Page:Lectures on Modern History.djvu/71

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
45
BEGINNING OF THE MODERN STATE

Bosphorus. When the advancing Turk damaged their trade and threatened their Colonial empire, they took advantage of Italian disintegration to become a continental state, and the general insecurity and oppression of miniature potentates made it a happy fate to be subject to the serene and politic government, whose three thousand ships still held the sea, flying the Christian flag. Renouncing non-intervention on the mainland, they set power above prosperity, and the interest of the State above the welfare and safety of a thousand patrician houses. Wherever there were troubled waters, the fisher was Venice. All down the Eastern coast, and along the Alpine slopes to the passes which were the trade route to Northern Europe, and still farther, at the expense of Milan and Naples, the patriarch of Aquileia and the Duke of Ferrara, the Emperor and the Pope, the Queen of the Adriatic extended her intelligent sway. It was under the long administration of the Doge Foscari, Byron's hero, that it dawned upon the Venetians that it might be their mission to supersede the frail and helpless governments of the Peninsula; and their famous politician and historian, Paruta, believed that it was in their power to do what Rome had done. Their ambition was evident to their neighbours, and those whom they had despoiled, under every plausible pretext, awaited the opportunity of retribution.

Julius, taking counsel with Machiavelli, found it easy to form a league composed of their enemies. As it was not the interest of the empire, France and Spain, to spite Venice by strengthening each other, the Venetians imagined they could safely hold their ground, leaving the dependent cities to make their own terms with the enemy. Padua held out victoriously against Maximilian, but the battle of Agnadello was lost against the French in the same year 1509, in which, fighting under the Crescent in the Indian Ocean, the Venetians were defeated by the Portuguese, and lost their Eastern trade. They soon obtained their revenge. Having gained his ends by employing France against Venice