Nicolle, David. The Venetian Empire, 1200-1670. (Men-at-Arms series, 210)

London: Osprey, 1989.

I’ve long found the history of Venice and its sprawling commercial empire to be fascinating. Built on pilings in the lagoons at the top of the Adriatic, it was in most ways a thoroughly Italian city-state, but it also borrowed heavily at various times from the Byzantines and the Turks. In many ways, Venice deliberately set itself apart from the rest of Western Europe.

Having successfully resisted the conquering efforts of Pepin and the Franks, the Venetians gradually suppressed the pirates who lined the eastern shore of the Adriatic and became a major naval power. (Even after its navy had begun to decline, Venice was able to decisively defeat the Turks at Lepanto in 1570.) But the Venetians were also innovators in fortifications in their mainland possessions (“terra firma”) and in the design and manufacture of weapons and armor. Independent Venice was always a republic (though never remotely “democratic”) and took part in several crusades — but only because it seemed the profitable thing to do. Venice never went to war without profit in mind, though they eventually were at war most of the time.

Nicolle is a talented writer as well as a knowledgeable historian and this brief overview provides a useful introduction. And Christopher Rothero is a competent illustrator, though his color plates don’t have quite the luster that Angus McBride’s do.

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Published in: on 19 March 2014 at 5:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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