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Venice, Dubrovnik, Ephesus

           This essay focuses on the political, economic, and cultural history of Venice, Dubrovnik, and Ephesus – three strategically-located port cities that dominated trade in the Eastern Mediterranean region for two millennia. It is written for the participants in the Chief Executives Organization’s program, Dalmatian Coast, An Adriatic Sea Adventure, July 28-August 7, 2018.


               Venice – located at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea – created a trading empire along the Dalmatian Coast and into the Eastern Mediterranean between the 11th and 18th centuries. I discuss how Venice established an independent republic and gained control of a chain of islands and ports to monopolize trade, became Europe’s richest city through commerce, shipbuilding, and artisanship in the 15th and 16th centuries, and eventually was overtaken by external forces – Ottoman expansion, Portuguese exploration, English naval power, and Napoleonic conquest – in the late 18th century.


             Dubrovnik – sited on the Dalmatian Coast on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea – mimicked Venice by creating wealth through trade and shipbuilding, though on a more limited scale. I explain how Dubrovnik created a trade entrepôt to link Western Europe with Constantinople, got rich when the Ottoman Empire sponsored its trading

activities in the Balkans, peaked in the 16th century, and then declined in the 17th and 18th centuries when it was struck by a massive earthquake, Ottoman power shrunk, and Napoleon conquered much of Europe, including Dubrovnik. Today, Dubrovnik, like Venice, relies on tourism.

              Ephesus – situated in central-western Anatolia (today’s Turkey) on the Ionian Coast – was founded three thousand years ago as a Greek city-state and served as a key port under Persian, Hellene, Roman, and Byzantine rule. I discuss how Ephesus peaked in the 2nd century under Roman rule, when it created wealth through trade and artisanship and served as a center for administration (capital of Roman Asia) and

religion (cult of Artemis). I show why Ephesus declined in the 7th century, after the Cayster River silted its port and Arabs sacked the city, slid into minor importance, and was abandoned in the 15th century. Archaeological excavations of Ephesus began in the mid-19th century, and today it is a fine representations of an ancient Roman city. I append a time line, a bibliography, and a descriptions of my recent visits to the three sites.

Dalmatian Coast: An Adriatic Sea Adventure, Ship-based aboard the Le Lyrial, Dubrovnik, Croatia, Ephesus, Turkey, Kusadasi,

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