1902 Encyclopedia > Rome > Mediaeval Roman History - History of the Roman Republic in the Middle Ages - (a) Odacer. Goths. Byzantines. Lombards. Franks.

(Part 13)



(a) Odacer. Goths. Byzantines. Lombards. Franks.

The history of the Roman republic during the Middle Ages has yet to be written, and only by the discovery of new documents can the difficulties of the task be completely overcome. Although very different in its origin, the Roman republic gradually assumed the same form as the other Italian communes, and with almost identical institutions. But, owing to the special local conditions amid which it arose, it maintained a distinct physiognomy and character. The deserted Campagna surrounding the city checked any' notable increase of trade or industry, and prevented the establishment of the guilds on the solid footing that elsewhere made them the basis and support of the commune. There was also the continual and oppressive influence of the empire, and, above all, the presence of the papacy, which often appeared to absorb the entire vitality of the city. At such moments the commune seemed annihilated, but it speedily revived and reasserted itself. Consequently there are many apparent gaps in its history, and we have often extreme difficulty in discovering the invisible links connecting the visible fragments.

Even the aristocracy of Rome had a special stamp. In the other republics, excepting Venice, it was feudal, of German origin, and in perpetual conflict with the popular and commercial elements which sought its destruction. The history of municipal freedom lay in this struggle. But the infiltration of Teutonic and feudal elements broke up the ancient aristocracy of Rome, and left it at the mercy of the people. Then the popes, by the bestowal of lucrative posts, rich benefices, and vast estates, and, above all, by raising many nobles to the purple, introduced new blood into the Roman aristocracy, and endued it with increasing strength and vitality. Always divided, always turbulent, this irrepressible body was a continual source of discord and civil war, of permanent confusion and turmoil. Amidst all these difficulties the commune struggled on, but never succeeded in long preserving a regular course or administration. What with continual warfare, attacks on the Capitol, and consequent slaughter, pillage, and incendiarism, it is no wonder that so few original documents are left to illustrate the history of the Roman republic. Nor have chroniclers and historians done much to supply this want, since, in treating of Roman affairs, their attention is mainly devoted to the pope and the emperor. Nevertheless we will attempt to connect in due order all the facts gleaned from former writers and published records.

The removal of the seat of the empire to Constantinople effected a radical change in the political situation of Rome; nor was this change neutralized by the formation of the weak Western empire soon to be shattered by the Germanic invasions. But we still find Roman laws and institutions; and no sign is yet manifest of the rise of a mediaeval municipality. The earliest germ of one is seen during the barbarian invasions. Of these we need only enumerate the four most important,—those of the Goths, Byzantines, Lombards, and Franks.

The Goths

The Gothic rule merely superposed upon the Roman social order a Teutonic stratum, that never penetrated beneath its surface. The Goths always remained a conquering army; according to the German custom, they took possession of one third of the vanquished territory, but, while forbidding the Romans to bear arms, left their local administration intact. The senate, the curiae, the principal magistrates, both provincial and municipal, the prefect of the city, and the Roman judges enforcing the enactments of the Roman law were all preserved. Already, under the empire, the civil power had been separated from the military, and this separation was maintained. Hence there was no visible change in the constitution of the state. Only, now there were conquered and conquerors. All real and effective power was on the side of brute force, and the Goths alone bore arms. In every province they had their comités, or heads of the army, who had judicial power over their countrymen, especially in criminal cases. Here then was a combination of civil and military jurisdiction altogether contrary to the Roman idea. Nor can it be denied that the comités, as chiefs of the armed force, necessarily exerted a direct or indirect influence on the civil and administrative power of the provinces, and especially upon the collection of the imposts. The civil arm, being virtually subordinate to the military, suffered unavoidable change. Notwithstanding the praise lavished on Theodoric, the kingdom founded by him in Italy had no solid basis. It was composed of two nations differing in race and traditions and even in religion, since the Goths were Arians and the Romans Catholics. The latter were sunk in degeneracy and corruption ; their institutions were old and decrepit. It was necessary to infuse new life into the worn-out body. This was difficult, perhaps impossible ; and at any rate Theodoric never attempted the task. Little wonder then if the Gothic kingdom succumbed to the Byzantine hordes from Constantinople.

