travellerskey, endeavour to unlock your travel needs          



Package Deals






World > Europe > Italy> Venice City Information

History of venice

The bloody barbarian invasions of the 5th and 6th centuries AD obliged people of the Roman Veneto towns and along the Adriatic to flee to the marshy islands of the Venetian lagoon.

In the 6th century, the islands began to form a loose federation, with each community electing representatives to a central authority, although its leaders were under the sway of Byzantine rulers in Ravenna. Byzantium’s hold over Italy weakened in the early 8th century and in AD 726 the people of Venice elected their first doge (duke), whose successors would lead the city for more than 1000 years.

By the late 11th century, Venice was a Mediterranean merchant power, prospering from the chaos caused by the First Crusade in 1095. At the beginning of the 13th century, under Doge Enrico Dandolo, Venice led the Fourth Crusade on a devastating detour to Constantinople. Venice not only kept most of the treasures plundered from that great metropolis, it also retained most of the territories won during the crusade, consolidating its maritime might in the Eastern Mediterranean. In 1271, the young Venetian merchant Marco Polo set out with his father and uncle on an overland trip to China, returning by sea more than 20 years later. Their adventure was symbolic of the enterprising spirit of Venice.

During much of the 13th and 14th centuries the Venetians struggled with Genoa for supremacy at sea, a tussle that culminated in Genoa’s defeat in 1380 during an epic siege at Chioggia. The Venetians then turned their attentions to the mainland, absorbing most of the Veneto and portions of what are now Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna.

Worse still in the long term, the discovery of the Americas in 1492 and the rounding of Africa’s Cape of Good Hope in 1498 by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama opened up new trade routes that would eventually supplant the Mediterranean and allow European importers to avoid Venetian taxes and duties.

Even so, Venice long remained a formidable power. The dogi, the Signoria (a council of 10 high ministers that effectively constituted the executive arm of government) and, later, the much feared judicial Consiglio dei Dieci (Council of Ten) ruled with an iron fist. They headed a complex system of councils and government committees, of which the Maggior Consiglio (Great Council) was the equivalent of parliament. The doge, an elected leader, was the head of state and generally the most powerful individual in government, but a complex set of checks and balances limited his power and ensured that Venice was ruled by a tightknit oligarchy. A decree in 1297 virtually closed off membership of the Maggior Consiglio to all but the most established patriarchal families. In all, Venetian government was among the most stable and, in a narrow sense, democratic in Italy and, for that matter, most of Europe.

For security reasons, Venetians were encouraged to spy on each other wherever the Venetian Republic had an interest. Acts considered detrimental to the state were punished swiftly. Trials were rarely public but executions commonly so – the classic location was between the columns bearing the statues of the Lion of St Mark and St Theodore on Piazzetta San Marco. On occasion, though, a body would just turn up on the street as a potent example to other potentially wayward citizens.

Venice was remarkably cosmopolitan, its commerce attracting people of all nationalities, from Parisians to Persians. And although Venice limited the activities of its Jewish community, which it concentrated in what was one of Europe’s earliest ghettos, it did nothing to stifle Judaism. Similarly, the Armenians were permitted religious freedom for centuries and were given protection during the infamous Inquisition. That Muslim Turkish traders were granted use of a fondaco (major commercial building) in Venice was little short of astounding.

 1797 the Maggior Consiglio meekly opened the city’s gates to Napoleon, who in turn handed Venice over to the Austrians. The movement for Italian unification spread quickly through the Veneto and, after several rebellions, Venice was united with the nascent Kingdom of Italy in 1866. The city was bombed during WWI but suffered only minor damage during WWII, when most attacks were aimed at the neighbouring industrial zones of Mestre and Porto Marghera.

The city’s prestige as a tourist destination grew during the 19th century as it was surpassed as a trade port by Trieste. Today, Venice’s modest permanent population (a third of what it was in the 1950s) is swollen by up to 20 million visitors each year, two-thirds of them day-trippers.

History of Venice

Hotels in Venice
Venice sightseeing Venice excursions
Venice Transport Services How to reach Venice
Shopping in Venice Entertainment in Venice
Venice Weather Venice Travel Tips



for queries and suggetions please mail us at
© Copyright  All rights Reserved.