BATTLE OF LEPANTO, REPUBLIC OF VENICE

The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of southern European Catholic maritime states, decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire in five hours of fighting on the northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth, off western Greece. The Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto met the Holy League forces, which came from Messina, Sicily, where they had previously gathered. The victory of the Holy League prevented the Ottoman Empire expanding further along the European side of the Mediterranean. Lepanto was the last major naval battle in the Mediterranean fought entirely between galleys and has been assigned great symbolic importance by Catholic and other historians.

Background

The Christian coalition had been promoted by Pope Pius V to rescue the Venetian colony of Famagusta, on the island of Cyprus, which was being besieged by the Turks in early 1571 subsequent to the fall of Nicosia and other Venetian possessions in Cyprus in the course of 1570. The banner for the fleet, blessed by the pope, reached the Kingdom of Naples (then ruled by the King of Spain) on 14 August 1571. There, in the Basilica of Santa Chiara, it was solemnly consigned to John of Austria, who had been named leader of the coalition after long discussions between the allies. The fleet moved to Sicily and leaving Messina reached (after several stops) the port of Viscardo in Cephalonia, where news arrived of the fall of Famagusta and of the torture inflicted by the Turks on the Venetian commander of the fortress, Marco Antonio Bragadin. On 1 August, the Venetians had surrendered after being reassured that they could leave Cyprus freely. However, the Ottoman commander, Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha, who had lost some 52,000 men in the siege (including his son), broke his word, imprisoning the Venetians. On 17 August, Bragadin was flayed alive and his corpse hung on Mustafa's galley together with the heads of the Venetian commanders, Astorre Baglioni, Alvise Martinengo and Gianantonio Querini. Despite bad weather, the Christian ships sailed south and, on 6 October, they reached the port of Sami, Cephalonia (then also called Val d'Alessandria), where they remained for a while. On 7 October, they sailed toward the Gulf of Patras, where they encountered the Ottoman fleet. While neither fleet had immediate strategic resources or objectives in the gulf, both chose to engage. The Ottoman fleet had an express order from the Sultan to fight, and John of Austria found it necessary to attack in order to maintain the integrity of the expedition in the face of personal and political disagreements within the Holy League.Glete, Jan: Warfare at Sea, 1500-1650: Maritime Conflicts and the Transformation of Europe. .

Forces

The members of the Holy League were Spain (including the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Sardinia as part of the Spanish possessions), the Republic of Venice, the Papal States, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Duchy of Urbino, the Knights Hospitaller and others. Its fleet consisted of 206 galleys and 6 galleasses (large new galleys, invented by the Venetians, which carried substantial artillery) and was commanded by Don John of Austria, the illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles I of Spain and V of the Holy Roman Empire, and half-brother of Philip II of Spain, supported by the Spanish commanders Don Luis de Requesens and Don Álvaro de Bazán, and Genoan commander Gianandrea Doria. Vessels had been contributed by the various Christian states: 109 galleys and 6 galleasses from the Republic of Venice, 81 galleys and 20 sailing ships from the Spanish Empire (30 galleys from the Kingdom of Naples, 14 galleys from Spain, 10 galleys from the Kingdom of Sicily and the remaining from private contractors,. which also provided 40 frigates and brigantines, Herrera, Fernando de: Relacion. Sevilla 27 galleys from the Republic of Genoa (partly financed by Spain), 7 galleys from the Pope, 5 galleys of the Order of Saint Stephen from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, 3 galleys each from the Duchy of Savoy and the Knights of Malta, and some privately owned galleys in Spanish service. All members of the alliance viewed the Ottoman navy as a significant threat, both to the security of maritime trade in the Mediterranean Sea and to the security of continental Europe itself. Spain was the largest financial contributor, though the Spaniards preferred to preserve most of their galleys for Spain's own wars against the nearby sultanates of the Barbary Coast rather than expend its naval strength for the benefit of Venice.  The various Christian contingents met the main force, that of Venice (under Venier), in July and August 1571 at Messina, Sicily. John of Austria arrived on 23 August. This fleet of the Christian alliance was manned by 40,000 sailors and oarsmen. In addition, it carried almost 28,000 fighting troops: 10,000 Spanish regular infantry of excellent quality, 7,000 Germans and Croatians and 5,000 Italian mercenaries in Spanish pay. and 5,000 Venetian soldiers. Also, Venetian oarsmen were mainly free citizens and were able to bear arms adding to the fighting power of their ship, whereas convicts were used to row many of the galleys in other Holy League squadrons.

