Zach – Welcome to another thrilling episode of Minimum Wage Historian.
Anna – I’m Anna Komemne, your co-host, first woman historian and Byzantine princess.
Zach – You don’t let us forget that, do you?
Anna – I have no intention of doing so.
Zach – Today we’ll being part three of our series on Venetian history. This part will deal with a war between Venice and Genoa, a rival maritime Republic. To help us learn about our topic today we have a panel of guest historical figures starting with Hua Mulan, Woman soldier of ancient China who took her father’s place in the army to fufil her family’s obligation to their country. Next we have Buffalo Calf Road, woman warrior of the Cheyene who fought in many battles and killed General Custer. Then we have Julius Caesar, Roman general who conquered many provinces, won a civil war and became dictator of Rome. Then we have Gaspar Correia, Portuguse conquistador and amatuer historian.
Anna – Hold on. Why’s he here? He’s not a historian in any sense of the word. A historian is held to a higher standard than others. We as historians must ever search for truth no matter the cost and sacrifice. He just makes stuff up!
Gaspar – Prove it.
Anna – Prove it? You said the Roman general Aetius chased down Attila the Hun while riding a veloceraptor!
Gaspar – Yeah? So?
Anna – That’s ridiculous!
Gaspar – Maybe, but can you prove it didn’t happen?
Anna – I don’t need to. As a historian you must cite your sources and show us evidence.
Gaspar – You calling me a liar?
Anna – I’m not calling you anything. As a princess born in the Purple chamber in the Imperial Palace in Constantinople I don’t have to call you anything. Your make-believe fantasy idea of history doesn’t deserve my time.
Gaspar – If you want to call me out, the only way is to duel me.
Anna – Um…duel?
Mulan – Not a good idea princess. I’ve seen him shoot. His shot groups can fit inside a small coin at fifty yards.
Buffalo – He’s faster than me on the quick draw.
Anna – Oh, um…perhaps dueling is a little hasty.
Gaspar – I’m a truthful historian or call me out. Just warning you though, me and the Santissima Trinidad here work really good as a team.
(slams large 10mm 1911 on table that has written on the slide “Santissima Trinidad.”)
Zach – Welcome to another thrilling episode of Minimum Wage Historian.
Anna – I suppose there is room for alternative interpretations of factual events.
Zach – Ooookay then. Moving along. Today we’ll be discussing one of the worst, yet most magnificent times in Venice’s long history.
Anna – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is very appropriate here.
Caesar – Before we start, I heard of something called a “Mountain Dew Throwback.” I wish to partake of this before we begin.
Zach – Now?
Caesar – Yes. Now. I demand it!
Zach – You know where the fridge is.
Caesar – Yes, but…you don’t expect me…Very well. I shall go get it myself.
Buffalo – While you’re up, can you get me one too?
Anna – And me.
(Caesar storms out.)
Mulan – Almost as bad as Napoleon.
Zach – Let’s start our little tale at the beginning. For several centuries Venice and Genoa have been less that friendly rivals in the foreign trade market. They both gained their power from the sea and their large merchant fleets. Sometimes their disputes came to blows but never like it did in the period between 1372 to 1381. This was a terrible war that saw Venice on the brink of destruction.
Anna – Thank you for the dramatics. As Zach has stated, the two maritime republics did not get along to say the least. During the coronation of the young King of Cyrprus the delegates of Venice and Genoa started arguing. At dinner they started throwing bread at each other and using rude language. Then suddenly, the Genoese ambassadors pulled out swords from under their cloaks.
Mulan – Don’t bring fists to a sword fight.
Anna – The King’s guards broke up the fight but bad feelings increased dramatically. On Cyprus, the Venetians were liked more than the Genoese so they blamed the Genoese for the trouble. The perpetrators were arrested and mobs tore through the Genoese sector of town, looting and burning.
Mulan – The Genoese did not take this insult and threat lightly. They also did not wish to see Venice gain power on the island. So, they sent a war fleet down to Cyprus and forcibly took the entire island. The king was allowed to stay as a figure head.
Buffalo – They feel insulted so they take their whole country? That doesn’t seem…fair.
Mulan – These were rough times. They did not believe in fairness. Fairness was a weakness.
Gaspar – My kind of people
Zach – The Venetians lost a lot of property when Cyprus fell to the Genoese. Now Cyprus is a large island in the eastern Mediterranean and was essential for control of the seas there. Both Republics wanted it.
(Caesar returns with a six pack of Mountain Dew and tosses one to Buffalo and one to Anna. Olga comes in after him. Scorch marks cover her dress and she has smoke covered goggles on. Anna groans.)
Olga- Ha! Yes yes. Another panel. Now I am here. We can start, da?
Zach – Yes, we can start. The Byzantine Empire at this time was surrounded by the Turks on all sides and was deeply in debt. Venice sent a war fleet to Constantinople and demanded payment be made and the gift of a certain island. A very important island.
