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Forum LockedMedieval Italian republics

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calvo View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Medieval Italian republics
    Posted: 15-Jun-2009 at 16:45
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Many of the states in late medieval Italy, such as Genoa and Venice, were republics.
Were they real democracies in that all citizens could vote, or only the aristocracy could have a say in politics?
Were their constitutions similar to that of the Roman republic?


Edited by Seko - 14-Jan-2010 at 20:17
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Al Jassas View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Jun-2009 at 16:52

I have been asking the same question for some time.

Republicanism isn't foreign in europe, many cities were "independent cities" with their own senates and heads especially those involved with trade. Almost all the Hanza cities were like this. What made Venice et al so special is that these were empires or semi empires not just ruling their immediate vicinity.

What I found from the little I researched is that they were oligarchies, only rich and powerful residents of the cities themselves ruled them. Franchise was limited and was modeled on the Roman model (grouping people into classes with a certain weight according to wealth).

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Jun-2009 at 19:09
The medieval Italian republics were not democratic in any meaningful modern sense. It was essentially the rule of the trading interests (The burgesses) Its no coincidence that this form of government was preferred in these booming trading towns over monarchies. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Jun-2009 at 11:00
Did they have any voting system? If yes, who was entitled to vote?
Did these republics have anything in common with the republics that emerged after the independence of USA and the French Revolution?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Jun-2009 at 13:34
Originally posted by Al Jassas

What I found from the little I researched is that they were oligarchies, only rich and powerful residents of the cities themselves ruled them.
Plus ça change.... 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Jun-2009 at 13:39
Democracy in modern sense, is it not, well, very "modern"- or recent?
How big part of populations had full rights,(including political, voting) in 19.th century, not in the authocracies, but in most "liberal" countries like US of A and Britain? perhaps a few percent.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Jun-2009 at 14:58
Originally posted by calvo

Did they have any voting system? If yes, who was entitled to vote?
Did these republics have anything in common with the republics that emerged after the independence of USA and the French Revolution?


I'm a bit shaky on all of this but the medieval Italian city states were by far my most favourite area of medieval European history.

Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Florence seemed to have some sort of voting system. They formed 'communes', in which the merchant class elected their own members to their legislative organs. Cities like Florence fluctuated, especially in the Renaissance, between Republican government and autocracy. These cities had a huge trading class who more or less dominated the mediterranean trade (Byzantium in decline, the Fatimids rather impotent beyond their own borders etc.) Provence in southern France could boast a few wealthy city states like Marseilles. I'm not sure about their system of government. If I remember right though the Venetian Doge was hereditary but sat over a Senate which was elective.

In Rome for example in the mid 12th century, a commune had ousted the Pope and ran the city for themselves. These occurances were not irregular in Italy.

The Normans in southern Italy were much more autocratic, ruling more under a system of military fiefs like the kind you would see in france.
"Neither apathy nor antipathy can ever bring out the truth of history" Eoin Mac Neill.
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