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City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  1,454 Ratings  ·  146 Reviews
“The rise and fall of Venice’s empire is an irresistible story and [Roger] Crowley, with his rousing descriptive gifts and scholarly attention to detail, is its perfect chronicler.”—The Financial Times
The New York Times bestselling author of Empires of the Sea charts Venice’s astounding five-hundred-year voyage to the pinnacle of power in an epic story that stands unriva
ebook, 464 pages
Published January 24th 2012 by Random House (first published January 1st 2011)
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Sean Gibson
Mar 02, 2016 Sean Gibson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Venice was the Blockbuster Video of medieval empires.

Like Blockbuster, Venice’s nigh-maniacal embrace of cultural homogeneity and prioritization of brand and bottom line at the expense of individual recognition and initiative led to it achieving categorical economic dominance on what, at the time, constituted a global scale. Also like Blockbuster, whose ubiquity and be-kind-rewind hegemony were obliterated in an instant by a single innovation (namely, streaming video over high-speed internet co
"City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas" by Roger Crowley is a fascinating account of the Venetian empire between the years 1200 and 1500. This book is not a dry recitation of dates, names, and battles. I found it to be an engaging narrative about a remarkable city and its exploits throughout the Mediterranean.

Constantinople was the key to Mediterranean commerce during this time period. Whoever controlled Constantinople controlled Mediterranean commerce. The Venetians were the dominant powe
Roger Crowley's Empire of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World was one of my top ten reads in 2011. His latest book, City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire provides the prelude to the events described so well in Empire of the Sea. In telling the story of Venice's rise from backwards lagoon to the dominant commercial martime empire in the 1400s he tells the story of the Mediterranean and all of the powers which contested ...more
entertaining account of crucial moments from Venice's past and its heyday as a sea power until history (in the guise of the Ottoman Empire dominance of the seacoast and later subjugation of Egypt which under the Mameluke regime was the main commercial partner of Venice after Byzantium lost its Eastern trade and Portuguese voyages to India and the east which opened the Oceanic route for the Atlantic powers) turned against it in the 1500's and it slowly descended into a minor also-ran state by the ...more
Dec 30, 2013 Dergrossest rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Venice today is an Italian-Disneyland that provides little instruction as to its former economic grandeur and empire. This book provides a riveting description of the Stato del Mare’s rise to glory, its trading brilliance, its imperial expansion to every corner of the Western Mediterranean and its ultimate defeat due to maritime innovations and the failure of Christian Europe to put aside its petty differences and unite against the Moslem tide. The depictions of the battles and far-flung frontie ...more
May 27, 2013 Moonglum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is an enjoyable history of a unique medieval empire—a republic based on trade. There is much wonder to be had that the things chronicled in this book actually did occur-- the old blind doge waving is banner outside the walls of Christian Constantinople in 1204, the yearly sensa (a ritual that takes place on an enormous gilded ship by which a doge confirms Venice’s connection to the sea), the just-in-time precision of the muda (a word which could be thought of as describing a trading enterpr ...more
Nov 17, 2011 Mae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I loved the subject matter of the book. I am glad to have read it. But it was not an enjoyable read. Something about the order bothered me. It seems that he was going chronologically, ( he was) but all of a sudden he would go back and forth. I have read many history books in my life, and studied history, but something about his back and forth lost me. It felt disjointed.
It was however a book based on original sources and I appreciated the effort and the information, it was just not fun, and usua
Jan 28, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exciting and detailed narrative history of the rise and fall of Venice, the most Serene Republic, Married to the Seas, Europe's first economic superpower.

Crowley covers an unjustly ignored part of history, and he does so with a riveting style and generous quotations from primary sources. The sack of Constantinople and the Battle of Lepanto are especially vivid.

