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The first references to Zeno in historical sources describe him as a diplomat in France and Italy, where he was excommunicated for having pushed Bologna to avoid paying tributes to the Papal States. In 1240 he helped Doge Jacopo Tiepolo during the siege of Ferrara, in 1242 put down a revolt in Zara and in 1244 he was named capitano da mar (fleet commander) of the Republic of Venice. He was also the podestà (Chief Magistrate) of numerous Italian cities.
After the death of Marino Morosini, Zeno, who was podestà of Fermo, was elected Doge with 21 out of 41 votes. In 1256–1259 he helped Pope Alexander IV and Treviso in the war for the Marca Trevigiana against the Ghibelline warlord Ezzelino IV da Romano, whose death resolved the conflict.
In the meantime, Venice found itself engaged in a war against the Republic of Genoa, its greatest rival in the Mediterranean. The cause of the conflict was the sacking by the Genoese of the Venetian quarter in Tyre. When the future Doge Lorenzo Tiepolo destroyed the Genoese fleet in 1257, Genoa allied with Michael VIII Palaeologus, who in 1261 captured Constantinople, putting an end to the Latin Empire and awarding Genoans the privileges formerly held by Venetians. Venice replied by building a large fleet which again defeated the Genoese in Settepozzi in 1263. In 1265 a truce was signed between the two parties.
In 1268 the Byzantine Empire restored to the Venetians most of their former priviliegies, establishing an uneasy balance between the two maritime republics, allowing them to compete freely in the Levant.
Also, under Zeno's reign a series of 129 law articles were approved which gave Venice a modern maritime legislation. Zeno died in Venice in 1268. His dogaressa was Loicia di Prata, described as beautiful and charitable. He was interred in the Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo, a traditional burial place of the doges.
|Doge of Venice