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regalian and customary rights, imperial power, Roman law


The struggle between Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and the Lombard League illustrates conflicts between not only imperial and municipal ambitions but also regalian and customary rights. The ability of the emperor to assert and to profit from regalian rights reflected the efficacy of imperial power. Conversely, the power of the Lombard city-states lay in the recognition of the validity of customary rights. While this conflict centers on the differing principles of Roman and "Germanic" law, the present study argues that the purported devotion of Barbarossa to Roman law and of the Italian communes to customary law misrepresents their positions. The Lombards' strongest legal argument came from the principle in Roman law of prescriptive acquisition. The Lombard League ultimately forced the emperor to recognize their claims, yet he did not abandon his claims to the contested regalian rights until the very end of the struggle.