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A city-state is an independent sovereign city which serves as the center of political, economic, and cultural life over its contiguous territory. Historically, this included cities such as Rome, Athens, Carthage, and the Italian city-states during the Renaissance.[1] Only a few modern sovereign city-states exist, with some disagreement as to which qualify; Monaco, Singapore, and Vatican City are most commonly accepted as such. Singapore is the clearest example, with full self-governance, its own currency, a robust military, and a population of 5.6 million.[2]

A number of other small states share many of these characteristics, and are sometimes cited as modern city-states, such as Qatar,[3][4] Brunei,[5] Kuwait,[5][3][6] Bahrain,[5][3] and Malta,[7][8][9] which each have an urban center comprising a significant proportion of the population, though each has several distinct municipalities, one of which is a capital city. Occasionally, microstates with high population densities such as San Marino are cited, despite lacking a large urban centre.[5][10][11]

Several non-sovereign cities enjoy a high degree of autonomy, and are sometimes considered city-states. Macau, Hong Kong,[12][13] and independent members of the United Arab Emirates – most notably Dubai and Abu Dhabi – are often cited as such.[5][10][14]

Historical background

Ancient and medieval world

Historical city-states included Sumerian cities such as Uruk and Ur; Ancient Egyptian city-states, such as Thebes and Memphis; the Phoenician cities (such as Tyre and Sidon); the five Philistine city-states; the Berber city-states of the Garamantes; the city-states of ancient Greece (the poleis such as Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and Corinth); the Roman Republic (which grew from a city-state into a great power); the Mayan and other cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (including cities such as Chichen Itza, Tikal, Copán and Monte Albán); the central Asian cities along the Silk Road; the city-states of the Swahili coast; Venice; Genoa; Florence; Ragusa; states of the medieval Russian lands such as Novgorod and Pskov; and many others. Danish historian Poul Holm has classed the Viking colonial cities in medieval Ireland, most importantly Dublin, as city-states.[15]

The Republic of Ragusa, a maritime city-state, was based in the walled city of Dubrovnik

In Cyprus, the Phoenician settlement of Kition (in present-day Larnaca) was a city-state that existed from around 800 BC until the end of the 4th century BC.

Some of the most well-known examples of city-state culture in human history are the ancient Greek city-states and the merchant city-states of Renaissance Italy, which organised themselves as small independent centers. The success of small regional units coexisting as autonomous actors in loose geographical and cultural unity, as in Italy and Greece, often prevented their amalgamation into larger national units.[citation needed] However, such small political entities often survived only for short periods because they lacked the resources to defend themselves against incursions by larger states (such as Roman conquest of Greece). Thus they inevitably gave way to larger organisations of society, including the empire and the nation-state.[16][need quotation to verify]

Southeast Asia

In the history of mainland Southeast Asia, aristocratic groups, Buddhist leaders, and others organized settlements into autonomous or semi-autonomous city-states. These were referred to[by whom?] as mueang, and were usually related in a tributary relationship now described[by whom?] as mandala or as over-lapping sovereignty, in which smaller city-states paid tribute to larger ones that paid tribute to still larger ones—until reaching the apex in cities like Ayutthaya, Bagan, Bangkok and others that served as centers of Southeast Asian royalty. The system existed until the 19th century, when colonization by European powers occurred. Siam, a regional power at the time, needed to define their territories for negotiation with the European powers so the Siamese government established a nation-state system, incorporated their tributary cities (Lan Xang, Cambodia and some Malay cities) into their territory and abolished the mueang and the tributary system.[17][need quotation to verify][18][19]

In early Philippine history, the barangay was a complex sociopolitical unit which scholars have historically[20] considered the dominant organizational pattern among the various peoples of the Philippine archipelago.[21] These sociopolitical units were sometimes also referred to as barangay states, but are more properly referred to using the technical term polity.[21][22] Evidence suggests a considerable degree of independence as city states ruled by Datus, Rajahs and Sultans.[23] Early chroniclers[24] record that the name evolved from the term balangay, which refers to a plank boat widely used by various cultures of the Philippine archipelago prior to the arrival of European colonizers.[21]

Central Europe

The Free imperial cities as of 1792.

In the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) over 80 Free Imperial Cities came to enjoy considerable autonomy in the Middle Ages and in early modern times, buttressed legally by international law following the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. Some, like three of the earlier Hanseatic citiesBremen, Hamburg and Lübeck – pooled their economic relations with foreign powers and were able to wield considerable diplomatic clout. Individual cities often made protective alliances with other cities or with neighbouring regions, including the Hanseatic League (1358 – 17th century), the Swabian League of Cities (1331–1389), the Décapole (1354–1679) in the Alsace, or the Old Swiss Confederacy (c. 1300 – 1798). The Swiss cantons of Zürich, Bern, Lucerne, Fribourg, Solothurn, Basel, Schaffhausen, and Geneva originated as city-states.

