Venetian War
Principia Moderni III
The Battle of Naxos, the final major naval battle of the war.
Date 1500 - 1503
Location Roman Empire, Venice, Holy Roman Empire
Result Treaty of Athens
  • End of the Venetian Republic
  • Unification of mainland Greece and the Aegean Isles.
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806) Holy Roman Empire

Flag of the Roman Empire 1265-Present Roman Empire

Flag of Most Serene Republic of Venice Venice
  • Flag of the Septinsular Republic Epirus
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Duchy of Milan (1450) Marco I

Flag of the Duchy of Milan (1450) Stephano
Flag of Austria Albert II
Flag of the Roman Empire 1265-Present Thomas I

Flag of Most Serene Republic of Venice Dragano Roscol

The Venetian War was a war fought in southern Europe and the Mediterranean between the Venetian Republic and forces loyal to the Holy Roman and Roman Empires. The war raged on for three years and ended with the complete defeat of Venice and the partition of its territory between the two empires.  The war would have major repercussions for the European world at the time, as the war upset the extensive trade networks that Venice had established over the past few centuries, which would take years to recover. The war was also very important for the revival of the Roman Empire, who had managed to unify all of Greece under its control for the first time since the end of the Fourth Crusade. 



Since its sponsorship in the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Venice had dominated the Aegean Sea and most of the trade networks across the Mediterranean Sea. Venice relied upon rather weak crusader states established in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade as well as its own powerful navy and army to maintain its uncontested dominance over the area. However, the rise of the Ottomans as a major power was a potential threat to the Venetian monopoly of power. 

To counter the rise of the Ottomans, the Venetians turned to the Roman Empire, a weak state in desperate need of support against the Ottoman onslaught. By helping the Romans against the Ottomans, the Venetians hoped to forge a remotely competent ally that would be able to reinforce their control over the Aegean as well as keep ethnic Greeks in Venetian territory from becoming restless. To that end, the Venetians helped negotiate a beneficial treaty that ended the Ottoman Blockade of Constantinople and regained Roman control over the Bosphorus and the city of Nicomedia. The Venetians also helped bankroll the Roman Empire's flailing economy and train their troops. 

In appreciation, the Romans aided the Venetians in enforcing their authority in the Aegean area. The Romans helped the Venetians in The Bastard's Rebellion and gained the city of Thebes as well as joint ownership of Athens. Over the next few decades, the Roman Empire fought wars against Genoa, Savoy and the remaining Latin Crusader states in Greece, slowly unifying most of Greece under its control, with Venice's benediction. The ultimate moment of Venetian and Roman cooperation would be during the Albanian War of Independence, when Venice and the Roman Empire alongside other Christian nations defeated the Ottoman Empire, forcing them out of Europe. 

While the War was the high point of Venetian and Roman co-operation, it was not to last. While the Roman Empire had regained Thrace, Macedonia, and Thessaly from the Ottomans, many in the Imperial government desired to reclaim all of Greece as well as reassert control over the Empire's economy and trade. While Venice engaged in warfare in Italy, Roman desire to reclaim Greece mounted, and without any mutual enemy to bring the two together, the Roman Empire gradually turned against Venice. 

Despite its newfound strength, the Roman Empire under Emperor Thomas I Palaiologos was nowhere near the power of Venice. To that end, Thomas I went in search of potential allies who might also seek to engage Venice alongside the Romans. Thomas I was able to convince the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Albert II and his vassal Marco I of Milan to join the fight. Gjon Kastrioti II of Albania was also co-opted into the war on the condition Venetian Albania was incorporated into his own domain. With the various armies assembled, war would soon break out. 

Course of the War

Rebellion in Crete

Crete had been a Venetian possession since the Fourth Crusade. Venetian governors presided over a majority Greek population. The native Greeks often resented Venetian rule and had rebelled against them in the past but were never successful. When relations between the Venetians and the Roman Empire began breaking down, the Roman Empire secretly supported rebels on the island through its wealthy nobles and merchants, who would smuggle weapons and supplies to the island. 

When war broke out, the Roman Empire abandoned any pretense of secrecy. Roman forces attempted to smuggle in weapons and military advisors to help the native Cretans fight against the Venetians, but the powerful Venetian navy prevented any major Roman force from landing on the island. However, as Venetian forces became divided and forced to fight in other theaters, the rebels were more successful. However, Venice was able to maintain control over the major population centers as well as the capital, Candia, until the end of the war. The rebels were able to take control over much of the hilly countryside and managed to resist most of the occasional military expeditions the Venetians used to try to subjugate the island.

War in Attica

The region of Attica and the capital of Athens had been divided between the Romans and the Venetians since the end of the Bastard's Rebellion. The Roman Empire and Venice had jointly governed Athens but had directly controlled the area around the city. Other possessions in the area such as the island of Euboea were owned by Venice since the Fourth Crusade. Under joint control, Athens became a city of Greeks, Italians, and Venetians and a major port city in the Venetian trade network. 