The Byzantine Rule

The wars of Belisarius and Narses against the Goths lasted twenty years (535-555 A.D.), caused terrible slaughter and devastation in Italy, and finally subjected her to Constantinople. In place of a Gothic king she was now ruled by a Greek patrician, afterwards entitled the exarch, who had his seat of government at Bavenna as lieutenant of the empire. In the chief provincial cities the ruling counts were replaced by dukes, subordinate to the exarch; and the smaller towns were governed by military tribunes. Instead of dukes, we sometimes find magistri militum, apparently of higher rank. The praefectus praetorio of Italy, likewise a dependant of the exarch, was at the head of the civil administration. The pragmatic sanction (554), promulgating the Justinian code, again separated the civil from the military power, which was no longer allowed to intervene in the settlement of private disputes, and, by conferring on the bishops the superintendence of and authority over the provincial and municipal government, soon led to the increase of the power of the church, which had already considerable influence.

The new organization outwardly resembled that of the Goths : one army had been replaced by another, the counts by dukes ; there was an exarch instead of a king ; the civil and military jurisdictions were more exactly defined. But the army was not, like that of the Goths, a conquering nation in arms ; it was a Graeco-Roman army, and did not hold a third of the territory which was now probably added to the possessions of the state. The soldiery took its pay from Constantinople, whence all instructions and appointments of superior officers likewise proceeded. In Rome we find a magister militum at the head of the troops. The Roman senate still existed, but was reduced to a shadow. Theodoric had left it intact until he suspected it of hostile designs and dealings with the Byzantines, but then began to persecute it, as was proved by the wretched fate of Boetius and Symmachus. Nevertheless the senate survived, added the functions of a curia or municipal council to those of a governmental assembly, and took part in the election of the pope—already one of the chief affairs of Rome. So many senators, however, were slaughtered during the Byzantine war that it was commonly believed to be extinct. The pragmatic sanction, conferring on senate and pope the superintendence of weights and measures in Italy, is a convincing proof to the contrary, although, in the general chaos, now that Rome was a mere provincial city, constantly exposed to attack, we may imagine to what the senate was reduced.

All Roman institutions were altered and decayed ; but their original features were still to be traced, and no heterogeneous element had been introduced into them.

The Lombards

The first dawn of a completely new epoch can only be dated from the invasion of the Lombards (568-572). Their conquest of a large portion of Italy was accompanied by the harshest oppression. They abolished all ancient laws and institutions, and not only seized a third of the lands, but reduced the inhabitants to almost utter slavery. But, in the unsubdued parts of the country—namely, in Ravenna, Rome, and the maritime cities—a very different state of things prevailed. The necessity for self-defence and the distance of the empire, now too worn out to render any assistance, compelled the inhabitants to depend solely on their own strength. Thus, certain maritime cities, such as Naples, Amalfi, Pisa, and Venice, soon attained to a greater or less degree of liberty and independence.

The popes

A special state of things now arose in Rome. We behold the rapid growth of the papal power and the continual increase of its moral and political influence. This had already begun under Leo I., and been further promoted by the pragmatic sanction. Not only the superintendence but often the nomination of public functionaries and judges was now in the hands of the popes.

Gregory I.

And the accession to St Peter's chair of a man of real genius in the person of Gregory I., surnamed the Great, marked the commencement of a new era. By force of individual character, as well as by historic necessity, this pope became the most potent personage in Rome. Power fell naturally into his hands; he was the true representative of the city, the born defender of church and state. His ecclesiastical authority, already great throughout Italy, was specially great in the Roman diocese and in southern Italy. The continual offerings of the faithful had previously endowed the church with enormous possessions in the province of Rome, in Sicily, Sardinia, and other parts. The administration of all this property soon assumed the shape of a small government council in Rome. This protected and succoured the oppressed, settled disputes, nominated judges, and controlled the ecclesiastical authorities. The use made by the pope of his revenues greatly contributed to the increase of his moral and political authority. When the city was besieged by the Lombards, and the emperor left his army unpaid, Gregory supplied the required funds and thus made resistance possible. And, when the defence could be no longer maintained, he alone, by the weight of his personal influence and the payment of large sums, induced the Lombards to raise the siege. He negotiated in person with Agilulph, and was recognized by him as the true representative of the city. Thus Rome, after being five times taken and sacked by the barbarians, was, on this occasion, saved by its bishop. The exarch, although unable to give any help, protested against the assumption of so much authority by the pope; but Gregory was no usurper, and his attitude was the natural result of events. " For twenty-seven years "—so wrote this pontiff to the imperial government of Constantinople—" we lived in terror of the Longobards, nor can I say what sums we had to pay them. There is an imperial treasurer with the army at Ravenna; but here it is I who am treasurer. Likewise I have to provide for the clergy, the poor, and the people, and even to succour the distress of other churches."

