusa was very strong because all of them bordered the Adriatic Sea. They fought open battles on more than one occasion. Venice, aware of its major economic and military power, disliked competition from other maritime cities in the Adriatic. Several Adriatic ports were under Venetian rule, but Ancona and Ragusa retained their independence. To avoid succumbing to Venetian rule, these two republics made multiple and lasting alliances.

In 1174 Venice united its forces with Frederick I Barbarossa's imperial army to try to overpower Ancona. Fredrick's intention was to reassert his authority over the Italian cities. The Venetians deployed numerous galleys and the galleon Totus Mundus in the port of Ancona, while imperial troops lay siege from the land. After some months of dramatic resistance by the Anconitans, supported by Byzantine troops, they were able to send a small contingent to Emilia-Romagna to ask for help. Troops from Ferrara and Bertinoro arrived to save the city and repelled the imperial troops and the Venetians in battle.

Venice conquered Ragusa in 1205 and held it until 1382 when Ragusa regained de facto freedom, paying tributes first to the Hungarians, and after the Battle of Mohács, to the Turks. During this period Ragusa reconfirmed its old alliance with Ancona.

See also


  1. ^ Touring Club Italiano, Lazio Touring Editore, 1981 (p. 743); Giovanna Bergamaschi, Arte in Italia: guida ai luoghi ed alle opere dell'Italia artistica, Electa, 1983 (p. 243); Salvatore Aurigemma, Angelo de Santis, Gaeta, Formia, Minturno.
  2. ^ a b c d Peris Persi, in Conoscere l'Italia, vol. Marche, Istituto Geografico De Agostini, Novara 1982 (p. 74); AA.VV. Meravigliosa Italia, Enciclopedia delle regioni, edited by Valerio Lugoni, Aristea, Milano; Guido Piovene, in Tuttitalia, Casa Editrice Sansoni, Firenze & Istituto Geografico De Agostini, Novara (p. 31); Pietro Zampetti, in Itinerari dell'Espresso, vol. Marche, edited by Neri Pozza, Editrice L'Espresso, Rome, 1980
  3. ^ Società internazionale per lo studio del Medioevo latino, Centro italiano di studi sull'alto Medioevo, Medioevo latino, Volume 28 (p. 1338); Giuseppe Gallo, La Repubblica di Genova tra nobili e popolari (1257–1528), edizioni De Ferrari, 1997
  4. ^ Graziano Arici, La galea ritrovata, publisher Consorzio Venezia nuova, 2003, p. 63.
  5. ^ Giovanni Brancaccio, Geografia, cartografia e storia del Mezzogiorno, publisher Guida Editori, 1991 (Google books, p. 99).
  6. ^ Armando Lodolini, Le repubbliche del mare, publisher: Biblioteca di storia patria, Rome, 1967 (chapter Ancona)
  7. ^ World Vexilology and Heraldry: Italy - Centre
  8. ^
    • Francis F. Carter, Dubrovnik (Ragusa): A Classical City-state, publisher: Seminar Press, London-New York, 1972 ISBN 978-0-12-812950-0;
    • Robin Harris, Dubrovnik: A History, publisher: Saqi Books, 2006. p. 127, ISBN 978-0-86356-959-3
  9. ^ G. Benvenuti – Le Repubbliche Marinare. Amalfi, Pisa, Genova, Venezia – Newton & Compton editori, Roma 1989, p. 255


