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Career of Charlemagne, by Guizot, Francois P. G.

Life of Charlemagne

World History Center

Holy Roman Empire, The
Book: Chapter IX: Saxon And Franconian Emperors.
Author: Bryce, James
Date: 1901

Page Ten

Chapter IX: Saxon And Franconian Emperors.

Saxon And Franconian Emperors.

He who begins to read the history of the Middle Ages is alternately
amused and provoked by the seeming absurdities that meet him at every step. He
finds writers proclaiming amidst universal assent magnificent theories which
no one attempts to carry out. He sees men who are stained with every vice
full of sincere devotion to a religion which, even when its doctrines were
most obscured, never sullied the purity of its moral teaching. He is disposed
to conclude that such people must have been either fools or hypocrites. Yet
such a conclusion would be wholly erroneous. Every one knows how little a
man's actions conform to the general maxims which he would lay down for
himself, and how many things there are which he believes without realizing:
believes sufficiently to be influenced, yet not sufficiently to be governed by
them. Now in the Middle Ages this perpetual opposition of theory and practice
was peculiarly abrupt. Men's impulses were more violent and their conduct
more reckless than is often witnessed in modern society; while the absence of
a criticizing and measuring spirit made them surrender their minds more
unreservedly than they would now do to a complete and imposing theory.
Therefore it was, that while everyone believed in the rights of the Empire as
a part of divine truth, no one would yield to them where his own passions or
interests interfered. Resistance to God's Vicar might be and indeed was
admitted to be a deadly sin, but it was one which nobody hesitated to commit.
Hence, in order to give this unbounded imperial prerogative any practical
efficiency, it was found necessary to prop it up by the limited but tangible
authority of a feudal king. And the one spot in Otto's empire on which
feudality had never fixed its grasp, and where therefore he was forced to rule
merely as Emperor, and not also as king, was that in which he and his
successors were never safe from insult and revolt. That spot was his capital.
Accordingly an account of what befel the first Saxon Emperor in Rome is a not
unfitting comment on the theory expounded above, as well as a curious episode
in the history of the Apostolic Chair.

After his coronation Otto had returned to North Italy, where the
partizans of Berengar and his son Adalbert still maintained themselves in
arms. Scarcely was he gone when the restless John the Twelfth, who found too
late that in seeking an ally he had given himself a master, renounced his
allegiance, opened negotiations with Berengar, and even scrupled not to send
envoys pressing the heathen Magyars to invade Germany. The Emperor was soon
informed of these plots, as well as of the flagitious life of the pontiff, a
youth of twenty-five, the most profligate if not the most guilty of all who
have worn the tiara. But he affected to despise them, saying, with a sort of
unconscious irony, 'He is a boy, the example of good men may reform him.'
When, however, Otto returned with a strong force, he found the city gates
shut, and a party within furious against him. John the Twelfth was not only
Pope, but as the heir of Alberic, the head of a strong faction among the
nobles, and a sort of temporal prince in the city. But neither he nor they
had courage enough to stand a siege: John fled into the Campagna to join
Adalbert, and Otto entering convoked a synod in St. Peter's. Himself
presiding as temporal head of the Church, he began by inquiring into the
character and manners of the Pope. At once a tempest of accusations burst
forth from the assembled clergy. Liudprand, a credible although a hostile
witness, gives us a long list of them: - 'Peter, cardinal-priest, rose and
witnessed that he had seen the Pope celebrate mass and not himself
communicate. John, bishop of Narnia, and John, cardinal-deacon, declared that
they had seen him ordain a deacon in a stable, neglecting the proper
formalities. They said further that he had defiled by shameless acts of vice
the pontifical palace; that he had openly diverted himself with hunting; had
put out the eyes of his spiritual father Benedict; had set fire to houses; had
girt himself with a sword, and put on a helmet and hauberk. All present,
laymen as well as priests, cried out that he had drunk to the devil's health;
that in throwing the dice he had invoked the help of Jupiter, Venus, and other
demons; that he had celebrated matins at uncanonical hours, and had not
fortified himself by making the sign of the cross.' After these things the
Emperor, who could not speak Latin, since the Romans could not understand his
native, that is to say, the Saxon tongue, bade Liudprand bishop of Cremona
interpret for him, and adjured the council to declare whether the charges they
had brought were true, or sprang only of malice and envy. Then all the clergy
and people cried with a loud voice, 'If John the Pope hath not committed all
the crimes which Benedict the deacon hath read over, and even greater crimes
than these, then may the chief of the Apostles, the blessed Peter, who by his
word closes heaven to the unworthy and opens it to the just, never absolve us
from our sins, but may we be bound by the chain of anathema, and on the last
day may we stand on the left hand along with those who have said to the Lord
God, "Depart from us, for we will not know Thy ways."'

