The Holy Roman Empire - James Bryce - ebook

The Holy Roman Empire ebook

James Bryce

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Bryce approached the subject of The Holy Roman Empire from only one angle, but that a very important one. What interested him was to trace the history of the imperial idea from the founding to the termination of The Holy Roman Empire. He was not interested in its actual history save in so far as that narrative illuminated his major thesis. He endeavored to interpret and to evaluate the influence of a great political idea in medieval and modern history. The facts throughout the book were reduced to that minimum necessary to give coherence and cohesiveness to the subject. The only descriptive chapter in the work is that entitled "The city of Rome in the middle ages," which is a masterpiece of historical composition, without equal in English literature.

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The Holy Roman Empire

 

JAMES BRYCE

 

 

 

 

 

The Holy Roman Empire, J. Bryce

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9

Deutschland

 

ISBN: 9783849650124

 

www.jazzybee-verlag.de

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS:

 

PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1904. 1

PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION.. 2

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF IMPORTANT  EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF THE EMPIRE   3

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTORY.. 21

CHAPTER II: THE ROMAN EMPIRE BEFORE THE ENTRANCE OF THE BARBARIANS  23

CHAPTER III: THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS. 28

CHAPTER IV: RESTORATION OF  THE EMPIRE IN THE WEST.. 38

CHAPTER V: EMPIRE AND POLICY OF CHARLES. 47

CHAPTER VI: CAROLINGIAN AND ITALIAN EMPERORS. 61

CHAPTER VII: THEORY OF THE MEDIAEVAL EMPIRE.. 68

CHAPTER VIII: THE ROMAN EMPIRE  AND THE GERMAN KINGDOM... 84

CHAPTER IX: SAXON AND FRANCONIAN EMPERORS. 91

CHAPTER X: STRUGGLE OF  THE EMPIRE AND THE PAPACY.. 102

CHAPTER XI: THE EMPERORS IN ITALY:  FREDERICK BARBAROSSA.. 110

CHAPTER XII: IMPERIAL TITLES AND PRETENSIONS. 118

CHAPTER XIII: FALL OF THE HOHENSTAUFEN:  RENEWED STRIFE OF PAPACY AND EMPIRE   128

CHAPTER XIV: THE GERMANIC CONSTITUTION:  THE SEVEN ELECTORS  141

CHAPTER XV: THE EMPIRE AS  AN INTERNATIONAL POWER.. 153

CHAPTER XVI: THE CITY OF ROME IN THE MIDDLE AGES. 170

CHAPTER XVII: THE EAST ROMAN EMPIRE.. 190

CHAPTER XVIII: THE RENAISSANCE:  CHANGE IN THE CHARACTER OF THE EMPIRE   208

CHAPTER XIX: THE REFORMATION  AND ITS EFFECTS UPON THE EMPIRE   219

CHAPTER XX: THE PEACE OF WESTPHALIA:  LAST STAGE IN THE DECLINE OF THE EMPIRE   230

CHAPTER XXI: FALL OF THE EMPIRE.. 240

CHAPTER XXII: SUMMARY AND REFLECTIONS. 245

CHAPTER XXIII: THE PROGRESS  OF GERMANY TOWARDS NATIONAL UNITY   262

CHAPTER XXIV: THE NEW GERMAN EMPIRE.. 282

EPILOGUE.. 296

APPENDIX.. 301

NOTE A: ON THE BURGUNDIES. 301

NOTE B: ON THE RELATIONS TO THE EMPIRE OF THE KINGDOM OF DENMARK, AND THE DUCHIES OF SCHLESWIG AND HOLSTEIN.. 303

NOTE C: ON CERTAIN  IMPERIAL TITLES AND CEREMONIES. 304

NOTE D: LINES CONTRASTING  THE PAST AND PRESENT OF ROME.. 307

NOTE E: LIST OF BOOKS ON THE HISTORY OF THE EMPIRE WHICH MAY BE CONSULTED BY THE STUDENT   307

Footnotes:309

PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1904

Forty years have passed since this book was first published, and since then our knowledge of mediaeval history has been much increased and events have happened which render some of the remarks then made no longer applicable. I have not however attempted to rewrite the whole book, for this reason, among others, that were I to do so it would almost inevitably grow out of a small volume devoted to a single Idea and Institution into a systematic history of the Empire and the Popedom in the Middle Ages. That would double or treble its size, and make it unsuitable to one class of the students who have used it in its present form. I have therefore confined myself to such changes and enlargements as seemed to be most needed. Where events of significance had been omitted or too briefly noticed, additions have been made. For instance, the struggle of the Emperor Lewis IV against Pope John XXII and the careers of Arnold of Brescia and Cola di Rienzo have been somewhat more fully described. An entirely new chapter has been inserted dealing with the East Roman or Byzantine Empire, a topic inadequately handled in previous editions. A concluding chapter, sketching the constitution of the new German Empire and the forces which have given it strength and cohesion, has been appended. This chapter, and that which (first published in 1873) traces the process whereby after 1813 national sentiment grew in Germany, and national unity was achieved in 1871, are not indeed necessary for the explanation of an institution whose best days were over four centuries ago. But they help to explain it, if only by contrast; and the convenience to a reader of finding a succinct account of the foundation and the character of this modern representative—if one may call it so—of the mediaeval Empire will, I hope, be deemed to compensate for whatever loss of symmetry is involved in an extension of the treatise beyond its original limits. With a similar practical aim, I have prefixed a pretty full Chronological Table of important events, presenting such an outline of the narrative history of the Empire as may serve to elucidate the text, and have added three maps.

The book has been revised throughout: statements which seemed to have been too broadly expressed, or which political changes have made no longer true, have been corrected: more exact references have been given and new illustrations inserted in the notes. I have to acknowledge with cordial thanks the help which in the verification of statements and references I have received from my friend Mr. Ernest Barker, lecturer on history at Wadham College, Oxford.

Did custom permit the dedication to any one of a new edition of a book long before the public, I should have dedicated the pages that follow to Mr. Goldwin Smith, now the honoured patriarch of English historians, from whom forty-three years ago, when he was professor at Oxford, I received my first lessons in modern history, and whose friendship I have ever since been privileged to enjoy.

JAMES BRYCE.

September 13, 1904

PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION

The object of this treatise is not so much to give a narrative history of the countries included in the Romano-Germanic Empire—Italy during the Middle Ages, Germany from the ninth century to the nineteenth—as to describe the Holy Empire itself as an institution or system, the wonderful offspring of a body of beliefs and traditions which have almost wholly passed away from the world. Such a description, however, would not be intelligible without some account of the great events which accompanied the growth and decay of Imperial power; and it has therefore appeared best to give the book the form rather of a narrative than of a dissertation; and to combine with an exposition of what may be called the theory of the Empire an outline of the political history of Germany, as well as some notices of the affairs of mediaeval Italy. To make the succession of events clearer, a Chronological List of Emperors and Popes has been prefixed.