Many of the galleys in the Ottoman fleet were also rowed by slaves, often Christians who had been captured in previous conquests and engagements. Free oarsmen were generally acknowledged to be superior by all combatants, but were gradually replaced in all galley fleets (including those of Venice from 1549) during the 16th century by cheaper slaves, convicts and prisoners-of-war owing to rapidly rising costs.The first regularly sanctioned use of convicts as oarsmen on Venetian galleys did not occur until 1549.cites a squadron of 41 Ottoman galleys in 1556 of which the flagship and two others were rowed by Azabs, salaried volunteer light infantrymen, three were rowed by slaves, and the remaining 36 were rowed by salaried mercenary Greek oarsmen. The Ottoman galleys were manned by 13,000 experienced sailors—generally drawn from the maritime nations of the Ottoman Empire, namely Berbers, Greeks, Syrians, and Egyptians—and 34,000 soldiers.  Ali Pasha, the Ottoman admiral ( Kapudan-i Derya), supported by the corsairs Mehmed Siroco of Alexandria . Ali, commanded an Ottoman force of 222 war galleys, 56 galliots, and some smaller vessels. The Turks had skilled and experienced crews of sailors but were significantly deficient in their elite corps of Janissaries. The number of oarsmen was about 37,000, virtually all of them slaves. An advantage for the Christians was their numerical superiority in guns and cannon aboard their ships, as well as the superior quality of the Spanish infantry. It is estimated that the Christians had 1,815 guns, while the Turks had only 750 with insufficient ammunition. The Christians embarked with their much improved arquebusier and musketeer forces, while the Ottomans trusted in their greatly feared composite bowmen.

Deployment

The Christian fleet formed up in four divisions in a north-south line. At the northern end, closest to the coast, was the Left Division of 53 galleys, mainly Venetian, led by Agostino Barbarigo (admiral), with Marco Querini and Antonio da Canale in support. The Centre Division consisted of 62 galleys under John of Austria himself in his Real, along with Sebastiano Venier, later Doge of Venice, Mathurin Romegas and Marcantonio Colonna. The Right Division to the south consisted of another 53 galleys under the Genoese Giovanni Andrea Doria, great-nephew of admiral Andrea Doria. Two galleasses, which had side-mounted cannon, were positioned in front of each main division, for the purpose, according to Miguel de Cervantes (who served on the galley Marquesa during the battle), of preventing the Turks from sneaking in small boats and sapping, sabotaging or boarding the Christian vessels. A Reserve Division was stationed behind (that is, to the west of) the main fleet, to lend support wherever it might be needed. This reserve division consisted of 38 galleys - 30 behind the Centre Division commanded by Álvaro de Bazán, and four behind each wing. A scouting group was formed, from two Right Wing and six Reserve Division galleys. As the Christian fleet was slowly turning around Point Scropha, Doria's Right Division, at the off-shore side, was delayed at the start of the battle and the Right's galleasses did not get into position. The Ottoman fleet consisted of 57 galleys and 2 galliots on its Right under Mehmed Siroco, 61 galleys and 32 galliots in the Centre under Ali Pasha in the Sultana, and about 63 galleys and 30 galliots in the South off-shore under Uluç Ali. A small reserve existed of 8 galleys, 22 galliots and 64 fustas, behind the Centre body. Ali Pasha is supposed to have told his Christian galley-slaves: "If I win the battle, I promise you your liberty. If the day is yours, then God has given it to you." John of Austria, more laconically, warned his crew: "There is no paradise for cowards."

