From the Municipality to the City State Part 2

According to MEDICINELEARNERS, the internal history of cities is also complicated. The struggles for the purchase of the territory or for autonomy from the imperial vicariates, which had culminated in the century. XII but are not finished yet, the internal ones are added, with an economic-social background. Almost two stories, albeit very connected, because territorial acquisitions, channeling many new and turbulent elements towards the city, have acted and are still acting on internal development, on classes, on parties, almost transferring within the walls many reasons for conflict, family or of class, who previously worked in the countryside; and vice versa, the city conflict between people and soldiers pushes the municipality to intensify the full subjugation of the countryside, to snatch this base of operation, this area of ​​supply and recruitment from the nobles and to obtain greater tax revenues, more services of all kinds, more freedom of movement. We can also begin to observe some great feudal lordship, not destroyed by the growth of the cities, the counts of Savoy or the patriarchs of Aquileia, begin at this time a gradual transformation of the legal bases of their dominion, to reach a more effective exercise of power . Not otherwise the pope proceeds from the end of the century. XII onwards.

At this point, the constitution with consuls, founded on a small and fairly homogeneous city society, enters into crisis and gradually gives way to another constitution, personified in the podestà. The Lombard citizens and also, here and there, Tuscans had, at the time of Barbarossa, known a podestà or rector, an imperial official or of uncertain character between imperial and municipal. And even then, imposed from the outside, it had seconded in the city constitution a tendency to unfold, broaden its base, resolve and break up the municipal nucleus. Expelled as an imperial official, by dint of the people, he reappears as a city magistrate. It is, at first, varied and changeable in the various cities and in the various moments even in the same city: varied and changeable in terms of length of office, extent of powers (sometimes, quasi-dictator), to more particularly assigned tasks (more of war or more of justice and pacification of parties). He comes now from the consular aristocracy, now from the feudal one, he is a citizen or a foreigner. It is a frequent case that the bishop of the city often assumes that title and relative powers. It is the result of a transaction between soldiers and people and represents the effort of the consular aristocracy, somewhat discredited, to keep itself in the saddle by giving itself a dictator who responds to certain popular needs; or rather it emanates from the people who want the commune to have a leader who is also their leader, as it will then have, exclusively of him, in the captain of the people. He alternates with the consuls or accompanies himself with them, as moderator of the consular college, which has now become more restricted.

But it is clear, even in this phantasmagoric variety, that the podestà reflects all the changes and progress made by the cities in a century: the greater territorial unity; the widest and most legally recognized powers of the municipality vis-à-vis the empire and the bishop (in fact in the rural communities there continue to be the consuls, not the podestà; and in some major municipalities of late development, the list of podestà begins exactly in the year in which they achieved a large autonomy, as in Trieste, for example, in the year 1295); the clearer outlining of an entity, the state that is born, above the nucleus of families who held the government. The mayor also reflects the emergence, even in a regime of greater democracy, indeed precisely for this reason, of individual personalities, generated by the strongest internal friction, from the greater possibilities of asserting oneself among the parties, from the following that within the city regain great feudal families; the greater complexity of the government machinery and the need for technical elements, especially for justice; the necessary replacement of salaried and controlled officials for those who exercised power as a right and duty inherent in their class, or in their capacity as vassals and beneficiaries of the bishop or count. In the midst of intercommunal wars and the complication of relations with the outside world, the podestà must be a war leader and a clearly visible and accredited representative; in the variety and discord of internal social and political groups, a coordinating and balancing force, a real public magistrate, aimed at general interests. His maximum requirement is impartiality: and if it is missing, if the podestà inclines to a party, the municipality is “fictitious”, “unfair” or “fraudulent” municipality. It may then happen that the centrifugal tendencies take over, that the mayor of the municipality disappears from the scene, that the soldiers and the people have distinguished mayor and both claim to themselves the right to be the municipality, which instead of the statute the parties should try to give general value to their brief details, that the soldiers with their mayor at the head leave the cities which for them is always a bit of an encampment. Until some mediator intervenes, the bishop or a neighboring city or a Peaceful friar, and the municipality is reconstituted in its unity, the communis potestas  and  constitutum commune . In this constitutional evolution, there is the principle of lordship, that is, of a monarchical regime of the city state. At least it already satisfies some of the same needs to which the lordship later responds.

From the Municipality to the City State 2

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