The great events of 1866 and 1870 reflect back so much light upon the previous history of Germany, and so much need, in order to be properly understood, to be viewed in their relation to the character and influence of the old Empire, that although they do not fall within the original limits of this treatise, some remarks upon them, and the causes which led to them, will not be out of place in it, and will perhaps add to whatever interest or value it may possess. As the Author found that to introduce these remarks into the body of the work, would oblige him to take to pieces and rewrite the last three chapters, a task he had no time for, he has preferred to throw them into a new supplementary chapter, which accordingly contains a brief sketch of the rise of Prussia, of the state of Germany under the Confederation which expired in 1866, and of the steps whereby the German nation has regained its political unity in the new Empire.

Lincoln’s Inn,

London,

June 28, 1873

.

 

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF IMPORTANT EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF THE EMPIRE

bc 48

Battle of Pharsalus. Julius Caesar receives the power of a tribune for life, and (bc 45) a perpetual dictatorship.

31

Battle of Actium. Octavianus (Augustus) becomes master of the whole dominions of Rome.

ad 9

Defeat of the Roman army under Varus in Westphalia: consequent abandonment of the policy of conquering Germany.

64

First persecution of the Christians under Nero.

292

Division of the Empire into four areas of government: first appearance of the East as a separate realm.

313

Recognition of Christianity by Edict of Constantine as a lawful religion.

325

Constantine presides in the First General Council of Nicaea which condemns the Arians and issues the Nicene Creed.

326-8

Constantinople or New Rome, founded by extending the site of the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium, becomes the seat of imperial government.

361

Efforts of Julian to restore pagan worship in the Roman Empire.

364

Division of the Empire by Valentinian I into an Eastern and a Western realm.

376

A large body of Goths permitted to cross the Danube into the Empire: subsequent war between them and the Emperor Valens: he is defeated and killed in the battle of Adrianople in 378.

395

Final Division of the Empire between Arcadius who receives the Eastern and Honorius who receives the Western provinces.

409

Abandonment of Britain by the Roman armies.

410

Capture and sack of Rome by the West Goths under Alarich.

412

Foundation of a West Gothic monarchy in Southern Gaul by Athaulf (who marries Placidia daughter of Theodosius the Great), and (419) by his successor Wallia.

395-430

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in Africa: he composes his De Civitate Dei between 413 and 426.

429

The Vandals enter Africa, having traversed Gaul and Spain, and found a kingdom there.

443-75

The Burgundians form a monarchy in Southeastern Gaul.

462-72

Euric, king of the West Goths, conquers Spain and establishes there the Gothic monarchy which lasts till the Arab conquest.

455

Invasion of Italy and sack of Rome by the Vandal Gaiserich.

451

Fourth General Council held at Chalcedon: settlement of the doctrine of the Nature of Christ and consequent alienation of the Monophysites of Egypt and Syria.

451-2

Attila invades Gaul and is repulsed near Chalons-sur-Marne. He then enters Italy and destroys Aquileia.

476

Odoacer deposes the Emperor Romulus Augustulus and assumes the rule of Italy, which is however nominally reunited to the Eastern half of the Empire.

481-511

Reign of Clovis king of the Franks: he enters Gaul, overcomes Syagrius, ruling at Soissons, defeats the Burgundians and the West Goths (of Aquitaine), and establishes the Frankish monarchy, which includes Gaul and Western Germany, the Burgundians being reduced to dependence.

489-526

Theodorich the Amal leads the East Goths across the Alps, defeats Odoacer, and reigns over Italy and Sicily.

529-34

The Emperor Justinian revises and consolidates the Roman law and issues the Code Digest and Institutes.

533

Belisarius, sent by Justinian, reconquers Africa from the Vandals for the Roman Empire.

535-53

Long war of Justinian against the East Goths in Italy: Italy and Sicily are reconquered; disappearance of the East Gothic nation.

568

Alboin leads the Lombards into Italy, conquers the Northern part of it and establishes a monarchy there; Lombard chieftains subsequently found the duchies of Spoleto and Benevento.

622

Flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina (Era of the Hegira).

622-28

Campaign of the Emperor Heraclius against the Sassanid kings: defeat of the Persians and recovery of the eastern Provinces.

633-52

The Mohammedan Arabs invade Syria, conquer Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Armenia, and invade Asia Minor.

638

Pipin of Landen, founder of the Carolingian house, rises to power among the Franks as Mayor of the Palace.

688

Pipin (of Heristal), grandson of the first Pipin, becomes virtual ruler of the Franks as Mayor of the Palace.

669-96

The Arabs invade North Africa, and destroy the Roman power there.

711

The Arabs and Berbers invade Spain, defeat Roderich the last of the West Gothic kings in the battle of the Guadalete, and in a few years conquer the whole Iberian peninsula, except the mountains of Asturias and Biscay.

732

The Arab invasions of Gaul are checked in a battle near Poitiers by Charles Martel, Frankish Mayor of the Palace, son of the second Pipin.

726-32

The Emperor Leo III (reigning at Constantinople) issues an Edict forbidding the worship of images and ordering their destruction in the churches. It evokes strong opposition from the Roman church and leads to a revolt of the North Italian subjects of the Empire. The Lombard king, Liudprand, invades the imperial territories in North Italy. Pope Gregory II induces him to withdraw from before Rome.

741

Pope Gregory III, still in conflict with the Emperor and threatened by the Lombards, appeals to Charles Martel and sends him the keys of the tomb of the Apostles.

751

With the authorization of Pope Zacharias, Pipin (the Short), Mayor of the Palace in Gaul, becomes king of the Franks in the place of the Merovingian Childebert III.

753

Pope Stephen II asks help from the Emperor at Constantinople against the Lombard king Aistulf, who is threatening Rome.

754

Pope Stephen goes to Gaul and crowns and anoints Pipin as king. Pipin invades Italy and reduces Aistulf to submission.

756

Pipin, at the call of the Pope, again enters Italy, overcomes the Lombards, bestows on the See of Rome the territories belonging to the Exarchate of Ravenna, and receives the title of Patrician.

758

Charles (the Great), son of Pipin, becomes king of the Franks of Neustria, and after the death of his brother Carloman (in 771) king of the Franks of Austrasia also.

772-803

Wars of Charles against the Saxons, ending in their submission and enforced conversion.

773-4

Charles, at the appeal of the Pope, who is menaced by king Desiderius, attacks and subjects the Lombards, adding North Italy to his dominions, and is recognized as suzerain of Rome.