The battle

The left and centre galleasses had been towed half a mile ahead of the Christian line. When the battle started, the Turks mistook the galleasses for merchant supply vessels and set out to attack them. This proved to be disastrous; with their many guns, the galleasses alone were said to have sunk up to 70 Ottoman galleys before the Ottoman fleet left them behind. Their attacks also disrupted the Ottoman formations. As the battle started, Doria found that Uluç Ali's galleys extended further to the south than his own, and so headed south to avoid being outflanked, instead of holding the Christian line. After the battle Doria was accused of having maneuvered his fleet away from the bulk of the battle to avoid taking damage and casualties. Regardless, he ended up being outmaneuvered by Uluç Ali, who turned back and attacked the southern end of the Centre Division, taking advantage of the big gap that Doria had left. In the north, Mehmed Siroco had managed to get between the shore and the Christian North Division, with six galleys in an outflanking move, and initially the Christian fleet suffered. Commander Barbarigo was killed by an arrow, but the Venetians, turning to face the threat, held their line. The return of a galleass saved the Christian North Division. The Christian Centre also held the line with the help of the Reserve, after taking a great deal of damage, and caused great damage to the Muslim Centre. In the south, off-shore side, Doria was engaged in a melee with Uluç Ali's ships, taking the worse part. Meanwhile Uluç Ali himself commanded 16 galleys in a fast attack on the Christian Centre, taking six galleys—amongst them the Maltese Capitana, killing all but three men on board. Its commander, Pietro Giustiniani, Prior to the Order of St. John, was severely wounded by five arrows, but was found alive in his cabin. The intervention of the Spaniards Álvaro de Bazán and Juan de Cardona with the reserve turned the battle, both in the Centre and in Doria's South Wing. Uluç Ali was forced to flee with 16 galleys and 24 galliots, abandoning all but one of his captures.

During the course of the battle, the Ottoman Commander's ship was boarded and the Spanish tercios from 3 galleys and the Ottoman Janissaries from seven galleys fought on the deck of the Sultana.A flag taken at Lepanto by the Knights of the Order of Saint Stephen, and traditionally said to be the standard of the Turkish commander, is still in display, together with other Turkish flags, in the Church of the seat of the Order in Pisa. link, link (in Italian) Twice the Spanish were repelled with heavy casualties, but at the third attempt, with reinforcements from Álvaro de Bazán's galley, they took the ship. Müezzinzade Ali Pasha was killed and beheaded, against the wishes of Don Juan. However, when his severed head was displayed on a pike from the Spanish flagship, it contributed greatly to the destruction of Turkish morale. Even after the battle had clearly turned against the Turks, groups of Janissaries still kept fighting with all they had. It is said that at some point the Janissaries ran out of weapons and started throwing oranges and lemons at their Christian adversaries, leading to awkward scenes of laughter among the general misery of battle.Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution, pp. 87—88 The battle concluded around 4 pm. The Ottoman fleet suffered the loss of about 210 ships—of which 117 galleys, 10 galliots and three fustas were captured and in good enough condition for the Christians to keep. On the Christian side 20 galleys were destroyed and 30 were damaged so seriously that they had to be scuttled. One Venetian galley was the only prize kept by the Turks; all others were abandoned by them and recaptured. Uluç Ali, who had captured the flagship of the Maltese Knights, succeeded in extricating most of his ships from the battle when defeat was certain. Although he had cut the tow on the Maltese flagship in order to get away, he sailed to Constantinople, gathering up other Ottoman ships along the way and finally arriving there with 87 vessels. He presented the huge Maltese flag to Sultan Selim II who thereupon bestowed upon him the honorary title of "kιlιç" (Sword); Uluç thus became known as Kılıç Ali Pasha. The Holy League had suffered around 7,500 soldiers, sailors and rowers dead, but freed about as many Christian prisoners. Ottoman casualties were around 15,000, and at least 3,500 were captured.

Aftermath

The engagement was a significant defeat for the Ottomans, who had not lost a major naval battle since the fifteenth century. The defeat was mourned by them as an act of Divine Will, contemporary chronicles recording that "the Imperial Fleet encountered the fleet of the wretched infidels and the will of God turned another way."  To half of Christendom, this event encouraged hope for the downfall of "the Turk", the Satan-like personification of the Ottoman Empire, who was regarded as the " Enemy of the Christian". Indeed, the Empire lost all but 30 of its ships and as many as 30,000 men, and some Western historians have held it to be the most decisive naval battle anywhere on the globe since the Battle of Actium of 31 BC. Despite the decisive defeat, the Ottoman Empire rebuilt its navy with a massive effort, by largely imitating the successful Venetian galeasses, in a very short time. By 1572, about six months after the defeat, more than 150 galleys and 8 galleasses, in total 250 ships had been built, including eight of the largest capital ships ever seen in the Mediterranean.J. Norwich, A History of Venice, 490 With this new fleet the Ottoman Empire was able to reassert its supremacy in the Eastern Mediterranean.L. Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire, 272 On 7 March 1573 the Venetians thus recognized by treaty the Ottoman possession of Cyprus, whose last Venetian possession, Famagosta, had fallen to the Turks under Piyale Pasha on 3 August 1571, just two months before Lepanto, and remained Turkish for the next three centuries, and that summer the Ottoman Navy attacked the geographically vulnerable coasts of Sicily and southern Italy. Sultan Selim II's Chief Minister, the Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokullu, argued to the Venetian emissary Marcantonio Barbaro that the Christian triumph at Lepanto caused no lasting harm to the Ottoman Empire, while the capture of Cyprus by the Ottomans in the same year was a significant blow, saying that: Numerous historians pointed out the historical importance of the battle and how it served as a turning point in history.

