The Rise of the Italian City-States

In this theatre of political fragmentation, many Italian cities began to assert their autonomy. During the 11th century an elaborate pattern of communal government began to evolve under the leadership of a burgher class grown wealthy in trade, banking, and such industries as woolen textiles. Many cities, especially Milan, Genoa, Venice, Florence, and Pisa, became powerful and independent City-States. Resisting the efforts of both the old nobles and the emperors to control them, these "Comuni" promoted the end of feudalism in northern Italy replacing it with deeply rooted identification with the city as opposed to the larger region or country. The cities were often troubled by violent and divisive rivalries among their citizens, the most famous being the papal-imperial struggle between the Guelphs (the supporters of the popes) and the Ghibellines (the supporters of the emperors). Despite such divisions, however, the cities contributed significantly to the economic, social, and rising cultural energy of Italy.
Created: November 1996
Updated: 04/07/01
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