Maritime republics

Maritime republics
Jack of the Italian Navy, sporting the coat of arms of the four main maritime republics. Clockwise, starting from the upper left: Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi.
History of Italy
Flag of Italy
This article is part of a series
Ancient history
Prehistoric Italy
Etruscan civilization (12th–6th c. BC)
Magna Graecia (8th–7th c. BC)
Ancient Rome (8th c. BC–5th c. AD)
Ostrogothic domination (5th–6th c.)
Middle Ages
Italy in the Middle Ages
Byzantine reconquest of Italy (6th–8th c.)
Lombard domination (6th–8th c.)
Italy in the Carolingian Empire and HRE
Islam and Normans in southern Italy
Maritime Republics and Italian city-states
Early modern period
Italian Renaissance (14th–16th c.)
Italian Wars (1494–1559)
Foreign domination (1559–1814)
Italian unification (1815–1861)
Modern history
Monarchy (1861–1945)
Italy in World War I (1914–1918)
Fascism and Colonial Empire (1918–1945)
Italy in World War II (1940–1945)
Republic (1945–present)
Years of lead (1970s–1980s)
Historical states
Military history
Economic history
Genetic history
Citizenship history
Fashion history
Postal history
Railway history
Currency history
Musical history

Italy Portal
v · d · e

The maritime republics (Italian: Repubbliche marinare) were a number of city-states which flourished in Italy in the Middle Ages. The best known are the Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa and Venice. These states[1] competed with each other both militarily and commercially. From the 10th to the 13th centuries these cities built fleets of ships both for their own protection and to support extensive trade networks across the Mediterranean, leading to an essential role in the Crusades. As they found themselves in competition, these republics engaged in shifting alliances and warfare.



The best known maritime republics in Italy are the four mentioned above, and they are usually given in that order, reflecting the temporal sequence of their dominance. However, other Italian towns also have a history of being maritime republics, though less known. These include Gaeta, Ancona,[2] Trani and Noli. Gaeta, for example, provided a fleet for the Papal alliance's victory against the Saracens at the Battle of Ostia. On the eastern coast of the Adriatic, in Dalmatia, there was the Republic of Ragusa, centered on the city of Ragusa (today a part of modern Croatia with the name Dubrovnik).


The maritime republics were city-states. They were generally republics in that they were formally independent, though most of them originated from territories once belonging to the Byzantine Empire (the main exceptions being Genoa and Pisa). All these cities during the time of their independence had similar (though not identical) systems of government in which the merchant class had considerable power.

The maritime republics were heavily involved in the Crusades, providing transport and support but most especially taking advantage of the political and trading opportunities resulting from these wars. The Fourth Crusade, notionally intended to "liberate" Jerusalem, actually entailed the Venetian conquest of Zadar and Constantinople.

Each of the maritime republics over time had dominion over different overseas lands, including many of the islands of the Mediterranean and especially Sardinia and Corsica, lands on the Adriatic, Aegean Sea, and Black Sea (Crimea), and commercial colonies in the Near East and North Africa. In this respect Venice stands out from the rest in that she maintained enormous tracts of land in Greece and Cyprus until as late as the mid 17th century.


The economic growth of Europe around the year 1000, together with the lack of safety on the mainland trading routes, made possible the development of major commercial routes along the coast of the Mediterranean. In this context, the growing independence acquired by some coastal cities gave them a leading role in the European scene.

These cities, exposed to pirate raids (mostly Saracen), organized autonomously their defence, provided themselves heavy war fleets. Thus they were able in the 10th and 11th centuries to switch to the offensive role, taking advantage of the rivalry between the Byzantine and Islamic maritime powers and competing with them for the control of the commerce and trade routes with Asia and Africa.


On the institutional level, the cities formed from autonomous Republican governments, an expression of the merchant class, which constituted the backbone of their power. The history of the maritime republics intertwines both with the launch of European expansion to the East, and with the origins of modern capitalism as a mercantile and financial system. The merchants of the Italian maritime republics, using coins minted in gold (in disuse for centuries), began to develop new foreign exchange transactions and accounting. There were also stimulated technological advances in navigation, an essential support for the growth of mercantile wealth.

