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The Most Serene Republic of Venice, Venice, La Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic, is a republic comprising a main region in North Italia, various Adriatic islands, Ragusa in in southern Dalmatia and a number of South-East Asian islands. It is bordered by Austria-Bohemia, Hungary, Byzantium, Ferrara, Milan and the Grey League. The population is around 3.8 million and the capital is Venice.
The Head of State is Doge Tomaso Venier.
The official language is Venetian Italian with minorities speaking Dalmatian and Ternatian.
The currency is the Venetian Lira (VTL).
Legend has it that its founders sought refuge from the armies of Attila the Hun in the marshy lagoons and here they could hold out against barbarians and emperors alike. Slowly, the leading families sought out trading links with Byzantium and successive emperors guaranteed their advantageous position in the empire's trading world. In return the Doge (Dux, Duke) officially recognised Byzantine sovereignty over the Venetian lands. In this way Venice escaped being brought under the Holy Roman Empire unlike most of its neighbours.
While its great trading rivals, Genoa and Pisa largely dealt in the basics; grain, metals, alum, Venice concentrated on the luxuries that trade with Byzantium and the Levant could provide; silk, spice and wine. This created great wealth within the city and links with the great kings to the north, as well as political intrigue as the great families struggled to secure the office of Doge and advantageous trade rights. And after traders stole the bones of St. Mark from Alexandria the city attained a new purpose; one of pilgrimage, and also an appetite for appropriating relics from the East.
As the crusades put pressure on the Byzantine emperors and widened the gulf between Catholic and Orthodox Christianity so too did Venice's relationship with Byzantium begin to change. The Byzantine emperors went through periods of inciting the populace of Constantinople into acts of appalling violence against the large Venetian settlement and then, soon after, re-embracing the traders, often merely to cover up their own failings. But the damage was done. Venice, with wealth built up over centuries of trade with Constantinople and Alexandria and a substantial navy, could go it alone.
Indeed its involvement was crucial in supplying the crusader states in the Holy Land following the First Crusade. It would also be instrumental in the farce that was the Fourth Crusade. The leaders contracted Venice to transport the army and it duly suspended all of its own ship building program to accommodate. Yet when the fleet was complete the understrength knights were unable to pay for it. To get rid of the unruly mob and partially pay for the fleet the doge asked them instead to capture Zara on the Dalmatian coast which had recently revolted. This they happily did. Then, while they awaited more favourable sailing conditions they were joined by the ousted Byzantine heir, Alexios Angelos, who promised the knights assistance in travelling to the Holy Land and Venice a quarter of all land if they would assist him in gaining the imperial throne. Again this was agreed to. The crusaders would go onto capture Constantinople and set up a new Latin Empire in its ruins. Venice was indeed granted a quarter of all the land and gladly raised the flag of St. Mark over Durazzo, Corfu, Morea and Crete.
The Latin Empire did not last long however and increasingly brutal defeats against the Bulgarian Empire led the ever opportunistic Venetians to switch sides, gaining a severe rebuke from the Papacy. The navy-less Bulgarians would guarantee the lands claimed by Venice as long as they acted as its naval arm, protecting the Aegean from pirates, Turks and the Nicaean Empire. Meanwhile its rivalry with Genoa was spilling out into open war, a long struggle which would ultimately weaken both as the national navies of Aragon, Arles and Naples began to out-compete the maritime republics.
It was involved in the Mantuan Wars, largely to prevent Naples and Hungary from dominating the Adriatic but also as a buttress against Aragon's machinations in the Italian peninsula. Meanwhile it embarked on often pointless and expensive campaigns against the Grey League which was picking up support in the Alps amongst communes disaffected by distant and arrogant Venetian lords. By the dawn of the Fifty Years War Venice had massively expanded its army introducing many reforms which made it into the peninsula's most formidable fighting force. It would successfully defend itself against Hungary and then entered the fray against Aragon in 1638. Its successes here masked the decline in its trading fleet and this dwindled as trade with the Orient moved decisively to the Atlantic. Also, the trade network worked best when the Mediterranean was at peace and free of piracy yet those moments were few and far between. Still, it held onto the impressively rich lands of the 'Veneto' and slowly became much more comfortable with being a land-based power than a maritime one.
