The Venetians: A New History: From Marco Polo to Casanova

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Overview

The Republic of Venice was the first great economic, cultural, and naval power of the modern Western world.

After winning the struggle for ascendency in the late 13th century, the Republic enjoyed centuries of unprecedented glory and built a trading empire which at its apogee reached as far afield as China, Syria, and West Africa. This golden period only drew to an end with the Republic's eventual surrender to Napoleon.

The Venetians ...

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The Venetians: A New History: From Marco Polo to Casanova

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Overview

The Republic of Venice was the first great economic, cultural, and naval power of the modern Western world.

After winning the struggle for ascendency in the late 13th century, the Republic enjoyed centuries of unprecedented glory and built a trading empire which at its apogee reached as far afield as China, Syria, and West Africa. This golden period only drew to an end with the Republic's eventual surrender to Napoleon.

The Venetians illuminates the character of the Republic during these illustrious years by shining a light on some of the most celebrated personalities of European history—Petrarch, Marco Polo, Galileo, Titian, Vivaldi, and Casanova. Frequently, though, these emblems of the city found themselves at odds with the Venetian authorities, who prized stability above all else, and were notoriously suspicious of any "cult of personality." Was this very tension perhaps the engine for the Republic's unprecedented rise?

Rich with biographies of some of the most exalted characters who have ever lived, The Venetians is a refreshing and authoritative new look at the history of the most evocative of city-states.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Stories of powerful men making disastrous decisions have an endless fascination, and Strathern makes the most of it in this entertaining account." —-Publishers Weekly
Library Journal - Audio
04/01/2014
Strathern's (Napolean in Egypt) work has a unique structure, eschewing a straightforward chronicle of events and offering instead a panoply of interesting characters. From Marco Polo to Casanova, each person detailed herein significantly contributed to Venetian history and culture through trade, diplomacy, art, or war during Venice's long reign as an independent republic. A consistent theme throughout the city's history has been the dynamic conflict between the interests of ambitious Venetians and the greater good of the republic. In this competition, no matter how famous (or infamous) the citizen, the city always won. This novel approach to history highlights the dramatic rise and fall of Venice as a Mediterranean power. The drama is aided by the splendid narration of Derek Perkins, who handles Italian names and accents admirably. VERDICT The combination of dramatic narrative with historical facts will appeal to both public and academic libraries. ["Strathern's stories do entertain, but they don't always enlighten," read the review of the Pegasus hc, LJ 11/1/13.]—Denis Frias, Brampton Lib., Ont.
Publishers Weekly
10/07/2013
The names imparted by his subtitle may be notable, but they’re not the most intriguing characters in this study, as Strathern (Napoleon in Egypt) grasps the opportunity to introduce readers to figures mostly lost to history. Thus he offers the stories of Queen Caterina, ruler of Cyprus for a few short years and prisoner for many more; and the minor trade consul, Francesco Lupazzoli, who lived to be 115 years old and is said to have fathered 24 children through his five marriages—plus potentially another 105 illegitimate offspring. Strathern also profiles generals like Lamba Doria and Niccolò Pisani who led epic naval battles of varying outcomes; and a repressive ruling body that eventually made such bad decisions that it caused the downfall of a “most serene” republic that had existed for a 1,000 years. With Venice shining brightly in the background as a pleasure site, where the idea of the casino originated and as many as 15,000 prostitutes may have been working during the 16th century, the story is less about Venice than of those who populated it and brought much renown: artists, mathematicians, holy men, and beautiful women. Strathern weaves an engrossing tale replete with intriguing sub-plots, emphasizing the human aspect with great feeling. (Dec.)
The Washington Post Book World
“Using his novelist's eye and a historian's sweep, Strathern makes you care deeply for these complex figures.”
The Times Literary Supplement
“Very entertaining and well-written book. Strathern is very careful about his sources, so that a finely balanced picture emerges.”
USA Today

Looks at the magical city of Venice through historical figures including Marco Polo, Galileo, Titian, Vivaldi and Casanova.

Library Journal
11/01/2013
Strathern's (Aristotle in 90 Minutes) title reflects his emphasis, which is much more on people than on institutions. The book's strength is that it offers entertaining vignettes of a number of colorful Venetians, including painters, writers, and luminaries such as Marco Polo as well as Sofia Baffo, first concubine of Ottoman emperor Murad III, and Francesco Lupazolli, the Venetian consul at Smyrna in the mid-1600s, whose chief claim to fame seems to have been that he died at 115, after siring 24 children. The author's criterion for inclusion here appears to be, above all, color. Strathern's stories do entertain, but they don't always enlighten or at least not enough. That's the glaring weakness of this work: it won't really help the reader to understand better Venice and its people. Strathern does lay down context—government, economy, the evolving treatment of Venetian Jews, the plague—but explanation is drowned in a flood of stories that are as much show as substance. VERDICT Given the presence of two superb recent histories of Venice—Joanne M. Ferraro's Venice: History of the Floating City and Thomas F. Madden's Venice: A New History—why spend time on this volume?—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-20
The story of the spirit of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. Novelist and nonfiction author Strathern (The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped, 2011, etc.) points out that Venice was, for hundreds of years, a commercial republic, a trade center happy to flaunt her wealth, and highly pragmatic in her politics, diplomacy and religion. Her navy was world famous, and with good reason; the most famous condottiere, Bartolomeo Colleoni (1400–1475), actually dragged ships over a mountain to Lake Garda to relieve Brescia from Milanese forces. Strathern deftly weaves the history of the near-continuous wars with Genoa and Milan into short biographical sketches of the Venetian giants of the arts and sciences. She fostered so many innovations, they're difficult to list. Her bureaucracy was second to none, and it served as the birthplace of statistics, double-entry accounting and the concept of the assembly line (which could outfit a galley in the time it took to eat dinner). It was the home of the first journalist, satirist Pietro Aretino (1492–1556), and, thanks to the printing press, the first regular newspaper. The presses were also able to spread the music of opera, and the first tourist guide was published in 1581, 16 years after "Il Catalogo…(The Catalogue of All the Main and Less Honoured Courtesans of Venice)." Venice also served as the bulwark against the Eastern empires, but when her powers weakened, the Ottomans and, finally, Napoleon put an end to her greatness. After the French army left, writes the author, "[t]he 1,000-year-old Republic of Venice was no more." The great artists, explorers and scientists of the period are well-noted, but La Serenissima is the true subject of this book, and a better inducement to visit would be hard to find.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452619477
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/29/2014
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Strathern is a Somerset Maugham Prize-winning novelist and the author of many nonfiction titles, including The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior, Napoleon in Egypt, and Mendeleyev's Dream, which was short-listed for the Aventis Prize. Paul lives in England.

A native of the United Kingdom, AudioFile Earphones Award winner Derek Perkins's audiobook narration skills are augmented by knowledge of three foreign languages and a facility with accents. He has narrated numerous titles in a wide range of fiction and nonfiction genres.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 28, 2014

    The book provides an excellent overview into the long and fascin

    The book provides an excellent overview into the long and fascinating history of Venice. It starts with the return of Marco Polo who brings with him almost unbelievable tales of adventure in the East but minus all the accumulated wealth, thanks to untimely robbery by corrupt officials in a neighboring state. Then it takes the reader through the ages from Ottoman invasion to plague and other ups and downs experienced by this vibrant city whose long history comes to a close when Napoleon descends on them. Educational yet eminently readable.

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