The Roman Commune

It was at this moment that the new Roman commune began to take shape and acquire increasing vigour owing to its distance from the seat of the empire and its resistance to the Lombard besiegers. Its special character was now to be traced in the preponderance of the military over the civil power. A Roman element had penetrated into the army, which was already possessed of considerable political importance. The prefect of Rome loses authority and seems almost a nullity compared with the magister militum. Hardly anything is heard of the senate. " Quia enim Senatus deest, populus interiit," exclaims Gregory in a moment of despair. The popes now make common cause with the people against the Lombards on the one hand and the emperor on the other. But they avoid an absolute rupture with the empire, lest they should have to face the Lombard power without any prospect of help. Later, when the growing strength of the commune becomes menacing, they remain faithful to the empire in order not to be at the mercy of the people. It was a permanent feature of their policy never to allow the complete independence of the city until they should be its sole and absolute masters. But that time was still in the future. Meanwhile pope and people joined in the defence of their common interests.

This alliance was cemented by the religious disputes of the East and the West. First came the Monothelite controversy regarding the twofold nature of Christ. In order to compel obedience to his edict, the emperor commanded the exarch to take energetic measures, and, provided he could secure the favour of the Roman army, to actually seize the person of Pope Martin I. (649-654). A long and violent struggle ensued, in which the people of Rome and of other Italian cities sided so vigorously with the popes that John VI. (701-705) had to interpose in order to release the exarch from captivity and prevent a definitive rupture with the empire. Later (710-711) Ravenna revolted against the emperor, organized its armed population under twelve flags, and almost all the cities of the exarchate joined in a resistance that was the first step towards the independence of the Italian communes. A ^ still fiercer religious quarrel then broke out concerning images. Pope Gregory II. (715-731) opposed the celebrated edict of the iconoclastic emperor Leo the Isaurian. Venice and the Pentapolis took up arms in favour of the pope, and elected dukes of their own without applying to the emperor. Again public disorder rose to such a pitch that the pope was obliged to check it lest it should go too far.

The Duchy of Rome

In the midst of these warlike tumults a new constitution, almost a new state, was being set up in Rome. During the conflict with Philippicus, the Monothelite and heretical emperor who ascended the throne in 711, the Liber Pontijicalis makes the first mention of the duchy of Rome (ducatus Romanae urbis), and we find the people struggling to elect a duke of their own. In the early days of the Byzantine rule the territory appertaining to the city was no greater than under the Roman empire. But, partly through the weakness of the government of Constantinople, and above all through the decomposition of the Italian provinces under the Lombards, who destroyed all unity of government in the peninsula, this dukedom was widely extended, and its limits were always changing in accordance with the course of events. It was watered by the Tiber, and stretched into Tuscia to the right, starting from the mouth of the Marta, by Tolfa and Bleda, and reaching as far as Orte. Viterbo was a frontier city of the Lombards. On the left the duchy extended into Latium as far as the Garigliano. It spread very little to the north-east and was badly defended on that side, inasmuch as the duchy of Spoleto reached to within fourteen miles of the Salara gate. On the other side, towards Umbria, the river Nera was its boundary line.

