Doge, the chief magistrate of the Italian republics of Venice and Genoa. The word is from the Italian for “leader.”When the republic of Venice was founded about 697 A.D., a doge was elected by popular vote to rule for life. He was given almost absolute power. Later the doge's power was gradually decreased by appointing councils to advise him, until the actual ruling was done by a select group of rich merchants with the doge as a figurehead. In Genoa, the office of doge was created with the founding of the republic in 1339. The title was abolished, together with the republics, in 1797 by the French army under Napoleon.