The solemnity of this answer seems to have satisfied Otto and the
council: a letter was despatched to John, couched in respectful terms,
recounting the charges brought against him, and asking him to appear to clear
himself by his own oath and that of a sufficient number of compurgators.
John's reply was short and pithy.

'John the bishop, the servant of the servants of God, to all the bishops.
We have heard tell that you wish to set up another Pope: if you do this, by
Almighty God I excommunicate you, so that you may not have power to perform
mass or to ordain no one ^1.'

[Footnote 1: 'Iohannes episcopus, servus servorum Dei, omnibus episcopis. Nos
audivimus dicere quia vos vultis alium papam facere: si hoc facitis, da Deum
omnipotentem excommunico vos, ut non habeatis licentiam missam celebrare aut
nullum ordinare.' - Liudprand, ut supra. The 'da' is curious, as shewing the
progress of the change from Latin to Italian. The answer sent by Otto and the
council takes exception to the double negative.]

To this Otto and the synod replied by a letter of humorous expostulation,
begging the Pope to reform both his morals and his Latin. But the messenger
who bore it could not find John: he had repeated what seems to have been
thought his most heinous sin, by going into the country with his bow and
arrows; and after a search had been made in vain, the synod resolved to take a
decisive step. Otto, who still led their deliberations, demanded the
condemnation of the Pope; the assembly deposed him by acclamation, 'because of
his reprobate life,' and having obtained the Emperor's consent, proceeded in
an equally hasty manner to raise Leo, the chief secretary and a layman, to the
chair of the Apostle.

Otto might seem to have now reached a position loftier and firmer than
that of any of his predecessors. Within little more than a year from his
arrival in Rome, he had exercised powers greater than those of Charles
himself, ordering the dethronement of one pontiff and the installation of
another, forcing a reluctant people to bend themselves to his will. The
submission involved in his oath to protect the Holy See was more than
compensated by the oath of allegiance to his crown which the Pope and the
Romans had taken, and by their solemn engagement not to elect nor ordain any
future pontiff without the Emperor's consent ^1. But he had yet to learn what
this obedience and these oaths were worth. The Romans had eagerly joined in
the expulsion of John; they soon began to regret him. They were mortified to
see their streets filled by a foreign soldiery, the habitual licence of their
manners sternly repressed, their most cherished privilege, the right of
choosing the universal bishop, grasped by the strong hand of a master who used
it for purposes in which they did not sympathize. In a fickle and turbulent
people, disaffection quickly turned to rebellion. One night, Otto's troops
being most of them dispersed in their quarters at a distance, the Romans rose
in arms, blocked up the Tiber bridges, and fell furiously upon the Emperor and
his creature the new Pope. Superior valour and constancy triumphed over
numbers, and the Romans were overthrown with terrible slaughter; yet this
lesson did not prevent them from revolting a second time, after Otto's
departure in pursuit of Adalbert. John the Twelfth returned to the city, and
when his pontifical career was speedily closed by the sword of an injured
husband ^2, the people chose a new Pope in defiance of the Emperor and his
nominee. Otto again subdued and again forgave them, but when they rebelled
for a third time, in A.D. 966, he resolved to shew them what imperial
supremacy meant. Thirteen leaders, among them the twelve tribunes, were
executed, the consuls were banished, republican forms entirely suppressed, the
government of the city entrusted to Pope Leo as viceroy. He, too, must not
presume on the sacredness of his person to set up any claims to independence.
Otto regarded the pontiff as no more than the first of his subjects, the
creature of his own will, the depositary of an authority which must be
exercised according to the discretion of his sovereign. The citizens had
yielded to the Emperor an absolute veto on papal elections in A.D. 963. Otto
obtained from his nominee, Leo VIII, a confirmation of this privilege, which
it was afterwards supposed that Hadrian I had granted to Charles, in a decree
which may yet be read in the collections of the canon law ^3. The vigorous
exercise of such a power might be expected to reform as well as to restrain
the apostolic see; and it was for this purpose, and in noble honesty, that the
Teutonic sovereigns employed it. But the fortunes of Otto in the city are a
type of those which his successors were destined to experience.
Notwithstanding their clear rights and the momentary enthusiasm with which
they were greeted in Rome, not all the efforts of Emperor after Emperor could
gain any firm hold on the capital they were so proud of. Visiting it only once
or twice in their reigns, they must be supported among a fickle populace by a
large army of strangers, which melted away with terrible rapidity under the
sun of Italy amid the deadly hollows of the Campagna ^4. Rome soon resumed
her turbulent independence.