The First Constitution of the Commune

The constitution of the city now begins to show the results of the conditions amid which it took shape. The separation of the civil from the military power has entirely disappeared. This is proved by the fact that, after the year 600, there is no further mention of the prefect. His office still survived, but with a gradual change of functions, until, in the 8th century, he once more appears as president of a criminal tribunal. The constitution of the duchy and of the new republic formed during the wars with the Lombards and the exarch was substantially of an aristocratico-military nature. At its head was the duke, first elected by the emperor, then by the pope and the people, and, as his strength and influence grew with those of the commune, he gradually became the most respected and powerful personage in Rome. The duke inhabited the palace of the Caesars on the Palatine Hill, and had both the civil and the military power in his hands ; he was at the head of the army, which, being composed of the best citizens and highest nobility of Rome, was a truly national force. This army was styled the felicissimus or florens exercitus Romanus or also the militia Romana. Its members never lost their citizen stamp ; on the contrary they formed the true body of the citizens. We find mention of other duces in Rome, but these were probably other leaders or superior officers of the army. Counts and tribunes are found in the subject cities bound to furnish aid to the capital. In fact during the pontificate of Sergius II. (844), when the duchy was threatened by a Saracenic invasion, they were requested to send troops to defend the coast, and as many soldiers as possible to the city.

The Different Classes of Society in Rome

At that time the inhabitants of Rome were divided into four principal classes—clergy, nobles, soldiers, and simple citizens. The nobles were divided into two categories, first the genuine optimates, i.e., members of old and wealthy families with large estates, and filling high, and often hereditary, offices in the state, the church, and the army. These were styled proceres and primates. The second category comprised landed proprietors, of moderate means but exalted position, mentioned as nobiles by Gregory I., and constituting in fact a numerous petty nobility and the bulk of the army. Next followed the citizens, i.e., the commercial class, merchants, and craftsmen, who, having as yet no fixed organization and but little influence, were simply designated as honesti cives. These, however, were quite distinct from the plebeians, plebs, vulgus populi, viri humiles, who in their turn ranked above bondsmen and slaves. The honesti cives did not usually form part of the army, and were only enrolled in it in seasons of emergency. Nevertheless the army was not only national, but became increasingly democratic, so that in the 10th century it included every class of inhabitants except churchmen and slaves. At that period we sometimes find the whole people designated as the exercitus, those actually under arms being distinguished as the militia exercitus Romani.

Scholae Militum

This again was divided into bands or " numbers," i.e., regiments, and also, in a manner peculiar to Rome, into scholae militum. These scholae were associations derived from antiquity, gaining strength and becoming more general in the Middle Ages as the central power of the state declined. There were scholae of notaries, of church singers, and of nearly every leading employment; there were scholae of foreigners of diverse nationalities, of Pranks, Lombards, Greeks, Saxons, &c. Even the trades and crafts began to form scholae. These were at first very feeble institutions, and only later gained importance and became guilds. As early as the 8th century there were scholae militum in the army, which was thus doubly divided. But we have no precise definition of their functions. They were de facto corporations with separate property, churches, and magistrates of their own. The latter were always optimates, and guarded the interests of the army. But the real chiefs of the bands or numeri were the duces or tribunes, and under the Pranks the latter became comités. These chiefs were styled magnifici consules, optimates de militia, often too judices de militia, since, as was the custom of the Middle Ages, they wielded political and judicial as well as military authority. The title of consul was now generally given to superior officers, whether civil or military. The importance of the scholae militum began to decline in the 10th century; towards the middle of the 12th they disappeared altogether, and, according to Papencordt, were last mentioned in 1145. It is probable that the scholae militum signified local divisions of the army, corresponding with the city wards, which were twelve in number during the 10th and 11th centuries, then increased to thirteen, and occasionally to fourteen. It is certain that from the beginning the army was distributed under twelve flags ; after the scholae had disappeared, we find it classified in districts, which were subdivided into companies. The division of cities into quarters, sestieri or rioni, corresponding with that of the army, and also with that of the municipal government, was the common practice of Florence, Siena, and almost all the Italian communes. But, while usually losing importance as the guilds acquired power, in Rome the insignificance of the guilds added to the strength of the regioni or rioni, which not only became part of the army but finally grasped the reins of government. This was a special characteristic of the political constitution of the Roman commune.

