I know they had lots of powerful factions and families, but Venice, for instance, was a republic, no? And Rome was a theocracy. If they were feudal, how did their respective governments work in a feudal system. If they weren't, how did they raise armies and such?

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    Please consult the Wikipedia pages for these city states (and the links therein). If you can't what you are looking for there, please edit your question to explain exactly what it is you want to know. – Lars Bosteen Oct 30 '20 at 3:56
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    It is perfectly possible to merge the two - to derive political legitimacy from republican principles, but to base economic exploitation on a feudal system of land rents. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 30 '20 at 13:18

Medieval Venice operated internally as more of an Oligarchy, as descent from a noble family was required for membership in its legislative body, which was also the body that selected the Doge.

However, nearly all its neighbors were operating under Feudal systems, so when necessary for the purposes of interacting with them, the Doge was roughly reckoned as a Duke. That is in fact where the word "Doge" (Venetian "Doxe") came from. Its Venetian for "Duke" (Latin "Dux").

Of course the line between Oligarchy and Republic is quite fuzzy. Likely the franchise in Venice wasn't significantly more restricted on a per-capita basis than that of 1788 South Carolina (a plantation society where voting required property ownership).

The Medieval Papal State, was a different beast. While the leadership position was appointed (calling it "elected" would be a bit of a stretch during that era), and had some obvious religious administrative responsibilities that most European states didn't have to deal with, the state itself operated much like any other medieval duchy. This includes raising armies and invading neighbors from time to time. The "clergy" involved in this election were typically puppets of whatever ruler owned the land they were sitting on, and the popes they elected were often just that ruler's younger-son relatives.

  • Also, I got curious and did a wee bit of research ... in 1800 SC reported about 13% of its population being free white males of voting age. Looking elsewhere, US states at the time had between 50% and 75% franchise for free white men. SC would likely have been on the lower end. – T.E.D. Oct 30 '20 at 5:26
  • Venice was for much of its history nominally part of the (East-)Roman Empire. The title dux (=duke, doge) was given by the Roman Emperor in the 8th century (not roughly reckoned). While the relationship to Constantinople is not fully equivalent to a vassal-lord relationship , it had its similarities. – R.K. Oct 30 '20 at 8:42
  • @R.K. - Yes, initially Leo II meant what he said with "dux", but at the time that just meant "military commander" (and he wasn't happy about it, just acknowledging reality). Later Doges kept the title long after Venice became independent (9th century, if not earlier). The modern term "Duke" evolved to mean a hereditary feudal noble two ranks under a king, and the Doge wasn't really that. – T.E.D. Oct 30 '20 at 15:01
  • I note that beginning in about 1050 hte popes fought to become independent rulers, and beginning in about 1150 the people of Roman formed a commune and sought to gain power from the popes, so that power struggles in Rome were often complex. – MAGolding Oct 30 '20 at 17:50

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