"Already in the preceding century i.e. the 17th century, an ominous feature of social life in the city was the growing class of impoverished nobles who, tending as they did to live in or near the parish of S. Barnabà, were popularly known as the barnabotti. As official members of the Venetian aristocracy, they were required to dress in silk and continued to be entitled to their seats in the Great Council; many, however, were too poor or too uneducated to occupy any but the lowest administrative positions, and since they were debarred by their rank from working as craftsmen or shopkeepers, increasing numbers drifted into corrupt practices such as the rigging of minor elections or the selling of votes. Others simply gave up the struggle and lived on poor relief. Special arrangements (including free housing) had been made for them by the state – on the condition, however, that they remained single, bringing no more young barnabotti, unwanted and unemployable, into the world."
– John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice (London: Penguin, 2003), 596.