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The unity of Italy was first established by the Romans, who, in the second century before our era, conquered Cisalpine Gaul, and reached the barrier of the Alps. This unity really consisted in unfailing submission to the Romans and to the masters who were appointed by them. Next to the senate and the magistrates of the Republic came the Italian and provincial emperors, and then the Gothic kings of Ravenna. These were replaced, in the middle of the sixth century, by a re-establishment of the imperial rule, under the auspices of the Emperor of Constantinople. All these revolutions had taken place without any parcelling out of the land, for although there had been frequent change of authority, it had always been of the same nature. The last change resembled the close of a long and disastrous war. Now, however, people were beginning to forget not only the prosperous reigns of Theodoric and Amalasontus, but even the miseries of the Gothic war, and congratulated themselves on living peacefully under the distant though unmistakable rule of the Emperor Justinian.

This happy state of affairs was interrupted in 569 by the Lombard invasion. At the same time the unity of Italy received a mortal blow, from which it took many centuries to recover. Not that Alboin wished to harm it, for he would willingly have supported it could he have done so to his own advantage. But his people had neither military power, nor unity of purpose enough, to set themselves against the whole of Italy, nor could they hold the same position of authority as the Goths had done. Besides, the Byzantine empire, suffering from the inroads of the Avars in the north, and the Persians and Arabs in the east, were no longer in a condition to live up to the high ideals of Justinian. The dilapidated state of its military and financial power enabled it to offer but a desultory opposition to the attacks of the German barbarians. Towards the close of the sixth century the Roman defence was represented by two efforts not tending in the same direction. One—that of a boundless, unconquerable, but impotent hopefulness—was embodied in the person of the Exarch Romanus—a lieutenant of the Emperor Maurice. The other, that of local interests and practical claims, was led by the diplomatic Pope Gregory. This last effort was the only one which, under the circumstances, had any chance of success. It resulted in peace, but at the same time, in the loss of Italian unity, for the imperial rule was divided with the Lombards.

Henceforward there were two Italies — the Lombard and the Byzantine. The former was subject to the barbarian masters of Northern Tuscany and the Valley of the Po, and the latter to the Roman Emperor of the East. The Byzantine power in Italy was steadily declining, and, being driven from the interior, was with difficulty sustained on the coast of Genoa, the Venetian lagoons, and the southern peninsulas. The two parties were never at peace for long together, and the Lombards did not at all agree with the Byzantines, who considered that they had yielded enough. The Lombard power became more and more firmly established in the conquered territory, and they finally found themselves in a position to accomplish issues for which the strength of Alboin and his followers had been inadequate. On all sides their plans of conquest were renewed, and they were rapidly gaining control of the coast. As early as the seventh century Rotharis had annexed the Ligurian sea-coast as well as the remaining imperial territory at the end of the Adriatic. The duchy of Beneventum was rapidly increasing its power; it took possession of Salerno, the Lucanian coast and maritime Apulia, and, following in the wake of the retreating Byzantines, extended its sway as far as Otranto and Calabria. In the time of St. Gregory it was still possible to journey from the Venetian islands right down to the Straits of Messina without leaving imperial ground. But now things were changed. The Lombard power was making itself felt all along the line of Byzantine possession, attacking any undefended positions, and breaking up the imperial domain. The possessions that remained in the far south —Otranto, Gallipoli, and Reggio— looked to Sicily for help, and, thanks to the friendly sea, the promontories of Sorrento, Naples, and Gaeta held out with fair success. The island of Rialto, 011 which Venice was beginning to rise, became the centre of the lagoons of the north. Rome and Ravenna, though but poorly equipped, were engaged in a painful struggle in mid-Italy. While Rome, on her side, enjoyed a religious deference inspired by her sanctuaries, Ravenna's only protecting influence lay in the majesty of the frail and distant empire. Liutprand, evidently at deadly enmity with them both, was gaining great successes. Sutri, Narni, Sora, Cumes, Osimo, Ancona, Bologna, Cesena, and even Ravenna's own port, Classis, all yielded to the Lombard king, or to the Dukes of Spoleto and Beneventum. Negotiations, and even strategical manoeuvres were essayed, not always in vain. The Pope tried the effect of entreaties and offers of money, but in spite of an occasional success it was obvious that the country surrounding Rome and Ravenna would soon be completely subjugated, and that finally the cities themselves would be obliged to yield.

Affairs in Italy were already going badly enough, when the Byzantine government contrived to quarrel with the Holy See. They disagreed on the fiscal question, and, what was more important still, on religious matters. Pope Gregory II, as the defender of the Church's patrimony, thought fit to protest against certain new impositions. This opposition had an adverse effect upon the emperor's financial plans, for the Church of Rome owned valuable property in Sicily, Calabria, and the other Byzantine districts, and the Pope was the richest contributor in Italy. But the final blow was the quarrel about images, in which the government interfered with the services of the Church and tried to impose upon the Pope religious regulations which had not even been submitted to his approval. Gregory II, in alarm, protested, and all Italy, Romans and Lombards alike, rallied round him.

He was, however, always a faithful subject of the empire, and though he organised resistance, he did not for a moment intend it as an act of rebellion. It must be admitted that the Byzantine officials tried his loyalty severely, for, from their point of view, it was the Pope, and not the Lombards, against whom they had to fight. They were under orders to despatch him, and if the worst came to the worst, they did not mean to stop short of assassination. The Exarch Paul even sent troops to Rome, which was on the side of the Pope. But the Lombards came to their assistance, and Paul had to retreat to Ravenna. There he soon found himself in an unpleasant position, for the Venetian and Pentapolitan troops refused to obey him, and even threatened to announce the fall of Leo the Isaurian, to proclaim another emperor, and to lead him to Constantinople. The Pope, however, managed to calm this undue enthusiasm.

The unfortunate Exarch perished at Ravenna, in a riot, brought about by the general discontent. Another, Eutychius by name, was sent by the emperor to take his place. He was the last of the Exarchs. Having been furnished with the same instructions as his predecessor, he at first adopted the same tactics; but the resistance which he encountered led him to try to break through the bond, which religious defence had established between the Pope and the Lombards. From the Byzantine point of view this alliance was most undesirable. There was no great harmony between the Lombards of the kingdom and those of the two duchies of Spoleto and Beneventum. These duchies had, from the first, enjoyed the privilege of self-government, a privilege which had only strengthened as time went on. They were, it is true, attached to the Lombard State, but with ties as loose as those which, on the other side of the Alps, bound the duchies of Aquitaine, Alamanny, and Bavaria to the Frankish kingdom. King Liutprand sought every opportunity of making his authority felt in these detached provinces. He responded to the overtures of the new Exarch, and they both united in an effort to restore Spoleto and Beneventum to the royal dominion, and Rome to that of the imperial representative.

This amiable alliance gave general satisfaction, though the result was hardly what the emperor would have desired. The king entered Spoleto and received the submission of the two dukes; then, accompanied by the Exarch, he went on to Rome, or rather to St. Peter's, where they were received by Pope Gregory. Liutprand was a Christian prince, as well as an experienced politician, and he and the Pope agreed to sacrifice the aggressive policy of the emperor against the Holy See. There seems to have been much interchange of courtesies, and the king overwhelmed St. Peter's with gifts. Then, to show that they harboured no ill-feeling towards the Emperor of Constantinople, the Romans, headed by the Exarch, set out under the imperial banner to put down a rival of Leo the Isaurian, who had seized a favourable opportunity to land in a corner of Roman Tuscia. This Petasius or Tiberius, as he was called, was killed at Monterano, and from that time the Exarch of Ravenna ceased his machinations against the Roman pontiff. The emperor, if not the empire, was practically ignored, and the administrative power was distributed in such a way as enabled them to arrange matters among themselves without asking the imperial opinion.

The situation soon became clear. As a result of the iconoclast dispute the patriarch Germanus of Constantinople (730) was compelled to resign. Gregory II not only refused to recognise his successor, but severely reprimanded the prince who was the cause of all these disturbances. The Pope died soon after (731), but his policy was continued by Gregory III, who came after him. He even added force to his convictions by sending ambassadors to Constantinople, but Leo, far from giving way, managed to rid himself of these unwelcome guests by means of bribery and intimidation. Most often they were stopped on their way by the cruisers of the Sicilian patrician. The property of the Holy See in Sicily and in the other Byzantine possessions in the south of Italy was seized, and the bishops of these districts were despatched to Constantinople. Once there they could not go to Rome for consecration, and they were regarded as subject to the authority of the patriarch of the imperial city.

The Exarch's reconciliation with the Pope did not tend to increase his popularity with his chiefs, and availed but little against the Lombard attacks. Gregory II had almost succeeded in protecting the Roman territory against his enterprising neighbours. Liutprand had yielded to his claims upon Lutri, though Narni was still in the grip of the Duke of Spoleto. Round Ancona and Ravenna the imperial power was decreasing to such an extent that Ravenna herself succumbed to the Lombards, and the Exarch Eutychius was obliged to take refuge at Venice. In compliance with the wishes of Gregory III the  Venetians soon sent him back to Ravenna, and the Exarchate continued for some years longer.

