History Summarized: Venice 4 (Better Version In Description)


Hello, everybody …in this episode. We’ll be discussing the Venetian… re- Republic?! [phew] in the 17th and 18th centuries It was a very interesting time for h- h- history and c- culture stuff In the last episode we talked about the Renaissance and those pesky Ottoman wars. Was that ok? Did I do okay? I was really worried. I was going to accidentally mention the hotel in Las- As the fancy title card says in this episode It’s all about the Venetian Enlightenment the “Venlightenment” patent-pending. Where we left off the Ottomans were chipping away at Venice’s holdings in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus, and as we’re about to see that trend will not abate However, what’s fascinating about this point of Venetian history is the inherent contradiction in its existence. Left militarily powerless by Ottoman aggression and economically powerless by trade shift into the new world Venice was largely irrelevant in the Grand Scheme of things but still universally revered for its beauty and culture 18th century Venice saw little external conflict or internal strife and was hailed by all as being in the truest sense the most serene republic. to put that another way later Venice is the Stan Lee of history all the stuff he’s known for doing is in the past and even though he’s not really doing anything big or groundbreaking any more people still love him by virtue of “Holy crap guys! That’s Stan Lee” you know Venice for all of its inactivity had that same quality to it. Before we jump into the Enlightenment itself There’s some loose ends in the 1600s that we still have to tie up first and by “loose ends” I mean territories in the Southern Aegean and by “tie-up” I mean the Ottomans stole them. Ok fine, let’s just get this over with and move on, ok? Alright? Good. Let’s go! The Ottomans enjoyed 70 or so years of peace with the Venetians on account of Venice being so militarily under-powered that they didn’t want to push anymore eastward for fear of certain defeat. In 1630 Venice got hit by plague number three, because remember those are still a thing And in 1645 the Ottomans found an excuse to attack a week in Venice and decided they would take Crete So they did. As a result of the 25 year long war both sides were left militarily and financially exhausted 15 years later Venice, for some reason, thought this meant they were in perfect shape to launch a campaign for the Peloponnese Okay, sure, I guess. Well though to be fair. It wasn’t all that crazy See the European solo was happening to Venice and were worried that the Ottomans were getting a tad too powerful so a Holy League of Austria, Venice, Russia, Poland, and friends got together to fight back well the Ottomans were otherwise occupied fighting with the League along the Danube river and because they had yet to properly recover from their previous war over Crete Venice actually made a pretty good call on this one. Way to go Venice so this is all well and good until the part where the population of the Peloponnese dropped by over half during the war and despite a later resurgence as a result of immigration Venice didn’t have an easy time winning over the native Greeks who were used to relative autonomy under the Ottomans. As Venetian government likes to run a tight ship at home and abroad it had a habit of closely controlling all of their overseas holdings very strictly. Luckily for the anti-Venetian Greeks the Ottomans came back 15 years later to reclaim the Peloponnese and confine the Venetian Republic to an extended time out in the Adriatic Sea thereafter With the once-proud Stato da Mar reduced to the Stato da Martyr Venice doesn’t really have a lot going for it But with that misery sorted. Let’s transition away from history and talk a little bit about culture specifically the Enlightenment itself the thing with the Enlightenment is that it’s Fundamentally different from the Renaissance from the previous video in both its form and its direction But they both promote the same key ideas if with different angles the Renaissance was more of a movement than an era It’s easy for us to recognize when it was going on, but when exactly it started and ended are still up for debate even today Imagine then what it would have been like to live during it and really have no idea what was going on in the worlds of art and writing. It’s also in the name itself Renaissance it’s a rebirth of the pre-existing classics to fit the new times by contrast the Enlightenment was a much shorter period of time essentially the 1700s and some change. The difference was that people clearly knew they were living in a transformative time As the philosopher Kant was throwing around the term Enlightenment before even the end of the century The Enlightenment brought literary discourse to the masses not just the rich and their friends as was the case during the Renaissance Also using the foundation of the Renaissance Enlightenment thought was wholly new in it’s focus on reason. Not since Ancient Greece and Rome was human reasons such a central pillar of collective thought However, both periods did