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Is Washington (DC), USA, a city-state?


I ran into a series of questions that claimed there were city-states (civitates) in America. So, now I wonder whether there are indeed any city-states in America.

Would Washington (DC) be a city-state? People in the US always tell me Washington DC doesn't even have enough independence to be one of their fifty first-level divisions. Those would best be referred to as provinces (provinciae); it would seem unlikely that a less independent unit would be a city-state.

So what other city-states would there be in America? Nothing from Canada springs to mind. Mexico? Is Mexico City a city state?

Any other countries in America that have cities of similar status? I recall a city that had intentionally been given a status outside the country's states, though of a similar status, but unfortunately I can't recall the country. Anyone who can help me on this one?

Is Washington DC a civitas? Are there any other cities in America that could be civitates?

September 29, 2019



It's an interesting idea, but I don't think anything in the US is quite like an ancient city state.

San Marino maybe.


However, San Marino is in Europe. Indeed, several of the European mini-nations might qualify. But in this case it's about America. I think the possible one I was thinking of was in one of the capitals west of Brazil. But I agree that it seems likely that nothing, in not just the US, but in the whole of America is like a civitas.


Yes, I hadn't forgotten where San Marino is :), I just thought it was a better fit than any city in the Americas that I'm familiar with.


The closest thing I could compare would be state capitals or perhaps even county capitals. They have relative autonomy over their district, have other towns under their purview. But it's a loose comparison at best.


Hey there, Washington (Vasingtonia in the Latin) would be considered either an urbs (which can refer specifically to a capital of a civitas) or in my opinion, a regio. Italia was divided into regiones which were like mini-provinces. This to me seems like the best description of Washington. Given that Washington itself does not govern any nearby towns or peoples, it doesn't seem to qualify for civitas status.

As far as states being civitates, originally the United States were a band of 13 small countries which joined together under a federation. Basically a European Union but the federal government has a lot more control.


Maybe there are some small islands in the Caribbean Sea to be considered city states?


That's quite a good approach. I'm not sure either, but indeed: An island might explain why a settlement would not have to be extremely large and powerful, and still be the seat of government governing everything else on the island.

OK, I accept that it's possible that there are city-states (civitates) in America.


(In short, Washington, DC is a city) All USA states have Capital cities. For example, the city of Albany is the Capital of New York state. Washington, DC is unique, as it is the Capital of the entire United States (or the Nation's Capital). Like all US cities, Washington, DC has no voting rights in Congress or the Senate. However, the other cities have State representation (can vote on legislation or laws). DC residents have been trying for years to be granted Statehood voting rights...still trying.

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