Almost 15 centuries ago, people fleeing civil disorder and barbarian invasions after the collapse of the Roman Empire began building houses on low-lying islands in the middle of a lagoon. These islands later on—in the 10th century—became the city of Venice, the center of the long-lived Venetian Republic. Surrounded by water, the republic flourished for more than 7 centuries thanks to its strategic position. It fell into decline only at the end of the eighteenth century after being occupied by Napoleon. The early Venetians who built their city on the water to defend it from attacks would never have expected that the water would become the city's most dangerous enemy. In fact, this is what has been going on during the last century Venice risks being destroyed by the very waters that once served as its defense.
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