Initially formed by scattered marsh islands inhabited by refugees, Venice became one of the Mediterranean's great powers, the Serenissima Repubblica (the Most Serene Republic). Situated at the northern end of the Adriatic, the republic encapsulated most of modern north-eastern Italy, as well as having coastal territories under its control along the Dalmatian coast and elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. It was one of the most long-lived post-Roman states (considering the immobility of its form of government). During Middle Ages it became almost a byword for the serenity its name claimed: it joined together monarchy, aristocracy and democracy in a way that seemed to be perfect.

By the twelfth century Venice already had all its typical bodies of power in place, and the doges of Venice were elected for life by the aristocracy of the city-state. The doge (or duke), was elected by the Major Council through an extraordinarily complicated procedure which included consultations with the Major Council, which was an expression of the patrician families and was the most important organ of the republic, and other councils, such as the Minor Council, formed by the doge and six advisers, the Council of Pregadi, a senate which qualified for the foreign politic, the Council of Ten, guarantor of the state's security, the Quarantia, a supreme tribunal, and others.

AD 421 - The conventional day on which Venice's foundation is celebrated is 25 March.

452 - Attila, king of Huns, invades Roman Italy, burning every city in his path. Aquileia is totally destroyed, burned to the ground, taking with it one of the grandest early Christian churches (although its beautiful mosaic floor survives under the rubble and later deposits of spoil to be uncovered by modern archaeologists). Refugees from Aquileia and other nearby cities escape in the lagoon marsh islands for mutual protection, forming a settlement there. This is the real birth of Venice.

552 - General Narses leads Byzantine troops through the marshes to surprise and fight-off the Ostrogoths. Byzantine tribunes are placed in command of the region from the Italian capital at Ravenna. Byzantine supremacy is compromised after 568 with the invasion of the Lombards.

580 - Eastern Roman Emperor Tiberius II reorganises the surviving Roman territories in Italy into five provinces which are given the Greek name eparchies. The new provinces are the Annonaria in northern Italy around Ravenna, Calabria, Campania, Emilia and Liguria, and the Urbicaria around the city of Rome (Urbs). To the north, across the River Po which forms the border, the duchy of Venice remains nominally under the service of the Eastern Romans.

640 Eraclea is founded.

672 - 676 In this period, Pope Adeodatus II grants Venice the right to select its own doge, although the office appears not to be introduced for another two decades.

697 The Eastern Roman tribunes are substituted with an elective, life-long office, the doge. The seat of government is Eraclea. The first dodge, Paoluccio Anafesto (otherwise known by the more Romanised name of Paulucius Anafestus or Anafestus Paulicius), is only first attested in the eleventh century. There is a school of thought which suggests that the doge and Exarch Paul of Ravenna are one and the same person, although the dates of office do not match up).

697 - 717 Paoluccio Anafesto The first doge. Killed. Not in all lists.

717 - 726 Marcello Tegalliano

726 Orso Ipato is the first fully attested doge, being confirmed by the Eastern Roman emperor and honoured with the titles of hypatus (consul) and dux (doge).

726 - 737 Orso Ipato / Ursus Killed after a plot.

737 The doge is substituted by the year-long, Byzantine office of magister militum, although Byzantine control in Italy at Ravenna is now very weak in the face of Lombard superiority.

738 Felice Carnicola Magistri militum.

739 Teodato Ipato

740 Giuliano

741 Giovanni Fabriciaco

742 After the magistri militum sequence, the elective doge is reintroduced. Venice is surrounded by the Lombard kingdom, and is split into factions which support Byzantium, the Franks, the Lombards, and outright independence from all of them.

742 - 755 Teodato Ipato Deposed and killed by Galla Gaulo in a plot.

755 - 756 Galla Gaulo Deposed and blinded by Domenico Monegario.

756 - 764 Domenico Monegario Deposed and blinded.