see an emphasis on the role of the human albeit in different capacities To grossly oversimplify the Renaissance unlock the human form through art and the Enlightenment built on that to unlock human thought through literature, science, and social politics Though these neighboring periods have a fair amount in common, they are clearly distinct. And with that in mind Let’s take a look at what exactly made Venice so special during the Enlightenment Despite its many overseas losses the Venetian mainland was fairly peaceful During the Italian Wars Venice managed to consolidate a lot of mainland supporting neighboring territories In the Enlightenment most of the Italian States have either come under control of European powers such as Spain and Austria or are otherwise insignificant However Venice is still going strong with its pals on the mainland. Point is though Italy on the whole isn’t very well off it’s at least Peaceful, and that’s the big theme here It’s not great, but it’s stable. So that’s that for Venice’s military But what about its economy? What happens to being the keystone of Mediterranean trade? Well… America happened. Yeah… While Spain was busy occupying big chunks of Italy it was also using Italian navigators to discover the new world with Europe becoming increasingly disillusioned with the idea of going through someone like the Ottomans to reach eastern markets They tried their hand at going the other way. When they accidentally ran into America instead They shrugged, muttered “mm seems legit” and shifted to Transatlantic trade much to the detriment of Venice. The problem here was that Venice thinking in the early 1500s, that there was really nothing to be had in the new world that it didn’t already have the mediterranean, didn’t bother colonizing And I understand them I mean when you wake up your bed is right there and so nice and comfy and the new world is like 4,000 miles away, and you have to get up and get dressed. It’s just not worth It’s just not worth it. So I get where Venice is coming from BUT the problem is that then, when you decide to focus on Eastern trade and the Ottomans are like “hey We’re gonna take away all your land and kill you guys and making it possible to do trade with the Eastern world through us” [eeeh] You kinda get screwed, understandably Instead they opted to keep the focus on Eastern trade, which the Ottomans later managed to utterly ruin for them over the course of the next 200 years. So Venice is looking left and looking right when they realize that they’ve been totally screwed out of any Geographical advantage they had before. Of course Venice still had its merchants and traces of its once legendary Naval might although again at this point in time that’s Spain’s big thing It still did business around the mediterranean, but nowhere near the same degree of economic dominance they once had again it sucks, but it’s stable. Now you might rightly ask “So Blue if the Ottomans attacked Venice by sea when they were weak why doesn’t some European power attack Venice by land when they’re weak now?” and that’s a really good question. The answer to which is rather simple Europe simply respected Venice too much. As a geopolitical player was almost entirely irrelevant But the republic and the city commanded enough reverence that no one would dare be that asshole who conquered Venice Throughout the century Venice played host to all sorts of foreign dignitaries who wanted to visit the city not to ask for funds or military help But simply to pay the respects to both the great city and honorable republic of Venice Externally Venice then was like Switzerland now, but admittedly with fewer boats, and internally a huge factor in the stability was its form of government, namely the Republic. All throughout its history Venice’s government had a strong hand in mercantile operations. Unlike its rival Genoa, which took a more hands-off approach, Venice’s trade economy was a well-oiled machine that organized itself very efficiently. Merchants were delegated to certain routes and cargoes controlled down to the number of crossbow bolts to ensure efficiency That is insane. Not only that they had this strict of a system, but that they kept it running as smooth as they did for remember 1100 years that boggles my mind That they were able to do that much that well for so long. Part of it was that the merchant culture was very honest and methods of cheating such as skimming profits were capital offences Venice did not mess around and did not tolerate corruption Venetian governance was much like both an olympic gymnast and a financially secure bank account well-balanced any Venetian male who wanted an in on politics could get a seat on the grand council and more specific government responsibilities were given out to council members whereas most Renaissance and post-Renaissance Italian politics involved lots of murdering the Venetians managed to get all of that out of their systems way back in the first few centuries of the republic and as a result the power of the oft murdered Doge was drastically limited as time went on to the point where no one needed to start a riot or