Medieval Italy - Pasquale Villari - ebook

THE placing by Leo III. of the Imperial crown upon the head of Charlemagne in St. Peter's on Christmas Day of the year 800 marked the commencement of a new era in the history of the world. But the Empire of the West, initiated at that moment in its dual character--political and religious--contained within itself the germs of infinite discords and calamities. As Roman and Christian it should have symbolised the union of nations; but meanwhile the Empire of the East, heir to Rome, continued to exist at Constantinople. Furthermore, the Western Empire was composed of very dissimilar races which, until then divided and subdivided among themselves, had often been at war with one another. The greatest and most immediate danger to the unity of the Empire came from the German principle of succession, according to which the State, as the property of the Sovereign, must be divided among his heirs. This principle, which in the past had caused many bloody wars among the Franks, promised no good for the future of the new Empire. Charlemagne, who was a very great leader of Teutonic peoples, but who lacked the true genius of organisation, held it together by the power of his sword and the strength of his personal authority. It was therefore easy to predict that his death would be followed by a period of anarchy...

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From Charlemagne to Henry VII

Pasquale Villari


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Copyright © 2016 by Pasquale Villari

Published by Perennial Press

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ISBN: 9781518361067











OTHO II. AND OTHO III. (973-1002)





GREGORY VII. (1073-1085)




















THE PLACING BY LEO III. of the Imperial crown upon the head of Charlemagne in St. Peter’s on Christmas Day of the year 800 marked the commencement of a new era in the history of the world. But the Empire of the West, initiated at that moment in its dual character—political and religious—contained within itself the germs of infinite discords and calamities. As Roman and Christian it should have symbolised the union of nations; but meanwhile the Empire of the East, heir to Rome, continued to exist at Constantinople. Furthermore, the Western Empire was composed of very dissimilar races which, until then divided and subdivided among themselves, had often been at war with one another. The greatest and most immediate danger to the unity of the Empire came from the German principle of succession, according to which the State, as the property of the Sovereign, must be divided among his heirs. This principle, which in the past had caused many bloody wars among the Franks, promised no good for the future of the new Empire. Charlemagne, who was a very great leader of Teutonic peoples, but who lacked the true genius of organisation, held it together by the power of his sword and the strength of his personal authority. It was therefore easy to predict that his death would be followed by a period of anarchy.

The tendency to division and subdivision soon showed itself clearly in all regions, but especially in Italy. There the vast Duchy of Benevento, unconquered by the Franks, had remained in possession of the Longobards, preserving its independence. The rest of Southern Italy, together with Sicily, continued in its allegiance to the Byzantine Empire. In Central Italy the Pope was supreme. In the rest of the peninsula, as in all other parts of the Empire, duchies had been cut up into counties. The Counts were appointed by the Sovereign and depended on him; and even the Bishops, especially outside Italy, were chosen by him. The Counts and Bishops should have worked together, but the limits of their respective authority not being well defined, great confusion was inevitably produced by the politico-ecclesiastical character of the new Empire, and led at once to a series of fresh calamities.

For purposes of defence, groups of counties situated on the frontiers of the Empire were welded together into large duchies and were called Marches. Thus it came about that in Italy the Friulian Marches, eventually extending to the Adige, were constituted. The great Duchy of Spoleto, on the southern border of the Empire, was preserved intact. Later on, the Counts of Turin, of Asti, and of Ivrea enlarged their dominions by incorporating various other counties. Finally, the great Marquisate of Tuscany was formed, and its Marquises were so many small but powerful potentates. But for the moment no further mention of them is required.

The unity of the Empire was represented by Charlemagne, and in his palace he was surrounded by a vast number of “domestics” and officials who formed his court. The Missi Dominici supervised the whole administration, and there were two for each Missatica or province, usually one a layman and the other an ecclesiastic. According to Teutonic custom, the people took part in the administration of justice and of public affairs. Assemblies, therefore, formed an important part of the political constitution of the Empire. They were also held in the duchies and counties, but these were local assemblies of the same nature as the meetings called together by the Missi before they commenced their inspections. The General Assemblies were of a different character, and the kingdom of Italy, which, although forming part of the Empire, preserved its autonomy, had its own. There were two of these assemblies, and, save in exceptional circumstances, they were convened the one in spring and the other in autumn. The first and more general was called by the Longobards Campo di Marzo, or Field of March; and by the Franks Campo di Maggio, or Field of May, from the month in which it met. Charlemagne held it even later in the year. The Nobles and the people took part in it, and its decrees became law for the whole Empire. At the autumn assembly the Nobles sat alone, and they drafted the laws and decrees which were to be approved by the larger assembly. The participation of the people in the spring council was reduced by degrees to a mere form.

The Teutonic laws had a personal character and differed with each race. They were merely customs sanctioned by use and spontaneously born of the popular conscience, and had therefore to be approved by the people after being formulated by the elders. The General Assembly had to decide whether that which was written down were a faithful reproduction of the national custom. The Sovereign had no more power to abolish or change such laws than he had to abolish or change the language of a people. Charlemagne fought, conquered, and subjugated the Saxons; but when he wished to legislate for them he had first to consult them. There existed, however, also certain general laws which applied to the whole Empire, and these, emanating directly from the Emperor, were called Capitularia, because they were divided into chapters. In latter times the Cafiitularies were used to modify local laws, and were then called Capitularia legibus addenda. But originally the Sovereign’s power of legislation was extremely limited.

