We knew from our journeys around and through Venice that this was a dangerous city.
Battles and wars had often raged and ranged between other city states, other states, and even other Empires.
The Republic of Venice had lasted over a millennium and had had to put down enemies from within, not just outside its walls.
Around the city we saw boxes like this...
If I pan back, you can see what was written on it...
This was a mailbox of a special variety.
This was denunciatory box, set into a wall.
Walk silently and covertly to it and slip in your denunciation.
You could anonymously denounce your neighbours to the state; you could act as the private ears and eyes of the state.
This was quite effective at keeping the population nervous and in line, and it helped the State avoid unpleasant surprises.
This system even brought down a Doge once, Doge Marino Falier who was Venice's fifty-fifth head of state, briefly, from 1354-1355. In 1355 he was beheaded on the steps of his palace after it was found that he wanted to turn the Republic into an autocracy.
His punishment was not only death and mutilation of his corpse; he also suffered Damnatio memoriae.
Damnatio memoriae meant that his memory was to be erased from the institutional memory of Venice. Even Doge Marino Falier's portrait, painted high in the left corner of the great Sala del Maggior Consiglio was covered over.
(If you are visiting the Doge's Palace, it is in the upper left of the back wall if you face away from the grand "Paradisio" painted by Jacopo Tintoretto Sala del Maggior Consiglio, the Grand Hall of the Counselors, where all Venetian noblemen of 18 years and more could meet to debate proposals.)
By covered over I mean that a black veil was painted over Doge Falier's image and name. The Damnatio memoriae was meant to be permanent.
Obviously, though, the denunciatory box system was not wholly successfully.
On our last night in Venice, well, really on the penultimate morning, there was a fireship attack in the Grand Canal.
We (your Heroine, I, the two German museum directors and the Genevois gourmet) presume the citizens, through those boxes, did not warn of this:
Apparently none of the denunciation boxes had warned of this attack.
The initial salvo was followed by a hail of incendiary devices...
Fortunately the attack, or the insurrection, was soon put down.
Now, there may be some doubters out there.
Some of you may say, humble scribe, you were in Venice for New Years. These were simply New Year celebrations.
I must dissent from that opinion.
I have done research.
New Years starts on midnight, 0:00 hours on the 24 hour clock, of January 1st in Western nations, and this attack was launched 37 minutes after the New Year had commenced. I scarcely need note the strategic value of this... hit the Venetians when they are unprepared, in the midst of their revelry...
I did further research for the doubters out there....
The New Years started on January 14 for Eastern Orthodox (Christian) nations.
The Chinese New Year starts on 26 January 2009 and goes until 28 January.
The Zorastrians (and Parsees) celebrate their New Year's, Nowruz, on March 20 in 2009.
The Islamic New Year starts on 1 Muharram (it happened twice last year, January 10, 2008 and December 29, 2008! The next one will be on December 18, 2009...).
The Anglican (and Roman Catholic) new liturgical year started on November 29, 2008.
Many Hindu New Year festivals commence at, or just after, Diwali, a five day festival that began on October 28, 2008.
The Jewish New Year started with Rosh Hoshanah on October 1, 2008.
The Coptic Orthodox liturgical new year started September 20, 2008.
I think you get the point...
Nothing started at 12:37 am on January 1st... ...except an attempted attack or insurrection in Venice...
It must have been an early morning attack. (Well, it was. Your scribe was there.)
Even more damning... there was no talk of it in the news the next day.
In a climate of fear most people follow silent counsel... Obviously those denunciatory boxes are still doing their job, even if they did not warn of this attack...
Chris (tapping on the keys very quietly, Regina (rolling her eyes, but silently), and Pommes (swishing his tail and keeping his eyes out for enemies...silently also)