A city-state is a sovereign state, also described as a type of small
independent country, that usually consists of a single city and its
dependent territories. Historically, this included cities such as
Rome, Athens, Carthage, and the
Italian city-states during the
Renaissance. As of March 2018 only a handful of sovereign city-states
exist, with some disagreement as to which are city-states. A great
deal of consensus exists that the term properly applies currently to
Singapore, Monaco, and Vatican City. City states are also sometimes
called micro-states which however also includes other configurations
of very small countries.
A number of other small states share similar characteristics, and
therefore are sometimes also cited as modern city-states. Namely,
Qatar, Brunei, Kuwait, Bahrain, and
Malta, which each have an urban center comprising a
significant proportion of the population, though all have several
distinct settlements and a designated or de facto capital city.
Occasionally, other small states with high population densities, such
as San Marino, are also cited, despite lacking a large
urban centre characteristic of traditional city-states.
Several non-sovereign cities enjoy a high degree of autonomy, and are
sometimes considered city-states.
Hong Kong and Macau, along with
independent members of the United Arab Emirates, most notably Dubai
and Abu Dhabi, are often cited as such.
1 Historical background
1.1 Ancient and medieval world
1.2 Southeast Asia
1.3 17th to 20th century Europe
1.4 20th century cities under international supervision
2 Modern city-states
2.3 Vatican City
3 Non-sovereign city-states
3.1 Stadtstaaten of Germany
4 See also
6 Further reading
Ancient and medieval world
Further information: List of ancient Greek cities, List of Phoenician
cities, Cities of the ancient Near East, Italian city-states, Maya
city, Polis, and Altepetl
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
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,
Monte Albán); the central Asian cities along the Silk Road; the
city-states of the Swahili coast; Venice; 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.
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
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
Greece, often prevented their amalgamation into larger national
units. However, such small political entities often
survived only for short periods because they lacked the resources to
defend themselves against incursions by larger states. Thus they
inevitably gave way to larger organisations of society, including the
empire and the nation-state.[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
Bangkok and others that served as centers of
Southeast Asian royalty. The system existed until the 19th century,
when colonization by European powers, and Thailand's[Thailand's what?]
(then known as Siam) resulted in the adoption[by whom?] of the modern
concept of statehood.[need quotation to verify]
In early Philippine history, the Barangay was a complex sociopolitical
unit which scholars have historically considered the dominant
organizational pattern among the various peoples of the Philippine
archipelago. These sociopolitical units were sometimes also
referred to as Barangay states, but are more properly referred to
using the technical term "polity, so they are usually simply
called "barangays." Evidence suggests a considerable degree of
independence as "City states" ruled by Datu's , Rajahs and Sultan's.
 Early chroniclers 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
17th to 20th century Europe
Free imperial cities
Free imperial cities in the 18th century
In the Holy Roman
Empire the Free Imperial Cities enjoyed considerable
autonomy, buttressed legally by international law following the Peace
of Westphalia (1648). Some, like the three
Hanseatic cities of Bremen,
Hamburg and Lübeck, pooled their economic relations with foreign
powers and were able to wield considerable diplomatic clout. After the
dissolution of the Holy Roman
Empire in 1806, cities – then
members of different confederacies – officially became
sovereign city-states – such as the Canton of Basel City
(1833–48), the Free Hanseatic City of
Bremen (1806–11 and again
Free City of Frankfurt
Free City of Frankfurt upon Main (1815–66), the
Canton of Geneva
Canton of Geneva (1813–48), 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
Habsburg rule the city of
Fiume had the status of
a Corpus separatum, which - while falling short of an independent
sovereignty - had many attributes of a city state.
A later city-state, though lacking sovereignty, was West Berlin
(1948–1990), being a state legally not belonging to any other state,
but ruled by the Western Allies. They allowed – notwithstanding
their overlordship as occupant powers – its internal
organisation as one state simultaneously being a city, officially
Berlin (West). Though
West Berlin maintained close ties to the
West German Federal
Republic of Germany, it was legally never part of
20th century cities under international supervision
Main article: Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
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 under the terms of Article
100 (Section XI of Part III) of the 1919
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles after
the end of World War I.
Main article: Free State of Fiume
After a prolonged period where the city of
Fiume enjoyed considerable
Habsburg rule (see Corpus separatum (Fiume), The Free
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
Croatia and, since the end of
World War II, known as Rijeka) and rural areas to its north, with a
corridor to its west connecting it to Italy.
Main article: Shanghai International Settlement
Shanghai International Settlement
Shanghai International Settlement (1845–1943) was an
international zone with its own legal system, postal service, and
Tangier International Zone
The international zone within the city of Tangier, in North Africa was
approximately 373 km2 (144 sq mi). It was at first under the
joint administration of France, Spain, and the Great Britain. Which
later became Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and
the United States. The international zone was initially attached to
Morocco. It then became a French-Spanish protectorate from 1923 until
the 29 of October 1956 when it was reintegrated into the state of
Main article: Klaipėda Region
Klaipėda Region or Memel Territory was defined by the Treaty of
Versailles in 1920 when it was put under the administration of the
Council of Ambassadors. The Memel Territory was to remain under the
control of the
League of Nations
League of Nations until a future day when the people of
the region would be allowed to vote on whether the land would return
to Germany or not. The then predominantly ethnic German Memel
Prussian Lithuanians and Memellanders constituted the other
ethnic groups), situated between the river and the town of that name,
was occupied by
Lithuania in the
Klaipėda Revolt of 1923.
