Republic of Genoa

Republic of Genoa
Most Serene Republic of Genoa
Serenissima Repubblica di Genova


Flag Coat of arms
Respublica superiorem non recognoscens
(Latin: "Republic that recognizes no superior")
Territories of the Republic of Genoa and areas of economic influence.
Capital Genoa
Language(s) Ligurian, Latin, Italian
Religion Roman Catholic
Government Oligarchic republic
 - 1339–1344 Simone Boccanegra
 - 1795-1797 Giacomo Maria Brignole
 - 1814-1815 Girolamo Serra
 - Established 1005
 - Disestablished June 14, 1797
 - Re-established April 26, 1814
 - Disestablished January 7 1815
Currency Genovino

The Most Serene Republic of Genoa (Italian: Repubblica di Genova, Ligurian: Repúbrica de Zêna) was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, as well as Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean.

It began when Genoa became a self-governing commune within the Regnum Italicum, and ended when it was conquered by First French Republic under Napoleon and replaced with the Ligurian Republic. Corsica was ceded in the Treaty of Versailles of 1768. The Ligurian Republic was annexed by the First French Empire in 1805, and its restoration was briefly proclaimed in 1814 following the defeat of Napoleon, but was ultimately annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1815.

Today Genoa is the name of the capital city of Liguria, a northwestern region of Italy.



When the Republic of Genoa was established in the early 11th century, it consisted of the city of Genoa and the surrounding areas. As the commerce of the city increased, so did the territory of the Republic. In 1015, the entirety of Liguria was part of the Republic of Genoa. After the First Crusade in 1098, Genoa gained settlements in Syria. The majority of them were lost during the campaigns of Saladin. In 1261 the city of Izmir became Genoese territory.[1] In 1255 Genoa established the colony of Caffa in Crimea.[2] In the following years the Genoese established the colonies of Soldaia, Cherco and Cembalo.[2] In 1275 the islands of Chios and Samos were granted by the Byzantine Empire to Genoa.[2] Between 1316 and 1332 Genoa established the colonies of La Tana and Samsun in the Black Sea. In 1355 Lesbos was granted to Genoa. In the end of the 14th century the colony of Samastri was established in the Black Sea and Cyprus was granted to the Republic. At that period the Republic of Genoa also controlled one quarter of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, and Trebizond, capital of the Empire of Trebizond.[2] Most Genoese territories were conquered by the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century.[2]



Siege of Antioch

The Republic was established in the early 11th century, when Genoa became a self-governing commune within the Regnum Italicum. At that time Muslim raiders were attacking coastal cities on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Pisa was raided in 1004 and the attacks were escalated in 1015 when Luni was raided and Mujahid al-Siqlabi, Emir of the Taifa of Denia attacked Sardinia with a fleet consisting of 125 ships. In 1016 the allied troops of Genoa and Pisa defended Sardinia. In 1066 war erupted between Genoa and Pisa possibly for control of Sardinia.[3] In 1087, Genoese and Pisan fleets led by Hugh of Pisa and accompanied by troops from Pantaleone of Amalfi, Salerno and Gaeta, attacked the North African city of Mahdia, which was the capital of the Fatimid Caliphate. The attack, which was supported by Pope Victor III, became known as the Mahdia campaign. The attackers captured the city, but couldn't hold it against Arab forces. After the burning of the Arab fleet at the city's harbor, the Genoese and Pisan troops retreated. However, the destruction of the Arab fleet gave control of the Western Mediterranean to Genoa, Venice, and Pisa. This enabled the troops of the First Crusade to be supplied by sea.[4] In 1092 Genoa and Pisa in collaboration with Alfonso VI of León and Castile attacked the Muslim Taifa of Valencia and besieged Tortosa with support from troops of Sancho Ramírez, King of Aragon unsuccessfully.[5] In its early centuries, Genoa was an important trading city and its power began to increase.

Genoa started expanding during the First Crusade. In 1097 Hugh of Châteauneuf, Bishop of Grenoble and William, Bishop of Orange, went to Genoa and preached in the church of San Siro, in order to gather troops for the First Crusade. At the time the city had a population of about 10,000. Twelve galleys, one ship and 1200 soldiers from Genoa joined the crusade. The Genoese troops, led by noblemen de Insula and Avvocato, set sail on July 1097.[6] The Genoese fleet transported and provided naval support to the crusaders, mainly during the siege of Antioch in 1098, when the Genoese fleet blockaded the city while the troops provided support during the siege.[6] In the siege of Jerusalem in 1099 Genoese crossbowmen led by Guglielmo Embriaco acted as support units against the defenders of the city.