Maritime republics
  • Adolf Schaube, Storia del commercio dei popoli latini del Mediterraneo sino alla fine delle Crociate, Unione tipografico-editrice Torinese, 1915
  • Armando Lodolini, Le repubbliche del mare, edizioni Biblioteca di storia patria, (Ente per la diffusione e l'educazione storica), Rome 1967
  • G. Benvenuti, Le Repubbliche Marinare. Amalfi, Pisa, Genova, Venezia, Newton & Compton editori, Roma 1989.
  • Marc'Antonio Bragadin, Storia delle Repubbliche marinare, Odoya, Bologna 2010, 240 pp., ISBN 978-88-6288-082-4.
Duchy of Amalfi
  • Umberto Moretti, La prima repubblica marinara d'Italia: Amalfi : con uno studio critico sulla scoperta della bussola nautica, A. Forni, 1998
Republic of Genoa
  • Aldo Padovano; Felice Volpe, La grande storia di Genova, Artemisia Progetti Editoriali, 2008, Vol. 2, pp. 84, 91
  • Carlo Varese, Storia della repubblica di Genova: dalla sua origine sino al 1814, Tipografia d'Y. Gravier, 1836
Republic of Pisa
  • Gino Benvenuti, Storia della Repubblica di Pisa: le quattro stagioni di una meravigliosa avventura, Giardini, 1961
Republic of Venice
  • Alvise Zorzi, La repubblica del leone: Storia di Venezia, Bompiani 2002
  • Samuele Romanin, Storia documentata di Venezia editore Naratovich 1854
Republic of Ancona
  • Various authors, Ancona repubblica marinara, Federico Barbarossa e le Marche; Arti grafiche Città di Castello, 1972
Republic of Ragusa
  • Sergio Anselmi e Antonio Di Vittorio, Ragusa e il Mediterraneo: ruolo e funzioni di una repubblica marinara tra Medioevo ed età Moderna, Cacucci, 1990

Ancona (Italian pronunciation: [aŋˈkoːna] (listen); Greek: Ἀγκών – Ankon) is a city and a seaport in the Marche region in central Italy, with a population of around 101,997 as of 2015. Ancona is the capital of the province of Ancona and of the region. The city is located 280 km (170 mi) northeast of Rome, on the Adriatic Sea, between the slopes of the two extremities of the promontory of Monte Conero, Monte Astagno and Monte Guasco.

Ancona is one of the main ports on the Adriatic Sea, especially for passenger traffic, and is the main economic and demographic centre of the region.

Commercial Revolution

The Commercial Revolution consisted in the creation of a European economy based on trade, which began in the 11th century and lasted until it was succeeded by the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century. Beginning with the Crusades, Europeans rediscovered spices, silks, and other commodities rare in Europe. This development created a new desire for trade, and trade expanded in the second half of the Middle Ages. Newly forming European states, through voyages of discovery, were looking for alternative trade routes in the 15th and 16th centuries, which allowed the European powers to build vast, new international trade networks. Nations also sought new sources of wealth and practiced mercantilism and colonialism. The Commercial Revolution is marked by an increase in general commerce, and in the growth of financial services such as banking, insurance, and investing.

Duchy of Amalfi

The Duchy of Amalfi (Italian: Ducato di Amalfi, Latin: Ducatus Amalphitanus) or the Republic of Amalfi (Italian: Repubblica di Amalfi) was a de facto independent state centered on the Southern Italian city of Amalfi during the 10th and 11th centuries. The city and its territory were originally part of the larger ducatus Neapolitanus, governed by a patrician, but it extracted itself from Byzantine vassalage and first elected a duke (or doge) in 958. During the 10th and 11th centuries Amalfi was estimated to have a population of 50,000 -70,000 people. It rose to become an economic powerhouse, a commercial center whose merchants dominated Mediterranean and Italian trade for centuries before being surpassed and superseded by the other maritime republics of the North, like Pisa, Venice, and Genoa. In 1073, Amalfi lost its independence, falling to French Norman invasion and subsequently to Pisa in 1137.

Italian city-states

The Italian city-states were a political phenomenon of small independent states mostly in the central and northern Italian Peninsula between the 9th and the 15th centuries.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, urban settlements in Italy generally enjoyed a greater continuity than in the rest of western Europe. Many of these towns were survivors of earlier Etruscan, Umbrian and Roman towns which had existed within the Roman Empire. The republican institutions of Rome had also survived. Some feudal lords existed with a servile labour force and huge tracts of land, but by the 11th century, many cities, including Venice, Milan, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Lucca, Cremona, Siena, Città di Castello, Perugia, and many others, had become large trading metropoles, able to obtain independence from their formal sovereigns.