Everything in the new Empire seemed designed not only to separate the various nationalities of which it was composed, but to destroy society itself and all unity of government. Rural property assumed always more the form of a beneficium, bringing with it the obligation to the holder of paying tribute in money or in kind, and of rendering service to the person from whom the beneficium had been received and under whose protection he remained. This state of dependence was further augmented by the Commendatio, which took various forms and was another kind of vassalage. In Charlemagne’s time there still existed vassals without beneficia, but there were no beneficiaries who were exempt from vassalage. This beneficiary form of property holding became more and more general. Not only land but offices were given in this manner. Charlemagne’s officials, the great Nobles, the Counts, and the Bishops, even the members of the Imperial family who held rule, were all beneficiaries. As time went on the beneficia became hereditary, and thus acquired greater importance and independence.

The institutions of beneficium and commendatio, together with immunity, constituted feudalism. The immunity originally appertaining to lands possessed by the Sovereign, by the Bishops, and by the monasteries continued to have force even when such lands were conferred as beneficia. In this way on the one hand the guarantees of personal liberty were diminished, while on the other the sovereign power was weakened by division and subdivision. Society, by taking on the forms of feudalism, appeared to be breaking up into fragments. The relations between the Sovereign and his people, carried on by means of offices and beneficia, gave to the feudal nobility a character which, little by little, formed itself definitely in their families by right of succession, and which continually infringed on the Sovereign’s power.

The characteristics of military service also were gradually changed by the same methods. At first every holder of property was obliged to serve, but when property took on the beneficiary form, it was no longer sufficient to be a holder of property, it was also necessary to be able to prove the possession of personal freedom. Many serfs were soldiers, but they served under ill-defined conditions, and only as dependants on their lord, this position making their military service far lighter. The free soldier received no pay; he had to maintain himself at his own expense, refunding himself, if possible, by plunder; and therefore, although such service was only obligatory for a short period, it was of an onerous nature. Many small proprietors, to avoid the military duties of freemen, made over their lands to a lord from whom they received them back in the form of a beneficium. In this manner they became his dependants, and as soldiers were in his pay. Charlemagne found himself compelled to make the obligation of military service bear equally on free proprietors and beneficiaries, allowing only a very small number of serfs to remain in direct dependence on their lords. These lords were charged with the supervision of the conditions of the land and with the choice of the men. The army was thus formed on the basis of duty towards the State, but it had been necessary, in order to bring this about, to permit the intervention of local lords. Later on it grew to be entirely composed of these feudal lords, who were so many small but independent sovereigns, each one having supreme authority over his own vassals.

The same course was followed in the administration of justice, nor could it be otherwise. According to the old Teutonic custom, justice was administered by a free people. But when it came about that the people no longer took much part in the general and local assemblies and the interpretation of law became more difficult and less universal, the need for local magistrates, called Scabini, arose. This appellation dates from Charlemagne’s time, but the office was probably in existence at an earlier date. These judges were elected by the Missi and could be dismissed by popular consent. In each county they formed a bench numbering seven and sometimes twelve. In the Assembly, which was presided over by the Count, or his representative, who pronounced sentence, they sat apart. The Sovereign, however, was always the supreme judge. But with the further growth of the feudal system and the constant extension of immunities, the power of the judges was also divided and broken up. If, in addition to all these causes of weakness and social disintegration, the attitude of the Papacy, which had always been more or less antagonistic to the Eastern Empire and was rapidly becoming adverse to the Western (notwithstanding the fact that, for its own advantage, it had promoted and consecrated its formation), is taken into consideration, it will be easy to foresee the many and great dangers which threatened the new Empire.

None of these dangers escaped the notice of Charlemagne, but no remedy could be found. At his death the Empire must inevitably be divided among his heirs. In the hope of preventing the renewal of the fratricidal and bloody wars of Merovingian times, he determined to settle the terms of succession during his own lifetime. This he did by his will of February 6, 806, one of the most solemn acts of his life. Although the number of his legitimate sons and bastards reached fifteen, he only recognised the three surviving sons which he had had by his wife Hildegarde—Charles, Pippin, and Louis—as heirs to his vast Empire. To the first he left France (Austrasia and Neustria); to the second, Italy; to the third, all Aquitaine, with the exception of Tours. These portions only formed the nucleus of the kingdom which each of the three was to inherit. The rest of the Empire was minutely divided among them in such wise that, as the testator himself observed, the three brothers could easily join hands with one another in case of need. Charles, by the valley of Aosta, and Louis, by the valley of Susa, would be in direct communication with Pippin. Charlemagne added that in the event of the death of either one of these three without heirs, his possessions should be divided between the two survivors. Therefore, in the case of Pippin predeceasing his brothers, Italy (as much of it as the Franks had conquered) was to be divided between Charles and Louis. By these dispositions the unity of the Empire was almost lost sight of; furthermore, the division was arranged with no regard to geographical or ethnographical conditions. These divisions, however, were never effected, for before the succession was opened Pippin died, on July 8, 810, and Charles on December 4, 811. Pippin left a natural son called Bernard, to whom, with the title of King, Italy was conceded. But he remained the vassal of his uncle Louis.

Thus it came about that, on January 28, 814, when Charlemagne himself died, the Empire was not cut up, but remained in the hands of the most incapable of his sons, Louis, called by some the Pious, by others Le Débonnaire. Weakly in body and in mind, he found himself at once confronted by difficulties of so grave a nature that only his father’s military and political genius could have surmounted them. Superstitious and bigoted, he turned his thoughts to the restoration of churches and monasteries; he even made a vain attempt to restrain the license of the dissolute Franks, and especially of the members of his own family. In the year 816 Pope Leo III. died, and on June 22nd Stephen IV. allowed himself to be consecrated without awaiting the Imperial sanction. Louis offered no objection to this, made no attempt to uphold the rights of the Empire, and even went so far as to request his own consecration at the hands of the new Pope. Stephen went to Rheims and there Louis, on receiving the Imperial crown from his hands, prostrated himself three times before him. Thus were the parts reversed. This Pope, who had taken no steps to obtain the Imperial sanction to his own election, was humbly requested by the Emperor to consecrate him. The equal balance of power, apparently attained in 800, was therefore annihilated almost at its birth.

