Reintroducing the emperor and repositioning the city republics in the ‘republican’ thought of the rhetorician Boncompagno da Signa


  • The author would like to thank Emma Beddoe, Tom Brown, Teresa Shawcross and Peter Stacey for their comments and suggestions on early drafts of this article.


This article reconsiders the political thought of Boncompagno da Signa in the light of his overlooked praise for the Holy Roman Emperor and his equally overlooked criticism of the city republics. It argues that, rather than just supporting the city republics, he addressed kingship, backing constitutional monarchy and the rule of law. This is contextualized in the aftermath of the peace of Constance, and similarities with the views of contemporary jurists are examined, underlining neglected contractual aspects in their theories of government and the use of the ius Italicum to justify the prerogatives of the Italian cities within the Empire. Finally, connections with the sixth canto of Dante's Purgatory are emphasized.