778

Expedition of Charles into Spain: fight at Roncesvalles between his troops and the Basques.

794

Charles presides in a Church Council held at Frankfort which disapproves of Pope Hadrian’s action regarding images.

797

Irene deposes and blinds her son the Emperor Constantine VI.

800

Charles Is Crowned Emperor At Rome.

805

Charles defeats and reduces the Avars.

810-12

Negotiations of Charles with the East Roman Emperors: they ultimately recognize him as Emperor and as ruler of Northern Italy, except Venice. The south of Italy and Sicily remain subject to Constantinople.

814

Death of Charles: he is succeeded by his son Lewis, whom he had crowned as co-Emperor in 813.

817-39

Lewis I makes several divisions of his dominions among his sons: quarrels arise between him and them and between the sons themselves. The administrative system established by Charles falls to pieces. Norse and Danish pirates devastate the coasts of Germany and Gaul.

841

Battle of Fontanetum between Lewis and Charles, the younger sons of Lewis I (who had died in 840) and their brother the Emperor Lothar; defeat of Lothar.

843

Partition treaty of Verdun between the three sons of Lewis I. The East Frankish kingdom assigned to Lewis (the German) is the origin of the German kingdom of later days.

855

Lewis II, reigning in Italy since 844, becomes Emperor. Attacks of the Saracens upon Italy.

866

Dispute between Pope Nicholas I and Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople: it ends in a schism which divides the two churches.

876

Charles the Bald, king of the West Franks, is crowned Emperor at Rome. He dies next year.

877

Boso, husband of Irmingard (daughter of the Emperor Lewis II), founds the kingdom of (Cisjurane) Burgundy or Arles and is recognized as king by Charles the Bald.

888

Death of the Emperor Charles the Fat, who had (during his reign of three years) reunited the dominions of Charles the Great. After him they fall asunder, and the Carolingian Empire disappears. Arnulf, duke of Carinthia (an illegitimate descendant of Charles), is chosen king of the East Franks (subsequently Emperor), and is succeeded by his son Lewis the Child, who dies unmarried, in 911. Rudolf founds the kingdom of Transjurane Burgundy. West France passes to Odo (grand-uncle of Hugh Capet, who becomes king in 987). Odo admits the suzerainty of Arnulf.

891

Guido of Spoleto, having overcome Berengar of Friuli, seizes the throne of Italy and is crowned Emperor at Rome.

894

Arnulf enters Italy, drives Guido from Pavia, and is crowned king of Italy.

896

Arnulf marches to Rome and is crowned Emperor.

901-25

Repeated invasions of Germany and Italy by the Magyars: the Germans pay a sort of tribute to them from 925 to 933: raids continue in Italy.

911

Conrad, duke of Franconia, is chosen king of the East Franks.

919

Henry (the Fowler), duke of the Saxons, is, on Conrad’s death, chosen king of the East Franks or Germans. He was, through females, great-great-grandson of Charles the Great, and a man of proved ability and uprightness.

928

Henry the Fowler attacks the Slavs beyond the Elbe, defeats them, and constructs a fort at Brannibor, which grows into the March of Brandenburg: he makes the Czechs of Bohemia his tributaries.

933

Henry, having organized and trained his forces, attacks and defeats the Magyar invaders in Saxony, and strengthens the eastern frontiers of Germany.

936

Death of Henry: his son Otto (the Great) is chosen to succeed him as king of the East Franks, and is crowned at Aachen.

951

Adelheid of Burgundy, widow of Lothar king of Italy, asks help from Otto against Berengar king of Italy: Otto relieves the castle of Canosa, where she had taken refuge, marries her, and makes Berengar his vassal.

955

Great defeat of the Magyars by Otto on the Lech, near Augsburg. He conquers the Slavs between the Elbe and the Oder, and strengthens the East March, afterwards the principality of Austria.

962

Otto, having deposed Berengar and taken to himself the kingdom of Italy, is crowned Emperor at Rome by Pope John XII.

972

The East Roman Emperor John Tzimiskes makes peace with Otto I and recognizes his title: Theophano (daughter of the Emperor Romanus II) is married at Rome to Otto I’s son Otto (afterwards the Emperor Otto II): both are crowned by the Pope.

973

Otto the Great dies and is succeeded by Otto II, in whose reign the disorders of Germany, repressed by Otto I, grow worse, and the Slavs again harry the north-eastern borders.

982

War of Otto II against the Saracens in Southern Italy: he is defeated and escapes with difficulty.

983

Death of Otto II: he is succeeded by his only son Otto III, who had been chosen in his father’s lifetime: the Empress dowager Theophano acts as regent till her death in 991.

987

Lewis V, king of the West Franks, the last of the Carolingian line, dies and is succeeded by Hugh Capet, duke of France.

996

Otto III marches to Rome, makes his cousin Bruno Pope (Gregory V) and is crowned by him. Subsequent revolts of the Romans against him are suppressed, and on the death of Gregory V he procures the election of Gerbert as Pope (Sylvester II) in 999.

1000

The Magyars having now embraced Christianity, Otto gives his cousin Gisela in marriage to their king Stephen, and sends him the crown thereafter known as the crown of St. Stephen.

1002

Death of Otto III at Paterno (under Mount Soracte, near Rome): his second cousin Henry duke of Bavaria (great-grandson of Henry the Fowler) succeeds, after some difficulty, in getting himself chosen king of Germany by the Bavarians, Lotharingians, Swabians, and Saxons successively, and is crowned at Aachen.

1004

Henry enters Italy, defeats Ardoin marquis of Ivrea who had made himself king there, and is crowned king at Pavia.

1014

Henry re-enters Italy, meeting with little opposition, although some of the cities had continued to recognize Ardoin, and is crowned Emperor at Rome by Pope Benedict VIII. The kingdom of Italy thenceforward goes with the Empire.

1024

Henry II (the Saint) dies (he was canonized in 1152 by Pope Eugenius III, and his wife Cunigunda was subsequently canonized by Pope Innocent III): a great assembly of the German princes held on the banks of the Rhine below Worms chooses Conrad duke of Franconia (surnamed the Salic) to be king. He was a descendant in the female line of Otto the Great.

1026

Conrad (II of Germany) enters Italy, where attempts had been made to set up members of the French royal house as king: he is crowned king of Italy at Pavia.

1027

Conrad is crowned Emperor at Rome, in the presence of Cnut king of England and Denmark and of Rudolf king of Burgundy, who escort him to his lodgings. Quarrel between the German troops and the Romans in which many of the latter are slain.

1032-3

Death of Rudolf king of Burgundy: Conrad II obtains the kingdom in pursuance of arrangements made with Rudolf, and is recognized by the nobles and bishops. The practical independence of the great lay vassals of the Empire and prelates in the Saone and Rhone valleys, and in the country between the Jura and the Pennine Alps, dates from this time, because these districts lay far from the centre of German power.

