Venice After 1200
"The Venetian Empire was Essentially a Commercial Enterprise. Like all
Good Businesses it Survived and Prospered by Changing With the Times."
Before 1400 Venice was ruled by trade. Her naval superiority allowed
her the opportunity not only to protect her trade routes but also to
disrupt her enemies'. It was due to this supremacy that Venice was
commissioned to provide a fleet for transport for the 4th crusade.
Venetian naval dominance arose after the battle of Ascolon, from this
the Venetians were able to gain an overwhelming amount of riches. The
sea supremacy enabled the Venetians to plunder merchant ships. Venice
had also been granted certain trading privileges by the Greek or
Byzantine Empire who had given these in return for the Venetian
support against the Normans. However when a new Emperor took over in
Byzantine, he failed to renew the Venetian trading privileges. This
caused the Venetian fleet to carry out raids on Greek islands, which
eventually persuaded the new Emperor to renew the privileges. These
privileges were from then consistently renewed by the successors of
the Venetian Empire due to the Doge Ziani's skill in negotiating.
The third crusade was manipulated by the Venetians to their advantage.
Although they did not take part in any direct fighting against the
Muslims, it was they, due to their naval superiority, who provided
transport for the crusaders. For this it is almost certain that the
Venetian Doge negotiated a generous payment for his services. Also the
main achievement made by the crusaders, the recapture of Acre, was
beneficial to Venice
The plunder that the Venetian pirates claimed during these years and
the fact that Venice managed to retain its trading privileges meant
that the country became extremely wealthy. Venice's control of
Dalmatia, a major source of timber, as well as their wealth meant that
they alone had the resources to build such a fleet that was required
for the crusaders.
Venice in typical style demanded excessive payment for her services,
(twice the income of either the King of England or France) since they
themselves had no real interest in he Holy Land. However when the
ships had been built and the sailors provided, the French realised
that they could not afford the cost that the Venetians were demanding,
as a result Doge Enrico Dandolo negotiated favours from the crusaders
in order to repay the debt. Firstly they were to subdue Zara, a
Christian city who was attempting to gain independence from Venice.
The crusaders eventually agreed to this and Zara was soon forced to
surrender. The second diversion of the crusade negotiated by Doge
Dandolo was to advance on Constantinople in order to place Alexius, a
claimant to the throne of the Byzantine Empire, on...