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The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller


My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde


A history of Europe during the Middle Ages

by Samuel Astley Dunham

Excerpt:

than a century old; but we cannot enter into the history of changes which have been effected within a comparatively modern period.*

IV. Venice.—The islands at the mouths of the nu- si6 merous rivers which flow into the north-western part to of the Adriatic offered the inhabitants of Aquileja, Padua, Concordia, and other towns, a refuge from the fury of Attila. They founded the city of Rialto, to which they gave the same municipal government that had distinguished the free cities of the empire. Their numbers were swelled by the fugitives whom other barbarian victors forced from their native homes. There, secure in their almost inaccessible situation, they silently cemented the foundations of their state. A proof that they knew how to defend their new liberty, was exhibited as early as the commencement of the sixth century, when the Slavi, who had just settled on the opposite coast of Illyria, began by their piracies to disturb the trade of Rialto: the pirates were subdued, and Dalmatia subjected to the republic. The invasion of the Lombards, by forcing the prelates of Aquileja, Oderso, Altino, &c. to seek refuge in the isles, gave dignity to the state: the exiled churchmen founded cathedrals, and were the more pleased with their new flocks when they perceived that the sees they had left were filled by Arians. But the people soon found that the institutions of Rome were no longer adapted to their situation: to end the quarrels of the consular tribunes, each island regarding itself as independent of the rest, in 697 the inhabitants of all met in a general assembly at Heraclea; and there, in conformity with the advice of their patriarch (that of Grado), they placed themselves under the authority of a duke or doge, whose chief duty was to restrain the turbulent, to punish the rebellious, and defend the state against its foreign enemies. The new governor, whose powers were almost

* The authorities on which the above paragraph is founded, are too numerous to be cited: they comprise the histories of Italy, of Venice, of Hermany, and in fact of all Europe.

monarchical, amply fulfilled the expectation of the people; domestic faction was quelled; the pirates were driven from their neighbouring haunts; but the sway of his successors was felt to be onerous, and more than one forfeited his life to the offended justice of the people. At this period, too, Pepin invaded Italy, and, with the view of weakening the Eastern emperors, advanced pretensions to Dalmatia and Istria; which appear to have been conceded to the Greeks: this aggression forced the Venetians into the arms of that empire; in revenge, two of their islands were taken by the French, and they were compelled to concentrate alike their government and resources at Rialto, where they well knew the heavy vessels of the enemy could not pursue them. Those vessels made the attempt, but they were soon fast in shallows which the light barks of the republicans could traverse without difficulty; and they became an easy prey. From this period the Rialto became the seat of government, and received the name of Venice, which was that of the whole republic. To secure an unbroken communication with the sixty surrounding islets, bridges were thrown over the straits, and all became one great 'metropolis, which required little art to fortify against the assaults of new swarms of pirates. The body of St. Mark was removed with great pomp from Alexandria to the cathedral prepared for it, and the republic was thenceforth placed under his protection, and called after his name. But the disputes of angry parties again disturbed its peace; the Adriatic was again exposed to pirates, — to those of Narenta, and the Mohammedans of Sicily and Africa. As Narenta was nearly opposite to Anconaj some idea may be formed of the imminency of the danger. But the dissension of the patrician families continued, and enabled the pirates to form settlements in the ports of Istria. The power of the new comers might probably have been consolidated, had they not exasperated the Venetians by a daring and insulting act. They knew that the marriages of the Venetian nobles and of the

richest citizens were celebrated annually, in the same church and at the same hour; that the hridal parties were always unarmed; and, with a spirit characteristic of their profession, they resolved to carry away the brides, adorned with jewels and gold. This bold enterprise was successfully executed; a formidable band of armed men, who had lain hid in a desert island, rushed into the church, dragged the maidens from the foot of the altar, and re-embarked in triumph before any force could be collected to oppose them. But the affront was too deadly not to rouse the citizens, who collected in great numbers, embarked, pursued, and exterminated the ravishers. The vengeance must have been sudden, since the same day witnessed the restoration of the brides. In the subsequent wars, the city of Narenta, the stronghold of piracy, was taken and destroyed; and the small republican towns, which, during the misfortunes of the Greek empire, had sprung up in Illyria, were persuaded, or forced, not only to do homage to that of St. Mark, but to receive their magistrates from it.*

Omitting the conquests of the Venetians over a people 1032 whom they had long regarded as enemies, the Greeks of to Constantinople—conquests which properly belong to 123a the history of the Crusades,— the most striking object exhibited by the republic, during the middle ages, is its peculiar constitution. The other republics commenced with democratic institutions, this with one nearly monarchical, since the powers with which the duke or doge was invested, were those of royalty. He was the supreme judge; he was the general of the army; he was the head of the executive; he was elected for life, and he often transferred the dignity to his heir; his court was pompous, formed after the model of that of Constantinople. The government would soon have degenerated into a despotism, had not a check been exercised

* Andrea Dandolo, Chronica Venetum a Pontiflcatu & Marci, &c. lib. t— ix. (in multis capitulis). Marino Sanuto, Istoria ossia Vite de Duchi de Venezia, p. 5S8, Sec. Andrea Navagiero, Storia Venetian*, p. 919—957. Sismondi, Hist . des Rep. tom. i . chap. 5. VOL. I. H


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