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Venice Italy History

The exact time of the foundation of Venice is unknown; probably it was initially populated with Roman refugees from Padua, Aquileia, Altino and other cities of the region. Its rise began in VI-VII centuries, after the decay of Roman Empire, when the principal administrative centers were transferred to the remaining dominion. Two big seaports were built, including those at Malamocco and Torcello. Later the territory fell under Byzantine domination, which left profound impact on the development of architecture and culture. In IX-XII centuries the city turned into a thriving naval trade center. Its strategic position at the head of the Adriatic made Venetian naval and commercial power almost invulnerable. It controlled main trade routes between Europe, Byzantine Empire and Islamic East. It developed into a thalassocratic city state, Repubblica Marinara, and seized the Eastern shores of the Adriatic before 1200, mainly to suppress piracy, based there. Later it gained control on many Adriatic and Aegean islands, partly over Alpine trade routes.

 It became an imperial power during the Crusades, when it was able to dictate its will to Europe, menacing to block the only convenient transport route to the Middle East. It dominated Mediterranean trade, operating 3,300 ships with 36,000 sailors. After the conquest of Constantinople, under Venetian control and a complicated scheme of plots, is seized innumerable riches, including the Winged Lion of St. Mark, which became the city’s symbol. Rich merchants supported the creative work of famous artists, converting the city into one of the main Renaissance centres. The city was governed by the Great Council, which was made up of members of the most influential families in Venice. The Great Council appointed all public officials and elected a Senate of 200 to 300 individuals. The Senate then chose the Council of Ten, a secretive group which held the utmost power. One member of the great council was elected "doge", or duke, the ceremonial head of the city. The system somewhat resembled of ancient Roman republic.

The Republic lost its independence in 1797, conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte. It fell into the severe decline, many palaces were abandoned. In 1866 it became the part of Italy. Later Venice gained popularity as recreational and tourist centre.

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