The War of Chioggia


For the fourth and last of the Genoese Wars with Venice, called the War of Chioggia, Genoa assembled a powerful host of allies. The King of Hungary, having previously wrested control of Dalmatia from Venice, gave sanctuary and support to the Genoese fleet. By 1379 the Hungarians also threatened Venice by land from the north. At the same time the forces of Padua, under Carrara leadership, cut off Venice's communications to the west. By miscalculation, the Venetians had dispatched one of their large fleets on an expedition to raid and harass Genoese shipping and installations in the eastern Mediterranean, leaving Venice itself with greatly reduced defensive strength.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the Genoese fleet appeared and established a blockade of the entrances to the Venetian lagoon. By mid-August 1379 the Genoese, Hungarians and Paduans had Venice encircled. Attacking swiftly at the south end of the lagoon, Genoa brought her fleet into the channels of the lagoon and, with her allies, stormed and captured the major settlement at Chioggia. The capture and sacking of Venice seemed just one step away. Curiously, however, the Venetians soon exposed the assault on Chioggia as a fateful error that would lead to disaster for the Genoese.

Under cover of darkness on December 22, 1379, the Venetians, after launching a diversionary attack on Chioggia, managed to sink obstructions closing every channel by which the Genoese fleet might escape from the cul-de-sac at Chioggia. The Venetian galley fleet that had been on a raiding expedition in the Mediterranean returned to Venice January 1, 1380; suddenly it was the Genoese who were encircled. Months of skirmishes ensued as the Genoese sought desperately to clear the barricades in the channels and the Venetians to defend them. Finally, in June 1380 the entire Genoese fleet -- near starvation -- surrendered.

Despite the Venetian's fabulous victory at Chioggia, the peace treaty signed at Turin in the following year favored the Genoese. Venice's prize was not victory, but survival.


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1998 C. I. Gable