Just then the tranquillity of the situation was almost upset by a political indiscretion. The Dukes of Spoleto and Beneventum reasserted themselves, and assumed an independent attitude towards King Liutprand. Their neighbours at Rome, who could no longer resist the temptation to take an active part in Italian affairs, were unfortunately inspired to interfere in the quarrels which ensued. The king invaded Spoleto, expelled Duke Trasimund, and installed another in his place. The outraged duke sought refuge at Rome, and when the Romans refused to give him up to Liutprand, the latter seized upon Ameria, Orte, Bomarzo, and Blera, four places in the north of the duchy. Being now at open enmity with the Romans, his followers organised a series of pillaging expeditions in their domains, pushing their depredations even to the very gates of Rome.

Their interference seemed likely to cost the Romans dear. Gregory III in this extremity besought Liutprand to restore the four towns that he had taken. This request being, not unnaturally, refused, the Pope had recourse to the extreme measure of imploring help from France. Relays of messengers, charged with eloquent letters and presents, and bearing the Keys of the Confession of St. Peter, were despatched to Charles Martel. Special attention was called by them to the plundering of the Roman territory, which was exhausting the revenues of St. Peter to such an extent that the illumination of the apostolic sanctuary had to suffer curtailment. Charles received the Pope's representatives with due respect, and even sent an embassy in return. The Romans, however, could expect but little help from this quarter,  for the relations between Charles and Liutprand were too harmonious to be disturbed. Only a short time before, the young Frankish prince, Pepin (the future conqueror of Astolphus) had been sent by his father to have his head shorn by Liutprand, in token of military adoption. In the same year (739), the Lombard king had, in response to Charles's appeal, united with him against their common enemies, the Saracens, who were invading Provence. Besides, the Franks were not ignorant of the state of affairs in Italy, and they realised that the Romans had themselves to blame, in some measure at least, for the position in which they found themselves. If they were in difficulties, they must get out of them as best they could, such was the Frankish opinion.

In time, the Romans succeeded in overcoming the difficulty, but not without bloodshed. With unwonted and commendable energy, they undertook to subjugate the duchy of Spoleto, not for themselves, but for their confederate, Trasimund. One division of the army fell upon Abruzzo, while the other devoted its attention to the despoiling of Rieti and Spoleto. An entry was easily secured, and Trasimund, after giving orders that Duke Frederic, Liutprand's protege, should have his throat cut, established himself in his place. This was in December 740.

After this, it seemed that the least he could do was to show his gratitude to the Romans by helping them to regain the places they had lost in supporting his cause. There were, however, difficulties in the way. Trasimund saw that he would have his work cut out to maintain authority in his duchy, and apparently he did not feel equal to engaging in operations so  far from home. Liutprand, meanwhile, was leisurely preparing to bear down upon his refractory vassal of Spoleto, his ally, the Duke of Beneventum, and their good friends of Rome. The year 741 was passed in expectation. The Romans in vain demanded their towns from the helpless Trasimund. In the midst of all this, in the month of December, the Pope died, just a year after the triumphal entry into Spoleto. The same year also witnessed the passing of the two great Princes of the East and West, Leo the Isaurian (June 18), and Charles of France (October 22).

The Romans were in sore need of a man of wisdom who would guide them with his counsel. Pope Zachary, who was immediately elected, had no difficulty in explaining to them their situation and prospects. Liutprand and his army were about to descend upon them, secure that no opposition was to be feared on that side of the Alps. Had not Spoleto and Beneventum already twice succumbed to the king of the Lombards, and was it probable that the Roman forces, though not to be despised, could hold out against him? There seemed every chance that they would be defeated, and it was hardly likely under the circumstances that the king would yield to the Pope's petitions that Rome should be spared. Their best course would be to forsake their faithless ally, Trasimund, and enlist themselves on the stronger side. They might then have occasion to render the king some service, which would redound to their advantage.

So it was arranged. The king, being approached by the Pope, promised not to molest the duchy of Rome, and further, to restore to them their lost towns.  As soon as he drew near to Spoleto the Roman army advanced to his assistance. Trasimund made an unconditional surrender, and the Pope, fearing that the king's promises might be as easily broken as those of the Duke of Spoleto, sallied forth to remind him of them, and at the same time to come to an understanding with him on other matters, ecclesiastical as well as political. The interview, which took place at Terni, was most satisfactory. The king agreed to keep peace with the duchy of Rome for twenty years, and restored not only the four towns, but also the imperial prisoners and the estates of the Holy See which had been annexed in the foregoing years.

The Romans were not alone in experiencing the truth of the saying that persuasion is often more effective than force. The following year Liutprand, not content with Bologna and Imola, seized upon the town of Cesena and even upon part of the land belonging to Ravenna. In response to the terrified appeal of the Ravennese, Pope Zachary hastened to their help, leaving the government of Rome to Stephen, patrician and duke. On 29th June, 743, he interviewed Liutprand at Pavia, and once more the Lombard king yielded to the peaceful tactics of the Pope, and Ravenna, for the time being, remained under the Byzantine sway.

At the beginning of the next year, 744, the long and glorious reign of Liutprand came to an end. Impertinently enough, Zachary's biographer attributes his death to the prayers of the Pope, who had had so much reason to be grateful to him. We must, however, for Zachary's honour, look upon this as the slander of an unprincipled eulogist. Be this as it may, the new king, Ratchis, at first appeared as well disposed as his predecessor. Like him, he granted the Pope's request for a twenty years' peace. But this was only to affect the duchy of Rome, and the Lombard king soon resumed the war against the emperor, in the neighbourhood of Pentapolis and Perugia. He was besieging the latter when he was surprised by the Pope. Once more was the king obliged to yield to his irresistible eloquence, and deliver up the prey that he had already grasped. Indeed, Zachary's blandishments were so effectual that Ratchis not only abandoned the siege of Perugia but he actually abdicated the Lombard throne (749) and entered upon a religious career. He, with his whole family, withdrew to St. Peter's at Rome, and finally settled at Monte Cassino.

Zachary's ambition had overleapt itself. He might have been thankful at having to deal with such kings as Liutprand and Ratchis, instead of rejoicing at their deaths or driving them into convents. The new king, Astolphus, proved himself less amenable to the Pope's influence, and matters began immediately to assume a threatening aspect. He began by settling the affairs of Ravenna and Pentapolis, and at Zachary's death, in March 752, the imperial rule was definitely abolished in those regions. In fact, to the north of the Apennines, the lagoons of Venice alone acknowledged the dominion of the Byzantine emperor.



St. Gregory the Great was, in modern parlance, an excellent patriot, in spite of the fact that he was the chief representative of the submissive policy which assented to the division of Italy between the Lombards and the empire. In theory his sorrow was as keen as the hopes of the Exarch Romanus, but in practice he was as much interested as anybody in the safety and prosperity of the empire. Fortunately for the imperial progress, his successors were animated with the same spirit. The Pope, indeed, was a mighty moral power which, had the boundary line between the spiritual and the temporal sphere been less jealously defined, would probably have become a powerful political factor. Over the frontiers he held communication with other races— the Franks, the Visigoths, the Anglo-Saxons, the Bavarians, and, in particular, with the Lombards, who heard him the more willingly as their converts increased in number. He held quite an exceptional situation in the interior of Byzantine Italy. It is a mere theological quibble to speak of the Bishop of Rome at any time as of an ordinary bishop. It is an historical quibble, in connection with a Pope of the  sixth, seventh, or eighth century, to lay stress on his subordinate relation to the Emperor of Constantinople. Undoubtedly, from a theoretical point of view, he was a subject, for the emperor was supreme ruler of the empire. But in reality the Pope was elected by the Romans at Rome, and his appointment received the imperial sanction, merely as a matter of form. He was in this way distinguished from the highest dignitaries, particularly from the Exarch. His authority was independent of the emperor, and though his renown shone forth both within and without the empire, it was certainly with no reflection of Byzantine glory. Indeed he really owed his prestige and position to the influence of St. Peter. The succession of St. Peter, the See of St. Peter, the authority of St. Peter, the tomb of St. Peter—all these counted for much in the atmosphere of respect and admiration which surrounded the apostolic representative.

The Papal influence was by no means confined to the Church. The Pope's experience, his moral authority, his sound financial position, and his powers of administration were a valuable help in the conduct of temporal affairs. We see him concerning himself, apparently in no meddlesome spirit, with war operations, the arrangement of treaties, the appointment of officials, the management of the State ex­chequer, as well as with municipal enterprises, such as the repairing of ramparts and aqueducts and schemes for the public food supply.

But, in spite of the solicitude for the general welfare, the Pope's influence was more particularly concentrated on his own immediate surroundings— above all on Rome. He certainly busied himself in both the political and military affairs of Ravenna and  Naples, but it was the needs, temporal though they might be, of his spiritual flock which specially claimed his attention and sympathy. As might have been expected, the result of this condition of affairs was the creation around the apostolic sanctuary of a kind of holy ground, whose limits spread beyond the city, even to the boundary line of the duchy of Rome.

