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The Council of Ten ( it, Consiglio dei Dieci; vec, Consejo de i Diexe), or simply the Ten, was from 1310 to 1797 one of the major governing bodies of the
Republic of Venice The Republic of Venice ( it, Repubblica di Venezia; vec, Repùblega de Venèsia) or Venetian Republic ( it, Repubblica Veneta; vec, Repùblega Vèneta), traditionally known as La Serenissima ( en, Most Serene Republic Most Serene Republic ( ...
. Elections took place annually and the Council of Ten had the power to impose punishments upon
nobles Nobility is a normally ranked immediately below and found in some societies that have a formal . Nobility has often been an that possessed more acknowledged and higher than most other classes in society. The privileges associated wi ...
. The Council of Ten had a broad jurisdictional mandate over matters of
state security National_Security_Council A_National_Security_Council_(NSC)_is_usually_an_executive_branch The_executive_is_the_branch_of__government_exercising__authority_in_and_holding_Moral_responsibility,_responsibility_for_the_governance_of_a_State_(p ...
. The Council of Ten and the
Full College The Full College ( vec, Pien Collegio) was the main executive body of the Republic of Venice, overseeing day-to-day governance and preparing the agenda for the Venetian Senate. The Full College comprised the Doge of Venice and the rest of the Signo ...
constituted the inner circle of
oligarchical Oligarchy (; ) is a form of power structure in which Power (social and political), power rests with a small number of people. These people may or may not be distinguished by one or several characteristics, such as nobility, Celebrity (disambiguati ...
patricians who effectively ruled the Republic of Venice.


Origins

The Council of Ten was created in 1310 by Doge
Pietro Gradenigo Pietro Gradenigo (1251 – 13 August 1311) was the 49th Doge of Venice, reigning from 1289 to his death. When he was elected Doge, he was serving as the podestà of Koper, Capodistria in Istria. Venice suffered a serious blow with the fall of Ac ...
.David Chambers & Brian Pullan with Jennifer Fletcher (eds.). ''Venice: A Documentary History, 1450-1630'' (2001, reprinted 2004). University of Toronto Press/
Renaissance Society of America The Renaissance Society of America (RSA) is an academic association founded in 1954 supporting the study of the Renaissance period, 1300–1650. The RSA brings together scholars from many backgrounds in a wide variety of disciplines from North Ame ...
. p. 55.
Originally created as a temporary body to investigate the plot of Baiamonte Tiepolo and Marco Querini, the powers of the Council were made formally permanent in 1455.Edward Muir (1981). ''Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice''. Princeton University Press p. 20. The Council was composed of ten
patrician Patrician may refer to: * Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage * Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval a ...
magistrates elected by the Great Council to one-year terms.David Chambers & Brian Pullan with Jennifer Fletcher (eds.). ''Venice: A Documentary History, 1450-1630'' (2001, reprinted 2004). University of Toronto Press/
Renaissance Society of America The Renaissance Society of America (RSA) is an academic association founded in 1954 supporting the study of the Renaissance period, 1300–1650. The RSA brings together scholars from many backgrounds in a wide variety of disciplines from North Ame ...
. p. 54.
Until 1582, an additional ''zonta'' of around 15 to 20 members also served on the Council. No more than one member of the same family could serve on the Council at any one time, and members could not be re-elected to successive terms.


Composition

Elections took place annually in August and others in September. The Council, which met at least weekly, had the power to impose punishments upon nobles, including
banishment To be in exile means to be forced away from one's home (i.e. village A village is a clustered human settlement In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scien ...
and
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ' ...

capital punishment
. Doge
Marino Faliero Marino Faliero (1274 – 17 April 1355) was the 55th Doge of Venice, appointed on 11 September 1354. He was sometimes referred to simply as Marin Falier (Venetian language, Venetian rather than standard Italian) or Falieri. He was executed for a ...

Marino Faliero
was executed on the council's orders in 1355, and Count of Carmagnola was executed on the council's orders in 1432. The body's deliberations were highly secretive, and members of the Council of Ten took an oath of secrecy. Thomas Madden wrote: "The three capi of the Ten served for a month at a time and, to avoid any opportunity for bribery, were forbidden to leave the Ducal Palace during their tenure of office."