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, some cities – then members of different confederacies – officially became sovereign city-states, such as the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (1806–11 and again 1813–71), the Free City of Frankfurt upon Main (1815–66), the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (1806–11 and again 1814–71), the Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck (1806–11 and again 1813–71), and the Free City of Kraków (1815–1846). Under Habsburg rule the city of Fiume had the status of a corpus separatum (1779–1919), which – while falling short of an independent sovereignty – had many attributes of a city-state.

Italy

Italy in 1494, after the Peace of Lodi

In northern Italy during the medieval and Renaissance periods, city-states - with various amounts of associated land - became the standard form of polity, achieving de facto independence from the Holy Roman Empire and from its constituent Kingdom of Italy.

Examples: Republic of Venice, Republic of Genoa, Republic of Amalfi, Republic of Florence, Duchy of Milan, Duchy of Ferrara,[25] San Marino, Papal States, Republic of Pisa.

20th-century cities under international supervision

Danzig

The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) and nearly 200 towns in the surrounding areas. It was created on 15 November 1920[26][27] under the terms of Article 100 (Section XI of Part III) of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles after the end of World War I.

Fiume

After a prolonged period where the city of Fiume enjoyed considerable autonomy under Habsburg rule (see Corpus separatum (Fiume)), The Free State of Fiume was proclaimed as a fully independent free state which existed between 1920 and 1924. Its territory of 28 km2 (11 sq mi) comprised the city of Fiume (now in A city-state is an independent sovereign city which serves as the center of political, economic, and cultural life over its contiguous territory. Historically, this included cities such as Rome, Athens, Carthage, and the Italian city-states during the Renaissance.[1] Only a few modern sovereign city-states exist, with some disagreement as to which qualify; Monaco, Singapore, and Vatican City are most commonly accepted as such. Singapore is the clearest example, with full self-governance, its own currency, a robust military, and a population of 5.6 million.[2]

A number of other small states share many of these characteristics, and are sometimes cited as modern city-states, such as Qatar,[3][4] Brunei,[5] Kuwait,[5][3][6] Bahrain,[5][3] and Malta,[7][8][9] which each have an urban center comprising a significant proportion of the population, though each has several distinct municipalities, one of which is a capital city. Occasionally, microstates with high population densities such as San Marino are cited, despite lacking a large urban centre.[5][10][11]

Several non-sovereign cities enjoy a high degree of autonomy, and are sometimes considered city-states. Macau, Hong Kong,[12][13] and independent members of the United Arab Emirates – most notably Dubai and Abu Dhabi – are often cited as such.[5][10][14]

Historical city-states included Sumerian cities such as Uruk and Ur; Ancient Egyptian city-states, such as Thebes and Memphis; the Phoenician cities (such as Tyre and Sidon); the five Philistine city-states; the Berber city-states of the Garamantes; the city-states of ancient Greece (the poleis such as Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and Corinth); the Roman Republic (which grew from a city-state into a great power); the Mayan and other cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (including cities such as Chichen Itza, Tikal, Copán and Monte Albán); the central Asian cities along the Silk Road; the city-states of the Swahili coast; Venice; Genoa; Florence; Ragusa; states of the medieval Russian lands such as Novgorod and Pskov; and many others. Danish historian Poul Holm has classed the Viking colonial cities in medieval Ireland, most importantly Dublin, as city-states.[15]

The Republic of Ragusa, a maritime city-state, was based in the walled city of Dubrovnik

In Cyprus, the Phoenician settlement of Kition (in present-day Larnaca) was a city-state that existed from around 800 BC until the end of the 4th century BC.

Some of the most well-known examples of city-state culture in human history are the ancient Greek city-states and the merchant city-states of Renaissance Italy, which organised themselves as small independent centers. The success of small regional units coexisting as autonomous actors in loose geographical and cultural unity, as in Italy and Greece, often prevented their amalgamation into larger national units.[citation needed] However, such small political entities often survived only for short periods because they lacked the resources to defend themselves against incursions by larger states (such as Roman conquest of Greece). Thus they inevitably gave way to larger organisations of society, including the empire and the nation-state.[16][need quotation to verify]

Southeast Asia

In the history of mainland Southeast Asia, aristocratic groups, Buddhist leaders, and others organized settlements into autonomous or semi-autonomous city-states. These were referred to[by whom?] as mueang, and were usually related in a tributary relationship now described[by whom?] as mandala or as over-lapping sovereignty, in which smaller city-states paid tribute to larger ones that paid tribute to still larger ones—until reaching the apex in cities like Ayutthaya, Bagan, Bangkok and others that served as centers of Southeast Asian royalty. The system existed until the 19th century, when colonization by European powers occurred. Siam, a regional power at the time, needed to define their territories for negotiation with the European powers so the Siamese government established a nation-state system, incorporated their tributary cities (Lan Xang, Cambodia and some Malay cities) into their territory and abolished the mueang and the tributary system.[17]In Cyprus, the Phoenician settlement of Kition (in present-day Larnaca) was a city-state that existed from around 800 BC until the end of the 4th century BC.

