The Concurrent Maritime Network of Republic of Venice and The Ottoman Empire

The Republic of Venice, formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice, was a state originating from the city of Venice in north eastern part of Italy. Throughout its existence of more than 1000 years (7th century until 1797), the Republic of Venice grew to become one of the prominent naval power of its time.

The Ottoman Empire was a transcontinental monarch that spans Southeast Europe, Western Asia, Northern Africa and the Horn of Africa. At its peak, the Ottoman Empire was considered to be one of the most powerful states in the world. The Ottoman state was founded by Turkish tribes in 1299 and ended in 1918 upon its defeat in the World War I.

The Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire were engaged in a series of military confrontations that last for 3 centuries, starting from the Siege of Thessalonica (1422-1430) until the Seventh Ottoman- Venetian War (1714-1718). This work aims to digitize the historical archives of the event involving the two states, and present them in the Geography Information System (GIS) database management system.


The objective of the project is the following:

  1. Conducting literature research on the maritime network of the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire, and identifying any interesting overlapping or conflicts in the maritime network of the 2 states.
  2. Presenting the relationship in the maritime network of the 2 states in GIS database management system.
  3. Synthesizing new knowledge on the Venice Ottoman study based on the result of digitization process.


  • Asking the right questions on Venice-Ottoman study

As knowledge worker, our supreme task will be to create knowledge that people want to know. We believe that all events throughout the entire 3 centuries of confrontation between Venice and Ottoman are interesting. However given our limited time to pursue the project, we will need to distil which events needs to be prioritized. So the first aspect of our project will be aimed to identify the current trends and controversies among historians in the field of Venice-Ottoman relationship. This will be done through thorough and comprehensive literature research as well as identifying the key researchers (the so-called “fashion trendsetter”) in the field.  By identifying several important issues, controversies, and conflicting theories on the field, we hope to be able to frame several important questions. These questions then will be used to guide us in determining which period in Venice –Ottoman confrontations we should pay greater details of attention.

  • Identifying the timeline of interest of Venice-Ottoman study

For the time being we regard the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 to be the most important event in the Ottoman-Venice relationship. [3] The Battle of Lepanto is considered the greatest naval battle using oar driven vessels in the history of Mediterranean, and it is the first defeat of Ottoman navy against the Holy League. The importance of the battle on the evolution of the maritime network of Ottoman Empire has been greatly discussed by historians. Few historians have argued that a victory by the Ottoman would have led the Western Europe to be dominated by the Turks. Given the significance of Lepanto, we will use it as the reference point in our project; we will start from the year 1571 and then simultaneously go backward and forward to study the evolution of the Ottoman maritime network and its relation to that of the Venice. The Battle of Lepanto happened during the Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War (1570-1573), so we are hopeful that we can go backward to the Siege of Thessalonica (1422–1430), and go forward to the Seventh Ottoman–Venetian War (1714–1718). Taking into account that most of changes in the maritime networks of Venice and Ottoman happened during the war period, we intend to spend more details on our method during the war period, and relax our method in the peace time.

  • Integrating the spatial and temporal aspect of Venice-Ottoman study

The call on the need to integrate temporal and spatial understanding in humanity study is hardly a new thing. Kant, who spent a good part of his youth teaching geography, recognized that human knowledge should be organized on three aspects: (1) the classification of facts by subject, (2) the organization of knowledge by temporal dimension (history), and (3) the comprehension of fact relative to spatial relationship (geography). Integrating the temporal and spatial aspects of humanities study can aid advancing its scholarship by providing revisionist studies to challenge existing orthodoxies, tackling questions that have not been resolved to date, and providing means to ask new questions.

In our study to examine the relationship of Venice and Ottoman Empire, we seek to combine both the temporal and spatial aspects of it, which can be achieved by using Geographical Information System (GIS) method.  We propose to use this method because it has some important feature which may lack in other method. Some of the most important features that we are going to use are:

a)      attributes that are associated to each data

b)      spatial which describes where the data is located geographically with coordinates (latitude and longitude)

c)       time which becomes meaningful when considering a sequence of events

Now let us explain how we are going to integrate these features to our raw historical data. Firstly, the raw data are stored together in GIS layers which are equivalent to database table where this table should not simultaneously represent more than one class of features, although it may represent several subclasses. Here is the procedure how to insert raw data to GIS.  The ASCII file contains a series of records which include x and y coordinates and the data file can be added to the project as a table and an event layer can be created from the coordinates. If there are other fields of data in the ASCII file these will automatically be added to the attribute table for the new point layer. The event layer is a point layer, whose points are placed based on their x and y coordinates. Additional data from the original ASCII file can be added to the event layer attribute table via a link. Afterward the data will be represented by vectors, lines, points and polygons and we have to combine all these layers in order to get the whole GIS result.

  • Synthesizing new knowledge on Venice-Ottoman study

Geography cannot be understood without a time dimension, just as history cannot isolate itself from the location of the event that it studies. By the end of the digitization process, we will revisit the questions that we have framed in the first part of the project, and we will examine how our result can be used to address those questions.


By the end of the project we aim to produce a database of historical events between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire in GIS representation on the timeline spanning from 1422 to 1718. Particular emphasis will be placed on the 8 wars between the two states.


The proposed timeline is the following:


February 2014
  1. Familiarizing with the software
  2. Finalizing literature research
March 2014
  1. Ongoing literature research
  2. Digitizing the following wars:
  •   the Fourth Ottoman–Venetian   War (1570–1573)  (Starting Point)
  •   the   Third Ottoman–Venetian War (1537–1540)    (Backward)
  •   the Fifth Ottoman–Venetian   War or the Cretan War (1645–1669) (Forward)
April 2013
  1. Ongoing literature research
  2. Digitizing the following wars:
  •   the   Second Ottoman–Venetian War (1499–1503) (Backward)
  •   the Sixth   Ottoman–Venetian War or the Morean War (1684–1699) (Forward)
May 2014
  1. Ongoing literature research
  2. Digitizing the following wars:
  •   the   First Ottoman–Venetian War (1463–1479) (Backward)
  •   the Siege of Thessalonica   (1422-1430) (Backward)
  •   the Seventh and   last Ottoman–Venetian War (1714–1718) (Forward)

Finalizing the report


  1. Encyclopaedia Britannica,
  2. Encyclopaedia Britannica,
  3.  Encyclopaedia Britannica,
  4. Marti- Henneberg, Jordi, “Geographical Information Systems and the Study of History”, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, xlii:1 (Summer, 2011), 1–13.
  5. Gregory, Ian N., and Paul S. Ell. Historical GIS : Technologies, Methodologies, and

Scholarship. Cambridge University Press. 2007