City State of Genoa 900-1550 Term Paper

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The goods from Asia were shipped to Venice and Genoa from where they were carried over the Alps to France and Germany, or through the strait of Gibraltar to Britain and the Scandinavian countries. The Black Sea port of Caffa, controlled by the Genoese during the 14th century, was an important terminal point on the silk route. Apart from the fur and slaves that it normally imported, Caffa is also reputed to have introduced the dreaded "Black Death" epidemic to Europe through fleas on rats that traveled on Genoese ships to Constantinople. (Ibid)

Genoese Trade with the Ottomans

Until the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century, the Genoese had prospered in trading through their relations with the Byzantines, the Christian principalities of the East, and even their sworn enemies -- the Arabs, while fighting for domination of trade with Venice. Thereafter, most of their trading activities depended on their trade relations with the Ottomans who controlled most of the international trade routes especially in the Mediterranean area. Commerce with the Turks contributed considerably to the wealth of Genoa, while the Ottomans also benefited from Genoese capital and know-how of Genoese merchants. Because of these trade relations, Genoa was never an enthusiastic participant in anti-Turkish leagues of the Latins that were encouraged by the Pope. (Fleet 10)

The Genoese had a pragmatic trading relationship with the Ottomans that was mainly based on mutual commercial interest. The nature of Genoese trade through Turchia was two pronged: it consisted of the export of raw materials from Turchia and the import of luxury items, and the role of the Turkish territory as a transit market for eastern luxuries such as silks and spices. (Ibid. 22)

Alum, cloth, grains and slaves formed the bulk of trade between Turchia and the western states and the Genoese played a major role in the trade of all these items. For example, alum, a colorless crystalline substance procured from certain rocks, was an extremely important item in the European cloth industry; it was mainly produced in Anatolia and its mining, production and export of was in the hands of the Genoese. (Ibid 81)

Cloth too was a major item in trade between Turchia and the western city-states. Expensive fabrics were imported into Anatolia and raw material, mainly cotton, for making cloth was exported from it. Silk for the Western silk industry was mostly traded in the Turkish town of Bursa, and the silk trading in Turchia was also dominated by the Genoese.

Grain was perhaps the single most important commodity traded between the eastern Mediterranean and the western city-states in the 14th and first half of the 15th century. Genoese merchants played a major role in its trade and dominated the Bulgarian and Black Sea areas supplying grain to Constantinople. The main grains produced and exported from Anatolia were wheat and barley and were consumed in Genoa as well as the rest of Europe. (Ibid 64)

Slave trade was equally important in eastern Mediterranean regions in the 14th and 15th centuries and the main slave markets existed in the coastal towns of Anatolia, in Pera, on Crete, Chios, Cyprus, Rhodes and Naxos. According to Fleet, out of the Latin merchants involved in the slave trade, the Genoese were the most active, and they transported slaves from the Black Sea through to the Mamluk sultanate and largely dominated the slave trade in the eastern Mediterranean. (Ibid 37)


Genoa, a seaport in northwestern Italy, emerged as an important Italian city-state in the Middle Ages. Being hemmed in by a mountainous hinterland and not having many natural resources, Genoa chose to use sea trade as its vehicle to prosperity. It cleverly used its participation in the First Crusade against the Saracens to win trade concessions from the Christian principalities and for a time came to dominate the major international trade routes between Europe and the East as a "middle man" in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea areas. Its ultimate eclipse as an independent trading nation was due to internal feuding and its prolonged conflict with the other Italian maritime city-states of Venice and Pisa.

Works Cited

Carden, Robert W. The City of Genoa. London: Methuen, 1908.

Epstein, Steven A. Genoa & the Genoese, 958-1528. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Fleet, Kate. European and Islamic Trade in the Early Ottoman State: The Merchants of Genoa and Turkey. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Genoese Trade Route." Roman Art Lover Website. N.d. September 1, 2005.

Thompson, James Westfall. Economic and Social History of Europe in the Later Middle Ages (1300-1530). New York: Century, 1931.

An ancient cemetery in Genoa bears testimony to its occupation by the Greeks

Saracen is the old European name for the Arab Muslims who were a major power during the Middle Ages and had extended their influence to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean coast.

Arguably the best site for a port between Barcelona and La Spezia.

The consuls were remnants of the old aristocracy that had arisen out of the feudal system established during the Frankish reign

Arabic sources reveal that Genoa may have been a substantial town at the time and it had linen thread and cloth, as well as raw silk, that was considered worth looting by the Arabs. (Epstein 14)

Kings Berengar and Adalbert, who exercised a tenuous hold over northern Italy, gave the recognition to Genoa at the time through a charter.

The religious feelings were particularly strong among the Europeans at the time, giving rise to the Crusades against the Muslims in the following centuries.

The Muslims had already taken control of Sicily and the Balearics.

The Genoese fleet consisted of twelve galleys and one small ship and about 1,200 men, which was a significant proportion of it's the then population of about 10,000. (Epstein 27)

Galata, an enclave of Genoese merchants in Byzantine Constantinople, survived during the Ottoman Empire and the Galata tower still forms a part of the landscape of modern day Istanbul. ("A…

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