This was acerbated by repeated outbreaks of plague as well as the loss of Crete during the War of the Mediterranean. The Caliphate had massively expanded their fleet during the late 1500s and citing various incidents along the North African shore banned traders from the Christian states (a pyrrhic move as it turned out as the Christian and Jews trading from the African ports could not meet demand, or trade freely during the conflict, and the economy duly collapsed). Venice was henceforth banned from trading spices and many other states transferred their operations to the Atlantic where trading opportunities were beginning to appear in West Africa. A coalition of states from the Western Mediterranean hoped to prise the ports of the Caliphate open once more, and even perhaps, capture territory in some last gasp crusading venture. While most the allies stayed safely ensconced in the West, Venice faced the main Caliphate fleets in the East almost single-handed. Despite some impressive battles and an early upper-hand, it lost most of its admittedly outdated galley-fleet and Crete too in 1701-3. Byzantium stayed largely out of this conflict, though once the two parties were exhausted and the Caliphate in civil war it swooped in to conquer Crete for itself.
This did not mark a definitive break in Venetian-Byzantine relations however. Byzantium had slowly redefined their relationship by building its own fleet, banning other nations from the Black Sea whilst simultaneously opening Constantinople itself up to competition from other European (and Leifian) states. Byzantium still appreciated the role Venice played however and it demanded that Hungary restore Ragusa to Venetian rule after the Third Hungarian War (1784-1790) saw it lose the rest of its Dalmatian property.
During the Hispanic Revolution Venice was put under severe pressure by the forces of del Olmo and its by now pathetic and under-funded fleet was unceremoniously crushed at Malta in 1829. Its army too was pressured by Hungary and Hispania's sister Savonese republic in North Italia. Venice itself was besieged for eighteen months in 1831-32, surviving, thanks to continued Byzantine support and supplies. Its distant forces in South-East Asia fared better however, with armed merchants capturing the Castillian territory of Ternate in 1826.
Following the war its territory was restored while its holding of Ternate was confirmed and it took a belated turn to improve its trading position in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Trading forts in West Africa and India followed. Its mainland Italian properties have quietly prospered and outpace the rest of Italia in industrial production. The city of Venice itself is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is a fixture on tourist routes. The baroque styled Carnival held for two weeks before Lent is famous, or infamous, for its masked balls. However the city is facing ruin thanks to its sinking foundations and floods are a regular occurrence. The government is considering moving the capital to Verona and banning large vessels from the lagoon to help alleviate the potential damage.
The farthest flung of Venice's territories, the island of Ternate has passed through several hands. Long a powerful Sultanate thanks to its near monopoly on cloves, Ternate enjoyed a wide sphere of influence if not outright control of the entire Maluku islands. Occupied by Aragon, who took advantage of an internal power struggle, the eruption of Mount Gamalana in 1775 so devastated the island that they abandoned it. The island's population having by that time become thoroughly with the Aragonese anyway. By 1800 the island was run by Castille, however Venice had a small trading presence. When outside help disappeared as Castille became Hispania during the revolutions, Venetian traders alongside native chiefs conspired to expel the Castillians and place the island under Venetian protection. Venice then made use of Ternatian troops to attack and raid other Hispanic dominions in the area.
The island was awarded in full to Venice by the Peace of Milan however the clove trade slowly tailed off thanks to increasing competition, impoverishing both the islanders and the Venetian traders. Following several revolts in the 1860s and 70s Ternate would eventually be given equal status within the Venetian Republic. Venice's relative neutrality in the area has allowed it to control a monopoly of telegraph lines throughout the Malay archipelago and Ternate forms the hub of the area.
Over the centuries Venice has moved away from the dictatorial rule of the Doge and the narrowly selected Signoria. The rule of the Senate was confirmed in the aftermath of the Peace of Milan. Elections are held every 6 years. The role of Doge, still quite powerful, extravagantly well-paid and mostly dominated by the old noble families, is elected every ten years.
The current Doge is Tomaso Venier.