Very enjoyable history, and I'll have to get the 'sequels'.
Coleen Dailey
Apr 15, 2017 Coleen Dailey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started this book a few months ago when I was hoping to go to Italy. That trip is on hold for a while, but I decided to finish the book. This is a overview of how Venice became masters of trade in the Mediterranean, competitors to Genoa, enemies of many in Italy, and how they lost is all to the Ottoman Turks. If you like Italian history, this is a good book to read about one area of the country.
Todd Payne
Feb 07, 2017 Todd Payne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, readable history of the Venetian empire's rise and fall.
Sep 30, 2014 Gordon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You have to give Roger Crowley his due: he is a great writer of narrative history. City of Fortune details Venice's golden age from 1200-1500, when the city-state ruled the seas in the the eastern Mediterranean and was powerful enough to conquer the Byzantines. With multiple European nations' armies participating in the Fourth Crusade, and with Venice providing the transport and the navy, the Crusaders sacked Constantinople in 1204. With the loot, the territories and the trading rights that the ...more
Aug 01, 2015 Maitrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2016_kindle
This was a great narrative history chronicling the Venetian trading enterprise roughly from 1000-1500 CE. Overall, it gave me a great picture of what was happening in the trading cities of the eastern Mediterranean in the late middle ages, a world I only knew hazily about.

Roger Crowley appears to be a full time history writer, but not an academician. This book has a great bibliography (both newer English language editions, and primary sources in many languages) but it is by no means an academic
Jan 18, 2012 Erica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Situated in the middle between the East and West, Venice's rise to commercial power was a constant battle that Crowley manages to capture in this book. It wasn't just about being in the right place at the right time--it was a determined will to look beyond the major issues of the day - religious differences being a huge obstacle - to build a city out of nothing. Reading about the constant struggle they faced to be the masters of the Mediterranean was sometimes tedious. It seemed that there was n ...more
Mar 01, 2013 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great account of the rise and fall of the Venetian trading empire. Heavy emphasis on the role Venice played in the role of the 4th Crusade and the Christian sacking of Constantinople. Book also covers Venice's role in colonizing Crete and the wars with neighboring Italian states that almost brought the state to utter ruin. Very enjoyable read.
হাঁটুপানির জলদস্যু
ইতিহাস নিজেই বরণিল, তার ওপর কষট করে রং চড়াতে হয় না, তবে পরচুর ঘষামাজা করতে হয়। ইতিহাস বরণনা কতো মসৃণ, গতিময় আর আকরষী হতে পারে, তা এ ধরনের বই না পড়লে ঠাহর করা মুশকিল। ভেনিস পরজাতনতরের উপনিবেশ বিসতার নিয়ে সংকষেপে জানার জনযে একেবারে লাগসই একটি বই। রজার করাউলি একজন সুপণডিত ও পরিশরমী লেখক, ভকত হয়ে গেলাম। ...more
Lovely, reads like a novel
May 14, 2017 Bosnian23 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As awlays, amazing book by Crowley. He has written 4 books by now and all of them about the Empires around Mediterranian sea and their struggle for dominance in trade or conquest. Ottomans, Byzantines, Venetians and Portuguese, there's a lot of talk about the Mamluks, Genoese and Spanish in all 4 books.
All of them were awesome, venice was no exception. It covers history from 1000 AD and the venetian conquest of Dalmatia to the fall of Lepanto, Coron and Modon and Negroponte in 1480's-1500's.
May 04, 2017 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Roger Crowley's account of the history of Venice is as readable as fiction. He is at his most gripping when detailing the events of the Fourth Crusade. After the sack of Constantinople he gets a little bogged down in the endless series of conflicts with the Genoese but the narrative picks up again with the appearance of the terrifying Sultan Mehmet and the inexorable advance of the Ottoman empire.