After the capture of Antioch on May 3, 1098, Genoa forged an alliance with Bohemond of Taranto, who became the ruler of the Principality of Antioch. As a result he granted them a headquarters, the church of San Giovanni, and 30 houses in Antioch. On May 6, 1098 a part of the Genoese army returned to Genoa with the relics of Saint John the Baptist, which were given to the Republic of Genoa as part of their reward for providing military support to the First Crusade.[6] Many settlements in the Middle East were given to Genoa as well as favorable commercial treaties. Genoa later forged an alliance with Baldwin I of Jerusalem. In order to secure the alliance Baldwin gave Genoa one-third of the Lordship of Arsuf, one-third of Caesarea, and one-third of Acre, Israel and its port's income.[6] Additionally the Republic of Genoa would receive 300 bezants every year, and one-third of Baldwin's conquest every time, 50 or more Genoese soldiers joined his troops.[6] The Republic's role as a maritime power in the region secured many favorable commercial treaties for Genoese merchants. A large portion of the trade of the Byzantine Empire, Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch, Armenia, and Egypt was controlled by Genoese merchants.[6] Although Genoa maintained free trading rights in Egypt and Syria, it lost some of its territorial possessions after Saladin's campaigns in those areas.[1][7]

In 1147 Genoa took part in the Siege of Almería, helping the Emperor Alfonso VII reconquer the city of Almería from the Muslims. After the conquest the republic leased out its third of the city to one of its own citizens, Otto de Bonvillano, who swore fealty to the republic and promised to guard the city with three hundred men at all times.[8] This demonstrates how Genoa's early efforts at expanding her influence involved enfeoffing private citizens to the commune and controlling overseas territories indirectly, rather than through the republican administration.

Over the course of the eleventh and particularly the twelfth centuries, Genoa came to be the dominant force in the Western Mediterranean, as its erstwhile rivals Pisa and Amalfi declined in importance. Genoa (along with Venice) was able to gain a central position in the Mediterranean slave trade at this time. This left it with only one major rival in the Mediterranean: Venice.

13th and 14th century

The commercial and cultural rivalry of Genoa and Venice was played out through the 13th century. The Republic of Venice played a significant role in the Fourth Crusade, diverting "Latin" energies to the ruin of its former patron and present trading rival, Constantinople. As a result, Venetian support of the newly established Latin Empire meant that Venetian trading rights were enforced, and Venice gained control of large portion of the commerce of the eastern Mediterranean.[1] The Republic of Genoa in order to regain control of the commerce, allied with Michael VIII Palaiologos Emperor of Nicaea, who wanted to restore the Byzantine Empire by recapturing Constantinople. In March 1261 the treaty of the alliance was signed in Nymphaeum.[1] On July 25, 1261, Nicaean troops under Alexios Strategopoulos recaptured Constantinople.[1] As a result, the balance of favour tipped toward Genoa, which was granted free trade rights in the Latin Empire; besides the control of commerce in the hands of Genoese merchants, Genoa received ports and way stations in many islands and settlements in the Aegean Sea.[1] The islands of Chios and Lesbos became commercial stations of Genoa as well as the city of Smyrna (Izmir).

Territories of the Republic of Genoa (economic influence areas shown in pink) around the mediterranean & Black Sea coasts, 1400, since the Codex Latinus Parisinus (1395).