1035-8

Troubles in Italy: Heribert archbishop of Milan resists the Emperor: Conrad II fails to reduce the rebels, but at Rome restores Pope Benedict IX, whom the Romans had expelled. He loses great part of his army by disease.

1039

Death of Conrad II: he is succeeded by his son Henry (III of Germany), surnamed The Black, who had been chosen king of Germany in his lifetime.

1046

Henry III enters Italy: is crowned at Milan, deposes two rival Popes and obtains the resignation of a third, secures the election of Pope Clement II, and is crowned Emperor by him at Rome.

1041

Norman adventurers under the sons of Tancred of Hauteville begin to carry on war against the East Roman Empire in Southern Italy, and ultimately (1071) win the whole country.

1051

Dispute between Pope Leo IX and the Patriarch of Constantinople, the latter refusing to admit the superiority of the See of Rome. A schism results which lasts till the Council of Florence in 1438-9.

1053

The Normans defeat and capture Pope Leo IX, who had marched against them; they presently set the Pope free, and restore the lands taken from the See of Rome. In 1059 Robert Wiscard, now the chief of the Normans, who had owned himself vassal to the Chair of St. Peter for his conquests in Calabria and Apulia, is created by Pope Nicholas II duke of Apulia and Calabria.

1056

Death of Henry III: he is succeeded by his son Henry, then six years of age, who had been already chosen and crowned king.

1059

Pope Nicholas II lays down new rules for papal elections, vesting the primary choice in the cardinals, while reserving the rights of the clergy and people of Rome, and of the Emperor Henry IV, to give their consent.

1071

The East Roman Emperor Romanus Diogenes is defeated and captured at Manzikert by the Turkish Sultan Alp Arslan: the Turks begin the conquest of Asia Minor.

1073-4

Great revolt of the Saxons against the Emperor, who after a struggle overcomes them. They revolt again, and peace is not restored till 1097.

1075

Quarrel of Henry with Pope Gregory VII (elected in 1073) over the investiture of clerics. The Pope excommunicates the Emperor (1076).

1077

Henry submits to Gregory at Canosa and is absolved, but soon after strife is renewed; a rival Emperor (Rudolf of Swabia) is chosen in Germany against Henry, and civil war follows there, while an anti-pope is elected against Gregory.

1081

Henry enters Italy, besieges and after three years captures Rome (except the castle of St. Angelo, where Gregory VII holds out): he is crowned Emperor by his anti-pope.

1084

Robert Wiscard, summoned by Gregory, enters Rome; it is subsequently sacked by his troops; destruction and ultimate desolation of the parts of the city lying on the Aventine and Coelian hills: Gregory returns with Robert to South Italy, and dies at Salerno (1085).

On the death of Rudolf, Hermann of Luxemburg is set up against Henry as ruler in Germany; he abandons the contest in 1088.

1090

Conquest of Sicily from the Muslims by the Normans is completed; South Italy and Sicily are ultimately erected into a kingdom. Roger is crowned king of Sicily in 1130: Pope Innocent II yields South Italy by a treaty in 1139.

1096

Beginning of the First Crusade: the Crusaders take Jerusalem in 1099, and make Godfrey of Bouillon, duke of Lorraine, king.

1105-6

Henry IV is dethroned by his second son, Henry, who, supported by the papal party, becomes king as Henry V, and is crowned at Mentz. (Henry IV dies in 1106. )

1111

Henry V descends into Italy, enters Rome to be crowned, seizes Pope Paschal II (upon the failure of an agreement by which the Church was to surrender its possessions, and Henry consequently his right of investiture) keeps him and the cardinals prisoners, and extorts a treaty admitting the Emperor’s right of clerical investiture. He is then crowned by the Pope, and returns to Germany. The Pope, when released, finds that the clergy will not accept the treaty and is obliged to disavow it. The contest over the investiture of ecclesiastics by laymen continues.

1122

Concordat of Worms between Pope Calixtus II and the Emperor, by which the question of investitures is compromised.

1125

Henry V dies, leaving no male heir: Lothar, duke of Saxony, is chosen to succeed him. A quarrel breaks out between Lothar and Frederick of Hohenstaufen, duke of Swabia, which is the origin of the long strife of the houses of Welf (so called) and Waiblingen (Waiblingen was a small town belonging to the Hohenstaufen, whose name is said to have been on one occasion used as a battle-cry). Conrad, duke of Franconia, brother of Frederick of Swabia, disputes the throne with Lothar, enters Italy, and is crowned at Monza and Milan. The hostility of the Pope, however, prevents him from maintaining authority there, and he and Frederick ultimately submit.

1133

Lothar II is crowned Emperor in Rome by Pope Innocent II. He had held the Pope’s stirrup at an interview in Germany, and desiring papal support he took an oath to defend the Holy See, and acknowledged papal rights over part of the territories that had belonged to the Countess Matilda. This was afterwards represented as a recognition of papal suzerainty; but Lothar maintained the rights secured by the Concordat of Worms.

1138

Lothar II, after a successful war against the Normans of South Italy, dies in Tyrol: Conrad of Hohenstaufen, duke of Swabia, is chosen king in his stead, to the displeasure of the Saxons and Bavarians, with whom he soon finds himself at war.

1144

Revolt of the Romans against Pope Innocent II: preaching of Arnold of Brescia republican institutions are reorganized and envoys sent to Conrad III to obtain his support.

1146

Conrad III starts on the Second Crusade, but returns having lost his army and effected little.

1152

Death of Conrad, who had never carried out his intention of receiving the imperial crown at Rome. His nephew Frederick of Hohenstaufen, duke of Swabia, is chosen king and crowned at Aachen with the general approval of the nation.

1154

Frederick enters Italy, where he finds Milan and other Lombard cities disobedient.

1155

Frederick I meets Pope Hadrian IV outside Rome, and after some resistance consents to hold the stirrup for him, and at his demand seizes and puts to death Arnold of Brescia. He is crowned by the Pope in St. Peter’s, but is unable to force his way into Rome.

1157

Diet at Besançon, where the great Burgundian vassals do homage to the Emperor. Indignation at the assertion made by the papal legate that the Empire was held from the See of Rome.

1158-62

Frederick carries on war with the recalcitrant Lombard cities and destroys Milan. Diet at Roncaglia.

1160

Double election to the Papacy of Alexander III and Victor IV. Frederick sides with Victor. Long conflict between Alexander and the Empire, the Pope supporting the North Italian cities against Frederick. Alexander, at first driven to take refuge in France, returns to Rome (1165) and deposes the Emperor.

