grew into a maritime power at the head of the Adriatic Sea, on the
opposite coast of the Italian peninsula Genoa emerged as the maritime
power of the Ligurian Sea and later of the Tyrrhenian Sea as well.
In the 1100s and 1200s, as Venice and Genoa began to project their
power beyond their home waters and into the trade routes of the eastern
Mediterranean, their interests began increasingly to clash. A seesaw
struggle for influence and exclusivity in various markets, such as
Constantinople and Acre, erupted in periodic violence between naval
forces of the two cities.
commercial rivalry in the East led them into four exhausting and ultimately
inconclusive wars over a period of 125 years. The last of the wars
reached its climax in the Venetian lagoon itself and -- until a dramatic
reversal of fortune -- threatened the life of the Venetian Republic.
The first two
Genoese Wars (1255-1270, 1294-9) produced naval victories for each
side in an almost random pattern. On balance, the first war favored
the Venetians and the second the Genoese. Fifty years of relative
peace ensued, the belligerants heavily occupied by other challenges,
including awesome onslaughts of plague. The Third Genoese War (1351-5)
began well for the Venetians but ended badly. Control of the Genoa
government, however, had passed to the Visconti family of Milan, and
Venice was able to negotiate a better peace treaty than its military
posture would have suggested.
From one point
of view the Fourth Genoese War (1378-81), called the War
of Chioggia, can be viewed as a defeat for the Venetians, but
Venice's dramatic and climactic victory at Chioggia, 1379-80, pulled
defeat from the jaws of complete disaster.