The defence of Venetian dominion over the Adriatic Sea: Situating Paolo Sarpi c 1600–1625

Stefano Cattelan*


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During the Middle Ages, the Republic of Venice gradually gained control over the Adriatic Sea. Leading medieval jurists argued in favour of Venetian maritime jurisdiction based on Roman law principles and geopolitical realities. However, starting from the end of the fifteenth century, new developments, such as oceangoing navigation, challenged the foundations of the Serenissima’s wealth and power. The 1610s represented a particularly critical conjuncture for Venice, whose dominion over the Adriatic Sea was disputed by powerful actors. In 1609, Hugo Grotius published the famous pamphlet Mare liberum, which advocated the freedom of the sea towards the Indies based on natural law principles and had the potential to endanger Venetian dominance over the Adriatic Sea as well. In this context, Paolo Sarpi, consultant of the Venetian government, elaborated a legal-political defence of Venetian dominion over the Adriatic. His ideas should be read as a reaction but not a direct reply to Mare liberum.

TidsskriftComparative Legal History
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)177-207
Antal sider31
StatusUdgivet - 2021

Bibliografisk note

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