Introduction, Worship, And Persecution Of Images. — Revolt Of Italy And Rome. — Temporal Dominion Of The Popes. — Conquest Of Italy By The Franks. — Establishment Of Images. — Character And Coronation Of Charlemagne. — Restoration And Decay Of The Roman Empire In The West. — Independence Of Italy. — Constitution Of The Germanic Body.
In the connection of the church and state, I have considered the former as subservient only, and relative, to the latter; a salutary maxim, if in fact, as well as in narrative, it had ever been held sacred. The Oriental philosophy of the Gnostics, the dark abyss of predestination and grace, and the strange transformation of the Eucharist from the sign to the substance of Christ’s body, 1 I have purposely abandoned to the curiosity of speculative divines. But I have reviewed, with diligence and pleasure, the objects of ecclesiastical history, by which the decline and fall of the Roman empire were materially affected, the propagation of Christianity, the constitution of the Catholic church, the ruin of Paganism, and the sects that arose from the mysterious controversies concerning the Trinity and incarnation. At the head of this class, we may justly rank the worship of images, so fiercely disputed in the eighth and ninth centuries; since a question of popular superstition produced the revolt of Italy, the temporal power of the popes, and the restoration of the Roman empire in the West.
1 The learned Selden has given the history of transubstantiation in a comprehensive and pithy sentence: “This opinion is only rhetoric turned into logic,” (his Works, vol. iii. p. 2037, in his Table-Talk.)]
The primitive Christians were possessed with an unconquerable repugnance to the use and abuse of images; and this aversion may be ascribed to their descent from the Jews, and their enmity to the Greeks. The Mosaic law had severely proscribed all representations of the Deity; and that precept was firmly established in the principles and practice of the chosen people. The wit of the Christian apologists was pointed against the foolish idolaters, who bowed before the workmanship of their own hands; the images of brass and marble, which, had they been endowed with sense and motion, should have started rather from the pedestal to adore the creative powers of the artist. 2 Perhaps some recent and imperfect converts of the Gnostic tribe might crown the statues of Christ and St. Paul with the profane honors which they paid to those of Aristotle and Pythagoras; 3 but the public religion of the Catholics was uniformly simple and spiritual; and the first notice of the use of pictures is in the censure of the council of Illiberis, three hundred years after the Christian aera. Under the successors of Constantine, in the peace and luxury of the triumphant church, the more prudent bishops condescended to indulge a visible superstition, for the benefit of the multitude; and, after the ruin of Paganism, they were no longer restrained by the apprehension of an odious parallel. The first introduction of a symbolic worship was in the veneration of the cross, and of relics. The saints and martyrs, whose intercession was implored, were seated on the right hand if God; but the gracious and often supernatural favors, which, in the popular belief, were showered round their tomb, conveyed an unquestionable sanction of the devout pilgrims, who visited, and touched, and kissed these lifeless remains, the memorials of their merits and sufferings. 4 But a memorial, more interesting than the skull or the sandals of a departed worthy, is the faithful copy of his person and features, delineated by the arts of painting or sculpture. In every age, such copies, so congenial to human feelings, have been cherished by the zeal of private friendship, or public esteem: the images of the Roman emperors were adored with civil, and almost religious, honors; a reverence less ostentatious, but more sincere, was applied to the statues of sages and patriots; and these profane virtues, these splendid sins, disappeared in the presence of the holy men, who had died for their celestial and everlasting country. At first, the experiment was made with caution and scruple; and the venerable pictures were discreetly allowed to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the cold, and to gratify the prejudices of the heathen proselytes. By a slow though inevitable progression, the honors of the original were transferred to the copy: the devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint; and the Pagan rites of genuflection, luminaries, and incense, again stole into the Catholic church. The scruples of reason, or piety, were silenced by the strong evidence of visions and miracles; and the pictures which speak, and move, and bleed, must be endowed with a divine energy, and may be considered as the proper objects of religious adoration. The most audacious pencil might tremble in the rash attempt of defining, by forms and colors, the infinite Spirit, the eternal Father, who pervades and sustains the universe. 5 But the superstitious mind was more easily reconciled to paint and to worship the angels, and, above all, the Son of God, under the human shape, which, on earth, they have condescended to assume. The second person of the Trinity had been clothed with a real and mortal body; but that body had ascended into heaven: and, had not some similitude been presented to the eyes of his disciples, the spiritual worship of Christ might have been obliterated by the visible relics and representations of the saints. A similar indulgence was requisite and propitious for the Virgin Mary: the place of her burial was unknown; and the assumption of her soul and body into heaven was adopted by the credulity of the Greeks and Latins. The use, and even the worship, of images was firmly established before the end of the sixth century: they were fondly cherished by the warm imagination of the Greeks and Asiatics: the Pantheon and Vatican were adorned with the emblems of a new superstition; but this semblance of idolatry was more coldly entertained by the rude Barbarians and the Arian clergy of the West. The bolder forms of sculpture, in brass or marble, which peopled the temples of antiquity, were offensive to the fancy or conscience of the Christian Greeks: and a smooth surface of colors has ever been esteemed a more decent and harmless mode of imitation. 6
2 Nec intelligunt homines ineptissimi, quod si sentire simulacra et moveri possent, adoratura hominem fuissent a quo sunt expolita. (Divin. Institut. l. ii. c. 2.) Lactantius is the last, as well as the most eloquent, of the Latin apologists. Their raillery of idols attacks not only the object, but the form and matter.]
3 See Irenaeus, Epiphanius, and Augustin, (Basnage, Hist. des Eglises Reformees, tom. ii. p. 1313.) This Gnostic practice has a singular affinity with the private worship of Alexander Severus, (Lampridius, c. 29. Lardner, Heathen Testimonies, vol. iii. p. 34.)]
4 See this History, vol. ii. p. 261; vol. ii. p. 434; vol. iii. p. 158 — 163.]
5 (Concilium Nicenum, ii. in Collect. Labb. tom. viii. p. 1025, edit. Venet.) Il seroit peut-etre a-propos de ne point souffrir d’images de la Trinite ou de la Divinite; les defenseurs les plus zeles des images ayant condamne celles-ci, et le concile de Trente ne parlant que des images de Jesus Christ et des Saints, (Dupin, Bibliot. Eccles. tom. vi. p. 154.)]
6 This general history of images is drawn from the xxiid book of the Hist. des Eglises Reformees of Basnage, tom. ii. p. 1310 — 1337. He was a Protestant, but of a manly spirit; and on this head the Protestants are so notoriously in the right, that they can venture to be impartial. See the perplexity of poor Friar Pagi, Critica, tom. i. p. 42.]
The merit and effect of a copy depends on its resemblance with the original; but the primitive Christians were ignorant of the genuine features of the Son of God, his mother, and his apostles: the statue of Christ at Paneas in Palestine 7 was more probably that of some temporal savior; the Gnostics and their profane monuments were reprobated; and the fancy of the Christian artists could only be guided by the clandestine imitation of some heathen model. In this distress, a bold and dexterous invention assured at once the likeness of the image and the innocence of the worship. A new super structure of fable was raised on the popular basis of a Syrian legend, on the correspondence of Christ and Abgarus, so famous in the days of Eusebius, so reluctantly deserted by our modern advocates. The bishop of Caesarea 8 records the epistle, 9 but he most strangely forgets the picture of Christ; 10 the perfect impression of his face on a linen, with which he gratified the faith of the royal stranger who had invoked his healing power, and offered the strong city of Edessa to protect him against the malice of the Jews. The ignorance of the primitive church is explained by the long imprisonment of the image in a niche of the wall, from whence, after an oblivion of five hundred years, it was released by some prudent bishop, and seasonably presented to the devotion of the times. Its first and most glorious exploit was the deliverance of the city from the arms of Chosroes Nushirvan; and it was soon revered as a pledge of the divine promise, that Edessa should never be taken by a foreign enemy. It is true, indeed, that the text of Procopius ascribes the double deliverance of Edessa to the wealth and valor of her citizens, who purchased the absence and repelled the assaults of the Persian monarch. He was ignorant, the profane historian, of the testimony which he is compelled to deliver in the ecclesiastical page of Evagrius, that the Palladium was exposed on the rampart, and that the water which had been sprinkled on the holy face, instead of quenching, added new fuel to the flames of the besieged. After this important service, the image of Edessa was preserved with respect and gratitude; and if the Armenians rejected the legend, the more credulous Greeks adored the similitude, which was not the work of any mortal pencil, but the immediate creation of the divine original. The style and sentiments of a Byzantine hymn will declare how far their worship was removed from the grossest idolatry. “How can we with mortal eyes contemplate this image, whose celestial splendor the host of heaven presumes not to behold? He who dwells in heaven, condescends this day to visit us by his venerable image; He who is seated on the cherubim, visits us this day by a picture, which the Father has delineated with his immaculate hand, which he has formed in an ineffable manner, and which we sanctify by adoring it with fear and love.” Before the end of the sixth century, these images, made without hands, (in Greek it is a single word, 11) were propagated in the camps and cities of the Eastern empire: 12 they were the objects of worship, and the instruments of miracles; and in the hour of danger or tumult, their venerable presence could revive the hope, rekindle the courage, or repress the fury, of the Roman legions. Of these pictures, the far greater part, the transcripts of a human pencil, could only pretend to a secondary likeness and improper title: but there were some of higher descent, who derived their resemblance from an immediate contact with the original, endowed, for that purpose, with a miraculous and prolific virtue. The most ambitious aspired from a filial to a fraternal relation with the image of Edessa; and such is the veronica of Rome, or Spain, or Jerusalem, which Christ in his agony and bloody sweat applied to his face, and delivered to a holy matron. The fruitful precedent was speedily transferred to the Virgin Mary, and the saints and martyrs. In the church of Diospolis, in Palestine, the features of the Mother of God 13 were deeply inscribed in a marble column; the East and West have been decorated by the pencil of St. Luke; and the Evangelist, who was perhaps a physician, has been forced to exercise the occupation of a painter, so profane and odious in the eyes of the primitive Christians. The Olympian Jove, created by the muse of Homer and the chisel of Phidias, might inspire a philosophic mind with momentary devotion; but these Catholic images were faintly and flatly delineated by monkish artists in the last degeneracy of taste and genius. 14
7 After removing some rubbish of miracle and inconsistency, it may be allowed, that as late as the year 300, Paneas in Palestine was decorated with a bronze statue, representing a grave personage wrapped in a cloak, with a grateful or suppliant female kneeling before him, and that an inscription was perhaps inscribed on the pedestal. By the Christians, this group was foolishly explained of their founder and the poor woman whom he had cured of the bloody flux, (Euseb. vii. 18, Philostorg. vii. 3, &c.) M. de Beausobre more reasonably conjectures the philosopher Apollonius, or the emperor Vespasian: in the latter supposition, the female is a city, a province, or perhaps the queen Berenice, (Bibliotheque Germanique, tom. xiii. p. 1 — 92.)]
8 Euseb. Hist. Eccles. l. i. c. 13. The learned Assemannus has brought up the collateral aid of three Syrians, St. Ephrem, Josua Stylites, and James bishop of Sarug; but I do not find any notice of the Syriac original or the archives of Edessa, (Bibliot. Orient. tom. i. p. 318, 420, 554;) their vague belief is probably derived from the Greeks.]
9 The evidence for these epistles is stated and rejected by the candid Lardner, (Heathen Testimonies, vol. i. p. 297 — 309.) Among the herd of bigots who are forcibly driven from this convenient, but untenable, post, I am ashamed, with the Grabes, Caves, Tillemonts, &c., to discover Mr. Addison, an English gentleman, (his Works, vol. i. p. 528, Baskerville’s edition;) but his superficial tract on the Christian religion owes its credit to his name, his style, and the interested applause of our clergy.]
10 From the silence of James of Sarug, (Asseman. Bibliot. Orient. p. 289, 318,) and the testimony of Evagrius, (Hist. Eccles. l. iv. c. 27,) I conclude that this fable was invented between the years 521 and 594, most probably after the siege of Edessa in 540, (Asseman. tom. i. p. 416. Procopius, de Bell. Persic. l. ii.) It is the sword and buckler of, Gregory II., (in Epist. i. ad. Leon. Isaur. Concil. tom. viii. p. 656, 657,) of John Damascenus, (Opera, tom. i. p. 281, edit. Lequien,) and of the second Nicene Council, (Actio v. p. 1030.) The most perfect edition may be found in Cedrenus, (Compend. p. 175 — 178.)]
11 See Ducange, in Gloss. Graec. et Lat. The subject is treated with equal learning and bigotry by the Jesuit Gretser, (Syntagma de Imaginibus non Manu factis, ad calcem Codini de Officiis, p. 289 — 330,) the ass, or rather the fox, of Ingoldstadt, (see the Scaligerana;) with equal reason and wit by the Protestant Beausobre, in the ironical controversy which he has spread through many volumes of the Bibliotheque Germanique, (tom. xviii. p. 1 — 50, xx. p. 27 — 68, xxv. p. 1 — 36, xxvii. p. 85 — 118, xxviii. p. 1 — 33, xxxi. p. 111 — 148, xxxii. p. 75 — 107, xxxiv. p. 67 — 96.)]
12 Theophylact Simocatta (l. ii. c. 3, p. 34, l. iii. c. 1, p. 63) celebrates it; yet it was no more than a copy, since he adds (of Edessa). See Pagi, tom. ii. A.D. 588 No. 11.]
13 See, in the genuine or supposed works of John Damascenus, two passages on the Virgin and St. Luke, which have not been noticed by Gretser, nor consequently by Beausobre, (Opera Joh. Damascen. tom. i. p. 618, 631.)]
14 “Your scandalous figures stand quite out from the canvass: they are as bad as a group of statues!” It was thus that the ignorance and bigotry of a Greek priest applauded the pictures of Titian, which he had ordered, and refused to accept.]
The worship of images had stolen into the church by insensible degrees, and each petty step was pleasing to the superstitious mind, as productive of comfort, and innocent of sin. But in the beginning of the eighth century, in the full magnitude of the abuse, the more timorous Greeks were awakened by an apprehension, that under the mask of Christianity, they had restored the religion of their fathers: they heard, with grief and impatience, the name of idolaters; the incessant charge of the Jews and Mahometans, 15 who derived from the Law and the Koran an immortal hatred to graven images and all relative worship. The servitude of the Jews might curb their zeal, and depreciate their authority; but the triumphant Mussulmans, who reigned at Damascus, and threatened Constantinople, cast into the scale of reproach the accumulated weight of truth and victory. The cities of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt had been fortified with the images of Christ, his mother, and his saints; and each city presumed on the hope or promise of miraculous defence. In a rapid conquest of ten years, the Arabs subdued those cities and these images; and, in their opinion, the Lord of Hosts pronounced a decisive judgment between the adoration and contempt of these mute and inanimate idols. * For a while Edessa had braved the Persian assaults; but the chosen city, the spouse of Christ, was involved in the common ruin; and his divine resemblance became the slave and trophy of the infidels. After a servitude of three hundred years, the Palladium was yielded to the devotion of Constantinople, for a ransom of twelve thousand pounds of silver, the redemption of two hundred Mussulmans, and a perpetual truce for the territory of Edessa. 16 In this season of distress and dismay, the eloquence of the monks was exercised in the defence of images; and they attempted to prove, that the sin and schism of the greatest part of the Orientals had forfeited the favor, and annihilated the virtue, of these precious symbols. But they were now opposed by the murmurs of many simple or rational Christians, who appealed to the evidence of texts, of facts, and of the primitive times, and secretly desired the reformation of the church. As the worship of images had never been established by any general or positive law, its progress in the Eastern empire had been retarded, or accelerated, by the differences of men and manners, the local degrees of refinement, and the personal characters of the bishops. The splendid devotion was fondly cherished by the levity of the capital, and the inventive genius of the Byzantine clergy; while the rude and remote districts of Asia were strangers to this innovation of sacred luxury. Many large congregations of Gnostics and Arians maintained, after their conversion, the simple worship which had preceded their separation; and the Armenians, the most warlike subjects of Rome, were not reconciled, in the twelfth century, to the sight of images. 17 These various denominations of men afforded a fund of prejudice and aversion, of small account in the villages of Anatolia or Thrace, but which, in the fortune of a soldier, a prelate, or a eunuch, might be often connected with the powers of the church and state.
15 By Cedrenus, Zonaras, Glycas, and Manasses, the origin of the Aconoclcasts is imprinted to the caliph Yezid and two Jews, who promised the empire to Leo; and the reproaches of these hostile sectaries are turned into an absurd conspiracy for restoring the purity of the Christian worship, (see Spanheim, Hist. Imag. c. 2.)]
* Yezid, ninth caliph of the race of the Ommiadae, caused all the images in Syria to be destroyed about the year 719; hence the orthodox reproaches the sectaries with following the example of the Saracens and the Jews Fragm. Mon. Johan. Jerosylym. Script. Byzant. vol. xvi. p. 235. Hist. des Repub. Ital. par M. Sismondi, vol. i. p. 126. — G.]
16 See Elmacin, (Hist. Saracen. p. 267,) Abulpharagius, (Dynast. p. 201,) and Abulfeda, (Annal. Moslem. p. 264,), and the criticisms of Pagi, (tom. iii. A.D. 944.) The prudent Franciscan refuses to determine whether the image of Edessa now reposes at Rome or Genoa; but its repose is inglorious, and this ancient object of worship is no longer famous or fashionable.]
17 (Nicetas, l. ii. p. 258.) The Armenian churches are still content with the Cross, (Missions du Levant, tom. iii. p. 148;) but surely the superstitious Greek is unjust to the superstition of the Germans of the xiith century.]
Of such adventurers, the most fortunate was the emperor Leo the Third, 18 who, from the mountains of Isauria, ascended the throne of the East. He was ignorant of sacred and profane letters; but his education, his reason, perhaps his intercourse with the Jews and Arabs, had inspired the martial peasant with a hatred of images; and it was held to be the duty of a prince to impose on his subjects the dictates of his own conscience. But in the outset of an unsettled reign, during ten years of toil and danger, Leo submitted to the meanness of hypocrisy, bowed before the idols which he despised, and satisfied the Roman pontiff with the annual professions of his orthodoxy and zeal. In the reformation of religion, his first steps were moderate and cautious: he assembled a great council of senators and bishops, and enacted, with their consent, that all the images should be removed from the sanctuary and altar to a proper height in the churches where they might be visible to the eyes, and inaccessible to the superstition, of the people. But it was impossible on either side to check the rapid through adverse impulse of veneration and abhorrence: in their lofty position, the sacred images still edified their votaries, and reproached the tyrant. He was himself provoked by resistance and invective; and his own party accused him of an imperfect discharge of his duty, and urged for his imitation the example of the Jewish king, who had broken without scruple the brazen serpent of the temple. By a second edict, he proscribed the existence as well as the use of religious pictures; the churches of Constantinople and the provinces were cleansed from idolatry; the images of Christ, the Virgin, and the saints, were demolished, or a smooth surface of plaster was spread over the walls of the edifice. The sect of the Iconoclasts was supported by the zeal and despotism of six emperors, and the East and West were involved in a noisy conflict of one hundred and twenty years. It was the design of Leo the Isaurian to pronounce the condemnation of images as an article of faith, and by the authority of a general council: but the convocation of such an assembly was reserved for his son Constantine; 19 and though it is stigmatized by triumphant bigotry as a meeting of fools and atheists, their own partial and mutilated acts betray many symptoms of reason and piety. The debates and decrees of many provincial synods introduced the summons of the general council which met in the suburbs of Constantinople, and was composed of the respectable number of three hundred and thirty-eight bishops of Europe and Anatolia; for the patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria were the slaves of the caliph, and the Roman pontiff had withdrawn the churches of Italy and the West from the communion of the Greeks. This Byzantine synod assumed the rank and powers of the seventh general council; yet even this title was a recognition of the six preceding assemblies, which had laboriously built the structure of the Catholic faith. After a serious deliberation of six months, the three hundred and thirty-eight bishops pronounced and subscribed a unanimous decree, that all visible symbols of Christ, except in the Eucharist, were either blasphemous or heretical; that image-worship was a corruption of Christianity and a renewal of Paganism; that all such monuments of idolatry should be broken or erased; and that those who should refuse to deliver the objects of their private superstition, were guilty of disobedience to the authority of the church and of the emperor. In their loud and loyal acclamations, they celebrated the merits of their temporal redeemer; and to his zeal and justice they intrusted the execution of their spiritual censures. At Constantinople, as in the former councils, the will of the prince was the rule of episcopal faith; but on this occasion, I am inclined to suspect that a large majority of the prelates sacrificed their secret conscience to the temptations of hope and fear. In the long night of superstition, the Christians had wandered far away from the simplicity of the gospel: nor was it easy for them to discern the clew, and tread back the mazes, of the labyrinth. The worship of images was inseparably blended, at least to a pious fancy, with the Cross, the Virgin, the Saints and their relics; the holy ground was involved in a cloud of miracles and visions; and the nerves of the mind, curiosity and scepticism, were benumbed by the habits of obedience and belief. Constantine himself is accused of indulging a royal license to doubt, or deny, or deride the mysteries of the Catholics, 20 but they were deeply inscribed in the public and private creed of his bishops; and the boldest Iconoclast might assault with a secret horror the monuments of popular devotion, which were consecrated to the honor of his celestial patrons. In the reformation of the sixteenth century, freedom and knowledge had expanded all the faculties of man: the thirst of innovation superseded the reverence of antiquity; and the vigor of Europe could disdain those phantoms which terrified the sickly and servile weakness of the Greeks.