[Footnote 1: 'Cives fidelitatem promittunt haec addentes et firmiter iurantes
nunquam se papam electuros aut ordinaturos praeter consensum atque electionem
domini imperatoris Ottonis Caesaris Augusti filiique ipsius Ottonis.' -
Liudprand, Gesta Ottonis, lib. vi.]

[Footnote 2: 'In timporibus adeo a dyabulo est percussus ut infra dierum octo
spacium eodem sit in vulnere mortuus,' says the chronicler, crediting with but
little of his wonted cleverness the supposed author of John's death, who well
might have desired a long life for so useful a servant.

He adds a detail too characteristic of the time to be omitted - 'Sed
eucharistiae viaticum, ipsius instinctu qui eum percusserat, non percepit.']

[Footnote 3: Corpus Iuris Canonici, Dist. lxiii., 'In synodo.' A decree which
is probably substantially genuine, although the form in which we have it is
evidently of later date.]

[Footnote 4: Cf. St. Peter Damiani's lines -

'Roma vorax hominum domat ardua colla virorum,
Roma ferax febrium necis est uberrima frugum,
Romanae febres stabili sunt iure fideles.']

Causes partly the same prevented the Saxon princes from gaining a firm
footing throughout Italy. Since Charles the Bald had bartered away for the
crown all that made it worth having, no Emperor had exercised substantial
authority there. The missi dominici had ceased to traverse the country; the
local governors had thrown off control, a crowd of petty potentates had
established principalities by aggressions on their weaker neighbours. Only in
the dominions of great nobles, like the marquis of Tuscany and duke of
Spoleto, and in some of the cities where the supremacy of the bishop was
paving the way for a republican system, could traces of political order be
found, or the arts of peace flourish. Otto, who, though he came as a
conqueror, ruled legitimately as Italian king, found his feudal vassals less
submissive than in Germany. While actually present he succeeded by progresses
and edicts, and stern justice, in doing something to still the turmoil; on his
departure Italy relapsed into that disorganization for which her natural
features are not less answerable than the mixture of her races. Yet it was at
this era, when the confusion was wildest, that there appeared the first
rudiments of an Italian nationality, based partly on geographical position,
partly on the use of a common language and the slow growth of peculiar customs
and modes of thought. But though already jealous of the Tedescan, national
feeling was still very far from disputing his sway. Pope, princes, and cities
bowed to Otto as king and Emperor; nor did he bethink himself of crushing
while it was weak a sentiment whose development threatened the existence of
his empire. Holding Italy equally for his own with Germany, and ruling both
on the same principles, he was content to keep it a separate kingdom, neither
changing its institutions nor sending Saxons, as Charles had sent Franks, to
represent his government ^1.