The Senate in the Middle Ages

We now come to a question of weightier import for all desiring to form a clear idea of the Roman government at that period. What had become of the senate ? It had undoubtedly lost its original character now that the empire was extinct. But, after much learned discussion, historical authorities are still divided upon the subject. Certain Italian writers of the 18th century— Vendettini, for example—asserted with scanty critical insight that the Roman senate did not disappear in the Middle Ages. The same opinion backed by much learned research was maintained by the great German historian Savigny. And Leo, while denying the persistence of the curia in Lombard Italy, adhered to Savigny's views as regarded Rome. Papencordt did the same, but held the Roman senate to be no more than a curia. This judgment was vigorously contested, first by Hegel and Giesebrecht, then by Gregorovius. These writers believe that after the middle of the 6th century the senate had a merely nominal existence. According to Gregorovius its last appearance was in the year 579. After that date it is mentioned in no documents, and the chroniclers are either equally silent or merely allude to its decay and extinction. In the 8th century, however, the terms senator, senatores, senatus again reappear. We find letters addressed to Pippin, beginning thus : Omnis senatus atque universi populi generalitas. When Leo III. returned from Germany he was met by tam proceres clericorum cum omnibus clericis, quamque optimates et senatus, cunctaque militia (see Anastasius, in Muratori, vol. iii. 198 c). But it has been noted that the senate was never found to act as a political assembly ; on occasions when it might have been mentioned in that capacity we hear nothing of it, and only meet with it in ceremonials and purely formal functions. Hence the conclusion that the term senator was used in the sense of noble, senatus of nobility, and no longer referred to an institution but only to a class of the citizens. Even when we find that Otho III. (who sought to revive all the ancient institutions of Rome) addressed an edict to the " Consuls and Senate of Rome," and read that the laws of St Stephen were issued senatus decreto, the learned Giesebrecht merely remarks that no important changes in the Roman constitution are to be attributed to the consuls and senate introdnced by Otho III. Thus for the next glimpse of the senate we must pass to the 12th century, when it was not only reformed, as some writers believe, but entirely reconstituted.

But in this case a serious difficulty remains to be disposed of. Gregorovius firmly asserts that the nobles acquired great power between the 7th and 10th centuries, not only filling the highest military, judicial, and ecclesiastical offices, " but also directing the municipal government, presumably with the prefect at their head." He further adds :—"Notwithstanding the disappearance of the senate, it is difficult to suppose that the city was without governing magistrates, or without a council." Thus, after the 7th century, the optimates at the head of the army were also at the head of the citizens, and "formed a communal council in the same manner in which it was afterwards formed by the banderesi." Now, if the nobles were called senatores, and the nobility senatus, and if this body of nobles met in council to administer the affairs of the republic, there is no matter for dispute, inasmuch as all are agreed that the original senate must have had a different character from the senate of the Middle Ages. And, since the absence of all mention of a prefect after the 7th century is not accepted as a proof of his non-existence, and we find him reappear under another form in the 8th century, so the silence as to the senate after the year 579, the fresh mention of it in the 8th century, and its reappearance in the 12th as a firmly reconstituted body reasonably lead to the inference that, during that time, the ancient senate had been gradually transformed into the new council. Its meetings must have been held very irregularly, and probably only in emergencies when important affairs had to be discussed, previously to bringing them before the parliament or general assembly of the people.

The Consuls

Historians are better agreed as to the significance of the term consul. At first this was simply a title of honour bestowed on superior magistrates, and retained that meaning from the 7th to the 11th century, but was then—as in other Italian cities—only given to the chief officer of the state.

During this period the Roman constitution was very simple. The duke, commanding the army, and the prefect, presiding over the criminal court, were the chiefs of the republic; the armed nobility constituted the forces, filled all superior offices, and occasionally met in a council called the senate, though it had no resemblance to the senate of older times. In moments of emergency a general parliament of the people was convoked. This constitution differed little from that of the other Italian communes, where, in the same way, we find all the leading citizens under arms, a parliament, a council, and one or more chiefs at the head of the government.

But Rome had an element that was lacking elsewhere. We have already noted that, in the provinces, the administrators of church lands were important personages, and exercised during the Middle Ages, when there was no exact division of power, both judicial and political functions.

