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7-08-2015, 21:26

The exarchate and the pentapolis

The other major area within the central bloc of formerly Byzantine territories – the exarchate and the Pentapolis – was also claimed by the popes after 751, but their authority there was always much less effective. These two closely related areas had developed such strong local institutions in the last decades of imperial rule that the area’s takeover by Aistulf had little effect. Ravenna remained dominant as the political and economic centre of the whole region, but power became concentrated in the hands of the city’s archbishop, whose church controlled extensive patrimonies from Ferrara to Perugia and whose patronage secured him the allegiance of local elites throughout Romagna and the Marche. The short-lived Lombard overlordship appears to have been benign, and the king was compelled to hand over both areas to papal authority in 755, in accordance with a peace agreement made at Pavia.43 This settlement aroused bitter opposition in Ravenna and, when Pope Stephen II decided to visit Ravenna in that year in order to make the necessary administrative arrangements, he was refused admission into the city by the local lay and clerical aristocracy, with the apparent connivance of Archbishop Sergius (744–69). A second Frankish expedition proved necessary to make Aistulf fulfil his promises, and a commission of Frankish officials led by Abbot Fulrad was sent to the exarchate. Stephen II despatched two influential Romans, the priest Philip and Duke Eustachius to assume authority in his name; they succeeded in sending the leaders of the local opposition to Rome, where they were imprisoned. Papal administrators such as a vestararius were then sent to the area, but it is unclear how much practical power they were able to exercise. Certainly they faced widespread obstruction and hostility from the local population, and considerable de facto power remained in the hands of the archbishop, whom Agnellus of Ravenna describes as ruling the areas ‘just like an exarch’ and ‘arranging everything as the Romans [i.e. the Byzantines] were accustomed to doing’.44 When Archbishop Sergius entered into negotiations with Aistulf to re-establish Lombard rule, he too was arrested and sent to Rome for trial by a tribunal of judges. At that moment Stephen II died, and his successor as pope, his brother Paul I, considered it expedient to reach a compromise, possibly out of fear of a Byzantine attempt to reconquer the exarchate. Sergius was therefore sent back to his city with the right to conduct the day-to-day administration while the pope’s overall authority was upheld. This arrangement seems to have worked relatively well until Sergius’ death in 769. The Lombard king Desiderius then joined forces with local military elements led by Maurice, duke of Rimini, to impose a strongly anti-Roman cleric namedMichael as archbishop, but he was deposed after a year as a result of popular outrage at his avarice and the arrival of Frankish missi. However, the next, legitimately elected, archbishop, Leo (771–8), was equally hostile to papal claims and proceeded to send an embassy to Charlemagne, much to the anger of PopeHadrian I. The pope complained to Charlemagne that Leo had taken over the cities of Faenza, Forli, Cesena, Sarsina, Comacchio and Ferrara and expelled papal officials in them and in Ravenna itself. Charlemagne took no immediate steps against Leo, who went on a personal visit to Francia to defend his position in the spring of 775. Charlemagne’s reactions are unclear, but Leo certainly behaved as if he had independent control of the exarchate.He claimed that KingDesiderius had granted him Bologna and Imola, had prevented papal representatives from obtaining oaths of loyalty to St Peter, had expelled papal officials and had imprisoned a certain Dominicus, appointed count of Gavello by the pope.45 After the bitter resistance to the papacy led by Archbishops Sergius and Leo, the situation appears to have become more settled for the greater part of Charlemagne’s reign, probably as a result of a compromise agreement.46 The popes retained overall political authority, together with extensive but imprecisely known rights and lands. At the same time practical power was largely in the hands of the archbishop by virtue of his vast patrimonies, his close political and economic ties with the local aristocracy, and his traditional role as focus for the exarchate’s traditions and aspirations. The details of these rights and powers cannot be reconstructed from the very patchy sources; even the lively, contemporary local writer Agnellus (fl. c. 840) is of little help, since the biographies of most of the bishops of this period are missing in the one surviving manuscript of his work. In addition, the presence of the Frankish rulers as kings of Italy complicated matters; even though most of them respected papal claims, they were susceptible to the imperial associations of Ravenna and aware of the strategic importance of the area with its seaports on the Adriatic and its proximity to the Byzantine possessions in Venetia. Frankish missi were also active in the area; Pope Leo III shows awareness of this in letters addressed to Charlemagne: he complains of scandalous utterances made to visiting missi by Archbishop Valerius (806–10); and judgements made by missi in favour of the papacy were being flouted.47 This interest of the Franks in the region was exploited with some success by the archbishops of Ravenna in order to obtain privileges.48 The rule of Pope Leo III appears to have been particularly unpopular in Ravenna and encouraged the archbishops to solicit Frankish support. Charlemagne seems to have turned a deaf ear to such requests, but the strongly anti-Roman Archbishop Martin (810–17) apparently had success in winning Frankish support against papal claims through a mixture of sycophancy and bribes. The line taken by his successor, Petronax (817–34) was arguably