Genoa and Pisa became the only states with trading rights in the Black Sea.[1] In the same century the Republic conquered many settlements in Crimea, where the Genoese colony of Caffa was established. The alliance with the restored Byzantine Empire increased the wealth and power of Genoa, and simultaneously decreased Venetian and Pisan commerce. The Byzantine Empire had granted the majority of free trading rights to Genoa. In 1282 Pisa tried to gain control of the commerce and administration of Corsica, after being called for support by the judge Sinucello who revolted against Genoa.[9] In August 1282, part of the Genoese fleet blockaded Pisan commerce near the river Arno.[9] During 1283 both Genoa and Pisan made war preparations. Genoa built 120 galleys, 60 of which belonged to the Republic, while the other 60 galleys were rented to individuals. More than 15,000 mercenaries were hired as rowmen and soldiers. The Pisan fleet avoided combat, and tried to wear out the Genoese fleet during 1283. On August 5, 1284, in the naval Battle of Meloria the Genoese fleet, consisting of 93 ships led by Oberto Doria and Benedetto I Zaccaria, defeated the Pisan fleet, which consisted of 72 ships and was led by Alberto Morosini and Ugolino della Gherardesca. Genoa captured 30 Pisan ships, and sank seven.[9] About 8,000 Pisans were killed during the battle, more than half of the Pisan troops, which were about 14,000.[9] The defeat of Pisa, which never fully recovered as a maritime competitor, resulted in gain of control of the commerce of Corsica by Genoa. The Sardinian town of Sassari, which was under Pisan control, became a commune which was controlled by Genoa. Control of Sardinia, however, did not pass permanently to Genoa: the Aragonese kings of Naples disputed control and did not secure it until the 15th century.

The Genoese fortress in Sudak, Ukraine.

Genoese merchants pressed south, to the island of Sicily, and into Muslim North Africas, where Genoese established trading colonies, pursuing the gold that traveled up through the Sahara and establishing Atlantic depots as far afield as Salé and Safi.[10] In 1283 the population of the Kingdom of Sicily revolted against the Angevin rule. The revolt became known as the Sicilian Vespers. As a result the Aragonese rule was established on the Kingdom. Genoa, which had supported the Aragonese, was granted free trading and export rights in the Kingdom of Sicily. Genoese bankers also profited from loans to the new nobility of Sicily. Corsica was formally annexed in 1347.[11]

Genoa was far more than a depot of drugs and spices from the East: an essential engine of its economy was the weaving of silk textiles, from imported thread, following the symmetrical styles of Byzantine and Sassanian silks.


As a result of the economic retrenchment Europe in the late 14th century, as well as its long war with Venice, which culminated in its defeat at Chioggia (1380), Genoa went into decline. This pivotal war with Venice has come to be called the War of Chioggia because of this decisive battle which resulted the defeat of Genoa at the hands of Venice.[12] Prior to the War of Chioggia, which lasted from 1379 until 1381, the Genonese had enjoyed a naval ascendency that was the source of their power and position within northern Italy.[13] The Genoan defeat deprived Genoa of this naval supremacy, pushed it out of eastern Mediterranean markets and began the decline of the city state.[14] Rising Ottoman power also cut into the Genoese emporia in the Aegean, and the Black Sea trade was reduced.[15]

Genoa was ultimately occupied by the French or the Milanese for much of the period. Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa during this period, but sought a career elsewhere. From 1499 to 1528, the Republic reached its nadir, being under nearly continual French occupation. The Spanish, with their intramural allies, the "old nobility" entrenched in the mountain fastnesses behind Genoa, captured the city on May 30, 1522, and subjected the city to a merciless pillage. When the great admiral Andrea Doria of the powerful Doria family allied with the Emperor Charles V to oust the French and restore Genoa's independence, a renewed prospect opened: 1528 marks the first loan from Genoese banks to Charles.

Golden age of Genoese bankers

Thereafter, Genoa underwent something of a revival as a junior associate of the Spanish Empire, with Genoese bankers, in particular, financing many of the Spanish crown's foreign endeavors from their counting houses in Seville. Fernand Braudel has even called the period 1557 to 1627 the "age of the Genoese", "of a rule that was so discreet and sophisticated that historians for a long time failed to notice it" (Braudel 1984 p. 157), although the modern visitor passing brilliant Mannerist and Baroque palazzo facades along Genoa's Strada Nova (now Via Garibaldi) or via Balbi cannot fail to notice that there was conspicuous wealth, which in fact was not Genoese but concentrated in the hands of a tightly-knit circle of banker-financiers, true "venture capitalists". Genoa's trade, however, remained closely dependent on control of Mediterranean sealanes, and the loss of Chios to the Turks (1566), struck a severe blow.[16]

The opening for the Genoese banking consortium was the state bankruptcy of Philip II in 1557, which threw the German banking houses into chaos and ended the reign of the Fuggers as Spanish financiers. The Genoese bankers provided the unwieldy Habsburg system with fluid credit and a dependably regular income. In return the less dependable shipments of American silver were rapidly transferred from Seville to Genoa, to provide capital for further ventures. The Genoese banker Ambrogio Spinola, marqués de los Balbases, for instance, himself raised and led an army that fought in the Eighty Years' War in the Netherlands in the early 17th century. The decline of Spain in the 17th century brought also the renewed decline of Genoa, and the Spanish crown's frequent bankruptcies, in particular, ruined many of Genoa's merchant houses. In 1684 the city was heavily bombarded by a French fleet as punishment for its alliance with Spain.

