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Thread: Couple questions on medieval cities

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    A bear there was, a bear! Kapt Torbjorn's Avatar
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    Couple questions on medieval cities

    I have a few questions about cities in the medieval era starting mid 1000s, around when William the Conqueror was knocking about invading England and such.

    1. What ranks were there within a city for administrative purposes? Mayor at the top, then magistrates, any others?

    2. What was the most culturally diverse city in Europe at the time? I know there were a number of Spanish/Moorish cities in Iberia, but what about some in the Netherlands with French/German/Dutch populations, or even eastern Hungary, with Turkish/Hungarian/German etc. Anyone have an(y) idea(s)?
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    WRT number two, your answer is probably Constantinople.

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    For 2, Palermo, when it was capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. Italians, Arabs, Greeks, Normans, Lombards, and later Germans - Frederick II had his court there.

    For 1, that varies from realm to realm and even city to city and over time. Some places in England were run by Shreves/Sheriffs, others had Mayors, and then there were places with Councils. All might be referred to as Bailiffs. It's hard to give a general guide.

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    As for 1: that's hard to tell as there was no standardized city government. As far as I know every city granted the right to be a city could have it's own titulature. I'm not really sure if most cities had a mayor or equivalent position.

    As for your second question: Constantinople would be the best guess as it was the largest and most influential one. Paris would be a good second guess as the schools which later formed the Sorbonne attracted lots of students from all over Europe.

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    Lt. General Narwhal's Avatar
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    2 : Three options : Grenada, Palerma and Constantinople.
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    Field Marshal videonfan's Avatar
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    For the second my guess falls to Cordoba,any city close to crimea or in it and close to poland/lithuania while the tatars have come,constantinople or any hungarian city close to italy

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    Field Marshal Kovax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kapt Torbjorn View Post
    2. What was the most culturally diverse city in Europe at the time? I know there were a number of Spanish/Moorish cities in Iberia, but what about some in the Netherlands with French/German/Dutch populations, or even eastern Hungary, with Turkish/Hungarian/German etc. Anyone have an(y) idea(s)?
    At that early time period, I'd be inclined to think that the Hungarian cities would likely have not had significant Turkish influence yet (not until after the battle of Mohacs), and the Germans wouldn't have been settled there yet by Austria in order to "de-ethnicize" the region (not in significant numbers until after the end of Turkish control). There would be a mix of fairly recent Magyar (ethnic Hungarian) occupiers, controlling the scattered Slavic and various other groups already in the Carpathian Basin, plus a few small and even more recent Italian enclaves (originally hired to work on the Cathedrals and other prominent buildings, and never left), etc.

    I'd suspect that MANY of the coastal trade cities throughout Europe, especially around the Mediterranian, would have extremely diverse ethnic populations, and Constantinople would certainly rank highly among them.

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    Field Marshal videonfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kovax View Post
    At that early time period, I'd be inclined to think that the Hungarian cities would likely have not had significant Turkish influence yet (not until after the battle of Mohacs), and the Germans wouldn't have been settled there yet by Austria in order to "de-ethnicize" the region (not in significant numbers until after the end of Turkish control). There would be a mix of fairly recent Magyar (ethnic Hungarian) occupiers, controlling the scattered Slavic and various other groups already in the Carpathian Basin, plus a few small and even more recent Italian enclaves (originally hired to work on the Cathedrals and other prominent buildings, and never left), etc.

    I'd suspect that MANY of the coastal trade cities throughout Europe, especially around the Mediterranian, would have extremely diverse ethnic populations, and Constantinople would certainly rank highly among them.
    Venice and Liguria(Genoa) are also likely canditates

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    Mayor - burgomaster - was not a single function, but a city would often have a number of them, like four.

    It was important for the power structure of a city whether it was ruled by a Count, or by the citizens itself.

    1000 AD is early for typical Mediaeval cities: those that were important at that time often descended from classical times, or developed in very important locations. Most of the later cities were in their infancy between in the 11th and 12th, and got important after that time, especially in the areas outside the former Roman Empire.

    In the late Middle Ages the guilds became an important new power, with populist tendencies.

    At the core a free city had a council, that was often layered in a large one with wide representation that was consulted in existential issues, a smaller one that controlled regular politics, from the rich regent class, and an executive core of burgomasters and some councillors that would be chosen yearly from the regents.