Attica was the first major target of the Roman military. Armies from Thebes and Corinth marched into Attica with the intent of taking Athens and cutting the Venetian Empire in two. Roman and Albanian armies in Epirus would complete the division. Surprisingly, Roman forces met little resistance until they reached Athens. However, Greeks loyal to the Roman Empire opened the gates of the city and the Romans charged in, soon overwhelming the Venetians in the streets of the city. The next day, the Roman governor of Athens oversaw the official surrender of the city by his Venetian counterpart. 

Other campaigns in southern Greece are often linked to the Attican campaign even though they may have taken place in areas other than Attica proper. An army from Sparta marched around the southern Greek coast, laying siege to Venetian enclaves. When the war in Epirus bogged down into a stalemate, Roman forces in Athens decided to invade the island of Euboea. However, the Venetian navy prevented the Romans from gathering in force, and as such small detachments moved to the island over a period of weeks before being strong enough to take the capital of Chalkis in 1501.

Unification of Taurica

Venetian possessions in Taurica and the Black Sea were obtained after crushing Genoa in a war alongside Savoy during Savoy's attempt to form a united Italy. Roman forces were originally led to believe that by joining the war, they would gain some of the Greek possessions in Taurica and further their hold in the area. The Roman vassal of Theodoro supported the Venetians, but upon the wars conclusion, the Roman Empire was rewarded nothing other than the cities of Galata and Famagusta, in Constantinople and Cyprus, respectively. 

Upon the declaration of war, the Emperor's loyal vassal and relative Isaac Gabras of Theodoro gathered his Gothic and Greek forces and marched upon the Venetian coast intent on sieging the capital of Caffa. Departing from the city of Doros, Isaac and his forces attacked Cembalo, Caulita, Lusta, and Soldaia in quick succession. Cut off from naval support, the cities and their Greek populace offered little resistance. 

The city of Caffa offered significantly more resistance, as it was the artery of Venice's eastern trade network with the rest of Asia. Isaac and his forced surrounded the city in the spring of 1502 and for several months tried to starve them out. The quick success of the Attica campaign allowed the Romans to ship some bombards to Taurica, first by land to Constantinople and then by sea. The arrival of the bombards made Caffa untenable, and the starving garrison surrendered soon after. The defeat of Caffa ended effective Venetian presence in the Black Sea and made Isaac the most powerful man in Taurica. Isaac relocated his capital from Doros to Caffa, now under its name of Theodosia, and ruled the land in the name of the Roman Empire. Except for a few areas in the north owned by Tatar lords loyal to the Tartary, Isaac was the undisputed master of all of Taurica. 

Stalemate in Epirus

Despite the importance of Athens in the Venetian Empire, the main foothold of the Venetian Empire was in Epirus. Venice moved into the area in 1401 in order to provide a stable gateway to to the rest of the Mediterranean and to offer a first line of defense to the Adriatic Sea. Roman forces wanted to conquer Epirus to begin starving mainland Venice of supplies and begin taking control of the sea.

Roman forces from Larissa met with Albanian forces eager to end the Venetian occupation of parts of their country. However, Venice was aware of the importance of Epirus, and the region had the highest concentration of Venetian troops outside of Venice itself. Roman forces were unable to effectively defeat the Venetians in the area conclusively until the spring of 1503, and until then Roman and Venetian forces continuously battled each other back and forth across the area. 

A Roman victory in the area effectively broke any major Venetian power outside of the Adriatic, and the Battle of Naxos in the Aegean confirmed it. With Epirus under its control and Venetian power weakening, Roman forces were able to be more daring in their efforts to continue the fight. With most of the Venetian fleet engaged in the Battle of Venice on the mainland, Roman forces were able to travel by boat and take the city of Ragusa, the last official Roman action of the war.

Battle for the Aegean

Alongside Crete and Euboea, Venice owned many of the islands of the Aegean through either direct ownership or vassalage. Most of these islands fell out of Roman control during the Fourth Crusade, but the Roman Empire had begun to re-establish itself in the region with Chios acquired from Savoy following the Florentine-Savoy War in 1409 and the Dodacanese acquired following the reformatting of the Knights Hospitaller in 1429. 

During the war, Rhodes and Bodrum were major centers of Roman power, but they were unable to put any effective pressure on the Venetian navy. When Athens fell in 1401, the only major ports open to Venice in the Aegean Sea were Candia and Naxos. Taking the Cyclades would effectively end any chance of Venice regaining its lost possessions in Greece. However, the powerful Venetian navy ensured that Candia and the Cyclades were well supplied and safe from Roman attacks. 

However, as Epirus fell to the Romans, fewer supplies were able to reach the Aegean for the Venetian garrison. The siege of Venice by the Milanese and Austrians had also taken its toll, and supplies were crucial for the weakening Venetian garrison, which meant fewer supplies were available for the Aegean front. This led to a weakening of Venetian resolve and disgruntled some of the Greek and Latin inhabitants of the islands. In 1503, the Roman Empire decided to take advantage of the situation and make a bold challenge of Venice's naval superiority. 