18 Our original, but not impartial, monuments of the Iconoclasts must be drawn from the Acts of the Councils, tom. viii. and ix. Collect. Labbe, edit. Venet. and the historical writings of Theophanes, Nicephorus, Manasses, Cedrenus, Zonoras, &c. Of the modern Catholics, Baronius, Pagi, Natalis Alexander, (Hist. Eccles. Seculum viii. and ix.,) and Maimbourg, (Hist. des Iconoclasts,) have treated the subject with learning, passion, and credulity. The Protestant labors of Frederick Spanheim (Historia Imaginum restituta) and James Basnage (Hist. des Eglises Reformees, tom. ii. l. xxiiii. p. 1339 — 1385) are cast into the Iconoclast scale. With this mutual aid, and opposite tendency, it is easy for us to poise the balance with philosophic indifference.
Note: Compare Schlosser, Geschichte der Bilder-sturmender Kaiser, Frankfurt am-Main 1812 a book of research and impartiality — M.]
19 Some flowers of rhetoric. By Damascenus is styled (Opera, tom. i. p. 623.) Spanheim’s Apology for the Synod of Constantinople (p. 171, &c.) is worked up with truth and ingenuity, from such materials as he could find in the Nicene Acts, (p. 1046, &c.) The witty John of Damascus converts it into slaves of their belly, &c. Opera, tom. i. p. 806]
20 He is accused of proscribing the title of saint; styling the Virgin, Mother of Christ; comparing her after her delivery to an empty purse of Arianism, Nestorianism, &c. In his defence, Spanheim (c. iv. p. 207) is somewhat embarrassed between the interest of a Protestant and the duty of an orthodox divine.]
The scandal of an abstract heresy can be only proclaimed to the people by the blast of the ecclesiastical trumpet; but the most ignorant can perceive, the most torpid must feel, the profanation and downfall of their visible deities. The first hostilities of Leo were directed against a lofty Christ on the vestibule, and above the gate, of the palace. A ladder had been planted for the assault, but it was furiously shaken by a crowd of zealots and women: they beheld, with pious transport, the ministers of sacrilege tumbling from on high and dashed against the pavement: and the honors of the ancient martyrs were prostituted to these criminals, who justly suffered for murder and rebellion. 21 The execution of the Imperial edicts was resisted by frequent tumults in Constantinople and the provinces: the person of Leo was endangered, his officers were massacred, and the popular enthusiasm was quelled by the strongest efforts of the civil and military power. Of the Archipelago, or Holy Sea, the numerous islands were filled with images and monks: their votaries abjured, without scruple, the enemy of Christ, his mother, and the saints; they armed a fleet of boats and galleys, displayed their consecrated banners, and boldly steered for the harbor of Constantinople, to place on the throne a new favorite of God and the people. They depended on the succor of a miracle: but their miracles were inefficient against the Greek fire; and, after the defeat and conflagration of the fleet, the naked islands were abandoned to the clemency or justice of the conqueror. The son of Leo, in the first year of his reign, had undertaken an expedition against the Saracens: during his absence, the capital, the palace, and the purple, were occupied by his kinsman Artavasdes, the ambitious champion of the orthodox faith. The worship of images was triumphantly restored: the patriarch renounced his dissimulation, or dissembled his sentiments and the righteous claims of the usurper was acknowledged, both in the new, and in ancient, Rome. Constantine flew for refuge to his paternal mountains; but he descended at the head of the bold and affectionate Isaurians; and his final victory confounded the arms and predictions of the fanatics. His long reign was distracted with clamor, sedition, conspiracy, and mutual hatred, and sanguinary revenge; the persecution of images was the motive or pretence, of his adversaries; and, if they missed a temporal diadem, they were rewarded by the Greeks with the crown of martyrdom. In every act of open and clandestine treason, the emperor felt the unforgiving enmity of the monks, the faithful slaves of the superstition to which they owed their riches and influence. They prayed, they preached, they absolved, they inflamed, they conspired; the solitude of Palestine poured forth a torrent of invective; and the pen of St. John Damascenus, 22 the last of the Greek fathers, devoted the tyrant’s head, both in this world and the next. 23 * I am not at leisure to examine how far the monks provoked, nor how much they have exaggerated, their real and pretended sufferings, nor how many lost their lives or limbs, their eyes or their beards, by the cruelty of the emperor. † From the chastisement of individuals, he proceeded to the abolition of the order; and, as it was wealthy and useless, his resentment might be stimulated by avarice, and justified by patriotism. The formidable name and mission of the Dragon, 24 his visitor-general, excited the terror and abhorrence of the black nation: the religious communities were dissolved, the buildings were converted into magazines, or bar racks; the lands, movables, and cattle were confiscated; and our modern precedents will support the charge, that much wanton or malicious havoc was exercised against the relics, and even the books of the monasteries. With the habit and profession of monks, the public and private worship of images was rigorously proscribed; and it should seem, that a solemn abjuration of idolatry was exacted from the subjects, or at least from the clergy, of the Eastern empire. 25
21 The holy confessor Theophanes approves the principle of their rebellion, (p. 339.) Gregory II. (in Epist. i. ad Imp. Leon. Concil. tom. viii. p. 661, 664) applauds the zeal of the Byzantine women who killed the Imperial officers.]
22 John, or Mansur, was a noble Christian of Damascus, who held a considerable office in the service of the caliph. His zeal in the cause of images exposed him to the resentment and treachery of the Greek emperor; and on the suspicion of a treasonable correspondence, he was deprived of his right hand, which was miraculously restored by the Virgin. After this deliverance, he resigned his office, distributed his wealth, and buried himself in the monastery of St. Sabas, between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The legend is famous; but his learned editor, Father Lequien, has a unluckily proved that St. John Damascenus was already a monk before the Iconoclast dispute, (Opera, tom. i. Vit. St. Joan. Damascen. p. 10 — 13, et Notas ad loc.)]
23 After sending Leo to the devil, he introduces his heir, (Opera, Damascen. tom. i. p. 625.) If the authenticity of this piece be suspicious, we are sure that in other works, no longer extant, Damascenus bestowed on Constantine the titles. (tom. i. p. 306.)]
* The patriarch Anastasius, an Iconoclast under Leo, an image worshipper under Artavasdes, was scourged, led through the streets on an ass, with his face to the tail; and, reinvested in his dignity, became again the obsequious minister of Constantine in his Iconoclastic persecutions. See Schlosser p. 211. — M.]
† Compare Schlosser, p. 228 — 234. — M.]
24 In the narrative of this persecution from Theophanes and Cedreves, Spanheim (p. 235 — 238) is happy to compare the Draco of Leo with the dragoons (Dracones) of Louis XIV.; and highly solaces himself with the controversial pun.]
25 (Damascen. Op. tom. i. p. 625.) This oath and subscription I do not remember to have seen in any modern compilation]
The patient East abjured, with reluctance, her sacred images; they were fondly cherished, and vigorously defended, by the independent zeal of the Italians. In ecclesiastical rank and jurisdiction, the patriarch of Constantinople and the pope of Rome were nearly equal. But the Greek prelate was a domestic slave under the eye of his master, at whose nod he alternately passed from the convent to the throne, and from the throne to the convent. A distant and dangerous station, amidst the Barbarians of the West, excited the spirit and freedom of the Latin bishops.
Their popular election endeared them to the Romans: the public and private indigence was relieved by their ample revenue; and the weakness or neglect of the emperors compelled them to consult, both in peace and war, the temporal safety of the city. In the school of adversity the priest insensibly imbibed the virtues and the ambition of a prince; the same character was assumed, the same policy was adopted, by the Italian, the Greek, or the Syrian, who ascended the chair of St. Peter; and, after the loss of her legions and provinces, the genius and fortune of the popes again restored the supremacy of Rome. It is agreed, that in the eighth century, their dominion was founded on rebellion, and that the rebellion was produced, and justified, by the heresy of the Iconoclasts; but the conduct of the second and third Gregory, in this memorable contest, is variously interpreted by the wishes of their friends and enemies. The Byzantine writers unanimously declare, that, after a fruitless admonition, they pronounced the separation of the East and West, and deprived the sacrilegious tyrant of the revenue and sovereignty of Italy. Their excommunication is still more clearly expressed by the Greeks, who beheld the accomplishment of the papal triumphs; and as they are more strongly attached to their religion than to their country, they praise, instead of blaming, the zeal and orthodoxy of these apostolical men. 26 The modern champions of Rome are eager to accept the praise and the precedent: this great and glorious example of the deposition of royal heretics is celebrated by the cardinals Baronius and Bellarmine; 27 and if they are asked, why the same thunders were not hurled against the Neros and Julians of antiquity, they reply, that the weakness of the primitive church was the sole cause of her patient loyalty. 28 On this occasion the effects of love and hatred are the same; and the zealous Protestants, who seek to kindle the indignation, and to alarm the fears, of princes and magistrates, expatiate on the insolence and treason of the two Gregories against their lawful sovereign. 29 They are defended only by the moderate Catholics, for the most part, of the Gallican church, 30 who respect the saint, without approving the sin. These common advocates of the crown and the mitre circumscribe the truth of facts by the rule of equity, Scripture, and tradition, and appeal to the evidence of the Latins, 31 and the lives 32 and epistles of the popes themselves.
26 Theophanes. (Chronograph. p. 343.) For this Gregory is styled by Cedrenus. (p. 450.) Zonaras specifies the thunder, (tom. ii. l. xv. p. 104, 105.) It may be observed, that the Greeks are apt to confound the times and actions of two Gregories.]
27 See Baronius, Annal. Eccles. A.D. 730, No. 4, 5; dignum exemplum! Bellarmin. de Romano Pontifice, l. v. c. 8: mulctavit eum parte imperii. Sigonius, de Regno Italiae, l. iii. Opera, tom. ii. p. 169. Yet such is the change of Italy, that Sigonius is corrected by the editor of Milan, Philipus Argelatus, a Bolognese, and subject of the pope.]
28 Quod si Christiani olim non deposuerunt Neronem aut Julianum, id fuit quia deerant vires temporales Christianis, (honest Bellarmine, de Rom. Pont. l. v. c. 7.) Cardinal Perron adds a distinction more honorable to the first Christians, but not more satisfactory to modern princes — the treason of heretics and apostates, who break their oath, belie their coin, and renounce their allegiance to Christ and his vicar, (Perroniana, p. 89.)]
29 Take, as a specimen, the cautious Basnage (Hist. d’Eglise, p. 1350, 1351) and the vehement Spanheim, (Hist. Imaginum,) who, with a hundred more, tread in the footsteps of the centuriators of Magdeburgh.]
30 See Launoy, (Opera, tom. v. pars ii. epist. vii. 7, p. 456 — 474,) Natalis Alexander, (Hist. Nov. Testamenti, secul. viii. dissert. i. p. 92 — 98,) Pagi, (Critica, tom. iii. p. 215, 216,) and Giannone, (Istoria Civile Napoli, tom. i. p. 317 — 320,) a disciple of the Gallican school In the field of controversy I always pity the moderate party, who stand on the open middle ground exposed to the fire of both sides.]
31 They appeal to Paul Warnefrid, or Diaconus, (de Gestis Langobard. l. vi. c. 49, p. 506, 507, in Script. Ital. Muratori, tom. i. pars i.,) and the nominal Anastasius, (de Vit. Pont. in Muratori, tom. iii. pars i. Gregorius II. p. 154. Gregorius III. p. 158. Zacharias, p. 161. Stephanus III. p. 165.
Paulus, p. 172. Stephanus IV. p. 174. Hadrianus, p. 179. Leo III. p. 195.) Yet I may remark, that the true Anastasius (Hist. Eccles. p. 134, edit. Reg.) and the Historia Miscella, (l. xxi. p. 151, in tom. i. Script. Ital.,) both of the ixth century, translate and approve the Greek text of Theophanes.]
32 With some minute difference, the most learned critics, Lucas Holstenius, Schelestrate, Ciampini, Bianchini, Muratori, (Prolegomena ad tom. iii. pars i.,) are agreed that the Liber Pontificalis was composed and continued by the apostolic librarians and notaries of the viiith and ixth centuries; and that the last and smallest part is the work of Anastasius, whose name it bears. The style is barbarous, the narrative partial, the details are trifling — yet it must be read as a curious and authentic record of the times. The epistles of the popes are dispersed in the volumes of Councils.]
Two original epistles, from Gregory the Second to the emperor Leo, are still extant; 33 and if they cannot be praised as the most perfect models of eloquence and logic, they exhibit the portrait, or at least the mask, of the founder of the papal monarchy. “During ten pure and fortunate years,” says Gregory to the emperor, “we have tasted the annual comfort of your royal letters, subscribed in purple ink, with your own hand, the sacred pledges of your attachment to the orthodox creed of our fathers. How deplorable is the change! how tremendous the scandal! You now accuse the Catholics of idolatry; and, by the accusation, you betray your own impiety and ignorance. To this ignorance we are compelled to adapt the grossness of our style and arguments: the first elements of holy letters are sufficient for your confusion; and were you to enter a grammar-school, and avow yourself the enemy of our worship, the simple and pious children would be provoked to cast their horn-books at your head.” After this decent salutation, the pope attempts the usual distinction between the idols of antiquity and the Christian images. The former were the fanciful representations of phantoms or daemons, at a time when the true God had not manifested his person in any visible likeness. The latter are the genuine forms of Christ, his mother, and his saints, who had approved, by a crowd of miracles, the innocence and merit of this relative worship. He must indeed have trusted to the ignorance of Leo, since he could assert the perpetual use of images, from the apostolic age, and their venerable presence in the six synods of the Catholic church. A more specious argument is drawn from present possession and recent practice the harmony of the Christian world supersedes the demand of a general council; and Gregory frankly confesses, than such assemblies can only be useful under the reign of an orthodox prince. To the impudent and inhuman Leo, more guilty than a heretic, he recommends peace, silence, and implicit obedience to his spiritual guides of Constantinople and Rome. The limits of civil and ecclesiastical powers are defined by the pontiff. To the former he appropriates the body; to the latter, the soul: the sword of justice is in the hands of the magistrate: the more formidable weapon of excommunication is intrusted to the clergy; and in the exercise of their divine commission a zealous son will not spare his offending father: the successor of St. Peter may lawfully chastise the kings of the earth. “You assault us, O tyrant! with a carnal and military hand: unarmed and naked we can only implore the Christ, the prince of the heavenly host, that he will send unto you a devil, for the destruction of your body and the salvation of your soul. You declare, with foolish arrogance, I will despatch my orders to Rome: I will break in pieces the image of St. Peter; and Gregory, like his predecessor Martin, shall be transported in chains, and in exile, to the foot of the Imperial throne. Would to God that I might be permitted to tread in the footsteps of the holy Martin! but may the fate of Constans serve as a warning to the persecutors of the church! After his just condemnation by the bishops of Sicily, the tyrant was cut off, in the fullness of his sins, by a domestic servant: the saint is still adored by the nations of Scythia, among whom he ended his banishment and his life. But it is our duty to live for the edification and support of the faithful people; nor are we reduced to risk our safety on the event of a combat. Incapable as you are of defending your Roman subjects, the maritime situation of the city may perhaps expose it to your depredation but we can remove to the distance of four-and-twenty stadia, to the first fortress of the Lombards34, and then — you may pursue the winds. Are you ignorant that the popes are the bond of union, the mediators of peace, between the East and West? The eyes of the nations are fixed on our humility; and they revere, as a God upon earth, the apostle St. Peter, whose image you threaten to destroy. 35 The remote and interior kingdoms of the West present their homage to Christ and his vicegerent; and we now prepare to visit one of their most powerful monarchs, who desires to receive from our hands the sacrament of baptism. 36 The Barbarians have submitted to the yoke of the gospel, while you alone are deaf to the voice of the shepherd. These pious Barbarians are kindled into rage: they thirst to avenge the persecution of the East. Abandon your rash and fatal enterprise; reflect, tremble, and repent. If you persist, we are innocent of the blood that will be spilt in the contest; may it fall on your own head!”
33 The two epistles of Gregory II. have been preserved in the Acta of the Nicene Council, (tom. viii. p. 651 — 674.) They are without a date, which is variously fixed, by Baronius in the year 726, by Muratori (Annali d’Italia, tom. vi. p. 120) in 729, and by Pagi in 730. Such is the force of prejudice, that some papists have praised the good sense and moderation of these letters.]
34 (Epist. i. p. 664.) This proximity of the Lombards is hard of digestion. Camillo Pellegrini (Dissert. iv. de Ducatu Beneventi, in the Script. Ital. tom. v. p. 172, 173) forcibly reckons the xxivth stadia, not from Rome, but from the limits of the Roman duchy, to the first fortress, perhaps Sora, of the Lombards. I rather believe that Gregory, with the pedantry of the age, employs stadia for miles, without much inquiry into the genuine measure.]
36 (p. 665.) The pope appears to have imposed on the ignorance of the Greeks: he lived and died in the Lateran; and in his time all the kingdoms of the West had embraced Christianity. May not this unknown Septetus have some reference to the chief of the Saxon Heptarchy, to Ina king of Wessex, who, in the pontificate of Gregory the Second, visited Rome for the purpose, not of baptism, but of pilgrimage! Pagi. A., 89, No. 2. A.D. 726, No. 15.)]
