The podestas of some Italian towns, but more especially to the heads of the universities, the representatives and rulers of the universitas magistrorum et scholarium, elected usually for a very short time.
Although the emperor's experiment was short-lived podestas soon became general in northern Italy, making their appearance in most communes about 1200.
There were, moreover, podestas in some of the cities of Provence.
Gradually the podestas became more despotic and more corrupt, and sometimes a special official was appointed to hear complaints against them; in the 13th century in Florence and some other cities a capitano del popolo was chosen to look after the interests of the lower classes.
In other ways also the power of the podestas was reduced; they were confined more and more to judicial functions until they disappeared early in the 16th century.