During the first days of the year 817, Stephen IV. died, and Paschal I. was elected. This Pope, who was also consecrated without the Imperial sanction, demanded of the Emperor a confirmation of the gifts of territory made to the Church by Pippin and Charlemagne. This was accorded to him by the so- called Privilegium of Louis in 817, the most ancient of such documents that remains to us. By it all territorial concessions made by Charlemagne were confirmed, and the Pope was guaranteed in his free sovereignty over them; furthermore, he was assured of the protection of the Empire (save in cases of manifest and unjust violence), and of the renunciation on the part of the Emperor of any intervention in Papal elections, which could be fully effected according to canon law alone. In substance this document definitely sanctioned a state of things which was already established.

Louis also wished to settle the succession of the Empire among his heirs during his own lifetime. To a far greater extent than his father Charlemagne, he sought to maintain its unity, the necessity for which was now beginning to be generally felt. Having been himself crowned by the Pope at Rheims, he placed the Imperial crown with his own hands, at Aix-la- Chapelle, on the head of his eldest son Lothair, giving him from that moment (817) a share in the government of the Empire, and, by his will, leaving the Northern Provinces more especially to him. He also granted to Lothair supremacy over his two other sons, Pippin and Louis, called “the German,” to whom he left respectively Aquitaine and Bavaria, with the obligation of seeking their elder brother’s counsel once a year—he being their overlord—and prohibiting them from making war without Lothair’s consent. These dispositions were solemnly sanctioned at Worms (817) in the presence of the great nobles and high ecclesiastics after a fast of three days, and prayers for the general welfare, for the tranquillity of the Church, and for the unity of the Empire. To Bernard, as a vassal, remained the kingdom of Italy. The latter, considering himself unjustly slighted, rebelled against his uncle and cousins. He was however soon defeated, made prisoner and blinded, and he died in 818.

The kingdom of Italy was then granted to Lothair, who was immediately sent by his father to Pavia. There he received the Pope’s invitation to proceed to Rome to be crowned by him in St. Peter’s. Although Lothair had been already crowned by his father at Aix-la-Chapelle, Pope Paschal wished to make it manifest that no coronation could be valid unless it were performed by the Sovereign Pontiff in Rome. And Louis the Pious was always ready to submit to Papal commands. Lothair, however, proved less amenable, and before starting for Rome, where he was eventually crowned on April 5, 823, he asserted the supreme authority of the Empire by solemnly administering justice. Furthermore, in a lawsuit between the Abbot of Farfa and the Pope, he gave his decision in favour of the former, an act that led to serious results, for it served to encourage the adversaries of Paschal, and helped to form an Imperial party. No sooner had Lothair departed from Rome than two high dignitaries of the Church, the Primicierius Theodore and the Nomenclator Leo, were accused of rebellion against the Pope in favour of the Emperor, and condemned to death without regular trial. Lothair, very naturally, was incensed by such a proceeding, and Louis sent two Missi to hold an inquiry. This step led to no particular result, for the Pope, after declaring that no human judgment could have power over him, swore solemnly in the Lateran that he was innocent of the deaths of the two condemned men, adding, however, that they were guilty and deserved their fate. It is difficult to believe that he could be free of direct or indirect responsibility for what had happened. At all events it is certain that conflict between the two supreme authorities—political and ecclesiastical—must inevitably ensue, and could not be long delayed. Such was the state of affairs when, at some date between April and May (according to Jaffè), 824, Paschal died, and already party excitement and violence had reached such a pitch that it was impossible to bury him in St. Peter’s.

The Papal election which followed was tempestuous in the extreme. The party of the military nobles (exercitus romanus) and the ecclesiastical party put forward opposing candidates, and with the help of the Imperialists the former was victorious. Its candidate was elected and took the name of Eugenius II. The state of Rome then became more and more deplorable; the opposing parties tore one another to pieces, and intrigues, conspiracies, and abuses of all kinds were rife. The clergy governed, but the real power lay in the hands of their adversaries. In this condition of things it seemed clear that the intervention of the Imperial authority, which alone could reestablish and maintain order, was absolutely necessary. Accordingly Louis sent Lothair back to Rome, where he was able to put an end to much violence and injustice, to make good many just claims, to restore much confiscated property, and to recall many exiles. Furthermore, in 824, by a Constitutio (which still remains to us), he determined more clearly the relations and respective rights of the Church and the Empire. The inviolability of certain persons who were placed under the protection of the Church or of the Empire was firmly established. The Roman magistrates, after their election, were to be presented to the Emperor in order that he might know their names and their number, and be enabled to instruct and advise them. Two Missi, one appointed by the Pope and one by the Emperor, were to reside permanently in Rome. The election of the Pope was to be made by the Romans—clergy and laymen—and each new Pope was to take the oath in the presence of the Imperial Missi and of the people before he could be consecrated. By this decree the Pontifical elections were subject to the Emperor’s sanction, and he also reserved to himself the right of summoning, admonishing, and, if necessary, deposing the magistrates appointed by the Popes. These rights are clearly defined in the document, and proved by its subsequent application. The Pope was compelled to submit because it had become evident to all that the Imperial authority alone could maintain order in Rome, and give force to the Papal government. This was the condition of affairs when Eugenius died in 827. His successor, Valentinius I., only reigned for forty days, and at his death Gregory IV. (827-844) was elected, and consecrated after having received the Imperial sanction.

