Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/293

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

could not be employed with safety as it was dangerous to entrust them with arms. When ramming took the place of boarding, the galley-slave, chained to his bench, could be used precisely as we use machinery.

The expansion of Venetian maritime empire as the outcome of the Fourth Crusade roused the jealousy of her great rival Genoa. It was inevitable that the Genoese and the Venetians, both occupying neighbouring quarters in the Levantine cities, each competing for a monopoly of Eastern commerce, should come to blows. The Republic was now committed to a struggle with her western rival for supremacy in the Levant-a deplorable conflict fraught with disaster for both parties.

A long period of naval campaigning ensued, the fortune of war leaning now to one side, now to the other. The breathing-space between each campaign and the next was devoted by the Republic to the development of her commerce. Treaties were stipulated with Milan, Bologna, Brescia, Como. Trade with England and Flanders by means of the Flanders galleys was developed. Venetian merchants brought sugar from the Levant, and exchanged it for wool in London. The wool was sold in Flanders and cloth bought, which was placed on the markets of Italy and Dalmatia, as the ships sailed east again to procure fresh cargoes for the London market. Industries also began to take root in the city. Refugees from Lucca introduced the silk trade, and established themselves in a quarter near the Hialto. The glass manufacture of Murano received an impetus. The population of the city numbered 200,000; the males fit for arms, that is between the ages of twenty and sixty, were reckoned at 40,000.

There is proof that, in spite of defeats by Genoa at Ayas and at Curzola, Venice had achieved a high position in the eyes of European Princes. Edward III asked for Venetian aid in his wars with Philip of France; he offered extensive privileges, and invited the Doge to send his sons to the English court. Alfonso of Sicily apologised for insults offered to Venetian merchants. The Pope proposed that Venice should undertake the protection of Christians against the Ottoman Turks, who were now beginning to threaten Europe, in return for which the Republic was to enjoy the ecclesiastical tithes for three years.

But Genoa was not yet driven from the field. It was impossible that commercial rivalries should not lead to fresh explosions. The fur trade in the Crimea gave rise to differences. The Venetians sent an embassy to Genoa to protest against alleged violations of a compact by which both Republics had pledged themselves to abstain from trading with the Tartars. The Genoese gave Venice to understand that her presence in the Black Sea was only permitted on sufferance. War broke out. The Republics were now embarked upon a struggle to the death, from which one or other of the combatants must emerge finally victorious.