764 - 787 Maurizio Galbaio

787 - 804 Giovanni Galbaio Deposed.

804 - 810 Obelerio Antenorio Deposed.

807 Obelerio is faithful to Charlemagne of the Franks, but the intervention of the Niceta fleet reaffirms Byzantine sovereignty over the lagoon, Istria and Dalmatia.

810 The seat of government is transferred to Rialto. A military expedition guided by Pepin, king of the Franks of Italy, to conquer the region is stopped by the Venetian people. Pepin's siege of Venice lasts for six months, but his forces are ravaged by disease borne by insects from the surrounding swamps and are in no fit state to fight off the Venetians. Pepin dies a few months later.

811 - 827 Agnello Partecipazio Founder of the first doge’s palace.

827 - 829 Giustiniano Partecipazio Founder of the first church or basilica of St Mark.

828 Following the revolt by Euphemius, commander of the Byzantine fleet of Sicily, and his invasion of the island alongside Emir Ziyadat Allah I of Tunis, a large Byzantine force is sent from Palermo against them. This is assisted by a fleet from Venice under the personal command of the doge, Giustiniano Partecipazio, but it is defeated. Sicily is in the hands of the Arabs as part of the Islamic empire.

In the same year, the body of St Mark the Evangelist is brought to Venice from Alexandria in Egypt, to become the state's patron saint.

829 - 836 Giovanni Partecipazio I Deposed following a plot.

836 - 864 Pietro Tradonico Killed following a plot.

840 Venice claims victory at Lussino against the Islamic empire. A treaty is agreed with Lothar I, emperor of the Franks. It establish the boundaries between the empire and Venice, and permits free trade.

864 - 881 Orso Partecipazio I

867 Venice again wins over the Islamic empire at Taranto.

881 - 887 Giovanni Partecipazio II Abdicated.

887 - 888 Pietro Candiano I

888 - 912 Pietro Tribuno

900 As part of their initial invasion of Europe, the Magyars invade Italy, possibly at the prompting of Arnulf, king of Germany. Berengar refuses a request by them for an armistice but his army is surprised and routed at the Battle of the Brenta on 24 September 899. The Magyar invasion is subsequently blocked by the Venetians at Pellestrina in 900.

912 - 932 Orso Partecipazio II Abdicated.

932 - 939 Pietro Candiano II

939 - 942 Pietro Badoer

942 - 959 Pietro Candiano III

944 Istrian pirates kidnap some intended brides on 31 January, but they are soon freed at Caorle. From this event arises the Feast of Marie.

959 - 976 Pietro Candiano IV Accused of tyranny and killed.

967 Emperor Otto I of the Holy Roman empire confirms all of Venice's privileges.

976 The people revolt against Pietro Candiano IV, killing him and burning the doge’s palace and St Mark's Basilica.

976 - 978 Pietro Orseolo I Abdicated.

978 - 979 Vitale Candiano Abdicated.

979 - 991 Tribuno Menio / Memmo

983 Holy Roman emperor Otto II declares peace with Venice and confirms its commercial privileges.

991 - 1008 Pietro Orseolo II

992 'Golden Bull': the first important commercial treaty with the Byzantine emperor Basil II, which give an advantage to Venetian merchants.

1000 Pietro Orseolo leads an expedition against Slavonic pirates, becoming doge of Venice, Istria and Dalmatia. Here begins the 'Sea Dominion' of the republic, and the traditional 'wedding of the sea' during Ascension Day.

1002 Venice achieves victory over the Islamic empire at Bari.

1008 - 1026 Ottone Orseolo Deposed.

1026 - 1032 Pietro Centranico Deposed.

1032 It is now forbidden for the doge to elect a successor. Rather, he is supported by a group of councillors.

1032 - 1043 Domenico Flabanico

1043 - 1071 Domenico Contarini

1071 - 1085 Domenico Selvo Deposed.

1082 A 'Golden Bull' is agreed with the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus, establishing new commercial privileges.