[Footnote 1: There was a separate chancellor for Italy, as afterwards for the
kingdom of Burgundy.]

The lofty claims which Otto acquired with the Roman crown urged him to
resume the plans of foreign conquest which had lain neglected since the days
of Charles: the growing vigour of the Teutonic people, now definitely
separating themselves from surrounding races (this is the era of the Marks -
Brandenburg, Meissen, Schleswig), placed in his hands a force to execute those
plans which his predecessors had wanted. In this, as in his other
enterprises, the great Emperor was active, wise, successful. Retaining the
extreme south of Italy, and unwilling to confess the loss of Rome, the Greeks
had not ceased to annoy her German masters by intrigue, and might now, under
the vigorous leadership of Nicephorus and Tzimiskes, hope again to menace them
in arms. Policy, and the fascination which an ostentatiously legitimate court
exercised over the Saxon stranger, made Otto, as Napoleon wooed Maria Louisa,
seek for his heir the hand of the princess Theophano. Liudprand's account of
his embassy represents in an amusing manner the rival pretensions of the old
and new Empires ^1. The Greeks, who fancied that with the name they preserved
the character and rights of Rome, held it almost as absurd as it was wicked
that a Frank should insult their prerogative by reigning in Italy as Emperor.
They refused him that title altogether; and when the Pope had, in a letter
addressed 'Imperatori Graecorum,' asked Nicephorus to gratify the wishes of
the Emperor of the Romans, the Eastern was furious. 'You are no Romans,' said
he, 'but wretched Lombards: what means this insolent Pope? with Constantine
all Rome migrated hither.' The wily bishop appeased him by abusing the Romans,
while he insinuated that Byzantium could lay no claim to their name, and
proceeded to vindicate the Francia and Saxonia of his master. '"Roman" is the
most contemptuous name we can use - it conveys the reproach of every vice,
cowardice, falsehood, avarice. But what can be expected from the descendants
of the fratricide Romulus? to his asylum were gathered the offscourings of the
nations.' Nicephorus demanded the 'theme' or province of Rome as the price of
compliance ^2; Tzimiskes was more moderate, and Theophano became the bride of
Otto II.

[Footnote 1: Liudprand, Legatio Constantinopolitana.]

[Footnote 2: 'Sancti imperii nostri olim servos principes, Beneventanum
scilicet, tradat,' &c. The epithet is worth noticing.]

Holding the two capitals of Charles the Great, Otto might vindicate the
suzerainty over the West Frankish kingdom which it had been meant that the
imperial title should carry with it. Arnulf had asserted it by making Eudes,
the first Capetian king, receive the crown as his feudatory: Henry the Fowler
had been less successful. Otto pursued the same course, intriguing with the
discontented nobles of Louis d'Outremer, and receiving their fealty as
Superior of Roman Gaul. These pretensions, however, could have been made
effective only by arms, and the feudal militia of the tenth century was no
such instrument of conquest as the hosts of Clovis and Charles had been. The
star of the Carolingian of Laon was paling before the rising greatness of the
Parisian Capets: a Romano-Keltic nation had formed itself, distinct in tongue
from the Franks, whom it was fast absorbing, and still less willing to submit
to a Saxon stranger. Modern France ^1 dates from the accession of Hugh Capet,
A.D. 987, and the claims of the Roman Empire were never afterwards formally
admitted.

[Footnote 1: Liudprand calls the Eastern Franks 'Franci Teutonici' to
distinguish them from the Romanized Franks of Gaul or 'Francigenae' as they
were frequently called. The name 'Frank' seems even so early as the tenth
century to have been used in the East as a general name for the Western
peoples of Europe. Liudprand says that the Greek Emperor included 'sub
Francorum nomine tam Latinos quam Teutonicos.' Probably this use dates from
the time of Charles.]