During the reign of this Pope many important changes took place in the Empire, owing to the various causes of discord and disorder which had long existed. In October, 818, Louis’ first wife had died, and he, bigot as he was, had wished to enter a monastery. All who had influence with him, even his Bishops, dissuaded him from this step, for all feared that the latent discord among his sons would break out and cause the dismemberment of the Empire. Louis then decided to marry again. He chose as his second wife Judith, a daughter of Guelf of Bavaria, and was soon intensely enamoured of her; her power over him became very great, and in 823 she presented him with a son, Charles the Bald. His birth was the cause of much discord, for his mother wished that he should be placed on an equal footing with his half-brothers and receive a kingdom from his father. Louis could not do this without taking away part of what he had already granted to his other sons, and their opposition was very violent. The Pope favoured their cause, for he feared the disruption of the Empire, the unity of which was becoming more and more necessary for the defence of the Church and the peace of the world.

But Louis, under the influence of his wife, would listen to no one, and assigned to his youngest son the kingdom of Alemannia, thereby provoking armed rebellion on the part of the other three, headed by Lothair. This rebellion attained such violence and became so general that Louis, finding himself deserted on all sides, was forced to submit and resign himself to the imprisonment of his wife as the chief fomenter of these troubles. But soon after there was a reaction among those who openly upheld the unity of the Empire. At the end of 830 Louis was again strong enough to exercise his authority, and imprison in their turn the partisans of his son Lothair, who lost everything except the kingdom of Italy. No sooner, however, was the Empress Judith restored to liberty than her indomitable desire to favour her son Charles and assure him his kingdom again fired the torch of discord. The whole Empire remained in a disturbed condition until the 20th of June, 840, when Louis died.

The division of the Empire then became inevitable. One of Louis’ four sons, Pippin, had predeceased him. The three surviving sons—Lothair, Louis II., called “the German,” and Charles the Bald—were at once at war with one another, and it was only by effecting a definite division of territory, ratified in August, 843, by the treaty of Verdun, that they came to an agreement. Charles received Western France, Louis Germany. The intermediate country between these two realms—from the mouths of the Meuse and the Rhine to the mouth of the Rhone, with Aix-la- Chapelle for its capital—fell to Lothair, from whom it took its name of Lothringen, or Loraine. This name was preserved by the northern portion of this territory, which was subsequently inherited by his son, Lothair II. Lothair retained Italy as well, and became Emperor. In spite of the treaty and in spite of the general hope, it had proved impossible to avoid the dismemberment of the Empire. Nor was it possible to bring about a lasting peace between the three brothers, among whom war continued to rage.



THE DISTURBANCES OF THE EMPIRE naturally affected Northern and Central Italy, forming, as they did, an integral part of it. We have already spoken of the condition of the provinces where the Popes held rule. Southern Italy was almost entirely held by the Longobards who had retained possession of the great duchy—later on ranking as a principality—of Benevento, which the Franks had never been able to conquer. But the Longobards, as was their custom, could never live at peace among themselves, and therefore were soon split up. First the principality of Salerno separated itself and then Capua. A small portion of Southern Italy, especially the coast-lands and Sicily, were dependent on Constantinople, whose weak, arbitrary, and oppressive rule was hateful to all. Some of the maritime cities, such as Naples, Amalfi, and Gaeta, although nominally in the same dependence on Constantinople, had virtually gained a considerable amount of autonomy and independence. Their growing sea trade, for which the Longobards showed no aptitude, was of considerable advantage to them and increased their strength. Another source of power was afforded them by their position between Longobard and Byzantine rulers. They could take advantage of both by playing a double game, approaching one or the other in turn without ever submitting entirely to either. Thus did they already stand forth as the precursors of those free communes which arose in Northern Italy later on.

Far more distinctly, however, did these conditions reveal themselves in Venice. We have observed elsewhere that Cassiodorus, Theodoric’s minister, expressed his admiration for the daring of the Venetians, Falling them the Seabirds of the Lagoons. Already in 734 the twelve islands were confederated, and had instituted the office of a life-Doge, which was sanctioned by the Emperor of the East. The Doge Orso, commanding the Venetian ships, had already, at the invitation of Pope Gregory III., proved himself sufficiently powerful to reinstate the Exarch Eutichius, who had been driven from Ravenna by an insurrection. The Venetians also found it advantageous to play the double game between the Longobards and the Byzantines. They had succeeded in bringing about the removal of the seat of the Patriarchate from Aquileja, where it was subject to the Longobards, to the island of Grado, and this change, by making the see independent, helped them to political independence. The Franks, after conquering the Longobard kingdom, spread into Istria and Dalmatia, and became thenceforward far more dangerous to the Venetians than their predecessors, the Longobards, had been. Charlemagne projected the subjugation of Venice in order to detach her definitely from Byzantium. This proved an additional cause of conflict between the two Empires, for each was beginning to realise the great advantages to be obtained from the fortunate commercial position of Venice, could she be held in subjection. Venice, in fact, formed the link between East and West. From Constantinople she brought to Rome the rich stuffs of the East. She traded with the Mahometans of Egypt and other African lands and even held traffic with them in Christian slaves. It was evident that her prosperity was rapidly increasing and the desire to dominate her was aroused.

