Historical Context

Maritime commerce conducted by Venetian galleys took place along six principal maritime trade routes linking Venice to Flanders, Romania, Alexandria, Beirut, Aigues Mortes (in the French Camargue), Tunisia, and Algeria.

In convoys of four or five ships, galleys bound for Flanders set sail from Venice in March and April, passed through the Straits of Messina, the Balearics, and Gibraltar, and then navigated up the coasts of Portugal and France to harbors in Bruges and London, making the return trip within about eight months.

Ships for Romania, also traveling in fleets of four or five, left Venice toward the end of June, reaching the Black Sea after trade stops on the island of Candia, Negroponte, Thessaloniki, and Constantinople.

Galleys bound for Alexandria, in convoys of three or four ships, embarked from Venice in late August or early September, returning in November after having touched Candia or Rhodes on the way out, and sometimes Beirut and Famagusta on the return.

Ships for Beirut also departed from Venice in late August or early September, and like the Alexandrian galleys returned in November, with stops at Candia, Rhodes, and Famagusta both going and coming.

Those set for Aigues Mortes, on the other hand, sailed on a less regular schedule: a single ship would depart Venice in Spring or later (but not every year), and would generally return in December, with stops in Sicily and along the Mediterranean coast of France.

Venetian merchant galleys bound for Tunisia and Algeria left their home city in March and April, passed through the Straits of Messina to stop at ports in Sicily, and then would reach Tunis and Algiers, with a return to Venice in time for the trade fairs in November.

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