Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The Dogana da Mar was home to the customs house of the Venetian Empire, which drew much Mediterranean trade through its port, taking a tax for its protection. As I stood looking at the amazing scene, I thought about how this power center predated the one I saw a few weeks ago at Angra (that of course an outpost of the real center in Portugal). I also thought about the commonality of the great buildings surrounding me with the great buildings of other civilizations I have visited. Each was built by a political power center that created an environment amenable to and relatively safe for the flourishing of commerce. In turn, that power was able to draw significant revenues from this commerce in some form of taxation. Until recent times, those revenues were turned into greater power capabilities, along with the visible trappings of power that created a sort of cultural hegemony that perpetuated peoples' acquiescence to that status quo... until eventually the pyramids (literally or figuratively) became unsustainable, or a new power center and new patterns displaced old, and the grand buildings faded into history.