The first assault of Leo against the images of Constantinople had been witnessed by a crowd of strangers from Italy and the West, who related with grief and indignation the sacrilege of the emperor. But on the reception of his proscriptive edict, they trembled for their domestic deities: the images of Christ and the Virgin, of the angels, martyrs, and saints, were abolished in all the churches of Italy; and a strong alternative was proposed to the Roman pontiff, the royal favor as the price of his compliance, degradation and exile as the penalty of his disobedience. Neither zeal nor policy allowed him to hesitate; and the haughty strain in which Gregory addressed the emperor displays his confidence in the truth of his doctrine or the powers of resistance. Without depending on prayers or miracles, he boldly armed against the public enemy, and his pastoral letters admonished the Italians of their danger and their duty. 37 At this signal, Ravenna, Venice, and the cities of the Exarchate and Pentapolis, adhered to the cause of religion; their military force by sea and land consisted, for the most part, of the natives; and the spirit of patriotism and zeal was transfused into the mercenary strangers. The Italians swore to live and die in the defence of the pope and the holy images; the Roman people was devoted to their father, and even the Lombards were ambitious to share the merit and advantage of this holy war. The most treasonable act, but the most obvious revenge, was the destruction of the statues of Leo himself: the most effectual and pleasing measure of rebellion, was the withholding the tribute of Italy, and depriving him of a power which he had recently abused by the imposition of a new capitation. 38 A form of administration was preserved by the election of magistrates and governors; and so high was the public indignation, that the Italians were prepared to create an orthodox emperor, and to conduct him with a fleet and army to the palace of Constantinople. In that palace, the Roman bishops, the second and third Gregory, were condemned as the authors of the revolt, and every attempt was made, either by fraud or force, to seize their persons, and to strike at their lives. The city was repeatedly visited or assaulted by captains of the guards, and dukes and exarchs of high dignity or secret trust; they landed with foreign troops, they obtained some domestic aid, and the superstition of Naples may blush that her fathers were attached to the cause of heresy. But these clandestine or open attacks were repelled by the courage and vigilance of the Romans; the Greeks were overthrown and massacred, their leaders suffered an ignominious death, and the popes, however inclined to mercy, refused to intercede for these guilty victims. At Ravenna, 39 the several quarters of the city had long exercised a bloody and hereditary feud; in religious controversy they found a new aliment of faction: but the votaries of images were superior in numbers or spirit, and the exarch, who attempted to stem the torrent, lost his life in a popular sedition. To punish this flagitious deed, and restore his dominion in Italy, the emperor sent a fleet and army into the Adriatic Gulf. After suffering from the winds and waves much loss and delay, the Greeks made their descent in the neighborhood of Ravenna: they threatened to depopulate the guilty capital, and to imitate, perhaps to surpass, the example of Justinian the Second, who had chastised a former rebellion by the choice and execution of fifty of the principal inhabitants. The women and clergy, in sackcloth and ashes, lay prostrate in prayer: the men were in arms for the defence of their country; the common danger had united the factions, and the event of a battle was preferred to the slow miseries of a siege. In a hard-fought day, as the two armies alternately yielded and advanced, a phantom was seen, a voice was heard, and Ravenna was victorious by the assurance of victory. The strangers retreated to their ships, but the populous sea-coast poured forth a multitude of boats; the waters of the Po were so deeply infected with blood, that during six years the public prejudice abstained from the fish of the river; and the institution of an annual feast perpetuated the worship of images, and the abhorrence of the Greek tyrant. Amidst the triumph of the Catholic arms, the Roman pontiff convened a synod of ninety-three bishops against the heresy of the Iconoclasts. With their consent, he pronounced a general excommunication against all who by word or deed should attack the tradition of the fathers and the images of the saints: in this sentence the emperor was tacitly involved, 40 but the vote of a last and hopeless remonstrance may seem to imply that the anathema was yet suspended over his guilty head. No sooner had they confirmed their own safety, the worship of images, and the freedom of Rome and Italy, than the popes appear to have relaxed of their severity, and to have spared the relics of the Byzantine dominion. Their moderate councils delayed and prevented the election of a new emperor, and they exhorted the Italians not to separate from the body of the Roman monarchy. The exarch was permitted to reside within the walls of Ravenna, a captive rather than a master; and till the Imperial coronation of Charlemagne, the government of Rome and Italy was exercised in the name of the successors of Constantine. 41
37 I shall transcribe the important and decisive passage of the Liber Pontificalis. Respiciens ergo pius vir profanam principis jussionem, jam contra Imperatorem quasi contra hostem se armavit, renuens haeresim ejus, scribens ubique se cavere Christianos, eo quod orta fuisset impietas talis. Igitur permoti omnes Pentapolenses, atque Venetiarum exercitus contra Imperatoris jussionem restiterunt; dicentes se nunquam in ejusdem pontificis condescendere necem, sed pro ejus magis defensione viriliter decertare, (p. 156.)]
38 A census, or capitation, says Anastasius, (p. 156;) a most cruel tax, unknown to the Saracens themselves, exclaims the zealous Maimbourg, (Hist. des Iconoclastes, l. i.,) and Theophanes, (p. 344,) who talks of Pharaoh’s numbering the male children of Israel. This mode of taxation was familiar to the Saracens; and, most unluckily for the historians, it was imposed a few years afterwards in France by his patron Louis XIV.]
39 See the Liber Pontificalis of Agnellus, (in the Scriptores Rerum Italicarum of Muratori, tom. ii. pars i.,) whose deeper shade of barbarism marks the difference between Rome and Ravenna. Yet we are indebted to him for some curious and domestic facts — the quarters and factions of Ravenna, (p. 154,) the revenge of Justinian II, (p. 160, 161,) the defeat of the Greeks, (p. 170, 171,) &c.]
40 Yet Leo was undoubtedly comprised in the si quis. . . . imaginum sacrarum . . . . destructor. . . . extiterit, sit extorris a cor pore D. N. Jesu Christi vel totius ecclesiae unitate. The canonists may decide whether the guilt or the name constitutes the excommunication; and the decision is of the last importance to their safety, since, according to the oracle (Gratian, Caus. xxiii. q. 5, 47, apud Spanheim, Hist. Imag. p. 112) homicidas non esse qui excommunicatos trucidant.]
41 Compescuit tale consilium Pontifex, sperans conversionem principis, (Anastas. p. 156.) Sed ne desisterent ab amore et fide R. J. admonebat, (p. 157.) The popes style Leo and Constantine Copronymus, Imperatores et Domini, with the strange epithet of Piissimi. A famous Mosaic of the Lateran (A.D. 798) represents Christ, who delivers the keys to St. Peter and the banner to Constantine V. (Muratori, Annali d’Italia, tom. vi. p. 337.)]
The liberty of Rome, which had been oppressed by the arms and arts of Augustus, was rescued, after seven hundred and fifty years of servitude, from the persecution of Leo the Isaurian. By the Caesars, the triumphs of the consuls had been annihilated: in the decline and fall of the empire, the god Terminus, the sacred boundary, had insensibly receded from the ocean, the Rhine, the Danube, and the Euphrates; and Rome was reduced to her ancient territory from Viterbo to Terracina, and from Narni to the mouth of the Tyber. 42 When the kings were banished, the republic reposed on the firm basis which had been founded by their wisdom and virtue. Their perpetual jurisdiction was divided between two annual magistrates: the senate continued to exercise the powers of administration and counsel; and the legislative authority was distributed in the assemblies of the people, by a well-proportioned scale of property and service. Ignorant of the arts of luxury, the primitive Romans had improved the science of government and war: the will of the community was absolute: the rights of individuals were sacred: one hundred and thirty thousand citizens were armed for defence or conquest; and a band of robbers and outlaws was moulded into a nation deserving of freedom and ambitious of glory. 43 When the sovereignty of the Greek emperors was extinguished, the ruins of Rome presented the sad image of depopulation and decay: her slavery was a habit, her liberty an accident; the effect of superstition, and the object of her own amazement and terror. The last vestige of the substance, or even the forms, of the constitution, was obliterated from the practice and memory of the Romans; and they were devoid of knowledge, or virtue, again to build the fabric of a commonwealth. Their scanty remnant, the offspring of slaves and strangers, was despicable in the eyes of the victorious Barbarians. As often as the Franks or Lombards expressed their most bitter contempt of a foe, they called him a Roman; “and in this name,” says the bishop Liutprand, “we include whatever is base, whatever is cowardly, whatever is perfidious, the extremes of avarice and luxury, and every vice that can prostitute the dignity of human nature.” 44 * By the necessity of their situation, the inhabitants of Rome were cast into the rough model of a republican government: they were compelled to elect some judges in peace, and some leaders in war: the nobles assembled to deliberate, and their resolves could not be executed without the union and consent of the multitude. The style of the Roman senate and people was revived, 45 but the spirit was fled; and their new independence was disgraced by the tumultuous conflict of vicentiousness and oppression. The want of laws could only be supplied by the influence of religion, and their foreign and domestic counsels were moderated by the authority of the bishop. His alms, his sermons, his correspondence with the kings and prelates of the West, his recent services, their gratitude, and oath, accustomed the Romans to consider him as the first magistrate or prince of the city. The Christian humility of the popes was not offended by the name of Dominus, or Lord; and their face and inscription are still apparent on the most ancient coins. 46 Their temporal dominion is now confirmed by the reverence of a thousand years; and their noblest title is the free choice of a people, whom they had redeemed from slavery.
42 I have traced the Roman duchy according to the maps, and the maps according to the excellent dissertation of father Beretti, (de Chorographia Italiae Medii Aevi, sect. xx. p. 216-232.) Yet I must nicely observe, that Viterbo is of Lombard foundation, (p. 211,) and that Terracina was usurped by the Greeks.]
43 On the extent, population, &c., of the Roman kingdom, the reader may peruse, with pleasure, the Discours Preliminaire to the Republique Romaine of M. de Beaufort, (tom. i.,) who will not be accused of too much credulity for the early ages of Rome.]
44 Quos (Romanos) nos, Longobardi scilicet, Saxones, Franci, Locharingi, Bajoarii, Suevi, Burgundiones, tanto dedignamur ut inimicos nostros commoti, nil aliud contumeliarum nisi Romane, dicamus: hoc solo, id est Romanorum nomine, quicquid ignobilitatis, quicquid timiditatis, quicquid avaritiae, quicquid luxuriae, quicquid mendacii, immo quicquid vitiorum est comprehendentes, (Liutprand, in Legat Script. Ital. tom. ii. para i. p. 481.) For the sins of Cato or Tully Minos might have imposed as a fit penance the daily perusal of this barbarous passage.]
* Yet this contumelious sentence, quoted by Robertson (Charles V note 2) as well as Gibbon, was applied by the angry bishop to the Byzantine Romans, whom, indeed, he admits to be the genuine descendants of Romulus. — M.]
45 Pipino regi Francorum, omnis senatus, atque universa populi generalitas a Deo servatae Romanae urbis. Codex Carolin. epist. 36, in Script. Ital. tom. iii. pars ii. p. 160. The names of senatus and senator were never totally extinct, (Dissert. Chorograph. p. 216, 217;) but in the middle ages they signified little more than nobiles, optimates, &c., (Ducange, Gloss. Latin.)]
46 See Muratori, Antiquit. Italiae Medii Aevi, tom. ii. Dissertat xxvii. p. 548. On one of these coins we read Hadrianus Papa (A.D. 772;) on the reverse, Vict. Ddnn. with the word Conob, which the Pere Joubert (Science des Medailles, tom. ii. p. 42) explains by Constantinopoli Officina B (secunda.)]
In the quarrels of ancient Greece, the holy people of Elis enjoyed a perpetual peace, under the protection of Jupiter, and in the exercise of the Olympic games. 47 Happy would it have been for the Romans, if a similar privilege had guarded the patrimony of St. Peter from the calamities of war; if the Christians, who visited the holy threshold, would have sheathed their swords in the presence of the apostle and his successor. But this mystic circle could have been traced only by the wand of a legislator and a sage: this pacific system was incompatible with the zeal and ambition of the popes the Romans were not addicted, like the inhabitants of Elis, to the innocent and placid labors of agriculture; and the Barbarians of Italy, though softened by the climate, were far below the Grecian states in the institutions of public and private life. A memorable example of repentance and piety was exhibited by Liutprand, king of the Lombards. In arms, at the gate of the Vatican, the conqueror listened to the voice of Gregory the Second, 48 withdrew his troops, resigned his conquests, respectfully visited the church of St. Peter, and after performing his devotions, offered his sword and dagger, his cuirass and mantle, his silver cross, and his crown of gold, on the tomb of the apostle. But this religious fervor was the illusion, perhaps the artifice, of the moment; the sense of interest is strong and lasting; the love of arms and rapine was congenial to the Lombards; and both the prince and people were irresistibly tempted by the disorders of Italy, the nakedness of Rome, and the unwarlike profession of her new chief. On the first edicts of the emperor, they declared themselves the champions of the holy images: Liutprand invaded the province of Romagna, which had already assumed that distinctive appellation; the Catholics of the Exarchate yielded without reluctance to his civil and military power; and a foreign enemy was introduced for the first time into the impregnable fortress of Ravenna. That city and fortress were speedily recovered by the active diligence and maritime forces of the Venetians; and those faithful subjects obeyed the exhortation of Gregory himself, in separating the personal guilt of Leo from the general cause of the Roman empire. 49 The Greeks were less mindful of the service, than the Lombards of the injury: the two nations, hostile in their faith, were reconciled in a dangerous and unnatural alliance: the king and the exarch marched to the conquest of Spoleto and Rome: the storm evaporated without effect, but the policy of Liutprand alarmed Italy with a vexatious alternative of hostility and truce. His successor Astolphus declared himself the equal enemy of the emperor and the pope: Ravenna was subdued by force or treachery, 50 and this final conquest extinguished the series of the exarchs, who had reigned with a subordinate power since the time of Justinian and the ruin of the Gothic kingdom. Rome was summoned to acknowledge the victorious Lombard as her lawful sovereign; the annual tribute of a piece of gold was fixed as the ransom of each citizen, and the sword of destruction was unsheathed to exact the penalty of her disobedience. The Romans hesitated; they entreated; they complained; and the threatening Barbarians were checked by arms and negotiations, till the popes had engaged the friendship of an ally and avenger beyond the Alps. 51
47 See West’s Dissertation on the Olympic Games, (Pindar. vol. ii. p. 32-36, edition in 12mo.,) and the judicious reflections of Polybius (tom. i. l. iv. p. 466, edit Gronov.)]
48 The speech of Gregory to the Lombard is finely composed by Sigonius, (de Regno Italiae, l. iii. Opera, tom. ii. p. 173,) who imitates the license and the spirit of Sallust or Livy.]
49 The Venetian historians, John Sagorninus, (Chron. Venet. p. 13,) and the doge Andrew Dandolo, (Scriptores Rer. Ital. tom. xii. p. 135,) have preserved this epistle of Gregory. The loss and recovery of Ravenna are mentioned by Paulus Diaconus, (de Gest. Langobard, l. vi. c. 42, 54, in Script. Ital. tom. i. pars i. p. 506, 508;) but our chronologists, Pagi, Muratori, &c., cannot ascertain the date or circumstances]
50 The option will depend on the various readings of the Mss. of Anastasius — deceperat, or decerpserat, (Script. Ital. tom. iii. pars i. p. 167.)]
51 The Codex Carolinus is a collection of the epistles of the popes to Charles Martel, (whom they style Subregulus,) Pepin, and Charlemagne, as far as the year 791, when it was formed by the last of these princes. His original and authentic Ms. (Bibliothecae Cubicularis) is now in the Imperial library of Vienna, and has been published by Lambecius and Muratori, (Script. Rerum Ital. tom. iii. pars ii. p. 75, &c.)]
In his distress, the first * Gregory had implored the aid of the hero of the age, of Charles Martel, who governed the French monarchy with the humble title of mayor or duke; and who, by his signal victory over the Saracens, had saved his country, and perhaps Europe, from the Mahometan yoke. The ambassadors of the pope were received by Charles with decent reverence; but the greatness of his occupations, and the shortness of his life, prevented his interference in the affairs of Italy, except by a friendly and ineffectual mediation. His son Pepin, the heir of his power and virtues, assumed the office of champion of the Roman church; and the zeal of the French prince appears to have been prompted by the love of glory and religion. But the danger was on the banks of the Tyber, the succor on those of the Seine, and our sympathy is cold to the relation of distant misery. Amidst the tears of the city, Stephen the Third embraced the generous resolution of visiting in person the courts of Lombardy and France, to deprecate the injustice of his enemy, or to excite the pity and indignation of his friend. After soothing the public despair by litanies and orations, he undertook this laborious journey with the ambassadors of the French monarch and the Greek emperor. The king of the Lombards was inexorable; but his threats could not silence the complaints, nor retard the speed of the Roman pontiff, who traversed the Pennine Alps, reposed in the abbey of St. Maurice, and hastened to grasp the right hand of his protector; a hand which was never lifted in vain, either in war or friendship. Stephen was entertained as the visible successor of the apostle; at the next assembly, the field of March or of May, his injuries were exposed to a devout and warlike nation, and he repassed the Alps, not as a suppliant, but as a conqueror, at the head of a French army, which was led by the king in person. The Lombards, after a weak resistance, obtained an ignominious peace, and swore to restore the possessions, and to respect the sanctity, of the Roman church. But no sooner was Astolphus delivered from the presence of the French arms, than he forgot his promise and resented his disgrace. Rome was again encompassed by his arms; and Stephen, apprehensive of fatiguing the zeal of his Transalpine allies enforced his complaint and request by an eloquent letter in the name and person of St. Peter himself. 52 The apostle assures his adopted sons, the king, the clergy, and the nobles of France, that, dead in the flesh, he is still alive in the spirit; that they now hear, and must obey, the voice of the founder and guardian of the Roman church; that the Virgin, the angels, the saints, and the martyrs, and all the host of heaven, unanimously urge the request, and will confess the obligation; that riches, victory, and paradise, will crown their pious enterprise, and that eternal damnation will be the penalty of their neglect, if they suffer his tomb, his temple, and his people, to fall into the hands of the perfidious Lombards. The second expedition of Pepin was not less rapid and fortunate than the first: St. Peter was satisfied, Rome was again saved, and Astolphus was taught the lessons of justice and sincerity by the scourge of a foreign master. After this double chastisement, the Lombards languished about twenty years in a state of languor and decay. But their minds were not yet humbled to their condition; and instead of affecting the pacific virtues of the feeble, they peevishly harassed the Romans with a repetition of claims, evasions, and inroads, which they undertook without reflection, and terminated without glory. On either side, their expiring monarchy was pressed by the zeal and prudence of Pope Adrian the First, the genius, the fortune, and greatness of Charlemagne, the son of Pepin; these heroes of the church and state were united in public and domestic friendship, and while they trampled on the prostrate, they varnished their proceedings with the fairest colors of equity and moderation. 53 The passes of the Alps, and the walls of Pavia, were the only defence of the Lombards; the former were surprised, the latter were invested, by the son of Pepin; and after a blockade of two years, * Desiderius, the last of their native princes, surrendered his sceptre and his capital.
Under the dominion of a foreign king, but in the possession of their national laws, the Lombards became the brethren, rather than the subjects, of the Franks; who derived their blood, and manners, and language, from the same Germanic origin. 54
* Gregory I. had been dead above a century; read Gregory III. — M]
52 See this most extraordinary letter in the Codex Carolinus, epist iii. p. 92. The enemies of the popes have charged them with fraud and blasphemy; yet they surely meant to persuade rather than deceive. This introduction of the dead, or of immortals, was familiar to the ancient orators, though it is executed on this occasion in the rude fashion of the age.]
53 Except in the divorce of the daughter of Desiderius, whom Charlemagne repudiated sine aliquo crimine. Pope Stephen IV. had most furiously opposed the alliance of a noble Frank — cum perfida, horrida nec dicenda, foetentissima natione Longobardorum — to whom he imputes the first stain of leprosy, (Cod. Carolin. epist. 45, p. 178, 179.) Another reason against the marriage was the existence of a first wife, (Muratori, Annali d’Italia, tom. vi. p. 232, 233, 236, 237.) But Charlemagne indulged himself in the freedom of polygamy or concubinage.]
* Of fifteen months. James, Life of Charlemagne, p. 187. — M.]
54 See the Annali d’Italia of Muratori, tom. vi., and the three first Dissertations of his Antiquitates Italiae Medii Aevi, tom. i.]
The mutual obligations of the popes and the Carlovingian family form the important link of ancient and modern, of civil and ecclesiastical, history. In the conquest of Italy, the champions of the Roman church obtained a favorable occasion, a specious title, the wishes of the people, the prayers and intrigues of the clergy. But the most essential gifts of the popes to the Carlovingian race were the dignities of king of France, 55 and of patrician of Rome. I. Under the sacerdotal monarchy of St. Peter, the nations began to resume the practice of seeking, on the banks of the Tyber, their kings, their laws, and the oracles of their fate. The Franks were perplexed between the name and substance of their government. All the powers of royalty were exercised by Pepin, mayor of the palace; and nothing, except the regal title, was wanting to his ambition. His enemies were crushed by his valor; his friends were multiplied by his liberality; his father had been the savior of Christendom; and the claims of personal merit were repeated and ennobled in a descent of four generations. The name and image of royalty was still preserved in the last descendant of Clovis, the feeble Childeric; but his obsolete right could only be used as an instrument of sedition: the nation was desirous of restoring the simplicity of the constitution; and Pepin, a subject and a prince, was ambitious to ascertain his own rank and the fortune of his family. The mayor and the nobles were bound, by an oath of fidelity, to the royal phantom: the blood of Clovis was pure and sacred in their eyes; and their common ambassadors addressed the Roman pontiff, to dispel their scruples, or to absolve their promise. The interest of Pope Zachary, the successor of the two Gregories, prompted him to decide, and to decide in their favor: he pronounced that the nation might lawfully unite in the same person the title and authority of king; and that the unfortunate Childeric, a victim of the public safety, should be degraded, shaved, and confined in a monastery for the remainder of his days. An answer so agreeable to their wishes was accepted by the Franks as the opinion of a casuist, the sentence of a judge, or the oracle of a prophet: the Merovingian race disappeared from the earth; and Pepin was exalted on a buckler by the suffrage of a free people, accustomed to obey his laws and to march under his standard. His coronation was twice performed, with the sanction of the popes, by their most faithful servant St. Boniface, the apostle of Germany, and by the grateful hands of Stephen the Third, who, in the monastery of St. Denys placed the diadem on the head of his benefactor. The royal unction of the kings of Israel was dexterously applied: 56 the successor of St. Peter assumed the character of a divine ambassador: a German chieftain was transformed into the Lord’s anointed; and this Jewish rite has been diffused and maintained by the superstition and vanity of modern Europe. The Franks were absolved from their ancient oath; but a dire anathema was thundered against them and their posterity, if they should dare to renew the same freedom of choice, or to elect a king, except in the holy and meritorious race of the Carlovingian princes. Without apprehending the future danger, these princes gloried in their present security: the secretary of Charlemagne affirms, that the French sceptre was transferred by the authority of the popes; 57 and in their boldest enterprises, they insist, with confidence, on this signal and successful act of temporal jurisdiction.