The Crusades offered them the opportunity for expansionist aims; the Crusades increasingly relied on Italian sea-transport, for which the Republics extracted concessions of colonies as well as a cash price. Venice, Amalfi, Ancona,[2] and Ragusa were already engaged in trade with the Levant, but the phenomenon increased with the Crusades: thousands from the Italian maritime republics poured into the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea, creating bases, ports and commercial establishments known as "colonies". These were small gated enclaves, often just a single street, within a city, where the laws of the Italian city were administered by a governor appointed from home, and there would be a church under home jurisdiction, and shops with Italian styles of food. These Italian mercantile centers also had a large political influence locally: the Italian merchants were, in fact, forming in the center of their business, guild-like associations, directed at obtaining legal privileges, tax and customs from foreign governments within a clear policy; several personal dominions were born. Pera in Constantinople, first Genoese, then under the Ottomans Venetian, was the largest and best known Italian trading base.

The history of the various maritime republics is quite varied and this is understandable if we consider the difference in their longevity: Venice, Genoa, Noli, and Ragusa had a very long life with an independence that, outlasting the medieval period, continued up to the threshold of the contemporary era when the set of Italian and European states was devastated by the Napoleonic campaigns.

Other republics kept their independence until the Renaissance: Pisa, which came under the dominion of Florence in 1406, and Ancona,[2] which came under control of the Papal States in 1532. Amalfi and Gaeta instead lost their independence very soon: the first in 1131 and the second in 1140, both having passed into the hands of the Normans.


Amalfi, perhaps the first of the maritime republics to play a major role, had developed extensive trade with Byzantium and Egypt. Amalfian merchants took away the trade monopoly in the Mediterranean from the Arabs and founded mercantile bases in Southern Italy and the Middle East in the 10th century. Amalfitans were the first to create a colony in Costantinopole. The compass was probably invented in Amalfi, which is still in use today.

Among the most important products of the Republic of Amalfi are the Amalfian Laws, a code collecting the rules of maritime law which remained in force throughout the Middle Ages.

From 1039, Amalfi came under the control of the Principality of Salerno. Then in 1073, Robert Guiscard conquered the city and took the title Dux Amalfitanorum ("Duke of the Amalfitans"). In 1096, Amalfi revolted and returned to be an independent republic, but this was put down in 1101. It revolted again in 1130 and was finally subdued in 1131.

Amalfi in 1137 was sacked by Pisans, in a time when it was weakened by natural disasters (severe floodings) and from the annexion to the Norman lands in southern Italy. After the Norman conquest, Amalfi began a rapid decline and was replaced in its role as the main commercial hub of Campania by Naples.


Ancient map of Pisa

In 1016 Pisa and Genoa, allied with each other, defeated the Saracens and conquered Corsica, in addition to gaining control of the Tyrrhenian Sea. A century later they freed the Balearic Islands and this expedition was celebrated in the "Gesta triumphalia per pisanos" and in an epic poem the "Liber Maiorichinus" composed in the years 1113-1115.

Pisa, at that time overlooking the sea at the mouth of the Arno, reached the pinnacle of its glory between the 12th and 13th centuries, when its ships controlled the western Mediterranean.

Rivalry between Pisa and Genoa grew worse in the 12th century and resulted in the naval Battle of Meloria (1284), which marked the beginning of Pisan decline, with the Pisan renunciation of all claim to Corsica and the concession of part of Sardinia to Genoa (1299). Moreover the Aragonese conquest of Sardinia, which began in 1324, deprived the Tuscan city of the domain over the Giudicati of Cagliari and Gallura. In territorial terms, Pisa maintained its independence and essentially the domain of the Tuscan coast until 1409, when it was annexed by Florence.


Flag of the Republic of Genoa
Expansion of Genoa in the Mediterranean Sea

Genoa was reborn at the dawn of the 10th century, when - after the destruction of the city by Saracens - its inhabitants took up the sea route. The importance of its fleet gained the recognition, by the Holy Roman Emperor, of the city's claims to legislative-common law and economic autonomy.

The alliance with Pisa allowed the liberation of the western sector of the Mediterranean from Saracens pirates, with the reconquest of Corsica, Balearic Islands and Provence.

The formation of the Compagna Communis, a meeting of all trade associations in the city (called Compagnie), comprising also the noble lords of the surrounding valleys and coasts, finally signalled the birth of Genoese government.

The fortunes of the town increased considerably by joining the First Crusade: their participation gave them the acquisition of great privileges for the Genoese communities who moved to many places in the Holy Land. The apex of Genoese fortune came in the 13th century with the conclusion of the Treaty of Nymphaeum (1261) with the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, which, in exchange for the aid to the Byzantine reconquest of Constantinople, actually ousted the Venetians from the straits leading to the Black Sea, which quickly became a Genoese sea. Shortly afterwards Pisa was finally defeated in the Battle of Meloria, in 1284.