Submission to the Franks, her nearest and most powerful neighbours, would have meant the loss of all her freedom. The very fact of their proximity and their power, however, led to the birth of a strong party favourable to their pretensions within the Venetian confederacy, and this party was seconded by the Church, which was on friendly terms with the Franks. About the year 800, the most determined leader of this party was Fortunatus, Bishop of Grado, a restless man, fired by uncontrolled ambition and feverishly active. At the same time a new Doge, called Obelerius, had been elected, and he was also completely gained over to the Frankish party. He transferred the seat of government from Heraclea to Malamocco. Until then, these two islands had been the headquarters of two adverse factions, but now Malamocco took the lead, and, before long, Heraclea was completely destroyed. Nevertheless, the majority of the people was adverse to the Franks and Obelerius, by his open partiality for them, only succeeded in strengthening the Byzantine party. Charlemagne, intolerant of resistance, sent his son Pippin to win over the city of the Lagoons by flattery or by force. The Venetians placed themselves under the leadership of Angelo Particiaco of Heraclea, who, assuming the power that Obelerius had lost, declared himself ready to take arms in defence of the islands, and concentrated his forces at Malamocco and Rialto. After a struggle which lasted six winter months (809-810), Pippin realised that he had not given sufficient weight to the enormous difficulty of invading Lagoons into which no war-ships could make their way, for he could neither take Malamocco nor even approach Rialto. A treaty was then drawn up by which the Venetians agreed to pay the same tribute to the Franks which they had formerly paid to the Longobards, but as a matter of fact, not a single coin was ever disbursed. Thanks to this energetic defence, the freedom of Venice was undoubtedly assured. In the year 813, the Doge Angelo Particiaco removed the seat of government to Rialto, which had proved to be the most inaccessible of the islands, and which thenceforth took the name of Venice. Meanwhile, in July, 810, Pippin had died at Milan, and later on, in January, 812, Charlemagne, convinced of the impossibility of conquering Venice, made peace with the Emperor Michael, who then solemnly recognised the Western Empire. Charlemagne, on his side, admitted the validity of the ancient ties existing between Constantinople and Venice, and the latter obtained the renewal of those trading privileges between the West and the East which it had formerly enjoyed. Its subsequent greatness dates from this peace. Its growing independence and prosperity, however, only increased the difficulty of bringing about the much-desired unity of the Western Empire.

But now a new danger was about to be added to the many perils and disorders which were the unavoidable consequences of the condition of things already described. The Saracens of Africa and Spain, animated by their adventurous spirit and their unquenchable thirst for plunder, devastation, and conquest, were continually attacking the coasts of Sardinia, Sicily, and Southern Italy, and carrying their depredations always farther afield. Not content with ravage and plunder, they carried off Christian prisoners into slavery and often obtained large sums in ransom for them. This state of things was seriously aggravated by the fact that, while inspiring terror in all, they were sometimes called in as allies by the Christian peoples of Southern Italy, who, being torn by civil dissensions and badly governed by the Byzantines, sought Saracen help in their various wars. Such calls naturally helped the power of the Moslems, and their audacity grew apace.

In 827 an insurrection broke out in Sicily against the Patrician Gregorius. The Greek general Euphemius, who had provoked it and proved unsuccessful, fled to Africa in search of aid. He made a proposal to the Saracens that they should sail over and conquer the island with the help of his own followers. The Saracens, who were also much divided among themselves, hesitated for a time, but were won over by their love of adventure, lust of peril, and hope of booty. Very soon a fleet, which has been estimated at between seventy and a hundred ships, was equipped in the port of Susa. Upon these ships an army of 700 horsemen and 10,000 foot was embarked. The command was given to the Cadi, Ased, who, although aged and of studious habits, was full of valour and animated by religious fanaticism. On June 13, 827, they set sail for Sicily. This was the last of the Saracen invasions.

They effected a landing at Mazzara, but were soon confronted by the numerous army which the Byzantines had been able to get together by calling out all their reserves. Their bravery soon forced the Byzantines to give way and retreat, and they next marched to the assault of Syracuse, then the most important city of the island. By this time, owing to their serious losses in battle and to the necessity of leaving garrisons in their rear to secure their communications with the coast, their numbers were reduced to 8,000 or 9,000. The Cadi had been killed in an engagement, pestilence broke out in their ranks, and the Byzantines had received reinforcements from Constantinople. Every circumstance was against them, and they were forced to raise the siege. In the spring of 829, with renewed courage, they attacked Castrogiovanni, but without success. During the following year 20,000 men came from Africa and Spain to reinforce them, but pestilence again broke out, decimating their ranks and causing such discouragement that they were about to abandon the enterprise. Their condition, however, soon changing for the better, they concentrated all their forces, and, in the summer of 831, they lay siege to Palermo. For a whole year the city resisted them heroically; its population, tradition says, being then reduced from 70,000 to 3,000 by the rigour of the siege. It is certain, at any rate, that by the end of the year 831 the Saracens finally entered the city and established their seat of government there. From that moment Palermo became the capital of the island, and the rule of the Saracens in Sicily, which was soon wholly in their possession, was definitely established.

They made of it a new and independent colony- almost a new State—for the ties with Africa were very slight. From this time onwards their incursions on the peninsula naturally became more frequent, and their boldness as navigators carried them even to the shores of Northern Italy.

Their incursions, as we have already observed, were frequently encouraged and even invited by the discordant parties in Italy. Amalfi, Naples, and Gaeta, as subjects of the Byzantines, had previously resisted the Saracens, but when the latter were firmly established in Sicily, these maritime cities found it advantageous to enter into commercial relations with them, to favour them in every way, and eventually to seek their assistance in their quarrels with their neighbours. The Neapolitans helped them to take Messina and to complete the conquest of the island. The Longobards also invited their assistance several times during their internecine wars. Consequently the Saracens became always more daring in their incursions. The coast of Italy was no longer safe, and had to be fortified with towers at all points. Pope Gregory IV. built a fortress at Ostia, fearing that the enemies of Christianity, if they should succeed in landing there, might even attack the Eternal City.

