In eighteenth-century Venice there were over 250 autonomous guilds, each with its own rules. The most important among them were the Guild of the Docks and the Guild of Fishermen, both located in the sestiere of Cannaregio. The rivalry between these two guilds became so accentuated that the Doge had to intervene to prevent a slaughter.
To do so, apart from using political force and the city’s guard, he offered them more advantages than anyone else. The Guild of Fishermen kept carrying out its activities in the same sestiere, with the support of its inhabitants. The Guild of the Docks, however, was doomed when the Venetian docks ceased their activity. Under the pinch of necessity, all members of this guild decided to devote themselves to larceny and other illicit activities.
With time, they began to be known as the Guild of Thieves, or simply The Guild. In the beginning, they devoted themselves to smuggling, theft and extortion of the common people. However, after a while they realized that stealing from the poor was not very fruitful. So they changed the orientation of their activities towards more succulent targets.
The nobles and the tourists that flocked to the city in large numbers were no longer safe in certain sestieres. The political situation which protected the outmoded nobles also guaranteed a certain security for the Guild. The government was unable to stop their misdeeds. The Guild gradually grew; nowadays it’s a very important political power. It’s a government in the shadows, with thousand of eyes and ears. Their espionage system rivals that of the Quarantia itself. However, very few people in Venice are aware of the Guild’s actions. Silence is rewarded, while talking too much entails serious punishment. Even death.