Buffalo – So, it was blackmail. Give us money and your island or we’ll attack.
Caesar – Sounds like a rational strategy to me.
Buffalo – It would.
Gaspar – It worked for us Conquistadors. But we must not forget that this island was also populated by the half woman-half snake people of Vibanolia and the Venetians wanted them for their dance parties.
Anna – No they…
(Gaspar folds his arms and waits for Anna to finish.)
Anna – Never mind.
Gaspar – Thought so.
Zach – With no other choice, the Byzantine Emperor agreed and gave Venice the island.
Anna – Unthinkable for a Roman emperor to surrender so weakly.
Zach – Well, he was unpopular and the people of Constantinople overthrew him and put him in jail. Then they put his no-good son on the throne and the son promptly gave the island to the Genoese.
Mulan – I imagine the Venetians were not pleased with this.
Zach – No, sir. The Venetians quickly moved in and took the island anyway. Then there began a war of words between Genoa, Venice and Byzantium. I won’t get into the details but a bad situation got worse until they finally had a enough and said. “Alright. I’m sick of your crap. Let’s get it on.” So they declared war. Both sides tried to take the island but they both forgot about the island as they began to release a lot of pent up aggression and the war was mainly in and around Italy.
Anna – Venice began fortifying, building ships for the navy and hiring mercenaries for the land army. At this time, most battles in Italy were fought with armies of mercenaries. Also, the Venetian government, always a model of stability, made special councils to streamline quick decisions. They also made a man by the name of Vettor Pisani the admiral of the fleet.
Mulan – Perhaps he was not the greatest admiral, but he was almost universally loved by everyone, even the men under his command which is impressive. I hated all of my superiors. Incompetent buffoons.
Caesar – I like this Vettor! Oh, I did actually read on this. Vettor Pisani took his fleet and met up with the Genoese near a place called…(flips through notes) Anzio. I do love a good offensive. I also love battles in the rain. So dramatic. The fleets met during a thunder storm of torrential rain. The battle raged and Venetian seamanship won the day. They destroyed several Genoese ships and captured six, including their commander. He came, he saw, he conquered. I do love it so!
Zach – Well, winter was coming and they couldn’t go sailing around in the bad season of weather so Pisani asked to come back to Venice for supplies and repairs. Now this is the part I don’t get. Venice refused. Pisani tried several times to get them to see reason but they kept refusing. So, he found a small, inadequate port to hole up for the winter. Not surprisingly, his men got very sick, were demotivated now, and his ships fell into disrepair. Then one day a Genoese fleet shows up outside their small harbor. They were trapped. Now, Pisani was no fool and knew he couldn’t take this enemy fleet. He also knew Venice couldn’t afford to loose their own fleet because that would leave Venice wide open to attack. There was another Venetian fleet out there somewhere whose admiral was Carlo Zeno. Pisani wanted to wait it out and hope Zeno showed up with their fleet so they could destroy the Genoese. But his captains refused and demanded to attack. Maybe it was their cabin fever talking? So, Pisani relents against his better judgement and attacks. The battle was quick and brutal. Pisani managed to heroically kill the enemy admiral but he lost all but six ships that limped back to Venice.
Olga – I like this man! He fights and he kills leader.
Caesar – But he did loose most of his fleet. Without a fleet to protect Venice, they are practically inviting the enemy in.
Olga – Then you burn down enemy city. Simple.
Zach – When Pisani got back to Venice, they charged him with loosing the battle, deprived of command, threw him in prison and barred him from holding office for six years.
Buffalo – Harsh! But it was their fault he was in that mess!
Caesar – They viewed defeat as inexcusable.
Mulan – But you also don’t rid yourself of your best weapon during a fight. They had no one to replace him.
Gaspar – It didn’t matter anyway. They didn’t have a fleet anymore. (shrugs)
Anna – That at least is true. They were now completely defenseless against the Genoese fleet which was on its way. Pisani killing the enemy admiral actually bought them a little time because Genoa had to spend a few weeks to send a new admiral. In the meantime Venice frantically began preparing for the invasion. Here the Venetian people showed their spirit. Men, women, children from all social classes and positions worked together day and night to fortify Venice. Some built ships, rich people paid for the construction from their own pockets, Government officials worked for reduced pay or no pay at all. Everyone helped out.
Zach – They had a developed sense of patriotism and nationalism that was unheard of anywhere else in Europe. The rest of the continent was still deep in Fuedalism but they had an almost modern sense of nationality.
Caesar – “Ask not what your country can give to you, but what you can give for your country.”
Zach – Well, that’s a lesson that needs to be taught some more apparently.
