Ryan's Reviews > A History of Venice

A History of Venice by John Julius Norwich
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's review
Jan 30, 2008

liked it
Recommended for: Anyone who wants to learn about Venice, and is patient enough to slog through all 639 pages
Read in February, 2008

The author details the ups & downs of the history of the Venetian Republic - from its 8th-century birth in the murky Venetian lagoon to its capitulation to Napoleon in 1797. There are stories of the merchants who brought back the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist from Egypt, supposedly smuggled from the Muslims under a shipment of pork; Marin Falier, the Doge who was executed for planning a violent overthrow of his own government; Enrico Dandolo, the aged & blind warrior-doge, who personally led the Venetians & Franks in their Fourth Crusade sack of Constantinople; Francesco Morosini's valiant defense of Crete against the Turks' indefatigable 22-year siege; the back-and-forth melodrama of the Italian Wars, including Pope Julius II's vindictive League of Cambrai; the final diplomatic chessmatch with Bonaparte, which ended in utter humiliation for the Republic; and many more illustrious stories. The passing of Doge after short-lived Doge (too many of whom are named Dandolo or Candiano or Alvise Mocenigo) gets a little confusing, and the 1000+ year time span involved makes getting to know individual characters hard. Good luck knowing a character for more than 10 pages or so. However, Norwich seems to do the best that he can under the circumstances, especially with the more colorful players in Venetian history.

I read this in preparation for our honeymoon to Venice, and I'm glad to head into that trip with a greater understanding of the Most Serene Republic's great history.

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