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The Venetians: A New History: From Marco Polo to Casanova [Hardcover]

Paul Strathern
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 24, 2013 1605984892 978-1605984896 1

A colorful new history of Venice that illuminates the character of the great city-state by shining a light on some of the most celebrated personalities of European history—Petrarch, Marco Polo, Galileo, Titian, Vivaldi, and Casanova.

The Republic of Venice was the first great economic, cultural, and naval power of the modern Western world.  After winning the struggle for ascendency in the late 13th century, the Republic enjoyed centuries of unprecedented glory and built a trading empire which at its apogee reached as far afield as China, Syria and West Africa. This golden period only drew to an end with the Republic’s eventual surrender to Napoleon.

The Venetians illuminates the character of the Republic during these illustrious years by shining a light on some of the most celebrated personalities of European history—Petrarch, Marco Polo, Galileo, Titian, Vivaldi, Casanova. Frequently, though, these emblems of the city found themselves at odds with the Venetian authorities who prized stability above all else, and were notoriously suspicious of any "cult of personality." Was this very tension perhaps the engine for the Republic’s unprecedented rise?

Rich with biographies of some of the most exalted characters who have ever lived, The Venetians is a refreshing and authoritative new look at the history of the most evocative of city states.

16 pages of B&W and color photographs

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The Venetians: A New History: From Marco Polo to Casanova + City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The city-state of Venice, situated on islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic, maintained its independence for more than a millennium, until the Napoleonic Age. Blessed by its location, it dominated the east-west trade routes that linked the medieval West with the Byzantine Empire and points further east. During the Renaissance, it became one of the glittering cultural jewels of northern Italy. Strathern attempts to explain the growth and magnificence of Venice by concentrating on the lives of some of the historical figures who played prominent roles in its development, from Marco Polo to the famed adventurer, lover, and literary icon Casanova. This is an enjoyable journey filled with interesting tidbits about both well-known and relatively obscure characters who left their mark on the city. Strathern also delves into the often mysterious and confusing manner in which Venice was governed by a small core of elite citizens. As serious history, however, this survey falls short since it fails to link the city with broader historical trends and ignores many aspects of Venetian political and cultural development. Still, this work can serve as a useful and informative introduction for general readers. --Jay Freeman


“Using his novelist's eye and a historian's sweep, Strathern makes you care deeply for these complex figures.” (The Washington Post Book World)

“Very entertaining and well-written book. Strathern is very careful about his sources, so that a finely balanced picture emerges.” (The Times Literary Supplement)

“Award-winning novelist Strathern turns up plenty of surprises in an enthralling history of the first of Napoleon's world-class debacles. Stories of powerful men making disastrous decisions have an endless fascination, and Strathern makes the most of it in this entertaining account.” (Publishers Weekly)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus; 1 edition (December 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605984892
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605984896
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turbulent yet fascinating history December 27, 2013
The book provides an excellent overview into the long and fascinating history of Venice. It starts with the return of Marco Polo who brings with him almost unbelievable tales of adventure in the East but minus all the accumulated wealth, thanks to untimely robbery by corrupt officials in a neighboring state. Then it takes the reader through the ages from Ottoman invasion to plague and other ups and downs experienced by this vibrant city whose long history comes to a close when Napoleon descends on them. Educational yet eminently readable.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing February 21, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
For myself and anyone interested in the history and geography of the Mediterranean area, the focus on the lives of the persons (characters) of the times is captivating.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A History Based on Its' Great Sons and Daughters February 8, 2014
The Venetians

Though the secondary name says it all, this is a view of the 1,000 year “Republic of Venice” seen through the lives of some of its’ most glorious sons and daughters. It’s a different style history and Paul Strathern makes it work to perfection. By giving us the backgrounds of the lead “characters” he is also able to show the changing sociological and historical trends that beset the ‘most serene Republic’.

Never truly a ‘Republic’ in the modern sense, Venice was first more like an elected monarchy. The large ‘Grand Council’ of nobles (who were listed in the Golden Book), elected a ‘Council of Ten’ (who ran the day to day administration of the city) who in turn elected the ‘Doge’ (who served for life). No ‘Doge’ ever followed a member of their own family so as to prevent ‘dynasties’ from being formed.

Over the years the ‘Ten’ became an oligarchy and slowly weakened the position of the Doge to where the post became more like a ‘constitutional monarch’ with little real power. Like any oligarchy, over the years the power of the Ten became came down to a few factions of powerful families and the administration of the city became entrenched.

The ‘power’ of Venice always resided in its’ economic power and therefore would wax and wane over the years. The amount of mainland property that the city controlled was usually related to places where ‘factories’ were set-up to facilitate trade or to protect trade routes. Because of its’ small population, at most times the city depended on mercenaries to fight its’ wars. With the loss of economic power came loss of military power and the Republic was ‘snuffed’ out by Napoleon without a whimper at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

A good and different view of the city’s history than those by Jan Morris or John Julius Norwich, but a fine addition to the voluminous histories of Venice.

Zeb Kantrowitz
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good part left out May 8, 2014
By Edward
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was disappointed off the bat: nothing on the founding and early history of Venice. Starts int he 13th century when Venice was already a power. Big leaps from strategic overviews to minutia were jarring.
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1.0 out of 5 stars AN EMBROIDERY OF PEOPLE AND EVENTS June 17, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'd say, THE VENETIANS, reads like a filigree filled with generalizations about people and events, written without edge or stylistic aplomb.
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