The awesome riches of Venice in late 16th century


Giovanni Botero (1544—1617), an eye-witness, wrote of Venice:

Not only is there bread in abundance; there is also an incalculable wealth of all goods and delicacies, which are brought hither, not only by the rivers and canals of the mainland, but also by the sea, from as far afield as Egypt, Syria, the Archipelago, Constantinople and the Black Sea.

To Venice come the oils of Apulia, the saffrons of the Abruzzo, the malmseys of Crete, the raisins of Zante, the cinnamon and pepper of the Indies, the carpets of Alexandria, the sugar of Cyprus, the dates of Palestine, the silk, wax and ashes of Syria, the cordovans of the Morea, the leathers, moronelle, and caviar of Caffa.

There is such a variety of things here, pertaining both to man’s well-being and to his pleasure, that, just as Italy is a compendium of all Europe, because all the things scattered through the other parts are happily concentrated in her, even so Venice may be called a summary of the universe, because there is nothing originating in any far-off country but it is found in abundance in this city.

The Arabs say that, if the world were a ring, then Ormuz, by reason of the immeasurable wealth that is brought thither from every quarter, would be the jewel in it.

The same can be said of Venice, but with much greater truth, for she not only equals Ormuz in the variety of all merchandise and the plenty of all goods, but surpasses her in the splendor of her buildings, in the extent of her empire, and, indeed in everything else that derives from the industry and providence of men.

Scotti, Dom Paschal. Galileo Revisited: The Galileo Affair in Context (p. 28). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

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