Italy in the Middle Ages

The history of the Italian peninsula during the medieval period can be roughly defined as the time between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance.

Late Antiquity in Italy lingered on into the 7th century under the Ostrogothic Kingdom and the Byzantine Empire under the Justinian dynasty, the Byzantine Papacy until the mid 8th century.

The "Middle Ages" proper begin as the Byzantine Empire was weakening under the pressure of the Muslim conquests, and the Exarchate of Ravenna finally fell under Lombard rule in 751. Lombard rule ended with the invasion of Charlemagne in 773, who established the Kingdom of Italy and the Papal States. This set the precedent for the main political conflict in Italy over the following centuries, between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, culminating with conflict between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV and the latter's "Walk to Canossa" in 1077.

The term "Middle Ages" itself ultimately derives from the description of the period of "obscurity" in Italian history during the 9th to 11th centuries, the saeculum obscurum or "Dark Age" of the Roman papacy as seen from the perspective of the 14th to 15th century Italian Humanists.

In the 11th century began a political development unique to Italy, the transformation of medieval communes into powerful city states modelled on ancient Roman Republicanism.

The republics of Venice, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, among others, rose to great political power and paved the way for the Italian Renaissance and ultimately the "European miracle", the resurgence of Western civilization from comparative obscurity in the Early Modern period. On the other hand, the Italian city states were in a state of constant warfare, adding to and overlapping with the persistent conflict between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor.

Each city aligned itself with one faction or the other, yet was divided internally between the two warring parties, Guelfs (loyal to the Pope) and Ghibellines (loyal to the Emperor). Since the 13th century, these wars had increasingly been fought by mercenaries, giving rise to the Italian institution of condottieri and the Swiss mercenary culture.

After the three decades of wars in Lombardy between the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice, there was eventually a balance of power between five emerging powerful states, which at the Peace of Lodi formed the so-called Italic League, bringing relative calm for the region for the first time in centuries.

These five powers were the maritime republics of Venice and Florence, whose naval powers dominated the east and west coast of the peninsula, respectively, the territorial powers of Milan and the Papal States, dominating the northern and central parts of Italy, respectively, and the Kingdom of Naples in the south.

The precarious balance between these powers came to an end in 1494 as the duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza sought the aid of Charles VIII of France against Venice, triggering the Italian War of 1494–98. As a result, Italy became a battleground of the great European powers for the next sixty years, finally culminating in the Italian War of 1551–59, which concluded with Habsburg Spain as the dominant power in Italy. The House of Habsburg would control Italy for the duration of the early modern period, until Napoleon's invasion of Italy in 1796.


The Kalbids were a Muslim Arab dynasty in Sicily, which ruled from 948 to 1053.

In 827, in the midst of internal Byzantine conflict, the Aghlabids arrived at Marsala in Sicily, with a fleet of 10,000 men under the command of Asad ibn al-Furat. Palermo was conquered in 831 and became the new capital. Syracuse fell in 878 and in 902 the last Byzantine outpost, Taormina, was taken. At the same time various Muslim incursions into southern Italy occurred, with new Emirates being founded in Taranto and Bari. During this period there were constant power struggles amongst the Muslims. Nominally the island was under rule of the Aghlabids and later the Fatimids.

