Submitted by geopol on 10/27/2010 20:10 -0500
Webster G. Tarpley
Since the Venetian oligarchy relied forits survival on the secret weapon of political intelligencemanipulation, its primary strategic targets were first and foremostdictated by epistemological rather than military criteria. Fleets andarmies, even in the hands of a powerful and aggressive enemy state,could well redound to Venetian advantage. The real danger was ahostile power that developed epistemological defenses againstmanipulation and deceit. In the face of such a threat Venice did –and does – kill.
The Italian Renaissance of thefifteenth and sixteenth centuries, perhaps the greatest outpouring ofhuman creativity in history, represented such a threat to the SereneRepublic, and in a more concentrated form than it had ever facedbefore. The threat arose from the epistemological warfare andalliance system of the great Cosimo de’ Medici of Florence and hissuccessors. Venice mobilized every resource at its disposal todestroy the Renaissance. After decades of sabotage, going so far asto arrange the ravaging of Italy by foreign armies, Venice succeeded.
The potential political andepistemological power of the Italian Renaissance are best identifiedin the ecumenical council of the Church convened in Florence in theyear 1438. The council, first convened in Ferrara, was moved toFlorence at the urging of Cosimo de’ Medici, who held power from1434 to 1464. Cosimo was the major financial and political sponsor ofthe proceedings.
Cosimo was a self-declared enemy ofVenice. On one occasion he wrote, “Association with the Venetiansbrings two things which have always been rejected by men of wisdom:certain perdition and disgrace.”
The council had to deal with theongoing crisis in the western church, which had been exacerbated bythe struggle between the Council of Basel and Pope Eugene IV, who hadbeen driven out of Rome by a revolt. In the East, the Ottoman Turkswere beginning to recover from the crushing defeat that the TurkishEmperor Bajazet had suffered in 1402 at the battle of Ankara at thehand of Tamerlane the Great. The first, unsuccessful, Turkish siegeof Constantinople had already been mounted in 1422.
The hope held out by the Council ofFlorence was to implement Nicolas of Cusa’s program of theConcordantia Catholica – a community of principle among humanistsovereign states for cultural and economic development, againstVenetians, Turks, and all enemies of natural law. To Florence camethe Emperor of Byzantium, John VIII Paleologue, accompanied by hisadvisor Gemisthos Plethon and Plethon’s student, ArchbishopBessarion of Nicea. The Latin delegation was titularly headed by PopeEugene IV, heavily dependent upon the support of Cosimo de’ Mediciat that time. This delegation was dominated in outlook by men likeNicolas of Cusa, Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo Bruni, CardinalCapranica, and Aeneas Piccolomini of Siena, later Pope Pius II. TheGreek and Latin delegations were each profoundly vitiated by powerfulAristotelian factions, but this was still one of the most impressiveassemblies in history.
The culmination of the council was animpassioned oration by Plethon on the antithesis between Plato andAristotle, a speech which went far beyond anything ever heard in theWest. Marsilio Ficino, himself a participant at the council, tellsthe story of how Cosimo de’ Medici, while listening to Plethon,made up his mind to create the Platonic Academy in Florence.
The most immediate question to beaddressed was the reunification of the Roman and Greek churches,abrogating the mutual excommunications issued by the pope and thepatriarch of Constantinople in 1054. The contending theologiansdebated the question of the “filioque” in the Latin credo,attempting to resolve the question of whether the Holy Spiritproceeds only from the Father, as the Greeks argued, or from the Sonas well, according to the Roman view. The Greeks eventually agreed torecognize the correctness of the Latin position, although theydeclined to modify their own credo accordingly. The Paleologueemperor intervened repeatedly in these discussions, stressing thatthere were no real differences in doctrine, and that anyone who letnonexistent divergences stand in the way of common action against theTurks was a worse traitor than Judas. In the end a purely formalreunification of the two churches was attained, but it remained adead letter.
Even so, Cosimo and his cothinkers cameclose several times to welding an alliance capable of dominating theworld, and the first to pay the price of their success would havebeen the Venetians. Medici Florence was at the center of a network oftrade and finance that was beginning to rival Venice, with thecrucial difference that the Florentines were the producers, thanks toCosimo’s dirigism, of the textile products they offered for sale.The Duchy of Milan would shortly come under the domination of thecondottiero (mercenary commander) Francesco Sforza, installed inpower with the help of the Medici, and an enemy of Venice. In 1461the humanist Louis XI would take the throne of France. This new kingwas determined to apply the concepts of statecraft developed inItaly, and considered the Venetians “insolent merchants.” In1460, the humanist Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini would be elected PopePius II; in the meantime he was in a position to influence FrederickIII of Hapsburg, the Holy Roman Emperor.
