The Republic of Venice was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over 1000 years, from the late 7th century until 1797. Despite its long history of war and conquest, the Republic's modern reputation is chiefly based on its status as an economic and trading power. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice or as it is often referred to as La Serenissima.
The city of Venice originated as a collection of lagoon communities banded together for mutual defence from the Lombards, Huns, and other invading peoples as the power of the Western Roman Empire dwindled in northern Italy. At some point in the first decades of the 8th century, the people of the Byzantine province of Venice elected their first leader Ursus (or Orso Ipato), who was confirmed by Constantinople and given the titles of hypatus and dux. He was the first historical Doge of Venice. Tradition, however, from the early 11th century, states that the Venetians first proclaimed one Anafestus Paulicius duke in 697, though this story dates to no earlier than the chronicle of John the Deacon. Whichever the case, the first doges had their power base in Heraclea.
Early Years of the Republic of Venice
Ursus's successor, Deusdedit, moved his seat from Heraclea to Malamocco in the 740s. He was the son of Ursus and represented the attempt of his father to establish a dynasty. Such attempts were more than commonplace among the doges of the first few centuries of Venetian history, but all were ultimately unsuccessful. During the reign of Deusdedit, Venice became the only remaining Byzantine possession in the north and the changing politics of the Frankish Empire began to change the factional divisions within Venetia.
One faction was decidedly pro-Byzantine. They desired to remain well-connected to the Empire. Another faction, republican in nature, believed in continuing along a course towards practical independence. The other main faction was pro-Frankish. Supported mostly by clergy (in line with papal sympathies of the time), they looked towards the new Carolingian king of the Franks, Pepin the Short, as the best provider of defence against the Lombards. A minor, pro-Lombard, faction was opposed to close ties with any of these further-off powers and interested in maintaining peace with the neighbouring (and surrounding, but for the sea) Lombard kingdom.