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During the Lombard period Florence belonged to the Duchy of Chiusi; after the absorption of the Lombard kingdom by Charlemagne, who spent at Florence the Christmas of 786, it was the residence of a count whose overlord was margrave of Tuscany.In the two centuries of conflict between the popes and the emperors over the feudal legacy of Countess Matilda (d.Up to 1249 the two factions fought on sight; in that year Emperor Frederick II , who wished to have Florence on his side in his struggle with the papacy, sent the Uberti reinforcements of German mercenaries with whose aid they drove out the Buondelmonti and so many of their followers that the Guelph party was completely routed.The Ghibellines straightway established an aristocratic government but retained the podestà . Sulla destroyed it because it supported the democratic party at Rome. It served then as a military post and commanded the ford of the Arno. it was rebuilt by Cæsar at a short distance from its original site. The city is situated on the Arno in a fertile plain at the foot of the Fiesole hills, whence came its first inhabitants (about 200 B. Besieged and probably captured by Totila (541), it was retaken (552) by the Byzantine general Narses.
During this period Florence stood always for the papacy, knowing well that it was thus ensuring its own liberty.A broken engagement between one of the Buondelmonti and a daughter of the house of Amidei, and the killing of the young man, were the causes of a fierce civil strife in 1215 an long after.Some sided with the Buondelmonti and the Donati, who were Guelphs ; others sympathized with the Amidei and the Uberti, who were Ghibellines.In 1113 the Florentines, never partial to the German Emperors, rose against the imperial vicar in Florence.The first public meeting of the townsfolk which paved the way for the establishment of the "Commune" was convened by Bishop Ranieri in 1105.
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After the introduction of a podestà it was exercised by the priors of the chief guilds (the artes majores ), seven in number (carpenters, wool-weavers, skinners, tanners, tailors, shoemakers, and farriers), to which were afterwards added the fourteen lesser guilds (the judges, the notaries-public, doctors, money-changers, and others).