After successfully suppressing a revolt the Fatimid caliph appointed al-Hasan al-Kalbi (948–953) as Emir of Sicily, the first of the Kalbid dynasty. The Fatimids appointed the Kalbids as rulers via proxy before they shifted their capital from Ifriqiya to Cairo in 969. Raids into southern Italy continued under the Kalbids into the 11th century, and in 982 a German army under Otto II was defeated by Abu'l-Qasim in the Battle of Stilo near Crotone in Calabria. The dynasty began a steady period of decline with the Emirate of Yusuf al-Kalbi (990-998) who entrusted the island to his sons and created space for interference from the Zirids of Ifriqiya. Under al-Akhal (1017–1037) the dynastic conflict intensified, with factions allying themselves variously with Byzantium and the Zirids. Even though neither of these powers could establish themselves in Sicily permanently, under Hasan as-Samsam (1040–1053) the island fragmented into small fiefdoms. The Kalbids died out in 1053, and in 1061 the Normans of southern Italy arrived under Roger I of Sicily and began their conquest, which was completed in 1091. The Muslims were allowed to remain and played an important role in the administration, army and economy of the Norman kingdom until the 12th century.

Under the Kalbid dynasty, Sicily, and especially Palermo, was an important economic centre of the Mediterranean. The Muslims introduced lemons, Seville oranges and sugar cane, as well as cotton and mulberries for sericulture, and built irrigation systems for agriculture. Sicily was also an important hub for trade between the Near East, North Africa and the Italian maritime republics such as Amalfi, Pisa and Genoa.

List of Italian flags

This is a list of flags used in Italy. For more information about the national flag, visit the article Flag of Italy.

Mahdia campaign of 1087

The Mahdia campaign of 1087 was an attack on the North African town of Mahdia by armed ships from the northern Italian maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa. It had been prompted by the actions of the Zirid ruler Tamim ibn Muizz (reigned 1062–1108) as a pirate in waters off the Italian Peninsula, along with his involvement in Sicily fighting the Norman invasion. The attack was led by Hugh of Pisa, with military aid from Rome and the Genoese navy; the nobleman Pantaleone from Amalfi was also involved, and the whole endeavour had the backing of Matilda of Tuscany. It succeeded in capturing the city, but they could not hold it; the money from the plunder was spent on the cathedral at Pisa and to build a new church.

Crusade historian Carl Erdmann considers the raid a direct precursor to the First Crusade ("ganz als Kreuzzug ausgeführt") which occurred eight years later, as it was conducted under the banner of St. Peter against a Muslim ruler who was demonised in the accounts of it, and a form of indulgence was granted to the campaigners by Pope Victor III.

The main source of information for the campaigns is the Carmen in victoriam Pisanorum, written within months of it by a Pisan religious cleric.

Maritime nation

A maritime nation is any nation which borders the sea and is dependent on its use for majority of the following state activities: commerce and transport, war, to define a territorial boundary, or for any maritime activity (activities using the sea to convey or produce an end result).

Historically, the term has been used to refer to a thalassocracy such as Carthage and Phoenicia but during the medieval period increasingly became associated with the Maritime Republics of Venice, Pisa, Genoa, and Amalfi.


Noli (Italian: [ˈnɔːli]; Ligurian: Nöi [ˈnɔːi]) is a coast comune of Liguria, Italy, in the Province of Savona, it is about 50 kilometres (31 mi) southwest of Genoa by rail, about 4 metres (13 ft) above sea-level. The origin of the name may come from Neapolis, meaning "new city" in Greek.

Patrician (post-Roman Europe)

Patricianship, the quality of belonging to a patriciate, began in the ancient world, where cities such as Ancient Rome had a class of patrician families whose members were the only people allowed to exercise many political functions. In the rise of European towns in the 12th and 13th century, the patriciate, a limited group of families with a special constitutional position, in Henri Pirenne's view, was the motive force. In 19th century central Europe, the term had become synonymous with the upper Bourgeoisie and can't be compared with the medieval patriciate in Central Europe. In the German speaking parts of Europe as well as in the maritime republics of Italy, the patricians were as a matter of fact the ruling body of the medieval town and particularly in Italy part of the nobility.