A vast Roman fleet of galleys and galleasses, numbering 150 total of all classes, approached Naxos intent on taking the Cyclades from Venice. The Venetian fleet, docked at Candia at the time, caught wind of this fleet and embarked to engage it. As Roman ships deployed troops to take the city of Naxos, the Venetian fleet appeared on the horizon. Roman ships, mainly galleasses, lined up in front of the transports while many of the galleys quickly made their way around the island, hoping to attack the Venetians from behind. The Venetian fleet numbered anywhere from 200 to 250 ships of all classes and expected to destroy the Roman fleet through sheer numbers and manpower. 

As the Venetians approached the fleet, the Roman galleasses sailed forward, charging the Venetian ranks. Breaking through the front line of galleys, the galleasses decimated the Venetian fleet with their superior firepower, destroying many ships and damaging countless others with their first pass. The Roman galleys circling behind the Venetians engaged next, trapping them between the island and the Roman fleet. For the Venetians, there was no escape. 

The duke of Naxos, Francesco III, with Romans in his city and just off the coast, turned his coastal batteries on the Venetians, hoping that if he aided the Romans he would keep his throne. For the rest of the day Roman forces battled the Venetians on both the island and the sea, effectively defeating Venice in the Aegean once and for all. The success had a major impact on Roman and Venetian morale, with the Romans exuberant and the Venetians downcast. Shortly after the battle, what few Venetian territories left in the Aegean and Greece surrendered to the Romans in short order.

Fall of the Republic

In Italy and the Holy Roman Empire, Venice and Austria had routinely battled for superior influence amongst the various northern Italian states. Austrian benevolence earned them the trust of Milan, while Venice sought to influence its own power through either careful diplomacy or by the edge of a sword. A Venetian victory in the Venice-Genoa War made Venice the undisputed economic powerhouse in Italy as well as one of the clear military powers alongside Milan, Naples, and Florence.

However, Venice's aggressive expansion had dismayed many of the smaller Italian states, and the Holy Roman Empire was honor bound to defend them in the aftermath of the Norse Wars. Venice and Austria first came to blows in the Venetian-Padua Conflict. Venice did not expect the Holy Roman Empire to honor its commitments to its Italian constituents. While the war ended in a status quo, the Austrians did not fully expect the Venetians to honor their agreement and remained wary of Venetian motivations. Despite cooperation in the War of Albanian Independence, the threat was always in the minds of the Austrians and their Italian comrades. 

This threat soon came to light, when Venice again invaded Padua in 1485. Padua put up a remarkable defense and managed to repulse Venice on its own, albeit at huge losses to itself. The war all but confirmed Austrian suspicions, and when Thomas I of the Roman Empire came to Vienna asking for aid against the Venetians, Holy Roman Emperor Albert II didn't hesitate to offer support. He also brought his own vassal, Marco I of Milan, into the war as well, as Marco had similar concerns regarding Venetian aspirations.

When the war broke out, Austrian and Milanese armies marched onto Venice, intending on capturing it and securing a quick end to the war. However, this was not to be the case. Venice was heavily fortified and was kept well supplied by sea, where Venice could get supplies from other ports neutral or supportive of Venice. Furthermore, Milanese support for the war was slow at first, as Marco I died shortly after the war started and his son Stephano had to confirm his place as the Duke of Milan. 

Most of the Venetian countryside fell to the invading Austrians with little resistance, although some areas of Istria put up a significant fight. Venice itself was practically unassailable, and no navy existed, Roman or German, that could defeat the Venetians in their home waters. As a result, Venice was consigned to a long and fruitless siege, where neither side could force the other into surrender.

This eventually changed, as the Roman liberation of Epirus effectively ended most Venetian supply routes outside of the Adriatic. Without these supply chains, the Venetian garrison slowly began to starve and run out of resources to oppose occasional Austrian assaults. With no real ability to resist the invaders anymore, the Venetian garrison surrendered the city in 1503. Albert II and Stephano entered the city triumphant, removing Dragano Roscol from the throne and formally ending the republic.


The Venetian War effectively ended the Republic of Venice, which had been independent since 697. Venice would never again be an independent power, and from this point on would become a province in the Austrian, Spanish and Bavarian Empires. 

The war had profound effects for the economy of Europe, which had relied on Venetian trade routes for goods and commerce. While Venice remained an important center of trade after the war, the collapse of its economy triggered a widespread economic recession in Europe that took decades to recover from fully.

In the Roman Empire, the war essentially completed the Eastern Reconquista, the effort of the Romans to regain their European territory from the Ottoman Turks and the Venetians. The Romans also abolished slavery following their discovery of the horrible slave markets in Athens and Candia, becoming the first country in the world to abolish slavery and the slave trade. The war also embittered many Venetians living in Greece at the time, and one Venetian managed to assassinate Thomas I in Constantinople following the earthquake of 1509. 

In the Holy Roman Emperor, the acquisition of Venice and Venice's fleets enabled Austria to start the path of a colonial power, founding colonies in Borealia and enclaves in north Africa. Milan also benefited from the war, and used the political vacuum from the fall of Venice to form the Kingdom of Lombardy, which dominated northern Italy just as Naples dominated the south. 

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