The emergence of the Italian city communes in the 12th century is one of the topics that has always attracted political scientists. And rightly so, because it is the often-cited example in classical political theory of the transition away from aristocratic rule and into a partial democracy as represented by the consuls. Plus it is one of the few topics that allow a scholar to write this kind of paragraph:
It has not been stressed by most historians that so many of the Milanese political leadership had surnames beginning Caga- or Caca-, that is to say ‘shit.’ The niceties of earlier generations of scholarship led them to neglect this […]; but it was certainly important for Milanese identity and self-representation. […] Cagapisto [family that provided several iudices] probably means ‘shit-pesto’ […]. In the case of the two brothers Gregorio and Guilielmo Cacainarca, again both iudices and active consuls between 1143 and 1187, their surname means ‘shit-in-a-box.’ That of Arderico Cagainosa, consul in 1140 and 1144, means ‘shit-in-your-pants.’ Other prominent families included the Cagalenti, ‘shit-slowly,’ the Cacainbasilica, ‘shit-in-the-church,’ the Cacarana, ‘shit-a-frog,’ the Cagatosici, ‘toxic-shit,’ and there were many more. […] The earthy sensibility shown by local naming, I would go so far to say, is one of the major Milanese contributions to the ‘civic’ culture of the twelfth century.
History is fascinating.
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