Some of the most well-known examples of city-state culture in human history are the ancient Greek city-states and the merchant city-states of Renaissance Italy, which organised themselves as small independent centers. The success of small regional units coexisting as autonomous actors in loose geographical and cultural unity, as in Italy and Greece, often prevented their amalgamation into larger national units.[Greek city-states and the merchant city-states of Renaissance Italy, which organised themselves as small independent centers. The success of small regional units coexisting as autonomous actors in loose geographical and cultural unity, as in Italy and Greece, often prevented their amalgamation into larger national units.[citation needed] However, such small political entities often survived only for short periods because they lacked the resources to defend themselves against incursions by larger states (such as Roman conquest of Greece). Thus they inevitably gave way to larger organisations of society, including the empire and the nation-state.[16][need quotation to verify]

In the history of mainland Southeast Asia, aristocratic groups, Buddhist leaders, and others organized settlements into autonomous or semi-autonomous city-states. These were referred to[by whom?] as mueang, and were usually related in a tributary relationship now described[by whom?] as mandala or as over-lapping sovereignty, in which smaller city-states paid tribute to larger ones that paid tribute to still larger ones—until reaching the apex in cities like Ayutthaya, Bagan, Bangkok and others that served as centers of Southeast Asian royalty. The system existed until the 19th century, when colonization by European powers occurred. Siam, a regional power at the time, needed to define their territories for negotiation with the European powers so the Siamese government established a nation-state system, incorporated their tributary cities (Lan Xang, Cambodia and some Malay cities) into their territory and abolished the mueang and the tributary system.[17][need quotation to verify][18][19]

In early Philippine history, the barangay was a complex sociopolitical unit which scholars have historically[20] considered the domi

In early Philippine history, the barangay was a complex sociopolitical unit which scholars have historically[20] considered the dominant organizational pattern among the various peoples of the Philippine archipelago.[21] These sociopolitical units were sometimes also referred to as barangay states, but are more properly referred to using the technical term polity.[21][22] Evidence suggests a considerable degree of independence as city states ruled by Datus, Rajahs and Sultans.[23] Early chroniclers[24] record that the name evolved from the term balangay, which refers to a plank boat widely used by various cultures of the Philippine archipelago prior to the arrival of European colonizers.[21]

In the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) over 80 Free Imperial Cities came to enjoy considerable autonomy in the Middle Ages and in early modern times, buttressed legally by international law following the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. Some, like three of the earlier Hanseatic citiesBremen, Hamburg and Lübeck – pooled their economic relations with foreign powers and were able to wield considerable diplomatic clout. Individual cities often made protective alliances with other cities or with neighbouring regions, including the Hanseatic League (1358 – 17th century), the Swabian League of Cities (1331–1389), the Décapole (1354–1679) in the Alsace, or the Old Swiss Confederacy (c. 1300 – 1798). The Swiss cantons of Zürich, Bern, Lucerne, Fribourg, Solothurn, Basel, Schaffhausen, and Geneva originated as city-states.

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, some cities – then members of different confederacies – officially became sovereign city-states, such as the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (1806–11 and again 1813–71), the Free City of Frankfurt upon Main (1815–66), the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (1806–11 and again 1814–71), the Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck (1806–11 and again 1813–71), and the Free City of Kraków (1815–1846). Under Habsburg rule the city of Fiume had the status of a corpus separatum (1779–1919), which – while falling short of an independent

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, some cities – then members of different confederacies – officially became sovereign city-states, such as the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (1806–11 and again 1813–71), the Free City of Frankfurt upon Main (1815–66), the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (1806–11 and again 1814–71), the Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck (1806–11 and again 1813–71), and the Free City of Kraków (1815–1846). Under Habsburg rule the city of Fiume had the status of a corpus separatum (1779–1919), which – while falling short of an independent sovereignty – had many attributes of a city-state.

In northern Italy during the medieval and Renaissance periods, city-states - with various amounts of associated land - became the standard form of polity, achieving de facto independence from the Holy Roman Empire and from its constituent Kingdom of Italy.

Examples: Republic of Venice, Republic of Genoa, Republic of Amalfi, Republic of Florence, Duchy of Milan, Duchy of Ferrara,[25] San Marino, Papal States, Republic of Pisa.

20th-century cities under international supervision

Danzig