For instance, it is argued that while the ships were relatively easily replaced, A History of Warfare, Keegan, John, Vintage, 1993 it proved much harder to man them, since so many experienced sailors, oarsmen and soldiers had been lost. The loss of so many of its experienced sailors at Lepanto sapped the fighting effectiveness of the Ottoman navy, a fact emphasized by its avoidance of major confrontations with Christian navies in the years following the battle. Other historians have suggested that the reason for the Turks being contained at the time had less to do with the battle of Lepanto than the fact that they had to contend with a series of wars with Persia, a strong military power at the time. After 1580, the discouraged Ottomans left the fleet to rot in the waters of the Golden Horn.Roger Crowley, "Empires of the Sea: The siege of Malta, the battle of Lepanto and the contest for the center of the world", publisher Random House, 2008, p287 Especially critical was the loss of most of the caliphate's composite bowmen, which, far beyond ship rams and early firearms, were the Ottomans' main embarked weapon. US historian John F. Guilmartin noted that the losses in this highly specialized class of warrior were irreplaceable in a generation.Guilmartin (1974) Paul K. Davis has also stated that: The victory for the Holy League was historically important not only because the Turks lost over 200 ships and 30,000 men killed (not including 12,000 Christian galley slaves who were freed), but because the victory heralded the end of Turkish supremacy in the Mediterranean. However, in 1574, the Ottomans retook the strategic city of Tunis from the Spanish-supported Hafsid dynasty, which had been re-installed after John of Austria's forces reconquered the city from the Ottomans the year before. Thanks to the long-standing Franco-Ottoman alliance, the Ottomans were able to resume naval activity in the western Mediterranean. In 1576, the Ottomans assisted in Abdul Malik's capture of Fez – this reinforced the Ottoman indirect conquests in Morocco that had begun under Süleyman the Magnificent. The establishment of Ottoman suzerainty over the area placed the entire southern coast of the Mediterranean from the Straits of Gibraltar to Greece under Ottoman authority, with the exceptions of the Spanish-controlled trading city of Oran and strategic settlements such as Melilla and Ceuta.

By 1796, the Republic of Venice could no longer defend itself since its war fleet numbered only four galleys and seven galliots. In spring 1796, Piedmont fell and the Austrians were beaten from Montenotte to Lodi. The army under Bonaparte crossed the frontiers of neutral Venice in pursuit of the enemy. By the end of the year the French troops were occupying the Venetian state up to the Adige. Vicenza, Cadore and Friuli were held by the Austrians.

With the campaigns of the next year, Napoleon aimed for the Austrian possessions across the Alps. In the preliminaries to the Peace of Leoben, the terms of which remained secret, the Austrians were to take the Venetian possessions in the Balkans as the price of peace (18 April 1797), while France required the Lombard part of the State. After Napoleon's ultimatum, Doge Ludovico Manin surrendered unconditionally on 12 May, and abdicated himself, while the Major Council declared the end of the Republic. According to Bonaparte's orders, the public powers passed to a Provisional Municipality under the French Military Governor. On 17 October, France and Austria signed the Treaty of Campo Formio, according the sharing of all the territory of the ancient republic, with a new border just west of the Adige River. Italian democrats, especially poet Ugo Foscolo, viewed the treaty as a betrayal. The metropolitan part of the disbanded republic became an Austrian territory, under the name of Venetian Province (Provincia Veneta in Italian, Venedig Provinz in German).

