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The ''Stato da mar''
Stato da mar
The Stato da mar was a diverse mix of territories under Venetian domination, spreading from the Adriatic to the Eastern Mediterranean. This state began to develop during the 13th century with the atti di dedizione made by towns which often already had their own communal rules and statutes.
The Stato da mar experienced a great expansion during the 15th century and then started to shrink, or at least to alter its borders. The name itself came into use from the 15th century on, to distinguish it from the Stato da terra, which was formed by the Venetian-Lombard hinterland. Venetian Istria was sometimes considered a part of the Stato da terra and sometimes the Stato da mar. For our purposes Istria is always considered a part of the Stato da mar.
Atti di dedizione
Dedizione (submission) was the - more or less - spontaneous passage of an entity from under the jurisdiction of another entity; as far as Venice is concerned, towns adopted atti di dedizione (articles of submission) and thus became an integral part of the Serenissima. When signing a dedizione, the new subjects usually negotiated for conditions and privileges that would guarantee their loyalty to the Lion of St. Mark. Communities were proud of their agreements with the Republic and even after centuries would strongly affirm them. Venetian governors were sent to rule over the already existing Community Councils, which illustrates the superiority of Venice over existing entities.
Every town was founded on its own statutes, which were written laws carefully preserved by communal bodies. These catalogues of the laws summarized the rules that regulated life in the towns. When accepting the atti di dedizione, Venice usually approved the existing Statutes and promised to respect their substance and defend their values. In most cases the Republic maintained its word and only made additions if necessary, and without distorting the original text. All the same, the strictness of Statutes was reduced by the wide power of Venetian rettori (governors), who made decisions based on the Statutes and the orders they received in Venice during at their election.
The Stato da mar, as well as the Stato da terra, was divided into rettorati (rectorates), small jurisdictions usually consisting of a town and its contado. The term rettorato is a generic one: depending on areas, different names could be used, like podesterie or reggimenti.
The first level of territorial control, rettorati were at the basis of the entire administrative system of the Republic, and were always led by a Venetian patrician.
Rettorati covered the entire Venetian dominion, both Stato da terra e Stato da mar, and had different dimensions and political importance.
Venetian rettori: choice, penalty, duties, carico, contumacia
In this work, patricians sent to rule over rettorati are called rettori, yet depending on the places they were appointed they might be called podestà, conti, provveditori, baili.
They represented Venetian jurisdiction in the subject land. They were elected by the Maggior Consiglio or by the Senate and sent to rule the rettorato for a limited period, usually for a maximum of three years; special circumstances could lead the Republic to delay their return.
The period of appointment was called the carico. The person selected could reject the election, though depending on where he was assigned, he could be fined with a financial penalty.
Rettori were at the head of local community Councils; they administered justice following the hierarchy of legal entities, oversaw expenses and the raising of taxes, and coordinated security tasks.
In order to avoid dangerous bribery from the local notables, the same person could not be reappointed rettore for some years: this period was called the contumacia.
During their terms, rettori sent regular dispacci (dispatches) and at the end of the period they wrote a relazione (report).
Other local Venetian magistracies
Besides rettori, Venice could send other Venetian patricians to rectorates too, who would be chosen with the same procedure, would have specific duties and would be subject to parallel obligations. These included the capitano, who was charged with military tasks, the camerlengo, who dealt with financial affairs, and the castellano, who was responsible for a particular fortress.
In minor rettorati, some or all of these tasks were given to the rettore himself.
Rettori were the first level of the hierarchy, whereas the second was represented by provincial magistracies. Magistrates were ordinary or extraordinary commissioners, with different qualifications, who were elected to govern jurisdictions broader than rectorates, or when the need arose to organize and coordinate territories (i.e. the Provveditore generale of Dalmatia and Albania), or to deal with issues relating to several different jurisdictions, for example borders or public health.
The Serenissima could also entitle a local rettore with extraordinary powers in a specific domain, thus bestowing wider authority than usual, as in the case of the podestà e capitano of Capodistria, who had the other rettori of Istria under his power.
Commissione (commission) was a list of duties a rettore was given shortly after his election: it included rules of behaviour the Venetian commissioner should observe in particular situations. The commissione supplemented local statutes, and decisions by the rettore had to respect both documents; sometimes the commissione would dodge some statutes, yet communities always and carefully protected their privileges. Particular situations would require a more specific commissione.
Dispacci (dispatches) were the regular correspondence between a rettore and Venice, as Venetian commissioners received instructions from Venice, and had the duty to constantly update the Republic on the most important decisions and events.
At the end of their mandate, rettori of important rettorati had to present a relazione (report), reviewing their activities during their service.