The extent of the duchy, which was the province of the duke and other military authorities who resided at Rome, had been defined by the limits of the Lombard invasion. In Liutprand's day it included, between the Tiber and the coast, part of ancient Tuscia, called Roman Tuscia, to distinguish it from Lombard Tuscia, now Tuscany. The most northerly places on this side were Centumcellae (Civita Vecchia) on the sea, and Orte on the Tiber, and, between the two, Blera (Bieda), Sutri, and Bomarzo. On the other side of the Tiber, not very far from Orte, on the line between Perugia and Rome, was the town of Amelia, which was under Roman jurisdiction. Except for this one place, the left bank of the Tiber, as far as the outskirts of Monte Rotondo, belonged to the duchy of Spoleto. The first Roman towns were Nomentum and Tilsur; then the frontier line followed the mountains behind Prenesto, Anagni, Alatri, and Veroli as far as the Liris, where it turned off to Terracina.

This ducatus Romanus had originally been merely a military province, like the duchies of Naples or Venetia. The duke was subject to the Exarch, and the exercitus Romanus was a division of the Byzantine army commanded by the vice-emperor of Ravenna. But these relations did not last very long. There arose divisions, induced by the peculiar configuration of Byzantine Italy, the difficulties in the way of communication, and the differences of outlook fostered by such conditions. Matters were worse still when, about the year 727, in virtue of their resistance to the iconoclastic fiats of Leo the Isaurian, the commissioned officials were banished to Constantinople, and native dukes elected in their places. Henceforth each duchy was practically in­dependent, though there was a kind of federation among them. This state of affairs was all the more unavoidable as the superior authority, the Exarch, had apparently freed himself from the imperial power, and was disporting himself, like an ordinary duke, in the province of Ravenna, which was visibly disappearing as the Lombard conquests increased.

Under these circumstances it is far from surprising that Rome should embark on a political career of her own. We see her concluding alliances, declaring war, and signing treaties. She it is and not the Exarch with whom Trasimund, Duke of Spoleto, negotiates at different times, and with whom King Liutprand arranges the Peace of Terni in 742. Ravenna is treated in quite a different manner. Without so much as asking permission the prince seizes upon her lands, towns, and even her capital. On the other hand, if he feels inclined to annex parts  of the duchy of Rome, Sutri, Blera, Bomarzo, Orte, or Amelia, he restores them without much difficulty. This was, undoubtedly, an idiosyncrasy, for the Duke of Spoleto, who in his reign took possession of both Narni and Sabina, was by no means so easily pre­vailed upon to part with them. Still there is no doubt that Rome was treated very differently from Ravenna. The real reason for this favouritism was that Rome was under the protection of St. Peter and his vicar, and not that the Lombard king considered that they had any special claim upon his good will. Owing to the repeated solicitations of the Pope, who spared neither pains nor money in the cause, Sutri was restored, after an occupation of several months. The king intended it as a gift to the Apostles Peter and Paul. Gallesa, on which the Duke of Spoleto had long cast a covetous eye, was finally included again. But this was really due to a money arrangement entered into by Pope Gregory III. It was Pope Zachary with whom Liutprand, on two different occasions, both directly $nd indirectly, settled the question of restoring the four towns by official charter. There is no mention of any military representatives accompanying the Pope to Terni. He and his clergy were alone, and, under these circumstances, a twenty years' truce was concluded with the duchy of Rome. Again, it was with Pope Stephen I that Astolphus negotiated, before making war on the Romans.

In keeping with all this is the form by which the inhabitants of the duchy of Rome were introduced to the foreign princes, whose aid was sought. They were called the "peculiar people of St. Peter and the Church." Apart from any rhetorical exaggeration, this expression seems to be typical of the relations between the Pope and his people. There was a very strong feeling among the Romans that they must look for help and sympathy in the approaching crisis to the Pope and St. Peter rather than to the distant empire of Constantinople.

Peaceable relations with the latter were now resumed. Following upon the iconoclastic quarrel, there had been a series of disagreements, one counterbalancing the other, the final effect of which had been to produce a kind of equilibrium. True, the emperor's decision had been opposed, his representatives banished, and his authority reduced to a mere name. But to have no relations at all with the Romans was surely better than to have disagreeable stories. The emperor had been obliged to relinquish the Pope's help in his plans for religious reform, but, on the other hand, the imperial treasury had been considerably augmented by the confiscation of the papal patrimonies in Sicily. The union, in brief, was not dissolved, but there was no longer any intimacy between the parties. The result made for peace.

There was even an exchange of amities. Pope Zachary sent envoys with letters to his contemporary, Constantine V, with intent as much personal as ecclesiastical. These letters, unlike the despatches of Gregory III, arrived safely, but the messengers, on reaching Constantinople, found a revolution in full swing. This was brought about by the claims of one Artavasde to the imperial throne. Constantine, the legal heir of Leo the Iconoclast, was himself an iconoclast, while his rival held orthodox views. There ensued a sharp and exciting struggle, in which Constantine hastened to besiege Artavasde in his capital, and finally succeeded in gaining the upper hand, 2nd November 744. The envoys were treading on delicate ground, but as soon as Constantine was reinstated at Constantinople they appeared before him and were graciously received. He acceded to the Pope's request that, to make up for the loss of his Sicilian estates, he should be granted at least the two domains of Norma and Nimfa, in the neighbourhood of Rome. The envoys, after this satisfactory interview, returned home with a substantial present.

The effect of the iconoclastic struggle upon Italian affairs has been greatly exaggerated. Certainly there were at first a few critical years to be passed through, but, as the imperial power in the north and centre of Italy was practically extinct, its interference in religious affairs was no longer to be dreaded. The necessary declarations had been made by the Popes Gregory II and Gregory III, and constant reiteration would have been futile. It was no longer an Italian but an eastern question. The Holy See was particularly involved, not only because all religious matters, however distant, were her peculiar province, but also because the forfeiture  of her Sicilian patrimonies and the dividing up of her ecclesiastical department which ensued affected her very deeply. Again, as was shown by the gift of Norma and Nimfa, certain mitigations might be hoped for. After the embittered attitude of the first few years, a new phase of a more or less diplomatic nature had been entered upon.

The Roman duchy, in brief, was about to become a self-governing state, nominally subject to the Greek empire, but really attached to it by very loose bonds. Venice and Naples were in the same position. In both places a local autonomy was being organised on the strength of their strong maritime positions. Naples could also rely upon efficient support from the Patrician of Sicily. That island was being organised under a military government, presided over by the local duke.

These three autonomies contrived to exist for many a long year. That of Naples received its death-blow at the hands of the Norman King Roger in 1139. The other two were much longer lived. As late as 1797 they were attacked by Buonaparte, and again in 1870 by General Cadorna. Indeed, these officers might almost be said to have fired on the Roman empire.

Let us now turn our attention to the duchy of Rome, to its situation at the death of Zachary (752), and to the series of events which, while delivering it out of the hands of the Lombards, yet indirectly strengthened the opposition of the other two.




Astolphus, who succeeded Ratchis in 749, did not long leave Ravenna in peace. The exact date of his seizure of the town is not known, but there is no doubt that the Exarchate came to a miserable end, so miserable, indeed, that we have no record of its last moments. All that we know is that, from the month of July 751, the Lombard king was established in the Exarchal palace, and that thenceforward his sway extended over the whole of the ancient imperial territory between the Po, the Adriatic, and the Apennines. Even Gubbio, the other side of the mountains, had succumbed to him, but Perugia, Todi, Amelia, and the duchy of Rome were not yet captured. Astolphus was meditating a descent on the latter, when the newly elected Pope Stephen, despatched ambassadors, who succeeded in bringing about a peace which was to last for forty years. They were Ambrose, the chief (primiceriusi) of the notaries, and the Pope's own brother, Paul. These negotiations took place in June 752, but, by the following autumn, the treaty was violated. The Pope's biographer does not enlarge upon the fact, and the  Lombard king's reasons for perjuring himself are not given.

Hostilities, however, were not renewed, and Astolphus seems to have contented himself with levying a poll tax of a gold sou on the inhabitants of Rome. He further proposed, greatly to the consternation of the Romans, to extend his jurisdiction over Rome and its dependencies, thus creating a sort of protectorate. The Pope, not thinking it discreet to send any of his own ambassadors to the king a second time, despatched two Lombard subjects, the abbots of Monte Cassino and St. Vincent of Vulturno. These could, of course, represent things from a religious point of view only. They had no effect on Astolphus, who sent them back to their convents, with orders not to return to Rome.

The situation was becoming serious. The Romans and the Pope, preoccupied with the dangers which threatened them at home, naturally did not give much thought to the late Exarchy. At Constantinople, on the other hand, they could not realise the changes that were taking place in Italy, and innocently imagined that a little diplomacy was all that was required in order to insure the return of the annexed provinces. An important dignitary, John the Silentiary, was sent to Rome with one imperial letter for the King of the Lombards; and another to the Pope, invoking his good offices. Stephen, therefore, deputed his brother Paul to support the Silentiary at his interview with Astolphus. The king was then at Ravenna, and, though his reply was somewhat vague, he gave orders that a Lombard ambassador should accompany John back to the emperor. On his way through Rome, the Byzantine envoy acquainted the Pope with the non-success  of his errand, and the latter entrusted him with letters explaining the position of affairs once more, and urging the emperor to take definite steps in the matter.