In the early 15th century, the Venetians also began to expand in Italy, as well as along the Dalmatian coast from Istria to Albania, which was acquired from King Ladislaus of Naples during the civil war in Hungary. Ladislaus was about to lose the conflict and had decided to escape to Naples, but before doing so he agreed to sell his now practically forfeit rights on the Dalmatian cities for a meager sum of 100,000 ducats.

Francesco Foscari - Doge from 1423-1457 Venice exploited the situation and quickly installed nobility to govern the area, for example, Count Filippo Stipanov in Zadar. This move by the Venetians was a response to the threatening expansion of Giangaleazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan. Control over the north-east main land routes was also a necessity for the safety of the trades. By 1410, Venice had a navy of 3,300 ships (manned by 36,000 men) and taken over most of Venetia, including such important cities as Verona (which swore its loyalty in the Devotion of Verona to Venice in 1405) and Padua.

The situation in Dalmatia had been settled in 1408 by a truce with King Sigismund of Hungary but the difficulties of Hungary finally granted to the Republic the consolidation of its Adriatic dominions. At the expiration of the truce, Venice immediately invaded the Patriarchate of Aquileia, and subjected Traù, Spalato, Durazzo and other Dalmatian cities. Slaves were plentiful in the Italian city-states as late as the 15th century. Between 1414 and 1423, some 10,000 slaves were sold in Venice, almost all of whom were "nubile" young women from the Balkans. How Welcome In February 1489, the island of Cyprus, previously a crusader state (the Kingdom of Cyprus), was annexed to Venice.

League of Cambrai, the loss of Cyprus, and Battle of Lepanto

The Ottoman Empire started sea campaigns as early as 1423, when it waged a seven-year war with the Venetian Republic over maritime control of the Aegean, the Ionian, and the Adriatic Seas. The wars with Venice resumed in 1463 until a favorable peace treaty was signed in 1479 just after the troublesome siege of Shkodra. In 1480 (now no longer hampered by the Venetian fleet), the Ottomans besieged Rhodes and briefly captured Otranto. By 1490, the population of Venice had risen to about 180,000 people.J. J. Norwich, A History of Venice, p. 494. War with the Ottomans resumed from 1499 to 1503.

In 1499, Venice allied itself with Louis XII of France against Milan, gaining Cremona. In the same year, the Ottoman sultan moved to attack Lepanto by land, and sent a large fleet to support his offensive by sea. Antonio Grimani, more a businessman and diplomat than a sailor, was defeated in the sea battle of Zonchio in 1499. The Turks once again sacked Friuli. Preferring peace to total war both against the Turks and by sea, Venice surrendered the bases of Lepanto, Durazzo, Modon and Coron.

Venice's attention was diverted from its usual maritime position by the delicate situation in Romagna, then one of the richest lands in Italy, which was nominally part of the Papal States but effectively divided into a series of small lordships which were difficult for Rome's troops to control. Eager to take some of Venice's lands, all neighbouring powers joined in the League of Cambrai in 1508, under the leadership of Pope Julius II. The pope wanted Romagna; Emperor Maximilian I: Friuli and Veneto; Spain: the Apulian ports; the king of France: Cremona; the king of Hungary: Dalmatia, and each of the others some part. The offensive against the huge army enlisted by Venice was launched from France. in Nafplion, Greece, one of many forts that secured Venetian trade routes in the Eastern Mediterranean.

On 14 May 1509, Venice was crushingly defeated at the battle of Agnadello, in the Ghiara d'Adda, marking one of the most delicate points in Venetian history. French and imperial troops were occupying Veneto, but Venice managed to extricate itself through diplomatic efforts. The Apulian ports were ceded in order to come to terms with Spain, and pope Julius II soon recognized the danger brought by the eventual destruction of Venice (then the only Italian power able to face kingdoms like France or empires like the Ottomans). The citizens of the mainland rose to the cry of "Marco, Marco", and Andrea Gritti recaptured Padua in July 1509, successfully defending it against the besieging imperial troops. Spain and the pope broke off their alliance with France, and Venice regained Brescia and Verona from France also. After seven years of ruinous war, the Serenissima regained its mainland dominions west to the Adda river. Although the defeat had turned into a victory, the events of 1509 marked the end of the Venetian expansion.

