- 桃山学院大学人間科学 = HUMAN SCIENCES REVIEW, St. Andrew's University (ISSN:09170227)
- no.39, pp.29-56, 2010-12-15
The 16th century Venice is generally conceived to be oligarchic. Under the aristocratic regime, influential noble families weaved up kin-group network and tried to devide among themselves important state offices. But it remains unclear which specific families were the most `influential'. This paper aims at solving this question through the analysis of the Procuratori di San Marco (PSM abbr.). The PSM were one of the most important state offices. They were originally no other than the custodians of the treasury of the St.Mark's Basilica. But because those appointed to the PSM were considered the most wise men in Venice, many people entrusted their property and legacy to them. Not only the individuals but also the government utilized the PSM as depository of various incomes. From 1454 the PSM could sit and vote in the Senate, from 1496 could hold the office of Savio Grande concurrently, from 1523 could sit and vote as zonta members in the Consiglio dei Dieci. Thus by the 16th century, the PSM had come to wield a tremendous power in every way: financially, politically, socially and culturally. For the noble families, having more than one PSM member was a great source of honor and profit. The 16th century made it easier for rich families to obtain the PSM position by a kind of `simony' of the state offices. One notes that in such cases very young nobles, even in their twenties and obviously with little experience in the political world, were elected to the PSM. It may seem strange because the PSM were second only to the Doge (Prince) in the hierarchy of the Venetian Republic and the position for eldest members of the aristocracy. But it becomes understandable if we take into consideration that the PSM were, different from all the other offices but the Dogeship itself, lifetime position which its holders could keep as long as they lived. In other words, it was family tactics to put a young member in this position in order to stay close to the core of the power as long as possible. Analyzing all the PSM elected in the 16th century, we find that five families, namely, the Grimani, the Contarini, the Priuli, the Mocenigo and the Venier, occupied about 30 percent and with other five, namely, the Corner, the Giustinian, the Cappello, the Lezze and the Morosini, the top ten families occupied more than 45 percent. And a genealogical study reveals intricate matrimonial relations among them. In this way, we can identify the most influential families of the 16th century Venice. However, we must not forget that the Venetian Republic was not totally oligarchic. Not a few PSM who didn't belong to these families were also great leaders of the time. For a further understanding of the early modern Venice, more detailed prosopography will be required.