Italy was more fortunate than other Western European countries. It better preserved the ancient heritage, the economic life was rampant, it became the center of the Catholic world. However, the political fate of her was unenviable. The country went to one conqueror, then another – Lombards, Byzantines, Franks, Arabs, Normans. The cities did not contribute to the political unification of the country, because they lived their own interests and feuded among themselves – to the delight of stronger neighbors. In the X century. Middle and Northern Italy fell under the power of the German emperors, who frequented Italy with their predatory campaigns.
In the XI-XII centuries. Italian cities became communes. To the seniors did not oppress the townspeople, their castles were destroyed, and they themselves were declared vassals of the communes.
The communes were self-governing, led by elected consuls. Only in Venice and Genoa power belonged not to the consuls, but to the
doji, who was elected for life. The laws were issued by the Supreme Council, in which the merchant class dominated. If there was a need for this, there was a convocation of citizens who had electoral rights. So, the commune cities were Republics. Between them there was not even a hint of equality.
The stronger ones so oppressed the weaker, so that sometimes they had to defend their independence with weapons in their hands. The most fierce of all fought between each other was Venice and Genoa. In the 1 st century. victory was celebrated by Genoa, which dealt a military defeat to Venice and its ally Pisa. The feud between the republics was a balm for the soul of the Byzantine and German emperors.
1261 From the Treaty Between the Byzantine Emperor Mikhail Paleologue and the Genoese Republic
… First, henceforth, our emperor and his successor will continue to love and fight against the Republic of Venice and all Venetians, our enemies, and will not enter into peace with this republic, as well as armistice or agreements without the knowledge and allegiance of the Genoese Republic, and the Genoa Republic
will not conclude peace, an armistice or an agreement with the Venetian Republic without the knowledge and desire of our emperor.
… The enemies of the Republic of Genoa will not provide any market, with the exception of the Pisans – loyal people in our empire, and he will drive out of all our empire all pirates who oppose the Republic of Genoa, and will pursue them and punish them in accordance with the law.
The communal movement also won in many villages of Italy. Nevertheless, the rural communes, freed from the power of the lords, became vassals of the city communes.
In the cities-republics political life was boiling. In the XII-XIII centuries. townspeople split into two political groups – Guvelf and Gibellin. Guelphs called those who supported the popes in the fight against the German emperors, the Ghibellines – adherents of the emperors. So, Florence supported the popes, and Pisa and Lucca – the emperors.
The Republic is a form of state government, when the supreme authorities are elected for a certain period of time.