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The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola, Canaletto, about 1738.

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers.


  • With the main lines of business monopolized by the increasingly narrow elite, the decline was under way. Venice appeared to have been on the brink of becoming the world’s first inclusive society, but it fell to a coup. Political and economic institutions became more extractive, and Venice began to experience economic decline. By 1500 the population had shrunk to one hundred thousand. Between 1650 and 1800, when the population of Europe rapidly expanded, that of Venice contracted. Today the only economy Venice has, apart from a bit of fishing, is tourism. Instead of pioneering trade routes and economic institutions, Venetians make pizza and ice cream and blow colored glass for hordes of foreigners. The tourists come to see the pre-Serrata wonders of Venice, such as the Doge’s Palace and the lions of St. Mark’s Cathedral, which were looted from Byzantium when Venice ruled the Mediterranean. Venice went from economic powerhouse to museum.
    • Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (2012)
  • General Grant seriously remarked to a particularly bright young woman that Venice would be a fine city if it were drained.
  • Venice by moonlight is an enchanted city; the floods of silver light upon the moresco architecture, the perfect absence of all harsh sounds of carts and carriages, the never-ceasing music on the waters, produced an effect on the mind which cannot be experienced, I am sure, in any other city in the world.
    • Benjamin Disraeli to Isaac Disraeli (c. 8 September 1826), quoted in William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Vol. I. 1804–1859 (1929), p. 108
  • Venice's government, eager to maintain its Jewish tax base, officially discouraged the blood libel, but the population was more inspired by the renowned Venetian poet laureate Raffaele Zovenzoni-whose hymn describing the sainted child's murder, which begged authorities to protect the people from bloodthirsty Jews, went viral. Within a few generations, Venice's brilliant idea of imprisoning Jews in ghettos went viral too.
    • Dara Horn "Commuting with Shylock" in People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present (2021)
  • Since, furthermore, it was in late-medieval and early modern Europe that new techniques of warfare occurred more frequently than elsewhere, it was not implausible that one such breakthrough could enable a certain nation to dominate its rivals. Already the signs pointed to an increasing concentration of military power. In Italy the use of companies of crossbowmen, protected when necessary by soldiers using pikes, had brought to a close the age of the knight on horseback and his accompanying ill-trained feudal levy; but it was also clear that only the wealthier states like Venice and Milan could pay for the new armies officered by the famous condottieri. By around 1500, moreover, the kings of France and England had gained an artillery monopoly at home and were thus able, if the need arose, to crush an overmighty subject even if the latter sheltered behind castle walls. But would not this tendency finally lead to a larger transnational monopoly, stretching across Europe? This must have been a question many asked around 1550, as they observed the vast concentration of lands and armies under the Emperor Charles V.
    • Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000 (1987)
  • Italy is, after France and perhaps in the same degree, the land in which love of country has the deepest roots in the hearts of its inhabitants. The fact is that perhaps nowhere else has nature been so prodigal with its enchantments and seductions. Therefore, although Italy has been, since the fall of the Caesars, the object of European covetousness, the eternal battlefield of powerful neighbors, and the theatre of the fiercest and most prolonged civil wars, her children have always refused to leave her. Save for some commercial colonies hastily thrown upon the shores of Asia by Genoa and Venice, history has not, in fact, recorded in Italy any important outward movement of population.
  • The Pope, anxiously revolving the sad vicissitudes of the Christians in the east, turned to Venice and Genoa, praying them for the love of Christ to combine and save the fair island of Cyprus, still unpolluted by the presence of the infidels. But the lion of St Mark was a fierce yoke-fellow. The more restricted the field of influence became between Venice and Genoa the more bitter grew their jealousy. Two fleets were, however, fitted out in response to the Papal appeal. Their prows had scarcely touched Cyprian waters when a fight took place between some of the allied ships, and to the edification of the Saracen the two greatest maritime powers of Christendom were soon engaged in mutual destruction.
  • In any case, an alternative to summit meetings was emerging. For centuries it had been customary to send envoys on specific, short-term missions. But by the mid–fifteenth century the tightly knit but feuding city states of northern Italy—Venice, Florence, Milan and Rome—kept permanent ambassadors in key cities in order to gather intelligence and foster alliances. In due course their governments created chanceries to manage the mounting mass of paper. From 1490 the great powers of Europe followed suit, led by Spain. It became normal to have at each of the major courts a resident “ambassador”—a word defined by the English poet and diplomat Sir Henry Wotton in a punning epigram as “a man sent to lie abroad for his country’s good.” Given the time required for travel, and the hazards en route—especially in an age of dynastic and religious warfare—permanent ambassadors offered a convenient substitute for personal summitry. And their detailed reports required the attention of specialist secretaries who oversaw foreign affairs, such as Francis Walsingham in Elizabethan London or Antonio Perez at the court of Philip III. Day-to-day diplomacy tended to slip out of the hands of rulers.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the Twentieth Century (2007), p. 17
  • Once did She hold the gorgeous east in fee;
    And was the safeguard of the west: the worth
    Of Venice did not fall below her birth,
    Venice, the eldest Child of Liberty.
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