1085 - 1096 Vitale Falier

1085 Alexius I Comnenus declares the formal independence of Venice from Byzantium.

1096 - 1102 Vitale Michiel I

1100 Venice takes part in the First Crusade, obtaining from Godfrey de Bouillon, king of Jerusalem, a complete exemption on duty.

1102 - 1118 Ordelaf Falier Killed in the Battle of Zara.

1104 Venice captures Saint-Jean d’Acre. The Arsenal is founded.

1118 War against the Hungarians sees Ordelaf Falier killed at the Battle of Zara.

1118 - 1129 Domenico Michiel Abdicated.

1123 King Baldwin II of Jerusalem is captured by the Ortoqids in northern Syria. In his absence the kingdom is governed by the constable of Jerusalem, Eustace Grenier, and the Fatamid military vizier, Al-Ma'mum, spies an opportunity to capture the coastal stronghold of Jaffa. Launching his attack from Egypt, Al-Ma'mum's force is intercepted by Crusader troops at the Battle of Yibneh (or Yibna), close to the Fatamid coastal fortress of Ashkelon (Ascalon). The battle is short and decisive, with the Fatamid fleet also being destroyed by the Venetians, and the Fatamid threat is virtually ended for the next thirty years.

1124 Returning from the Holy Land, Domenico Michiel conquers Tyre, Spalato (Split), Sebenico (Šibenik), and other Byzantine cities.

1130 - 1148 Pietro Polani

1143 - 1144 Venice goes to war against Padua for control of the borderline along the River Brenta, and is victorious.

1148 - 1156 Domenico Morosini

1156 - 1172 Vitale Michiel II Killed during a popular revolt.

1167 With Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I forcibly attempting to increase his power over Italy, the Lombard League is formed. Its job is to counter the imperial threat, and it is bolstered by the support of the Papacy, which is just as keen to reduce imperial interference in 'its' domain. At its height it manages to incorporate most of the cities of northern Italy, including Venice.

1170 - 1171 Zara rebels and switches allegiance to the Hungarians. In 1171 Zara is re-conquered. Byzantine emperor Manuel Comnenus orders the arrest of all Venetians living in Constantinople.

1172 Foundation of the Major Council.

1172 - 1178 Sebastiano Ziani Abdicated.

1177 Venice offers hospitality to Pope Alexander III and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and the republic arbitrates the peace.

1178 - 1192 Orio Mastropiero

1178 Foundation of the Minor Council.

1179 Foundation of the Quarantia supreme tribunal.

1192 -1205 Enrico Dandolo

1195 - 1196 Pisa tries to block the Adriatic Sea with the help of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), but is defeated in the Istrian Gulf and at Modone (in Greece).

1204 The Fourth Crusade results in the conquest of Byzantine Constantinople. In return for its support of the conquest, the best part of the former empire is given to Venice. The doge becomes lord of 37.5 percent of the Eastern Roman empire.

1205 - 1229 Pietro Ziani Abdicated.

1206 Marco Sanudo conquers the Cyclades and Sporades islands.

1207 The Venetian fleet conquers Corfu, Modone (Methoni), and Corone (Koroni).

1211 Venice begins its first colonisation of Candia (Crete).

1214 - 1216 War is rekindled against Padua.

1229 - 1249 Jacopo Tiepolo Abdicated.

1238 Venice is in league with Genoa and the Pope against the Emperor Frederick II.

1244vPeace is agreed with Bela IV of Hungary, and he releases the city of Zara.

1249 - 1253 Marino Morosini

1253 - 1268 Ranieri Zen

1261 The fall of the Latin empire is effected with the return of the Byzantine emperor to Constantinople. Venice maintains its possessions in the Greek islands and in Morea (Peloponnesus).

1257 - 1270 Venice goes to war against Genoa.

