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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: May 2017

The naval power of Venice in the eastern Mediterranean in the Middle Ages


ABSTRACT. Since her foundation in the 9th century at her actual location, Venice began to gradually establish her role as a trans-shipment port in the Northern Adriatic for the Far Eastern and eastern Mediterranean commodities to Southern and Western Europe. Venice's efforts were accelerated with the intensive revival of this trade from the early 11th century. To reach this aim Venice had to practice naval power to protect her commerce from predators, pirates and rivals, both close at home in the Adriatic, and in the eastern Mediterranean. From the 13th century, when this commerce reached one of its peaks, until the 1430s, Venice fought against the Genoese to control this trade; from the 1420s Venice also had to confront the Ottomans whose target was to conquer the Byzantine Empire and the Christian west. Venice's naval power has been extensively investigated from various points of view: roles and campaigns, ships and logistics, the human aspect and the economics involved. This paper revises some of the traditional views, highlights several neglected aspects, including strategy, and suggests new interpretations, while breaking some of the conventional mythical stereotypes related to Venice and her naval power.

RÉSUMÉ. Depuis sa fondation au IXe siècle à son emplacement actuel, Venise a commencé à jouer dans le nord de l'Adriatique le rôle de port de transbordement pour les marchandises de la Méditerranée orientale vers l'Europe du Sud et de l'Ouest. Les efforts de Venise ont été accélérés par la reprise intense de ce commerce au début du XIe siècle. Pour atteindre cet objectif, Venise dut développer ses forces navales pour protéger son commerce des prédateurs, pirates et concurrents, tout proches dans l'Adriatique et dans la Méditerranée orientale. A partir du XIIIe siècle, quand le commerce fut à son apogée, jusqu'aux années 1430, Venise dut lutter contre les Génois pour contrôler ce commerce. A partir des années 1420, Venise dut affronter les Turcs, dont l'objectif était de conquérir l'empire byzantin et l'Europe chrétienne. Les forces navales vénitiennes ont été examinées de différents points de vue: enrôlement et campagnes, navires et logistique, aspect humain et investissements.