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7-08-2015, 21:25

Rome and its duchy

Zacharias’ successor, Pope Stephen II (752–7), was alarmed when Aistulf followed up his conquests by demanding a tribute from the duchy of Rome, and sought help from Constantine V. At the emperor’s behest, he entered into frantic negotiations with the Lombard court at Pavia, but to no avail. As Lombard pressure on Rome increased in 753, the pope made overtures to Pippin the Short, paid a fruitless visit to Pavia on imperial orders, and then proceeded to cross the Alps to meet Pippin at Ponthion in January 754. The upshot was that Stephen granted Pippin the title patricius Romanorum (with its echoes of the rank held by the Byzantine exarch), a Frankish army was sent to besiege Pavia, and Aistulf was compelled to hand territories formerly belonging to the exarchate over to Stephen II. When these promises were broken, the Frankish king returned to Italy in 756 and conceded all the exarchate’s territories to the pope through the ‘donation’ of Pippin. Although this represented a serious snub to imperial claims, an overt divergence between the papacy and the empire cannot be postulated before at least the 770s, when the pontiff ’s name replaced that of the emperor on Roman coins and documents. In practice, however, ties between the papacy and the Franks became increasingly close, and it is also to this period (between 752 and 771) that most recent scholars would date the forging of the ‘donation of Constantine’ (Constitutum Constantini) by a Roman cleric working in the Lateran chancery. Although it is doubtful that this document can be seen as an official production intended to legitimise papal claims to Byzantine territory, it appears to reflect the predominant ideology of clerical milieux in Rome who were working towards a wholly independent status for the ‘patrimony of St Peter’. The following years were ones of uncertainty.Widespread fears of Byzantine attempts to recover their territory failed to materialise, while the new Lombard kingDesiderius (757–74) showed himself at first conciliatory, but later hostile, to papal claims. Although after Stephen II’s death in March 757 Desiderius failed to deliver all the areas he had promised and Pippin was too preoccupied with other concerns to intervene, an uneasy modus vivendi was achieved between the Lombard king and Pope Paul I (757– 67). Following Paul’s death, however, the duchy of Rome sank into bitter internal conflicts, whose key element appears to have been a struggle between an elite of military officials with their power base in the country and the clerical bureaucrats of the Lateran Palace in the city. One of the military officials, Toto, duke of Nepi, succeeded in having his brother Constantine ‘elected’ as anti-pope in June 767, but the clerical party, led by an influential Lateran bureaucrat the primicerius Christopher and his son Sergius, soon regained power; with Lombard help, they had their candidate elected as Pope Stephen III in August 768.However, serious difficulties continued, including anti-papal activity in the exarchate and dissension among the papacy’s Frankish allies, and in 771–2 a coup staged against Christopher and Sergius’ clerical regime led to the rise to power of Paul Afiarta, the pro-Lombard papal chamberlain. After the death of the vacillating Stephen III (768–72), a new pope from a leading Roman family was elected as Hadrian I (772–95), and he proved no mere tool in Afiarta’s hands. He had Paul Afiarta arrested in Ravenna and resisted Desiderius’ attempts to enter Rome and to have his prot´eg´es, the sons of the Frankish king Carloman, anointed there. When Desiderius proceeded to occupy strategic towns in the exarchate,Hadrian prevailed upon the new Frankish king Charlemagne to order their return. WhenDesiderius refused to comply, Charlemagne led an army into Italy, besiegedDesiderius in Pavia and took over the Lombard kingdom (see above, p. 415). InHadrian’s pontificate, the papacy’s alliance with its Frankish protectors grewincreasingly close and cordial, especially after Charlemagne conquered the Lombard kingdom in 774 and renewed the grants made by his father, Pippin the Short.Hadrian went to the length of addressing Charlemagne as a new Constantine in 778.30 Ties with the eastern empire were not formally broken – in 772 criminalswere sent to Constantinople for punishment – but in practice turned to hostility. The pope’s implicit claim to independence is evident in a letter addressed to Constantine VI (780–97) in which Hadrian wrote of how Charlemagne had ‘restored by force to the apostle of God the provinces, cities, strongholds, territories and patrimonies which were held by the perfidious race of the Lombards’.31 Hadrian’s letters reflect his constant fear of a reconquista led by theGreeks in alliance