With the approach of winter, the outlook became still more gloomy. The most alarming rumours sprang up and grew apace. Astolphus, it was said, meant to have all the Romans beheaded. The protection of religion was sought. The most sacred mysteries were carried in procession, in particular the great acherophite picture of the Saviour, which is still preserved in the Lateran. The Pope was prolific in prayers, litanies, and exhortations, and a copy of the treaty, broken by the terrible Lombard king, was fastened to the stational cross.

So far, however, Astolphus had confined himself to threats. The only noteworthy event of the war seems to have been the seizure of the Castle of Ceccano, part of the ecclesiastical patrimony. This castle was situated close to the southern frontier, on the side of the duchy of Beneventum, and was a somewhat important centre of agricultural operations. Astolphus was, at this time, awaiting the return of his ambassador from Constantinople, and the seizure of Ceccano was probably due less to his efforts than to those of the duke.

What was to be the result of these negotiations, and what could be expected from the Pope's representations to the emperor of the need for his intervention? Constantine had so much to do at home, that he could not effectually enter into the affairs of these distant provinces. He would probably advise them to get out of their difficulties as best they could. It would not be the first time that this attitude had been adopted towards the Romans. From  the beginning of the Lombard war the Emperor Tiberius II had maintained it.

If the goodwill of the Lombard king could not be counted on, the only solution of the problem was either to resign themselves to the annexation, or to prevent it by calling in the help of the Franks.

There was, apparently, no insuperable religious objection to the annexation. There is certainly no sign of it, either in the papal correspondence, or in the other documents of the time. We must not be misled by the frequent evangelical allusions to the "lost sheep" which the Pope, like a good shepherd, wishes to wrest from the wolf, or, in other words, the Lombard king. The sheepfold in question was a political, rather than a religious one, and there was nothing to fear for the sheep from an ecclesiastical point of view. The Pope had often to deplore the Lombard depredations in the Roman territory, but these were merely the accidents of war, or psychological means, similar to the bombardments of modern times. The Lombards, to defend themselves against the Romans, or to effect their surrender, laid waste the country by fire. They followed the universal custom and plundered, in order to live, and also to gain some advantage from the war. In more than one case the havoc made among church property savoured of sacrilege, but, at that time, warriors with any respect for ecclesiastical belongings were few and far between. The followers of Astolphus are accused of having stolen some sacred corpses from the Catacombs, in order to cherish them in their monasteries. The theft of relics in the eighth century and since, has been all over  Christendom, a very common and readily condoned sin.

These unpleasant occurrences were, however, all  connected with the conditions of war. The ordinary relations between the Lombards and their Roman neighbours were by this time again of a tolerably friendly nature. The Aryan and pagan element brought into Italy by the Conquest had long been absorbed. The Lombards were all Catholics, and had recently proved their faith by helping to defend Pope Gregory II against the proceedings of the Exarchs. Their princes, Liutprand, Ratchis, Aistulf, and Didier, far from being infidels, were men of piety, with a taste for founding monasteries and supporting churches, and full of the deepest respect for the sanctuaries of Rome and the apostolic See. The Romans, indeed, would not have lost much, in passing from the Byzantine to the Lombard rule. Even as part of the Lombard kingdom, Rome would have remained a holy city and a living link with the rest of Christendom. She would still have been the resort of pilgrims, and the Pope could have continued his somewhat restricted interest in the religious affairs of both the East and the West. Astolphus had his traditional capital at Pavia, and he had just conquered Ravenna, the capital of the Exarchs and of the Gothic kings. It was, therefore, improbable that the seat of government would have been moved to Rome. From the conditions which the Lombards wished to impose upon the Romans, we gather that the latter would in some measure have retained the power of self-government, under the protection of their pontiff, and that it would have been a case of ordinary annexation.

The stumbling-block in the way was that the Romans in general, and the Pope in particular, did not wish to be Lombard subjects. They considered as derogatory any alliance with a people whom they regarded as barbarians, and who were personally distasteful to them. All kinds of rumours concerning the Lombard inferiority obtained credence. It was said that leprosy flourished among them, that they were malodorous, and so on. Their laws, as well as their manners and customs, were uncongenial to the Romans; the Lombard law was strongly imbued with German tradition, while the Roman law had been religiously preserved from the tables of stone up to the time of Justinian. Then again, the Lombards and the Romans had quite a different way of dressing, and of wearing their hair and beards. Any change of nationality, such as was bound to accompany an annexation of this kind, would immediately be followed by a modification of these habits. In those days the barber followed closely in the wake of the conqueror and the diplomat.

These are but trifles, we say. Truly, but one might go far to seek the Englishman who would not object to wear the pigtail and flowing garb of the Chinese, or the Chinaman who would willingly adopt our national habits. Apart, too, from these material considerations, there was a certain subtle and sacred prestige attached to the mere fact of being a Roman. It was no mean thing, they thought, to be a member of the Holy Republic, and the subject of a man who was, after all, the heir of Augustus and Constantine.

This question of escape from the Lombards was, therefore, a vital one for the Romans of the eighth century. The Pope and the clergy were at one with their compatriots in this matter, fortunately for the maintenance of the ecclesiastical influence. They espoused the cause of the autonomy without any coercion, but from no particular religious feeling in the matter.

The main point, however, was, not that the autonomy should be established under the protection of any outside monarch, but that its interior organisation should be under the supervision of none other than the Pope himself. Although at Naples and Venice the bishop was of some political importance, it was the Byzantine duke who was governor of the little republic. At Rome, too, they had a duke whose title corresponded precisely with that of his Venetian and Neapolitan colleagues. Like them he was, at one and the same time, civil chief and military governor; it was upon him that depended the whole administration and the whole staff of the Judices. The whole military body—the exercitus Romanus, as it was called—including the aristocratic cavalry, the urban foot soldiers, and the garrisons with their tribunes—all these were under his command. He was undoubtedly a most important personage. But besides the felicissimus exercitus, the venerabilis clerus was no inconsiderable figure. He, too, had his district organisation, his aristocracy, his proceres Ecclesiae, his deacons, his cardinal priests, his chefs de service, and his suburban bishops. This hierarchy culminated in the apostolic Lord, the Vicar of St. Peter, the High Priest of the Roman sanctuaries, the Primate of the bishops of the whole world, and doctor of the Church Universal, i.e. a dignitary who, even apart from his religious importance, exercised over Italy a moral and political influence beyond compare. For the Pope to have been subject to the duke as the Venetian Patriarch was subject to the Doge would have been an incongruous and untenable position.

As a matter of fact, even at the first, affairs apparently showed not the slightest tendency towards this attitude. True, the Holy See had come into collision with the Emperor of Constantinople, during the monothelite crisis; again, at the time of the Council in Trullo, and also at the beginning of the iconoclastic struggle. These were, however, but passing attempts at tyranny, and not the result of regularly organised institutions. In ordinary practice, the Papal authority certainly tended in the direction of sovereignty, as may be seen from the documentary evidence concerning Gregory II, Gregory III, and Zachary. We have already seen the latter in his outside transactions, on behalf of the duchy of Rome. A strong light is shed upon his position at home through a significant remark made by his biographer in speaking of his journey to Ravenna and Pavia. He set out, it is said, "leaving the government of Rome to Stephen, patrician and duke." The duke is governor, during the absence of the Pope! It is not thus that one could have spoken of either the Doge of Venice or the Duke of Naples.

The natural and traditional trend of affairs pointed, then, towards the solution required by the pontifical dignity; and, it may be added, this solution was the only acceptable and imaginable one for the Frankish princes, with whom explanations were to ensue.

It was not the first occasion upon which the Romans had thought of invoking the help of the Franks. At the instigation of the emperor and the Exarch, the Austrasian Franks had made several descents on Italy, during the reign of King Autharis. Pope Pelagius II was careful to  explain to King Gontran that, as the Franks were Catholics like the Romans, they ought to look upon the Lombards as their common enemy, instead of entering into an alliance with them. St. Gregory, in his correspondence with the heirs of Gontran and Childebert, refrains from this attitude. Besides, in his day, the empire had left off inciting fresh Frankish incursions into Italy, having found them expensive and unprofitable. There was still stronger reason for discouraging them in the eighth century, when Liutprand's victories were threatening the safety of Ravenna and the Exarchy. Charles Martel and Pepin were, on the whole, fairly well disposed towards the Lombard king, and recked little of his disputes with the Greeks. This political archaeology affected them not at all.

But the interests of the Roman ex-empire and of the apostolic sanctuary were quite another matter. This was obvious to everybody in France and in Rome. As Christian princes, the Frankish monarchs felt bound to listen to the common Father of the Faithful, and to support him in time of need. To neglect what appeared to them a pressing necessity would be to incur serious personal risks. St. Peter is the chief of the apostles, and he is also the doorkeeper of Heaven. Present-day politicians are not greatly affected by this fact, but it was weighty enough to give food for reflection to a Carolingian prince, and even to influence his politics.

We get an excellent idea of this state of mind from the History written by the Venerable Bede, a renowned writer of that period.