In the midst of these calamities Pope Gregory died on the 25th of January, 844, and Sergius II., a weak and corrupt man, was elected by the mob and consecrated without the Imperial sanction. Thereupon Lothair sent his son, afterwards Louis II., to investigate the facts of the case. Louis arrived at the head of his army. He recognised the new Pope, but at the same time he stipulated that in future no consecration should take place until the Imperial sanction had been granted. On the 15th of June he received the crown of Italy from the hands of Pope Sergius. The Romans, however, refused to tender to Louis their oath of allegiance, declaring that it could only be demanded of them by the Emperor. On this point they were in their right. At the same time the Longobards of the south came to ask Louis’ aid against the Saracens. It was, however, impossible for him to assist them, for he was forced to hasten back to Pavia. No sooner was the Pope left to himself than he gave free rein to violence and licence. Simony reigned: churches, convents, benefices, were all for sale. Private citizens were despoiled, and no one was sure of his property or of his life.

It seemed then, so wrote the chroniclers, that God wished to punish the sins of the Church. On the 24th of August, 846, the Saracens landed at Ostia, in spite of the new fortress which had been erected there, and came up the Tiber to the very walls of the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul. They were, however, driven back and retired on Gaeta. They were then pursued along the coast by the Neapolitan ships under the command of the Duke, who had now abandoned his alliance with the Infidels in order to defend the Pope, and finally they were compelled to take flight, losing also the greater part of their plunder in a storm.

The danger which had threatened the capital of Christendom alarmed the whole world, and the Emperor called a Council to decide what measures should be taken to ensure the safety and purification of the Church. These deliberations were facilitated by the death of Pope Sergius II., which occurred on the 27th of January, 847, and by the election of a shrewd and honest man, Leo IV. (847-855). He waited two months for the Imperial sanction, but as it failed to arrive even then, he allowed himself to be consecrated, alleging the dangers of the moment which admitted of no further delay, while, at the same time, he fully acknowledged the Imperial rights.

The times were indeed menacing, for the Saracens were preparing a fresh invasion. Lothair accepted the Pope’s apology, and they provided in concert for the defence of Rome. The city walls beyond the Tiber were extended so as to enclose the Castle of St. Angelo and the Church of St. Peter. Thus was formed the Leonine city, so named in honour of the reigning Pope. The expense of this great work was met by contributions sent by the Emperor, by the product of certain fresh taxes imposed on the Romans, and by voluntary gifts from the faithful in Germany and France. The fortifications were completed and solemnly blessed on the 27th of June, 852. Pope Leo also made further additions to the works of defence. In 849 he went to Ostia to impart his benediction to the united fleets of Naples, Amalfi, and Gaeta, which, under the command of Sergius, son of Duke Cesareo of Naples, had beaten the Saracens and driven them back, thus saving Rome and its territory from still greater calamities. Sergius, by this action, strengthened his power in Naples, and was able to leave a peaceful dukedom to his son Gregory, who reigned there from 864 to 870.

The continual disorders and dangers which threatened Italy and the Church greatly increased the obvious need for a general recognition of the Imperial supremacy, and caused a renewal of its strength at the very moment when it seemed about to fall to pieces. Lothair, influenced by his religious feelings, had in fact recognised that the government of Italy, which he had given over to his son Louis since 847, required his fullest attention. Louis, being then at Pavia, was ordered by his father to proceed with an army to the south to make war on the Infidels. Lothair aspired to add Southern Italy to the Empire, but Louis had neither the daring nor the material strength required for so arduous an enterprise, which would have been opposed by all the disunited populations of the southern provinces. Consequently he achieved very little, in spite of a victory gained over the Saracens in 848. All he could do was to ratify the recent separation of the Principality of Salerno from that of Benevento. This new Principality of Salerno, which extended southwards to Cosenza in Calabria, and, on the north-east, to the Gulf of Taranto, was subsequently again subdivided. Meanwhile some of the maritime towns which had formerly belonged to the Duchy of Benevento, namely, Taranto and Bari, whose position was most important, had fallen into the hands of the Saracens, and afforded them strong bases for their expeditions.

The disorders in Rome had in no way diminished, for the struggle between the nobility and the clergy was still raging. There were now three parties in the city—one in favour of the Byzantines, one Papal, and one Imperial. In addition to these rival factions, the Archbishop of Ravenna, favoured by the Emperor, was endeavouring to obtain complete independence from Papal authority. This decided Leo IV. to take energetic steps. He proceeded to Ravenna, whence the Archbishop had absented himself, and, seizing some of his most turbulent and riotous partisans, had them carried to Rome, where they were condemned to death. But their execution being delayed by the approach of Eastertide, Lothair had time to intervene. He obtained their pardon, and at the same time requested the Pope to crown his son in St. Peter’s as Emperor. The Pope consented, and the coronation took place in 850. Thus for some years there were two Western Emperors, one of whom, being resident in Italy, could more effectually influence Rome and the Pope. Meanwhile the Saracens, who retained possession of Bari from 849 to 866, continued to plunder and devastate Apulia and Calabria, while extending their depredations as far as Salerno, Benevento, and Montecassino.

Every change caused new disorders. Pope Leo died on July 17, 855, and the Emperor Lothair, who had already abdicated and retired to a Benedictine monastery, died on the 29th of September of the same year. In Rome a fierce struggle took place between the Imperial and Papal parties for the election of the new Pope. Although the Imperial candidate was supported by the two Missi, as well as by the Emperor Louis II. in person, the Papal candidate was victorious, and was consecrated on the 29th of September as Benedict III.

