The Most Serene Republic
Venice rightly calls itself the most serene republic, no other city on the Italian peninsula enjoys such stability and safety. This stability however comes at a price. The secret police of the Venetian empire maintained control with an iron grip. The city is spread with lion heads with gaping mouths where citizens can drop notes to inform their brethren. A part of the lagoon is forbidden to fishermen as it is reserved for dumping the bodies of those unfortunates who come under interrogation at the Palazzo San Marco. The city maintains assassins on retainers to hunt down and dispose of any glass blowers or those other valued craftsmen that might leave. This rigid discipline is not without results though as the city enjoys a stability that is unparalleled in the free cities of Italy, so often rife with uprisings and political upheaval.
Masters of the Shadows
Venice’s skills in espionage do not extend just to its capital but Venice’s trading empire is built on a bedrock of spies and informants to all ends. Much of Venice’s wealth was built on master strokes such as stealing the bones of St. Mark out of Egypt or smuggling silkworms out of China, breaking their monopoly on silk.
An Empire in the Name Profit
The Venetian empire, for an empire it is, bears one objective, more mundane than the common one of size or imperial grandeur for its own sake. Venice’s expansion has been a process of identifying any commercial threats to its trading network, whether pirates or legitimate competition, and crushing it through guile or force of arms. Venice owns coastal territories from Spain to Turkey and even owns a trading colony in China. Even the great city of Constantinople was not immune from Venice’s scheming. The mighty bronze horses that were once the treasure of the Byzantine emperors now adorn the Palazzo San Marco.
A War Fleet without Peer
Such power is no accident. The shipyards are a wonder of the world. Each day sees a brand new galley touch the sea. Each ship is identical to the last. A crew may take a new vessel and sail her immediately. Each galley so fashioned to turn from a trading vessel to a warship with a few practiced alterations. Its decks are crewed with fearsome Venetian marines and fierce mercenaries ruled with harsh discipline and commanded by experienced officers.
The Great Enemy
In Venice’s eagerness to cripple the Byzantine empire which had once nurtured Venice, it planted the seed of a greater foe. With Venice striking at its soft maritime underbelly, the Byzantine Empire was unable to hold back the Ottoman threat. Now the Ottomans sweep across Eastern Europe, Palestine, and Africa. Venice finds itself now fighting tooth and nail for its holdings in Greece. The Ottomans are unphased by the blood price they pay for each fortress festooned craggy rock of an island they pry from Venice. The fleets of Venice are the shield that protects Italy from the seaborne invasion already envisioned by the Sultan’s generals. All those in the Serene Republic know that there will soon be a time when the Ottoman fleets shall come in their masses and history will be decided by the sword arms and the oarsmen of the sons of Venice.