1167-76

Further strife in Italy, ending with the defeat of Frederick’s army by the allied cities at Legnano.

1177

Reconciliation of Frederick and Pope Alexander III at Venice.

1180-1

Henry (the Lion) duke of Saxony, who had failed to support Frederick in the campaign of Legnano, is condemned by the Diet at Wurzburg to lose his possessions: he resists by force of arms, but is ultimately obliged to submit, losing his duchies of Saxony and Bavaria, but receiving back some part of his estates.

1183

Peace of Constance between Frederick and the confederated Lombard cities: they secure internal self-government and the right of making peace and war, and are thenceforward practically independent.

1186

Marriage of Henry, eldest son of Frederick, to Constantia, daughter of Roger II king of Sicily, and heiress of the Norman kingdom.

1189

Frederick leads a German host (estimated at 100. 000 men) on the Third Crusade. After traversing Bulgaria and Asia Minor, he is drowned in the river Kalykadnus in Cilicia, in 1190; and is succeeded by his eldest son, Henry VI, who had been already (as a child) chosen king and crowned at Aachen.

1189

Death of William the Good, king of Sicily. The Sicilian kingdom and South Italy are claimed by Henry in right of his wife: but he is resisted by Tancred (illegitimate son of Roger, son of Roger II), and does not master Sicily till 1194.

1190

Foundation of the Teutonic Order of Knights by Frederick (son of the Emperor Frederick I) while commanding the German Crusaders after his father’s death.

1191

Henry VI is crowned Emperor at Rome.

1194

Richard I king of England (made prisoner in 1192 by the duke of Austria) surrenders the kingdom of England to the Emperor and receives it back as a fief on his liberation.

1197

Death of Henry VI at Messina: he had caused his son Frederick, a child of three, to be chosen king two years previously.

1198-1208

Disputed election. Philip of Hohenstaufen, duke of Swabia, brother of Henry VI, had at first tried to rule as regent on behalf of his infant nephew Frederick, but when this proves impossible in face of the opposition of Pope Innocent III, he secures his own election by a large majority of the great princes. The Pope, however, raises up a party against him and procures the election of Otto of Brunswick, son of Henry the Lion (late duke of Saxony) and of Matilda (sister of Richard I of England). Civil war in Germany, terminated by the murder of Philip in 1208.

1204

A French army and Venetian fleet starting for the Fourth Crusade besiege and take Constantinople, and set up Baldwin as East Roman Emperor. The East Romans found an empire at Nicaea which lasts till 1261, when they recover Constantinople.

1208

Otto, on his rival’s death, is formally re-elected Emperor, and next year visits Rome, and is crowned Emperor by Innocent III.

1210-18

Otto IV quarrels with Innocent, who encourages Frederick (son of Henry VI) to put himself at the head of the party in Germany, which is hostile to Otto IV. Frederick is elected king and crowned at Mentz (1212) and at Aachen (1215). Otto IV retires to his dominions in Brunswick, and dies (1218) after an unsuccessful war against Philip of France.

1216

The Order of St. Dominic is recognized by the Pope, and in 1223 the Order of St. Francis is also recognized.

1220

Frederick II, by a solemn act (subsequently called a Pragmatic Sanction) issued in a Diet at Frankfort, extends large powers to the ecclesiastical princes. A similar Sanction some years later extends the privileges of the secular princes. He is crowned emperor at Rome. Disputes soon after arise between him and the Pope, nominally arising out of his delay in setting out on a crusade.

1226

The Lombard cities renew their league against the Emperor.

1227

Open breach between Frederick and Pope Gregory IX, who excommunicates him.

1228-9

Frederick II sets out on his Crusade, reaches Jerusalem, and returns, having made a favourable treaty with the Sultan of Egypt.

1228-40

Establishment of the Teutonic Knights on the eastern frontier of Germany and conquest by them of the Lithuanians of Old Prussia.

1230

Reconciliation of the Pope and Frederick II, who is absolved.

1235

War between the Emperor and the Lombard League, the Pope supporting the cities. It lasts during the rest of Frederick II’s reign.

1235-40

Strife of Gregory IX and the Emperor, whom he excommunicates (1239), then preaches a crusade against him, and tries to stir up an insurrection in Germany.

1241

Beginnings of the Hanseatic League of cities.

1242

A Mongol host invades Germany and is defeated in Moravia and Austria.

1243

Election of Pope Innocent IV (a teacher of law at Bologna), who soon resumes hostilities against the Emperor, and in Councils held at Lyons (1244-5) excommunicates and deposes him, and excites some of the German princes to set up Henry of Thuringia, and afterwards (1247) William of Holland, as pretenders to the crown. William is crowned at Aachen, and maintains his pretensions till his death in 1256. Anarchy in Germany.

1250

Frederick II, who had been constantly engaged in fighting the Guelf party in Italy, dies in Apulia. He is succeeded by his son Conrad IV, who had been chosen king in his father’s lifetime (1237).

1250-4

Conrad IV, excommunicated by Pope Innocent, enters Italy and maintains the war there against the cities and the papal forces, while William of Holland is generally recognized in northern and middle Germany. Both there and in Italy anarchy continues. There has been, however, during Frederick’s reign a great increase in the population and wealth of the German cities, which had been favoured by Frederick I.

1254

Death of Conrad IV: the rights to the German territories of the Hohenstaufen and to the kingdom of Sicily pass to his son Conrad (Conradin), a child of two, while his illegitimate brother Manfred continues the war in South Italy against the Pope and the Guelfs, or papal party, till his death in the battle of Benevento in 1266.

1256-7

An interregnum follows the death of William of Holland, which ends with the double election of Richard earl of Cornwall (brother of the English king Henry III), and, by another section of the electors, a little later, of Alfonso X, king of Castile. Richard crosses to Germany and is crowned at Aachen. Alfonso remains in Spain. Richard retains the title of Emperor till his death in 1271, but is only thrice in Germany and never exercises effective authority there.

1261

Michael Palaeologus recovers Constantinople from the Latin Emperor and re-establishes an Orthodox dynasty there.

1268

Conradin, last male descendant of the Swabian emperors, enters Italy with a German army, but is defeated at Tagliacozzo by the army of Charles of Anjou and beheaded at Naples.

1273

Rudolf count of Hapsburg is chosen king and crowned at Aachen: he conciliates the Pope, and never enters Italy.

1277-82

Rudolf deprives Ottocar king of Bohemia of the Austrian territories and after a time bestows them, as well as Styria and Carniola, on his sons, laying the foundation of the territorial power of the house of Hapsburg.

1291

Death of Rudolf. He had failed to secure the fixing of the imperial crown as hereditary in his house, and even the election of his son Albert; the electors choose Adolf count of Nassau, a man of ability and energy but of slender resources.

