The origins of Venice
The origins of Venice
A quick introduction on the origins of Venice as written by www.venicewiki.org and translated and adapted by me.
The first mention about the lagoon of Venice dates back to the fourth century B.C., when an ancient Greek geographer, by the name of Scimno di Chio, mentions 50 small towns all located within and along the lagoon area, inhabited by the Veneti, a population which seemed to have had origins from Minor Asia. This theory is also reflected in the legend of Anthenor who, allegedly, after the destruction of Troy, would have moved in the area to settle with his men. The Veneti built various centers, which soon flourished with commerce and crafts – Padua, Treviso, Aquileia and Altino – and Altino itself became a major commercial port in the Mediterranean. Its harbor extended right inside the lagoon, near where now stands the island of Torcello.
With the arrival of the Romans in the second century A.D., the port of Altino had its peak of success: it was connected to Germany through the Via Claudia Augusta and to Ravenna and Aquileia by Via Popilia (the S.S. Romea nowadays) and Via Annia. In addition, many sources testify that there used to be a navigable route within the lagoon, from Ravenna to Altino, which was much safer than the routes by land and sea. This route allowed centers such as Chioggia, Malamocco, Torcello, Murano and Burano to arise and develop. They were small settlements linked not only by the small trade, but also by fishing and by the harvesting of salt. The Venice we now know was probably only made up by a few fishermen’s houses.
The repeated Barbarian invasions, which began in the fourth century A.D., pushed the population of the hinterland to look more and more frequently for refuge on the islands of the lagoon, settling there after the arrival of the Lombards and the taking of Altino, Oderzo and the other cities. The lagoon was then subject to Byzantine officials, whose headquarters was at Eraclea (now a lovely seaside resort). Meanwhile Venice was growing around the first inhabited area of the lagoon, in Rialto (rio Alto) which, after Eraclea and Malamocco, became the center of power in the lagoon, increasingly autonomous from Byzantium.
After the ninth century A.D. the progressive burial of the north lagoon by rivers which there flowed, in particular the Sile and the Piave rivers, led to the formation of an increasing number of wetlands, ideal conditions for malaria. This led many people to seek refuge elsewhere, especially on the islands of Venice, which were much healthier, thereby increasing the importance of the city. Gradually the buildings fell into disrepair in the islands which were depopulating and their stones, marbles and columns were reused for the churches and the palaces of the new lagoon city, Venice.
The salubrity of the northern part of the lagoon had improved during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and even more after the grandiose setting of the rivers and the protection of the beaches between the lagoon and the sea carried out by the Venetians in the seventeenth century, allowing for a new flourishing of the islands.
The last fifty years of life of the Serenissima (the second half of the nineteenth century) saw a new decline in the lagoon islands and that decline continued to the present day, leading to a drastic reduction of the activities pursued in these areas and their almost total depopulation.