What is most fascinating about the history of Venice is the way that it invented itself and this is
May 10, 2017 Michiko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. The story of Venice is one-of-a-kind and Crowley brings all of the naval battles and political intrigue to life seemingly effortlessly. I will never forget his account of the sack of Constantinople. Venice was full of contradictions: it was surrounded by water but suffered from a shortage of safe drinking water; it went to aid the Catholic Church many times at its own expense yet was looked down upon by the Pope and other Christian nations; the merchant city was so serious and yet th ...more
Shane Kiely
Feb 14, 2017 Shane Kiely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
General overview of the rise & fall of Venice's maritime empire in the first half of the last millennium. Special attention is given to Venice's role in the fourth crusade & its conflicts with Genoa & the Ottoman sultan Mehmet but it also provides unto the generalities of how the empire expanded & some insight into daily life. I'm not normally a huge fan of histories with broad topics but the decision to pinpoint key milestones offsets that here & means it's a much more compe ...more
Feb 20, 2017 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, yet kind of boring too. Often felt like I was reading an introduction to a story that never began. Lots of lists and overviews of all the many things that happened in Venice over the years of its command of the Mediterranean. The few times Crowley goes into detail about a battle or a siege things pick up. Then it's back to sweeping overviews.
Oliwia Wołkowicz
Great book, well written in a style that keeps you turning the pages to find out "what happens next"!
Jul 17, 2014 Owen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Just loved it. If you have any interest in history and adventure, you will enjoy this book. Crowley is a gifted storyteller, and had a magnificent story to tell. The characters he writes jump off the page, and the description of the fourth crusade is the first time that conflict ever made any sense to me. It was still an incredible human tragedy, but now I kind of understand how it happened (the lesson- make sure the people in charge are serviceable at math).

Every schoolchild
Jan 24, 2012 H. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Crowley is entranced by Venice. It has two great lures: the sea, and its status as a very modern state in medieval times. The two led it to become Europe’s first economic superpower. Venice was ideally located to provide the sea link between the great Middle East overland spice routes and continental Europe. In the time of feudalism and a landed aristocracy, Venice was a republic “run by and for entrepreneurs,” replacing “the chivalrous medieval knight with a new type of hero: the man of busines ...more
Felipe Dominguez
Highly recommend this book. It is very easy to read, very well sourced and organized. You will find citations of primary sources that will transport you to the great Repubblica Serenissima. It is much more meaningful if you either have been or are planning to go to Venezia.
City of Fortune focuses on 3 centuries of Venetian history, from about 1200 to 1500. The beginning date marks the notable rise of Venice as a power in the Mediteranean, the end its decline. Venice did very well out of the Fourth Crusade (about 1204), which ended up attacking not a Moslem power, but the Orthodox Christian empire of Constantinople. Although Venice does not seem to planned that outcome (which is a different view from what I had previously understood), it definitely benefited beyond ...more
John Park
Feb 05, 2014 John Park rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating, even gripping, account of an era and geographical area—the rise and fall of the Venetian empire—that were unfamiliar to me. (I assume the author has got his facts right. The book is meant for general readers, so the author lists sources but does not reference specific facts—though quotations can apparently be indentified on a website.) Crowley's prose is fluent and lively with only the occasional blemish such as an ambiguous pronoun and the trendy use of epicentre for centre.

The f
Dec 10, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had seen Roger Crowley’s City of Fortune several times in bookstores before I decided to read it. Each time, I probably thought it looked interesting. But picking up a new book seems like a frighteningly serious commitment.

Then, as I made my way through a history of Andrea Palladio’s architectural career in the countryside around Venice, I found myself wanting more background on the merchants and nobles who were commissioning his supremely beautiful houses. It seemed like the perfect time for
Gumble's Yard
Jan 04, 2017 Gumble's Yard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, 2012
Excellent tale of Venice – concentrating on its maritime empire. The book starts with the Fourth Crusade and how Venice first of all diverted the crusade to clearing the Dalmatian coast and so gaining mastery of the Adriatic and then profited greatly from the division of the spoils from the sack of Constantinople where it used its existing maritime and commercial knowledge to ensure it took control of key ports and waterways (while eschewing the land based pseudo-kingdoms that its rivals establi ...more
Jul 10, 2012 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Crowley is one of my favorite historical writers. In City of Fortune he gives a history of Venice's rise and fall. The early part of the book focuses on Venice's huge financial gamble of taking the crusaders to Egypt in the fourth crusade. Only they never got near Egypt, but rather took care of business by sacking one of their Christian recalcitrant partners. Next they attacked Constantinople and broke a chain blocking the harbor that had protected the city from naval attack for centuries. The P ...more
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Roger Crowley was born in 1951 and spent part of his childhood in Malta. He read English at Cambridge University and taught English in Istanbul, where he developed a strong interest in the history of Turkey. He has traveled widely throughout the Mediterranean basin over many years and has a wide-ranging knowledge of its history and culture. He lives in Gloucestershire, England.
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