Powers

Historian Edward Wallace Muir Jr. wrote: "The Council of Ten stood somewhat apart from the hierarchy of offices but was proverbially powerful. With its secret funds, system of anonymous informers, police powers, and broad jurisdictional mandate over matters of
state security National_Security_Council A_National_Security_Council_(NSC)_is_usually_an_executive_branch The_executive_is_the_branch_of__government_exercising__authority_in_and_holding_Moral_responsibility,_responsibility_for_the_governance_of_a_State_(p ...
, the members of the Council of Ten, along with those of the Collegio, rotated offices among themselves and constituted the inner circle of oligarchical patricians who, in effect, ruled the republic." During the
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, for example, the Council had responsibility for finding ways to pay for the state's military expenses. From the 1490s through the 1530s, the Council of Ten and other Venetian authorities enacted
sumptuary laws Sumptuary laws (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of t ...
. In 1506, the Ten enacted an anti-
banqueting A banquet (; ) is a formal large meal or feast, where a number of people consume food together. Banquets are traditionally held to enhance the prestige of a host, or reinforce social bonds among joint contributors. Modern examples of these pur ...
law, seeking to prevent ambitious noblemen from engaging in
vote buying Forms of electoral fraud, sometimes referred to as election manipulation, voter fraud or vote rigging, involves illegal interference with the process of an election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population ...
by hosting lavish dinner parties at the ''compaginie della calza'' (exclusive social societies). The law specifically prohibited women other than the wives of members from attending such dinners. The Council was formally tasked with maintaining the security of the Republic and preserving the government from overthrow or corruption. However, its small size and ability to rapidly make decisions led to more mundane business being referred to it, and by 1457 it was enjoying almost unlimited authority over all governmental affairs. In particular, it oversaw Venice's diplomatic and intelligence services, managed its military affairs, and handled legal matters and enforcement. By the end of the sixteenth century, the Council of Ten had become Venice's spy chiefs, overseeing the city's vast intelligence network. The Council utilized ''bocche dei leoni'' (lion's mouths) placed around the city which allowed Venetians to report suspected illegal activities by placing a written note into the mouth. The lion's mouths were seen by later observers such as
Mark Twain Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), known by his pen name A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a pseudonym A pseudonym () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) or ...

Mark Twain
to represent an oppressive autocratic government that spied on its citizens, but in reality the reports placed in lion's mouths were examined and only credible reports were investigated.


State Inquisitors

In 1539 the Council established the State Inquisitors, a tribunal of three judges chosen from among its members to deal with threats to state security. The Inquisitors were given equal authority to that of the entire Council of Ten, and could try and convict those accused of
treason Treason is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Cr ...
independently of their parent body. To further these activities, the Inquisitors created a large
espionage Espionage or spying is the act of obtaining secret Secrecy is the practice of hiding information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both it ...

espionage
network of spies and informants, both in Venice and abroad. Inquisitors could conduct
secret trial A secret trial is a trial (law), trial that is not public trial, open to the public, nor generally reported in the news, especially any in-trial proceedings. Generally no official record of the case or the judge's verdict is made available. Ofte ...
s with a low
standard of proof Burden of proof is a legal duty that encompasses two connected but separate ideas that apply for establishing the truth of facts in a trial before tribunals in the United States: the "burden of production" and the "burden of persuasion." In a lega ...
, and the inquisitors' practices bore strong similarities to those of the
Roman Inquisition The Roman Inquisition, formally the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, was a system of tribunals developed by the Holy See of the Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church, during the second half of the 16th century, ...
, which was established three years later. From 1624 onward, the Council of Ten was charged with the prosecution of all
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper ...

crime
s involving the private lives of Venetian patricians.De Vivo, Filippo (2007) ''Information and Communication in Venice: Rethinking Early Modern Politics''. Oxford University Press. p. 34.


References


Sources

* {{Republic of Venice Government of the Republic of Venice 1310 establishments in Europe 14th-century establishments in the Republic of Venice 1797 disestablishments in the Republic of Venice