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Capital (political)


A capital city (or simply capital) is the municipality exercising primary status in a country, state, province, or other region, usually as its seat of government. A capital is typically a city that physically encompasses the offices and meeting places of its respective government; the status as capital is often designated by its law or constitution. In some jurisdictions, including several countries, the different branches of government are located in different settlements. In some cases, a distinction is made between the official (constitutional) capital and the seat of government, which is in another place.

The word capital derives from the Latin caput, meaning "head".

In several English-speaking states, the terms county town, county seat, and borough seat are also used in lower subdivisions. In unitary states, subnational capitals are commonly known as "administrative centres".

An alternative term is headtown. The capital is often, but not necessarily, the largest city of its constituent.

Historically, the major economic centre of a state or region often becomes the focal point of political power, and becomes a capital through conquest or federation. (The modern capital city has, however, not always existed: in medieval Western Europe, a migrating form of government was more common - the itinerant court.) Examples are Ancient Babylon, Abbasid Baghdad, Ancient Athens, Rome, Constantinople, Chang'an, Ancient Cusco, Madrid, Paris, London, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, Vienna, and Berlin. The capital city naturally attracts politically motivated people and those whose skills are needed for efficient administration of national or imperial governments, such as lawyers, political scientists, bankers, journalists, and public policy makers. Some of these cities are or were also religious centres, e.g. Constantinople (more than one religion), Rome (the Roman Catholic Church), Jerusalem (more than one religion), Ancient Babylon, Moscow (the Russian Orthodox Church), Belgrade (the Serbian Orthodox Church), Paris, and Peking.


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