With the establishment of the medieval towns, Italian city-states and maritime republics, the patriciate was a formally defined class of governing wealthy families. They were found in the Italian city states and maritime republics such as Venice, Pisa, Genoa and Amalfi and but also in many of the Free imperial cities of the Holy Roman Empire such as Nuremberg, Ravensburg, Augsburg, Konstanz, Lindau, Bern, Basel, Zurich and many more.

As in Ancient Rome, patrician status could generally only be inherited. However, membership in the patriciate could be passed on through the female line. For example, if the union was approved by her parents, the husband of patrician daughter was granted membership in the patrician society Zum Sünfzen of the Imperial Free City of Lindau as a matter of right, on the same terms as the younger son of a patrician male (i.e., upon payment of a nominal fee) even if the husband was otherwise deemed socially ineligible. Accession to a patriciate through this mechanism was referred to as "erweibern."In any case, only male patricians could hold, or participate in elections for, most political offices. Often, as in Venice, non-patricians had almost no political rights. Lists were maintained of who had the status, of which the most famous is the Libro d'Oro (Golden Book) of the Venetian Republic. From the fall of the Hohenstaufen (1268) city-republics increasingly became principalities, like Milan and Verona, and the smaller ones were swallowed up by monarchical states or sometimes other republics, like Pisa and Siena by Florence, and any special role for the local patricians was restricted to municipal affairs. The few remaining patrician constitutions, notably those of Venice and Genoa, were swept away by the conquering French armies of the period after the French Revolution, although many patrician families remained socially and politically important, as some do to this day.

In the modern era the term "patrician" is also used broadly for the higher bourgeoisie (not to be equated with aristocracy) in many countries; in some countries it vaguely refers to the non-noble upper class, especially before the 20th century.


Pisa (; Italian: [ˈpiːza] (listen), locally also [ˈpiːsa]) is a city and comune in Tuscany, central Italy, straddling the Arno just before it empties into the Ligurian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its leaning tower (the bell tower of the city's cathedral), the city of over 91,104 residents (around 200,000 with the metropolitan area) contains more than 20 other historic churches, several medieval palaces, and various bridges across the Arno. Much of the city's architecture was financed from its history as one of the Italian maritime republics.

The city is also home of the University of Pisa, which has a history going back to the 12th century and also has the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, founded by Napoleon in 1810, and its offshoot, the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, as the best-sanctioned Superior Graduate Schools in Italy.

Pisan cross

The Pisan Cross is the symbol of Pisa.

It was the coat of arms of the people of Pisa: the symbol of the cross was granted, in fact, to Pisans by Pope Benedict VIII to fight Saracens in Sardinia in 1017.

The Pisan cross is technically described as with keys (or paws) and three spheres on every arm. Its symbolism is unknown; the cross itself may represent Christ, and the twelve spheres his Apostles.

Although the symbol of the Pisan cross dates to 1017, the oldest surviving representation is in the city walls, built in 1156 by counselor Cocco Griffi.

The city flag, red with the white cross on it, was officially recognized by Pope Callixtus II. In fact, originally the flag of Pisa was simply vermillion red, being derived from the Imperial Rome flag.

Nowadays the cross is still the symbol of the city of Pisa.

A red shield with the cross on it is the symbol of the Comune of Pisa.

It appears in the ensign of the Italian Navy along with the emblems of the other medieval Maritime Republics: Venice, Genoa and Amalfi.

Regatta of the Historical Marine Republics

The Regatta of the Historical Maritime Republics (or Palio of the Historical Maritime Republics) is a sporting event of historical re-enactment, established in 1955 with the aim of recalling the rivalry of the most famous Italian maritime republics: those of Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa and Venice, during which four rowing crews representing each of the republics compete against each other. This event, held under the patronage of the President of the Italian Republic, takes place every year on a day between the end of May and the beginning of July, and is hosted in rotation between these cities. The regatta is preceded by a historical procession, during which parade through the streets of the city organizing some figures that play the role of ancient characters that characterized each republic.

