Late Medieval Rome, an Elusive Phantom
This introductory chapter provides an overview of the political history of Rome. Rome's communal traditions and their emphasis on the city's autonomy were long-standing and vital. Yet, by the turn of the fifteenth century, the autonomous Roman commune was gone, replaced by papal dominion. Its institutions remained as mechanisms of papal governance, but the absence of autonomy or meaningful ideological commitment makes any appearance of communal vitality illusory. This transformation is notable in its own right, but its aftermath endows it with critical importance. Despite sometimes rocky relations with the city and its inhabitants, it was by and large from Rome that the popes would consolidate their power over the ever more robust Papal States, which have come to serve as an important case study for the emergence of early modern European states in general; for the evolution of sovereign power; and for the process and limits of secularization. This consolidation of papal power began in the fourteenth century and continued in the mid-fifteenth century, accelerating with the end of the Western Schism and the papacy of Martin V. Though the papacy is commonly credited with Rome's transformation, the book demonstrates that such an understanding of Italian, papal, and Roman history misses a fundamental, homegrown transformation of Rome's political culture, which preceded and enabled the consolidation of papal power.
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