In 1489, the first year of Venetian control of Cyprus, Turks attacked the Karpasia Peninsula, pillaging and taking captives to be sold into slavery. In 1539 the Turkish fleet attacked and destroyed Limassol. Fearing the ever-expanding Ottoman Empire, the Venetians had fortified Famagusta, Nicosia, and Kyrenia, but most other cities were easy prey. By 1563, the population of Venice had dropped to about 168,000 people. In the summer of 1570, the Turks struck again, but this time with a full-scale invasion rather than a raid. About 60,000 troops, including cavalry and artillery, under the command of Mustafa Pasha landed unopposed near Limassol on 2 July 1570, and laid siege to Nicosia. In an victory on the day that the city fell – 9 September 1570 – 20,000 Nicosians were put to death, and every church, public building, and palace was looted. Word of the massacre spread, and a few days later Mustafa took Kyrenia without having to fire a shot. Famagusta, however, resisted and put up a heroic defense that lasted from September 1570 until August 1571.

The fall of Famagusta marked the beginning of the Ottoman period in Cyprus. Two months later, the naval forces of the Holy League, composed mainly of Venetian, Spanish, and Papal ships under the command of Don John of Austria, defeated the Turkish fleet at Battle of Lepanto. The victory over the Turks, however, came too late to help Cyprus, and the island remained under Ottoman rule for the next three centuries. By 1575, the population of Venice was about 175,000 people, but partly as a result of the plague of 1575–76 dropped to 124,000 people by 1581.

In 1606, a conflict between Venice and the Holy See began with the arrest of two clerics accused of petty crimes, and with a law restricting the Church's right to enjoy and acquire landed property. Pope Paul V held that these provisions were contrary to canon law, and demanded that they be repealed. When this was refused, he placed Venice under an interdict. The Republic paid no attention to the interdict or the act of excommunication, and ordered its priests to carry out their ministry. It was supported in its decisions by the Servite monk Paolo Sarpi, a sharp polemical writer who was nominated to be the Signoria's adviser on theology and canon law in 1606. The interdict was lifted after a year, when France intervened and proposed a formula of compromise. Venice was satisfied with reaffirming the principle that no citizen was superior to the normal processes of law.

The latter half of the 17th century saw also prolonged wars with the Ottoman Empire: in the Cretan War (1645–1669), after a heroic siege that lasted 24 years, Venice lost its major overseas possession, the island of Crete, while it made some advances in Dalmatia. In 1684 however, taking advantage of the Ottoman involvement against Austria in the Great Turkish War, the Republic initiated the Morean War, which lasted until 1699 and in which it was able to conquer the Morea peninsula in southern Greece.

The Decline of The Republic of Venice

These gains did not last, however: in December 1714, the Turks began the last Turkish–Venetian War, when the Morea was "without any of those supplies which are so desirable even in countries where aid is near at hand which are not liable to attack from the sea". The Turks took the islands of Tinos and Aegina, crossed the isthmus, and took Corinth. Daniele Dolfin, commander of the Venetian fleet, thought it better to save the fleet than risk it for the Morea. When he eventually arrived on the scene, Nauplia, Modon, Corone and Malvasia had fallen. Levkas in the Ionian islands, and the bases of Spinalonga and Suda on Crete which still remained in Venetian hands, were abandoned.

The Turks finally landed on Corfù, but its defenders managed to throw them back. In the meantime, the Turks had suffered a grave defeat by the Austrians in the Battle of Petrovaradin on 5 August 1716. Venetian naval efforts in the Aegean and the Dardanelles in 1717 and 1718, however, met with little success. With the Treaty of Passarowitz (21 July 1718), Austria made large territorial gains, but Venice lost the Morea, for which its small gains in Albania and Dalmatia were little compensation. This was the last war with the Ottoman Empire. By the year 1792, the once great Venetian merchant fleet had declined to a mere 309 merchantmen. The decline of Venice as a seaborne empire should not obscure the fact that the Republic remained in undisturbed possession of its vast and rich continental domain north of the Po valley extending west almost to the walls of Milan. Treviso, Vicenza, Padova, Verona, Brescia, Bergamo, not to mention Venice itself, benefited handsomely from the Pax Venetiae (Venetian peace) throughout the allegedly decadent 18th century.

The successors of Obelerio inherited a united Venice. By the Pax Nicephori (803), the two emperors had recognised that Venice belonged to the Byzantine sphere of influence. Many centuries later, the Venetians claimed that the treaty had recognised Venetian de facto independence, but the truth of this claim is doubted by modern scholars. A Byzantine fleet sailed to Venice in 807 and deposed the Doge, replacing him with a Byzantine governor. Nevertheless, during the reign of the Participazio family, Venice grew into its modern form.