In 1298, the Genoese also defeated the Venetian fleet at the Dalmatian island of Curzola: the confrontation led to the capture of the Venetian doge and Marco Polo, who during his imprisonment at Palazzo San Giorgio dictated to Rustichello da Pisa, his cellmate, the story of his travels. Genoa remained relatively powerful until the last major conflict with Venice, the War of Chioggia of 1379, which ended with the victory of the Venetians, who finally recaptured the dominance over trade to the East.

After the gloomy break of the fifteenth century marked by plagues and foreign domination, the city enjoyed its moment of greatest splendor after the regaining of self-government at the hands of Andrea Doria in 1528. In fact, throughout the following century Genoa became the primary sponsor of the Spanish monarchy, reaping huge profits, which allowed the old patrician class to maintain for a certain period a substantial vitality. However the republic was only de jure independent, because in fact it was often under the influence of the major neighboring powers, first the French and Spanish, then the Austrians and Savoyards; the republic was finally subdued by the Napoleonic wave in 1805 and annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1815 that finally buried the economy and forced the emigration of the best workers and most of the rural population to the Americas.


Territories of the Republic of Venice in the 15th and 16th centuries

The Republic of Venice, also known as "The Most Serene" (La Serenissima), born in the year 421, and thriving from the development of trade relations with the Byzantine Empire, which formally was part of initially, but in a substantially independent way. Venice later on remained allied with Byzantium in the fight against Arabs and Normans.

Around the year 1000 it began its expansion in the Adriatic Sea, defeating the pirates who occupied the coast of Istria and Dalmatia by placing the region and its main city under Venetian control.

At the beginning of 13th century, the city reached the peak of its power, dominating the commercial traffic in the Mediterranean and with the Orient.

During the Fourth Crusade (1202–1204) its fleet was decisive in the acquisition of possession of the islands and the most commercially important seaside towns of the Byzantine Empire. The conquest of the important ports of Corfu (1207) and Crete (1209) gave it a trade that extended to the east and reached Syria and Egypt, endpoints of trading routes. At the end of 14th century, Venice had become one of the richest states in Europe.

Its dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean in later centuries was threatened and compromised by the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in those areas, despite the great naval victory in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 against the Turkish fleet, fought with the Holy League.

The Most Serene Republic of Venice had strong expansion on the mainland too, becoming the largest of the maritime republics and was the most powerful State of northern Italy until 1797, when Napoleon invaded the Venetian lagoon and conquered Venice. After the fall of the Cisalpine Republic, Venice became independent again, but was now reduced to a small state city. The Grand Council decreed the dissolution of the many organizations which manage the republic and was forced to put at the head of the city a Habsburg cadet duke. Venice finally fell in 1848 when General Radetzky, annexed it to the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom, controlled by Austria, with Milan as capital. On this occasion, was dissolved last Venetian power, the most serene Signoria, and Venice remained under Austria until 1866, when the Veneto passed into the Kingdom of Italy.


Ancon Dorica Civitas Fidei

Included in the Papal States since 774, Ancona came under the influence of the Holy Roman Empire around the year 1000, but gradually gained independence to become fully independent with the coming of the communes (12th century). Although rather closed by Venetian supremacy on the sea, was a notable maritime republic for its economic development and its preferential trade particularly with the Byzantine Empire. Was in excellent relations with the kingdom of Hungary and fraternal ally of the Republic of Ragusa. Despite the link with Byzantium, maintained good relations with the Turks too, offering itself as Oriental gateway of central Italy; warehouses of the Republic of Ancona were continuously active in Constantinople, Alexandria and in other Byzantines ports, while for the sorting of goods imported by land (especially textiles and spices)[2] entrusted to Jewish Luccans and Florentian merchants.

From the artistic point of view was one of the centers of so-called Adriatic renaissance, in essence that particular kind of renaissance that spread between Dalmatia, Venice and the Marches, characterized by a rediscovery of classical art accompanied by a certain continuity with the Gothic art. The noted maritime cartographer Grazioso Benincasa was born in Ancona; likewise from Ancona was the navigator-archeologist Ciriaco de' Pizzicolli, named by his fellow humanists "father of the antiquities," which made known to his contemporaries the existence of the Parthenon, the Pyramids, the Sphinx and other famous ancient monuments believed destroyed.

