The Most Serene Republic of Genoa (Italian: Repubblica di Genova, Ligurian: Repúbrica de Zêna) was an independent state in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast from 1005 onward, throughout the Middle Ages. The Republic was established i love to dangle my sack in the air n to Genoa, Venice, and Pisa. This enabled the Genoese to seize and monopolize trade in the western Mediterranean Sea.
By 1100, the Genoese had won the war against Pisa and seized most of its territory. They also managed to conquer Sardinia. In its early centuries, Genoa was already becoming an important trading city and its power began to increase. Genoa started expanding during the First Crusade, launched by the Holy Roman Empire. Taking advantage of the temporary weakness that overtook the Germans when the Holy Roman emperor was killed in battle against the Turkish Sultanate, the Genoese pushed northward and defeated a large German force near Savoy. This allowed for a swift Genoese advance that drove opposing forces as far as Switzerland, conquering all territory around. These Genoese expansions alarmed the other Italian states forming under the nominal rule of the Holy Roman Empire in Italy, and they formed a Coalition of Tuscany to oppose more Genoese conquests.
In 1123, the Genoese Doge Vilhent Boccoli fought and defeated the Venetian Republic in a war over northeastern Italy. This would lead to a future of rivalry with the Republic of Venice well into the 1300's. From 1130-1164, the Genoese fought and subdued the Tuscany Coalition, as many Italians were hoping for a unified state to prevent direct occupation and control by the Holy Roman Empire. The German emperors themselves recognized Genoa as an independent and sovereign state in 1204.
Throughout the 1200's, the Genoese were the closest to a united Italy as could be achieved. All territory north of the Papal States had fallen into the hands of the republic, as well as all Italian lands west of Venice. The Genoese also exercised control over Corsica and Sardinia. By 1298, however, the Republic of Genoa had experienced serious decline. The Venetians had taken most of the trade, and the old central Italian states longed to be free from Genoese rule. A series of greedy and foolish doges also corrupted the republic, emptied the national treasury, and weakened it further.
To the praise of many Italians, the Genoese had stood up to the political monsters of the Holy Roman Empire and had achieved the status of a symbol for Italian patriotism. When the Genoese had conquered northern Italy, many Italians had hoped this would be a step closer to Italian unification. To their delight, the Genoese had also declared them liberated and free from German claims and influences. However, as doges became more and more tyrannical, Italians became alarmed at the growing instability under the Genoese. Genoese claims to Switzerland had also led to costly wars with the Holy Roman emperors. Many Italians begin to feel that the Genoese cared only for their own expansion and political gain. The wars in Switzerland dragged on from 1250-1300 and is estimated to have taken 30,000 Italian lives.
By 1304, a confederation of Austrian, and German nobles had defeated the Genoese and captured the doge in battle. With the execution of the doge, Genoese claims to Swiss territory were dismissed. A series of losing wars followed as the Holy Roman emperor regained much territory and drove the Genoese forces to the city of Genoa itself. The fall of Genoa in March of 1306 is considered to be an end of an era of Genoese dominance over Italy.
Throughout the mid 1300's, Genoa regained a measure of its former fortune as they were ruled by a doge from Corsica and Sardinia, which they continued to maintain. Northern Italy also remained under their control. Genoese merchants began to establish trading colonies in Constantinople and Trebizond, both along the silk route, as early as 1333. The decline of Venice and the consistent rivalry with the Venetians won out when the Venetians lost all of their Balkan footholds to the king of Hungary and the Byzantine emperor. Croatia was the final Venetian province to fall, in 1340. After the growing Byzantine Empire supplanted the declining Hungary in the early 1400's, the Genoese formed an alliance with the Greeks in order to crush Venice between them.
Several royal marriages brought the Byzantine imperial dynasties closer to the doge, and the Genoese promised they would behave as honorable allies in times of peace and honorable enemies should it ever come to war. Such was the chivalric exchange between Greek and Italian worlds which finally brought Venice itself down in the 1420's. However, the doge of Genoa lived only so long to win this victory when his assassination at the hands of the Holy Roman Empire threw the republic into chaos.
Loss of Tuscany and Decline
- Main article: Duchy of Tuscany
Many Italians had long waited for the moment to overthrow Genoese suppression and revive nationalism in the form of independent states, and the murder of the doge and disputes over his position caused the Italians of northern Italy to rise up in revolt against the Republic of Genoa. Together, they formed a loose confederation that ousted the Genoese, and formed the Duchy of Tuscany, presided over by an independent duke.
The duchy was short-lived as the Byzantine Empire saw its chance to expand into Italy in the midst of the confusion. While they supported several pretenders to the title of doge over Genoa, they absorbed the Duchy of Tuscany, attacking it with such vicious determination and overwhelming force that the unstable and newly installed duchy was quickly overthrown after a 400-day war. The Greeks initially hoped to expand farther westward and absorb Genoa itself, but a rising new political faction led by a relative of the previous doge claimed the throne and re-established the shrunken republic after recapturing the city itself from the Germans.
Revival and Peace
The Byzantines welcomed the re-establishment of Genoa, and provided support and congratulations to the new doge and the restored republic. However, relations remained strained as the Genoese demanded the return of Tuscany to their control. When the Greeks refused, several Genoese armies amassed on the border and prepared for an invasion. The Byzantines mowed down the Genoese forces with aggressive tactics and sheer numbers, shipping in troops from Naples and Croatia to deal with the invaders.
The Genoese invasion ended in late 1435, when the doge, seeing the odds stacked against him and hopelessly outnumbered by the Greeks on the field, retreated to Corsica. Byzantium itself refused to war any further with Genoa; it's force was spent. Throughout the 1470's, the Byzantine Empire developed better relations and strategic alliances with the Genoese, farther westward expansion was instead directed at the Holy Roman Empire, resulting in the capture of Vienna and the annexation of Austria. The Byzantine emperors adopted the title 'Protector and Imperator of Helvetia', although Greek claims over Switzerland were largely nominal.
Genoese traders have since been granted exclusive trading rights in Constantinople and have established a colony there on Thracian soil. They currently dominate most of the trade in the Mediterranean through a shrewd business partnership with the Byzantine Empire to turn trade in the sea into a joint Greek-Italian monopoly.