XXIX

FROM TERRITORIAL PRINCIPALITIES TO CASTELLANIES

1 THE TERRITORIAL PRINCIPALITIES

THERE had long been a tendency in the West for the greater states to split up into smaller political formations. The insubordination of the city aristocracies, sometimes organized in regional leagues, had constituted almost as great a threat to the unity of the Roman Empire in its last days as the ambitions of military commanders. In certain parts of feudal Europe some of these little oligarchic Romaniae still survived as witnesses of an age that had elsewhere come to an end. One of these was the ‘community of the Venetians’, an association of townships founded in the lagoons by refugees from the mainland, and whose collective name, borrowed from the province where they originated, only tardily became attached to the island of Rialto, our Venice, which was gradually promoted to the rank of capital. Other such survivals, in southern Italy, were Naples and Gaeta. In Sardinia, dynasties of native chiefs had divided the island into ‘judicatures’. Elsewhere the establishment of the barbarian monarchies had prevented this fragmentation, though not without some concessions having to be made to the irresistible pressure of local forces. The Merovingian kings had been obliged at various times to grant to the aristocracy of a particular county the right to elect the count, and to the great men of Burgundy the privilege of appointing their own mayor of the palace. Thus the establishment of provincial governments, which occurred all over the continent at the time of the collapse of the Carolingian Empire, and which had its counterpart among the Anglo-Saxons a little later, might appear in one sense simply a reversion to earlier practice. But in this age the influence of the very strong public institutions of the period immediately preceding it gave the phenomenon an original cast.

Throughout the Frankish Empire we regularly find that the territorial principalities are based on agglomerations of counties. Thus, since the Carolingian count was a genuine official, it would hardly be anachronistic to picture the men into whose hands the new powers had fallen as a kind of super-prefects each of whom (supposing that such officials existed in modern France), in addition to exercising the military command, would be responsible for the administration of several départements. Charlemagne

-394-

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