Though Heraclean by birth, Agnello, the first Participazio doge, was an early immigrant to Rialto and his dogeship was marked by the expansion of Venice towards the sea via the construction of bridges, canals, bulwarks, fortifications, and stone buildings. The modern Venice, at one with the sea, was being born. Agnello was succeeded by his son Giustiniano, who stole the remains of Saint Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria, took them to Venice, and made him the Republic's patron saint. During the reign of the successor of the Participazio, Pietro Tradonico, Venice began to establish its military might which would influence many a later crusade and dominate the Adriatic for centuries. Tradonico secured the sea by fighting Slavic and Saracen pirates. Tradonico's reign was long and successful (837–64), but he was succeeded by the Participazio and it appeared that a dynasty may have finally been established. Around 841, the Republic of Venice sent a fleet of 60 galleys (each carrying 200 men) to assist the Byzantines in driving the Arabs from Crotone, but it failed. In 1000, Pietro II Orseolo sent a fleet of 6 ships to defeat the Narentine and Croatian pirates from Dalmatia.

Republic of Venice in the Late Middle Ages

Venice became extremely wealthy through its control of trade between Europe and the Levant, and it began to expand into the Adriatic Sea and beyond. In 1084, Domenico Selvo personally led a fleet against the Normans, but he was defeated and lost nine great galleys, the largest and most heavily armed ships in the Venetian war fleet. Venice was involved in the Crusades almost from the very beginning. Two hundred Venetian ships assisted in capturing the coastal cities of Syria after the First Crusade. In 1110, Ordelafo Faliero personally commanded a Venetian fleet of 100 ships to assist Baldwin I of Jerusalem and Sigurd I of Norway in capturing the city of Sidon. In 1123 they were granted virtual autonomy in the Kingdom of Jerusalem through the Pactum Warmundi.. The Venetians also gained extensive trading privileges in the Byzantine Empire during the 12th century, and their ships often provided the Empire with a navy. In 1182, a vicious anti-Western riot broke out in Constantinople targeting Latins, and Venetians in particular.

Many in the Empire had become jealous of Venetian power and influence, and thus when the pretender Andronikos I Komnenos marched on the city, Venetian property was seized and the owners imprisoned or banished, an act which humiliated and angered the Republic. In 1183, the city of Zara successfully rebelled against Venetian rule. The city then put itself under the dual protection of the Papacy and King Emeric of Hungary. The Dalmatians separated from Hungary by a treaty in 1199, and they paid Hungary with a portion of Macedonia. In 1201, the city of Zadar recognized Emeric as overlord. 

The leaders of the Fourth Crusade (1202-04) contracted with Venice to provide a fleet for transportation to the Levant. When the crusaders were unable to pay for the ships, Doge Enrico Dandolo offered transport if the crusaders were to capture Zara, which had proven too well fortified for Venice to retake alone. Upon the capture of Zara, the crusade was again diverted, this time to Constantinople to avenge the 1182 massacre. The capture and sacking of Constantinople has been described as one of the most profitable and disgraceful sacks of a city in history. The Venetians claimed much of the plunder, including the famous four bronze horses that were brought back to adorn St. Mark's basilica. Furthermore, in the subsequent partition of the Byzantine lands, Venice gained a great deal of territory in the Aegean Sea, amounting to three-eighths of the Byzantine Empire. This included the islands of Crete ( Candia) and Euboea ( Negroponte); the present core city of Chania on Crete.

The Aegean islands came to form the Venetian Duchy of the Archipelago. The Byzantine Empire would be re-established in 1261 by Michael VIII Palaiologos but never again recovered its previous power and was eventually conquered by the Ottoman Turks. The Republic of Venice signed a trade treaty with the Mongol Empire in 1221. In 1295, Pietro Gradenigo sent a fleet of 68 ships to attack a Genoese fleet at Alexandretta, then another fleet of 100 ships were sent to attack the Genoese in 1299. From 1350 to 1381, Venice fought an intermittent war with the Genoese. Initially defeated, they devastated the Genoese fleet at the Battle of Chioggia in 1380 and retained their prominent position in eastern Mediterranean affairs at the expense of Genoa's declining empire.

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