Of that France, however, Aquitaine was virtually independent. Lotharingia
and Burgundy belonged to it as little as did England. The former of these
kingdoms had adhered to the West Frankish king, Charles the Simple, against
the East Frankish Conrad: but now, as mostly German in blood and speech, threw
itself into the arms of Otto, and was thenceforth an integral part of the
Empire. Burgundy, a separate kingdom, had, by seeking from Charles the Fat a
ratification of Boso's election, by admitting, in the person of Rudolf the
first Transjurane king, the feudal superiority of Arnulf, acknowledged itself
to be dependent on the German crown. Otto governed it for thirty years,
nominally as the guardian of the young king Conrad (son of Rudolf II).

Otto's conquests to the North and East approved him a worthy successor of
the first Emperor. He penetrated far into Jutland, annexed Schleswig, made
Harold the Blue-toothed his vassal. The Slavic tribes were obliged to submit,
to follow the German host in war, to allow the free preaching of the Gospel in
their borders. The Hungarians he forced to forsake their nomad life, and
delivered Europe from the fear of Asiatic invasions by strengthening the
frontier of Austria. Over more distant lands, Spain and England, it was not
possible to recover the commanding position of Charles. Henry, as head of the
Saxon name, may have wished to unite its branches on both sides the sea ^1,
and it was perhaps partly with this intent that he gained for Otto the hand of
Edith, sister of the English Athelstan. But the claim of supremacy, if any
there was, was repudiated by Edgar, when, exaggerating the lofty style assumed
by some of his predecessors, he called himself 'Basileus and imperator of
Britain ^2,' thereby seeming to pretend to a sovereignty over all the nations
of the island similar to that which the Roman Emperor claimed over the states
of Christendom.

[Footnote 1: Conring, De Finibus Imperii.]

[Footnote 2: Basileus was a favourite title of the English kings before the
Conquest. Titles like this used in these early English charters prove, it
need hardly be said, absolutely nothing as to the real existence of any rights
or powers of the English king beyond his own borders. What they do prove
(over and above the taste for florid rhetoric in the royal clerks) is the
impression produced by the imperial style, and by the idea of the Emperor's
throne as supported by the thrones of kings and other lesser potentates, See
hereon Freeman, Hist. of Norm. Conquest, vol. i. ch. 3, Section 4; who
however surely draws from the use of such titles in England conclusions graver
than they warrant.]

This restored Empire, which professed itself a continuation of the
Carolingian, was in many respects different. It was less wide, including, if
we reckon strictly, only Germany proper and two-thirds of Italy; or counting
in subject but separate kingdoms, Burgundy, Bohemia, Moravia, Poland, Denmark,
perhaps Hungary. Its character was less ecclesiastical. Otto exalted indeed
the spiritual potentates of his realm, and was earnest in spreading
Christianity among the heathen: he was master of the Pope and Defender of the
Holy Roman Church. But religion held a less important place in his mind and
his administration: he made fewer wars for its sake, held no councils, and did
not, like his predecessor, criticize the discourses of bishops. It was also
less Roman. We do not know whether Otto associated with that name anything
more than the right to universal dominion and a certain oversight of matters
spiritual, nor how far he believed himself to be treading in the steps of the
Caesars. He could not speak Latin, he had few learned men around him, he
cannot have possessed the varied cultivation which had been so fruitful in the
mind of Charles, Moreover, the conditions of his time were different, and did
not permit similar attempts at wide organization. The local potentates would
have submitted to no missi dominici; separate laws and jurisdictions would not
have yielded to imperial capitularies; the placita at which those laws were
framed or published would not have been crowded, as of yore, by armed freemen.
But what Otto could he did, and did it to good purpose. Constantly traversing
his dominions, he introduced a peace and prosperity before unknown, and left
everywhere the impress of an heroic character. Under him the Germans became
not only a united nation, but were at once raised on a pinnacle among European
peoples as the imperial race, the possessors of Rome and Rome's authority.
While the political connection with Italy stirred their spirit, it brought
with it a knowledge and culture hitherto unknown, and gave the newly-kindled
energy an object. Germany became in her turn the instructress of the
neighbouring tribes, who trembled at Otto's sceptre; Poland and Bohemia
received from her their arts and their learning with their religion. If the
revived Romano-Germanic Empire was less splendid than the Empire of the West
had been under Charles, it was, within narrower limits, firmer and more
lasting, since based on a social force which the other had wanted. It
perpetuated the name, the language, the literature, such as it then was, of
Rome; it extended her spiritual sway; it strove to represent that
concentration for which men cried, and became a power to unite and civilize
Europe.

