Today's capital of the Italian province of Venice and the Veneto region is situated on around 120 small islands in the Laguna Veneta. It is built on stilts and has 160 canals with 400 bridges. Venice was already a maritime power in the 8th century. The independent city republic was formed in the 11th century under the leadership of the Doges. Around 1000, Venice began to subjugate the coasts of Istria and Dalmatia (present-day Croatia), and during the Crusades a colonial empire developed in the Balkans as far as Asia Minor. In 1203, Constantinople was conquered and the Byzantine Empire destroyed. Among other things, the island of Crete and what is now Lebanon came into temporary possession. For over 400 years, many Ionian islands on the west coast of Greece were dominated between 1386 and 1797. Towards the end of the 15th century, Cyprus was added, which belonged to Venice until 1571. Twice in the course of history, the famous port city of Monemvasia on the Peloponnese peninsula was also under the rule of the city-state for a longer period.