Dual Government Systems In Italy Essay

2966 words - 12 pages

There have been many political crises over the centuries where the people of a country have risen against inequality, demanding rights and a fair chance at citizenship. The Roman Republic, the Italian city-states, and the French Revolution all share common themes of equality. In Italy, after the beginning of the 13th century, dual government systems became necessary in many city-states to satisfy the guildsmen, who were tired of a despotic régime under the old aristocratic families.
The 12th century had been a period of control for the aristocrats, who held every title in the government offices of their city, and held power over the rest of the city’s inhabitants. It was the nobility who held the power because holding office required wealth and freedom. Many Italian city-states became wealthy and more independent, and by the 13th century the commoners were acting upon the socio-political injustice that they faced. They, known as the popolo, wanted to participate in the commune, the government formed by the nobility of the city. Had the noble families not agreed to share the governance, the city itself would be plunged into warring factions, each vying for political dominance. Four city-states in particular created oligarchies in the middle of the 14th century to retain their wealth and independence: Florence, Siena, Rome, and Genoa. These city-states, however, were not consistently oligarchic – the nobility did not give up its authority so easily, and there was always a power-play between the two social parties.
In the early 14th century, Florentine government was controlled by the nobility who had slowly been corrupting the city and emptying it of wealth. By 1340, the popolo was in conflict against the nobles, seeking a shared ruling over the city to help lessen expenditure. These shared political systems were important, because the old aristocratic families and the guild associations could work together to bring wealth back into Florence. When, in 1342, Walter of Brienne, Duke of Athens came to help the nobles of Florence remain wealthy, the commoners were infuriated. Because of this crisis, the popolo took over the city’s government in 1343. This new government, comprised mainly of lesser guild members but also included nobility, created many fiscal reforms to help save the city from bankruptcy. This new government did not eradicate the presence of the nobility entirely – simply put, the guild government worked alongside the old aristocratic one to create new reforms and laws to pay back all the debt the city owed. A primary document reveals the strong will of the popolo to change the behaviour of the nobility in the city of Piacenza. Although it does not refer to Florence, it reveals the adamant and aggressive nature of the commoners and guildsmen who were tired of tyrannical rule: “The populares, inflamed by what had happened and by what was going on… took up arms and banners, rang their bells, gathered together and came to the...

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