Ancona, throughout its existence had to guard itself against the designs of both the German Empire (of which won repeated sieges), and the papacy. Significant worthy feature of its history was that it never attacked other maritime cities, but it was always forced to defend itself, the thing which he managed until 1532, when it lost its independence after the pope Clement VII, with a shrewd political maneuver, managed to take possession.


Coat of arms of the Republic of Ragusa

In the first half of the 7th century Ragusa began to develop an active trade in the East Mediterranean. From the 11th century emerged as a maritime and mercantile city especially in the Adriatic; the first known commercial contract goes back to 1148 and was signed with the city of Molfetta, but other cities came along in the following decades, including Pisa, Termoli and Naples.

After the fall of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Ragusa came under the dominion of the Republic of Venice, from whom he inherited most of its institutions. The Venetian rule lasted for a century and a half, determining the institutional structure of the future republic, with the emergence of the Senate (1252) and the approval of the Ragusa Statute (May 9, 1272). In 1358, following a war with the Kingdom of Hungary, Venice was forced to give up, with the Treaty of Zadar, to a large part of its possessions in Dalmatia. Ragusa voluntarily gave himself as a vassal to the Kingdom of Hungary, from which obtained the right to self-government in exchange for the constraint of help with its fleet and payment of an annual tribute. Ragusa was fortified and equipped with two ports. The Communitas Ragusina began to be called itself Respublica Ragusina from 1403.

Basing its prosperity on maritime trade, Ragusa became the major power of South Adriatic and came to rival the Most Serene Republic of Venice. For centuries Ragusa was an ally of the other Adriatic maritime Republic rival of Venice: Ancona. This alliance enabled the two towns set on opposite sides of the Adriatic to resist attempts by the Venetians to make the Adriatic a "Venetian Bay", also said to control directly or indirectly all the Adriatic ports. Ancona and Ragusa developed an alternative trade route to the Venetian (Venice-Germany-Austria): this route started from the East, passed through Ragusa and Ancona, then interested Florence and finally the Flanders.

Ragusa was the door of the Balkans and the East, a place of commerce of metals, salt, spices and cinnabar. Ragusa reached its peak during the 15th and 16th centuries thanks to tax exemptions for affordable goods.

The Palace of the Rectors in Ragusa (modern-day Dubrovnik)

The social structure was rigid and the lower classes did not have any influence on the Government of the Republic. On the other hand, the Republic of Ragusa proved highly advanced in other ways. In the 14th century was opened the first pharmacy, then an hospice and the first lazaretto (1347); finally in 1418 was abolished the trafficking of slaves.

Before the advancing Ottoman Empire in the Balkan Peninsula and after the Hungarian defeat in the Battle of Mohács, Ragusa passed formally under the supremacy of the sultan, binding themselves to pay him a symbolic annual tribute: a clever move that allowed it to maintain his independence.

In the 17th century began a slow decline for the Republic of Ragusa, mainly due to an earthquake (6 April 1667), which razed much of the city claiming 5000 victims, including the rector Simone de Ghetaldi.

The city was quickly rebuilt at the expense of the Pope and the kings of France and England, which made it a jewel of seventeenth-century urbanism, and the Republic lived an ephemeral revival. The Treaty of Passarowitz of 1718 first recognized the full independence, but on the other increased the tax to be paid at the gate, staring at 12.500 ducats.

The Republic of Ragusa was occupied by the Austrian on 24 August 1798. The Peace of Pressburg of 1805 assigned the city to France. In 1806, after a siege of a month, Ragusa surrendered to French. The Republic was finally suppressed by order of General Auguste Marmont on 31 January 1808 and annexed into the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.


Relationships between the maritime republics originates from their nature of commerce oriented States. These relationships concerned political or economical agreements, aimed at reciprocal profit gain from a trade route or to decide not to hinder reciprocally.

However, often the competition for the trade routes control with the East and in the Mediterranean sparked rivalries that could not be settled on diplomatic grounds and there were several clashes among the maritime republics.