Mulan – You must admire their resilience in the face of unavoidable danger. Genoese and their Hungarian allies were on the shore of the lagoon, burning and pillaging. The Venetians could see the burning towns from their bell towers. The Genoese fleet was now right outside their harbor and they did not consider surrendering. I admire this.
Gaspar – But the Venetians had something the Genoese didn’t. They had the magic spear of Zu-kaala’! The Venetian Doge rode out on his clockwork dragon that shot lasers out of its eyes and single handily destroyed half the Genoese fleet.
Zach – (eyes “Santissima Trinidad) Of course he did, but the Genoese still had a huge fleet. The city organized militia to respond at a moment’s notice. They blocked the entrance to the lagoon and placed their army along the Lido. Okay, before we continue, you need to understand the geography of the Venetian Lagoon. Here’s a map. Reference it as we go.
Zach – Okay, look on the map, bottom left, find a town called “Chioggia.” That’s where the bulk of the Genoese fleet struck first. The city put up a heroic defense, but there was nothing Venice could do. The Genoese took the city and now they controlled a fort that looked over an entrance/exit into the lagoon. Not good news for the Venetians.
Anna – The Venetian Senate met in an emergency meeting and wondered where the heck was Zeno and his fleet? The Senate had no choice but turn to the man they had just humiliated. They released Vettor Pisani from Jail.
Olga – If I were Vettor, I would burn down their homes!
Buffalo – Okay, even I’d be a little ticked off.
Zach – But not Pisani. He was a true patriot and didn’t bare the Republic any hard feelings. He just wanted to save his home from the enemy. Instantly the attitude in the city went from a “oh, we’re doomed” to a “Let’s kick these guys’ ____!!” Remember, everyone loved Pisani.
Anna – Ships began coming off the assembly line in the Arsenal. Towers and walls were erected and people gave more money. They soon had a fleet of 40 ships to go against the Genoese 67 ships. (give or take a few.) Some of the Venetian ships were also armed with cannons, a rare thing for this time period.
Mulan – I like these Venetians. They keep fighting. Still, if Genoa attacked, they would have taken Venice. But the Genoese did not attack and Venice kept getting stronger and stronger. A small raid by the Venetians burnt several Genoese ships and their land forces recaptured Malamocco. (look on the map)
Caesar – That is how you win a battle! You attack! Attack, attack attack. Did I ever tell you of the time when I was…
Olga – No, but I don’t want to hear it now. I want to hear what happens to Venice! They burned bad ships! (Olga claps)
Zach – The Venetians then set out with their small fleet and have several hulks in tow. Their mission was to sink the hulks in the narrow openings of the lagoon and block the Genoese fleet inside the lagoon! It was 21st of December, a cold, cloudy day with harsh winds. The Venetian Doge himself goes out with the fleet. There was a fierce battle where galley fought galley against galley.
Zach – But they managed to sink the hulks and the Genoese were trapped. There was constant fighting for the two weeks as the Genoese tried to break out and the Venetians tried to keep them in. The Venetians couldn’t keep it up forever and just as things were starting took dire again, Zeno and his fleet shows up!
Mulan – Where had they been? (crosses arms and scowls)
Anna – Zeno met with the Doge and Pisani and formed a plan.
Caesar – I hope their plan was to attack.
Anna – Indeed it was! They went on the offensive and began pushing the Genoese back. In one of the battles a Venetian cannon ball struck a bell tower and the falling debris killed the Genoese admiral.
Buffalo – “In my experience there’s no such thing as luck.” You guys aren’t the only ones that can quote.
Zach – This back and forth battle lasted until April. The Venetians cut off the Genoese fleet from resupply and eventually, starved and sick, the Genoese fleet surrendered completely.
Mulan – That was quite the turn around. They went from total desperation to total victory.
Caesar – Alright, even I have to admit that I’m impressed.
Olga – (claps) I like this! They beat up bad guys!
Anna – Venice immediately began celebrating and they all rowed out in every boat they could find to meet their Doge who had stayed with the fleet the whole time.
Buffalo – I don’t see an American President doing that.
Gaspar – Thanks to their centaur and Titan allies, the Venetians were able to win back their magic portal to the realm of Zondanan where the Princess of Ice fed them candy made of diamonds.
Zach – Yes, of course. Venice had never faced such a dire situation and had never come so close to being wiped out, but they also had their finest moment. They came together as a people for love of their country and would sacrifice anything to save it. “More than self their country loved.” But their victory wasn’t complete quite yet. After the war Venice exploded in a frenzy of trading and money making. They were never so prosperous. Meanwhile in Genoa, the Occupy Genoa crowd stormed their Doge’s palace, threw him out and put someone else on the throne. They did this several times over the next few years until Genoa collapsed into anarchy and Milan stepped in and annexed the whole city. They had victory in their hands and Venice yanked it away from them and then pimp slapped them with it. Venice kept their backhand strong.