55 Besides the common historians, three French critics, Launoy, (Opera, tom. v. pars ii. l. vii. epist. 9, p. 477-487,) Pagi, (Critica, A.D. 751, No. 1-6, A.D. 752, No. 1-10,) and Natalis Alexander, (Hist. Novi Testamenti, dissertat, ii. p. 96-107,) have treated this subject of the deposition of Childeric with learning and attention, but with a strong bias to save the independence of the crown. Yet they are hard pressed by the texts which they produce of Eginhard, Theophanes, and the old annals, Laureshamenses, Fuldenses, Loisielani]
56 Not absolutely for the first time. On a less conspicuous theatre it had been used, in the vith and viith centuries, by the provincial bishops of Britain and Spain. The royal unction of Constantinople was borrowed from the Latins in the last age of the empire. Constantine Manasses mentions that of Charlemagne as a foreign, Jewish, incomprehensible ceremony. See Selden’s Titles of Honor, in his Works, vol. iii. part i. p. 234-249.]
57 See Eginhard, in Vita Caroli Magni, c. i. p. 9, &c., c. iii. p. 24. Childeric was deposed — jussu, the Carlovingians were established — auctoritate, Pontificis Romani. Launoy, &c., pretend that these strong words are susceptible of a very soft interpretation. Be it so; yet Eginhard understood the world, the court, and the Latin language.]
II. In the change of manners and language the patricians of Rome 58 were far removed from the senate of Romulus, on the palace of Constantine, from the free nobles of the republic, or the fictitious parents of the emperor. After the recovery of Italy and Africa by the arms of Justinian, the importance and danger of those remote provinces required the presence of a supreme magistrate; he was indifferently styled the exarch or the patrician; and these governors of Ravenna, who fill their place in the chronology of princes, extended their jurisdiction over the Roman city. Since the revolt of Italy and the loss of the Exarchate, the distress of the Romans had exacted some sacrifice of their independence. Yet, even in this act, they exercised the right of disposing of themselves; and the decrees of the senate and people successively invested Charles Martel and his posterity with the honors of patrician of Rome. The leaders of a powerful nation would have disdained a servile title and subordinate office; but the reign of the Greek emperors was suspended; and, in the vacancy of the empire, they derived a more glorious commission from the pope and the republic. The Roman ambassadors presented these patricians with the keys of the shrine of St. Peter, as a pledge and symbol of sovereignty; with a holy banner which it was their right and duty to unfurl in the defence of the church and city. 59 In the time of Charles Martel and of Pepin, the interposition of the Lombard kingdom covered the freedom, while it threatened the safety, of Rome; and the patriciate represented only the title, the service, the alliance, of these distant protectors. The power and policy of Charlemagne annihilated an enemy, and imposed a master. In his first visit to the capital, he was received with all the honors which had formerly been paid to the exarch, the representative of the emperor; and these honors obtained some new decorations from the joy and gratitude of Pope Adrian the First. 60 No sooner was he informed of the sudden approach of the monarch, than he despatched the magistrates and nobles of Rome to meet him, with the banner, about thirty miles from the city. At the distance of one mile, the Flaminian way was lined with the schools, or national communities, of Greeks, Lombards, Saxons, &c.: the Roman youth were under arms; and the children of a more tender age, with palms and olive branches in their hands, chanted the praises of their great deliverer. At the aspect of the holy crosses, and ensigns of the saints, he dismounted from his horse, led the procession of his nobles to the Vatican, and, as he ascended the stairs, devoutly kissed each step of the threshold of the apostles. In the portico, Adrian expected him at the head of his clergy: they embraced, as friends and equals; but in their march to the altar, the king or patrician assumed the right hand of the pope. Nor was the Frank content with these vain and empty demonstrations of respect. In the twenty-six years that elapsed between the conquest of Lombardy and his Imperial coronation, Rome, which had been delivered by the sword, was subject, as his own, to the sceptre of Charlemagne. The people swore allegiance to his person and family: in his name money was coined, and justice was administered; and the election of the popes was examined and confirmed by his authority. Except an original and self-inherent claim of sovereignty, there was not any prerogative remaining, which the title of emperor could add to the patrician of Rome. 61
58 For the title and powers of patrician of Rome, see Ducange, (Gloss. Latin. tom. v. p. 149-151,) Pagi, (Critica, A.D. 740, No. 6-11,) Muratori, (Annali d’Italia, tom. vi. p. 308-329,) and St. Marc, (Abrege Chronologique d’Italie, tom. i. p. 379-382.) Of these the Franciscan Pagi is the most disposed to make the patrician a lieutenant of the church, rather than of the empire.]
59 The papal advocates can soften the symbolic meaning of the banner and the keys; but the style of ad regnum dimisimus, or direximus, (Codex Carolin. epist. i. tom. iii. pars ii. p. 76,) seems to allow of no palliation or escape. In the Ms. of the Vienna library, they read, instead of regnum, rogum, prayer or request (see Ducange;) and the royalty of Charles Martel is subverted by this important correction, (Catalani, in his Critical Prefaces, Annali d’Italia, tom. xvii. p. 95-99.)]
60 In the authentic narrative of this reception, the Liber Pontificalis observes — obviam illi ejus sanctitas dirigens venerabiles cruces, id est signa; sicut mos est ad exarchum, aut patricium suscipiendum, sum cum ingenti honore suscipi fecit, (tom. iii. pars i. p. 185.)]
61 Paulus Diaconus, who wrote before the empire of Charlemagne describes Rome as his subject city — vestrae civitates (ad Pompeium Festum) suis addidit sceptris, (de Metensis Ecclesiae Episcopis.) Some Carlovingian medals, struck at Rome, have engaged Le Blanc to write an elaborate, though partial, dissertation on their authority at Rome, both as patricians and emperors, (Amsterdam, 1692, in 4to.)]
The gratitude of the Carlovingians was adequate to these obligations, and their names are consecrated, as the saviors and benefactors of the Roman church. Her ancient patrimony of farms and houses was transformed by their bounty into the temporal dominion of cities and provinces; and the donation of the Exarchate was the first-fruits of the conquests of Pepin. 62 Astolphus with a sigh relinquished his prey; the keys and the hostages of the principal cities were delivered to the French ambassador; and, in his master’s name, he presented them before the tomb of St. Peter. The ample measure of the Exarchate 63 might comprise all the provinces of Italy which had obeyed the emperor and his vicegerent; but its strict and proper limits were included in the territories of Ravenna, Bologna, and Ferrara: its inseparable dependency was the Pentapolis, which stretched along the Adriatic from Rimini to Ancona, and advanced into the midland — country as far as the ridges of the Apennine. In this transaction, the ambition and avarice of the popes have been severely condemned. Perhaps the humility of a Christian priest should have rejected an earthly kingdom, which it was not easy for him to govern without renouncing the virtues of his profession. Perhaps a faithful subject, or even a generous enemy, would have been less impatient to divide the spoils of the Barbarian; and if the emperor had intrusted Stephen to solicit in his name the restitution of the Exarchate, I will not absolve the pope from the reproach of treachery and falsehood. But in the rigid interpretation of the laws, every one may accept, without injury, whatever his benefactor can bestow without injustice. The Greek emperor had abdicated, or forfeited, his right to the Exarchate; and the sword of Astolphus was broken by the stronger sword of the Carlovingian. It was not in the cause of the Iconoclast that Pepin has exposed his person and army in a double expedition beyond the Alps: he possessed, and might lawfully alienate, his conquests: and to the importunities of the Greeks he piously replied that no human consideration should tempt him to resume the gift which he had conferred on the Roman Pontiff for the remission of his sins, and the salvation of his soul. The splendid donation was granted in supreme and absolute dominion, and the world beheld for the first time a Christian bishop invested with the prerogatives of a temporal prince; the choice of magistrates, the exercise of justice, the imposition of taxes, and the wealth of the palace of Ravenna. In the dissolution of the Lombard kingdom, the inhabitants of the duchy of Spoleto 64 sought a refuge from the storm, shaved their heads after the Roman fashion, declared themselves the servants and subjects of St. Peter, and completed, by this voluntary surrender, the present circle of the ecclesiastical state. That mysterious circle was enlarged to an indefinite extent, by the verbal or written donation of Charlemagne, 65 who, in the first transports of his victory, despoiled himself and the Greek emperor of the cities and islands which had formerly been annexed to the Exarchate. But, in the cooler moments of absence and reflection, he viewed, with an eye of jealousy and envy, the recent greatness of his ecclesiastical ally. The execution of his own and his father’s promises was respectfully eluded: the king of the Franks and Lombards asserted the inalienable rights of the empire; and, in his life and death, Ravenna, 66 as well as Rome, was numbered in the list of his metropolitan cities. The sovereignty of the Exarchate melted away in the hands of the popes; they found in the archbishops of Ravenna a dangerous and domestic rival: 67 the nobles and people disdained the yoke of a priest; and in the disorders of the times, they could only retain the memory of an ancient claim, which, in a more prosperous age, they have revived and realized.
62 Mosheim (Institution, Hist. Eccles. p. 263) weighs this donation with fair and deliberate prudence. The original act has never been produced; but the Liber Pontificalis represents, (p. 171,) and the Codex Carolinus supposes, this ample gift. Both are contemporary records and the latter is the more authentic, since it has been preserved, not in the Papal, but the Imperial, library.]
63 Between the exorbitant claims, and narrow concessions, of interest and prejudice, from which even Muratori (Antiquitat. tom. i. p. 63-68) is not exempt, I have been guided, in the limits of the Exarchate and Pentapolis, by the Dissertatio Chorographica Italiae Medii Aevi, tom. x. p. 160-180.]
64 Spoletini deprecati sunt, ut eos in servitio B. Petri receperet et more Romanorum tonsurari faceret, (Anastasius, p. 185.) Yet it may be a question whether they gave their own persons or their country.]
65 The policy and donations of Charlemagne are carefully examined by St. Marc, (Abrege, tom. i. p. 390-408,) who has well studied the Codex Carolinus. I believe, with him, that they were only verbal. The most ancient act of donation that pretends to be extant, is that of the emperor Lewis the Pious, (Sigonius, de Regno Italiae, l. iv. Opera, tom. ii. p. 267-270.) Its authenticity, or at least its integrity, are much questioned, (Pagi, A.D. 817, No. 7, &c. Muratori, Annali, tom. vi. p. 432, &c. Dissertat. Chorographica, p. 33, 34;) but I see no reasonable objection to these princes so freely disposing of what was not their own.]
66 Charlemagne solicited and obtained from the proprietor, Hadrian I., the mosaics of the palace of Ravenna, for the decoration of Aix-la-Chapelle, (Cod. Carolin. epist. 67, p. 223.)]
67 The popes often complain of the usurpations of Leo of Ravenna, (Codex Carolin, epist. 51, 52, 53, p. 200-205.) Sir corpus St. Andreae fratris germani St. Petri hic humasset, nequaquam nos Romani pontifices sic subjugassent, (Agnellus, Liber Pontificalis, in Scriptores Rerum Ital. tom. ii. pars. i. p. 107.)]
Fraud is the resource of weakness and cunning; and the strong, though ignorant, Barbarian was often entangled in the net of sacerdotal policy. The Vatican and Lateran were an arsenal and manufacture, which, according to the occasion, have produced or concealed a various collection of false or genuine, of corrupt or suspicious, acts, as they tended to promote the interest of the Roman church. Before the end of the eighth century, some apostolic scribe, perhaps the notorious Isidore, composed the decretals, and the donation of Constantine, the two magic pillars of the spiritual and temporal monarchy of the popes. This memorable donation was introduced to the world by an epistle of Adrian the First, who exhorts Charlemagne to imitate the liberality, and revive the name, of the great Constantine. 68 According to the legend, the first of the Christian emperors was healed of the leprosy, and purified in the waters of baptism, by St. Silvester, the Roman bishop; and never was physician more gloriously recompensed. His royal proselyte withdrew from the seat and patrimony of St. Peter; declared his resolution of founding a new capital in the East; and resigned to the popes the free and perpetual sovereignty of Rome, Italy, and the provinces of the West. 69 This fiction was productive of the most beneficial effects. The Greek princes were convicted of the guilt of usurpation; and the revolt of Gregory was the claim of his lawful inheritance. The popes were delivered from their debt of gratitude; and the nominal gifts of the Carlovingians were no more than the just and irrevocable restitution of a scanty portion of the ecclesiastical state. The sovereignty of Rome no longer depended on the choice of a fickle people; and the successors of St. Peter and Constantine were invested with the purple and prerogatives of the Caesars. So deep was the ignorance and credulity of the times, that the most absurd of fables was received, with equal reverence, in Greece and in France, and is still enrolled among the decrees of the canon law. 70 The emperors, and the Romans, were incapable of discerning a forgery, that subverted their rights and freedom; and the only opposition proceeded from a Sabine monastery, which, in the beginning of the twelfth century, disputed the truth and validity of the donation of Constantine. 71 In the revival of letters and liberty, this fictitious deed was transpierced by the pen of Laurentius Valla, the pen of an eloquent critic and a Roman patriot. 72 His contemporaries of the fifteenth century were astonished at his sacrilegious boldness; yet such is the silent and irresistible progress of reason, that, before the end of the next age, the fable was rejected by the contempt of historians 73 and poets, 74 and the tacit or modest censure of the advocates of the Roman church. 75 The popes themselves have indulged a smile at the credulity of the vulgar; 76 but a false and obsolete title still sanctifies their reign; and, by the same fortune which has attended the decretals and the Sibylline oracles, the edifice has subsisted after the foundations have been undermined.
68 Piissimo Constantino magno, per ejus largitatem S. R. Ecclesia elevata et exaltata est, et potestatem in his Hesperiae partibus largiri olignatus est. . . . Quia ecce novus Constantinus his temporibus, &c., (Codex Carolin. epist. 49, in tom. iii. part ii. p. 195.) Pagi (Critica, A.D. 324, No. 16) ascribes them to an impostor of the viiith century, who borrowed the name of St. Isidore: his humble title of Peccator was ignorantly, but aptly, turned into Mercator: his merchandise was indeed profitable, and a few sheets of paper were sold for much wealth and power.]
69 Fabricius (Bibliot. Graec. tom. vi. p. 4-7) has enumerated the several editions of this Act, in Greek and Latin. The copy which Laurentius Valla recites and refutes, appears to be taken either from the spurious Acts of St. Silvester or from Gratian’s Decree, to which, according to him and others, it has been surreptitiously tacked.]
70 In the year 1059, it was believed (was it believed?) by Pope Leo IX. Cardinal Peter Damianus, &c. Muratori places (Annali d’Italia, tom. ix. p. 23, 24) the fictitious donations of Lewis the Pious, the Othos, &c., de Donatione Constantini. See a Dissertation of Natalis Alexander, seculum iv. diss. 25, p. 335-350.]
71 See a large account of the controversy (A.D. 1105) which arose from a private lawsuit, in the Chronicon Farsense, (Script. Rerum Italicarum, tom. ii. pars ii. p. 637, &c.,) a copious extract from the archives of that Benedictine abbey. They were formerly accessible to curious foreigners, (Le Blanc and Mabillon,) and would have enriched the first volume of the Historia Monastica Italiae of Quirini. But they are now imprisoned (Muratori, Scriptores R. I. tom. ii. pars ii. p. 269) by the timid policy of the court of Rome; and the future cardinal yielded to the voice of authority and the whispers of ambition, (Quirini, Comment. pars ii. p. 123-136.)]
72 I have read in the collection of Schardius (de Potestate Imperiali Ecclesiastica, p. 734-780) this animated discourse, which was composed by the author, A.D. 1440, six years after the flight of Pope Eugenius IV. It is a most vehement party pamphlet: Valla justifies and animates the revolt of the Romans, and would even approve the use of a dagger against their sacerdotal tyrant. Such a critic might expect the persecution of the clergy; yet he made his peace, and is buried in the Lateran, (Bayle, Dictionnaire Critique, Valla; Vossius, de Historicis Latinis, p. 580.)]
73 See Guicciardini, a servant of the popes, in that long and valuable digression, which has resumed its place in the last edition, correctly published from the author’s Ms. and printed in four volumes in quarto, under the name of Friburgo, 1775, (Istoria d’Italia, tom. i. p. 385-395.)]
74 The Paladin Astolpho found it in the moon, among the things that were lost upon earth, (Orlando Furioso, xxxiv. 80.)
Di vari fiore ad un grand monte passa, Ch’ebbe gia buono odore, or puzza forte: Questo era il dono (se pero dir lece) Che Constantino al buon Silvestro fece.
Yet this incomparable poem has been approved by a bull of Leo X.]
75 See Baronius, A.D. 324, No. 117-123, A.D. 1191, No. 51, &c. The cardinal wishes to suppose that Rome was offered by Constantine, and refused by Silvester. The act of donation he considers strangely enough, as a forgery of the Greeks.]
76 Baronius n’en dit guerres contre; encore en a-t’il trop dit, et l’on vouloit sans moi, (Cardinal du Perron,) qui l’empechai, censurer cette partie de son histoire. J’en devisai un jour avec le Pape, et il ne me repondit autre chose “che volete? i Canonici la tengono,” il le disoit en riant, (Perroniana, p. 77.)]
While the popes established in Italy their freedom and dominion, the images, the first cause of their revolt, were restored in the Eastern empire. 77 Under the reign of Constantine the Fifth, the union of civil and ecclesiastical power had overthrown the tree, without extirpating the root, of superstition. The idols (for such they were now held) were secretly cherished by the order and the sex most prone to devotion; and the fond alliance of the monks and females obtained a final victory over the reason and authority of man. Leo the Fourth maintained with less rigor the religion of his father and grandfather; but his wife, the fair and ambitious Irene, had imbibed the zeal of the Athenians, the heirs of the Idolatry, rather than the philosophy, of their ancestors. During the life of her husband, these sentiments were inflamed by danger and dissimulation, and she could only labor to protect and promote some favorite monks whom she drew from their caverns, and seated on the metropolitan thrones of the East. But as soon as she reigned in her own name and that of her son, Irene more seriously undertook the ruin of the Iconoclasts; and the first step of her future persecution was a general edict for liberty of conscience.