The time of Otto the Great has required a fuller treatment, as the era of
the Holy Empire's foundation: succeeding rulers may be more quickly dismissed.
Yet Otto III's reign cannot pass unnoticed: short, sad, full of bright promise
never fulfilled. His mother was the Greek princess Theophano; his preceptor,
the illustrious Gerbert; through the one he felt himself connected with the
old Empire, and had imbibed the absolutism of Byzantium: by the other he had
been reared in the dream of a renovated Rome, with her memories turned to
realities. To accomplish that renovation, who so fit as he who with the
vigorous blood of the Teutonic conqueror inherited the venerable rights of
Constantinople? It was his design, now that the solemn millennial era of the
founding of Christianity had arrived, to renew the majesty of the city and
make her again the capital of a world-embracing Empire, victorious as
Trajan's, despotic as Justinian's, holy as Constantine's. His young and
visionary mind was too much dazzled by the gorgeous fancies it created to see
the world as it was: Germany rude, Italy unquiet, Rome corrupt and faithless.
In A.D. 995, at the age of fifteen, he took from his grandmother's hands the
reins of government, and entered Italy to receive his crown, and quell the
turbulence of Rome. There he put to death the rebel Crescentius, in whom
modern enthusiasm has seen a patriotic republican, who, reviving the
institutions of Alberic, had ruled as consul or senator, sometimes entitling
himself Emperor. The young monarch reclaimed, perhaps extended, the privilege
of Charles and Otto the Great, by nominating successive pontiffs: first Bruno
his cousin (Gregory V), then Gerbert, whose name of Sylvester II recalled
significantly the ally of Constantine: Gerbert, to his contemporaries a marvel
of piety and learning, in later legend the magician who, at the price of his
own soul, purchased preferment from the Enemy, and by him was at last carried
off in the body. With the substitution of these men for the profligate
priests of Italy, began that Teutonic reform of the Papacy which raised it
from the abyss of the tenth century to the point where Hildebrand found it.
The Emperors were working the ruin of their power by their most disinterested
acts.

