Do you know what a Thalassocracy is?
To save you the trouble of Googling it, let us tell you. It essentially means a seaborne or maritime “country”. One whose realm is primarily consisting of dominance of the seas. Now given that the sea is the dominion, how could Venice be most serene?
The sea can be tempestuous, for she can turn at will against anyone who dares to ride the waves. Not quite Poseidon or his son Percy Jackson (heheh all made up recently). Though it gives a sense of what the Venetians were up against in order to hold their dominion together. For being the most serene republic actually meant sovereign independence.
You must remember that in those days, nobility held sway. To remain aloof from subservience to the the nobility held territories, republics such as Venice had to maintain sufficient power to stay ‘serene’, ie not being harrassed or accosted to become part of a noble dominion. How they did that and became an empire on their own is an intriguing story in itself. But today we are not delving into history.
Instead we want to share with you our take on Venice and the beautiful lagoon that is the city (here). For her highways are not roads but lanes of water. And her foundations most vulnerable these days. She is so visited that she is sinking, some say drowning. Not from the waters (yet) but from the feet of many a visitor.
Have you been to Venice? Would you not like it to be preserved? How?
You know it ain’t just spoken Chinese that have words pronouced sounding similar. We are sure as children you would have
recited sang nursery rhymes. Yeah that’s the word. Rhyming and not similar. Because between the two words roam and Rome, any sentence would convey so stark meanings.
Anyway. Enough of semantics and lexicon.
Today we want to invite you to join our reminisce of the days we spent in Rome. Ah yes, the eternal city as some would call it. You might have already read about our small countries’ series – Vatican city is in there you know (here).
Coming close to the end of our 5th decade on this planet, it has been often remarked to us by our friends and family that we don’t look our age. Ok more specifically Suan does not look her age. Perhaps it was the lack of stress. But we have a theory. And it had something to do with the journey we took to Rome all these years ago.
You see, it has something to do with water. Sprouting out from somewhere to be precise. People have long yearned for fountains of youth for as far back as history will tell. Does it really exist? If so, how does it work? Can you collect some of the water and store it? Does it work with just one sip or is there a specific dosage required for its effect to manifest itself? (oops occupation hazard…).
Keen to find out? Why not look out for it in this essay? So begins our Italian reminisces… What was most memorable for you about Rome?
If you read our story here, you will know that it is the local favourite of the Italians living around the city to get into the little country and come out with daily necessities… well as far as our guide told us. Not sure if that still works today.
All of San Marino is just 61km². Founded in the year 301 as an independent monastic community, it claims to be the world’s oldest republic. Actually it is very unique. And being in Italy; history had a lot to do with it. The tiny republic began on Mount Titano and only expanded in the mid 1400s. It came under the protection of the Papal states too and that flowed on through to 1861 when Italy was reunited – ie the new nation recognized San Marino’s independence!
Well, again it is a little challenging to explain the politics behind why this tiny state was not simply incorporated into Italy, but literature suggests that it was because the unifier of Italy had sought refuge in San Marino during his earlier days of revolutionary war to unify Italy. And there are sources citing the republic’s links with France, a powerful neighbour to the newly formed Italian nation. Whatever the case, that independence was affirmed and today aside from defence, the most serene republic of San Marino conducts all local government and foreign relations on its own.
The unique thing about the country is that it has two heads of state – like the two consuls of the Roman republic. Every 6 months two are appointed from opposing parties to ensure a balance of power. The council which is democratically elected every 5 years performs this act and is essentially like the Roman senate! Wow.
Does this make you want to visit San Marino too?
Yep. It is officially the world’s smallest country. At 0.44km², it beats all the other recognized states in the world. With the nearest competitor Monaco trailing at 2km²… This is the first of our series on micro and small European states as we Segway from the US for a while. We will continue with 4 others that we have touched in the weeks to come.
This is about survival. Its an interesting thing even to this day that international politics still pit small nations at the mercy of large ones. The sovereign equality of all states as equal partners despite size. Hmm… will that work? Our little red dot is perhaps an example of how that can be. But there are also different operating principles elsewhere that works too. Such as in Europe. Perhaps some of the examples that we cite in the coming posts like this one might prompt you to think about it.
For the Vatican was not always this tiny. In fact it was the centre of the Papal states in medieval times. A political power as well back in the day. Today it does not exert hegemony over territory, but instead hold leadership of the world’s Catholic faithful. And by agreement with the Italian government it has remained independent and conducts its own foreign relations (as the Holy See). Obviously this relationship is more complex to be described here but it works!
Yes it is encapsulated within Rome. And it should have been part of the Italian handprint story series. But that will have to wait. We want to show all the micro states of Europe that we’ve touched first! Read all about our little story on the Vatican here.
Yes we know that there are actually quite a few other micro states in Europe and we will also skipped Monaco, but that’s because we’ve not touched it yet. Someday we will.