Main article: Free Territory of Trieste
Free Territory of Trieste
Free Territory of Trieste was an independent territory situated in
Central Europe between northern
Italy and Yugoslavia, facing the north
part of the Adriatic Sea, under direct responsibility of the United
Nations Security Council in the aftermath of World War II, from 1947
to 1954. The UN attempted to make the
Free Territory of Trieste
Free Territory of Trieste into a
city state, but it never gained real independence and in 1954 its
territory was divided between
Italy and Yugoslavia.
Main article: Corpus separatum (Jerusalem)
United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine
United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine of 1947,
Mandatory Palestine was to be partitioned into three states: a Jewish
state of Israel, an Arab state of Palestine, and a Corpus separatum
(Latin for "separated body") consisting of a Jerusalem city-state
under the control of United Nations Trusteeship Council. Although the
plan had some international support and the UN accepted this proposal
(and still officially holds the stance that Jerusalem should be held
under this regime), implementation of the plan failed as the 1948
Palestine war broke out with the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory
Palestine, ultimately resulting in Jerusalem being split into West
Jerusalem and East Jerusalem.
Israel would eventually gain control of
East Jerusalem in the
Six-Day War in 1967.
Monaco, known for its casino, royalty and scenic harbour
Singapore, modern city-state and island country
Main article: Monaco
The Principality of
Monaco is an independent city-state. Monaco-Ville
(the ancient fortified city) and Monaco's well-known area Monte Carlo
are districts of a continuous urban zone, not distinct cities, though
they were three separate municipalities (communes) until 1917. The
Monaco and the city of
Monaco (each having specific
powers) govern the same territory. Though they maintain a small
military they would still have to rely on France, for defence in the
face of an aggressive world power.
Main article: Singapore
Singapore is an island city-state in Southeast Asia. About 5.2 million
people live and work within 700 square kilometres
(270 sq mi), making
Singapore the 2nd-most-densely populated
country in the world after Monaco, another city-state.
Malaysia before it was expelled from the
Federation in 1965,
becoming an independent republic, a city and a sovereign country with
its own armed forces for deterrence and to safeguard the nation's
sovereignty against potential aggressors.
The Economist refers to the
nation as the "world's only fully functioning city-state".
Vatican City, a city-state well known for being the smallest country
in the world
Main article: Vatican City
Until 1870, the city of
Rome had been controlled by the pope as part
of his Papal States. When King Victor Emmanuel II seized the city in
Pope Pius IX refused to recognize the newly formed Kingdom of
Because he could not travel without effectively acknowledging the
authority of the king, Pius IX and his successors each claimed to be a
"Prisoner in the Vatican", unable to leave the 0.44 km2
(0.17 sq mi) papal enclave once they had ascended the papal
The impasse was resolved in 1929 by the
Lateran Treaties negotiated by
the Italian dictator
Benito Mussolini between King Victor Emmanuel III
Pope Pius XI. Under this treaty, the Vatican was recognized as an
independent state, with the
Pope as its head. The
Vatican City State
has its own citizenship, diplomatic corps, flag, and postage stamps.
With a population of less than 1,000 (mostly clergymen), it is by far
the smallest sovereign country in the world.
Hong Kong, the world's most populous city-state
Some cities or urban areas, while not sovereign states, may
nevertheless enjoy such a high degree of autonomy that they function
as "city-states" within the context of the sovereign state that they
belong to. Historian
Mogens Herman Hansen describes this aspect of
self-government as: "The city-state is a self-governing, but not
necessarily independent political unit."
Hong Kong and
Gibraltar (United Kingdom)
Stadtstaaten of Germany
Two cities in Germany, namely
Berlin and Hamburg, are considered
city-states (German: Stadtstaaten). Additionally, the state of Bremen
is often called a city-state although it consists of the two cities of
Bremen and Bremerhaven, which are separated by the state of Lower
Saxony. Together with thirteen area states (German: Flächenländer)
they form the sixteen federal states of Germany.
Generally, the city-states have no other rights or duties than the
other states. Through the financial redistribution system of
Equalization Payments in Germany
Equalization Payments in Germany (German: Länderfinanzausgleich),
they do receive more money because of their demographic
characteristics. The city-states are most distinctive due to the names
of their state organs: their governments are called Senate, the prime
ministers 'mayor' (Governing Mayor in
Berlin and First Mayor in
Hamburg) or President of the Senate (in Bremen) and also the
expressions for their state parliaments differ from the other states.
In the 18th century many German cities were free imperial cities
(German: Reichsstädte), without a principality between them and the
imperial level. After the Napoleonic era, in 1815, four were still
Bremen and Lübeck in Northern Germany, and
Frankfurt where the Federal Convention was located. Frankfurt was
incorporated by Prussia in 1866, and Lübeck became a part of Prussia
during the national socialist regime in 1937 (Greater
Berlin was a divided city, and the Western part became a
quasi German state under (Western) Allied supervision. Since
1990/1991, the reunited
Berlin is an ordinary German state among
Altepetl, a Mesoamerican political unit similar to a city state
List of fictional city-states in literature
Free imperial city
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