more pro-papal, to judge from critical allusions in Agnellus’ work and the privilege which he received from Pope Paschal I (817–24) in 819. When Louis the Pious’ son Lothar I took effective control as king of Italy in 822, he seems to have built up strong links with major sees such as Ravenna. The next archbishop, George (834–846), attempted to exploit Lothar’s poor relations with Rome to undermine the papal position, and his policy may have been to seek a return to the autocephalous status granted by Constans II rather than the more limited autonomy sought by Sergius and Leo.49 Certainly the gradual penetration of Frankish authority continued within the exarchate, as is demonstrated by a legal case brought about by the advocatus of the archbishop and decided by imperial missi at Rovigo in 838.50 However, George incurred the opposition of his clergy through his personal greed and his costly recourse to bribery of his royal benefactors.51 Even more bitter hostility to papal overlordship broke out under archbishopsDeusdedit (846–50) and John VIII (850–78). The latter dominated the exarchate in conjunction with his brother Duke Gregory and displayed his independence at the time of his consecration by altering the pledges of loyalty to the papacy and Frankish empire which newprelateswere expected to sign.He cooperated closely with Louis II, who may have been attempting to incorporate the exarchate within the kingdom of Italy. Unfortunately, like other ambitious Ravenna prelates, he appears to have feathered his own nest and alienated local interests in his opposition to Rome. In February 861, Pope Nicholas I responded to complaints against John by summoning a council in Rome. There the archbishop was excommunicated for heresy, violation of the rights of his clergy, especially his suffragan bishops, and interference with Roman rights in the exarchate. John’s appeals to Louis for help proved fruitless, and in a second council of November 861 John acknowledged his guilt and suffered the humiliation of receiving back his see from the pope on strict conditions. Nevertheless, he continued to make trouble for Nicholas I’s successors, and was roundly denounced in Pope John VIII’s (872–82) letters for usurpation of papal property.52 The crisis over the succession to the Frankish empire which followed the death of Louis II in 875 gave Archbishop John new opportunities. He sided with the Roman faction led by Formosus, bishop of Porto, which supported Louis the German and Charles the Bald, and in 876 armed pro-Formosan elements sacked the property of papal followers, seized the keys of Ravenna from the papal vestararius and handed them over to the archbishop.53 Despite their difficulties, the popes had some success in countering this separatist feeling through the backing of their officials and pro-Roman elements in the exarchate and by holding regular councils in Ravenna, as in 874, 877 and 898. Thus Archbishop Romanus (878–88) was excommunicated for his anti-Roman policy in 881 and failed in his attempt to appoint his successor. However, an important change in the balance of forces occurred towards the close of the ninth century. The rule of the Carolingian emperors was replaced by that of local Italian monarchs, who visited the exarchate more often and held assemblies representing their whole kingdom in Ravenna. As a result the exarchate and the Pentapolis became more integrated into the kingdom of Italy, as is reflected in the dating system of documents from Ravenna from around 898 on. Since royal authority was weak, the main beneficiaries were the archbishops who retained their metropolitan status and great prestige, wealth and patronage networks.54 By the end of the ninth century, however, the area had lost much of its traditional Romano-Byzantine character; a centralised administration system had been replaced by family and patrimonial ties between the Ravenna elite and local elements, and dynastic links were beginning to be forged with neighbouring Germanic families from Tuscany and the Po valley.55 The nature of the Byzantine legacy in the exarchate is difficult to assess despite the comparative wealth of evidence, furnished especially by Agnellus and the papyrus and parchment documents preserved by the church of Ravenna.56 The evidence of the documents reveals remarkable continuity in theGreek and Roman names employed, in the use of Romano-Byzantine titles such as magister militum, dux, tribunus and consul, in the division and management of land, and, most significantly, in the close relations of the lay military elite with the see of Ravenna. This nexus was cemented through the leasing out of church land on generous terms, a practice deriving from an officially encouraged policy of the imperial period.57 Paradoxically, clear Greek cultural elements were limited in Ravenna, the residence of the emperor’s representative. Although there is some evidence for the continued existence of Greek monasteries after 751, it is very limited compared with Rome, and the liturgical or other influence from the east on the see was slight. Nor is there any trace of the translation activity or literary composition in Greek so evident in Rome.58 Although Agnellus’ work includes a sizeable number of Greek terms, his attitude to the Byzantines is one of contempt, and this view was apparently shared by most of his compatriots. 59 A letter which Patriarch Photios (858–67, 877–86) addressed to the archbishop of Ravenna is likely to have been less a reflection of the traditional links between Ravenna and the east than a desire to cause difficulties for the pope with a prelate known to be independent-minded.60 Even so, there may have been a vestigial attachment to the eastern empire in certain outlying areas of the exarchate, especially those close to the Byzantine province of Venetia; thus a document from Rovigo near Padua was dated by the regnal years of the Byzantine emperors as late as 826.

 

 

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