Over the preceding centuries the city state of Venice had been linked to Eastern trade and thus inevitably to the course of the Byzantine Empire. From the 11th century, the two states entered into treaties mainly of a commercial nature. The Byzantines granted the Venetians trade privileges, allowing the latter to gain control of mercantile and maritime activity in the Eastern Mediterranean.
As was only natural, Crete's geographical position and significant agricultural production attracted Venetian interest, which was in some cases more than merely commercial in orientation. In the early 12th century, frequent mention is made of the presence of Venetian merchants on the island, showing especial interest in Cretan livestock and agricultural produce. This interest was to foreshadow subsequent developments in Cretan history.