Venice has a history that is as fascinating as the city is picturesque. In the 5th century, waves of barbarian tribes over ran the Italian territories and after the fall of the Roman Empire, established kingdoms across Europe. The region of Venetia was settled by the Huns in 452, after Attila the Hun and his army, which consisting of Ostrogoths, Vandals and Huns, invaded the Roman city of Aquileia. The people were forced to flee to the island of Rialto, where they founded the city of Venice. After the Lombards, who were another Germanic barbarian tribe, invaded the region in 568, more and more refugees fled to Venice and during the 8th century, the first duke, Duke Orso, was elected. Yet, it was not until the 9th century that the Venetians felt a true sense of national unity. During the 9th century, the Franks under King Pepin attempted to invade the Venetian islands and the Venetians adopted Rialto as their central capital which still remains as modern-day Venice.
In 810, Charlemagne was recognized as King of Italy, but the Eastern Emperor Nicephorus became the lord of Venice. Thus, Venice achieved independence from the rest of Italy and retained a closer alliance with the East. Venice's strategic location between the East and the West soon became very important for Italy in terms of imports and exports abroad. Venice established itself as a major trade city throughout Europe and most of the East and Italy depended upon the city for nearly all of its imported goods. Furthermore, the city became known as a diplomatic center as well as an economic one. It is one of the most important cities in Italy, even today. Venice also acquired power in the religious sphere when, in 828, the remains of St. Mark were brought to Venice from Egypt and were buried in the ducal chapel. They were later placed in the church of St Mark, which still stands today. In the Middle Ages, the religious power of Venice rivaled that of Rome. The winged lion of St. Mark still remains as a symbol of Venice.
In the 13th century, the most notable Venetian figure was Marco Polo, who was born in 1254. Marco Polo traveled widely in the Far East and China, and returned to Venetian soil in 1295. He remains as one of the most important figures in world history. In the 14th and 15th century, Venice retained its power as the major trade center of the Mediterranean and a large area of Eastern Europe, incorporating much of Greece, including Corfu and Cyprus.
During the 15th century, the Venetian territory incorporated the areas of Friul and what is now known as the Veneto region. Nonetheless, with the French invasion and the League of Cambrai in 1509, Venice lost most of its territory. The Venetians also lost their trading power in the East and became more closely allied with Europe. Venice was forced to defend its independence and its heritage from both the Turks and the rest of Europe. Napoleon and the French Revolution of the late 18th century spelled the end of what was known as the Venetian Republic.
In the campaign of 1797, Venice lost its doge Ludovico Manin to Napoleon. All of the Venetian mainland territory passed to the Austrians under the Treaty of Campo. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Venetia came under Austrian power and in 1815 it became part of the Austrian Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, thereby becoming part of the Hapsburg monarchy, until 1859 when Venetia and Venice came under the rule of Italy.
- ^ Swyrich, Archive materials