Republic of Pisa


Republic of Pisa

The Republic of Pisa was a "de facto" independent state centered on the Tuscany city of Pisa during the late tenth and eleventh centuries. It rose to become an economic powerhouse, a commercial center whose merchants dominated Mediterranean and Italian trade for a century before being surpassed and superseded by Genoa. The power of Pisa as a mighty maritime nation began to grow on and reached its apex in the 11th century when it acquired traditional fame as one of the four main historical Marine Republics of Italy.

Rise to power

At that time the city was a very important commercial center and controlled a significant Mediterranean merchant fleet and navy. It expanded its powers by the sack in 1005 of Reggio di Calabria in the south of Italy. Pisa was in continuous conflict with the Saracens, who had their bases in Sardinia and Corsica, for control of the Mediterranean. In 1017 Sardinia was captured, in alliance with Genoa, by the defeat of the Saracen king Mugahid. This victory gave Pisa the supremacy in the Tyrrhenian Sea. When the Pisans subsequently ousted the Genoese from Sardinia, a new conflict and rivalry was born between the Marine Republics. Between 1030 and 1035 Pisa went on to successfully defeat several rival towns in Sicily and conquer Carthage in North Africa. In 1051-1052 the admiral Jacopo Ciurini conquered Corsica, provoking more resentment from the Genoese. In 1063, the Pisans approached the Norman Roger I of Sicily, who was conducting a campaign that would last over three decades to conquer Sicily, with the prospect of a joint attack on Palermo. Roger declined due to other commitments that he had. The Pisan attack, without any land support, failed.

In 1060 Pisa had to engage in their first battle with Genoa. The Pisan victory helped to consolidate its position in the Mediterranean. Pope Gregory VII recognized in 1077 the new "Laws and customs of the sea" instituted by the Pisans, and emperor Henry IV granted them the right to name their own consuls, advised by a Council of Elders. This was simply a confirmation of the present situation, because in those years the marquis had already been excluded from power. In 1092 Pope Urban II awarded Pisa the supremacy over Corsica and Sardinia, and at the same time raising the town to the rank of archbishopric. Pisa sacked the Tunisian city of Mahdia in 1088. Four years later Pisan and Genoese ships helped Alfonso VI of Castile to push El Cid out of Valencia.

Pisa and the Crusades

A Pisan fleet of 120 ships also took part in the First Crusade and the Pisans were instrumental in the taking of Jerusalem in 1099. On their way to the Holy Land the ships did not miss the occasion to sack some Byzantine islands: the Pisan crusaders were led by their archbishop Daibert, the future patriarch of Jerusalem.

Pisa and the other Repubbliche Marinare took advantage of the crusade to establish trading posts and colonies in the Eastern coastal regions of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. In particular the Pisans founded colonies in Antiochia, Acre, Jaffa, Tripoli, Tyre, Joppa, Latakia and Accone. They also had other possessions in Jerusalem and Caesarea, plus smaller colonies (with lesser autonomy) in Cairo, Alexandria and of course Constantinople, where the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus granted them special mooring and trading rights. In all these cities the Pisans were granted privileges and immunity from taxation, but had to contribute to the defence in case of attack. In the 12th century the Pisan quarter in the Eastern part of Constantinople had grown to 1,000 people. For some years of that century Pisa was the most prominent merchant and military ally of the Byzantine Empire, overcoming Venice itself.

Decline of Pisa

The power of Pisa as an international power was destroyed forever by the crushing defeat of the navy at the Battle of Meloria against Genoa (1284), in which most of its galleys were destroyed and many of the mariners were caught as prisoners. In 1290 an assault of Genoese ships against the Porto Pisano caused its destruction.

As part of Visconti's dominions after 1399, Pisa was then sold to Florence in 1402; after a bloody and useless resistance, the municipality was at last subjected in 1406.

References

*Norwich, John Julius. "The Normans in the South 1016-1130". Longmans: London, 1967.

ee also

*History of Pisa
*Giudicati
*Republic of Genoa
*Repubbliche Marinare


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