1268 - 1275 Lorenzo Tiepolo

1274 - 1294 Venetian trader Marco Polo arrives in Kanbaliq on a visit to the court of the Chinese emperor, Kublai Khan. He remains in China for seventeen years, and returns to Venice after completing a diplomatic mission for the emperor. His voyage, opening up new sea routes, contributes to a marked decline in the use of the ancient Silk Road within 150 years of his return home.

1275 - 1280 Jacopo Contarini Abdicated.

1280 - 1289 Giovanni Dandolo

1289 - 1311 Pietro Gradenigo

1291 Saint-Jean d’Acre is conquered by the Mamelukes, signalling the end of Outremer. The Christian kingdom of Cyprus continues, while the Teutonic Knights retire to Venice from where they become involved in the conquest of the Baltics.

1294 - 1299 A second war is waged against Genoa. Venice suffers disastrous defeats at Laiazzo (Ayas) and in Dalmatia.

1297 'Lockout of the Major Council': only those families which are now represented in the council can take part in it in the future.

1310 The Plot of Baiamonte Tiepolo. To avoid other plots, the Council of Ten is founded.

1311 - 1312 Marino Zorzi

1312 - 1328 Giovanni Soranzo

1314 Venice annexes Muggia (in Istria).

1322 Venice annexes Sebenico (Šibenik) and Traù (Trogir).

1329 - 1339 Francesco Dandolo

1337 - 1339 Venice is at war against Mastino II della Scala, tyrant of Verona, and annexes Treviso and Bassano.

1339 - 1342 Bartolomeo Gradenigo

1343 - 1354 Andrea Dandolo

1345 Another war is fought against Hungary for the rebel city of Zara.

1350 - 1355 The third war is fought against Genoa. Venice enjoys mixed fortunes.

1354 - 1355 Marin Faliero Deposed and decapitated after his conspiracy.

1355 - 1356 Giovanni Gradenigo

1356 - 1361 Giovanni Dolfin

1361 - 1365 Lorenzo Celsi

1365 - 1368 Marco Corner

1368 - 1382 Andrea Contarini

1372 - 1380 The last great war against Genoa is waged. At the Battle of Chioggia, near Venice, the city is conquered by Genoans and then recaptured by Carlo Zen. Venice is ultimately victorious. Mediation between Venice and Genoa is carried out by Count Amadeus VI of Savoy, who sponsors the peace treaty that finally ends the conflict between the two great naval powers.

1382 Michele Morosini

1382 - 1400 Antonio Venier

1395 The duchy of Milan is created along the western border of the republic, out of territory that belongs ultimately to the Holy Roman empire. The duchy will become an important player in the tangled web of Italian politics.

1400 - 1413 Michele Steno

1404 - 1405 Venice makes conquests for its Dry Land Dominion, including Vicenza, Feltre, Belluno, Verona, and Padua.

1414 - 1423 Tommaso Mocenigo

1420 Aquileia (which is allied to the Hungarians) is defeated. Friuli is annexed.

1423 - 1457 Francesco Foscari Deposed.

1423 Venice completes the purchase of Scutari (Shkodër in Albania) and Salonicco (Thessaloniki in Macedonia).

1423 - 1454 When Giorgio Ordelaffi, lord of Forlì, dies, his son succeeds him although he is still a child. Duke Filippo Visconti of Milan becomes his guardian but abuses his position of trust and attempts to conquer areas of the Romagna in 1423. The republic of Florence refuses to allow Milan's unchecked expansion of territory, so the Wars in Lombardy are triggered. Venice is soon persuaded to join in 1425, on the side of Florence. In March 1426 Francesco Bussone foments riots in Brescia (a Milanese possession), beginning the process by which Venice conquers it after a long campaign, expanding its Dry Land Dominion by obtaining not only Brescia, but also Bergamo and Cremona. Duke Filippo is forced to accept a peace deal proposed by Pope Martin V which favours Venice and Francesco Bussone. At the first opportunity, Filippo resumes the fighting but is quickly defeated at Maclodio on 12 October 1427. A more concrete peace is signed at Ferrara. Fighting against Milan continues on and off until 1454.