murder anyone wearing a silly hat because nearly any political power that someone in the republic could conceivably want was readily available to them anyway. That by contrast is stable and awesome. In Venice’s peaceful isolation the city saw a cultural explosion. Seven opera houses and a multitude of theaters serviced the city’s 160,000 inhabitants paintings were commissioned at an amazing rate and Canaletto’s iconic paintings of the city which I’ve unknowingly been using for the past three videos (oops …I guess) only served to heighten the city’s reputation in Europe for beauty and serenity Music was also a huge part of the city you would have heard music while walking through the streets and the long canals, Standing in a piazza, sitting in church, hammered at a tavern, or relaxing at home It was everywhere. Venice was popularly known as the republic of music and for damn good reason You know how sometimes people like to joke about how they’d like to live with background music? Well, that’s exactly what Venice was like, there was simply music everywhere Venice printed one of the first books of sheet music in 1501 and within 150 years had printed over 18 million music books to put that in context Venice’s early music book production alone is the same size as the current Royal library of Sweden Okay, gushing over. Though Venice had only a few hundred visitors at a time the city’s reputation for music, merriment, art, entertainment, and debauchery was pervasive as seen in Voltaire’s Candide. If you’ve read Candide – and you should – then you’ll know just what the city represented and meant to people of all circumstances and fortunes who came to see it Perhaps the biggest draw the city had was the yearly carnevale which began vaguely during the late Middle Ages, went away, and came back in the 18th century as a way to breathe even more excitement into the city Carnevale a is famous for its raucous atmosphere and many beautiful varieties of masks. It became a centerpiece of Venetian cultural identity until it was outlawed when the republic fell in 1797 But I’m not there yet So don’t get ahead of me! Carnevale, and I’ll be honest all of Venice at the time, had a lascivious reputation as nearly two-thirds of Venetian nobility went unmarried entirely instead opting to frequent the brothels and the convents that stood to rival them in salaciousness Okay time out. When you run the local brothel and the neighborhood nunnery is your competitor your city has some very interesting morals Now all of this is well and good and we just had by most accounts of solid century for Venice But remember how I said only a heartless monster would dare to kick over the beautiful sand castle at the edge of the beach that was the Venetian Republic? well Napoleon came around in 1797 with his stupid canons when he was fighting Austria down into the Italian peninsula Venice, who insisted on neutrality, was forced by Napoleon to either pick a side or be hastily rendered Swiss cheese Venice wisely opted for the lesser of two evils and surrendered when Napoleon and Austria made peace Napoleon took Lombardi and Austria was allowed to keep Venice and thus died the republic which survived 1,100 amazing years and featured one of the most fascinating histories, only to be bullied out of existence by a pipsqueak with an oversized BB-gun Why yes! I am still bitter about it So that’s Venice’s story But why and how did it even last so long? Short answer is geography and government no matter how many territories they did or didn’t own abroad the city itself was unassailable by land or sea while having easy access to pretty much everywhere the government works to keep commerce efficient and placate any power-hungry citizens which worked very well and the people themselves had enough cohesion and grit to get them through the challenges of those 1,100 years Unlike the Empires that just wanted tons of land to call their own Venice simply stationed merchant outposts in the east to assist trade Following Thucydides advice about favoring the sea over the land it went wrong, however, when the Europeans looked away from the Ottoman controlled east and toward the New world instead Simply when trade turned away Venice lost its power, but what’s the moral here? well, between the Lombards, the Genoans, the Italian Wars, the Plague, and the Ottomans Venice had easy to say a rollercoaster of a history however, if you look back through the previous three videos you’ll see how the Venetians made the most of their situation at every step along the way finding the good amongst the bad even after losing their entire trade empire the powerless republic focused on turning the city into a cultural paradise and succeeded you see it’s all about finding the silver linings and holding on to what really matters Venice did that better than almost anybody else, and that is one hell of a mark to leave on history Arrivederci Oh yeah, have a good time in Russia. Just remember, you know, invade whenever you feel like it. It doesn’t really matter You’re good. Just keep trucking on buddy. You’ll do fine ass

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