By 828, some kind of mercantle relation existed between Venice and the Middle East, because in this year, two Venetian merchants stole the body of Saint Mark from Alexandria Egypt, and brought his relics back to Venice.[1. Debora Howard, The Architectural History of Venice, 2d ed. (New Haven: YaleUniversity Press, 2010), 31.]

However, official trade relations between Venice and the Middle East began in 991.  In 991, Doge Pietro Orseolo II recognized an expanding market in the Islamic world. The Doge recognized the benefits of multi-fronted mercantile relations: greater economic prosperity and unaffected resources if relations with the Byzantine Empire deteriorated.   Other European powers did not want to trade in the Middle East because the religious and cultural differences between East and West made the Europeans uneasy.  However, these differences did not matter to Venice. Venice wanted mercantile relations in the Middle East in order to benefit their economic expansion.  Therefore, the Doge sent ambassadors throughout the Levant and into other areas under Islamic rule: Spain, Cordova, Palermo, Sicily, Cairo, Kairouan, Aleppo, and Damascus.  The Venetian ambassadors and Islamic leaders made various, mutually beneficial agreements and from then on, Venice officially enjoyed trading relations in the Middle East.[2. John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 51.]




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