1447 - 1450 Upon the death of Duke Filippo Visconti of Milan, the last direct male representative of his family, the Golden Ambrosian republic is declared on 13 August 1447. Ably defended by Francesco Sforza, the duchy is still unable to prevent Venice from capturing the last of the Milanese territories that it claims, and Crema becomes a Venetian holding.

1453 The Ottoman Turks conquer Byzantine Constantinople. The Sporades Islands prefer to join Venice.

1457 - 1462 Pasquale Malipiero

1462 - 1471 Cristoforo Moro

1462 The Ottomans conquer Argos. This marks the beginning of a difficult war for Venice against Sultan Mehmet II.

1470 The Ottomans conquer the important island of Negroponte (Euboea in Greece).

1471 - 1473 Nicolò Tron

1473 - 1474 Nicolò Marcello

1474 - 1476 Pietro Mocenigo

1476 - 1478 Andrea Vendramin

1478 - 1485 Giovanni Mocenigo

1479 After the loss of Scutari, and a battle in Friuli, peace is agreed with Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II.

1481 - 1484 Venice is at war against Ferrara at the insistence of Pope Sixtus IV. Rovigo and Polesine are annexed, but the pope is under pressure on all sides to end the hostilities that he has started, so in 1483 he places Venice under interdict.

1485 - 1486 Marco Barbarigo

1486 - 1501 Agostino Barbarigo

1489 Queen Caterina Cornaro give Cyprus to the republic.

1495 Venice agrees an alliance with Naples, the Pope, Milan, and the Emperor in order to defend Italy from Charles VIII of France. Further west, John II of Portugal encourages the exploration of the western coast of Africa and beyond in an attempt to find a new source of riches outside the Mediterranean, which is controlled by Venice.

1501 - 1521 Leonardo Loredan

1499 - 1503 A new war breaks out against the Ottoman Turks. Venice loses Modone and Lepanto.

1508 - 1509 The League of Cambrai is formed with France, Castile, Hungary, the Papal States, the Holy Roman empire, and Ferrara against Venice. Venice is defeated at Agnadello, with the loss of all the Dry Land Dominion - essentially its territories in Italy.

1516 Thanks to exceptional diplomacy, Venice manages to recover from the serious turn of events and regains all its Dry Land possessions.

1521 - 1523 Antonio Grimani

1523 - 1538 Andrea Gritti

1525 The French are defeated at the Battle of Pavia, leaving Holy Roman Emperor Charles V dominant in Italy. Newly-installed Duke Francesco Sforza of Milan joins the League of Cognac against the emperor along with Florence, France, the Pope, and Venice. This backfires when the emperor takes military action against Milan.

1539 - 1545 Pietro Lando

1537 - 1540 Another war is fought against the Ottoman Turks. Venice suffers more losses in Morea (the Greek Peloponnesus).

1545 - 1553 Francesco Donà

1551 Admiral Turgut Reis, beylerbey of Algiers, sails with a large fleet of galleys under the command of Admiral Sinan Pasha to attack Venetian ports and then effect a landing on Sicily. The city of Augusta is bombarded in revenge for Sicily's invasion and destruction of Mahdia, and for the massacre of its inhabitants.

1553 - 1554 Marcantonio Trevisan

1554 - 1556 Francesco Valier

1556 - 1559 Lorenzo Priuli

1559 - 1567 Girolamo Priuli

1567 - 1570 Pietro Loredan

1570 - 1577 Alvise Mocenigo I

1570 - 1573 Ottoman Selim III besieges the cities on Cyprus from 1570. A great naval victory at Lepanto is gained when Venice, the Pope and Spain defeat the Ottoman Turks, but Venice is still forced to give up Cyprus in 1573.

