Giorgio Giacosa, Trade wars and counterfeiting in the Mediterranean: The zecchino of Venice and the imitations and counterfeits issued by the republic’s rivals in a ruthless trade war.
The Mediterranean has always been the seam between East and West, between different ethnic groups and civilizations often in bitter conflict but bound together by a web of enduring economic and trading interests. In this context, in the last four centuries of the Middle Ages, some of the Italian maritime cities, driven by strong political and economic revival in Europe, embarked upon a policy of expansion towards the East, supported by the construction of powerful trading and military fleets. The extreme decadence of the Byzantine Empire, mercilessly highlighted by the Crusades, together with the gradually increasing strength of the hostile Muslim potentates in Asia Minor and North Africa, prompted the Italian and Catalan maritime cities to adopt an out-and-out policy of force to consolidate ever-more widespread and deep-rooted trading interests. Such a policy inevitably triggered conflicts and wars between the maritime cities themselves. Two of these, Genoa and Venice, emerged victorious in these struggles. Destined to dwarf every other trading power in the Mediterranean, at the same time they would be in a perpetual state of conflict with each other [...]