A strange legend has grown up concerning the troublous times which followed upon the death of Leo IV., but which, however, has been proved to be an invention of later days—certainly not earlier than the thirteenth century. It recounts the story of a beautiful girl, the daughter of an Anglo-Saxon, and born at Ingelheim. She is said to have given proof of remarkable intelligence when pursuing her studies at Mayence. A young Benedictine monk fell in love with her, and she, reciprocating his passion, for his sake, entered the same order at Fulda without revealing her sex. Together they carried on their studies, and travelled to England and to Athens, where she attended the schools of philosophy, and where her lover died. Then Joan or Johannes, by which name the mysterious maiden was known, appeared in Rome. There she taught in the School of the Greeks (the name given in the legend to the Deaconry of S. Maria Scholae Graecorum), and excited great admiration, although her sex was still undiscovered. At the death of Leo IV. the Cardinals chose her as Pope, and she was installed in the Lateran. The love of an attendant, however, proved fatal to her, although for a time her secret was preserved. One day, when taking part in a procession between the Church of St. Clement and the Colosseum, she was delivered of a child, and died forthwith. A statue representing a woman with a child in her arms, and bearing on her head the Papal tiara, was erected on the spot. The legend terminates by remarking that from that time onwards no Pope passed that way when he proceeded to his installation in the Lateran. It is difficult to know why it came to be believed that this strange episode happened after the death of Leo IV., for the legend makes no mention of him or of his times. Probably some accident or other fortuitous cause, as frequently happens, brought this about. The legend undoubtedly belongs to the thirteenth century, and was introduced into the chronicles of Mariano Scotto and Martino Polono, from which sources it was rapidly diffused. During the Pontificate of Boniface VIII., who was accused of the vilest crimes and most obscene vices, it was frequently repeated and commented on. It obtained so much credence that when, in 1400, the Cathedral of Siena was decorated with a collection of Papal busts, that of Pope Joan, with the inscription “John VIII., a woman of England,” was included among them. The bust remained in its place for two centuries, until Cardinal Baronio had it removed, replacing it by one of Pope Zacharias.



THE DEATH OF LOTHAIR I., who had spent his last years in a monastery, caused very little alteration in Italian affairs, which for some years had been entrusted entirely to his son, Louis II., already crowned Emperor. The Empire was now divided between the three brothers, Louis II., Lothair, and Charles, of whom the last, a weak and sickly man, died in 863, leaving his possessions to be shared between the two surviving brothers. Italy, however, remained to Louis, and continued to cause him much anxiety. In the south the Longobard nobles, especially the stewards, were constantly at war with one another, and the Neapolitans made the confusion worse by taking part in their quarrels. Capua detached itself from Salerno, in the same way as the latter had previously separated from Benevento, while other cities and fortified towns tried to follow their example. It was a period of real anarchy, very favourable to the advance of the Saracens, and scarcely had Louis tried to repulse them than he was compelled to return to Northern Italy, where other troubles demanded his presence.

But the death of Benedict III., which took place on April 7, 858, called him to Rome to superintend the new election. It proved favourable to his candidate, who was consecrated on the 24th of April under the name of Nicholas I.—a Pope who proved really great in every way. Although he might have been considered a mere creature of the Emperor, he upheld, from the very first, the religious and political independence of the Church, employing every means to this end, according to the usual Papal method. He was the first to make use of the so-called Decretals of Isidore, a collection of forged letters and Papal ordinances which had been compiled in France in defence of the interests of the clergy. These documents were employed for the purpose of securing to the Pope a kind of dictatorship over all the princes of the earth, and this naturally set him at strife with the Imperial party and with the Emperor himself, who, as he then resided in Italy, could make his influence strongly felt in Rome. In 864 he openly showed favour to some rebellious ecclesiastics whom the Pope had excommunicated. He also offered his protection to Archbishop John of Ravenna, who not only resisted the disciplinary authority of the Pope —with whom he claimed equality—but also dared to argue with him on questions of dogma. On being summoned to appear before a Synod, this prelate hastened instead to Pavia to seek the Emperor’s protection. Nicholas I., however, without hesitating, began by excommunicating him in a Synod held in 862, and then, proceeding to Ravenna, reorganised the ecclesiastical administration of that see and re- established his own supreme authority there. Public opinion approved of his energetic measures; the Emperor dared not oppose him; and the Archbishop, leaving Pavia, made his submission to the Pope, though with how bad a grace will be later apparent.

With the same energy the Pope threw himself into the struggle with Phocius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who was the initiator of the schism which eventually led to the complete separation of the Eastern Church from that of Rome. Phocius began the dispute by various arguments, more particularly upon the so- called “Filioque” Clause of the Creed. That is to say, he combated the Catholic doctrine which asserts that the Holy Ghost derives its being from the Father and the Son. This struggle was carried on unflinchingly by Nicholas during the rest of his life, while, at the same time, he made every possible effort to detach the Bulgarians from the Eastern Church.

But the highest proof of his personal and moral energy was afforded by his efforts to check the licentiousness of the Carolingian sovereigns. He showed himself especially severe towards the Emperor’s brother Lothair, when that Prince discarded his legitimate wife, Luitberga, in order to marry his mistress, Waldrada. This new union had been sanctioned by the Council of Metz in 863, but the Pope resolutely annulled the sanction, taking part with the rightful wife. And when the Archbishops of Treves and Cologne came to Rome and stubbornly supported the claims of the woman whom the Pope called a concubine, he deposed and excommunicated them. They fled to the Emperor at Benevento, and there formed the nucleus of an Imperialist party adverse to the Pope. Finally, they persuaded the Emperor (who was accompanied by the Empress) to proceed threateningly to Rome at the head of his army. He entered the Leonine city as an enemy, and his soldiers were permitted to indulge in acts of violence. But Nicholas I. remained firm. He passed two whole days in St. Peter’s on his knees before the altar of the Apostle without touching food and without giving the slightest sign of fear. This dignified attitude made a deep impression on all, and the impression changed to terror when an Imperial soldier, who had insulted a religious procession, fell dead as though struck by lightning. Added to this the Emperor sickened with fever; then the terrified Empress induced him to hurry away to Northern Italy without accomplishing anything (864). Nicholas returned to the Lateran in triumph and there was a truce for a time.