1298

A revolt organized by Albert of Hapsburg and the archbishop of Mentz breaks out. Adolf is deposed, but resists: he is killed by the hand of Albert in battle at Göllheim near Worms, having never entered Italy to receive the imperial crown.

Albert of Hapsburg, duke of Austria, is chosen king and crowned at Aachen: Pope Boniface VIII refuses to recognize him.

1302

Dante Alighieri with the party of the White Guelfs is driven into exile from Florence: he writes his De Monarchia probably a little before, or in, 1311 or 1312, and dies at Ravenna in 1321.

1303

Boniface VIII, being engaged in a fierce strife with Philip IV of France, becomes reconciled to Albert and invites him to come to Rome to be crowned: which however Albert never does. Boniface is seized at Anagni by an armed band in the service of Philip IV of France, and dies a few days afterwards.

1305

Clement V (a Gascon by birth) becomes Pope. Moved by the constant rebellions and disorders of Rome for a long time previously, he removes the Papal Court to Avignon, where it remains for seventy years.

1307-8

League of the inhabitants of Schwytz Uri and Unterwalden to defend themselves against the oppression of the officers of Albert of Hapsburg: it is the germ of the Swiss Confederation. Albert marches against the Swiss, but is murdered on the banks of the Reuss by his nephew John in 1308.

1308

Henry count of Luxemburg is chosen king: he presently secures the kingdom of Bohemia for his family: and he recognizes the exemption of the three Swiss Cantons from the feudal rights of the counts of Hapsburg.

1310

Henry VII, summoned to put an end to the disorders and civil wars of Italy, where most of the cities had fallen under the dominion of tyrants, crosses the Alps, is crowned king of Italy, fights his way into Rome, where he is resisted by a faction of the nobles and by the troops of the king of Naples, and is crowned Emperor by the legates of Pope Clement V. He carries on war against the Guelfs of Italy till his death in 1313.

1313-14

Double election of Lewis duke of Bavaria and Frederick duke of Austria, followed by a civil war between them.

1315

The Swiss Confederates defeat the Austrian troops at Morgarten, and thereby secure their freedom.

1322

Lewis of Bavaria defeats Frederick at Muhldorf and takes him prisoner: the civil war however continues till 1325.

1324

Open breach between Pope John XXII and Lewis IV. John excommunicates him. Lewis appeals to a General Council. Lewis obtains the support of the English philosopher William of Ockham and other Franciscans, and of Marsilius of Padua: they write treatises against the Pope.

1327-8

Lewis enters Italy, is welcomed at Rome by the citizens; is crowned Emperor by the Syndics whom they appoint for the purpose. In a solemn meeting of the people he deposes John XXII, and crowns a Franciscan friar whom the people had chosen Pope. Finding the Romans fickle and his forces insufficient, he leaves Rome, and, in 1329, returns to Germany, while Rome submits to the Pope. Lewis subsequently endeavours, but in vain, to make peace with John XXII, and afterwards with Benedict XII.

1338

The Germanic Diet at Frankfort solemnly protests against the pretensions of the Pope to supremacy over the Empire and declares that the Empire is held from God alone. The Electors at Rhense issue a similar declaration.

1343

Pope Clement VI renews the decrees of his predecessors against Lewis IV; Lewis sends envoys to Avignon; but the Pope’s exorbitant demands are refused by the Germanic Diet: the Pope excommunicates Lewis, and sets up Charles king of Bohemia as rival to the throne. Charles is chosen king by the three ecclesiastical and by two lay electors.

1347-54

Cola di Rienzo effects a revolution at Rome, and is named Tribune with the assent of the papal legate: he falls from power after some months, escapes to the Apennines, goes to Bohemia, is imprisoned there by the Emperor Charles IV, and sent to Avignon, then sent back to Rome by Pope Clement VI with limited powers, and is killed in a popular outbreak in 1354.

1347

Death of Lewis IV: Charles king of Bohemia (grandson of the Emperor Henry VII) is opposed by several of the electors, who choose in succession king Edward III of England, who refuses (his Parliament objecting), Frederick marquis of Meissen (whom Charles buys off), and Gunther of Schwartzburg, who accepts, but dies soon after. Charles then has himself re-chosen and re-crowned at Aachen.

1354

Charles is crowned king of Italy at Milan and afterwards Emperor at Rome by the Cardinal-bishop of Ostia, commissioned thereto by the Pope. He shews himself submissive to the Pope, quits Rome forthwith and returns promptly across the Alps.

1356

Charles IV promulgates in a Diet held at Nürnberg the famous Constitution called the Golden Bull (Aurea Bulla), which settles the composition of the Electoral College, the proceedings in imperial elections, and the privileges of the electors.

1365

Charles IV visits the Pope at Avignon and is crowned king of Burgundy. (It is the last Burgundian coronation. ) He also visits the king of France.

1378

Death of Charles IV. His son Wenzel king of Bohemia, elected and crowned two years before, succeeds him.

The election of two rival Popes, Urban VI and Clement VII, leads to the Great Schism of the West, which lasts till the Council of Constance.

1384-8

War breaks out between the League of cities (formed in South Germany some years before) and the League of princes: general disorder in Germany.

1395

Wenzel confers the title of Duke of Milan on Gian Galeazzo Visconti, tyrant of that city.

1400

Wenzel’s neglect of his imperial duties and dissolute habits having provoked much displeasure, especially that of the clergy, who resent some of his ecclesiastical measures, four electors (the three Rhenish archbishops and the Count Palatine) pronounce him to be deposed, and choose Rupert (of Wittelsbach), Count Palatine of the Rhine: he is crowned at Cologne, and recognized over most of Germany, but Wenzel retains his title and the kingdom of Bohemia till 1411, when he makes way for his brother Sigismund.

1409

Council of Pisa summoned to endeavour to put an end to the Great Schism.

1410

Death of Rupert, who, like Wenzel, had never been crowned at Rome, though he had made an (unfortunate) expedition into Italy in 1401.

1410-11

Disputed election of Sigismund king of Hungary (brother of Wenzel) and of Jobst margrave of Moravia (cousin of Wenzel). Death of Jobst: Sigismund is again chosen and (in 1414) crowned at Aachen.

1414

Meeting of the Council of Constance: it burns John Huss (although Sigismund had given him a safe-conduct), deposes the rival Popes John XXIII and Benedict XIII, procures the abdication of a third rival Pope, Gregory XII, secures the election of a new Pope, Martin V, and breaks up in 1418.

1415-17

Sigismund confers the Electorate of Brandenburg on Frederick of Hohenzollern, Burggrave of Nurnberg (ancestor of the present house of Prussia).

1431

Sigismund enters Italy, is crowned king at Milan and Emperor at Rome (1433).