with Arichis, duke of Benevento (759–87) and Desiderius’ exiled son Adelchis, but the pope was unable to prevail upon Charlemagne to intervene militarily against Benevento. In Rome and its hinterland Hadrian I established new levels of prosperity and stability, largely as a result of his personal position as a powerful family magnate with influential relatives and allies among both the Lateran bureaucracy and the secular aristocracy.Hadrian also succeeded in strengthening papal authority in the countryside aroundRome by setting up six papal estate complexes known as domuscultae such as Santa Cornelia, 25 kilometres north of Rome. Here he was continuing a policy initiated by Zacharias, who had set up five such complexes, and more estates were set up by his successor, Leo III. These had a number of purposes, including the securing of food supplies for the city at a time when it had lost its traditional sources of provisions in Sicily and southern Italy.However the primary role of the domuscultae was to strengthen papal control in the face of endemic disorder in the countryside, and to serve as papal strongholds against local warlords such as Toto of Nepi. The peasant workforce was organised into a loyal familia Sancti Petri, and furnished militia contingents which were used to suppress a coup d’´etat in 824 and to fortify the area around St Peter’s in 846.32 Hadrian, however, experienced continuing difficulties in enforcing his authority over the wider complex of cities, villages and patrimonies often anachronistically termed ‘the papal state’. These were particularly acute in areas where the papal claim to be heir of the Roman state was somewhat dubious, such as the Sabine territories around the monastery of Farfa, which had been held by Lombard settlers for generations.33 Even in the exarchate and the Pentapolis, although opposition to papal rule subsided somewhat with the death of Archbishop Leo of Ravenna in 778, Hadrian complained in 783 that lay officials from Ravenna had appealed directly to Charlemagne, and in 790–1 elements in the city were denying the pope’s legal authority. The pope did, however, receive additional territories on the occasion of Charlemagne’s visit to Italy in 787 when the king made over a grant of part of Lombard Tuscany stretching from Citt`a di Castello in the north to Viterbo and Orte in the south and a number of towns in the duchy of Benevento. The pope also had problems in establishing his rights to various papal patrimonies in the duchy of Naples, and it was probably to apply pressure for their return – as well as to secure the southern flank of the duchy of Rome – that papal troops seized Terracina from the Neapolitan duchy in 788.34 Hadrian’s successor, Leo III (795–816), was a less powerful character from a non-aristocratic background. As a result his position was much weaker, and his dependence on the Franks for protection even greater. His first action was to treat Charlemagne in the manner that preceding popes had adopted towards their Byzantine sovereigns by sending him the protocol of his election, together with a pledge of loyalty and the keys and banner of the city of Rome. Matters were brought to a head by a coup in 799, when aristocratic elements associated withHadrian I accused Leo of various offences and sought to arrest and mutilate him. Leo fled first to Spoleto and then across the Alps where he met Charlemagne at Paderborn. He then returned in the autumn with an investigating commission of bishops and officials in order to restore his position in Rome. In the following November Charlemagne visited Rome and was crowned emperor in St Peter’s on Christmas Day 800. The intentions of the parties involved in this event are the subject of considerable scholarly debate. We will merely note that the papacy’s action represents the culmination of a long process of distancing from the Byzantine empire, and that one possible motive for Charlemagne may have been to win support in the ‘Roman areas’ of Italy such as the exarchate and Rome by exploiting vestigial nostalgia for the Roman imperial title.35 As a result of the events of 800, Rome burnt its boats with the Byzantine empire on a political level. An alternative ideological model was instituted, clerical control of the government was enhanced, and Frankish influence became more marked. The pope adopted a strongly pro-Frankish policy – as long as the Carolingian empire lasted, until 888 – and the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor wrote, ‘now Rome is in the hands of the Franks’.36 Thus in 817 Louis the Pious (814–40) issued the privilege known as the Ludovicianum, in which the grants of his father and grandfather – Charlemagne and Pippin the Short – were tidied up and made more precise on terms favourable to the papacy.37 In 824, however, a less generous