In the restoration of the monks, a thousand images were exposed to the public veneration; a thousand legends were inverted of their sufferings and miracles. By the opportunities of death or removal, the episcopal seats were judiciously filled the most eager competitors for earthly or celestial favor anticipated and flattered the judgment of their sovereign; and the promotion of her secretary Tarasius gave Irene the patriarch of Constantinople, and the command of the Oriental church. But the decrees of a general council could only be repealed by a similar assembly: 78 the Iconoclasts whom she convened were bold in possession, and averse to debate; and the feeble voice of the bishops was reechoed by the more formidable clamor of the soldiers and people of Constantinople. The delay and intrigues of a year, the separation of the disaffected troops, and the choice of Nice for a second orthodox synod, removed these obstacles; and the episcopal conscience was again, after the Greek fashion, in the hands of the prince. No more than eighteen days were allowed for the consummation of this important work: the Iconoclasts appeared, not as judges, but as criminals or penitents: the scene was decorated by the legates of Pope Adrian and the Eastern patriarchs, 79 the decrees were framed by the president Taracius, and ratified by the acclamations and subscriptions of three hundred and fifty bishops. They unanimously pronounced, that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the church: but they hesitate whether that worship be relative or direct; whether the Godhead, and the figure of Christ, be entitled to the same mode of adoration. Of this second Nicene council the acts are still extant; a curious monument of superstition and ignorance, of falsehood and folly. I shall only notice the judgment of the bishops on the comparative merit of image-worship and morality. A monk had concluded a truce with the daemon of fornication, on condition of interrupting his daily prayers to a picture that hung in his cell. His scruples prompted him to consult the abbot. “Rather than abstain from adoring Christ and his Mother in their holy images, it would be better for you,” replied the casuist, “to enter every brothel, and visit every prostitute, in the city.” 80 For the honor of orthodoxy, at least the orthodoxy of the Roman church, it is somewhat unfortunate, that the two princes who convened the two councils of Nice are both stained with the blood of their sons. The second of these assemblies was approved and rigorously executed by the despotism of Irene, and she refused her adversaries the toleration which at first she had granted to her friends. During the five succeeding reigns, a period of thirty-eight years, the contest was maintained, with unabated rage and various success, between the worshippers and the breakers of the images; but I am not inclined to pursue with minute diligence the repetition of the same events. Nicephorus allowed a general liberty of speech and practice; and the only virtue of his reign is accused by the monks as the cause of his temporal and eternal perdition. Superstition and weakness formed the character of Michael the First, but the saints and images were incapable of supporting their votary on the throne. In the purple, Leo the Fifth asserted the name and religion of an Armenian; and the idols, with their seditious adherents, were condemned to a second exile. Their applause would have sanctified the murder of an impious tyrant, but his assassin and successor, the second Michael, was tainted from his birth with the Phrygian heresies: he attempted to mediate between the contending parties; and the intractable spirit of the Catholics insensibly cast him into the opposite scale. His moderation was guarded by timidity; but his son Theophilus, alike ignorant of fear and pity, was the last and most cruel of the Iconoclasts. The enthusiasm of the times ran strongly against them; and the emperors who stemmed the torrent were exasperated and punished by the public hatred. After the death of Theophilus, the final victory of the images was achieved by a second female, his widow Theodora, whom he left the guardian of the empire. Her measures were bold and decisive. The fiction of a tardy repentance absolved the fame and the soul of her deceased husband; the sentence of the Iconoclast patriarch was commuted from the loss of his eyes to a whipping of two hundred lashes: the bishops trembled, the monks shouted, and the festival of orthodoxy preserves the annual memory of the triumph of the images. A single question yet remained, whether they are endowed with any proper and inherent sanctity; it was agitated by the Greeks of the eleventh century; 81 and as this opinion has the strongest recommendation of absurdity, I am surprised that it was not more explicitly decided in the affirmative. In the West, Pope Adrian the First accepted and announced the decrees of the Nicene assembly, which is now revered by the Catholics as the seventh in rank of the general councils. Rome and Italy were docile to the voice of their father; but the greatest part of the Latin Christians were far behind in the race of superstition. The churches of France, Germany, England, and Spain, steered a middle course between the adoration and the destruction of images, which they admitted into their temples, not as objects of worship, but as lively and useful memorials of faith and history. An angry book of controversy was composed and published in the name of Charlemagne: 82 under his authority a synod of three hundred bishops was assembled at Frankfort: 83 they blamed the fury of the Iconoclasts, but they pronounced a more severe censure against the superstition of the Greeks, and the decrees of their pretended council, which was long despised by the Barbarians of the West. 84 Among them the worship of images advanced with a silent and insensible progress; but a large atonement is made for their hesitation and delay, by the gross idolatry of the ages which precede the reformation, and of the countries, both in Europe and America, which are still immersed in the gloom of superstition.
77 The remaining history of images, from Irene to Theodora, is collected, for the Catholics, by Baronius and Pagi, (A.D. 780-840.) Natalis Alexander, (Hist. N. T. seculum viii. Panoplia adversus Haereticos p. 118 — 178,) and Dupin, (Bibliot. Eccles. tom. vi. p. 136-154;) for the Protestants, by Spanheim, (Hist. Imag. p. 305-639.) Basnage, (Hist. de l’Eglise, tom. i. p. 556-572, tom. ii. p. 1362-1385,) and Mosheim, (Institut. Hist. Eccles. secul. viii. et ix.) The Protestants, except Mosheim, are soured with controversy; but the Catholics, except Dupin, are inflamed by the fury and superstition of the monks; and even Le Beau, (Hist. du Bas Empire,) a gentleman and a scholar, is infected by the odious contagion.]
78 See the Acts, in Greek and Latin, of the second Council of Nice, with a number of relative pieces, in the viiith volume of the Councils, p. 645-1600. A faithful version, with some critical notes, would provoke, in different readers, a sigh or a smile.]
79 The pope’s legates were casual messengers, two priests without any special commission, and who were disavowed on their return. Some vagabond monks were persuaded by the Catholics to represent the Oriental patriarchs. This curious anecdote is revealed by Theodore Studites, (epist. i. 38, in Sirmond. Opp. tom. v. p. 1319,) one of the warmest Iconoclasts of the age.]
80 These visits could not be innocent since the daemon of fornication, &c. Actio iv. p. 901, Actio v. p. 1081]
81 See an account of this controversy in the Alexius of Anna Compena, (l. v. p. 129,) and Mosheim, (Institut. Hist. Eccles. p. 371, 372.)]
82 The Libri Carolini, (Spanheim, p. 443 — 529,) composed in the palace or winter quarters of Charlemagne, at Worms, A.D. 790, and sent by Engebert to Pope Hadrian I., who answered them by a grandis et verbosa epistola, (Concil. tom. vii. p. 1553.) The Carolines propose 120 objections against the Nicene synod and such words as these are the flowers of their rhetoric — Dementiam. . . . priscae Gentilitatis obsoletum errorem. . . . argumenta insanissima et absurdissima. . . . derisione dignas naenias, &c., &c.]
83 The assemblies of Charlemagne were political, as well as ecclesiastical; and the three hundred members, (Nat. Alexander, sec. viii. p. 53,) who sat and voted at Frankfort, must include not only the bishops, but the abbots, and even the principal laymen.]
84 Qui supra sanctissima patres nostri (episcopi et sacerdotes) omnimodis servitium et adorationem imaginum renuentes contempserunt, atque consentientes condemnaverunt, (Concil. tom. ix. p. 101, Canon. ii. Franckfurd.) A polemic must be hard-hearted indeed, who does not pity the efforts of Baronius, Pagi, Alexander, Maimbourg, &c., to elude this unlucky sentence.]
It was after the Nycene synod, and under the reign of the pious Irene, that the popes consummated the separation of Rome and Italy, by the translation of the empire to the less orthodox Charlemagne. They were compelled to choose between the rival nations: religion was not the sole motive of their choice; and while they dissembled the failings of their friends, they beheld, with reluctance and suspicion, the Catholic virtues of their foes. The difference of language and manners had perpetuated the enmity of the two capitals; and they were alienated from each other by the hostile opposition of seventy years. In that schism the Romans had tasted of freedom, and the popes of sovereignty: their submission would have exposed them to the revenge of a jealous tyrant; and the revolution of Italy had betrayed the impotence, as well as the tyranny, of the Byzantine court. The Greek emperors had restored the images, but they had not restored the Calabrian estates 85 and the Illyrian diocese, 86 which the Iconociasts had torn away from the successors of St. Peter; and Pope Adrian threatens them with a sentence of excommunication unless they speedily abjure this practical heresy. 87 The Greeks were now orthodox; but their religion might be tainted by the breath of the reigning monarch: the Franks were now contumacious; but a discerning eye might discern their approaching conversion, from the use, to the adoration, of images. The name of Charlemagne was stained by the polemic acrimony of his scribes; but the conqueror himself conformed, with the temper of a statesman, to the various practice of France and Italy. In his four pilgrimages or visits to the Vatican, he embraced the popes in the communion of friendship and piety; knelt before the tomb, and consequently before the image, of the apostle; and joined, without scruple, in all the prayers and processions of the Roman liturgy. Would prudence or gratitude allow the pontiffs to renounce their benefactor? Had they a right to alienate his gift of the Exarchate? Had they power to abolish his government of Rome? The title of patrician was below the merit and greatness of Charlemagne; and it was only by reviving the Western empire that they could pay their obligations or secure their establishment. By this decisive measure they would finally eradicate the claims of the Greeks; from the debasement of a provincial town, the majesty of Rome would be restored: the Latin Christians would be united, under a supreme head, in their ancient metropolis; and the conquerors of the West would receive their crown from the successors of St. Peter. The Roman church would acquire a zealous and respectable advocate; and, under the shadow of the Carlovingian power, the bishop might exercise, with honor and safety, the government of the city. 88
85 Theophanes (p. 343) specifies those of Sicily and Calabria, which yielded an annual rent of three talents and a half of gold, (perhaps 7000l. sterling.) Liutprand more pompously enumerates the patrimonies of the Roman church in Greece, Judaea, Persia, Mesopotamia Babylonia, Egypt, and Libya, which were detained by the injustice of the Greek emperor, (Legat. ad Nicephorum, in Script. Rerum Italica rum, tom. ii. pars i. p. 481.)]
86 The great diocese of the Eastern Illyricum, with Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily, (Thomassin, Discipline de l’Eglise, tom. i. p. 145: ) by the confession of the Greeks, the patriarch of Constantinople had detached from Rome the metropolitans of Thessalonica, Athens Corinth, Nicopolis, and Patrae, (Luc. Holsten. Geograph. Sacra, p. 22) and his spiritual conquests extended to Naples and Amalphi (Istoria Civile di Napoli, tom. i. p. 517-524, Pagi, A. D 780, No. 11.)]
87 In hoc ostenditur, quia ex uno capitulo ab errore reversis, in aliis duobus, in eodem (was it the same?) permaneant errore. . . . de diocessi S. R. E. seu de patrimoniis iterum increpantes commonemus, ut si ea restituere noluerit hereticum eum pro hujusmodi errore perseverantia decernemus, (Epist. Hadrian. Papae ad Carolum Magnum, in Concil. tom. viii. p. 1598;) to which he adds a reason, most directly opposite to his conduct, that he preferred the salvation of souls and rule of faith to the goods of this transitory world.]
88 Fontanini considers the emperors as no more than the advocates of the church, (advocatus et defensor S. R. E. See Ducange, Gloss Lat. tom. i. p. 297.) His antagonist Muratori reduces the popes to be no more than the exarchs of the emperor. In the more equitable view of Mosheim, (Institut. Hist. Eccles. p. 264, 265,) they held Rome under the empire as the most honorable species of fief or benefice — premuntur nocte caliginosa!]
Before the ruin of Paganism in Rome, the competition for a wealthy bishopric had often been productive of tumult and bloodshed. The people was less numerous, but the times were more savage, the prize more important, and the chair of St. Peter was fiercely disputed by the leading ecclesiastics who aspired to the rank of sovereign. The reign of Adrian the First 89 surpasses the measure of past or succeeding ages; 90 the walls of Rome, the sacred patrimony, the ruin of the Lombards, and the friendship of Charlemagne, were the trophies of his fame: he secretly edified the throne of his successors, and displayed in a narrow space the virtues of a great prince. His memory was revered; but in the next election, a priest of the Lateran, Leo the Third, was preferred to the nephew and the favorite of Adrian, whom he had promoted to the first dignities of the church. Their acquiescence or repentance disguised, above four years, the blackest intention of revenge, till the day of a procession, when a furious band of conspirators dispersed the unarmed multitude, and assaulted with blows and wounds the sacred person of the pope. But their enterprise on his life or liberty was disappointed, perhaps by their own confusion and remorse. Leo was left for dead on the ground: on his revival from the swoon, the effect of his loss of blood, he recovered his speech and sight; and this natural event was improved to the miraculous restoration of his eyes and tongue, of which he had been deprived, twice deprived, by the knife of the assassins. 91 From his prison he escaped to the Vatican: the duke of Spoleto hastened to his rescue, Charlemagne sympathized in his injury, and in his camp of Paderborn in Westphalia accepted, or solicited, a visit from the Roman pontiff. Leo repassed the Alps with a commission of counts and bishops, the guards of his safety and the judges of his innocence; and it was not without reluctance, that the conqueror of the Saxons delayed till the ensuing year the personal discharge of this pious office. In his fourth and last pilgrimage, he was received at Rome with the due honors of king and patrician: Leo was permitted to purge himself by oath of the crimes imputed to his charge: his enemies were silenced, and the sacrilegious attempt against his life was punished by the mild and insufficient penalty of exile. On the festival of Christmas, the last year of the eighth century, Charlemagne appeared in the church of St. Peter; and, to gratify the vanity of Rome, he had exchanged the simple dress of his country for the habit of a patrician. 92 After the celebration of the holy mysteries, Leo suddenly placed a precious crown on his head, 93 and the dome resounded with the acclamations of the people, “Long life and victory to Charles, the most pious Augustus, crowned by God the great and pacific emperor of the Romans!” The head and body of Charlemagne were consecrated by the royal unction: after the example of the Caesars, he was saluted or adored by the pontiff: his coronation oath represents a promise to maintain the faith and privileges of the church; and the first-fruits were paid in his rich offerings to the shrine of his apostle. In his familiar conversation, the emperor protested the ignorance of the intentions of Leo, which he would have disappointed by his absence on that memorable day. But the preparations of the ceremony must have disclosed the secret; and the journey of Charlemagne reveals his knowledge and expectation: he had acknowledged that the Imperial title was the object of his ambition, and a Roman synod had pronounced, that it was the only adequate reward of his merit and services. 94
89 His merits and hopes are summed up in an epitaph of thirty-eight-verses, of which Charlemagne declares himself the author, (Concil. tom. viii. p. 520.)
Post patrem lacrymans Carolus haec carmina scripsi. Tu mihi dulcis amor, te modo plango pater . . . Nomina jungo simul titulis, clarissime, nostra Adrianus, Carolus, rex ego, tuque pater.
The poetry might be supplied by Alcuin; but the tears, the most glorious tribute, can only belong to Charlemagne.]
90 Every new pope is admonished — “Sancte Pater, non videbis annos Petri,” twenty-five years. On the whole series the average is about eight years — a short hope for an ambitious cardinal.]
91 The assurance of Anastasius (tom. iii. pars i. p. 197, 198) is supported by the credulity of some French annalists; but Eginhard, and other writers of the same age, are more natural and sincere. “Unus ei oculus paullulum est laesus,” says John the deacon of Naples, (Vit. Episcop. Napol. in Scriptores Muratori, tom. i. pars ii. p. 312.) Theodolphus, a contemporary bishop of Orleans, observes with prudence (l. iii. carm. 3.)
Reddita sunt? mirum est: mirum est auferre nequtsse.
Est tamen in dubio, hinc mirer an inde magis.]
92 Twice, at the request of Hadrian and Leo, he appeared at Rome, — longa tunica et chlamyde amictus, et calceamentis quoque Romano more formatis. Eginhard (c. xxiii. p. 109 — 113) describes, like Suetonius the simplicity of his dress, so popular in the nation, that when Charles the Bald returned to France in a foreign habit, the patriotic dogs barked at the apostate, (Gaillard, Vie de Charlemagne, tom. iv. p. 109.)]
93 See Anastasius (p. 199) and Eginhard, (c.xxviii. p. 124 — 128.) The unction is mentioned by Theophanes, (p. 399,) the oath by Sigonius, (from the Ordo Romanus,) and the Pope’s adoration more antiquorum principum, by the Annales Bertiniani, (Script. Murator. tom. ii. pars ii. p. 505.)]
94 This great event of the translation or restoration of the empire is related and discussed by Natalis Alexander, (secul. ix. dissert. i. p. 390 — 397,) Pagi, (tom. iii. p. 418,) Muratori, (Annali d’Italia, tom. vi. p. 339 — 352,) Sigonius, (de Regno Italiae, l. iv. Opp. tom. ii. p. 247 — 251,) Spanheim, (de ficta Translatione Imperii,) Giannone, (tom. i. p. 395 — 405,) St. Marc, (Abrege Chronologique, tom. i. p. 438 — 450,) Gaillard, (Hist. de Charlemagne, tom. ii. p. 386 — 446.) Almost all these moderns have some religious or national bias.]
The appellation of great has been often bestowed, and sometimes deserved; but Charlemagne is the only prince in whose favor the title has been indissolubly blended with the name. That name, with the addition of saint, is inserted in the Roman calendar; and the saint, by a rare felicity, is crowned with the praises of the historians and philosophers of an enlightened age. 95 His real merit is doubtless enhanced by the barbarism of the nation and the times from which he emerged: but the apparent magnitude of an object is likewise enlarged by an unequal comparison; and the ruins of Palmyra derive a casual splendor from the nakedness of the surrounding desert. Without injustice to his fame, I may discern some blemishes in the sanctity and greatness of the restorer of the Western empire. Of his moral virtues, chastity is not the most conspicuous: 96 but the public happiness could not be materially injured by his nine wives or concubines, the various indulgence of meaner or more transient amours, the multitude of his bastards whom he bestowed on the church, and the long celibacy and licentious manners of his daughters, 97 whom the father was suspected of loving with too fond a passion. * I shall be scarcely permitted to accuse the ambition of a conqueror; but in a day of equal retribution, the sons of his brother Carloman, the Merovingian princes of Aquitain, and the four thousand five hundred Saxons who were beheaded on the same spot, would have something to allege against the justice and humanity of Charlemagne. His treatment of the vanquished Saxons 98 was an abuse of the right of conquest; his laws were not less sanguinary than his arms, and in the discussion of his motives, whatever is subtracted from bigotry must be imputed to temper. The sedentary reader is amazed by his incessant activity of mind and body; and his subjects and enemies were not less astonished at his sudden presence, at the moment when they believed him at the most distant extremity of the empire; neither peace nor war, nor summer nor winter, were a season of repose; and our fancy cannot easily reconcile the annals of his reign with the geography of his expeditions. † But this activity was a national, rather than a personal, virtue; the vagrant life of a Frank was spent in the chase, in pilgrimage, in military adventures; and the journeys of Charlemagne were distinguished only by a more numerous train and a more important purpose. His military renown must be tried by the scrutiny of his troops, his enemies, and his actions. Alexander conquered with the arms of Philip, but the two heroes who preceded Charlemagne bequeathed him their name, their examples, and the companions of their victories. At the head of his veteran and superior armies, he oppressed the savage or degenerate nations, who were incapable of confederating for their common safety: nor did he ever encounter an equal antagonist in numbers, in discipline, or in arms The science of war has been lost and revived with the arts of peace; but his campaigns are not illustrated by any siege or battle of singular difficulty and success; and he might behold, with envy, the Saracen trophies of his grandfather. After the Spanish expedition, his rear-guard was defeated in the Pyrenaean mountains; and the soldiers, whose situation was irretrievable, and whose valor was useless, might accuse, with their last breath, the want of skill or caution of their general. 99 I touch with reverence the laws of Charlemagne, so highly applauded by a respectable judge. They compose not a system, but a series, of occasional and minute edicts, for the correction of abuses, the reformation of manners, the economy of his farms, the care of his poultry, and even the sale of his eggs. He wished to improve the laws and the character of the Franks; and his attempts, however feeble and imperfect, are deserving of praise: the inveterate evils of the times were suspended or mollified by his government; 100 but in his institutions I can seldom discover the general views and the immortal spirit of a legislator, who survives himself for the benefit of posterity. The union and stability of his empire depended on the life of a single man: he imitated the dangerous practice of dividing his kingdoms among his sons; and after his numerous diets, the whole constitution was left to fluctuate between the disorders of anarchy and despotism. His esteem for the piety and knowledge of the clergy tempted him to intrust that aspiring order with temporal dominion and civil jurisdiction; and his son Lewis, when he was stripped and degraded by the bishops, might accuse, in some measure, the imprudence of his father. His laws enforced the imposition of tithes, because the daemons had proclaimed in the air that the default of payment had been the cause of the last scarcity. 101 The literary merits of Charlemagne are attested by the foundation of schools, the introduction of arts, the works which were published in his name, and his familiar connection with the subjects and strangers whom he invited to his court to educate both the prince and people. His own studies were tardy, laborious, and imperfect; if he spoke Latin, and understood Greek, he derived the rudiments of knowledge from conversation, rather than from books; and, in his mature age, the emperor strove to acquire the practice of writing, which every peasant now learns in his infancy. 102 The grammar and logic, the music and astronomy, of the times, were only cultivated as the handmaids of superstition; but the curiosity of the human mind must ultimately tend to its improvement, and the encouragement of learning reflects the purest and most pleasing lustre on the character of Charlemagne. 103 The dignity of his person, 104 the length of his reign, the prosperity of his arms, the vigor of his government, and the reverence of distant nations, distinguish him from the royal crowd; and Europe dates a new aera from his restoration of the Western empire.