1437

Death of Sigismund, who had done something to restore the credit of the Empire, but had not recovered any of its power.

1438

Albert of Hapsburg, duke of Austria, is elected king of the Romans, and soon afterwards becomes king of Hungary and Bohemia.

1438-9

A Council held first at Ferrara, then at Florence, is attended by the East Roman Emperor John Palaeologus: it effects a nominal reconciliation of the Greek and Latin churches. Subsequent efforts of the Easterns to obtain armed help from the West against the Turks prove ineffective.

1439

Death of Albert II. Frederick of Hapsburg, duke of Styria, is elected to succeed him.

1452

Frederick III is crowned Emperor at Rome. It is the last imperial coronation there.

1453

Constantinople taken by the Turks. END OF THE EAST ROMAN EMPIRE. The (Christian) Empire of Trebizond lingers on till 1460, when it is overthrown by Mohammed II.

1454

A congress at Ratisbon deliberates on the proposal of a crusade against the Turks, but nothing follows.

1477

Marriage of Maximilian, son of Frederick III, to Mary of Burgundy, heiress of Duke Charles the Bold. The Netherlands and Franche Comté are thus acquired by the house of Hapsburg. (Philip, offspring of this marriage, marries Juana of Spain, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile: their son is Charles, afterwards the Emperor Charles V. )

1485-1512

Efforts to improve the constitution of the Empire, at first led by Berthold Elector of Mentz, are made at successive Diets.

1486

Bartholomew Diaz rounds the Cape of Good Hope.

1489

The Imperial cities are definitely recognized as members of the Germanic Diet.

1492

Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.

1493

Death of Frederick III: his son, Maximilian of Hapsburg (already elected), succeeds him.

Vasco da Gama reaches India by sea: beginning of the oceanic empire of Portugal.

1508

Maximilian obtains the Pope’s permission to call himself Emperor Elect.

1508

Luther begins to teach at Wittenberg.

1518

Zwingli is established as People’s Priest at Zurich.

1519

Death of Maximilian I: his grandson Charles (king of Spain) is elected Emperor.

1520-1

Luther, excommunicated by the Pope, burns the Bull: he appears before Charles V at the Diet of Worms, and is put to the ban of the Empire.

1524-5

Insurrection of the peasants in South Germany.

1529

The German Reformers make their ‘Protest’ in the Diet of Speyer.

1530

Florence captured by the troops of Charles V: the Medici finally established as its rulers.

1531

Battle of Kappel, in which Zwingli is killed.

The leading Protestant princes form the Smalkaldic League against the Emperor.

1534

The Society of Jesus established by Ignatius Loyola.

1545-63

Sittings of the Council of Trent, which are several times suspended for long intervals during these eighteen years.

1546

Death of Martin Luther.

War between the Smalkaldic League and the Emperor: the princes of the League are defeated at Mühlberg (1547) and harshly treated.

1552

The territories of the bishops of Metz, Toul, and Verdun are occupied by France: Charles V attempts in vain to recover them.

Maurice Elector of Saxony attacks the Emperor: chases him out of Tyrol and restores the Protestant cause in Germany.

1555

Charles V abdicates and dies soon after in Spain (1558): he is succeeded by his brother Ferdinand, previously elected.

Proclamation of the so-called ‘Religious Peace of Augsburg,’ settled at the Diet held there in 1554; it allows each German prince to enforce on his subjects the religion he had adopted: permits the Lutheran princes to retain all ecclesiastical estates occupied before 1552, but strips of his lands and dignities any prelate forsaking the Roman communion.

1560

The Protestants, invited by the Emperor to the Council of Trent, refuse to attend. The Council closes in 1563, having settled and defined the Catholic faith.

1563-8

The Elector of Brandenburg secures for his house the succession of the dukedom of Prussia.

1564

Death of the Emperor Ferdinand I: his son, Maximilian II, previously elected, succeeds, and endeavours to conciliate the Protestants.

1576

Death of Maximilian II: his son, Rudolf II, becomes Emperor.

1608

Formation in Germany of a Protestant Union of Princes and a Catholic League of Princes.

1612

Death of Rudolf II: his brother Matthias becomes Emperor.

1618

A conflict in Bohemia, putting the torch to the inflammable material all over the central and western parts of the Empire, causes the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War.

1619

Death of Matthias: his cousin, Ferdinand of Styria, becomes Emperor.

1621

Frederick the (Protestant) Elector Palatine, who had been chosen king of Bohemia, is driven out, and (1623) deprived of his Electorate, which is given by the Emperor to (the Catholic) Maximilian of Bavaria.

1628

The successes of Wallenstein, Ferdinand II’s chief general, against the Protestants are arrested by the resistance of the town of Stralsund. Sweden prepares to enter the war.

1630

Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, enters Germany and turns the balance of the war in favour of the Protestants. He defeats Wallenstein at Lützen in 1632, but is himself killed.

1640-88

Reign of Frederick William, ‘the Great Elector,’ in the Electorate of Brandenburg, the power of which he greatly increases.

1648

The Thirty Years’ War is ended, after protracted negotiations, by the Treaties of Osnabrück and Münster (Treaty of Westphalia).

1692

An Electorate of Hanover (the ninth, as the Count Palatine had recovered his electoral rights in 1648) is conferred on the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (father of the English king George I), and the title of Arch Treasurer of the Empire is attached to it.

1700-1

Frederick Elector of Brandenburg becomes King of Prussia by the sanction of the Emperor.

1740

Death of the Emperor Charles VI. Extinction of the male line of Hapsburg.

Accession of Frederick II (the Great) to the throne of Prussia.

The intrigues of France, pursuing her usual anti-Austrian policy, procure the election as Emperor of Charles, Elector of Bavaria (Charles VII). A war follows, in which Charles is driven from his dominions.

1745

Death of Charles VII. Francis, duke of Lorraine, who had married Maria Theresa, daughter of Charles VI, is elected Emperor and crowned at Frankfort.

1756-63

The Seven Years’ War, in which Frederick of Prussia successfully resists Austria, France, and Russia.

1765

Death of the Emperor Francis I: his son Joseph, elected in his lifetime, becomes Emperor.

1772

First Partition of Poland between Austria, Russia, and Prussia.

1781

Joseph II, among other reforms, proclaims religious toleration and attempts to reduce clerical power. The Pope comes next year to Vienna, but effects nothing. Joseph visits Rome, but is not crowned there.

1786

Death of Frederick the Great of Prussia.

1789

Meeting of the French States General at Versailles: beginning of the Revolution.

1792-5

War between the French Republic and Prussia.

1792-7

War between the French Republic and Austria. Austria cedes Lombardy and receives the territories of Venice.

1801

By the Peace of Luneville, closing a second war between Austria and the French, the internal constitution of the Empire is completely altered and additional territory taken from it.