1577 - 1578 Sebastiano Venier

1578 - 1585 Nicolò Da Ponte

1585 - 1595 Pasquale Cicogna

1591 The present Rialto Bridge is completed in stone, replacing several wooden structures that have existed since 1181, some of which have collapsed into the canal below.

1595 - 1605 Marino Grimani

1606 - 1612 Leonardo Donà delle Rose Son of Giovanni Battista Donà, governor of Cyprus (1556).

1612 - 1615 Marcantonio Memmo

1615 - 1618 Giovanni Bembo

1618 Nicolò Donà

1618 - 1623 Antonio Priuli

1623 - 1624 Francesco Contarini

1625 - 1629 Giovanni Corner I

1630 - 1631 Nicolò Contarini

1631 - 1646 Francesco Erizzo

1646 - 1655 Francesco Molin

1655 - 1656 Carlo Contarini

1656 Francesco Corner

1656 - 1658 Bertuccio Valier

1658 - 1659 Giovanni Pesaro

1659 - 1675 Domenico Contarini

1644 - 1669 The Ottomans besiege Candia (Heraklion). Venice loses Crete, the last island in its old sea empire.

1675 - 1676 Nicolò Sagredo

1676 - 1684 Alvise Contarini

1684 - 1688 Marcantonio Giustinian

1688 - 1694 Francesco Morosini Called the Peloponnesiacus.

1684 - 1694 Francesco Morosini reconquers the Morea (the Greek Peloponnesus) from the Ottomans. He becomes the last hero of Venice (but he is also known for the bombing at the Parthenon).

1694 - 1700 Silvestro Valier

1700 - 1709 Alvise Mocenigo II

1709 - 1722 Givanni Corner II

1718 This year marks the definitive loss of Morea to the Ottomans.

1722 - 1732 Alvise Mocenigo III

1732 - 1735 Carlo Ruzzini

1735 - 1741 Alvise Pisani

1741 - 1752 Pietro Grimani

1752 - 1762 Francesco Loredan

1762 - 1763 Marco Foscarini

1763 - 1778 Alvise Mocenigo IV

1779 - 1789 Paolo Renier

1789 - 1797 Ludovico Manin Abdicated.

1797 Napoleon Bonaparte, leader of the French First Republic begins campaigning against Austria in northern Italy, starting with the Battle of Rivoli on 14-15 January. The Treaty of Leoben is signed with Austria on 17 April, which leads to the loss for Austria of the Austrian Netherlands and Lombardy, but which gains it the Venetian territories of Dalmatia and Istria in return. The Transpadane republic gains the rest of conquered Venice, signalling the end of the great republic in a period that is a crisis point for the established monarchies of Europe. In the following year Napoleon sells the region to Austria.

1805 The western section of the former republic is added to Napoleon Bonaparte's kingdom of Italy.

1814 - 1866 With the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte from the thrones of France and Italy the scene is set for a renewal of Austrian control of Venice. The Austrians occupy Milan on 28 April 1814, and on 30 May the Treaty of Paris officially hands the remains of the kingdom of Italy to Austria, including Venice. Lombardy and Venice are combined into the Austrian state of Lombardy-Venetia, which falls under the direct control of the Austrian emperor and is administered by viceroys.

1866 Prussia fights the Austro-Prussian War against Austria, essentially as a decider to see which of the two powers will be dominant in central Europe. Prussia gains Italy as an ally in the south and several minor German states in the north. Austria and its southern German allies are crushed in just seven weeks (giving the conflict its alternative title of the Seven Weeks' War), and Prussia is now unquestionably dominant. Bismark oversees the seizure of four of Austria's northern German allies, the kingdom of Hanover, the electorate of Hessen-Kassel, and the duchy of Nassau, along with the free city of Frankfurt. Prussia also subsumes Schleswig and Holstein and Saxe-Lauenberg, while despite being defeated in its own theatre of the war, Italy gains Venice thanks to Prussia's dominance.

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