Legendary Venice: 1,600 Years of History with Matteo Gabbrielli - Context Travel

Legendary Venice: 1,600 Years of History with Matteo Gabbrielli


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The foundation of Venice has been given a date, March 25, 421, but the facts of the story are uncertain. What is history and what is legend? Did the Barbarians play a role in this story? Join Venice-based Archaeologist Matteo Gabbrielli to uncover the origin story of Venice.

According to Venetian traditional folklore, the first nucleus of Venice – Rivoalto – was founded on March 25th, 421. Until the beginning of modern historiography, the founding date was never critically discussed and was taken as Historical Truth. However, the analysis of written sources and the reevaluation of archeological data have recently brought historians to reconsider the events that led to the formation of the city-state.

This seminar will explore two central questions: when was Venice born and under what circumstances? To answer these questions we will follow the historiography of the Venetian Republic: John the Deacon; Doge Andrea Dandolo; and the official historians of the 16th century. We will see how these historical anecdotes paved the ground for the creation of celebrative paintings – now masterpieces of Venetian art – and sumptuous theater plays, during both the Renaissance and Baroque Era.

After this exploration of the foundation stories or legends of Venice, we will unveil the historical truth that lies underneath. Historical sources will show how the founding date is part of a false myth; while archaeological evidence will provide an alternative reading of the historical facts.

Led by an archaeologist and a Venice licensed tour guide, Matteo Gabbrielli, this interactive seminar will provide a focus on the origins of Venice. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased awareness of the reasons why Venice was and still is considered a “mythical” city.

Originally from Venetian mainland, Matteo has lived in different countries, which sparked his interest in art history and archaeology. He holds a B.A. in Cultural Heritage Preservation and an M.A. in Archaeology from the University Ca' Foscari, Venezia. He specialized in Islamic Archaeology with a thesis on Medieval Egyptian ceramics, focusing on the sherds found at the Italian & Egyptian Center for Restoration and Archaeology (CIERA) in Cairo. Matteo chose to specialize in Islamic Archaeology, due to his personal passion and curiosity for the Islamic World: this particular interest was developed after several travels and stays in different Middle Eastern countries. He works as a freelance archaeologist following projects in different locations of the Veneto and also teaches history courses in local schools. In addition, he continues a close collaboration with the CIERA where he is involved in leading archaeological excavations.

This conversation is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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