95 By Mably, (Observations sur l’Histoire de France,) Voltaire, (Histoire Generale,) Robertson, (History of Charles V.,) and Montesquieu, (Esprit des Loix, l. xxxi. c. 18.) In the year 1782, M. Gaillard published his Histoire de Charlemagne, (in 4 vols. in 12mo.,) which I have freely and profitably used. The author is a man of sense and humanity; and his work is labored with industry and elegance. But I have likewise examined the original monuments of the reigns of Pepin and Charlemagne, in the 5th volume of the Historians of France.]
96 The vision of Weltin, composed by a monk, eleven years after the death of Charlemagne, shows him in purgatory, with a vulture, who is perpetually gnawing the guilty member, while the rest of his body, the emblem of his virtues, is sound and perfect, (see Gaillard tom. ii. p. 317 — 360.)]
97 The marriage of Eginhard with Imma, daughter of Charlemagne, is, in my opinion, sufficiently refuted by the probum and suspicio that sullied these fair damsels, without excepting his own wife, (c. xix. p. 98 — 100, cum Notis Schmincke.) The husband must have been too strong for the historian.]
* This charge of incest, as Mr. Hallam justly observes, “seems to have originated in a misinterpreted passage of Eginhard.” Hallam’s Middle Ages, vol.i. p. 16. — M.
98 Besides the massacres and transmigrations, the pain of death was pronounced against the following crimes: 1. The refusal of baptism. 2. The false pretence of baptism. 3. A relapse to idolatry. 4. The murder of a priest or bishop. 5. Human sacrifices. 6. Eating meat in Lent. But every crime might be expiated by baptism or penance, (Gaillard, tom. ii. p. 241 — 247;) and the Christian Saxons became the friends and equals of the Franks, (Struv. Corpus Hist. Germanicae, p.133.)]
† M. Guizot (Cours d’Histoire Moderne, p. 270, 273) has compiled the following statement of Charlemagne’s military campaigns:—
1. Against the Aquitanians.
18. “ the Saxons.
5. “ the Lombards.
7. “ the Arabs in Spain.
1. “ the Thuringians.
4. “ the Avars.
2. “ the Bretons.
1. “ the Bavarians.
4. “ the Slaves beyond the Elbe
5. “ the Saracens in Italy.
3. “ the Danes.
2. “ the Greeks. ___
53 total. — M.]
99 In this action the famous Rutland, Rolando, Orlando, was slain — cum compluribus aliis. See the truth in Eginhard, (c. 9, p. 51 — 56,) and the fable in an ingenious Supplement of M. Gaillard, (tom. iii. p. 474.) The Spaniards are too proud of a victory, which history ascribes to the Gascons, and romance to the Saracens.
Note: In fact, it was a sudden onset of the Gascons, assisted by the Beaure mountaineers, and possibly a few Navarrese. — M.]
100 Yet Schmidt, from the best authorities, represents the interior disorders and oppression of his reign, (Hist. des Allemands, tom. ii. p. 45 — 49.)]
101 Omnis homo ex sua proprietate legitimam decimam ad ecclesiam conferat. Experimento enim didicimus, in anno, quo illa valida fames irrepsit, ebullire vacuas annonas a daemonibus devoratas, et voces exprobationis auditas. Such is the decree and assertion of the great Council of Frankfort, (canon xxv. tom. ix. p. 105.) Both Selden (Hist. of Tithes; Works, vol. iii. part ii. p. 1146) and Montesquieu (Esprit des Loix, l. xxxi. c. 12) represent Charlemagne as the first legal author of tithes. Such obligations have country gentlemen to his memory!]
102 Eginhard (c. 25, p. 119) clearly affirms, tentabat et scribere . . . sed parum prospere successit labor praeposterus et sero inchoatus. The moderns have perverted and corrected this obvious meaning, and the title of M. Gaillard’s dissertation (tom. iii. p. 247 — 260) betrays his partiality.
Note: This point has been contested; but Mr. Hallam and Monsieur Sismondl concur with Gibbon. See Middle Ages, iii. 330 Histoire de Francais, tom. ii. p. 318. The sensible observations of the latter are quoted in the Quarterly Review, vol. xlviii. p. 451. Fleury, I may add, quotes from Mabillon a remarkable evidence that Charlemagne “had a mark to himself like an honest, plain-dealing man.” Ibid. — M.]
103 See Gaillard, tom. iii. p. 138 — 176, and Schmidt, tom. ii. p. 121 — 129.]
104 M. Gaillard (tom. iii. p. 372) fixes the true stature of Charlemagne (see a Dissertation of Marquard Freher ad calcem Eginhart, p. 220, &c.) at five feet nine inches of French, about six feet one inch and a fourth English, measure. The romance writers have increased it to eight feet, and the giant was endowed with matchless strength and appetite: at a single stroke of his good sword Joyeuse, he cut asunder a horseman and his horse; at a single repast, he devoured a goose, two fowls, a quarter of mutton, &c.]
That empire was not unworthy of its title; 105 and some of the fairest kingdoms of Europe were the patrimony or conquest of a prince, who reigned at the same time in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Hungary. 106 I. The Roman province of Gaul had been transformed into the name and monarchy of France; but, in the decay of the Merovingian line, its limits were contracted by the independence of the Britons and the revolt of Aquitain. Charlemagne pursued, and confined, the Britons on the shores of the ocean; and that ferocious tribe, whose origin and language are so different from the French, was chastised by the imposition of tribute, hostages, and peace. After a long and evasive contest, the rebellion of the dukes of Aquitain was punished by the forfeiture of their province, their liberty, and their lives.
Harsh and rigorous would have been such treatment of ambitious governors, who had too faithfully copied the mayors of the palace. But a recent discovery 107 has proved that these unhappy princes were the last and lawful heirs of the blood and sceptre of Clovis, and younger branch, from the brother of Dagobert, of the Merovingian house. Their ancient kingdom was reduced to the duchy of Gascogne, to the counties of Fesenzac and Armagnac, at the foot of the Pyrenees: their race was propagated till the beginning of the sixteenth century; and after surviving their Carlovingian tyrants, they were reserved to feel the injustice, or the favors, of a third dynasty. By the reunion of Aquitain, France was enlarged to its present boundaries, with the additions of the Netherlands and Spain, as far as the Rhine. II.
The Saracens had been expelled from France by the grandfather and father of Charlemagne; but they still possessed the greatest part of Spain, from the rock of Gibraltar to the Pyrenees. Amidst their civil divisions, an Arabian emir of Saragossa implored his protection in the diet of Paderborn. Charlemagne undertook the expedition, restored the emir, and, without distinction of faith, impartially crushed the resistance of the Christians, and rewarded the obedience and services of the Mahometans. In his absence he instituted the Spanish march, 108 which extended from the Pyrenees to the River Ebro: Barcelona was the residence of the French governor: he possessed the counties of Rousillon and Catalonia; and the infant kingdoms of Navarre and Arragon were subject to his jurisdiction. III. As king of the Lombards, and patrician of Rome, he reigned over the greatest part of Italy, 109 a tract of a thousand miles from the Alps to the borders of Calabria. The duchy of Beneventum, a Lombard fief, had spread, at the expense of the Greeks, over the modern kingdom of Naples. But Arrechis, the reigning duke, refused to be included in the slavery of his country; assumed the independent title of prince; and opposed his sword to the Carlovingian monarchy. His defence was firm, his submission was not inglorious, and the emperor was content with an easy tribute, the demolition of his fortresses, and the acknowledgement, on his coins, of a supreme lord. The artful flattery of his son Grimoald added the appellation of father, but he asserted his dignity with prudence, and Benventum insensibly escaped from the French yoke. 110 IV. Charlemagne was the first who united Germany under the same sceptre. The name of Oriental France is preserved in the circle of Franconia; and the people of Hesse and Thuringia were recently incorporated with the victors, by the conformity of religion and government. The Alemanni, so formidable to the Romans, were the faithful vassals and confederates of the Franks; and their country was inscribed within the modern limits of Alsace, Swabia, and Switzerland. The Bavarians, with a similar indulgence of their laws and manners, were less patient of a master: the repeated treasons of Tasillo justified the abolition of their hereditary dukes; and their power was shared among the counts, who judged and guarded that important frontier. But the north of Germany, from the Rhine and beyond the Elbe, was still hostile and Pagan; nor was it till after a war of thirty-three years that the Saxons bowed under the yoke of Christ and of Charlemagne. The idols and their votaries were extirpated: the foundation of eight bishoprics, of Munster, Osnaburgh, Paderborn, and Minden, of Bremen, Verden, Hildesheim, and Halberstadt, define, on either side of the Weser, the bounds of ancient Saxony these episcopal seats were the first schools and cities of that savage land; and the religion and humanity of the children atoned, in some degree, for the massacre of the parents. Beyond the Elbe, the Slavi, or Sclavonians, of similar manners and various denominations, overspread the modern dominions of Prussia, Poland, and Bohemia, and some transient marks of obedience have tempted the French historian to extend the empire to the Baltic and the Vistula. The conquest or conversion of those countries is of a more recent age; but the first union of Bohemia with the Germanic body may be justly ascribed to the arms of Charlemagne. V. He retaliated on the Avars, or Huns of Pannonia, the same calamities which they had inflicted on the nations. Their rings, the wooden fortifications which encircled their districts and villages, were broken down by the triple effort of a French army, that was poured into their country by land and water, through the Carpathian mountains and along the plain of the Danube. After a bloody conflict of eight years, the loss of some French generals was avenged by the slaughter of the most noble Huns: the relics of the nation submitted the royal residence of the chagan was left desolate and unknown; and the treasures, the rapine of two hundred and fifty years, enriched the victorious troops, or decorated the churches of Italy and Gaul. 111 After the reduction of Pannonia, the empire of Charlemagne was bounded only by the conflux of the Danube with the Teyss and the Save: the provinces of Istria, Liburnia, and Dalmatia, were an easy, though unprofitable, accession; and it was an effect of his moderation, that he left the maritime cities under the real or nominal sovereignty of the Greeks. But these distant possessions added more to the reputation than to the power of the Latin emperor; nor did he risk any ecclesiastical foundations to reclaim the Barbarians from their vagrant life and idolatrous worship. Some canals of communication between the rivers, the Saone and the Meuse, the Rhine and the Danube, were faintly attempted. 112 Their execution would have vivified the empire; and more cost and labor were often wasted in the structure of a cathedral. *
105 See the concise, but correct and original, work of D’Anville, (Etats Formes en Europe apres la Chute de l’Empire Romain en Occident, Paris, 1771, in 4to.,) whose map includes the empire of Charlemagne; the different parts are illustrated, by Valesius (Notitia Galliacum) for France, Beretti (Dissertatio Chorographica) for Italy, De Marca (Marca Hispanica) for Spain. For the middle geography of Germany, I confess myself poor and destitute.]
106 After a brief relation of his wars and conquests, (Vit. Carol. c. 5 — 14,) Eginhard recapitulates, in a few words, (c. 15,) the countries subject to his empire. Struvius, (Corpus Hist. German. p. 118 — 149) was inserted in his Notes the texts of the old Chronicles.]
107 On a charter granted to the monastery of Alaon (A.D. 845) by Charles the Bald, which deduces this royal pedigree. I doubt whether some subsequent links of the ixth and xth centuries are equally firm; yet the whole is approved and defended by M. Gaillard, (tom. ii. p.60 — 81, 203 — 206,) who affirms that the family of Montesquiou (not of the President de Montesquieu) is descended, in the female line, from Clotaire and Clovis — an innocent pretension!]
108 The governors or counts of the Spanish march revolted from Charles the Simple about the year 900; and a poor pittance, the Rousillon, has been recovered in 1642 by the kings of France, (Longuerue, Description de la France, tom i. p. 220 — 222.) Yet the Rousillon contains 188,900 subjects, and annually pays 2,600,000 livres, (Necker, Administration des Finances, tom. i. p. 278, 279;) more people, perhaps, and doubtless more money than the march of Charlemagne.]
109 Schmidt, Hist. des Allemands, tom. ii. p. 200, &c.]
110 See Giannone, tom. i. p 374, 375, and the Annals of Muratori.]
111 Quot praelia in eo gesta! quantum sanguinis effusum sit! Testatur vacua omni habitatione Pannonia, et locus in quo regia Cagani fuit ita desertus, ut ne vestigium quidem humanae habitationis appareat. Tota in hoc bello Hunnorum nobilitas periit, tota gloria decidit, omnis pecunia et congesti ex longo tempore thesauri direpti sunt. Eginhard, cxiii.]
112 The junction of the Rhine and Danube was undertaken only for the service of the Pannonian war, (Gaillard, Vie de Charlemagne, tom. ii. p. 312-315.) The canal, which would have been only two leagues in length, and of which some traces are still extant in Swabia, was interrupted by excessive rains, military avocations, and superstitious fears, (Schaepflin, Hist. de l’Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xviii. p. 256. Molimina fluviorum, &c., jungendorum, p. 59-62.)]
* I should doubt this in the time of Charlemagne, even if the term “expended” were substituted for “wasted.” — M.]
If we retrace the outlines of this geographical picture, it will be seen that the empire of the Franks extended, between east and west, from the Ebro to the Elbe or Vistula; between the north and south, from the duchy of Beneventum to the River Eyder, the perpetual boundary of Germany and Denmark. The personal and political importance of Charlemagne was magnified by the distress and division of the rest of Europe. The islands of Great Britain and Ireland were disputed by a crowd of princes of Saxon or Scottish origin: and, after the loss of Spain, the Christian and Gothic kingdom of Alphonso the Chaste was confined to the narrow range of the Asturian mountains. These petty sovereigns revered the power or virtue of the Carlovingian monarch, implored the honor and support of his alliance, and styled him their common parent, the sole and supreme emperor of the West. 113 He maintained a more equal intercourse with the caliph Harun al Rashid, 114 whose dominion stretched from Africa to India, and accepted from his ambassadors a tent, a water-clock, an elephant, and the keys of the Holy Sepulchre. It is not easy to conceive the private friendship of a Frank and an Arab, who were strangers to each other’s person, and language, and religion: but their public correspondence was founded on vanity, and their remote situation left no room for a competition of interest. Two thirds of the Western empire of Rome were subject to Charlemagne, and the deficiency was amply supplied by his command of the inaccessible or invincible nations of Germany. But in the choice of his enemies, * we may be reasonably surprised that he so often preferred the poverty of the north to the riches of the south. The three-and-thirty campaigns laboriously consumed in the woods and morasses of Germany would have sufficed to assert the amplitude of his title by the expulsion of the Greeks from Italy and the Saracens from Spain. The weakness of the Greeks would have insured an easy victory; and the holy crusade against the Saracens would have been prompted by glory and revenge, and loudly justified by religion and policy. Perhaps, in his expeditions beyond the Rhine and the Elbe, he aspired to save his monarchy from the fate of the Roman empire, to disarm the enemies of civilized society, and to eradicate the seed of future emigrations. But it has been wisely observed, that, in a light of precaution, all conquest must be ineffectual, unless it could be universal, since the increasing circle must be involved in a larger sphere of hostility. 115 The subjugation of Germany withdrew the veil which had so long concealed the continent or islands of Scandinavia from the knowledge of Europe, and awakened the torpid courage of their barbarous natives. The fiercest of the Saxon idolaters escaped from the Christian tyrant to their brethren of the North; the Ocean and Mediterranean were covered with their piratical fleets; and Charlemagne beheld with a sigh the destructive progress of the Normans, who, in less than seventy years, precipitated the fall of his race and monarchy.
113 See Eginhard, c. 16, and Gaillard, tom. ii. p. 361 — 385, who mentions, with a loose reference, the intercourse of Charlemagne and Egbert, the emperor’s gift of his own sword, and the modest answer of his Saxon disciple. The anecdote, if genuine, would have adorned our English histories.]
114 The correspondence is mentioned only in the French annals, and the Orientals are ignorant of the caliph’s friendship for the Christian dog — a polite appellation, which Harun bestows on the emperor of the Greeks.]
* Had he the choice? M. Guizot has eloquently described the position of Charlemagne towards the Saxons. Il y fit face par le conquete; la guerre defensive prit la forme offensive: il transporta la lutte sur le territoire des peuples qui voulaient envahir le sien: il travailla a asservir les races etrangeres, et extirper les croyances ennemies. De la son mode de gouvernement et la fondation de son empire: la guerre offensive et la conquete voulaient cette vaste et redoutable unite. Compare observations in the Quarterly Review, vol. xlviii., and James’s Life of Charlemagne. — M.]
115 Gaillard, tom. ii. p. 361 — 365, 471 — 476, 492. I have borrowed his judicious remarks on Charlemagne’s plan of conquest, and the judicious distinction of his enemies of the first and the second enceinte, (tom. ii. p. 184, 509, &c.)]
Had the pope and the Romans revived the primitive constitution, the titles of emperor and Augustus were conferred on Charlemagne for the term of his life; and his successors, on each vacancy, must have ascended the throne by a formal or tacit election. But the association of his son Lewis the Pious asserts the independent right of monarchy and conquest, and the emperor seems on this occasion to have foreseen and prevented the latent claims of the clergy. The royal youth was commanded to take the crown from the altar, and with his own hands to place it on his head, as a gift which he held from God, his father, and the nation. 116 The same ceremony was repeated, though with less energy, in the subsequent associations of Lothaire and Lewis the Second: the Carlovingian sceptre was transmitted from father to son in a lineal descent of four generations; and the ambition of the popes was reduced to the empty honor of crowning and anointing these hereditary princes, who were already invested with their power and dominions. The pious Lewis survived his brothers, and embraced the whole empire of Charlemagne; but the nations and the nobles, his bishops and his children, quickly discerned that this mighty mass was no longer inspired by the same soul; and the foundations were undermined to the centre, while the external surface was yet fair and entire. After a war, or battle, which consumed one hundred thousand Franks, the empire was divided by treaty between his three sons, who had violated every filial and fraternal duty. The kingdoms of Germany and France were forever separated; the provinces of Gaul, between the Rhone and the Alps, the Meuse and the Rhine, were assigned, with Italy, to the Imperial dignity of Lothaire. In the partition of his share, Lorraine and Arles, two recent and transitory kingdoms, were bestowed on the younger children; and Lewis the Second, his eldest son, was content with the realm of Italy, the proper and sufficient patrimony of a Roman emperor. On his death without any male issue, the vacant throne was disputed by his uncles and cousins, and the popes most dexterously seized the occasion of judging the claims and merits of the candidates, and of bestowing on the most obsequious, or most liberal, the Imperial office of advocate of the Roman church. The dregs of the Carlovingian race no longer exhibited any symptoms of virtue or power, and the ridiculous epithets of the bard, the stammerer, the fat, and the simple, distinguished the tame and uniform features of a crowd of kings alike deserving of oblivion. By the failure of the collateral branches, the whole inheritance devolved to Charles the Fat, the last emperor of his family: his insanity authorized the desertion of Germany, Italy, and France: he was deposed in a diet, and solicited his daily bread from the rebels by whose contempt his life and liberty had been spared. According to the measure of their force, the governors, the bishops, and the lords, usurped the fragments of the falling empire; and some preference was shown to the female or illegitimate blood of Charlemagne. Of the greater part, the title and possession were alike doubtful, and the merit was adequate to the contracted scale of their dominions. Those who could appear with an army at the gates of Rome were crowned emperors in the Vatican; but their modesty was more frequently satisfied with the appellation of kings of Italy: and the whole term of seventy-four years may be deemed a vacancy, from the abdication of Charles the Fat to the establishment of Otho the First.
116 Thegan, the biographer of Lewis, relates this coronation: and Baronius has honestly transcribed it, (A.D. 813, No. 13, &c. See Gaillard, tom. ii. p. 506, 507, 508,) howsoever adverse to the claims of the popes. For the series of the Carlovingians, see the historians of France, Italy, and Germany; Pfeffel, Schmidt, Velly, Muratori, and even Voltaire, whose pictures are sometimes just, and always pleasing.]
Otho 117 was of the noble race of the dukes of Saxony; and if he truly descended from Witikind, the adversary and proselyte of Charlemagne, the posterity of a vanquished people was exalted to reign over their conquerors. His father, Henry the Fowler, was elected, by the suffrage of the nation, to save and institute the kingdom of Germany. Its limits 118 were enlarged on every side by his son, the first and greatest of the Othos. A portion of Gaul, to the west of the Rhine, along the banks of the Meuse and the Moselle, was assigned to the Germans, by whose blood and language it has been tinged since the time of Caesar and Tacitus.
