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The Republic of Pisa was a de facto independent state centered on the Tuscan city of Pisamarker during the late tenth and eleventh centuries. It rose to become an economic powerhouse, a commercial center whose merchants dominated Mediterraneanmarker and Italianmarker trade for a century before being surpassed and superseded by Genoamarker. The power of Pisa as a mighty maritime nation began to grow and reached its apex in the 11th century when it acquired traditional fame as one of the four main historical Marine Republics of Italy.

Rise to power

At that time the city was a very important commercial center and controlled a significant Mediterranean merchant fleet and navy. It expanded its powers by the sack of Reggio di Calabria in the south of Italy in 1005. Pisa was in continuous conflict with the Saracens, who had their bases in Sardinia and Corsicamarker, for control of the Mediterranean. In alliance with Genoa, Sardinia was captured in 1017 with the defeat of the Saracen king Mugahid. This victory gave Pisa supremacy in the Tyrrhenian Seamarker. When the Pisans subsequently ousted the Genoese from Sardinia, a new conflict and rivalry was born between the Marine Republics. Between 1030 and 1035 Pisa went on to successfully defeat several rival towns in Sicily and conquer Carthagemarker in North Africa. In 1051-1052 the admiral Jacopo Ciurini conquered Corsica, provoking more resentment from the Genoese. In 1063, the Pisans approached the Norman Roger I of Sicily, who was conducting a campaign that would last over three decades to conquer Sicily, with the prospect of a joint attack on Palermo. Roger declined due to other commitments. Without any land support, the Pisan attack failed.

In 1060 Pisa engage in its first battle with Genoa, and the Pisan victory helped to consolidate its position in the Mediterranean. Pope Gregory VII recognized in 1077 the new "laws and customs of the sea" instituted by the Pisans, and Emperor Henry IV granted them the right to name their own consuls, advised by a Council of Elders. This was simply a confirmation of the present situation, because in those years the marquis had already been excluded from power. In 1092 Pope Urban II awarded Pisa supremacy over Corsica and Sardinia, and at the same time raised the town to the rank of archbishopric. Pisa sacked the Tunisian city of Mahdiamarker in 1088. Four years later Pisan and Genoese ships helped Alfonso VI of Castile to force El Cid out of Valencia.

Pisa and the Crusades

A Pisan fleet of 120 ships also took part in the First Crusade and the Pisans were instrumental in the taking of Jerusalemmarker in 1099. On their way to the Holy Land the ships did not miss the occasion to sack some Byzantine islands. The Pisan crusaders were led by their archbishop Daibert, the future patriarch of Jerusalem.

Pisa and the other Repubbliche Marinare took advantage of the crusade to establish trading posts and colonies in the eastern coastal regions of Syriamarker, Lebanonmarker and Palestine. In particular the Pisans founded colonies in Antiochia, Acre, Jaffa, Tripoli, Tyre, Joppa, Latakia and Accone. They also had other possessions in Jerusalem and Caesarea, plus smaller colonies (with lesser autonomy) in Cairo, Alexandria and of course Constantinoplemarker, where the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus granted them special mooring and trading rights. In all these cities the Pisans were granted privileges and immunity from taxation, but had to contribute to their defence in case of attack. In the 12th century the Pisan quarter in the eastern part of Constantinople had grown to 1,000 people. For some years of that century Pisa was the most prominent merchant and military ally of the Byzantine Empire, surpassing Venice itself.

In the Western Mediterranean, though Pope Gregory VII had granted suzerainty over the Balearics to Pisa in 1085 and Pisan merchants were among the initiators of the 1113–1115 Balearic Islands expedition, the enterprise was unsuccessful in permanently dislodging the Muslim taifa there.

Decline of Pisa

The power of Pisa as an international power was destroyed forever by the crushing defeat of its navy in the Battle of Meloriamarker against Genoa (1284), in which most of its galleys were destroyed and many of its mariners were taken prisoner. In 1290 an assault by Genoese ships against the Porto Pisano caused its destruction.

As part of Visconti's dominions after 1399, Pisa was then sold to the Florence in 1402; after a bloody and useless resistance, the municipality was at last subjected in 1406.

Notes

  1. Charles Julian Bishko (1975), "The Spanish and Portuguese Reconquest, 1095–1492", A History of the Crusades, Vol. 3: The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, ed. Harry W. Hazard (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press), 405.

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