The Venetian Empire: A Sea Voyage

The Venetian Empire: A Sea Voyage

Jan Morris

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 0151935041

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


For six centuries, the Republic of Venice was a maritime empire, its sovereign power extending throughout much of the eastern Mediterranean - an empire of coasts, islands and isolated fortresses by which, as Wordsworth wrote, the mercantile Venetians 'held the gorgeous east in fee'. Jan Morris reconstructs the whole of this glittering dominion in the form of a sea-voyage, travelling along the historic Venetian trade routes from Venice itself to Greece, Crete and Cyprus. It is a traveller's book, geographically arranged but wandering at will from the past to the present, evoking not only contemporary landscapes and sensations but also the characters, the emotions and the tumultuous events of the past. The first such work ever written about the Venetian 'Stato da Mar', it is an invaluable historical companion for visitors to Venice itself and for travellers through the lands the Doges once ruled.

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geographical wonders of Europe, a gloomy defile ten miles long, 1,800 feet deep and sometimes only ten feet wide, silent but for the sheep-bells, the clatter of falling stones and the shrieks of raucous birds – even in the depths of this unnerving phenomenon there stands, deserted now except for the passing trekkers, the Venetian hamlet of Santa Maria which gave the declivity its name. Some of their monuments are great fun, oddly enough, and bring a rare touch of gaiety to the sombre Cretan

the Campanile in the Piazza San Marco. The Aegean was almost all theirs, and so was Cyprus. But they had been thwarted in their attempts to gain complete sea-control of the Mediterranean. In 1537 they had failed to take Corfu. In 1565 they had been driven away from Malta. In 1571 they were beaten by the Christian fleet in the great sea-battle of Lepanto. They came to see the island of Crete, lying there massively athwart the sea-routes from Constantinople, as a maddening obstacle to their

the lower town and from the mainland, laboriously climbing that track through the scarred old Kastro gate. Candles burn always beneath its dome, dimly illuminating the mosaics all around: on one wall there hangs a modern picture of the original Santa Sophia, restored to all its Christian glory by the artist’s wishful fancy, overflown by the Virgin Mary, and surrounded by all those columns, statues, obelisks and memorials of The City to whose destruction Dandolo and his Venetians so long ago

exacerbated all the other differences, and many grudges were now cherished between the ageing despotism on the one side, the agile and ambitious republic on the other. The Venetians resented the continuing condescension of the Byzantine emperors, who tended to treat the Doges as their feudatories still, airily granting or withdrawing favours. The Byzantines disliked the Venetians for their fierce competitive powers, the hauteur with which they conducted themselves, even in Constantinople, and

Fourth Crusade, though the Venetians were already commercially powerful in the eastern Mediterranean, their overseas territories were limited to scattered seaports on the coast of Dalmatia. The Crusade gave them a string of fortresses, islands and seaports in and around the Aegean and made them an imperial Power. 1386 Venice acquires Corfu 1388 1420 Venice acquires Nauplia Venetian control of Dalmatia confirmed The defeat of their rivals, the Genoese, in home waters gave the Venetians extra

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