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A Brief History of Venice

Grand Canal, Venice (1760) by Francesco Guardi
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A Brief History of Venice

  • The Early Years: Early Settlements and Rise of Venice
    • Settlers first fled into the Venetian Lagoon some 1,500 years ago, when barbarians attacked the Roman towns of the Veneto. The island settlements soon formed an alliance, their bonds gradually strengthening and culminating in the joint election of their first leader, or doge, in 697 AD. Venice’s merchants quickly became the world’s wealthest, importing the finest spices, fabrics, and wares from the east; fattening the city’s coffers; and inspiring young Ventians such as Marco Polo to even greater exploits. With its wealth grew envy, and with envy, enemies; yet Venice protected herself. The Venetians sacked Constantinople in 1204 and, after a 127-year war, won dominance over Genoa, the city’s primary competition in Mediterranean trade.

  • The Decline of Venice and Union with Italy
    • The height of Venetian empirical power peaked during the 15th century, yet her party-town reputation continued, and at one point during the 16th century a local tourist guidebook boasted 11,654 registered prostitutes. So, although Venice’s power had faded, her stowed riches carried her grandly through 1791, when the last Venetian doge abdicated power to Napoleon. The city was tossed back and forth between Vienna and Italy, finally joining the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.

  • Venice Today
    • Tourism grew in the 19th century, yet the city saw a drastic population exodus, as its residents left in search of greater economic opportunity – a trend that continues alarmingly. Today, the city that once claimed over 174,000 residents now has just 64,000.

    Last updated March 26, 2012
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