Get to know the Milizia da Mar

From 1500 to 1700 Venice was one of the greatest power in the world and all the aspects of its political, economical and everyday life were impeccably organized. Among the numerous institutions, the Militia de Mar was one of the most important since it administrated probably the major source of power and earnings: the Navy…!

The Milizia da Mar administered the Venetian Navy between 1545 and 1797. It was composed by numerous magistracies, each of these was in charge of specific activities such as recruitment, fleet set-up, weapons procurement, refuelling and management of the Arsenal.

One of the most difficult tasks of the Milizia was the recruitment since a galley could accommodate hundreds of rowers and soldiers. Poor nutrition, no hygiene and long hours at the oars made life really hard and often those who did not die of fatigue did not resist to typhus or scurvy (remember that the English admiral John Jervis count of St Vincent discovered with Dr Baird the great virtues of citrus fruits against this serious illness only at the beginning of the 1700). In addition, if at the beginning only free rowers were hired, then it was decided also for the prisoners who were tied to the oars even for many consecutive days of rowing.

In addition to the Collegio and the Presidenti della Milizia da Mar who were in charge of recruitment, this important institution was also composed by the Collegio sopra la Milizia da Mar and the Provveditori and Inquisitori all’Amar who were in charge of setting up the fleet. There were also the Collegio sopra l’Arsenal, the Provveditori and the Patroni of the Arsenal who governed the activities of this important place.

Then, there were the Visdomini della Tana who used to supervised the Arsenal ropes, the Provveditori alli Biscotti in charge of supplying the ships, the Provveditori alle Artiglierie who supervised the gunpowder factories, the foundries, the production of ammunition and the artillery. There were also the Tre on the galleys of the prisoners who controlled life on the galleys on which they were embarked.

Venice was a great power and its high level of organization, even on the everyday life base, is really fascinating…