The term Maritime Republics was attributed in the nineteenth century (therefore many years later) to some Italian coastal cities  that thrived between the tenth and thirteenth centuries.Usually the term is used to describe the four most important port cities: Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa and Venice. These were the Maritime Republics par excellence!

In fact, thanks to their trade , the fleets of these cities dominated the entire Mediterranean sea . Other similar realities, but much less influential were Ravenna, Comacchio, Noli, Gaeta, Palermo and Brindisi, smaller and economically less important than the main four.


The Maritime Republics represent a variant of the municipal civilization, frequent at that time, where merchants established the first new economic forces: they coined gold coins, developed new kinds of negotiations, patented new accounting systems and stimulated progress in navigation.

They were independent, autonomous and equipped with warships capable of protecting the interests of the city and even venturing on expeditions such as the Crusades .


The first maritime republic was Amalfi. The Amalfi merchants managed to take away from the Arabs the monopoly of trade in the Mediterranean Sea as early as the tenth century, founded some merchant bases in Southern Italy, Africa and the Middle East (in Turkey, Syria, Egypt) and established the first code of maritime law, the so-called Amalfi Tables

However the power of Amalfi did not last long : the city was oppressed by the Normans (1076), was won and sacked by the rival Pisa (1135) and ceased to exist as a republic in the early 11th century.


The second maritime republic was Pisa. He fought for a long time against the Muslims who, from the nearby islands of Sardinia and Corsica,  tried in every way to impose themselves even on the Tyrrhenian coast. The city managed to settle in the Near East and the Tyrrhenian Sea, but came into  conflict with Genoa –  once an ally during the struggle against Muslims – for two centuries.

This fight ended with the battle of Meloria in 1284 in which Pisa  was defeated .


The third republic was Genoa which, from the tenth century, distinguished itself for the Compagna Communis , a large association of merchants and sailors who governed the city and administered the goods of the municipality.

After the battle with Pisa (see above) remained the only owner of the ar Tyrrhenian Sea and the western Mediterranean , but the rivalry with Venice marked its end: in the fourteenth century, after almost two hundred years of fierce battles,  Genoa was forced to recognize Venetian supremacy.


The fourth maritime republic was Venice, the longest. Its origins date back to the fifth century when, to escape the barbarian invasions, the inhabitants of  Aquileia  and other cities of the Veneto sought refuge in the lagoon. 

Until the eighth century it was under Byzantine rule, later the Venetian aristocracy managed to reach power by giving life to an oligarchic government, that is, of a few.

Venice, due to its natural position, was the point of contact between East and West and was long disputed by many populations (Franks, Byzantines, Normans, etc.), but  always managed to maintain its independence. At least until the arrival of a certain Napoleon

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