Pisa and Venice

Towards the end of the 11th century begun the First Crusade in the Holy Land thanks to the initiative of Urban II and supported by the speeches of Peter the Hermit. Venice intervened in the crusade events almost simultaneously with Pisa and the two republics soon entered in competition with each other. In the waters of Rhodes the Venetian naval army of bishop Eugenio Contarini clashed with the Pisan army of archbishop Daibert. Pisa and Venice gave their support for the victorious Siege of Jerusalem of the army led by Godfrey of Bouillon. The Pisan expedition, after that event, continued staying in the Holy Land: the archbishop Daibert became the Jerusalem Patriarch and crowned Godfrey of Bouillon first Christian King of Jerusalem. Contrary to Pisa, Venice soon ended their participation to the first crusade, probably because Venice interests were mainly aimed at balancing Pisan and Genoese influence in the Orient.

However, relationships between Pisa and Venice were not always characterized by rivalry and antagonism. In fact, the two republics, during the centuries, signed several agreements to set influence and action zones of Pisa and Venice for not hinder each other. On 13 October 1180 was signed an agreement for the non-reciprocal interference in the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian affairs between the Venice Doge and the representative of the Pisan consuls and in 1206 Pisa and Venice concluded a treaty in which they reaffirmed the respective zones of influence.

Between 1494-1509, during the events of the siege of Pisa by Florence, the Serenissima, following the political stance towards safeguarding the "Freedom of Italy" with the elimination of foreign intervention on Italian territory, went in rescue of Pisans, that tried to preserve the restoration of their republic from Florence aggression, not ostracized by Charles VIII, sovereign of France, present in Italy with his army.

Venice and Genoa

The relationship between Genoa and Venice was almost continuously hostile and competititve, both economically and military. Until the beginning of the 13th century hostilities were limited to rare acts of piracy and isolated skirmishes. In 1218 Venice and Genoa reached an agreement to end noxious privateering with the guarantee to safeguard each other, while Genoa was guaranteed the right to trade in the eastern imperial lands, a new and profitable market.

War of Saint Sabas and the conflict of 1293–99

Crisis between the two Republics sparkled with unbelievable violence in the events of Saint-Jean d'Acre for the ownership of the Saint Sabas monastery that Genoese occupied in 1255, beginning hostilities with the sacking of the Venetian neighbourhood and the destruction of the docked ships. The Serenissima first agreed to an alliance with Pisa for the common Syrian-Palestinian interests, and then counter-attacked destroying the fortified monastery of Saint Sabas. The flight, together with the Genoese, of the baron Philip of Montfort, ruler of the Christian principality of Syria, concluded the first phase of the punitive expedition.

Just one year later, the three maritime powers battled each other in an uneven conflict in the waters facing Saint-Jean d'Acre. Almost all of the Genoese galleys were sunk, while the human loss accounted to 1,700 between fighters and sailors. Genoese replied with new alliances in the Oriental scenario. The Nicaean throne was usurped by Michael VIII Palaiologos that aimed at taking back militarily the lands once owned by the Byzantine Empire. His expansionist project met with the Genoese. The Nicaean fleet and army conquered and occupied Constantinople, causing the collapse of the Latin Empire of Constantinople less than sixty years after its creation. Genoa Republic replaced Venice in the monopoly of commerce with the Black Sea territories.

This phase of clashes between Genoa and Venice was concluded with the Battle of Curzola (won by Genoa), in which, beside Venetian admiral Andrea Dandolo, was taken prisoner Marco Polo, in 1298. Dandolo, not to live with the shame of arriving to Genoa in shackles, preferred to suicide himself smashing his head against the row to which he was tied. A year later, the Republics signed peace in Milan.

War of Chioggia

Towards the end of the 14th century, the island of Cyprus, ruled by the "signoria" of Pietro II of Lusignano, was occupied by Genoese, while the smaller island of Tenedo, important port of call on the Bosphorous and Black Sea route, was conceded by Andronicus Palaeologus to Genoa the Superb in contrast with the previous concession of his father John V to the Serenissima. These two events fuelled the resume of the hostilities between the two maritime Republics, that were expanding from the oriental to the occidental scenario of the Mediterranean.

The conflict was named War of Chioggia, because Venetians, after an initial success, were defeated in Pola by the Genoese that occupied Chioggia and besieged Venice. However, the Venetians managed to set up a new fleet and siege in turn the Genoese in Chioggia, forcing them to surrender (1380). War ended in Venetian favour with the Peace of Turin of the 8 April 1381.

The capture of Constantinople of the 29 May 1453, by the Ottomans of Mehmed II, put an end to the eleven centuries of history of the Byzantine Empire. This event stirred up a sentimental reaction that materialized in the Nicholas V project of a crusade.

