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The Medieval times of Rome, Italy were a transitional era and a fight for power. Who’s going to rule was the continual question – the papacy or separate government powers? This article explains the history of Rome during Medieval times, and how the papacy came into full power…

The Medieval Times of Rome, Italy

Though the history of Rome is quite complex and sometimes bewildering, the Medieval period was a time of transition for the great city. Two major institutions called the papacy and the commune of Rome are the key players in the history of Rome and where she is today.

Wars for Power and Control Continue

During the 5th century, Rome was ruled under Roman law by the Odoacer and Theodoric the Great, with Roman officials still in power. The population of the city was less than 50,000 during the Middle Ages. There were continuous wars between Byzantines and Goths. Rome was conquered by the Byzantines under the guidance of Narses in 552. Narses was the first exarch (or viceroy) to rule Italy from Ravenna. During this time, the commerce decreased significantly, and the consuls and senate ceased to exist.

The Papal States are Formed

A great Roman leader named Pope Gregory I, emancipated Rome from the exarchs. With tremendous support by the people, soon the pope’s rule became mightier than the imperial governors. Many secular buildings became churches, and for 12 centuries, the papal elections would be the “main” event in Rome.

The Papal States were formed during the 7th and 8th centuries, and the people were divided into four groups or classes called clergy, nobility, soldiers, and lowest class.

Germany Attempts to Control Popes

In 800, Charlemagne was crowned as emperor of the West. This clearly ended Byzantine powers over Rome, however, a new rivalry arose between emperors and popes. German kings began making visits to the city and tried to control the pope’s influence in Rome.

During the 10th century, Rome went through one conflict after another, and the papacy was continuously being attacked by others who wanted to rule their way.

The Commune is Formed

During the 12th century, the papacy is confronted with yet another authority, a commune which was formed by Arnold of Brescia in 1144 through 1155, which threatened to maintain municipal powers over the papacy. The commune was subdued by Emperor Frederick I. A republic was formed under papal patronage, and a senator was elected, however, strife continued.

During the 13th century, Rome began electing foreign senators. In 1309 through 1378, Rome became a desperate place due to the Babylonian captivity of the popes at Avignon. A heroic man by the name of Cola di Rienzi became a hero of the people as a result of his efforts to re-establish Rome institutions, and was made tribune in 1347.

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