The Venetians: A New History: from Marco Polo to Casanova

Free The Venetians: A New History: from Marco Polo to Casanova by Paul Strathern

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Authors: Paul Strathern
Tags: nonfiction, History, Italy
pay soldiers, they were recruited from amongst the pirates, brigands, murderers and assorted desperadoes detained in the local prisons, who were willing to serve without pay for the first six months in return for their freedom. Over the month of August governor Gradenigo issued a series of proclamations, aimed at establishing the new Cretan nation. Amongst the most radical was one that proclaimed equal rights between the Catholic Church (which answered to the pope in Rome and ministered to the Venetian colonists) and the previously discriminated-against Greek Byzantine Church (whose loyalties were to Constantinople and the indigenous population). In consequence, a Catholic monk named Leonardo Gradenigo would even go so far as to abrogate his vows and become a Byzantine Orthodox monk. Another proclamation decreed that from now on Cretan vessels were to fly the flag of St Titus, instead of that of San Marco, both at home and especially when visiting foreign ports. This was intended to demonstrate the permanence of the new regime, as well as to broadcast its existence to ports throughout the Mediterranean.
    Not until September did news of the revolt reach Venice, and even then it hardly created a stir. Evidence of the Venetian regard for their colony can be seen in their earlier reaction to the Venetian landlords’ petition to send a delegation of twenty savi (wise men) to Venice to put their case, to which the Great Council had replied, ‘We were not aware that there were twenty wise men in Candia.’ In response to the revolt, Venice despatched three commissioners to sort out what they evidently regarded as a little local difficulty. When they were greeted by jeers and insults as they made their way through the streets, and a second delegation was chased by an angry mob back to their galley, it was belatedly decided that more serious measures should be taken.
    This would demonstrate the full might and efficiency of the Venetian administrative machine, once it had committed itself to action. First, aprecautionary diplomatic campaign was launched, with letters seeking support against the revolt being despatched to Pope Urban V, Queen Giovanna of Sicily and Jerusalem, the kings of Cyprus, Hungary and Naples, the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes and even the Doge of Genoa. This was an astute move: none of these rulers wished to see such a revolt succeed, in case it set an example to their own subdued populations or remote provinces. In their replies, not one of these rulers actually went so far as to pledge forces to help suppress the revolt, but most declared support for Venice and agreed to bar their subjects from trading with Crete.
    Venice now hired the powerful Veronese condottiere (mercenary commander) Luchino dal Verme, and his mercenary army consisting of 1,000 cavalry and 2,000 infantry, to be transported by a fleet of thirty galleys to Crete to crush the revolt. This force included the usual assortment of Italian soldiers, as well as freebooters from as far afield as Albania, Switzerland, England and Turkey, together with a contingent of Bohemian mine-layers with specialist siege engines. When news of the size of this invading army reached Crete, many Venetian colonials began to desert the rebels’ cause. In a move to contain this, the apostate monk Leonardo Gradenigo formed an alliance with a Greek priest called Milletos (who was promised a bishopric for his support), and together with an armed band of peasants, Venetians and Greek priests they roamed the countryside murdering all the Venetian landlords who did not support the revolt. Leonardo Gradenigo then decided to carry this campaign into Candia, where he gathered up a mob with the intention of breaking into the prison and murdering arrested Venetian landlords who had turned against the new regime, but their efforts were thwarted. Meanwhile, in the countryside, Milletos and his gang had launched into an indiscriminate campaign of slaughter

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