line was taken by the Constitutio Romana, which weakened the papacy’s independence by setting up two missi in Rome – one papal and one imperial – and by demanding from the Romans an oath of loyalty to the western empire.38 Byzantium remained a factor, but only of limited importance, in the first half of the ninth century. Fears were expressed of plans for a Byzantine reconquista, and there may well have been links between the eastern empire and elements of the secular aristocracy nostalgic for the Byzantine period and eager for an end to the influence of the ‘barbarian’ Franks. Certainly in 853 a magister militum, Gratian, was accused of accepting Byzantine bribes. The situation changed, however, as a result of the growing threat ofMuslim naval power to the coasts of Italy, especially after the Muslims’ occupation of Bari and their sack of St Peter’s in 846. Although the papacy looked primarily to the Frankish emperor Louis II (855–75) to deal with the Saracen danger, it supported his attempts to secure Byzantine naval cooperation, and when Louis’ efforts in southern Italy proved a failure, Pope John VIII (872–82) resorted increasingly to diplomatic overtures to Byzantium aimed at involving the empire in a Christian enterprise against the infidel. These papal efforts were not crowned with success, however, before the early tenth century.39 On an ecclesiastical level, relations with Byzantium were strained by the second wave of iconoclasm in the east (815–43) and even after the restoration of icons, contentious issues remained. The transfer of jurisdiction and patrimonies in southern Italy and Illyricum to the patriarchate of Constantinople and the closely associated problem of authority over missions to the Balkans proved sources of conflict, especially during the pontificate ofNicholas I (858–67) (see above, p. 299).Nevertheless the papacy retained its claims to primacy over the eastern as well as the western churches, and Rome remained a magnet for eastern pilgrims and exiles. In many respects Rome remained within the Byzantine cultural orbit. Eastern artistic influence on the city remained strong, expressed through a flow of liturgical objects and in all probability also an influx of artists. A number of Greek monasteries continued to flourish in the city, and Rome became a major centre of translation activity, best exemplified by the Latin versions ofGreek historical and hagiographical texts produced by the papal librarian, Anastasius Bibliothecarius (see above, p. 427). On an institutional level, the extent and durability of the Romano- Byzantine inheritance in the duchy of Rome has been a subject of controversy, mainly because of the paucity of evidence for the ninth century. Certain titles from the imperial period continue, such as consul, dux and magister militum, while others, such as tribunus, disappear. There is similar uncertainty over whether the apparently lay judges known as iudices dativi constitute a survival from the Roman period. It is clear that any notion of a strong centralised secular authority on the traditional Byzantine model has to be rejected. This had already broken down in the last decades of imperial rule, to be replaced by a decentralised power system in the hands of local warlords. On the other hand, it is likely that most of the families to which the latter belonged established their position in the Byzantine period, and they remained deeply attached to the old imperial titles, even though these were used in an increasingly vague and debased way. In the city of Rome certain institutions persist which can be traced to the imperial past, such as the local militia units (scholae) and the strong sense of public rights and property, but these were taken over and transformed under papal control. The papal bureaucracy modelled its workings and titles on that of the Byzantine empire. In certain respects the popes themselves can be seen behaving in self-conscious imitation of emperors, as with Gregory IV’s (827–44) naming of the refortified Ostia as Gregoriopolis and Leo IV’s (847–55) short-lived foundation of Leopolis following the Arab attack on nearby Civitavecchia. In general there appears to have been a striking nostalgia for all things Byzantine, especially in the sphere of titles, names and dress. This became if anything stronger as the century progressed, with growing disenchantment at Frankish barbarism and impotence. Northern writers pointed to the resemblance between the Romans and the Greeks, especially in the pejorative sense of their effeminacy and cowardliness.40 The impact of ‘une sorte de snobisme byzantinisant’41 proved more than a passing fashion, since it helped to build support for renewed political relations between the Roman elite and Byzantium in the tenth century.

 

 

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