At a time when social scientists are increasingly focusing on the reasons why nations fail and democracies die, Filippo Sabetti turns to the opposite argument, asking instead why institutions endure. To do so, he presents Gasparo Contarini’s sixteenth-century account of the Republic of Venice to help modern readers understand what made Venice the longest-lived self-constituted republic.
In its long history, Venice was the only city that succeeded in constructing a durable republicanism and it was one of the earliest to depart from the hierarchical world of national monarchies and sovereignty. Because of this, the author suggests that Contarini’s The Republic of Venice may be just as instructive, if not more, than Machiavelli’s The Prince to students of politics. Contarini is as secular as Machiavelli and is as realistic in his view of human nature, but he goes much further, examining in the case of Venice how it is possible for fallible human beings to construct a successful and stable government. This is the first modern English-language edition of Contarini’s classic work, De magistratibus et republica Venetorum, from the original Latin.