With his tutor on Peter's chair to second or direct him, Otto laboured on
his great project in a spirit almost mystic. He had an intense religious
belief in the Emperor's duties to the world - in his proclamations he calls
himself 'Servant of the Apostles,' 'Servant of Jesus Christ ^1' - together
with the ambitious antiquarianism of a fiery imagination, kindled by the
memorials of the glory and power he represented. Even the wording of his laws
witnesses to the strange mixture of notions that filled his eager brain. 'We
have ordained this,' says an edict, 'in order that, the Church of God being
freely and firmly stablished, our Empire may be advanced and the crown of our
knighthood triumph; that the power of the Roman people may be extended and the
commonwealth be restored; so may we be found worthy after living righteously
in the tabernacle of this world, to fly away from the prison of this life and
reign most righteously with the Lord.' To exclude the claims of the Greeks he
used the title 'Romanorum Imperator' instead of the simple 'Imperator' of his
predecessors. His seals bear a legend resembling that used by Charles,
'Renovatio Imperii Romanorum;' even the 'commonwealth,' despite the results
that name had produced under Alberic and Crescentius, was to be reestablished.
He built a palace on the Aventine, then the most healthy and beautiful quarter
of the city; he devised a regular administrative system of government for his
capital - naming a patrician, a prefect, and a body of judges, who were
commanded to recognize no law but Justinian's. The formula of their
appointment has been preserved to us: in it the Emperor delivering to the
judge a copy of the code bids him 'with this code judge Rome and the Leonine
city and the whole world.' He introduced into the simple German court the
ceremonious magnificence of Byzantium, not without giving offence to many of
his followers ^2. His father's wish to draw Italy and Germany more closely
together, he followed up by giving the chancellorship of both countries to the
same churchman, by maintaining a strong force of Germans in Italy, and by
taking his Italian retinue with him through the Transalpine lands. How far
these brilliant and far-reaching plans were capable of realization, had their
author lived to attempt it, can be but guessed at. It is reasonable to
suppose that whatever power he might have gained in the South he would have
lost in the North. Dwelling rarely in Germany, and in sympathies more a Greek
than a Teuton, he reined in the fierce barons with no such tight hand as his
grandfather had been wont to do; he neglected the schemes of northern
conquest; he released the Polish dukes from the obligation of tribute. But
all, save that those plans were his, is now no more than conjecture, for Otto
III, 'the wonder of the world,' as his own generation called him, died
childless on the threshold of manhood; the victim, if we may trust a story of
the time, of the revenge of Stephania, widow of Crescentius, who ensnared him
by her beauty, and slew him by a lingering poison. They carried him across
the Alps with laments whose echoes sound faintly yet from the pages of monkish
chroniclers, and buried him in the choir of the basilica at Aachen some fifty
paces from the tomb of Charles beneath the central dome. Two years had not
passed since, setting out on his last journey to Rome, he had opened that
tomb, had gazed on the great Emperor, sitting on a marble throne, robed and
crowned, with the Gospel-book open before him; and there, touching the dead
hand, unclasping from the neck its golden cross, had taken, as it were, an
investiture of Empire from his Frankish forerunner. Short as was his life and
few his acts, Otto III is in one respect more memorable than any who went
before or came after him. None save he desired to make the seven-hilled city
again the seat of dominion, reducing Germany and Lombardy and Greece to their
rightful place of subject provinces. Non one else so forgot the present to
live in the light of the ancient order; no other soul was so possessed by that
fervid mysticism and that reverence for the glories of the past, whereon
rested the idea of the mediaeval Empire.

[Footnote 1: Proclamation in Pertz, M.G.H. ii.]

[Footnote 2: 'Imperator antiquam Romanorum consuetudinem iam ex magna parte
deletam suis cupiens renovare temporibus multa faciebat quae diversi diverse
sentiebant.' - Thietmar, Chron. ix. ap. Pertz, M.G.H. iii.]

