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Ten, Council of

Ten, Council of, in the republic of Venice, a special tribunal created (1310) to avert plots and crimes against the state. It was a direct result of the unsuccessful Tiepolo conspiracy against the Venetian oligarchy. In 1335 the body was given permanent status. It consisted actually of 17 members—the doge, 10 members chosen by the grand council, and 6 elected by the lesser council. After 1539 three members served as inquisitors of state and investigated, by means of a secret police, all criminal, moral, religious, and political offenses. The inquisitors reported their findings to the Ten, who rendered an irrevocable verdict. As the power of the Council of Ten expanded, it came to control foreign relations and financial matters. In 1582 the conservative nobles attempted to reduce its authority but failed; the Ten remained the most important governing body of the state until the fall (1797) of the republic. Although the mystery that veiled its operations gave it an aura of tyrannical despotism, it was in general an efficient and highly effective body.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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