1804

Napoleon Bonaparte becomes Emperor; he considers himself the successor of Charlemagne as Emperor of the West.

1805

The overthrow of Austria and Russia by Napoleon at Austerlitz is followed by the formation of the Confederation of the Rhine under the protection of France.

1806

Abdication of the Emperor Francis II. END OF THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE.

1814-15

Fall of the Napoleonic Empire.

Congress of Vienna: establishment of the Germanic Confederation.

1820

The Vienna Final Act varies and completes the constitution of the Confederation.

1830

Revolution in France: establishment of a constitutional monarchy under Louis Philippe.

1833-5

Establishment of the German Customs Union (Zollverein), which includes all the German States except Austria.

1837

Great Britain ceases, by the passing of Hanover away from the British Crown to Ernest Augustus (brother of the late King William IV), to be a member of the Germanic Confederation.

1847

Creation of a Parliament for the whole Prussian monarchy.

1848

Revolution in France: a Republic is set up, which in 1851-2 is turned first into a ten years’ Presidency, then into an Empire, under Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.

1848-50

Revolution in Vienna, risings in the German capitals: a national Parliament meets in Frankfort and offers the title of Emperor to the king of Prussia, who refuses. The Confederation is re-established in 1851.

1859

Formation of the popular league called the National Union in Germany, followed (1862) by the rival Reform Union in the interests of conservatism and of Austria.

1859-60

War of France and the kingdom of Sardinia against Austria: Lombardy is ceded and added to Piedmont; the people expel the minor Italian princes, whose territories pass to the king of Sardinia; he thereupon becomes king of Italy: Garibaldi drives the Bourbons out of Sicily and Naples. The French, who had occupied Rome in 1849, still hold it for the Pope.

1862

Bismarck becomes chief minister of Prussia, and engages in a long struggle with the Prussian Parliament over its right to control military expenditure.

1863-4

A conflict, passing into war, begins between Denmark and the German Confederation, Prussia, and Austria, over the succession to Schleswig-Holstein: defeat of the Danes, who cede these duchies to Prussia and Austria.

1866

War of Prussia and Italy against Austria, and also of Prussia against some of the States of the Confederation: victory of Prussia. Austria is compelled to withdraw from the Confederation, which ceases to exist. Prussia, annexing four German States, forms a North German Confederation under her presidency out of the Northern and Middle States, and subsequently concludes military treaties with Bavaria, Würtemberg, Baden, and Hessen-Darmstadt.

1870-1

War between the French Empire and Germany, the South German States siding with the North German Confederation. France cedes Alsace and part of Lorraine to Germany: the North German Confederation is extended by the adhesion of the South German States to include all Germany (Austria still remaining outside), and is reconstituted as a GERMAN EMPIRE with the king of Prussia as Hereditary Emperor. The Italian troops enter Rome, which, with the territory round it that had remained to the Pope, becomes part of the kingdom of Italy, the Pope retiring to the Vatican, where he has since remained.

 

 

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTORY

Chap. I. Of those who in August, 1806, read in the newspapers that the Emperor Francis II had announced to the Germanic Diet his resignation of the imperial crown there were probably few who reflected that the oldest political institution in the world had come to an end. Yet it was so. The Empire which a note issued by a diplomatist on the banks of the Danube extinguished was the same which the crafty nephew of Julius had won for himself, against the powers of the East, beneath the cliffs of Actium; and which had preserved almost unaltered, through eighteen centuries of time, and through the greatest changes in extent, in power, and in character, a title and pretensions from which their ancient meaning had long since departed. Nothing else so directly linked the old world to the new—nothing else displayed so many strange contrasts of the present and the past, and summed up in those contrasts so much of European history. From the days of Constantine till far down into the Middle Ages it was, conjointly with the Papacy, the recognized centre and head of Christendom, exercising over the minds of men an influence such as its material strength could never have commanded.

It is of this influence and of the causes that gave it power rather than of the external history of the Empire that the following pages are designed to treat. That history is indeed full of interest and brilliancy, of grand characters and striking situations. But it is a subject too vast for any single canvas. Without a minuteness of detail sufficient to make its scenes dramatic, and give us a lively sympathy with the actors, a narrative history can have little value and still less charm. But to trace with any minuteness the career of the Empire, would be to write the history of Christendom from the fifth century to the twelfth, of Germany and Italy from the twelfth to the nineteenth; while even a narrative of more restricted scope, which should attempt to disengage from a general account of the affairs of those countries the events that properly belong to imperial history, could hardly be compressed within reasonable limits. It is therefore better, declining so great a task, to attempt one simpler and more practicable though not necessarily inferior in interest; to speak less of events than of principles, and endeavour to describe the Empire not as a State but as an Institution, an institution created by and embodying a wonderful system of ideas. In pursuance of such a plan, the forms which the Empire took in the several stages of its growth and decline must be briefly sketched. The characters and acts of the great men who founded, guided, and overthrew it must from time to time be touched upon. But the chief aim of the treatise will be to dwell more fully on the inner nature of the Empire, as the most signal instance of the fusion of Roman and Teutonic elements in modern civilization: to shew how such a combination was possible; how Charles and Otto were led to revive the imperial title in the West; how far during the reigns of their successors it preserved the memory of its origin, and influenced the European commonwealth of nations.

Strictly speaking, it is from the year 800 ad, when a King of the Franks was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III, that the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire must be dated. But in history there is nothing isolated, and just as to explain a modern Act of Parliament or a modern conveyance of lands we must go back to the feudal customs of the thirteenth century, so among the institutions of the Middle Ages there is scarcely one which can be understood until it is traced up either to classical or to primitive Teutonic antiquity. Such a mode of inquiry is most of all needful in the case of the Holy Empire, itself no more than a tradition, a fancied revival of departed glories. And thus one who seeks to explain out of what elements the imperial system was formed, might be required to scrutinize the antiquities of the Christian Church, to survey the constitution of Rome in the days when Rome was no more than the first of the Latin cities, nay, to travel back yet further to that Jewish theocratic polity whose influence on the minds of the mediaeval priesthood was necessarily so profound. Practically, however, it may suffice to begin by glancing at the condition of the Roman world in the third and fourth centuries of the Christian era. We shall then see the old Empire with its scheme of absolutism fully matured; we shall mark how the new religion, rising in the midst of a hostile power, ends by embracing and transforming it; and we shall be in a position to understand what impression the whole huge fabric of secular and ecclesiastical government which Roman and Christian had piled up made upon the barbarian tribes who pressed into the charmed circle of the ancient civilization.

 

 

CHAPTER II: THE ROMAN EMPIRE BEFORE THE ENTRANCE OF THE BARBARIANS