July 30, 2022

Republic: The Venetian Myth. Part 3. (Part 1 and Part 2). The Venetian Myth, at the very least so definitely for a greater amount of time, existed in late-15th into the 16th C., included the political governance in Venice.

Venice, Canaletto (d.1768)

Ironically, the Venetian city was considered an enemy but worthy of admiration by Renaissance Florentines. Florence was one of the northern Italian peninsula city-states of the era and was fought over by great powers, such as France or Austrian Empire, for centuries. With fall of the Roman Empire (476), the next large geopolitical power originating from the Italian Peninsula, outside of the Papal States, would not come about until the 19th C. Italian Kingdom and later mid-20th C. Republic of Italy. Florence very briefly was a sovereign republic from 1494-1512 and 1527-1530, thus not only it's ideas of Renaissance, which originated in Florence, but brief republic existence informed later republican (as in republic) theorists and practitioners in 17th C. England, and 18th C. United States and France. An aristocratic Medici family rule collapsed in 1494 when a French army under King Charles VIII invaded Florence. A Constitution was drawn up by the Florentines with the Venetian Myth as a standard. This historical moment is considered the early beginnings of modern political thought.

The Venetian Myth, though based on real political institutions found in Venice, was considered a Myth not due to any debate as to whether it was true or false. On the contrary, in the case of the Venetian Myth, Myth is better understood to mean ideal. Thus, the Myth was considered true but as an ideal goal set before society to strive toward in excellence. The Venetian commonwealth took on an air of immortal tranquility and perfect balance as a mixed government (one, few, many: See Parts 1 & 2). Florentine humanists such as Niccolo Machiavelli (d.1527), Lodovico Alamanni (d.1556), and preacher Girolamo Savonarola (d.1498), to name a few, cultivated the content of the Constitution directly and/or indirectly by developing the Venetian Myth.

(Girolamo Savonarola)

Savonarola was known for his apocalyptic sermons and also when he called the Pope an Antichrist. In those days, such a condemnation voiced by somebody like Savonarola was nearly always, if not always, stiffly punished. He was imprisoned, hung, and burned. Those like Savonarola or the humanists flourished the Venetian Myth into an image of a republic government to strive toward. As the Myth crystalized, it was said Venice had achieved a political republic privileging justice, combating corruption, and to learn why and how was an exercise to develop the idea and practice of a republic in Florence and other lands.

In 1512, the republic fell to Medici control again backed by Pope Leo X who was Medicean. The republic was reestablished briefly in 1527 to only fall again in 1530 by the hand another Medici Pope with the help of the Habsburg Emperor Charles V; Florence was made into a hereditary monarchy of Medici lineage lasting until the 18th C.

There were many angles of discussion that emerged not solely as ideas but also the rubber meets the road practice of a republic that existed those brief years contributing to future generations. As I wrote in the previous parts, a major topic and question concerning republics then and in the future was how to make justice last in a government. Amongst other things, corruption was perceived to increase due to (a) innovation and (b) an unchecked balance of power. I touched upon (b) previously, so I will end this post with a mention of (a).

Innovation possesses a twofold outcome. Innovation is always happening because life goes on; there is always something new around the corner. Yet, innovation results in either justice or corruption. Constantly corruption weighs down and mixes in society amongst the people and government. Justice hopefully overcomes corruption by checking the balance of power in an innovative way. Enacted justice does not necessarily mean a completely new system of government, like replacing fascism with socialism, tribalism with empire, or communism with aristocracy, etc.; these can all be considered republics that are either corrupted or not. In the line of thinking used in this series of posts on Republic established in the previous Parts (Posts), a republic always exists in one form or another, therefore the innovation in the republic refers instead to whether the innovation is just or not - again as an example not whether the innovation is from this political left or right leaning, etc.

Either the old, corrupt government will continue to innovate new corruptions; or one, few, or many (or some mix) will innovate justice to various degrees and sizes. In a largely corrupt government and society, the hope is justice will be of a large degree and size to deal with the equally large degree and size of the corruption. Significantly, without a Venetian Myth, in order words, some goal to justly strive for by individuals (one), some stabilizing traditional foundation to build upon (few), and a large enough population threshold collectively striving (many), then innovation will only be an innovation of new corrupt ways constantly overpowering and destroying society over and over again unchecked into further monstrous levels of existence.

Christianity certainly has a place in all of this, because in my conviction and opinion, man is not autonomous. True justice only comes from our God and Savior Jesus Christ and He grants justice, prayerfully, at His good and wise pleasure. So when He grants justice the timing is always good and wise, fulfilling the need perfectly.

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