Venice and the Defense of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter Reformation

Venice and the Defense of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter Reformation

Venice and the Defense of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter Reformation

Venice and the Defense of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter Reformation

Excerpt

This book is very different, in both size and scope, from the book I had intended when I began to work on it ten years ago. My original aim was quite limited; I proposed to write about Paolo Sarpi, who interested me both as a religious thinker and as a historian. It gradually became apparent to me, however, that Sarpi could only be understood historically as a product of the Venetian interdict of 1606-16O7, and I had therefore to try to identify the essential issues in that massive confrontation. But since it takes two to quarrel, I had to study not only the long and slow development of the Vene tian political consciousness but also the contrary ideals and purposes of the Counter Reformation, neither of which had yet, as I came to believe, stimulated any satisfactory general treatment. The final stage in the evolution of this book was reached, however, only when it dawned on me that I seemed to be dealing with a set of issues strikingly similar, mutatis mutandis, to those that had concerned the great Florentine political writers of the earlier sixteenth century. I began to comprehend then why some Venetians seemed occasionally to be haunted by the memory of Florence; and I also found myself looking at Machiavelli and Guicciardini, and even earlier Renaissance figures, in what were, for me, new ways.

Therefore, although this book deals mainly with Venice, it touches so frequently also on Florence and on Rome that it is in some sense a tale of three cities. For the Venetians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with whom we shall chiefly be concerned, Florence was largely important as a feature of the past and a stimulus to thoughtful comparison and contrast, but Rome belonged in one sense to the past and in a different but related sense to the present. The origin in antiquity of the most effective imperialism the world had ever known, she was now the center of a renascent univer salism directed perhaps even more against the impulses of the Renaissance than against Protestantism. Rome was thus the great adversary of Venice, the anvil against which her political consciousness was hammered out at last. Two traumatic papal interdicts very nearly set the chronological terms of the process. The interdict of Julius II in 1509 helped to launch the career of Venice as a self-conscious republic, a marvel about which men could write entire books; and the interdict of Paul V, almost a century later, brought that . . .

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