Venice was built on a patchwork of hundred islands in the middle of a swampy lagoon and grew into an economic powerhouse because of global trade thanks to Marco Polo. The foundation of Venice started in 421 when a trading post was set up and recorded in the church at Saint James. The early city began as a collection of lagoon communities which banded together for protection against the Huns. They thought the swampy land was a good place to hide.
Urus was the first elected leader or Doges. The leader was elected for life by established members of Venetian families. As in any successful community the leader must take council from others. The Doges did not made decisions on his own, he asked for advice from six men who traveled with him. Later it grew to the Council of Ten. It was much like a cabinet of trusted leaders. In 810 Doge Angello Partecipazio built a fortress for him to live in with a moat filled with water for protection. After a fire another palace was built in 1340 by Ducal Doge which is similar to the one we see today. It was the center for political life with a place for the leaders of Venice to come and make laws and decide on global trade.
Marco Polo Bridge Between East and West
Marco Polo was born in 1254 to a wealthy merchant family. When he was only seventeen he left with his father on a journey to the far east and became a friend to the leader of China in the Khan's Court. He returned twenty four years later and the towns people didn't recognize him. He told his adventures in a book but some of the stories seem too unbelievable to be true. History has proven he was telling the truth by record keeping such as journals in China. When Marco came back to Venice he brought with him a fortune in jewels and a relationship to establish trade with the east. Marco is responsible for the birth of global trade with the east and west. Spices from the east became very precious to trade.
Rialto Bridge Connecting Trade
Marco was raised near the center of trade, close to the Rialto Bridge. It was a symbol of a link between two sides of trade because it was the only connection of the canal for hundreds of years. It was built in the area where the waterside was the highest for safety from flooding. In the Middle Ages the bridge was built by boats and later was replaced by wood. Just as in the Three Pigs story you can not build your house of sticks or it will fall. In 1444 it did just that because the weight of the people caused it to collapse. The bridge was rebuilt again with shops on either side. Finally in 1557 the bridge was built out of stone so we can appreciate its beauty today.
Strong Ties With The Byzantine Empire
Venice had strong ties with the Byzantine Empire which is the eastern half of the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian around 330 and ended persecution of the faith. He decided to move the capital of Rome to Constantinople, modern Istanbul. The Byzantine's escaped the dark ages with the fall of Rome. In the sixth century the Byzantine Emperor Justinian invaded northern Italy and for a short time reunited East and West. In 800 Venice needed help from the invader of the Franks, lead by Charlemagne's army so they asked for Constantinople's protection. This trust developed a relationship which allowed for Venetian merchants trading rights to Byzantine ports in the Adriatic Sea and as far as Eastern Mediterranean. They traded salt, wood, and wool from western Europe in exchange for luxury items such as silk and jewels.
Relationship Changed with the Byzantine's
When Muslim Turks threatened the Christian Byzantine Empire the Venetians joined the Crusades. Venice lent ships to the Crusaders in exchange for money. During the fourth Crusade, 1202-1204, they took over Christian Constantinople which weakened the city. The Crusaders carried home the stolen bronze horses and marble and brought it to Saint Marks, the church of Venice. The Ottoman Turks took over Christian Constantinople in 1453 and later became modern Instanbul. Today we see the influence of the Byzantine Empire in the building of Saint Marks. Beautiful mosaics of rich tile adorn the church.
Tourists have been coming to Venice to enjoy its beauty for centuries. Famous writers have come to visit for inspiration of ideas and enjoy the rich history. Lord Byron's poems may have birthed on the canals of Venice. Mark Twain enjoyed the water ways because it reminded him of the great Mississippi River. Venice is the birthplace of global trade and the infusion of majestic waterways to carry goods.