The English King Oswy (664) had been summoned to arbitrate in a great religious discussion, which affected the organisation and general progress of his people. The subject of dispute was the Easter offertory. The Irish party, on the one hand, laid stress on the patronage of their great Saint, Columba, while the Romans pinned their faith on the Apostle Peter. They had gone as far as quoting the celebrated Gospel passage: "Thou art Peter ... I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven," when the king stopped the discussion, and asked the Irish if they admitted that these words had been addressed to St. Peter. On their replying in the affirmative, he remarked, "Well, then, he is a doorkeeper with whom I should not like to have dealings; for on my arrival at the portals of heaven, if I happened to be in bad odour with the keeper of the keys, he would very likely shut the doors upon me!"

Bede was only half English, and we may perhaps allow something for his somewhat humorous way of looking at things. The Pope's letters to Charles Martel and Pepin, though written in a different style, breathe the same spirit: "Let us work for St. Peter, and then we shall prosper in this world, as well as the next."

It was not to be supposed that the Franks would risk a quarrel with the Lombards, with the object of procuring for the Romans the pleasure of remaining under Byzantine rule, and of enabling the military staff of the Palatine to enjoy this advantage in peace. The conditions of the Frankish intervention would obviously be as follows: The Lombards should leave the Roman territory alone; the Romans should be under the protection of the Franks, instead of under the now enfeebled imperial power; in dealing with the Greek monarch, everything inconsistent with the  new relations should be suppressed; and, finally, the Pope should be supreme at Rome and in the duchy.

But "there is many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip", and what Gregory III had proposed, Charles Martel had refused. It is true that the danger was not as imminent as the Pope imagined, and the Frankish prince had good reasons for not interfering. Nevertheless, the pontiff's proposal had created a great sensation, and the chronicler who succeeded Fredegarius and wrote under the direction of Childebrand, brother of Charles Martel, speaks of it with visible pride and pomp. This is all the more striking because, like his patrons, he usually displayed but a mild interest in the affairs of the Church.

Though Pope Zachary was constantly brought into contact with Pepin and Carloman, either personally or through the medium of St. Boniface, it was always in connection with ecclesiastical affairs in France, the mission to Germany, and internal reform. There had never been any question of the Lombards and their quarrels with the Romans. The Pope was quite capable of managing Italian affairs, without any help from the Franks. Indeed, it was the Franks who required his advice and assistance in their political affairs; and not until the papal sanction was obtained did they take the important step of substituting the family of Austrasian parvenus for the ancient royal race.

From this fact we see the majesty of the position held by the Roman pontiff in relation to the Franks. As far as the new dynasty was particularly concerned, it was a service of no importance. It was still quite recent when the turn of events compelled Pope Stephen II to avail himself of it.




The Pope had not been idle during the winter of 752-753. After a long period of consideration, the time for action had arrived, and Stephen began negotiations with the Frankish king. Everything was carried on with the greatest secrecy, a peasant acting as the medium of communication between the two parties. The first letters have been lost, but from the account in the Liber Pontificalis we gather that it was purely a question of the Roman province and its escape from the Lombard yoke. Pepin appeared well-disposed, and despatched without delay, one after the other, two confidential messengers—Oroctigang, Abbot of Jumièges, and another of his intimates. They soon returned to  France with a verbal message, requesting Pepin to send a reliable escort through the Lombard kingdom for the Pope, who was anxious to come to France. Two letters, conveyed by the Abbot of Jumièges, were inserted in the Codex Carolinus; they are couched in very general terms, and merely call upon the Frankish leaders to aid in furthering the interests of the Apostle Peter.

Pepin, rising to the occasion, sent off two august persons— Chrodegang, Bishop of Metz, and Duke Autchaire, the Oger of legendary fame. On their arrival at Rome, they found Stephen quite ready to set out. The Lombard ambassador and the Silentiary John had returned from Constantinople, with orders for a personal interview between the Pope and Astolphus, to arrange about the restoration of Ravenna. Stephen had already obtained a permit for a journey to Pavia, so his way was clear before him. There was a public leave-taking at St. Peter's attended by many of the neighbouring citizens, as well as by the Pope's own people. The whole caravan set out together on 14th October 753. The papal retinue included representatives of the military aristocracy, ex militiae optimatibus, a certain number of clerks of high degree, the two Frankish envoys, and the imperial legate.

Autchaire, going on in front, was the first to arrive at Pavia. Astolphus, when he heard of the Pope's approach, sent to meet him, begging that he would refrain from any allusion to the Exarchy and the other imperial possessions (reipublicce loca) which he or his predecessors had conquered. The Pope, emboldened by the presence of the Frankish envoys, declared that he would not comply with this request. The Lombard king was beset on all sides; the Pope, aided by tears and presents, addressed him on the subject. The imperial legate and the emperor himself (by means of his letters) also said their say. All in vain was Astolphus warmly exhorted to give back the Lord's sheep which he had carried off, and the estates, to their owners. He remained obdurate, and would concede nothing.

In this affair Stephen II was acting in the interests of the empire and as a subject of the emperor, under whose commands he had gone to Pavia. But, however great may have been his zeal for the Exarchy, there can be no doubt that his keenest sympathies were centred in the duchy of Rome. This fact is beyond question, although his biographer abstains from mentioning it. At Pavia the Pope was playing two roles. The one, which was perfunctory and lacking in confidence, was that of the imperial representative, demanding the restitution of Ravenna. The other, whole-hearted and sanguine, was that of the Roman pontiff, whose desire was to secure the independence of his fellow-citizens with regard to the Lombards, and his own independence with regard to his fellow-citizens.

Having thus disposed of the question of Ravenna, the Pope, without more ado, begged permission to enter France. Astolphus did his best to deter him, but was overcome by the united representations of the pontiff and the Frankish ambassadors.

Stephen's presence in France did not require the presence of the lay aristocracy, still less of a Byzantine diplomat. The latter, therefore, returned to Rome under the escort of the optimates militias, the clerks alone remained with the Pope. They started forth on 15th November, and soon arrived at the entrance to the Aosta valley (Francorum clusas); they were then on Frankish ground, and the Pope, beginning to breathe more freely, offered up thanks to God. Their journey was nearly ended, for the king had promised to meet them at the Abbey of St. Maurice, just on the other side of the St. Bernard pass. Their hearts were filled with a great joy, for they were conscious of the fulfilment of a grand task—the salvation of Rome: in Roma salvanda petebant regno Francorum, says the crude epitaph of Dean Ambrose, one of the party. He died at St. Maurice, the toils of the journey, which, for him, was not the first, having proved too much for him.

When they arrived at the abbey they found that Pepin had not come to meet them, but had sent in his stead two ambassadors, Duke Rotard, and Fulrad, Abbot of St. Denis, who were to conduct the party to the royal palace of Ponthion. Near Langres, about a hundred miles from the palace, they encountered one of the king's sons—Charles, the future Charlemagne. Within three miles of the royal residence, on the Feast of the Epiphany, appeared Pepin himself, together with his family. He greeted the Pope with much ceremony, getting off his horse and prostrating himself on the ground. Then, taking hold of the stirrup, he walked for some time by the side of the pontiff's horse. This is the oldest example of that officium stratoris which later on became compulsion, and thus gave rise to severe quarrels. To the accompaniment of psalms and chanting the procession continued its way, and at last reached the palace of Ponthion. At the first official interview, which took place in the palace oratory, the Pope with tears besought the king to intervene "peacefully in order to arrange the affairs of St. Peter and the Roman Republic". The king promised to satisfy the Pope, and in due season to procure the restoration of the Exarchy and the rights or possessions of the republic.

So far we have followed the account of the Liber Pontificalis. But the French chroniclers are also well worth consulting. From the Moissac chronicle we learn that the Pope's entreaties were environed with a good deal of pomp and circumstance. The pontiff and his clerks, clothed in sackcloth and ashes, cast themselves on the ground, imploring the mercy of God, and calling to witness the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. Nor could they be prevailed upon to rise until Pepin, his sons and his nobles, had extended their hands in token of cooperation and deliverance.

From the biographer we get a different impression, but it is probable that his statements are not altogether reliable. He passes lightly over these doleful formalities, calling attention to the prostrations of the king rather than to those of the Pope. In his anxiety to give prominence to Ravenna, it is to be feared that he takes a somewhat distorted view of Stephen's claims. Probability and the quasi-official chronicler of Moissac alike incline us to believe that it was Rome, and not Ravenna, which was the leading theme of this interview.

It is, however, not to be denied that, in his conference with the Frankish king, Stephen either claimed or accepted what is called the restitution of Ravenna, together with the Exarchy, Pentapolis, and other territories conquered by Astolphus. This restitution was, in fact, brought about, or at least agreed upon, after Pepin's first Italian campaign. But they did not restore propria propriis, for neither the duchy of Rome nor the Roman Church had the slightest claim to be regarded as holding any right of sovereignty over these provinces. The Emperor Constantine alone could claim this right, and he alone could be made the subject of a "restitution" in the strict sense of the term. Stephen's biographer treats the matter in a way which reveals his anxiety to gloss over anything at all questionable in the manner of the Pope's succession to the emperor. This attitude was also maintained among the pontifical officials.