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    Liberté, egalité, fraternité StephenT's Avatar
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    The role of the Church shouldn't be discounted. To take Genoa as an example, the Bishop of San Lorenzo cathedral - who became the Archbishop of Genoa in 1133 - seems to have been the effective ruler of the city in the 11th century. There was definitely some sort of civil urban government as well, because the early chronicles refer to the "people of Genoa" deciding things or making polices; but no historical record of its structure has survived from earlier than the year 1099.

    In 1099 a Commune - compagna - was created when the various neighbourhoods of Genoa swore an oath of mutual defence and cooperation, and set up an organisation to raise taxes and pay for their involvement in the First Crusade. It's believed that this wasn't the first time they'd done so, but there are no records of any earlier organisation. The commune was ruled by six consuls elected for three years. In 1102 four consuls were elected for four years, and over the next century the size and term length of the officials kept on changing until they finally settled on something that worked. By the mid-12th century consuls were elected yearly.

    In 1143 - when the first surviving document describing the government in detail was written - the commune seems to have been an oligarchy comprising some unknown but probably fairly high percentage of the residents of Genoa. Membership was by invitation, and members enjoyed the sole right of engaging in overseas trade, as well as various legal privileges. They also had a vote in the election of consuls. Consuls acted as judges in peacetime and commanded armies and fleets in war; they could also sign treaties on behalf of the city. A majority vote between the consuls settled any disputes. Finally, there was also a Council, although we don't know how it was selected - perhaps also elected by the commune alongside the consuls, or perhaps membership was by seniority. The council's role was mostly advisory, but it had a veto over proposals by the consuls to raise new taxes or declare war.

    This system of government worked for about a century, but in 1190 the Genoese decided that the consulship was too prone to factionalism and political infighting. Instead they decided to appoint a single podestà, or city manager, to act as mayor, chief judge and military commander combined. The podestà would serve only for a single year by appointment, and the commune tended to deliberately pick a foreigner without local ties for the role - the first came from Brescia, the next from Pavia, and the one after that from Milan. The Council and a group of elected Rectors (replacing the consuls) continued to oversee the podestà.

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    If you speak some French, there is a good article on Wikipedia on the Capitouls of Toulouse (the "burghmasters") : how many they were, who they were, where they come from, ...

    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitoul
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    Ezredes Victor1234's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kovax View Post
    At that early time period, I'd be inclined to think that the Hungarian cities would likely have not had significant Turkish influence yet (not until after the battle of Mohacs), and the Germans wouldn't have been settled there yet by Austria in order to "de-ethnicize" the region (not in significant numbers until after the end of Turkish control). There would be a mix of fairly recent Magyar (ethnic Hungarian) occupiers, controlling the scattered Slavic and various other groups already in the Carpathian Basin, plus a few small and even more recent Italian enclaves (originally hired to work on the Cathedrals and other prominent buildings, and never left), etc.

    I'd suspect that MANY of the coastal trade cities throughout Europe, especially around the Mediterranian, would have extremely diverse ethnic populations, and Constantinople would certainly rank highly among them.

    Pretty accurate, although there were also some Italians who were church figures (the real Italian master worker craze started later in the 1400's with King Matyas). Saint Gellért (one of the first Hungarian bishops, after whom the hill in Budapest is named) for example was originally called Gerardo Sagredo, from a Venetian family. Benedek I. (Archbishop of Esztergom) was also an Italian.

    There were at least noble Germans arriving in large numbers in the early 1000's. King István needed their support very much to beat the native Hungarian pagan majority that was revolting against him for much of his reign, and until the HRE Emperors later tried to include Hungary in their domain, German influence was pretty heavy in early Christian Hungary. That sort of upper level politicking is hard to translate down to the level of cities though.

    That changed after the Battle of Muhi (1241) though, and the resulting destruction of the Royal Army left the country open to slaughter, and something like 25-50% of the population was killed, and everything that wasn't fortified was burned and destroyed.

    After the Mongols left in the mid 1200's, the King opened the country to foreigners from the West to resettle the depleted lands, which is where the first Jews and Germans arrive in the cities in fairly large numbers (the so called "Saxons").

    The Austrian settled Germans into the depleted lands taken back from the Ottomans were called "Swabians" to distinguish them from the earlier German settlers and arrived in the 1700's.

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