Between the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Alps, the successors of Otho acquired a vain supremacy over the broken kingdoms of Burgundy and Arles. In the North, Christianity was propagated by the sword of Otho, the conqueror and apostle of the Slavic nations of the Elbe and Oder: the marches of Brandenburgh and Sleswick were fortified with German colonies; and the king of Denmark, the dukes of Poland and Bohemia, confessed themselves his tributary vassals. At the head of a victorious army, he passed the Alps, subdued the kingdom of Italy, delivered the pope, and forever fixed the Imperial crown in the name and nation of Germany. From that memorable aera, two maxims of public jurisprudence were introduced by force and ratified by time. I. That the prince, who was elected in the German diet, acquired, from that instant, the subject kingdoms of Italy and Rome. II. But that he might not legally assume the titles of emperor and Augustus, till he had received the crown from the hands of the Roman pontiff. 119
117 He was the son of Otho, the son of Ludolph, in whose favor the Duchy of Saxony had been instituted, A.D. 858. Ruotgerus, the biographer of a St. Bruno, (Bibliot. Bunavianae Catalog. tom. iii. vol. ii. p. 679,) gives a splendid character of his family. Atavorum atavi usque ad hominum memoriam omnes nobilissimi; nullus in eorum stirpe ignotus, nullus degener facile reperitur, (apud Struvium, Corp. Hist. German. p. 216.) Yet Gundling (in Henrico Aucupe) is not satisfied of his descent from Witikind.]
118 See the treatise of Conringius, (de Finibus Imperii Germanici, Francofurt. 1680, in 4to.: ) he rejects the extravagant and improper scale of the Roman and Carlovingian empires, and discusses with moderation the rights of Germany, her vassals, and her neighbors.]
119 The power of custom forces me to number Conrad I. and Henry I., the Fowler, in the list of emperors, a title which was never assumed by those kings of Germany. The Italians, Muratori for instance, are more scrupulous and correct, and only reckon the princes who have been crowned at Rome.]
The Imperial dignity of Charlemagne was announced to the East by the alteration of his style; and instead of saluting his fathers, the Greek emperors, he presumed to adopt the more equal and familiar appellation of brother. 120 Perhaps in his connection with Irene he aspired to the name of husband: his embassy to Constantinople spoke the language of peace and friendship, and might conceal a treaty of marriage with that ambitious princess, who had renounced the most sacred duties of a mother. The nature, the duration, the probable consequences of such a union between two distant and dissonant empires, it is impossible to conjecture; but the unanimous silence of the Latins may teach us to suspect, that the report was invented by the enemies of Irene, to charge her with the guilt of betraying the church and state to the strangers of the West. 121 The French ambassadors were the spectators, and had nearly been the victims, of the conspiracy of Nicephorus, and the national hatred. Constantinople was exasperated by the treason and sacrilege of ancient Rome: a proverb, “That the Franks were good friends and bad neighbors,” was in every one’s mouth; but it was dangerous to provoke a neighbor who might be tempted to reiterate, in the church of St. Sophia, the ceremony of his Imperial coronation. After a tedious journey of circuit and delay, the ambassadors of Nicephorus found him in his camp, on the banks of the River Sala; and Charlemagne affected to confound their vanity by displaying, in a Franconian village, the pomp, or at least the pride, of the Byzantine palace. 122 The Greeks were successively led through four halls of audience: in the first they were ready to fall prostrate before a splendid personage in a chair of state, till he informed them that he was only a servant, the constable, or master of the horse, of the emperor. The same mistake, and the same answer, were repeated in the apartments of the count palatine, the steward, and the chamberlain; and their impatience was gradually heightened, till the doors of the presence-chamber were thrown open, and they beheld the genuine monarch, on his throne, enriched with the foreign luxury which he despised, and encircled with the love and reverence of his victorious chiefs. A treaty of peace and alliance was concluded between the two empires, and the limits of the East and West were defined by the right of present possession. But the Greeks 123 soon forgot this humiliating equality, or remembered it only to hate the Barbarians by whom it was extorted. During the short union of virtue and power, they respectfully saluted the august Charlemagne, with the acclamations of basileus, and emperor of the Romans. As soon as these qualities were separated in the person of his pious son, the Byzantine letters were inscribed, “To the king, or, as he styles himself, the emperor of the Franks and Lombards.” When both power and virtue were extinct, they despoiled Lewis the Second of his hereditary title, and with the barbarous appellation of rex or rega, degraded him among the crowd of Latin princes. His reply 124 is expressive of his weakness: he proves, with some learning, that, both in sacred and profane history, the name of king is synonymous with the Greek word basileus: if, at Constantinople, it were assumed in a more exclusive and imperial sense, he claims from his ancestors, and from the popes, a just participation of the honors of the Roman purple. The same controversy was revived in the reign of the Othos; and their ambassador describes, in lively colors, the insolence of the Byzantine court. 125 The Greeks affected to despise the poverty and ignorance of the Franks and Saxons; and in their last decline refused to prostitute to the kings of Germany the title of Roman emperors.
120 Invidiam tamen suscepti nominis (C. P. imperatoribus super hoc indignantibus) magna tulit patientia, vicitque eorum contumaciam . . . mittendo ad eos crebras legationes, et in epistolis fratres eos appellando. Eginhard, c. 28, p. 128. Perhaps it was on their account that, like Augustus, he affected some reluctance to receive the empire.]
121 Theophanes speaks of the coronation and unction of Charles (Chronograph. p. 399,) and of his treaty of marriage with Irene, (p. 402,) which is unknown to the Latins. Gaillard relates his transactions with the Greek empire, (tom. ii. p. 446 — 468.)]
122 Gaillard very properly observes, that this pageant was a farce suitable to children only; but that it was indeed represented in the presence, and for the benefit, of children of a larger growth.]
123 Compare, in the original texts collected by Pagi, (tom. iii. A.D. 812, No. 7, A.D. 824, No. 10, &c.,) the contrast of Charlemagne and his son; to the former the ambassadors of Michael (who were indeed disavowed) more suo, id est lingua Graeca laudes dixerunt, imperatorem eum et appellantes; to the latter, Vocato imperatori Francorum, &c.]
124 See the epistle, in Paralipomena, of the anonymous writer of Salerno, (Script. Ital. tom. ii. pars ii. p. 243 — 254, c. 93 — 107,) whom Baronius (A.D. 871, No. 51 — 71) mistook for Erchempert, when he transcribed it in his Annals.]
125 Ipse enim vos, non imperatorem, id est sua lingua, sed ob indignationem, id est regem nostra vocabat, Liutprand, in Legat. in Script. Ital. tom. ii. pars i. p. 479. The pope had exhorted Nicephorus, emperor of the Greeks, to make peace with Otho, the august emperor of the Romans — quae inscriptio secundum Graecos peccatoria et temeraria . . . imperatorem inquiunt, universalem, Romanorum, Augustum, magnum, solum, Nicephorum, (p. 486.)]
These emperors, in the election of the popes, continued to exercise the powers which had been assumed by the Gothic and Grecian princes; and the importance of this prerogative increased with the temporal estate and spiritual jurisdiction of the Roman church. In the Christian aristocracy, the principal members of the clergy still formed a senate to assist the administration, and to supply the vacancy, of the bishop. Rome was divided into twenty-eight parishes, and each parish was governed by a cardinal priest, or presbyter, a title which, however common or modest in its origin, has aspired to emulate the purple of kings. Their number was enlarged by the association of the seven deacons of the most considerable hospitals, the seven palatine judges of the Lateran, and some dignitaries of the church. This ecclesiastical senate was directed by the seven cardinal-bishops of the Roman province, who were less occupied in the suburb dioceses of Ostia, Porto, Velitrae, Tusculum, Praeneste, Tibur, and the Sabines, than by their weekly service in the Lateran, and their superior share in the honors and authority of the apostolic see. On the death of the pope, these bishops recommended a successor to the suffrage of the college of cardinals, 126 and their choice was ratified or rejected by the applause or clamor of the Roman people. But the election was imperfect; nor could the pontiff be legally consecrated till the emperor, the advocate of the church, had graciously signified his approbation and consent. The royal commissioner examined, on the spot, the form and freedom of the proceedings; nor was it till after a previous scrutiny into the qualifications of the candidates, that he accepted an oath of fidelity, and confirmed the donations which had successively enriched the patrimony of St. Peter. In the frequent schisms, the rival claims were submitted to the sentence of the emperor; and in a synod of bishops he presumed to judge, to condemn, and to punish, the crimes of a guilty pontiff. Otho the First imposed a treaty on the senate and people, who engaged to prefer the candidate most acceptable to his majesty: 127 his successors anticipated or prevented their choice: they bestowed the Roman benefice, like the bishoprics of Cologne or Bamberg, on their chancellors or preceptors; and whatever might be the merit of a Frank or Saxon, his name sufficiently attests the interposition of foreign power. These acts of prerogative were most speciously excused by the vices of a popular election. The competitor who had been excluded by the cardinals appealed to the passions or avarice of the multitude; the Vatican and the Lateran were stained with blood; and the most powerful senators, the marquises of Tuscany and the counts of Tusculum, held the apostolic see in a long and disgraceful servitude. The Roman pontiffs, of the ninth and tenth centuries, were insulted, imprisoned, and murdered, by their tyrants; and such was their indigence, after the loss and usurpation of the ecclesiastical patrimonies, that they could neither support the state of a prince, nor exercise the charity of a priest. 128 The influence of two sister prostitutes, Marozia and Theodora, was founded on their wealth and beauty, their political and amorous intrigues: the most strenuous of their lovers were rewarded with the Roman mitre, and their reign 129 may have suggested to the darker ages 130 the fable 131 of a female pope. 132 The bastard son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of Marozia, a rare genealogy, were seated in the chair of St. Peter, and it was at the age of nineteen years that the second of these became the head of the Latin church. * His youth and manhood were of a suitable complexion; and the nations of pilgrims could bear testimony to the charges that were urged against him in a Roman synod, and in the presence of Otho the Great. As John XII. had renounced the dress and decencies of his profession, the soldier may not perhaps be dishonored by the wine which he drank, the blood that he spilt, the flames that he kindled, or the licentious pursuits of gaming and hunting. His open simony might be the consequence of distress; and his blasphemous invocation of Jupiter and Venus, if it be true, could not possibly be serious. But we read, with some surprise, that the worthy grandson of Marozia lived in public adultery with the matrons of Rome; that the Lateran palace was turned into a school for prostitution, and that his rapes of virgins and widows had deterred the female pilgrims from visiting the tomb of St. Peter, lest, in the devout act, they should be violated by his successor. 133 The Protestants have dwelt with malicious pleasure on these characters of Antichrist; but to a philosophic eye, the vices of the clergy are far less dangerous than their virtues. After a long series of scandal, the apostolic see was reformed and exalted by the austerity and zeal of Gregory VII. That ambitious monk devoted his life to the execution of two projects. I. To fix in the college of cardinals the freedom and independence of election, and forever to abolish the right or usurpation of the emperors and the Roman people. II. To bestow and resume the Western empire as a fief or benefice 134 of the church, and to extend his temporal dominion over the kings and kingdoms of the earth. After a contest of fifty years, the first of these designs was accomplished by the firm support of the ecclesiastical order, whose liberty was connected with that of their chief. But the second attempt, though it was crowned with some partial and apparent success, has been vigorously resisted by the secular power, and finally extinguished by the improvement of human reason.
126 The origin and progress of the title of cardinal may be found in Themassin, (Discipline de l’Eglise, tom. i. p. 1261 — 1298,) Muratori, (Antiquitat. Italiae Medii Aevi, tom. vi. Dissert. lxi. p. 159 — 182,) and Mosheim, (Institut. Hist. Eccles. p. 345 — 347,) who accurately remarks the form and changes of the election. The cardinal-bishops so highly exalted by Peter Damianus, are sunk to a level with the rest of the sacred college.]
127 Firmiter jurantes, nunquam se papam electuros aut audinaturos, praeter consensum et electionem Othonis et filii sui. (Liutprand, l. vi. c. 6, p. 472.) This important concession may either supply or confirm the decree of the clergy and people of Rome, so fiercely rejected by Baronius, Pagi, and Muratori, (A.D. 964,) and so well defended and explained by St. Marc, (Abrege, tom. ii. p. 808 — 816, tom. iv. p. 1167 — 1185.) Consult the historical critic, and the Annals of Muratori, for for the election and confirmation of each pope.]
128 The oppression and vices of the Roman church, in the xth century, are strongly painted in the history and legation of Liutprand, (see p. 440, 450, 471 — 476, 479, &c.;) and it is whimsical enough to observe Muratori tempering the invectives of Baronius against the popes. But these popes had been chosen, not by the cardinals, but by lay-patrons.]
129 The time of Pope Joan (papissa Joanna) is placed somewhat earlier than Theodora or Marozia; and the two years of her imaginary reign are forcibly inserted between Leo IV. and Benedict III. But the contemporary Anastasius indissolubly links the death of Leo and the elevation of Benedict, (illico, mox, p. 247;) and the accurate chronology of Pagi, Muratori, and Leibnitz, fixes both events to the year 857.]
130 The advocates for Pope Joan produce one hundred and fifty witnesses, or rather echoes, of the xivth, xvth, and xvith centuries. They bear testimony against themselves and the legend, by multiplying the proof that so curious a story must have been repeated by writers of every description to whom it was known. On those of the ixth and xth centuries, the recent event would have flashed with a double force. Would Photius have spared such a reproach? Could Liutprand have missed such scandal? It is scarcely worth while to discuss the various readings of Martinus Polonus, Sigeber of Gamblours, or even Marianus Scotus; but a most palpable forgery is the passage of Pope Joan, which has been foisted into some Mss. and editions of the Roman Anastasius.]
131 As false, it deserves that name; but I would not pronounce it incredible. Suppose a famous French chevalier of our own times to have been born in Italy, and educated in the church, instead of the army: her merit or fortune might have raised her to St. Peter’s chair; her amours would have been natural: her delivery in the streets unlucky, but not improbable.]
132 Till the reformation the tale was repeated and believed without offence: and Joan’s female statue long occupied her place among the popes in the cathedral of Sienna, (Pagi, Critica, tom. iii. p. 624 — 626.) She has been annihilated by two learned Protestants, Blondel and Bayle, (Dictionnaire Critique, Papesse, Polonus, Blondel;) but their brethren were scandalized by this equitable and generous criticism. Spanheim and Lenfant attempt to save this poor engine of controversy, and even Mosheim condescends to cherish some doubt and suspicion, (p. 289.)]
* John XI. was the son of her husband Alberic, not of her lover, Pope Sergius III., as Muratori has distinctly proved, Ann. ad ann. 911, tom. p. 268. Her grandson Octavian, otherwise called John XII., was pope; but a great-grandson cannot be discovered in any of the succeeding popes; nor does our historian himself, in his subsequent narration, (p. 202,) seem to know of one. Hobhouse, Illustrations of Childe Harold, p. 309. — M.]
133 Lateranense palatium . . . prostibulum meretricum . . . Testis omnium gentium, praeterquam Romanorum, absentia mulierum, quae sanctorum apostolorum limina orandi gratia timent visere, cum nonnullas ante dies paucos, hunc audierint conjugatas, viduas, virgines vi oppressisse, (Liutprand, Hist. l. vi. c. 6, p. 471. See the whole affair of John XII., p. 471 — 476.)]
134 A new example of the mischief of equivocation is the beneficium (Ducange, tom. i. p. 617, &c.,) which the pope conferred on the emperor Frederic I., since the Latin word may signify either a legal fief, or a simple favor, an obligation, (we want the word bienfait.) (See Schmidt, Hist. des Allemands, tom. iii. p. 393 — 408. Pfeffel, Abrege Chronologique, tom. i. p. 229, 296, 317, 324, 420, 430, 500, 505, 509, &c.)]
In the revival of the empire of empire of Rome, neither the bishop nor the people could bestow on Charlemagne or Otho the provinces which were lost, as they had been won, by the chance of arms. But the Romans were free to choose a master for themselves; and the powers which had been delegated to the patrician, were irrevocably granted to the French and Saxon emperors of the West. The broken records of the times 135 preserve some remembrance of their palace, their mint, their tribunal, their edicts, and the sword of justice, which, as late as the thirteenth century, was derived from Caesar to the praefect of the city. 136 Between the arts of the popes and the violence of the people, this supremacy was crushed and annihilated. Content with the titles of emperor and Augustus, the successors of Charlemagne neglected to assert this local jurisdiction. In the hour of prosperity, their ambition was diverted by more alluring objects; and in the decay and division of the empire, they were oppressed by the defence of their hereditary provinces. Amidst the ruins of Italy, the famous Marozia invited one of the usurpers to assume the character of her third husband; and Hugh, king of Burgundy was introduced by her faction into the mole of Hadrian or Castle of St. Angelo, which commands the principal bridge and entrance of Rome. Her son by the first marriage, Alberic, was compelled to attend at the nuptial banquet; but his reluctant and ungraceful service was chastised with a blow by his new father. The blow was productive of a revolution. “Romans,” exclaimed the youth, “once you were the masters of the world, and these Burgundians the most abject of your slaves. They now reign, these voracious and brutal savages, and my injury is the commencement of your servitude.” 137 The alarum bell rang to arms in every quarter of the city: the Burgundians retreated with haste and shame; Marozia was imprisoned by her victorious son, and his brother, Pope John XI., was reduced to the exercise of his spiritual functions. With the title of prince, Alberic possessed above twenty years the government of Rome; and he is said to have gratified the popular prejudice, by restoring the office, or at least the title, of consuls and tribunes. His son and heir Octavian assumed, with the pontificate, the name of John XII.: like his predecessor, he was provoked by the Lombard princes to seek a deliverer for the church and republic; and the services of Otho were rewarded with the Imperial dignity. But the Saxon was imperious, the Romans were impatient, the festival of the coronation was disturbed by the secret conflict of prerogative and freedom, and Otho commanded his sword-bearer not to stir from his person, lest he should be assaulted and murdered at the foot of the altar. 138 Before he repassed the Alps, the emperor chastised the revolt of the people and the ingratitude of John XII. The pope was degraded in a synod; the praefect was mounted on an ass, whipped through the city, and cast into a dungeon; thirteen of the most guilty were hanged, others were mutilated or banished; and this severe process was justified by the ancient laws of Theodosius and Justinian. The voice of fame has accused the second Otho of a perfidious and bloody act, the massacre of the senators, whom he had invited to his table under the fair semblance of hospitality and friendship. 139 In the minority of his son Otho the Third, Rome made a bold attempt to shake off the Saxon yoke, and the consul Crescentius was the Brutus of the republic. From the condition of a subject and an exile, he twice rose to the command of the city, oppressed, expelled, and created the popes, and formed a conspiracy for restoring the authority of the Greek emperors. * In the fortress of St. Angelo, he maintained an obstinate siege, till the unfortunate consul was betrayed by a promise of safety: his body was suspended on a gibbet, and his head was exposed on the battlements of the castle. By a reverse of fortune, Otho, after separating his troops, was besieged three days, without food, in his palace; and a disgraceful escape saved him from the justice or fury of the Romans. The senator Ptolemy was the leader of the people, and the widow of Crescentius enjoyed the pleasure or the fame of revenging her husband, by a poison which she administered to her Imperial lover. It was the design of Otho the Third to abandon the ruder countries of the North, to erect his throne in Italy, and to revive the institutions of the Roman monarchy. But his successors only once in their lives appeared on the banks of the Tyber, to receive their crown in the Vatican. 140 Their absence was contemptible, their presence odious and formidable. They descended from the Alps, at the head of their barbarians, who were strangers and enemies to the country; and their transient visit was a scene of tumult and bloodshed. 141 A faint remembrance of their ancestors still tormented the Romans; and they beheld with pious indignation the succession of Saxons, Franks, Swabians, and Bohemians, who usurped the purple and prerogatives of the Caesars.
135 For the history of the emperors in Rome and Italy, see Sigonius, de Regno Italiae, Opp. tom. ii., with the Notes of Saxius, and the Annals of Muratori, who might refer more distinctly to the authors of his great collection.]
136 See the Dissertations of Le Blanc at the end of his treatise des Monnoyes de France, in which he produces some Roman coins of the French emperors.]
