chapter
Venice: A culture of enclosure, a culture of control
The creation of the ghetto in the context of the early Cinquecento city 1
BySamuel D. Gruber
Pages 17

The creation of the Venice Ghetto in 1516 was a dramatic development in the distinction between Christians and Jews, but one that grew directly out of long-standing practices regarding the separation of Jews and other minority and often suspect groups from the mainstream. This chapter looks at the Ghetto through an early sixteenth-century lens to ask how different and how unexpected was the enclosure of Venice's Jews. If the Ghetto was not so unexpected, then what was the historical, social, legal, and physical context that made the Ghetto mostly acceptable to Venetians–Christian and Jews? The Venetian Ghetto, however, should not be understood solely in the tradition of isolation and control of Jews; it also legitimized their presence. Benjamin Ravid has written that "paradoxically, when viewed in historical perspective, the establishment of the ghetto marked a positive development in the history of the Jews of Venice. Physical separation of many sorts was an accepted part of the Venetian urban experience.