Judices de Clero

It was very natural that the heads of this vast administration resident in Rome should have a still higher standing, and in fact, from the 6th century, their power increased to such an extent that in the times of the Franks they already formed a species of papal cabinet with a share and sometimes a predominance in the affairs of the republic. There were seven principal administrators, but two of them held the chief power,'—the primicerius notariorum and the secundicerius, i.e., the first and under secretaries of state. When, on the constitution of the new empire, these ministers were declared to be palatine or imperial as well as papal officials, the primicerius and the secundicerius were also in waiting on the emperor, who sat in council with them, when in Rome. Next came the arcarius, or treasurer; the sacellarius, or cashier; the protoscriniarus, who was at the head of the papal chancery; the primus defensor, who was the advocate of the church, and administered its possessions. Seventh and last came the nomenclator, or adminiculator, who pleaded the cause of widows, orphans, and paupers. There were also some other officials, such as the vestiarius, the vicedominus or steward, the cubicularius or majordomo, but these were of inferior importance. They were ecclesiastics, but not bound to be in priest's orders. The first seven were those specially known as proceres clericorum and oftener still as judices de clero, since they speedily assumed judicial functions and ranked among the chief judges of Rome. But as ecclesiastics they did not give decisions in criminal cases. Thus Rome had two tribunals, that of the judices de clero, or ordinarii, presided over by the pope, and that of the judices de militia, leaders of the army, dukes and tribunes, also bearing the generic title of consuls. First appointed by the exarch and then frequently by the pope, these decided both civil and criminal cases. In the latter they were sole judges under the presidency of the prefect.

The Popes and the Papal Power

The pope was thus at the head of a large administrative body with judicial and civil powers that were continually on the increase, and, in addition to his moral authority over Christendom, was possessed of enormous revenues. So in course of time he considered himself the real representative of the Roman republic. Gregory II. (715-731) accepted in the name of the republic the submission of other cities, and protested against the conquest by the Lombards of those already belonging to Rome. He seemed indeed to regard the territory of the duchy as the patrimony of the church. The duke was always at the head of the army, and, officially, was always held to be an imperial magistrate. But the empire was now powerless in Italy. Meanwhile the advance of the Lombards was becoming more and more threatening; they seized Ravenna in 751, thus putting an end to the exarchate, and next marched towards Rome, which had only its own forces and the aid of neighbouring cities to rely upon. To avoid being crushed by the brute force of a foreign nation unfit to rule, and only capable of oppression and pillage, it was necessary to make an energetic stand.

The Popes Appeal to the Franks for Aid

Accordingly the reigning pope, Stephen II. (752-757), appealed to Pippin, king of the Franks, and concluded with that monarch an alliance destined to inaugurate a new epoch of the world's history. The pope consecrated Pippin king of the Franks, and named him patricius Romanorum. This title, as introduced by Constantine, had no longer the ancient meaning, but now became a sign of lofty social rank. When, however, it was afterwards conferred on barbarian chieftains such as Odoacer and Theodoric, and then on the representative of the Byzantine empire in Italy, it acquired the meaning of a definite dignity or office. In fact the titie was now given to Pippin as defender of the church, for the pope styled him at the same time patricius Romanorum and defensor or protector ecclesiae. And the king pledged himself not only to defend the church but also to wrest the exarchate and the Pentapolis from the Lombards and give them to Rome, or rather to the pope, which came to the same thing. This was considered as a restitution made to the head of the church, who was also the representative of the republic and the empire.

Donation of Pippin

And, to preserve the character of a restitution, the famous " donation of Constantine" was invented during this period (752-777). Pippin brought his army to the rescue (754-755) of and fulfilled his promise. The pope accepted the donation in the name of St Peter, and as the visible head of the church. Thus in 755 central Italy broke its connexion with the empire and became independent; thus was inaugurated the temporal power of the papacy, the cause of so much subsequent warfare and revolution in Rome.

Its first consequences were speedily seen. In 767 the death of Paul I. was followed by a fierce revolt of the nobles under Duke Toto (Theodoro) of Nepi, who by violent means raised his brother Constantine to the chair of St Peter, although Constantine was a layman and had first to be ordained. For more than a year the new pontiff was a pliable tool in the hands of Toto and of the nobles. But the genuine papal faction, headed by a few judices de clero, asked the aid of the Lombards and made a formidable resistance. Their adversaries were defeated, tortured, and put to death. Toto was treacherously slain during a fight. The pope was blinded and left half dead on the highway. Fresh and no less violent riots ensued, * owing to the public dread lest the new pope, Stephen IV. (768-772), elected by favour of the Lombards, should give them the city in return. But Stephen went over to the Franks, whom he had previously deserted, and his successor, Hadrian I. (772-795), likewise adhered to their cause, called the city to arms to resist king Desiderius and his Lombard hordes, and besought the assistance of Charlemagne.