137 Romanorum aliquando servi, scilicet Burgundiones, Romanis imperent? . . . . Romanae urbis dignitas ad tantam est stultitiam ducta, ut meretricum etiam imperio pareat? (Liutprand, l. iii. c. 12, p. 450.) Sigonius (l. vi. p. 400) positively affirms the renovation of the consulship; but in the old writers Albericus is more frequently styled princeps Romanorum.]
138 Ditmar, p. 354, apud Schmidt, tom. iii. p. 439.]
139 This bloody feast is described in Leonine verse in the Pantheon of Godfrey of Viterbo, (Script. Ital. tom. vii. p. 436, 437,) who flourished towards the end of the xiith century, (Fabricius Bibliot. Latin. Med. et Infimi Aevi, tom. iii. p. 69, edit. Mansi;) but his evidence, which imposed on Sigonius, is reasonably suspected by Muratori (Annali, tom. viii. p. 177.)]
* The Marquis Maffei’s gallery contained a medal with Imp. Caes August. P. P. Crescentius. Hence Hobhouse infers that he affected the empire. Hobhouse, Illustrations of Childe Harold, p. 252. — M.]
140 The coronation of the emperor, and some original ceremonies of the xth century are preserved in the Panegyric on Berengarius, (Script. Ital. tom. ii. pars i. p. 405 — 414,) illustrated by the Notes of Hadrian Valesius and Leibnitz. Sigonius has related the whole process of the Roman expedition, in good Latin, but with some errors of time and fact, (l. vii. p. 441 — 446.)]
141 In a quarrel at the coronation of Conrad II. Muratori takes leave to observe — doveano ben essere allora, indisciplinati, Barbari, e bestials Tedeschi. Annal. tom. viii. p. 368.]
There is nothing perhaps more adverse to nature and reason than to hold in obedience remote countries and foreign nations, in opposition to their inclination and interest. A torrent of Barbarians may pass over the earth, but an extensive empire must be supported by a refined system of policy and oppression; in the centre, an absolute power, prompt in action and rich in resources; a swift and easy communication with the extreme parts; fortifications to check the first effort of rebellion; a regular administration to protect and punish; and a well-disciplined army to inspire fear, without provoking discontent and despair. Far different was the situation of the German Caesars, who were ambitious to enslave the kingdom of Italy. Their patrimonial estates were stretched along the Rhine, or scattered in the provinces; but this ample domain was alienated by the imprudence or distress of successive princes; and their revenue, from minute and vexatious prerogative, was scarcely sufficient for the maintenance of their household. Their troops were formed by the legal or voluntary service of their feudal vassals, who passed the Alps with reluctance, assumed the license of rapine and disorder, and capriciously deserted before the end of the campaign. Whole armies were swept away by the pestilential influence of the climate: the survivors brought back the bones of their princes and nobles, 142 and the effects of their own intemperance were often imputed to the treachery and malice of the Italians, who rejoiced at least in the calamities of the Barbarians. This irregular tyranny might contend on equal terms with the petty tyrants of Italy; nor can the people, or the reader, be much interested in the event of the quarrel. But in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Lombards rekindled the flame of industry and freedom; and the generous example was at length imitated by the republics of Tuscany. * In the Italian cities a municipal government had never been totally abolished; and their first privileges were granted by the favor and policy of the emperors, who were desirous of erecting a plebeian barrier against the independence of the nobles. But their rapid progress, the daily extension of their power and pretensions, were founded on the numbers and spirit of these rising communities. 143 Each city filled the measure of her diocese or district: the jurisdiction of the counts and bishops, of the marquises and counts, was banished from the land; and the proudest nobles were persuaded or compelled to desert their solitary castles, and to embrace the more honorable character of freemen and magistrates. The legislative authority was inherent in the general assembly; but the executive powers were intrusted to three consuls, annually chosen from the three orders of captains, valvassors, 144 and commons, into which the republic was divided. Under the protection of equal law, the labors of agriculture and commerce were gradually revived; but the martial spirit of the Lombards was nourished by the presence of danger; and as often as the bell was rung, or the standard 145 erected, the gates of the city poured forth a numerous and intrepid band, whose zeal in their own cause was soon guided by the use and discipline of arms. At the foot of these popular ramparts, the pride of the Caesars was overthrown; and the invincible genius of liberty prevailed over the two Frederics, the greatest princes of the middle age; the first, superior perhaps in military prowess; the second, who undoubtedly excelled in the softer accomplishments of peace and learning.
142 After boiling away the flesh. The caldrons for that purpose were a necessary piece of travelling furniture; and a German who was using it for his brother, promised it to a friend, after it should have been employed for himself, (Schmidt, tom. iii. p. 423, 424.) The same author observes that the whole Saxon line was extinguished in Italy, (tom. ii. p. 440.)]
* Compare Sismondi, Histoire des Republiques Italiannes. Hallam Middle Ages. Raumer, Geschichte der Hohenstauffen. Savigny, Geschichte des Romischen Rechts, vol. iii. p. 19 with the authors quoted. — M.]
143 Otho, bishop of Frisingen, has left an important passage on the Italian cities, (l. ii. c. 13, in Script. Ital. tom. vi. p. 707 — 710: ) and the rise, progress, and government of these republics are perfectly illustrated by Muratori, (Antiquitat. Ital. Medii Aevi, tom. iv. dissert xlv. — lii. p. 1 — 675. Annal. tom. viii. ix. x.)]
144 For these titles, see Selden, (Titles of Honor, vol. iii. part 1 p. 488.) Ducange, (Gloss. Latin. tom. ii. p. 140, tom. vi. p. 776,) and St. Marc, (Abrege Chronologique, tom. ii. p. 719.)]
145 The Lombards invented and used the carocium, a standard planted on a car or wagon, drawn by a team of oxen, (Ducange, tom. ii. p. 194, 195. Muratori Antiquitat tom. ii. dis. xxvi. p. 489 — 493.)]
Ambitious of restoring the splendor of the purple, Frederic the First invaded the republics of Lombardy, with the arts of a statesman, the valor of a soldier, and the cruelty of a tyrant. The recent discovery of the Pandects had renewed a science most favorable to despotism; and his venal advocates proclaimed the emperor the absolute master of the lives and properties of his subjects. His royal prerogatives, in a less odious sense, were acknowledged in the diet of Roncaglia; and the revenue of Italy was fixed at thirty thousand pounds of silver, 146 which were multiplied to an indefinite demand by the rapine of the fiscal officers. The obstinate cities were reduced by the terror or the force of his arms: his captives were delivered to the executioner, or shot from his military engines; and. after the siege and surrender of Milan, the buildings of that stately capital were razed to the ground, three hundred hostages were sent into Germany, and the inhabitants were dispersed in four villages, under the yoke of the inflexible conqueror. 147 But Milan soon rose from her ashes; and the league of Lombardy was cemented by distress: their cause was espoused by Venice, Pope Alexander the Third, and the Greek emperor: the fabric of oppression was overturned in a day; and in the treaty of Constance, Frederic subscribed, with some reservations, the freedom of four-and-twenty cities. His grandson contended with their vigor and maturity; but Frederic the Second 148 was endowed with some personal and peculiar advantages. His birth and education recommended him to the Italians; and in the implacable discord of the two factions, the Ghibelins were attached to the emperor, while the Guelfs displayed the banner of liberty and the church. The court of Rome had slumbered, when his father Henry the Sixth was permitted to unite with the empire the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily; and from these hereditary realms the son derived an ample and ready supply of troops and treasure. Yet Frederic the Second was finally oppressed by the arms of the Lombards and the thunders of the Vatican: his kingdom was given to a stranger, and the last of his family was beheaded at Naples on a public scaffold. During sixty years, no emperor appeared in Italy, and the name was remembered only by the ignominious sale of the last relics of sovereignty.
146 Gunther Ligurinus, l. viii. 584, et seq., apud Schmidt, tom. iii. p. 399.]
147 Solus imperator faciem suam firmavit ut petram, (Burcard. de Excidio Mediolani, Script. Ital. tom. vi. p. 917.) This volume of Muratori contains the originals of the history of Frederic the First, which must be compared with due regard to the circumstances and prejudices of each German or Lombard writer.
Note: Von Raumer has traced the fortunes of the Swabian house in one of the ablest historical works of modern times. He may be compared with the spirited and independent Sismondi. — M.]
148 For the history of Frederic II. and the house of Swabia at Naples, see Giannone, Istoria Civile, tom. ii. l. xiv. — xix.]
The Barbarian conquerors of the West were pleased to decorate their chief with the title of emperor; but it was not their design to invest him with the despotism of Constantine and Justinian. The persons of the Germans were free, their conquests were their own, and their national character was animated by a spirit which scorned the servile jurisprudence of the new or the ancient Rome. It would have been a vain and dangerous attempt to impose a monarch on the armed freemen, who were impatient of a magistrate; on the bold, who refused to obey; on the powerful, who aspired to command. The empire of Charlemagne and Otho was distributed among the dukes of the nations or provinces, the counts of the smaller districts, and the margraves of the marches or frontiers, who all united the civil and military authority as it had been delegated to the lieutenants of the first Caesars. The Roman governors, who, for the most part, were soldiers of fortune, seduced their mercenary legions, assumed the Imperial purple, and either failed or succeeded in their revolt, without wounding the power and unity of government. If the dukes, margraves, and counts of Germany, were less audacious in their claims, the consequences of their success were more lasting and pernicious to the state. Instead of aiming at the supreme rank, they silently labored to establish and appropriate their provincial independence. Their ambition was seconded by the weight of their estates and vassals, their mutual example and support, the common interest of the subordinate nobility, the change of princes and families, the minorities of Otho the Third and Henry the Fourth, the ambition of the popes, and the vain pursuit of the fugitive crowns of Italy and Rome. All the attributes of regal and territorial jurisdiction were gradually usurped by the commanders of the provinces; the right of peace and war, of life and death, of coinage and taxation, of foreign alliance and domestic economy. Whatever had been seized by violence, was ratified by favor or distress, was granted as the price of a doubtful vote or a voluntary service; whatever had been granted to one could not, without injury, be denied to his successor or equal; and every act of local or temporary possession was insensibly moulded into the constitution of the Germanic kingdom. In every province, the visible presence of the duke or count was interposed between the throne and the nobles; the subjects of the law became the vassals of a private chief; and the standard which he received from his sovereign, was often raised against him in the field. The temporal power of the clergy was cherished and exalted by the superstition or policy of the Carlovingian and Saxon dynasties, who blindly depended on their moderation and fidelity; and the bishoprics of Germany were made equal in extent and privilege, superior in wealth and population, to the most ample states of the military order. As long as the emperors retained the prerogative of bestowing on every vacancy these ecclesiastic and secular benefices, their cause was maintained by the gratitude or ambition of their friends and favorites. But in the quarrel of the investitures, they were deprived of their influence over the episcopal chapters; the freedom of election was restored, and the sovereign was reduced, by a solemn mockery, to his first prayers, the recommendation, once in his reign, to a single prebend in each church. The secular governors, instead of being recalled at the will of a superior, could be degraded only by the sentence of their peers. In the first age of the monarchy, the appointment of the son to the duchy or county of his father, was solicited as a favor; it was gradually obtained as a custom, and extorted as a right: the lineal succession was often extended to the collateral or female branches; the states of the empire (their popular, and at length their legal, appellation) were divided and alienated by testament and sale; and all idea of a public trust was lost in that of a private and perpetual inheritance. The emperor could not even be enriched by the casualties of forfeiture and extinction: within the term of a year, he was obliged to dispose of the vacant fief; and, in the choice of the candidate, it was his duty to consult either the general or the provincial diet.
After the death of Frederic the Second, Germany was left a monster with a hundred heads. A crowd of princes and prelates disputed the ruins of the empire: the lords of innumerable castles were less prone to obey, than to imitate, their superiors; and, according to the measure of their strength, their incessant hostilities received the names of conquest or robbery. Such anarchy was the inevitable consequence of the laws and manners of Europe; and the kingdoms of France and Italy were shivered into fragments by the violence of the same tempest. But the Italian cities and the French vassals were divided and destroyed, while the union of the Germans has produced, under the name of an empire, a great system of a federative republic. In the frequent and at last the perpetual institution of diets, a national spirit was kept alive, and the powers of a common legislature are still exercised by the three branches or colleges of the electors, the princes, and the free and Imperial cities of Germany. I. Seven of the most powerful feudatories were permitted to assume, with a distinguished name and rank, the exclusive privilege of choosing the Roman emperor; and these electors were the king of Bohemia, the duke of Saxony, the margrave of Brandenburgh, the count palatine of the Rhine, and the three archbishops of Mentz, of Treves, and of Cologne. II. The college of princes and prelates purged themselves of a promiscuous multitude: they reduced to four representative votes the long series of independent counts, and excluded the nobles or equestrian order, sixty thousand of whom, as in the Polish diets, had appeared on horseback in the field of election. III. The pride of birth and dominion, of the sword and the mitre, wisely adopted the commons as the third branch of the legislature, and, in the progress of society, they were introduced about the same aera into the national assemblies of France England, and Germany.
The Hanseatic League commanded the trade and navigation of the north: the confederates of the Rhine secured the peace and intercourse of the inland country; the influence of the cities has been adequate to their wealth and policy, and their negative still invalidates the acts of the two superior colleges of electors and princes. 149
149 In the immense labyrinth of the jus publicum of Germany, I must either quote one writer or a thousand; and I had rather trust to one faithful guide, than transcribe, on credit, a multitude of names and passages. That guide is M. Pfeffel, the author of the best legal and constitutional history that I know of any country, (Nouvel Abrege Chronologique de l’Histoire et du Droit public Allemagne; Paris, 1776, 2 vols. in 4to.) His learning and judgment have discerned the most interesting facts; his simple brevity comprises them in a narrow space. His chronological order distributes them under the proper dates; and an elaborate index collects them under their respective heads. To this work, in a less perfect state, Dr. Robertson was gratefully indebted for that masterly sketch which traces even the modern changes of the Germanic body. The Corpus Historiae Germanicae of Struvius has been likewise consulted, the more usefully, as that huge compilation is fortified in every page with the original texts.
Note: For the rise and progress of the Hanseatic League, consult the authoritative history by Sartorius; Geschichte des Hanseatischen Bandes & Theile, Gottingen, 1802. New and improved edition by Lappenberg Elamburg, 1830. The original Hanseatic League comprehended Cologne and many of the great cities in the Netherlands and on the Rhine. — M.]
It is in the fourteenth century that we may view in the strongest light the state and contrast of the Roman empire of Germany, which no longer held, except on the borders of the Rhine and Danube, a single province of Trajan or Constantine. Their unworthy successors were the counts of Hapsburgh, of Nassau, of Luxemburgh, and Schwartzenburgh: the emperor Henry the Seventh procured for his son the crown of Bohemia, and his grandson Charles the Fourth was born among a people strange and barbarous in the estimation of the Germans themselves. 150 After the excommunication of Lewis of Bavaria, he received the gift or promise of the vacant empire from the Roman pontiffs, who, in the exile and captivity of Avignon, affected the dominion of the earth. The death of his competitors united the electoral college, and Charles was unanimously saluted king of the Romans, and future emperor; a title which, in the same age, was prostituted to the Caesars of Germany and Greece. The German emperor was no more than the elective and impotent magistrate of an aristocracy of princes, who had not left him a village that he might call his own. His best prerogative was the right of presiding and proposing in the national senate, which was convened at his summons; and his native kingdom of Bohemia, less opulent than the adjacent city of Nuremberg, was the firmest seat of his power and the richest source of his revenue. The army with which he passed the Alps consisted of three hundred horse. In the cathedral of St. Ambrose, Charles was crowned with the iron crown, which tradition ascribed to the Lombard monarchy; but he was admitted only with a peaceful train; the gates of the city were shut upon him; and the king of Italy was held a captive by the arms of the Visconti, whom he confirmed in the sovereignty of Milan. In the Vatican he was again crowned with the golden crown of the empire; but, in obedience to a secret treaty, the Roman emperor immediately withdrew, without reposing a single night within the walls of Rome. The eloquent Petrarch, 151 whose fancy revived the visionary glories of the Capitol, deplores and upbraids the ignominious flight of the Bohemian; and even his contemporaries could observe, that the sole exercise of his authority was in the lucrative sale of privileges and titles. The gold of Italy secured the election of his son; but such was the shameful poverty of the Roman emperor, that his person was arrested by a butcher in the streets of Worms, and was detained in the public inn, as a pledge or hostage for the payment of his expenses.
150 Yet, personally, Charles IV. must not be considered as a Barbarian. After his education at Paris, he recovered the use of the Bohemian, his native, idiom; and the emperor conversed and wrote with equal facility in French, Latin, Italian, and German, (Struvius, p. 615, 616.) Petrarch always represents him as a polite and learned prince.]
151 Besides the German and Italian historians, the expedition of Charles IV. is painted in lively and original colors in the curious Memoires sur la Vie de Petrarque, tom. iii. p. 376 — 430, by the Abbe de Sade, whose prolixity has never been blamed by any reader of taste and curiosity.]
From this humiliating scene, let us turn to the apparent majesty of the same Charles in the diets of the empire. The golden bull, which fixes the Germanic constitution, is promulgated in the style of a sovereign and legislator. A hundred princes bowed before his throne, and exalted their own dignity by the voluntary honors which they yielded to their chief or minister. At the royal banquet, the hereditary great officers, the seven electors, who in rank and title were equal to kings, performed their solemn and domestic service of the palace. The seals of the triple kingdom were borne in state by the archbishops of Mentz, Cologne, and Treves, the perpetual arch-chancellors of Germany, Italy, and Arles. The great marshal, on horseback, exercised his function with a silver measure of oats, which he emptied on the ground, and immediately dismounted to regulate the order of the guests The great steward, the count palatine of the Rhine, place the dishes on the table. The great chamberlain, the margrave of Brandenburgh, presented, after the repast, the golden ewer and basin, to wash. The king of Bohemia, as great cup-bearer, was represented by the emperor’s brother, the duke of Luxemburgh and Brabant; and the procession was closed by the great huntsmen, who introduced a boar and a stag, with a loud chorus of horns and hounds. 152 Nor was the supremacy of the emperor confined to Germany alone: the hereditary monarchs of Europe confessed the preeminence of his rank and dignity: he was the first of the Christian princes, the temporal head of the great republic of the West: 153 to his person the title of majesty was long appropriated; and he disputed with the pope the sublime prerogative of creating kings and assembling councils. The oracle of the civil law, the learned Bartolus, was a pensioner of Charles the Fourth; and his school resounded with the doctrine, that the Roman emperor was the rightful sovereign of the earth, from the rising to the setting sun. The contrary opinion was condemned, not as an error, but as a heresy, since even the gospel had pronounced, “And there went forth a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” 154
152 See the whole ceremony in Struvius, p. 629]
153 The republic of Europe, with the pope and emperor at its head, was never represented with more dignity than in the council of Constance. See Lenfant’s History of that assembly.]
154 Gravina, Origines Juris Civilis, p. 108.]
If we annihilate the interval of time and space between Augustus and Charles, strong and striking will be the contrast between the two Caesars; the Bohemian who concealed his weakness under the mask of ostentation, and the Roman, who disguised his strength under the semblance of modesty. At the head of his victorious legions, in his reign over the sea and land, from the Nile and Euphrates to the Atlantic Ocean, Augustus professed himself the servant of the state and the equal of his fellow-citizens. The conqueror of Rome and her provinces assumed a popular and legal form of a censor, a consul, and a tribune. His will was the law of mankind, but in the declaration of his laws he borrowed the voice of the senate and people; and from their decrees their master accepted and renewed his temporary commission to administer the republic. In his dress, his domestics, 155 his titles, in all the offices of social life, Augustus maintained the character of a private Roman; and his most artful flatterers respected the secret of his absolute and perpetual monarchy.
155 Six thousand urns have been discovered of the slaves and freedmen of Augustus and Livia. So minute was the division of office, that one slave was appointed to weigh the wool which was spun by the empress’s maids, another for the care of her lap-dog, &c., (Camera Sepolchrale, by Bianchini. Extract of his work in the Bibliotheque Italique, tom. iv. p. 175. His Eloge, by Fontenelle, tom. vi. p. 356.) But these servants were of the same rank, and possibly not more numerous than those of Pollio or Lentulus. They only prove the general riches of the city.]
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