Establishment of the Doge in Venice

Since its beginning, Venice operated under the political auspices of Byzantium, the Eastern Roman Empire which persisted well after the fall of its Western counterpart in the 5th century. Given the distance between the two cities, Venice was not ruled directly by the Emperor, but via a local administrative functionary called the Exarch of Ravenna, who oversaw all of the lands of Italy under Byzantine control, and through which Venetians maintained close economic and cultural ties with Byzantium. After a series of local governors called “maritime tribunes” in the 5th century, the first doges were established as singular military rulers to reinforce Byzantium’s power over the Venetian lagoon and protect it against persistent regional threats. While evidence is not complete, the first of these doges – though not generally thought of as so in the history of the Republic of Venice – is believed to be Paoluccio Anafesto, who was elected in 697 and served under Byzantine orders.




Horodowich, E. (Philadelphia). A Brief History of Venice. 2009: Running Press Book Publishers.

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Pietro Marcello, via Wikimedia Commons

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