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Original scientific paper

Venetian Rule over Dubrovnik in the Early Thirteenth Century and the ‘Leased Countship’ of Giovanni Dandolo (c. 1209-1235)

Nella Lonza orcid id ; Zavod za povijesne znanosti HAZU u Dubrovniku, Dubrovnik, Hrvatska

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This article sheds light on the character of the Venetian rule in Dubrovnik in the first decades of the thirteenth century, drawing a parallel with the governmental models in other Venetian dominions after the Fourth Crusade. The predecessors of Count Giovanni Tiepolo (1237-1238) held their public office (comitatus) under some sort of lease. A wealth of documents regarding Count Giovanni Dandolo (1209?-1235) has helped trace the count’s social background (including his kin relations with Doge Pietro Ziani), along with the family business activities in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the twelfth century. Prior to the opportunity to lease the office of Ragusan count, Dandolo was engaged in trade in Syria, and together with his brother Marco leased the collection of revenue in the Venetian colonies in Acre and Tyre, but eventually faced insolvency. The reconstruction of the income from his Ragusan countship suggests that his profit gains may have approximated 20% where in low risk and negligible investment costs were the main benefits. It appear likely that Dandolo developed his private business activities while on duty in Dubrovnik, in the same manner as he had done on the former leased functions. The article is also reconsidering old and offering new interpretations of the Ragusan political situation of the time under the influence of international powers in the Adriatic, Mediterranean and Dubrovnik’s hinterland. There is good reason to assume that the term guerre mentioned in the documents does not refer to the supposed attack of Stefan, Grand Župan of Serbia, but to the pirates of Omiš, whose activity represented a biggest challenge to the maritime traffic. In the 1230s Dubrovnik defined its relations with a number of rulers and despots from its immediate hinterland and wider Balkan inland (Serbian kings Radoslav and Vladislav; Andrija, Count of Hum; Bulgarian emperor John II Asen; Manuel Angelos, Despot of Thessaly; and Michael II Angelos, Despot of Epirus), yet its fate was largely determined by the power relations in the eastern Mediterranean, in which Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen and Emperor John III Vatatzes of Nicaea played an important role. A detailed textual and comparative analysis of the first two agreements (pacta) with Venice from 1232 and 1236 has shown that, contrary to the dominant historiographic paradigm, they were not drafted after crushed rebellions and that in many elements they proved less harmful to the Ragusan side than hitherto interpreted. The texts of these agreements are virtually the same, and were modelled on the agreement signed between Venice and Zadar in 1204 or early 1205. Count Dandolo’s departure from Dubrovnik in 1234 marked the beginning of an interregnum which extended to 1237, while the unsettled property issues of his descendants with the Ragusan commune dragged on for years. Upon Dandolo’s death, Venetian authorities did not lease the office of Ragusan count to a new holder, as they were preparing a new administrative arrangement (regimen), in which the office of Ragusan count was to be filled by state officials elected to a two-year term.


Dubrovnik, Venice, 13th century, Giovanni Dandolo, count, lease of public office

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