Charlemagne in Italy

This monarch accordingly made a descent into Italy in 773, and not only gained an easy victory over Desiderius, but destroyed the Lombard kingdom and seized the iron crown. Entering Rome for the first time in 774, he confirmed and augmented the donation of Pippin by the addition of the dukedom of Spoleto. He returned several times to Italy and Pome, making new conquests and fresh concessions to Adrian I., until the death of the latter in 795.

The Papacy, the Republic and the Franks

The position of Rome and of the pope is now substantially changed. Duke, prefect, militia, and the people exist as heretofore, but are all subordinate to the head of church, who, by the donations of Pippin and Charlemagne, has been converted into a powerful temporal sovereign. Henceforth all connexion with Byzantium is broken off, but Rome is still the mainspring of the empire, the Roman duchy its sole surviving fragment in Italy, and the pope stands before the world as representative of both. And, although it is difficult to determine how this came about, the pope is now regarded and regards himself as master of Rome. In the year 772 he entrusts the vestiarius with judicial powers over the laity, ecclesiastics, freemen, and slaves nostrae Ro'manae reipublicae. He writes to Charlemagne that he has issued orders for the burning of the Greek ships employed in the slave trade, "in our city of Civita Vecchia" (Centuincelke), and he always speaks of Rome and the Romans as " our city," "our republic," " our people." The donations of Pippin and Charlemagne are restitutions made to Saint Peter, the holy church, and the republic at the same time. It is true that Charlemagne held the supreme power, had an immensely increased authority, and actively fulfilled his duties as patricius. But his power was only occasionally exercised in Rome; it was the result of services rendered to the church, and of the church's continual need of his help ; it was, as it were, the power of a mighty and indispensable ally. The pope, however, was most tenacious of his own authority in Rome, made vigorous protest whenever rebels fled to Charlemagne or appealed to that monarch's arbitration, and contested the supremacy of the imperial officials in Rome. Yet the pope was no absolute sovereign, nor, in the modern sense of the term, did any then exist. He asserted supremacy over many lands which continually rebelled against him, and which, for want of an army of his own, he was unable to reduce to obedience without others' help. Neither did the republic acknowledge him as its head. It profited by the growing power of the pope, could not exist without him, respected his moral authority, but considered that he usurped undue power in Rome. This was specially the feeling of the nobles, who had hitherto held the chief authority in the republic, and, being still the leaders of the army, were by no means willing to relinquish it. The Roman nobles were very different from other aristocratic bodies elsewhere. They were not, as they pretended, descendants of the Camilli and the Scipios, but neither were they a feudal aristocracy, inasmuch as the Teutonic element had as yet made small way among them. They were a mixture of different elements, national and foreign, formed by the special conditions of Rome. Their power was chiefly derived from the high offices and large grants of money and land conferred on them by the popes ; but, as no dynasty existed, they could not be dynastic. Every pope aggrandized his own kindred and friends, and these were the natural and often open adversaries of the next pontiff and his favourites. Thus the Roman nobility was powerful, divided, restless, and turbulent; it was continually plotting against the pope, threatening not only his power, but even his life; it continually appealed to the people for assistance, stirred the militia to revolt, and rendered government an impossibility. Hence, notwithstanding his immense moral authority, the pope was the effective head neither of the aristocracy, the army, nor of the as yet unorganized lower classes. The lord of vast but often insubordinate territories, the recognized master of a capital city torn by internecine feud and plots against himself, he needed the support of an effective force for his own preservation and the maintenance of the authority proffered him from all quarters. Hence the necessity of creating an empire of the West, after having snapped every link with that of the East. Thus the history of Rome is still, as in the past, a history of continual strife between pope, emperor, and republic ; and the city, while imbibing strength from all three, keeps them in perpetual tumult and confusion.

785-1 Gregorovius, Geschichte, vol. ii. p. 427-8 and note (2d ed.).

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This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries