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A History of Venice
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It was the worst of times and the most inauspicious of beginnings. Forced into the swamps and marshes by repeated waves of Germans, Huns, and rapacious imperial troops, the refugees from the Italian mainland found safety “living like sea birds” on the islands and sandbars of an inhospitable lagoon. But gradually these dispersed marsh dwellers coalesced into a viable community that not only defended itself against seemingly impossible odds, but ventured out onto the high seas to create a maritime empire that spanned the Mediterranean. For centuries Venice’s wealth, power, and political stability were so unshakeable that Europeans enviously referred to the republic simply as La Serenissima, the Most Serene. In this course we will trace Venice’s history from the flight to the lagoon, through her centuries of glory, to her decline and demise at the hands of Napoleon, then the Austrians, and finally to her absorption into the new Italian state.