French conquest

Genoa continued its slow decline in the 18th century, and in 1768 was forced by endemic rebellion to sell Corsica to the French and so Corsica was ceded in the Treaty of Versailles of 1768. In 1742 the last possession of the Genoese in the Mediterranean, the island fortress of Tabarka, was lost to the Bey of Tunis.[17]

Genoa reluctantly entered into the War of the Austrian succession in 1745. The Genoese supported the Bourbon French and Spain in order to prevent their mortal enemy Piedmont from annexing the Mark of Finale Ligure, which would cut the republic in half. This decision resulted in a string of disasters — the capitulation to the Austrians on 6 September 1746, the great popular insurrection of December 1746, and the Siege of Genoa in 1747 (though Genoa retained Finale in the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle). An economic revival in the 1780s[18] was not long lasting: in 1797 the Republic was occupied by the French revolutionary army of Napoleon Bonaparte, who overthrew the old elites who had ruled the city for all of its history, and replaced them with a popular republic known as the Ligurian Republic, under the watchful care of Napoleonic France.

After Bonaparte's seizure of power in France, a more conservative constitution was enacted, but the Ligurian Republic's life was short - in 1805 it was annexed by France, becoming the départements of Apennins, Gênes, and Montenotte. Following the defeat of Napoleon in the spring of 1814, local elites encouraged by the British agent Lord William Bentinck proclaimed the restoration of the old Republic, but it was decided at the Congress of Vienna that Genoa should be given to the Kingdom of Sardinia. British troops suppressed the republic in December 1814, and it was annexed by Sardinia on January 3, 1815.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Alexander A. Vasiliev (1958). History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453. University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 537–38. ISBN 0299809269. 
  2. ^ a b c d e William Miller (2009). The Latin Orient. Bibliobazaar LLC. pp. 51–54. ISBN 111086390X. 
  3. ^ Thomas Allison Kirk (2005). Genoa and the sea: policy and power in an early modern maritime republic, 1559-1684. JHU Press. p. 188. ISBN 0801880831. 
  4. ^ J. F. Fuller (1987). A Military History of the Western World, Volume I. Da Capo Press. p. 408. ISBN 0306803046. 
  5. ^ Joseph F. O'Callaghan (2004). Reconquest and crusade in medieval Spain. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 35. ISBN 0812218892. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Steven A. Epstein (2002). Genoa and the Genoese, 958-1528. UNC Press. pp. 28–32. ISBN 0807849928. 
  7. ^ Robert H. Bates (1998). Analytic Narratives. Princeton University Press. p. 27. ISBN 0691001294. 
  8. ^ John Bryan Williams, "The Making of a Crusade: The Genoese Anti-Muslim Attacks in Spain, 1146–1148" Journal of Medieval History 23 1 (1997): 29–53.
  9. ^ a b c d William Ledyard Rodgers (1967). Naval warfare under oars, 4th to 16th centuries: a study of strategy, tactics and ship design. Naval Institute Press. pp. 132–34. ISBN 087021487X. 
  10. ^ H. Hearder and D.P. Waley, eds, A Short History of Italy (Cambridge University Press)1963:68.
  11. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1910, Volume 7, page 201
  12. ^ John Julius Norwich, History of Venice (Alfred A. Knopf Co.: New York, 1982) p. 256.
  13. ^ Henry S. Lucas, The Renaissance and the Reformation (Harper & Bros: New York, 1960) p. 42.
  14. ^ Ibid.
  15. ^ Durant, Will. The Renaissance. pag.189
  16. ^ Philip P. Argenti, Chius Vincta or the Occupation of Chios by the Turks (1566) and Their Administration of the Island (1566-1912), Described in Contemporary Diplomatic Reports and Official Dispatches (Cambridge, 1941), Part I.
  17. ^ Alberti Russell, Janice. The Italian community in Tunisia, 1861-1961: a viable minority. pag. 142
  18. ^ Outlined in Manlio Calegari, La società patria delle arti e manifatture: Iniziativa imprenditoriale e rinnovamento tecnologico nel reformismo genovese del Settecento (Florence, 1969).

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