Republic of Genoa

The Republic of Genoa (Italian: Repubblica di Genova; Ligurian: Repúbrica de Zêna [ɾeˈpybɾika de ˈzeːna]; Latin: Res Publica Ianuensis) was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, incorporating Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean.

The republic began when Genoa became a self-governing commune within the imperial Kingdom of Italy, and ended when it was conquered by the French First Republic under Napoleon and replaced with the Ligurian Republic. Corsica was ceded to France in the Treaty of Versailles of 1768. The Ligurian Republic was annexed by the First French Empire in 1805; its restoration was briefly proclaimed in 1814 following the defeat of Napoleon, but it was ultimately annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1815.

Republic of Noli

The Republic of Noli was an Italian Maritime republic centered on the city of Noli that existed from 1192 to 1797. Present-day Noli is in Liguria, in the Province of Savona.

Republic of Pisa

The Republic of Pisa (Italian: Repubblica di Pisa) was a de facto independent state centered on the Tuscan city of Pisa during the late 10th and 11th centuries. It rose to become an economic powerhouse, a commercial center whose merchants dominated Mediterranean and Italian trade for a century before being surpassed and superseded by the Republic of Genoa. The power of Pisa as a mighty maritime nation began to grow and reached its apex in the 11th century when it acquired traditional fame as one of the four main historical Maritime Republics of Italy.

Republic of Venice

The Republic of Venice (Italian: Repubblica di Venezia; Venetian: Repùblica de Venèsia) or Venetian Republic (Italian: Repubblica Veneta; Venetian: Repùblica Vèneta), traditionally known as La Serenissima (English: Most Serene Republic of Venice; Italian: Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia; Venetian: Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta) was a sovereign state and maritime republic in northeastern Italy, which existed for over a millennium between the 7th century and the 18th century from 697 AD until 1797 AD. It was based in the lagoon communities of the historically prosperous city of Venice, and was a leading European economic and trading power during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

The Venetian city state was founded as a safe haven for the people escaping persecution in mainland Europe after the decline of the Roman Empire. In its early years, it prospered on the salt trade. In subsequent centuries, the city state established a thalassocracy. It dominated trade on the Mediterranean Sea, including commerce between Europe and North Africa, as well as Asia. The Venetian navy was used in the Crusades, most notably in the Fourth Crusade. Venice achieved territorial conquests along the Adriatic Sea. Venice became home to an extremely wealthy merchant class, who patronized renowned art and architecture along the city's lagoons. Venetian merchants were influential financiers in Europe. The city was also the birthplace of great European explorers, such as Marco Polo, as well as Baroque composers such as Vivaldi and Benedetto Marcello.

The republic was ruled by the Doge, who was elected by members of the Great Council of Venice, the city-state's parliament. The ruling class was an oligarchy of merchants and aristocrats. Venice and other Italian maritime republics played a key role in fostering capitalism. Venetian citizens generally supported the system of governance. The city-state enforced strict laws and employed ruthless tactics in its prisons.

The opening of new trade routes to the Americas and the East Indies via the Atlantic Ocean marked the beginning of Venice's decline as a powerful maritime republic. The city state suffered defeats from the navy of the Ottoman Empire. In 1797, the republic was plundered by retreating Austrian and then French forces, following an invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Republic of Venice was split into the Austrian Venetian Province, the Cisalpine Republic, a French client state, and the Ionian French departments of Greece. Venice became part of a unified Italy in the 19th century.

War of Saint Sabas

The War of Saint Sabas (1256–1270) was a conflict between the rival Italian maritime republics of Genoa (aided by Philip of Montfort, Lord of Tyre, John of Arsuf, and the Knights Hospitaller) and Venice (aided by the Count of Jaffa and Ascalon and the Knights Templar), over control of Acre, in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

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