The Trouble with Bulls: The Cacce dei Tori in Early Modern Venice


  • Robert C. Davis


The city of Venice has been historiographically identified with festival. Venetians staged regular symbolic enactments of the city’s piety, beauty, unity, military valour, connection with the sea, and sense of justice, usually exploiting Venice’s public squares, boats, bridges, and canals to give these occasions a unique character. One festival, however, the cacce dei tori or baiting of bulls, celebrated none of these virtues and had nothing to do with the sea. Usually found in cities with strong feudal and economic ties to the countryside, such events would seem out of place in a city with no such ties and an impractical environment for large animals. The roots of the cacce dei tori, however, lay more in Venice’s intense neighbourhood and factional rivalries than in urban-rural tensions.






Early Modern Festival and Popular Memory