It’s now Day 15 and Roberts is in one of his favourite cities on the planet, the magical city of Venice.
In this episode of 80 DAYS, Roberts does a deep dive into its fable history. This is the extraordinary city of Venice – today one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but once capital of a maritime republic, that ruled the most powerful empire in the Mediterranean.
Venice’s history was shaped by its unique location. The city of Venice spreads out over a series of 119 islands that are located in the Venetian Lagoon – a vast body of salt water separated from the Adriatic Sea by a long piece of land. This part of Italy was inhabited by a few Illyrian tribes and the Veneti that lived on stilt houses in the Lagoon and lived off fishing and extracting salt from the Lagoon.
Venezia was founded in 421. The Veneti, who had been expelled by the Ostrogoths and the Lombards, took refuge in these marshlands in the mouth of the River Po, forming the city of Venice. The city’s “privileged” site in the middle of a swamp gave it a great independence and made it very difficult for those that wanted to seize the land. In 810 Charlemagne’s own son (Pepin of Italy and king of the Lombards) had to withdraw from the Lagoon after six months of siege.
At the height of the Roman Empire, these coastal lagoons were home only to small fishing communities. But then, in the 5th century AD, the Western Roman Empire was overrun by barbarian tribes. As Italy became a battleground for Huns, Goths, Eastern Romans and Lombards, many sought refuge among the lagoons.
In 726, these refugees elected Orso to be their duke, or doge – the first in an unbroken line of 117 Doges who’d rule Venice for a thousand years.
EDITED BY SHEKINAH NELWAN.
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