From our own point of view, as well as from that of the Franks, the right was unquestionable, being founded upon the basis of conquest. Astolphus had conquered the imperial provinces, and they belonged to him in the same way as Liguria, Friuli, and the duchies of Spoleto and Beneventum. But Pepin had conquered Astolphus, and could impose upon him what conditions he chose, one of these conditions being the. surrender of the provinces in question. They were thus the legitimate property of the Frankish king, who presented them to the Pope, or rather to St. Peter, for this patron saint was considered capable of owning and governing them by means of his Church and his successors.

All this is obvious enough. If the Roman chroniclers have given us confused accounts of the affair, it is for two reasons. To begin with, they found it hard to divest themselves of the notion that any part of Italy which did not belong to the  Lombards must somehow or other be the property of the Romans. Their expression "respublica" is a most unsuitable one, for it ought to be applied only to a definite state, governed directly by the Roman emperor. As a matter of fact, it is applied to the various conditions of the Roman nationality, whatever their link with the imperial power. In the pontifical world, on the other hand, there was a strong and pardonable objection to admit any responsibility for a disloyalty to the empire, exacted by circumstances; for Rome apart from the Roman empire; Rome ceasing to be Rome; this was indeed a political profanation. And yet there seemed no way of escape. Now, if ever, was the time to call upon the resources of literary style to deaden the compunction awakened in the national conscience by this violation of all loyal tradition.

The idea of St. Peter as sovereign of the Exarchy naturally presupposes that he was sovereign of Rome; for he who rules over the affairs of others may, not unreasonably, be expected to rule over his own as well. As far as the Carolingian princes were concerned, at least, the papal dominion over Rome seems to have been accepted as an incontrovertible fact. At any rate they never sought to interfere (in early times at least) either with his position at home or with his relations with Constantinople. They seem to have contented themselves with promising him their protection and assuring him of their good will in the most general terms, relying in return on his friendship, and leaving him to do the best he could for the papal prosperity. To assert that Pepin recognised the duchy of Rome as an independent state is rash, for we have no proof, not even an indirect one, that such was the case. Pepin always kept on good terms with the empire, and although he and his sons were honoured by the Pope with the title of patricius Romanorum he never made use of it in his documents. Neither does his chronicler, the successor of Fredegarius, ever invest him with it.

On the other hand, in the documents which emanate from Rome, whether drawn up in the name of the Pope or of others, the title is always used. There has been much discussion as to its origin and meaning. In the empire the title of "patrician" was merely an empty distinction, and had been borne by exarchs, dukes, and strategists. In France it was bestowed on the governors of Provence, e.g. Mummolus and Dynamius in the sixth century, and Abbo in the eighth. But the title in question is not that of "patrician" in general, but of "Patrician of the Romans", for the word Romanorum is never absent. Later on, after the year 744, Charlemagne made use of it in addition to his former titles of rex Francorum and rex Langobardorum, which all served as an expression of his rights over the Franks, the Lombards, and the Romans—the Romans of the Pope, be it understood, not the others. It is evident, then, that the term patricius Romanorum was of Roman rather than of imperial origin.

It seems extremely probable, if we may venture to say so, that the title was given by Stephen to the Frankish princes, first of all as an expression of their protectorships over the new order of things in general; and secondly, to avoid reviving the Exarch at Ravenna, and to maintain the duke at Rome. In fact, after the year 754, there is no mention of the Duke of Rome; there are dukes of Rome, in the plural, the title being used in either an administrative or a military sense; but the Duke of Rome no longer existed. With these two exceptions all the former offices are preserved, and it must be noted that the patriciate had been conferred on the holders of both the extinct titles. The Pope could henceforth dispense with Exarch and duke; and, in order to repress any inconvenient desire for reassertion on their part, he did his best to replace them by a patricius Romanorum, whose influence, though remote, was rendered important by the spell of his power and the memory of services rendered in past days.

Before speeding the Pope on his homeward way, Pepin was anxious to form some idea of the direction affairs would take, as a result of their amicable interview. Besides, the time of year was not suitable for a long journey, especially in the case of a venerable old man. The king, therefore, established his guest at the Abbey of St. Denis, taking advantage of the  occasion to confirm his title to the crown by a second coronation ceremony, which included not only himself, but his wife and sons. Soon afterwards, the Pope, worn out by travelling, and tried by the rigours of the winter, fell so seriously ill that his life was despaired of. He recovered, nevertheless —an event which was attributed by the monks to the influence of their patron saint.

Meanwhile, the negotiations were proceeding. In vain did Pepin's ambassadors surround the Lombard king with incessant and urgent petitions. Stephen's biographer tells us that they had been sent propter pacis foedera et proprietatis sanctae Dei ecclesiAe rei-publicae restituenda jura. This curious expression, which is employed several times in these accounts, seems to contain incongruous elements. We get a much more coherent account from Fredegarius's successor, who asserts that Pepin requested Astolphus to avoid any display of enmity to Rome out of respect for the Apostles Peter and Paul, and for his (Pepin's) sake, to abstain from unaccustomed impositions. History does not relate the Lombard king's reasons for refusing, but we know that he despatched to France an ambassador of sacred calling—no less a person than Pepin's own brother, Carloman, formerly king of the eastern part of the Frankish empire, and at that time a monk of Monte Cassino. This reverend personage proved as unsuccessful with the Pope and the Frankish king as the latter's envoys had been with Astolphus. Indeed, Italy saw him no more, for the Frankish authorities considered that he would more worthily fulfil his vocation in their own territory, and established him  in a convent at Vienna, where he soon afterwards died.

A great national convocation was held on 1st March 754 at Braisne, and another at Easter (14th April) at Kiersy-sur-Oise. It was decided, though not unanimously, to make war upon Astolphus, and force him to yield to the Pope's demands. One last fruitless appeal was made to him, when the Frankish army was already on the way to Italy. The united letters of Pepin and the Pope produced no effect. The Frankish army continued its way towards the Mont Cenis pass. On both sides the passes were in Frankish territory, and the somewhat feebly garrisoned valley of the Susa was reinforced in order to prevent the Lombards from taking posses­sion. Astolphus made his appearance before he was expected, but the Frankish vanguard presented such a good front that the Lombards, in alarm and disorder, fled back towards their capital. Pepin, followed at no great distance by the Pope, calmly crossed the Alps and laid siege to Pavia.

Astolphus, utterly defeated, was obliged by solemn treaty to deliver up Ravenna and the other conquered provinces; he even agreed to yield Narni, a town in the north of the duchy, which had been seized by Liutprand. Pepin was quite satisfied, and gave no heed to Stephen II, who, having some reason to distrust the Lombard king, would have preferred a more reliable guarantee of good faith, and wanted the Frankish king to insist on  the immediate restoration of the provinces in question.

Pepin provided the Pope with the escort of his brother Jerome, and other persons of consequence, as far as Rome, which he entered at the end of October 754. The clergy and the people welcomed him with open arms, and thanks were rendered to God for His great mercies.

These rejoicings were but of brief duration. Astolphus, plausible enough, had allowed the Frankish army to return home, and even began to carry out his promise of restoring Narni. But no sooner was Pepin at a safe distance than the faithless monarch absolutely refused any further concessions, and actually resumed his former plundering expeditions in the country round Rome. The Pope wrote two letters of complaint to Pepin; one was entrusted to Wilchar, Bishop of Nomentum, and the other to Abbot Fulrad, who had possibly been one of the return escort. Meanwhile Astolphus, no longer concealing his animosity, prepared to invade the duchy of Rome. On 1st January 756 there arrived at Rome itself three military divisions. The first, which came from Tuscany, established itself before the gates of St. Pancratius; the second, with the king at its head, passed over the left bank of the Tiber, and threatened the gate of Salaria; while the third, which hailed from the duchy of Beneventum, blockaded the gates of the Lateran and St. Paul's. The surrounding country was ravaged and laid waste in a pitiless manner. The  troops pressed closely around the city, but the Pope continued to smuggle out fresh ambassadors, who proceeded by sea to France, to seek help from Pepin. These were George, Bishop of Ostia, Thomaricus and Comita, two Roman nobles, and one of Pepin's own legates, a Frankish abbot named Warneharius. This latter had taken part in the Roman defence, wearing a suit of armour over his monastic habit, and mounting guard in the ramparts. Three letters1 were entrusted to these messengers; the first in the name of the Pope alone; the second in the name of the Pope, the suburban bishops, the Priests, Deacons, Dukes, Registrars, Counts, Tribunes, the whole people, and the army. This was of the same import as the first, and was addressed not only to Pepin, but also to his two sons, and to all the Bishops, Abbots, Priests, Monks, Dukes, Counts, and the whole Frankish army. The third is ad­dressed to the same persons as the foregoing, but it is supposed to be written by the Apostle Peter: Ego Petrus apostolus. It contains, in this strange form, the ingenuous expression of the idea likely to prove most effective: the Prince of the Apostles, the doorkeeper of heaven, was threatened in his sanctuary; to come to his assistance was a sacred duty, and those who responded to the call would have special claims on his gratitude and patronage.

