OTHO III. (980-1002), Holy Roman emperor, son of Otho II. and Theophano, was born in 980, and crowned king of Germany at Aix-la-Chapelle in 983. After his coronation his kinsman, Duke Henry of Bavaria, who had been imprisoned by Otho II. in Utrecht, made his escape and seized the young king, in whose name he proposed to govern the empire. His pretensions were resisted, however, and he agreed to submit on condition of being reinstated in his dukedom. During Otho's minority public affairs were administered, with the aid of Willegis, archbishop of Mainz, by his mother Theophano, his grandmother Adelaide, and his aunt Matilda, sister of Otho II. and abbess of Quedlinburg. Otho was a dreamy and imaginative youth of brilliant talents, which were carefully developed by Gerbert, the greatest scholar of the age. In 996, when Otho was declared to have reached his majority, he went to Rome, where Crescentius had made himself supreme. After the death of Pope John XV. Otho caused Bruno, who was related to the Saxon dynasty, to be elected to the holy see; and by him (Gregory V.) Otho was crowned emperor on the 21st May 996. After Otho's departure Crescentius again rose, drove Gregory V. from Rome, and set up an anti-pope. Otho immediately returned, and Crescentius, with twelve of his supporters, was executed. On the death of Gregory V, Otho's tutor, Gerbert, archbishop of Ravenna, was appointed pope; and, in part through his influence, the emperor began to form great plans, deciding to make Rome the centre of the secular as well as of the spiritual world. At the approach of the year 1000, when it was commonly supposed that the earth was about to be destroyed, Otho returned to Germany and made a pilgrimage to the tomb of St Adalbert at Gnesen. Afterwards, in Aix-la-Chapelle, he entered the vault in which the body of Charlemagne sat upon a throne, and took away the golden cross which hung on the mighty emperor's breast. In 1001 Otho went back to Italy for the purpose of carrying out his far-reaching schemes ; but popular disturbances in Rome compelled him to quit the city; and on the way to Ravenna, where he proposed to wait for a German army, he died at Paterno, near Viterbo, on the 21st January 1002.
See Wilmans, Jahrbucher des deutschen Reichs unter Kaiser Otto III.; Giesebrecht, Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserzeit.