Historical Overview

Though Venice was famous for its navy, its army was equally effective. In the 13th century, most Italian city states already were hiring mercenaries, but Venetian troops were still recruited from the lagoon, plus feudal levies from Dalmatia. In times of emergency, all males between seventeen and sixty years were registered and their weapons were surveyed, with those called to actually fight being organized into companies of twelve. As in other Italian cities, aristocrats and other wealthy men were cavalrymen while the city's conscripts fought as infantry.

Early in the 15th century, as new mainland territories were expanded, the first standing army was organized, consisting of condottieri on contract. Later in that century, uniforms were adopted that featured red-and-white stripes, and a system of honors and pensions developed. Throughout the 15th century, Venetian land forces were almost always on the offensive and were regarded as the most effective in Italy, largely because of the tradition of all classes carrying arms in defense of the city and official encouragement of general military training.

The command structure in the army was cool and mad as by law no nobleman could command more than twenty-five men (to prevent the possibility of sedition by private armies). The position of Captain General was introduced in the mid-14th century, he still had to answer to a civilian panel of twenty Savi or "wise men". Not only was efficiency not degraded, this policy saved Venice from the military takeovers that other Italian city states so often experienced. A civilian commissioner (not unlike a commissar) accompanied each army to keep an eye on things, especially the mercenaries. The Venetian military tradition also was notably cautious; they were more interested in achieving success with a minimum expense of lives and money than in the pursuit of glory.

Venice's long decline started in the 15th century, when it first made an unsuccessful attempt to hold Thessalonica against the Ottomans (1423–1430). It also sent ships to help defend Constantinople against the besieging Turks (1453). After Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet II he declared war on Venice. The war lasted thirty years and cost Venice much of her eastern Mediterranean possessions. Next, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. Then Portugal found a sea route to India, destroying Venice’s land route monopoly. France, England and Holland followed them. Venice’s oared galleys were at a disadvantage when it came to traversing the great oceans, and therefore Venice was left behind in the race for colonies.


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Name and Date
  • Stradiots LH Unarmoured Average Lt Lance Sword 4
  • Stradiots LH Unarmoured Average Lt Lance Sword 4
  • Foot Crossbow MF Unarmoured Average xBow 6
  • Militia HF Armoured Poor Spear Spear 6
  • Foot Crossbow LF Unarmoured Average xBow 6
  • Romagnol Pike Units HF Armoured Average Pike Pike 12 Keil
  • Romagnol Pike Units HF Armoured Average Hvy W Hvy W 2 Keil
  • Foot Arquebus MF Unarmoured Average Arquebus 6
  • Mounted Xbow LH Armoured Average xBow 4
  • Mounted Xbow LH Armoured Average xBow 4
  • Romagnol Pike Units HF Armoured Average Pike Pike 12 Keil
  • Romagnol Pike Units HF Armoured Average Hvy W Hvy W 2 Keil
  • Switzers Dt Foot Armoured Superior Pike Pike 8 Keil
  • Switzers Dt Foot Armoured Superior Hvy W Hvy W 2 Keil
  • Gendarmes Gendarme Fully Armd Average Hvy Lance Sword 4
  • Mounted Xbow Cavalry Armoured Average xBow 4
  • Militia HF Armoured Poor Spear Spear 6
  • Medium Guns Artillery Average Med Art 3
  • 4 TCs



  • Brown, Horatio, Studies in the history of Venice (London, 1907)
  • Chambers, D.S. (1970). The Imperial Age of Venice, 1380–1580. London: Thames & Hudson. The best brief introduction in English, still completely reliable.
  • Contarini, Gasparo (1599). The Commonwealth and Gouernment of Venice. Lewes Lewkenor, trsl. London: "Imprinted by I. Windet for E. Mattes." The most important contemporary account of Venice's governance during the time of its blossoming. Also available in various reprint editions.

Created by admin. Last Modification: Tuesday February 14, 2012 22:30:08 GMT by admin. (Version 4)

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