These cries of distress were heard. The Frankish army again turned towards Mont Cenis, and Rome was immediately set free. The Franks and the Lombards engaged in deadly warfare, and the vanquished Astolphus was driven to take refuge once more in Pavia. Meanwhile, John the Silentiary reappeared at Rome, in company with another worthy,  the great secretary George (proto a secreta). They were entrusted with a mission to the Frankish king, and the Pope provided them with a confidential escort as far as Marseilles. On arriving there, however, they found that Pepin was already in Italy. The Byzantine diplomats, much perturbed at this discovery, made arrangements to detain the papal delegate at Marseilles, while George hastened to Pepin, whom he found in the neighbourhood of Pavia. His entreaties that Ravenna, the Exarchy, and the other contested cities should be restored to the imperial government were fruitless. Pepin protested that he had only undertaken the campaign out of love for St. Peter, and to gain the remission of his sins, and that no amount of bribery could have any effect on him. Thus dismissed, the crestfallen envoy returned to Rome, on his way to Constantinople.

Astolphus soon found himself obliged to enter into a treaty, the terms of which were rather more stringent than the first time. Comacchio was added to the list of territories to be yielded, and Pepin not only imposed a heavy war tax, but revived the tribute which the Lombard kings had in former times paid to the Franks.

To ensure the proper carrying out of this compact, the Abbot Fulrad, who had stayed behind in Italy with a military detachment, made a tour of the towns with the Lombard commissioners, everywhere  demanding the delivering up of the city keys, hostages and delegates from the aristocracy. Then, together with these representatives of the conquered territory, he proceeded to Rome, and deposited in the Confession at St. Peter's, not only the keys of the towns, but the deed by which King Pepin made them over to the Apostle, to his Vicar, and to all his successors.

The exact wording of this deed of gift is no longer preserved to us, but in the life of Stephen II we have the list of territories given up to the Holy See. They include, first of all, Comacchio and Ravenna, and then the tract of land between the Apennines and the sea, from Forli in the north as far as Jesi Sinigaglia in the south. There is no mention of Ancona and the remains of what was known later as the Marches, nor of Faenza, Imola, Bologna, and Ferrara. The papal State had still therefore much to acquire north of the Apennines. To the south of the chain, Eugubium (Gubbio) alone appears to be included. Perugia, which was a near neighbour, still belonged to the Romans.

With the exception of Narni, which had formerly been annexed by the duchy of Spoleto, and which was restored in 756, the Lombard king's "restitutions" were what he himself had seized. Rome, though at first satisfied, had not forgotten the time when these provinces had other limits. It was hardly thirty years since the annexation of Bologna in the north and Osimo in the south, and now the Romans began to consider the possibility of recapturing Liutprand's conquests in the same way as those of Astolphus. They had not long to wait for their opportunity. Only a few months after the departure of the Frankish army, Astolphus met his death  through a hunting accident. There was great rejoicing among the Romans, who thought they saw the hand of Providence in the fact of the king's dying only a year after his last expedition. To make matters still more cheerful, the possession of the throne was disputed by two rivals, neither of them very formidable. They were Desiderius, Duke of Tuscany, and Ratchis, brother of the former king, and at that time a monk of Monte Cassino. Desiderius intimated his willingness to acquiesce in all the Pope's wishes, so Stephen sent him a deputation, consisting of his own brother Paul and the Councillor Christopher, together with the Abbot Fulrad. Desiderius promised to restore to the "republic" the cities which were lacking, civitates quae remanserant, i.e., Faenza, Imola, and Ferrara, to the west of the Exarchy, and Ancona, Osimo, and Umana to the east of Pentapolis. An agreement was signed under Fulrad's supervision, and, with a little persuasion, Desiderius promised to give up Bologna as well.

Stephen was beside himself with delight, and poured forth his soul in a letter to Pepin written in March or April 757. Thanks to the Frankish protection and Fulrad's vigorous action, the Pope already looked upon himself as the sovereign disposer of Italy. Desiderius, the new king, begged his good offices in recommending him to the favour of the Frankish monarch. The inhabitants of the duchy of Spoleto, who had just elected a new duke, and even those of the duchy of Beneventum, approached him with the same end in view. We may add that the Dukes of Spoleto and Beneventum were, in theory at all events, officially connected with the Lombard kingdom.

The Byzantine empire, however, did not join its  note to this chorus. It was no longer in a position, as in Zachary's time, to benefit by the diplomatic successes of the Holy See, which, by the way, were not as complete as they had hoped. It was for the Pope to yield first. He sent one of his priests, Stephen, to Ratchis, exhorting him to go back to his monastic life. The Abbot Fulrad sallied forth at the head of his Frankish troops to support the eloquence of the legate. The Roman army was ready to follow him. Ratchis did as he was bidden, and Desiderius was proclaimed king of the Lombards.

The situation once conquered, he appeared in no hurry to divide up his kingdom. It is true that Faenza and Ferrara were restored to the Exarchy, but as far as Pentapolis was concerned, no change took place.




Pope Stephen was, however, spared this disillusionment, for soon after the accession of Desiderius, on 26th April 757, he was gathered to his fathers. He was immediately succeeded by his brother, the deacon Paul, in spite of opposition from a section who desired the appointment of the Archdeacon Theophylact. These two brother Popes, under whose auspices the temporal power began to rise, were members of an aristocratic family who dwelt at the end of the Via Lata, the rich quarter of that time. Paul turned the paternal mansion into a monastery, so that they were, in all probability, the last of their race.

We must here make mention of the religious monuments which, at Rome and elsewhere, consecrate the memory of many events of this time. One of the most important of these is the Chapel of St. Petronilla. In the cemetery of the Ardeatine way at Rome, the tomb of St. Petronilla was venerated, who, according to the fabulous records of the saints Néreus and Achilles, was considered to be the daughter of St. Peter. Pepin, whose interest in this cult had been by some means aroused during Stephen's stay in France, requested that the body of the saint should be removed to the Vatican, near to the tomb of her putative father. For her resting-place was chosen one of two circular mausoleums, constructed in the fifth century for the Theodosian family; the first, which had probably never been used for purposes of interment, had been dedicated to St. Andrew by Pope Symmachus (498-514), while the other became the temple of the saint beloved by the Franks. The necessary alterations were speedily completed, and on 8th October 757, the Pontiff Paul presided over the removal of the remains. Not long after, Rome became possessed of an important memento of the Carolingian family, which was solemnly deposited by the Pope in the new sanctuary. It was nothing less than the sabanum of Gisele, Pepin's baby daughter, to whom Paul had accepted the office of god-father. Thenceforward in his correspondence with the Franks, Paul always styles himself the "compare" (or fellow-father) of King Pepin. His brother Stephen, before him, had made use of the same title, though in his case it was probably an empty one, for there is no record of any children being born to Pepin during the preceding years.

Thus, through these family ties, represented by Petronilla and Gisele, a close union was brought about between the Frankish princes and the heads of the Church—St. Peter and his successors. In  this connection we must also mention St. Sylvester and St. Denis.

In the imposing legend of St. Sylvester, which dates from the fifth century, the vivid Eastern imagination had symbolised the remarkable effect produced on the world by the conversion of Constantine. One of the most prominent topographical features of this old story was Mount Soracte. This beautiful mountain, which towers over the course of the Tiber and Roman Tuscia, had, from early times, been the haunt of monastic colonies. In the eighth century the highest peak was crowned with a church dedicated to St. Sylvester, and lower down were three other convents in connection with the superior monastery. This was at one time the abode of Pepin's brother, Carloman, who had resigned his temporal position. The monastery and all its dependencies had been presented to him by Pope Zachary. Later on, however, Paul made over the rights of the property to Pepin, who immediately assigned it to the Roman Church.

Paul proceeded to affiliate this royal gift to the monastic foundation which he had just established in his paternal mansion in the Via Lata. He named it in honour of the two saints, Stephen and Sylvester. The former was a third century Pope, who had left his mark on the legendary lore of the time, and with whose name were bound up memories of Stephen II, formerly joint owner of the estate to be consecrated. His remains were taken from the catacombs ; those of St. Sylvester were brought from his basilica in the Salarian way, and those two sainted Popes were installed in the interior church of the monastery. The convents of Soracte, St. Sylvester, and others, were annexed to the monastery in the Via Lata. Furthermore, the larger of the two churches of which the monastery boasted, the external basilica, to which the public had access, was dedicated to St. Denis of Paris.

This was evidently to commemorate the Pope's visit to the royal abbey of St. Denis, whose abbot was distinguished by a burning enthusiasm for the Holy See. Pepin, Carloman, Stephen II, Fulrad, and all the other prominent names of latter years were to be found there under the rival protection of the saints of Rome and of Paris. The Via Lata monastery might, indeed, be called a memorial of the foundation of the early Roman State.

