During the Middle Ages, the Italians, or more precisely, the people from Venice, ruled the seas and nothing surpassed the strength and durability of the hemp ropes
with which their ships were outfitted.
To maintain their supremacy on the seas, the Italians had to be assured that their supplies of hemp fiber would not be jeopardized by foreign control of hemp.
Only by raising their own crop of the precious fiber could they be certain that Italian shipbuilders would never be blackmailed by foreign suppliers.
Foremost, among those who promoted domestic production of hemp were the merchants and ship-builders from the city of canals and gondolas.
Although Venice emerged as one of Italy's most powerful city-states, initially, it was but a swamp village at the head of the Adriatic Sea and it was only goaded into asserting its dominance by the abduction of its virgins by a gang of daring pirates.
The event that led to Venice's rise to a major sea power began on February 1, A.D. 945. For centuries, all Venetian marriages took place on the first day of February. It was an event celebrated with great pomp and ceremony by rich and poor alike. It was a day of expectation, excitement, anticipation—a day of love.
From all parts of the city came, the young radiant girls of Venice and their proud mothers and fathers. Their destination—the Church of San Pietro di Castello in the eastern sector of the city. At the church door, the nervous bridegrooms rubbed their hands and shuffled their feet. Inside, the bishop was giving last- minute instructions to the choirboys. The doge (ruler) was seated in the front row, ready to give his blessing as well to the newlyweds.
The people of Venice were wealthy and respected, but they had their enemies. Among those who eyed their money with envy was a gang of resourceful pirates whose base of operations was the seaports of Dalmatia located opposite Venice on the other side of the Adriatic Sea.
No ship was safe once it left port. Even the Venetians paid extortion money when it was demanded, preferring to surrender some of their profits than to challenge the pirates and possibly lose everything.
Like most of the people who lived around the Adriatic Sea, the Dalmatian pirates knew of the annual nuptials about to be performed in Venice. Acting as much out of villainy as greed, the pirates decided to humiliate the Venetians by kidnapping their blushing brides on their wedding night. After all, what better time to attack?
No one would be expecting them.
The men would be too drunk to offer much resistance, and the women would both satisfy their lustful appetites and bring a bountiful ransom.
Silently, they meandered their ships into Venetian waters. A token force was left to guard the boats while the main group of pirates stealthily made their way toward the Church of San Pietro. In the distance, the pirates could hear the music and celebrations. They grinned at one another.
The plan was going well.
They struck at midnight. Swooping down on the unsuspecting merrymakers, the pirates burst into the midst of the festivities, and before anyone realised what had happened, the pirates were back aboard their ships with the brides and a cargo full of expensive wedding presents.
The raid caught the Venetians by surprise, but somehow the tipsy bridegrooms managed to sober themselves. Soon the whole city was aroused. From every quarter the men rushed to the port, swearing revenge on the pirates.
At the head of the rescue mission was the doge himself.
The Venetian ships skimmed over the waves. Not an inch of canvas was left unfurled. Not only was the virtue of their women at stake, the honor of Venice itself had been besmirched. The gap between the fleeing pirates and the pursuing bridegrooms finally closed at Carole.
The Venetians were inflamed, but the pirates were wily fighters. The battle waged for hours. When the smoke finally cleared, however, the brides were back with their husbands and those pirates who had managed to remain alive were in full flight.
From that day on, the scene of the battle was called the Porto della Damigelle, the Port of the Young Women. The pirates had lost the battle, but the war was still unresolved.
Finally, in A.D. 1000 the Venetians decided that they had had enough.
They had beaten the pirates before, they could do it again. On Ascension Day, the doge assembled all the fighting men and all the ships in Venice and set sail toward Dalmatia. Up and down the coast they hunted their pirate quarry. Every city that gave the pirates refuge was attacked and punished. No longer would anyone dare to threaten Venetian ship-ping. Her enemies were no more. Venice was now undisputed sovereign of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean.
This article contains info from "Marihuana The First Twelve Thousand Years", by Ernest L. Abel