The direct line of Otto the Great had now ended, and though the Franks
might elect and the Saxons accept Henry II ^1, Italy was nowise affected by
their acts. Neither the Empire nor the Lombard kingdom could as yet be of
right claimed by the German king. Her princes placed Ardoin, marquis of
Ivrea, on the vacant throne of Pavia, moved partly by the growing aversion to
a Transalpine power, still more by the desire of impunity under a monarch
feebler than any since Berengar. But the selfishness that had exalted Ardoin
soon over-threw him. Ere long a party among the nobles, seconded by the Pope,
invited Henry ^2; his strong army made opposition hopeless, and at Rome he
received the imperial crown, A.D. 1014. It is, perhaps, more singular that
the Transalpine kings should have clung so pertinaciously to Italian
sovereignty than that the Lombards should have so frequently attempted to
recover their independence. For the former had often little or no hereditary
claim, they were not secure in their seat at home, they crossed a huge
mountain barrier into a land of treachery and hatred. But Rome's glittering
lure was irresistible, and the disunion of Italy promised an easy conquest.
Surrounded by martial vassals, these Emperors were generally for the moment
supreme: once their pennons had disappeared in the gorges of Tyrol, things
reverted to their former condition, and Tuscany was little more dependent than
France. In Southern Italy the Greek viceroy ruled from Bari, and Rome was an
outpost instead of the centre of Teutonic power. A curious evidence of the
wavering politics of the time is furnished by the Annals of Benevento, the
Lombard town which on the confines of the Greek and Roman realms gave steady
obedience to neither. They usually date by and recognize the princes of
Constantinople ^3, seldom mentioning the Franks, till the reign of Conrad II;
after him the Western becomes Imperator, the Greek, appearing more rarely, is
Imperator Constantinopolitanus. Assailed by the Saracens, masters already of
Sicily, these regions seemed on the eve of being lost to Christendom, and the
Romans sometimes bethought themselves of returning under the Byzantine
sceptre. As the weakness of the Greeks in the South favoured the rise of the
Norman kingdom, so did the liberties of the northern cities shoot up in the
absence of the Emperors and the feuds of the princes. Milan, Pavia, Cremona,
were only the foremost among many populous centres of industry, some of them
self-governing, all quickly absorbing or repelling the rural nobility, and not
afraid to display by tumults their aversion to the Germans.

[Footnote 1: Annales Quedlinb., ad ann. 1002.]

[Footnote 2: Henry had already entered Italy in 1004.]

[Footnote 3: Annales Beneventani, in Pertz, M. G. H.]

The reign of Conrad II, the first monarch of the great Franconian line,
is remarkable for the accession to the Empire of Burgundy, or, as it is after
this time more often called, the kingdom of Arles ^1. Rudolf III the last
king, had proposed to bequeath it to Henry II, and the states were at length
persuaded to consent to its reunion to the crown from which it had been
separated, though to some extent dependent, since the death of Lothar I (son
of Lewis the Pious). On Rudolf's death in 1032, Eudes, count of Champagne,
endeavoured to seize it, and entered the north-western districts, from which
he was dislodged by Conrad with some difficulty. Unlike Italy, it became an
integral member of the Germanic realm: its prelates and nobles sat in imperial
diets, and retained till recently the style and title of Princes of the Holy
Empire. The central government was, however, seldom effective in these
outlying territories, exposed always to the intrigues, finally to the
aggressions, of Capetian France.

[Footnote 1: See Appendix, note A.]

Under Conrad's son Henry the Third the Empire attained the meridian of
its power. At home Otto the Great's prerogative had not stood so high. The
duchies, always the chief source of fear, were allowed to remain vacant or
filled by the relatives of the monarch, who himself retained, contrary to
usual practice, those of Franconia and (for some years) Swabia. Abbeys and
sees lay entirely in his gift. Intestine feuds were repressed by the
proclamation of a public peace. Abroad, the feudal superiority over Hungary,
which Henry II had gained by conferring the title of King with the hand of his
sister Gisela, was enforced by war, the country made almost a province, and
compelled to pay tribute. In Rome no German sovereign had ever been so
absolute. A disgraceful contest between three claimants of the papal chair
had shocked even the reckless apathy of Italy. Henry deposed them all, and
appointed their successor: he became hereditary patrician, and wore constantly
the green mantle and circlet of gold which were the badges of the office,
seeming, one might think, to find in it some further authority than that which
the imperial name conferred. The synod passed a decree granting to Henry the
right of nominating the supreme pontiff; and the Roman priesthood, who had
forfeited the respect of the world even more by habitual simony than by the
flagrant corruption of their manners, were forced to receive German after
German as their bishop, at the bidding of a ruler so powerful, so severe, and
so pious. But Henry's encroachments alarmed his own nobles no less than the
Italians, and the reaction, which might have been dangerous to himself, was
fatal to his successor. A mere chance, as some might call it, determined the
course of history. The great Emperor died suddenly in A.D. 1056, and a child
was left at the helm, while storms were gathering that might have demanded the
wisest hand.