Meanwhile the Saracens, with Bari as their base, continued to make incursions into Apulia, even advancing beyond its borders. Nor could Louis, in spite of his desire to establish the Imperial authority in those provinces and eventually aggregate them to the Empire, make head against the Infidels. They were the masters of the sea, while he had no fleet. The Longobards of Benevento, of Salerno, and of Capua, instead of uniting with him against the common foe, spent their strength in fighting one another and, in order to gratify their spite, frequently made alliances with the Saracens. This state of things induced Louis to appeal for aid to Constantinople, where, after the murder of Michael III., the Armenian Basilius had succeeded in ascending the throne and was beginning to pursue a policy very different to that of his predecessor. His first act was to depose Phocius, thereby winning the Papal favour, and he held out hopes of assistance to Louis in his war against the Infidels.

But at the moment when Louis, who had obtained a partial victory over them in 867, was allowing himself the brightest hopes, Pope Nicholas died and was succeeded by Hadrian II. (867-872), who, having duly obtained the Imperial sanction, was consecrated on December 14th. His reign was soon disturbed by internal troubles, and it was not until they had been quieted that the Emperor could continue negotiations at Constantinople regarding the campaign against the Saracens. In this project he was seconded by the new Pope, who invited the clergy to pray “for our son, Louis II., and for the success of his arms against the Infidels” (868). All now seemed favourable. In 870 a Byzantine fleet lay before Bari, while Louis attacked the city from the mainland and succeeded in taking it during the following year. At that moment, however, dissensions broke out between the two Empires. The Byzantines intended to retain possession of the territories that were conquered from the Saracens; the Franks maintained that these should be added to the Western Empire. It was, on both sides, a question of principle, the result of the different ideas they held concerning, the Empire. In the eyes of Basilius, Charlemagne and his successors were usurpers—the real Empire having its seat at Constantinople. Louis, on the other hand, upheld the theory that the Franks had received the Western Empire from the Pope and from the Romans, and that these lands formed an integral part of it. To deny the validity of Charlemagne’s consecration by Leo III. was to condemn by implication the act of Samuel, who, after having anointed Saul, anointed David. The old Emperors had forfeited all their rights when they abandoned Rome and ceased to use the Imperial language.

It was as impossible to bring these two opposing principles into harmony as it was impossible to come to any agreement with the Longobards, who, always at strife with one another, were, on this occasion, unanimous in declaring that the territories recovered from the Saracens, and which had all formed part, in previous times, of the Duchy of Benevento, should now belong to them. And as Louis fiercely opposed their claim, the discontent became so general among them that it seemed as though an insurrection of all the Longobard populations, including that of Spoleto, were imminent.

At Benevento discontent rose to the highest pitch. Since 853 Adelchi had held rule there, and he could ill brook the presence of Louis as a master in the city. Things reached such a pass that he even seized upon the Emperor’s person, thereby causing great scandal.

Adelchi held the Emperor prisoner for forty days; then the news of the approach of the Saracens reached him and he thereupon set Louis free, after obtaining from him the promise that he would never again enter the city of Benevento, nor take revenge for the indignity he had suffered. Louis then returned to Rome (May 17, 872) persuaded that his promise was null because it had been forcibly extracted from him. The Pope endorsed this view, and exonerated him from the obligation of keeping it. Thence Louis proceeded towards Capua, where, continuing his campaign against the Saracens, he defeated them and compelled them to retreat to Calabria. By these campaigns he had done something towards the re-establishment of Imperial authority in the south of Italy. But Adelchi still ruled at Benevento and maintained his rebellious attitude. Louis, after further successes in one or two minor engagements, was obliged to return to Northern Italy, where he died at Brescia on the 12th of August, 875. As he had no sons to succeed him, he left the Empire very weak and given over to discord. The hope of adding to it the southern provinces, by conquering them from the Saracens, had vanished like a dream.



THE EMPEROR LOUIS’ BROTHER, LOTHAIR II., had predeceased him in 869, and his two uncles, Louis the German and Charles the Bald, had seized upon his inheritance and divided it between themselves, while the Emperor Louis retained only Provence and Italy. When his death occurred in 875 the question arose as to the manner in which they should divide this further inheritance and which of them should assume the title of Emperor. Louis the German was the elder and his German realm was the stronger. But Pope Hadrian, who died in 872, had been succeeded by a man of impetuous character, John VIII. (consecrated on the 14th of December). He unhesitatingly gave his preference to Charles, who ruled in France, because that country was more like Italy. He invited him to Rome to receive the Imperial crown, almost taking upon himself the right of electing the Emperor and assuming an attitude of superiority towards him. Charles immediately repaired to Pavia but before proceeding to Rome he was obliged to settle matters with his brother, who, much incensed by the turn of events, sent his two sons to intercept him. They were, however, defeated, and Charles the Bald was crowned in St. Peter’s on Christmas Day, 875.

On the 5th of January, 876, he left Rome for Pavia, and in February he convened a diet, in which Archbishops, Bishops, Counts, and all the Lyreat dignitaries took part, declaring: “Unanimiter vos protectorem dominum ac defensorem omnium nostrum et italici regni regem eligimus.” Then the Archbishop of Milan placed the Iron crown of Lombardy upon his head. Thus, for the first time, did the magnates of Italy elect their own king after the custom of the Longobards. On the 28th of August of the same year Charles’ brother, Louis the German, died. This event, although removing one dangerous rival from his path, called up three more in the persons of Louis’ sons—Carloman, Louis III., and Charles the Fat—whom he had once defeated, but with whom he must now continue to struggle.