To realize this feat the pope mediated between the two coalitions that were continuing to battle in Tuscany and Lombardy. Cosimo de'Medici and Alfonso of Aragon entered the Italic League, together with Nicholas V, Francesco Sforza of Milan and the Serenissima.

While the popes Callistus II and Pius II tried to carry on the idea of their predecessor and were addressing the States of the Italic League and other European powers to interest them in a crusade in Orient, the Ottomans defeated and forced to tribute them many Genoese and Venetians colonies. These events showed the dominion in the Oriental Mediterranean of the new great naval and military Ottoman power and forced the two Italian maritime republics to search a new destiny. Genoa found it the rising international finance, Venice in the land expansion.

Land battles and gathering in the Holy League

The battle of Lepanto in a painting of Paolo Veronese

Around the middle 15th century, Genoa signed a triple alliance with Florence and Milan; this was led by the France of Charles VII. On the other side, Venice sided with Alfonso V of Aragon, installed on the Naples' throne. Due to the rivalry of the Italian States, two great coalition were formed behind which was developing progressively the foreign intervention in the peninsula.

In the 16th century, to oppose the Ottomans, Venice and Genoa put aside their divergences to join the Holy League created by Pius V. Most of the Christian fleet was formed by Venetians ships, around 100 galleys, Genoa instead was under the Spanish flag, as the Republic of Genoa lent to Philip II all its ships. The impressive League fleet gathered in the gulf of Lepanto to clash with the Turkish fleet commanded by Capudan Ali Pasha. Was the 7 October 1571 and the great naval battle, fought from midday to dawn, ended with the victory of the Christian League.

Genoa and Pisa

These two Maritime republics had many exchanges, given their position on the Tyrrhenian Sea. In the beginning, relationships were collaborative and allied against the impending and menacing Arab expansion. However, later rivalry sparked to dominate the occidental side of the Mediterranean Sea.

Allied against Arabs

In the beginning of the second millennium, the expansion of the Muslim armies arrived in Sicily and was pushing northward in Calabria and attempting to conquer Sardinia. To fight the pirate actions of Arabs, Pisa and Genoa joined forces to wipe out the Fleet of Mujāhid al-Āmirī from the coasts of Sardinia, where it was temporary settled between 1015-16, that threatened survival of Sardinian Giudicati. the operations reached their purpose, but soon begun disputes for the control of the conquered territories. Due to the limited forces available, they were not able to occupy the big Tyrrhenian island for long.

The multiple disputes, armed too, were overcame in 1087 when, to safeguard their reciprocal interests, they reunite to fight their common enemy. In the summer of the same year a massive fleet composed by two hundred Genoese and Pisan galleys but also from Gaeta, Salerno and Amalfi, set sail for the Mediterranean African coast. The fleet succeeded in the offensive against Al-Mahdijah (6 August 1087). On the 21 April 1092 the Pope raised the diocese to the rank of metropolitan archdiocese. Moreover, subdued the bishops of Corsica to the metropolitan power of the Pisan Church.

That same victorious expedition persuaded Pope Urban II that the project of a large crusade to liberate the Holy Land was possible.

Around the twenties of the 12th century, Pope Paschal II asked Pisans and Genoese to organize a crusade in the Western Mediterranean. The expedition was very successful and freed the Balearic Islands from the Muslims. The pope, as sign of gratitude, granted many privileges to the two republics. The Pisan archbishop was granted the primacy over Sardinia, beside Corsica.

Genoa in 1493

First War between Pisa and Genoa

Concessions made by the pontifex to the Pisan archbishop greatly increased the fame of the Tuscan republic in the whole Mediterranean Sea, but at the same time aroused the Genoese envy that soon turned into competition and clashes.

In 1119, Genoese assaulted some Pisan galleys, beginning a bloody war, fought on sea and land, that lasted till 1133 interrupted by several truces that were sometimes observed and sometimes violated. the clashes were of alterante outcomes and they were ended with the partition between the two cities of the influence over the Corsic dioceses.

Second War

When Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa came to Italy to oppose the power of the Italian cities, Genoa gave their support to the imperial cause, although with some reservations. Pisa, instead, gave their unconditional support to the emperor taking part in the siege of Milan. In 1162 and 1163 Frederick I granted Pisa great privileges.

This reignited the resentments and rivalries with Genoa, rivalry that turned in open conflict in this case too. The conflict had a pause in the event of the fourth descent in Italy of the emperor Frederick Barbarossa, but continued soon after his depart. Peace was reache on 6 November 1175 with the return of the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in Italy. The agreement favoured Genoa that expanded their oversas territories. Pisa and Genoa took part in the campaign commanded by Henry VI, successor of Frederick I Barbarossa, against the Kingdom of Sicily.

