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THE CONSTITUTION OF VENICE.                      51
Greeks, \vho, in the middle of the twelfth century* were
admitted into the grand council; together with Venetians, or
foreigners, occasionally, ennobled and made eligible to the
highest privileges in the state in the course of time. Thus,
when Rainerio Zeno was doge (1252-1268), ten populares
obtained the right of sitting in the grand council on account
of special services to the state. (Mur., xii., 372.) What the
definition of nobility and aristocracy was at Venice in the
earlier times, it is hard to say. The nobles had coats of
arms, and many of them had filled important offices, or were
descended from the principal men of the republic, But there
scorns to have been no exact line between them and the
upper class of citizens until the u closing of the council," in
1297, after which to belong to families entitled to sit there
was a patent of nobility,
There must have been a council with numerous members
at Venice from early times, if we may argue from the analogy
of most small republics. The first mention of such a council
in the chronicle of Dandolo is where he speaks of events of
the twelfth century. The grand council, as then constituted,
was chosen by twelve persons, who themselves were selected
by the people, one from each of the six districts where the
community then resided, Each chose forty from his district,
who sat for a year and began their sessions on the first of
September, but could be re-elected. Afterwards, instead
of twelve electors four seem to have had this duty assigned
to them ; but now they were members of the council them-
selves, and held their office for years together. For some
time, the council was open to any Venetian of standing suffi-
cient to secure hi$ election. The only limitation upon the
free action of the electors was that none of them should
choose into the council more than four of his kinsmen.
The century or century and a half which followed the cap-
ture of Constantinople (1205 onward), was as important a
period for the development of the coastitution of Venice as
*When Domenico Mauroceno was doge (114$)? A- Dandolo,
(Mur,, xil, 294.)