But that St. Sylvester did not confine his pat­ronage to memorials of this kind will be seen from the following. King Astolphus had married the daughter of one of the principal Lombard dukes Anselm. This latter, like his contemporaries, Hunald of Aquitaine, Carloman of France, and Ratchis of Italy, had devoted himself to a monastic life, and his royal son-in-law bestowed on him a large estate to the north of Modena, in the district of Nonantola, as the site for a monastery. This was in 751, shortly after the capture of Ravenna. The following years (752 and 753) when the relations between Astolphus and the Pope were already somewhat strained, the Bishop of Reggio first, and then the Archbishop of Ravenna, proceeded to consecrate the churches and oratories. The monastery had not long been established when the Lombard king undertook his expedition against Rome. The Abbot Anselm followed his king as far as the walls of the holy city, and though there is no  evidence that he actually engaged in fighting as did such other well-known monks as Hunald and Warneharius, there is no doubt that he received his share of the spoils. Among the treasures that he brought away from Rome was the body of St. Sylvester. Now, as this holy relic was preserved in a church in the Salarian way, just where the Lombard army had taken up its position, its removal to Nonantola may safely be reckoned among those depredations condemned as sacrilegious by the biographer of Stephen II. The idea that it may have been a gift from the pontiff is scarcely worth entertaining. The monks, later on, tried to gloss over the misdeed by manufac­turing letters of transfer, very difficult to reconcile with the foundation of St. Sylvester in the Via Lata.

This is no place in which to investigate the authenticity of the relics claimed by the two convents. It is of no great moment whether the Lom­bards or the Romans were mistaken as to the tomb, or whether an unequal division was the result of a theft on the one hand, or of a pious appropriation on the other. The point to be accentuated is that the Abbey of Nonantola and its local worship of St. Sylvester, perpetuated in the Lombard district, and in an essentially Lombard style, the memory of the Roman crisis of 756, and the beginnings of the temporal power.

No sooner was Paul elected than, without waiting to be ordained, he announced to Pepin the facts of his brother's death and of his own succession, assuring  him at the same time of his readiness to carry out faithfully the engagements made by his predecessor. A Frankish envoy, Immo by name, had just arrived at Rome, and he was detained by the Pope, in order that he might attend the ordination ceremony. A few weeks later letters arrived from France; one of them was addressed to the aristocracy and the lay population, and urgently enjoined loyalty to the new Pope.

We will come back later to a consideration of home affairs. Outside, serious transactions were taking place. The Pope continued to clamour for the towns that Desiderius had promised, but the Lombard king was by no means eager to respond. His reluctance was undoubtedly intensified by Paul's curious interference in the affairs of Spoleto and Beneventum. In demanding the Frankish protection for these two duchies, the Holy See was encroaching upon the political domain of the Lombard kingdom. It was going back twenty years to the schemes of Gregory III, afterwards abandoned by Zachary, under the pressure of circumstances.

Obviously it was not for Pepin to follow the Pope's example, and involve himself in these perilous politi­cal affairs. He must have thought it odd that Paul should have enlisted himself on the side of the Dukes of Aquitaine and Bavaria, who were continually in rebellion against the central power of the Frankish kingdom. He, therefore, refused the protectorship, and gave no support to the Romans in their increased claims upon the Exarchy and Pentapolis. Desiderius imagined that he had a free hand in the matter, and  began operations by starting forth to quell the rebellious dukes. In order to reach them he had to pass through Pentapolis, most probably by way of Gubbio, and the ravages committed by his soldiers on the way created great indignation among the Romans. The Duke of Spoleto, Alboni, was taken prisoner with several of his "satraps," but the Duke of Beneventum managed to take refuge at Otranto. Desiderius installed another in his place, and then proceeded to Rome. The Pope met him outside the walls of St. Peter's, and pleaded persistently for the restoration of the promised towns. His eloquence, however, had no effect upon the king, who under­took to surrender Imola alone, and that only on condition that Pepin should deliver up the Lombard hostages who had been taken to France. The Pope, seemingly resigned, wrote to the Frankish king to this effect, but at the same time he contrived that Pepin should receive another letter from him, cancelling the contents of the first, maintaining all the Roman claims, and urging him to insist on a complete fulfilment of all the promises made by the Lombard king.

Pepin despatched to Italy his brother Remedius, Bishop of Rouen, and the Duke Autchaire, and they succeeded in arranging matters on the basis of uti possidetis. Desiderius was to yield no other town, not even Imola; the Pope was adjudged possessor of the remainder; the damage done by either party was to be repaired; and many trifling questions concerning boundaries, customs, and patrimonies were affably settled. Pepin did his utmost to persuade the Pope to submit, and even to cultivate the friendship of the Lombard king. Paul, therefore, resigned himself, though not without grief and recriminations, to the dispelling of his dreams. It was, nevertheless, extremely evident that the Frankish king could neither undertake to place himself at the disposal of the Romans and their plans, nor to cross the Alps every time that there was a frontier skirmish between the Romans and the Lombards.

Moreover, it was to the interest of the Lombards to cultivate peace; henceforth they had a common enemy, the Byzantine empire, which was quite ready to take advantage of their disagreements. Constantine V, disappointed in his hopes of the Frankish intervention and the diplomacy of the Pope, continued his designs on Ravenna, and sought to regain a footing in central Italy. His efforts were mainly directed against the Pope, who at that time held Ravenna, and was responsible for the emancipation of the Romans. Instead, however, of entering into direct communication with him, he began by making friendly overtures to Desiderius. On the other hand, he considered that the ecclesiastical disunion produced by the images dispute was pretext enough for approaching the Frankish king. The iconoclastic reform did not, of course, affect the dwellers on the other side of the Alps to anything like the same extent as those of Byzantine Rome. Not only had they taken no part in the papal demonstrations, on behalf of the use of images and symbols in worship for thirty years, but the worship itself, in spite of the great decline of Frankish Christianity, did not appeal to them at all seriously. An attempt might be made to engage them in a struggle against what the empire proscribed as a religious perversion. Piety, thus understood, would provide a substitute for ground lost in the political arena. One proof that this  ground was well selected is to be found in the fact that the Frankish Church, under Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, far from sharing the Pope's attitude towards the image question, rather supported the views of the iconoclast emperors.

At Rome they were quite cognisant of this danger. Indeed, Pope Paul spent the whole of his pontificate in listening to rumours from the south, and quaking before the dread of a political alliance between the Greeks and Lombards, or a religious compact between the emperor and the Frankish court.

But Pepin, who was a man of ability and common sense, did not let himself be beguiled by the half-theological diplomats who were sent to him from Constantinople. Nor did he allow himself to be led away, like the Romans, into constant plans for the redivision of the Italian territory. He saw at once that the important point was to bring about a reconciliation between his two allies, the Pope and the Lombard king, and with tact and energy he set about producing this result without wounding the feelings of either party. In spite of the Pope's demands for a Frankish missus to be in permanent residence at Rome, Pepin confined himself to supplying temporary legations, deputies entrusted to arrange transient or special difficulties. If there was any need for the Frankish king to be represented in Italy as the Pope's protector, it was on Desiderius himself that the office devolved. The latter was induced to give up the intrigues formed with the Greeks at the beginning of his reign, and the Pope was persuaded to come to an understanding with him, and, if necessary, to claim his support.

Towards the religious question, Pepin's attitude  was just as sane and simple. He listened to the Pope's continual exhortations against the imperial unorthodoxy, and always acted in accord with him, both at Constantinople (by means of their respective ambassadors), and in France in the event of any dispute. The Byzantines finally recognised their mistake; in Italy, Pepin's friendly relations with the Pope and the Lombards were an effectual hindrance to their political schemes, while, as far as the Franks were concerned, their loyalty to the great Head of religious affairs of the west was deep enough to discourage any further attempts on the part of the orientals to arouse ill-feeling against their powerful protector.

This is the impression that we get from the letters written by Paul to King Pepin, and preserved to us in the Codex Carolinus. Unfortunately we have no means of correcting or supplementing this correspondence, and, as the dates are lacking, it is often difficult to arrange the letters in their chronological order. Details on the subject are not easily obtained, for, from the Liber Pontificalis we learn nothing, and from the Frankish chronicles, but little, of these events. But there is conclusive evidence that the two Byzantine diplomats of 756, John the Silentiary and George, the chief secretary, continued their mission in the following year. The former installed himself at the Frankish court, and the latter in Italy, where he combined with the Lombard king in plotting against Ravenna. Later on, in 763, Pepin and Paul united in sending two ambassadors to Constantinople, where they stayed the winter. The pontiff's "chief adviser at that time was Christopher, primicerius of the notaries. Among the people of Constantinople he bore the reputation of taking an undue part in the writing or editing of the papal letters, and he was popularly accused of trying to corrupt the Frankish and Byzantine envoys. The imperial government was anxious to do away with the papal legates, and to transact business directly with the Frankish court, but their endeavours in this line were apparently unsuccessful. We hear of a conference held at Gentilly early in 767, where, according to the annalist of Lorsch, there was a discussion inter Romanos et Graecos de sancta Trinitate et de sanctorum imaginibus. From the presence of the Romans on this occasion, we conclude that Pepin continued to persevere in his principle of referring all religious discussions to the Pope.

Very soon afterwards, on 28th June 767, Pope Paul breathed his last. Affairs at Rome itself were quiet, though with a superficial quietness which was speedily and seriously to be disturbed. Let us now glance at the ecclesiastical and military organisation of the little Roman State and at the beginnings of the contest which might have been observed or foretold even at that time.