Defeat of Pisa

From 1282 to 1284 Genoa and Pisa reverted back to fighting each other. A decisive naval battle occurred on August 6, 1284. Pisan and Genoese fleets fought the whole day in what became known as the Battle of Meloria. The Genoese emerged victorious, while the Pisan galleys, having not received help, were forced to retreat to the Pisa port. Prisoners taken by Genoese were in the order of thousands. Between them was the poet Rustichello da Pisa that met another famous prisoner, Marco Polo captured during the battle of Curzola, and wrote down the adventures of the Venetian explorer.

That battle greatly halted the power of the Tuscan Republic, that never gained back a leading role in the Western Mediterranean. With the battle of Meloria, Pisa had lost thousands of young men, causing a sensitive demographic break. Venice didn't intervene to help the allied Pisa in their crisis. According to some historians, this decision can be considered an error of the Serenissima that, gave up the supremacy of the Tyrrhenian to the rival Genoa and, at the same time, lost the precious Pisan help in the East. However, Pisa was able to continue their territorial expansion in Tuscany some decade afterwards with Guido da Montefeltro and Henry VII.

In the 14th century, Pisa changed from a communal reality to a signoria. Fazio Novello della Gherardesca was an aristocrat wise and enlightned enough for the era. He improved relationships with Florence, the Pope and Genoa. The treaty with Genoa was just the first of a series of commercial agreements.

However, in the first years of the following century, under the rule of the lord Gabriello Maria Visconti, the city of Pisa was besieged by Milan, Florence, Genoa and France. Took advantage of this the rival Giovanni Gambacorta that raised to power but secretly negotiated the surrender with the besiegers. On the 6 October 1406 Pisa became a possession of Florence, realizing this long sought objective of reaching the sea. The glorious Republic was no more.

Amalfi and Pisa

Amalfi lost the complete autonomy already from the second half of the 11th century, although it continued running its commercial routes enjoying a large (at least in this period) administrative autonomy. Under the protection of Norman William II, third Duke of Apulia, the administrators of Amalfi reached in October 1126 a profitable commercial agreement with the neighbouring Pisa with the goal to collaborate in the protection of common interests in the Tyrrhenian. This agreement was the outcome of friendship with the Tuscan republic lasting from decades.

However, Amalfi didn’t had an army of its own to protect the Amalfian commercial interests. That’s the reason why we don’t find Amalfian ships engaged often in military action against other Maritime Republics. Indeed, was the Pisan army to break the pact with Amalfi attacking the coastal city on the 4 August 1135 in the context of the war between Pope Innocent II and the new emperor Lothar II (with the republics of Genoa and Pisa along side) against the Norman Roger II of Sicily that had control over Amalfi. That war ended in favour of Roger II that had acknowledged his rights over the territories of South Italy.

In that occasion, Amalfi lost also its political autonomy.[3]

Venice, Ancona and Ragusa

Commercial competition between Venice, Ancona and Ragusa was very strong because all were bordering the Adriatic Sea. In more than one occasion they arrived to open battles. Venice, aware of its major economic and military power, didn’t like competition of other maritime cities in the Adriatic. Several were the Adriatic ports under Venetian rule, but Ancona and Ragusa retained their independence. These two republics, for not succumbing under the domain of the Venetian republic, made multiple and lasting alliances.

In 1174, Venice united its forces with Frederick I Barbarossa imperial army to try to dominate Ancona. The emperor Fredrick was in fact in Italy to reconfirm its authority over the Italian cities. The Venetians deployed numerous galleys and the galleon Totus Mundus in the port of Ancona, while imperial troops lay siege from land. After some months of dramatic resistance of Anconitans, supported by Byzantine troops, they were able to send a small contingent in Emilia-Romagna where they can ask for help. Ferrara and Bertinoro feud troops arrived to save the city and after a battle, repelled the imperial troops and the Venetians.

Venice in 1205 tried to conquer Ragusa as well, with more success: it took it over and held it until 1382 when Ragusa regained a de facto freedom, as it was paying tributes first to the Hungarians, and after the Battle of Mohács, to the Turks. During this period Ragusa reconfirmed its old alliance with Ancona.


