Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/291

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and Genoa. The growing wealth and importance of Venetian colonists in Constantinople, where they are said to have numbered two hundred thousand, increased the imperial jealousy. The Venetians were accused of being troublesome, brawling neighbours, who kept the town in an uproar. In March, 1171, all Venetians in the Empire were placed under arrest and their property confiscated. Popular indignation at Venice swept the Republic into war with the Emperor. One hundred galleys and twenty ships were manned in the course of a hundred days. The issue of the campaign was disastrous for the Venetians. The Emperor's Ambassadors induced the Doge to temporise. The plague decimated and nearly annihilated the fleet. The shattered remnants returned to Venice where the Doge was slain by the mob.

With the reign of Enrico Dandolo and the Fourth Crusade we approach a memorable period in the history of Venetian maritime empire. When Dandolo came to the throne the affairs of the Republic as regards their maritime power stood thus. In the imperial city their position was precarious, liable to violent changes, exposed to the machinations of their commercial and naval rivals, Pisa and Genoa. Their communications with their Syrian factories were not secure. Zara and the Dalmatian coast were still in revolt. In the year 1201 the Republic discovered that the usurping Emperor, Alexius III, was in treaty with the Genoese and meditated conferring on them ampler trading rights. The immediate objects of the Republic were the recovery of Zara and the suppression of their commercial rivals in Constantinople. The story of the Fourth Crusade is the story of the way in which the Republic accomplished its aims.

Zara was recovered and on the fall of Constantinople, in 1204, the Republic reaped material advantages of a preponderating kind. Her portion of the booty gave her solid riches, with which she bought the rights of Boniface over Crete and Salonika, and obtained leave for Venetian citizens to occupy as fiefs of the Empire any Aegean islands not already owned by the Republic. In this way she became possessed of the Cyclades and Sporades, and held the seaports of Thessaly and the island of Crete. Zara and other Dalmatian towns now became liers both by conquest and by title; and thus the Republic acquired an unbroken line of communication from Venice down the Adriatic to Constantinople and round to the seaports of the Syrian coast.

But the possession of this large maritime empire had to be made good. Venice was unable to undertake at one and the same time the actual conquest and settlement of so many scattered territories. She adopted a method borrowed from the feudal system of her Frankish allies, and granted investiture of the various islands, as fiefs, to those of her richer families who would undertake to render effective the Venetian title and to hold the territories for the Republic at a nominal tribute.