The Queen of the Sea

Venice is a place of beauty, romance, history, intrigue and enigma. Teeming with contradictions, a city without terra firma and an empire without borders, a city unique in the world. Venice is not a place but a destination; it is not only a city, but an icon.

Venice is unlike any other place in the world. Created in chaos, uncertainty and fear, Venice became the spirit of courage, defiance and purpose. Venice was born in the ruins of the Roman Empire and grew and thrived in the medieval and the Renaissance times. Venice was founded on the principles of equality, reciprocity and friendship. These were rare social values during the Middle Ages. All the outside pressures emanating from the rest of feudal Europe were totally different from Venice, and only served to fuse Venetians into one people with a single determination to protect their shared home, even if it was of only marshland and lagoons.

Venice has been known as “la Dominante”, “la Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Bridges”, “City of Canals”, “City of Masks” and “Floating City”. In actuality, Venice was one of the strongest marine powers in the history of the world and the world’s oldest and longest lasting republic.

Freedom seeking refugees from the Italian mainland, who were escaping from Goth invaders, built Venice on channels and shoals of lagoons. Venice came into existence at noon on the 25th of March 421 CE. For nearly 1700 years, a mere two to three miles of shallow water protected Venice from invaders and from the rest of the Italian peninsula’s feudalism, imperialist wars and other territorial fights. This watery sanctuary gave Venetians the space and the time to focus their efforts on the riches of Constantinople, the Levantine and the East.

Venice was shaped by the powers of the East and the West. It lived in the West but its gaze was always towards the East. With time, it became the mercantile empire of the Venetian Republic, the Queen of the Sea. Venetians were businessmen through and through. It was the most liberal and free state of the Middle Ages with its own unique social and political institutions. They were Venetians first and Christians afterwards. The Venetian government was the first to formally separate religion and politics in government. In this watery place, capitalism and ideology were not incompatible concepts. Venetians were not only capitalists, but also fiercely individualistic. Throughout the ages, all Venetian Doges swore to promote the “honor and profit” of Venice.

This city was built by architectural and technological innovations and filled with artistic treasures. As a result of the continuing process of enrichments stimulated by contacts with the East and the West, Venice was the perfect amalgamation of Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Since its founding, the Venetian lagoon has perpetually been a work in progress, a struggle between man and nature. Venetians have always been the world’s most experienced travelers and have always welcomed world travelers into their homes. It has become a melting pot for freedom and culture seekers. Despite the fall of the Republic of San Marco two hundred years ago, the vigorous and vibrant spirit of Venice is still very much alive. It has remained a city of honor, profit, history, and enchanting beauty.

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