|Ruler:||Venice: Doge Pietro Gradinego|
|Reigned:||1289 AD - 1311 AD|
|Obverse:||St Mark and the Duke|
|Reverse:||Nibate Christ enthroned.|
The area around Venice was inhabited in ancient times by the Veneti. According to tradition, the city was founded in AD 452, when the inhabitants of Aquileia, Padua, and other northern Italian cities took refuge on the islands of the Rialto lagoon from the Teutonic tribes, including the Huns under attila, that invaded Italy during the 5th century. They established their own government, which was headed by tribunes for each of the 12 principal islands. Although nominally part of the Eastern Roman Empire, Venice was virtually autonomous. In 697 the Venetians organized Venice as a republic under an elected doge. Internal dissent disturbed the course of government during the following century, but the threat of foreign invasion united the Venetians. Attacks by Saracens in 836 and by the Hungarians in 900 were successfully repulsed. In 991 Venice signed a commercial treaty with the Saracens, initiating the Venetian policy of trading with the Muslims rather than fighting them. The Crusades and the resulting development of trade with Asia led to the establishment of Venice as the greatest commercial centre for trade with the East. The republic profited greatly from the partition of the Byzantine Empire in 1204 and became politically the strongest European power in the Mediterranean. In 1260, Venetian merchants Niccolo and Maffeo Polo visited China and returned there in 1271 with Niccolo's son, Marco, who stayed there until 1295. The growth of a wealthy aristocracy gave rise to an attempt by the nobles to acquire political dominance, and, although nominally a republic, Venice became a rigid oligarchy by the end of the 13th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries Venice was involved in a series of wars with Genoa, its chief commercial rival. In the war of 1378-1381, Genoa was compelled to acknowledge Venetian supremacy. Wars of conquest enabled Venice to acquire neighbouring territories, and by the late 15th century the city-state was the leading maritime power in the Christian world.
Back to main page