From the Municipality to the City State Part 1

Purchased by law and, in part, in fact the territory; taken possession, by slow appropriation or by a quick act of will, of almost all the attributes and rights of the feudal state; obtained the recognition of its political autonomy and its judiciary; added to the imperial recognition, either moral or, often, juridical, of the pontiff; the municipalities have now, at the end of the century. XII, a well-defined place within the sphere of the kingdom and the empire which, ideally, includes them all. No longer private associations, as they were originally and as Barbarossa wanted to force them to return, but bodies governed by public law, based on the Treaty of Constance, the true constitutional charter of Italian municipal life.

Municipal legislation is now making rapid progress, in the second half of the century. While, still in 1153 and 1162, the briefs of the consuls were little more than summary formulas of oath and obligation of the consuls, some officials and citizens, they later begin to present themselves as very extensive complexes of various provisions concerning the functioning of the courts, appraisal and collection of taxes, public works, the militia, the urban police, the government of the countryside. Some cities also proceed with the collection and elaboration of the customs that governed trade, private property relations, the condition of foreigners, the matter of colonial and feudal pacts, etc. This drafting of customs is also a significant act of the growing influence of the people in the face of the aristocracy that of customs, in fact, it was depositary and interpreter; as well as affirmation of the new city status. Which is now respublica , as until now only the empire was called. The word invades in use during the second half of the century. XII. Index of this juridical and moral personality, of this self-awareness on the part of the municipality is the growing municipal pride of the major cities, the spread of the erudite notion or the popular legend of a descendant from Rome, the rise of official historiography.

According to EHUZHOU, the participation of the bishops in the government of the city now almost completely ceases. The liberation of the municipality as such is accompanied and, I would say, substantiated by another fact: the full liberation of all its citizens and subjects, as well as from the public bond, also from any patrimonial or feudal bond. The interest of individuals and the interest of the municipality, which intends to bind citizens and individuals to itself with an exclusive bond, coincide and promote each other reciprocally. Thus there is a rapid process of allocation, by means of redemption, of all those immovable properties whose possession and enjoyment held, until then, a large part of the citizenship in the dependence of churches and monasteries and feudal families. And men are mobilized, together with land tenure. The basis of the personal condition of citizens is no longer the relationship of vassalage but the dependence on the municipality. Even non-citizens are urged to loosen or break their bond with the lord, so that they can more easily be drawn into the orbit of the city. All this is a more or less explicit abolition of feudalism. And here is the local and municipal patriotism that arises or resurrects among the wreckage of the feudal relationship.

Constitutional progress is also maturing in the municipalities: also as a result of the more advanced and complex social structure. We have the various forms of associative life. The urban nobility, which at a certain point no longer identifies with the commune, organized itself into the  societas  or  commune militum . Merchants and industrialists gather in the  societas mercatorum or in the art of wool. And their consuls flank the consuls of the municipality, they have a part in the stipulation of commercial or even political treaties: in Milan, in Piacenza, in Florence, in Pisa, elsewhere. Everywhere, more and more numerous associations of real craftsmanship, which often had a religious and church childhood but now accentuate their economic-social character. And then, “doors”, “neighborhoods”, or “third parties”, and “peoples” of the city churches, which serve the purposes of communal life and are in a certain sense a new fact, but are based on pre-existing foundations. Finally, political formations, that is, parties,  maiores  or  milites ,  populus  or  pedites. It is undeniable that the nobility is at the center of the militia party and the merchant bourgeoisie at the center of the people. That is,  roughly  coincidence of social and political groupings. And yet those parties each gather and mix different social elements, contributing to crumble professional and class organizations, to break them up, to pulverize them. They go far beyond the city walls and create broad inter-city, inter-regional, almost peninsular solidarity.

From the Municipality to the City State 1

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