  1. ^ The definition of "republic" can be deceptive, since the type of government varied from city and city, as well as by the epoch.
  2. ^ a b c d Peris Persi, in Conoscere l'Italia, vol. Marche, Istituto Geografico De Agostini, Novara 1982 (pag. 74); AA.VV. Meravigliosa Italia, Enciclopedia delle regioni a cura di Valerio Lugoni, ed. Aristea, Milano; Guido Piovene, in Tuttitalia, Casa Editrice Sansoni, Firenze & Istituto Geografico De Agostini, Novara (pag. 31); Pietro Zampetti, in Itinerari dell'Espresso, vol. Marche, a cura di Neri Pozza, Editrice L'Espresso, Roma 1980
  3. ^ G. Benvenuti - Le Repubbliche Marinare. Amalfi, Pisa, Genova, Venezia - Newton & Compton editori, Roma 1989, pag. 255


  • G. Benvenuti - Le Repubbliche Marinare. Amalfi, Pisa, Genova, Venezia - Newton & Compton editori, Roma 1989.
  • Marc'Antonio Bragadin, Storia delle Repubbliche marinare, Odoya, Bologna 2010, 240 pp., ISBN 978-88-6288-082-4.
  • M. Chiaverini, Repubblica imperiale pisana. La vittoria navale su Genova del 1241: alcuni aspetti, antefatti vicini e lontani, misteri e coincidenze, Pisa Offset Grafica, 1999.
  • M. Chiaverini, Il ‘Porto Pisano’ alla foce del Don tra il XIII e XIV secolo, Pisa, MARICH Studio storico editoriale, 2000.
  • M. Chiaverini, La battaglia di Saint-Gilles nel 1165 tra Pisa e Genova. Le lotte di predominio, tra misteri ed intrighi, nella Francia meridionale dei secoli XI-XII, Pisa, MARICH Studio storico editoriale, 2004.
  • A. Frugoni - Le Repubbliche Marinare - ERI, Torino 1958.
  • P. Gianfaldoni - Le antiche Repubbliche marinare. Le origini, la storia, le regate - CLD, 2001.

See also

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Maritime nation — A maritime nation is any nation which borders the sea and uses it for any of the following: commerce and transport, war, to define a territorial boundary, or for any maritime activity (activities using the sea to convey or produce an end result) …   Wikipedia

  • Maritime history — The Clipper Ship Flying Cloud off the Needles, Isle of Wight, off the southern English coast. Painting by James E. Buttersworth Maritime history is the study of human activity at sea. It covers a broad thematic element of history that often uses… …   Wikipedia

  • Maritime history of Somalia — Historical Somali commercial enterprise in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and the straits of Malacca. Maritime history of Somalia refers to the seafaring tradition of the Somali people.[1] It includes various stages of Somali …   Wikipedia

  • List of maritime boundary treaties — The list of maritime boundary treaties, also known as maritime delimitation treaties, are bilateral or multinational expressions of specific mutual obligations. These are also called maritime boundary agreements or maritime delimitation… …   Wikipedia

  • Italy — • In ancient times Italy had several other names: it was called Saturnia, in honour of Saturn; Enotria, wine producing land; Ausonia, land of the Ausonians; Hesperia, land to the west (of Greece); Tyrrhenia, etc. The name Italy, which seems to… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Repubbliche Marinare — The it. Repubbliche Marinare (Italian for Maritime Republics ) is the collective name of a number of important city states which flourished in Italy and Dalmatia in the Middle Ages. Traditionally the major four are taken to be Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa …   Wikipedia

  • Italy — Italia redirects here. For other uses, see Italia (disambiguation). This article is about the republic. For other uses, see Italy (disambiguation). Italian Republic …   Wikipedia

  • Великие географические открытия — Планисфера Кантино (1502), старейшая из сохранившихся португальских навигационных карт, показывающая результаты экспедиций Васко да Гамы, Христофора Колумба и других исследователей. На ней также изображён меридиан, разде …   Википедия

  • Galley — For other uses, see Galley (disambiguation). A model of a Maltese design typical of the 16th century, the last great era of the wargalley A galley is a type of ship propelled by rowers that originated in the Mediterranean region and was used for… …   Wikipedia

  • Republic of Ragusa — Ragusan redirects here. For the city in Italy, see Ragusa, Sicily. For other uses, see Ragusa. Republic of Ragusa¹ Respublica Ragusina (la) Dubrovačka Republika (hr) Repubblica di Ragusa (it) …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”