The first modern industry in the world was the “Arsenale di Venezia”. This name, which derives from the Arab “Dār al-ṣināʿa” (“house of crafts”), is now used worldwide. Why is that so?
The Arsenal of Venice (“Arsenale di Venezia” in Italian), was a complex of shipyards and armories of the Serenissima. Constructed first in 1104, it was the first and biggest industry in the world until the industrial revolution which took place almost 7 centuries later!
Methods for mass production of ships, based on the standardized production of different elements in different areas of the Arsenal, made it then possible, on an assembly-line basis, to build an entire ship in 1 day. (In 1570, during a war against the Turkish fleet, the Arsenal managed to produce 100 warships in less than 2 months)
The production of ships and the requirement of wood was so high that the Arsenal had an exclusive forest in the hills on the mainland close to Venice.
If we look at the extension of the Arsenal, it takes up and impressive 15% of the surface of the city and during the centuries of biggest power, it could employ up to 16.000 workers (called “arsenalotti”), representing the 10% of the population.
The groundbreaking organization and power shown by the Venetians and their Arsenale were truly impressive and unique, leaving a shocking impression upon all foreigners. The word “Arsenale” became legendary, referring to a one-of-a-kind place in the whole world.
When other countries created their own “houses of crafts” in the following centuries, the original Venetian name was so known and used that it was not translated: “Arsenale” is a word used now in 14 languages!
P.S.: Did you know that the Venetian Arzanà has been used in a simile in the epic poem “Divina Commedia” composed by the great Italian Poet Dante Alighieri?
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