The Venetian reaction to this potentialfor the implementation of an ecumenical Grand Design on the platformof the Italian Renaissance humanists was, predictably, to bring onthe Turks once again. During all these years the Turks possessed acombined warehouse- residence- safehouse in Venice, the Fondaco deiTurchi, which facilitated dealings between the doge and the sultan.Spurred on by Venetian financing and Venetian- procured artillery,the Sultan Mohammed the Conqueror laid siege to Constantinople andcaptured it in 1453. The Turks were aided by the Greek patriarch, whohad pronounced the defense of the Paleologue dynasty a hereticalcause. Finally, it was the Genoese troops who opened the gates of thecity to the forces of the sultan. Hardly a coincidence was theburning of the library of Constantinople with its matchlesscollection of Ionian and Platonic codices, most unavailable anywhereelse since the library of Alexandria had been destroyed some fifteencenturies earlier. In their own sack of Constantinople in 1204, theVenetians had declined to appropriate these manuscripts.
The destruction of Byzantium by theTurks gave the Venetians a slogan with which to organize their waragainst the Renaissance. Since the Roman Empire had finally ended, itwas left to the Venetians to arrogate to themselves the task ofbuilding a new Roman Empire. The foundation of a new Roman Empirebecame, in Venice, from the middle of the fifteenth century on, theleading obsession of the oligarchs.
“The Venetians are called newRomans,” confided the patrician Bernardo Bembo to his diary.Francesco Sforza of Milan wrote that the Venetians were:
“obstinate and hardened, alwayskeeping their mouths open to be able to bite off power and usurp thestate of all their neighbors to fulfill the appetite of their soulsto conquer Italy and then beyond, as did the Romans, thinking tocompare themselves to the Romans when their power was at its apex.”
Machiavelli wrote that the Venetianshad “fixed in their souls the intention of creating a monarchy onthe Roman model.” This is corroborated by a dispatch of theambassador of Louis XII of France at the court of the EmperorMaximilian I some years later, which described the Venetians as:
“traders in human blood, traitors tothe Christian faith who have tacitly divided up the world with theTurks, and who are already planning to throw bridgeheads across theDanube, the Rhine, the Seine, and Tagus, and the Ebro, attempting toreduce Europe to a province and to keep it subjugated to theirarmies.”
These megalomaniac plans of theVenetians were no secret. In 1423, the Doge Tommaso Mocenigo hadurged upon his fellow oligarchs a policy of expansionism which wouldmake them the overlords “of all the gold and of Christendom.”
The most penetrating indictments of theVenetians during this period were issued by Pope Pius II Piccolomino,who tried in vain to force Venice into joining a crusade against theTurks. A Venetian saying of this period was Prima son Vinizian, poison Cristian. (I am a Venetian first, then a Christian.”) In hisCommentaries, Pius II excoriates the Venetians for their duplicitoustreachery, and establishes the fact that they are a pagan,totalitarian state. The Venetians, he says, have acted in theirdiplomacy:
“with the good faith characteristicsof barbarians, or after the manner of traders whose nature it is toweigh everything by utility, paying no attention to honor. But whatdo fish care about law? As among the brute beasts aquatic creatureshave the least intelligence, so among human beings the Venetians arethe least just and the least capable of humanity, and naturally so,for they live on the sea and pass their lives in the water; they useships instead of horses; they are not so much companions of men as offish and comrades of marine monsters. They please only themselves,and while they talk they listen to and admire themselves…. They arehypocrites. They wish to appear as Christians before the world, butin reality they never think of God and, except for the state, whichthey regard as a deity, they hold nothing sacred, nothing holy. To aVenetian, that is just which is for the good of the state; that ispious which increases the empire…. What the senate approves is holyeven though it is opposed to the gospel…. They are allowed to doanything that will bring them to supreme power. All law and right maybe violated for the sake of power.”
During many of these years Venetianswere in a tacit alliance with the Turks. When, for example, a revoltagainst Venetian rule in Albania was started, threatening theVenetian naval base at Durazzo, the Venetians made a deal with theTurks to crush the revolt. On one occasion Pius II received theVenetian ambassador to the Roman court and condemned Venetian policywith these words:
“Your cause is one with thieves androbbers…. No power was ever greater than the Roman empire and yetGod overthrew it because it was impious, and He put in its place thepriesthood because it respected divine law…. You think [your]republic will last forever. It will not last long. Your population sowickedly gathered together will soon be scattered abroad. Theoffscourings of fishermen will be exterminated. A mad state cannotlong stand.”
In 1464 Pius II, despite a seriousillness, traveled from Rome to Ancona to personally lead a crusadeagainst the Turks. He wished to force the hand of the Venetians, whohad promised him a battle fleet. He died shortly after the Venetianwarships arrived, and Venice thereupon pulled out of any seriousfighting against the Turks. But his attack on “the mad state” wason target, then and now.
