An Economic History of Italy: From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century

By Gino Luzzatto; Philip Jones | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Urban Economy in its Prime The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

1. THE EXPANSION OF THE GREATER MARITIME CITIES AFTER THE FOURTH CRUSADE

DURING the century following the First Crusade, we have seen that the maritime cities of Italy secured very favourable conditions for their commerce in the eastern Mediterranean by the privileges granted their trading-stations in various towns of the Crusading States. After the Fourth Crusade and the foundation of the eastern Latin Empire this privileged position was transformed into unconditional supremacy.

Those who benefited most, as we have seen above, were the Venetians, until at last, in 1261, the Genoese got their revenge by helping Michael Paleologus to recapture Constantinople. But just as the Venetian victory of 1204 did not prevent the Pisans and even less the Genoese from trading in the Levant, so the Genoese counter-stroke of 1261 disturbed Venetian power much less than might have been expected. The Venetians lost their privileges, but they retained their valuable bases at Modone and Corone and most of the Aegean islands. Above all they kept Crete, which was of cardinal importance, not only to the fleets visiting Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, but also for its agricultural produce. Constantinople remained a centre of business for Venetian merchants, shippers, and bankers, and also served as a starting-point for Venetian trading-vessels travelling to the Black Sea. In that sea, which the Latin offensive against Byzantium had first thrown open to western merchants, the Venetians not only frequented such ports of the southern coast

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