During the first half of the fifteenthcentury, much Venetian energy was devoted to a rapid expansion up thePo Valley toward Milan. They seized Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Brescia,and Bergamo, reaching the Adda River, just a few miles from Milan.With Milan under Venetian control, the “new Romans” could bidfair to dominate northern Italy and then the entire peninsula.
Cosimo de’ Medici, as we have seen,secured a Florence-Milan alliance by supporting the claims ofFrancesco Sforza, fighting a was against Venice to do it. Basinghimself on this Florence-Milan axis, Cosimo then proceeded to createan uneasy peace in Italy that was to last forty years. This was theItalian League, formed at the Peace of Lodi in 1453, which united theleading powers of Italy, the pope, Naples, Milan, Florence, andVenice, ostensibly in an alliance against the Turks, who had for atime held a toe-hold in Apulia. In reality, the Italian League was aFlorence- Milan- Naples combination designed to check Venetianexpansionism. In this it proved effective, giving the Renaissancealmost half a century of time to develop under the longa pax of theMedici.
During these years, stymied in Italy,the Venetians concentrated on overseas expansion, including theconquest of Cyprus. But on the death of Cosimo’s successor, Lorenzothe Magnificent, they began their systematic campaign to destroy thecivilization of the high renaissance. Their basic premise was that,given their own inability to devastate the centers of Renaissanceculture and economic development, they must concentrate on duping theoverwhelming military forces of European states like France, Spain,and the other Hapsburg dominions into accomplishing this task forthem.
The most competent contemporaryobserver of these matters was Niccolo Machiavelli, active somewhatlater in the post-Medici Florentine diplomatic service, and afactional ally of Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentino. Machiavelli notedthat the two most dangerous forces in Italy around the turn of thecentury were the Venetians and the pope. His own hatred was directedespecially against Venice, firstly because of the stated Venetianintention to subjugate Italy in a new Roman Empire. Secondly, Venicemore than any other state relied on armies of mercenaries, and thusembodied precisely that practice which Machiavelli knew had to beextirpated, in favor of citizen-soldiers, if Italy was to be savedfrom humiliating subjugation to the likes of the Hapsburgs.
Machiavelli pointed out that thedisintegration of Italy began when the Venetians succeeded in turningLodovico il Moro, successor of Francesco as Duke of Milan, making himtheir agent of influence. Lodovico was responsible for the firstmajor invasion of Italy in many years when he agreed to support theclaims of Charles VIII of France to the Kingdom of Naples. This wasthe French king whom his father, the great Louis XI, considered ahopeless imbecile. In 1494 the French army crossed the Alps,accompanied by a Genoese advisor we will meet again later: Giulianodella Rovere.
This was enough to bring about the fallof the Medici regime in Florence, to the advantage of the Pazzi,Albizi, and related oligarchs of that city. These oligarchsimmediately sought to crush the Florentine Renaissance using theregime of the demented Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola, who set upa theocracy a la Khomeini. Savonarola proudly trumpeted that his rulewas based on sound Venetian principles; his family was closelyrelated to the Padua Aristotelian community. As for Charles VIII, hewent on to establish a tenuous hold on Naples.
Several years later, in 1498, theVenetians repeated this maneuver, with the variation that this timeit was they who blatantly invited the French to cross the Alps. Thistime the pretext was the French claim to the Milanese dukedom, andthe dupe was a new French king, Louis XII. The French army knockedout Milan in 1500, a fatal blow to the Renaissance cultural fermentassociated there with Leonardo da Vinci. Shortly thereafter, LouisXII decided to compensate the Hapsburgs with Naples. Naplesaccordingly became the first beachhead of what would shortly become atotally destructive Hapsburg hegemony in Italy.
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on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 23:26
In the face of such a threat Venice did – and does – kill.”
Anyone care to clarify?
Login or register to post comments by tony bonn
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 23:34
i have only infrequently read of italian political history of this period and am a bit hooked. it would be quite convenient if you posted links at least to the previous article in each installment.
i was also hopelessly clueless about the profound support supplied to the turks from venice in the final dissolution of constantinople. quite fascinating though believeable.
i see the ventians as the murderous conniving bush / bankster hegemons which used hitler, soviets, and an assortment of other butchers to crush western freedoms and further its control of the world. they are a completely illiterate bunch of thugs from whose destruction of civility the world is still reeling.
Login or register to post comments by i-dog
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 23:53
The origins and the bloodlines go back long before Venice. The line between the nobility and the brigands is wafer thin (where it exists at all).
They may be inbred, but they are far from illiterate!
Login or register to post comments by tired1
on Thu, 10/28/2010 – 00:05
Click on Geopol’s “tracks” for more info.
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