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Such was the power of Otho the Great, when he
was invited to pass the Alps by the Italians them-
selves ; who, ever factious and feeble, could neither
submit to be governed by their own countrymen, to
remain free; nor were able to defend themselves,

222 Ancient and Modern History.

at the same time, against the Saracens and Hun-
garians, who still infested Italy by their incursions.
Italy, which even in its ruins was the richest and
most flourishing country of the West, was inces-
santly torn in pieces by tyrants. But, in all these
divisions, Rome still continued to be the spring
which gave motion to all the other cities of Italy.
If we reflect on what Paris was in the time of the
League ; and again, under the reign of Charles the
Mad; and what London was under the unhappy
Charles I., we shall have some idea of the state of
Rome in the tenth century. The pontifical chair was
oppressed, dishonored, and frequently stained with
blood; and the elections of the popes were carried
on in a manner, of which there has been no example,
either in former or succeeding times.



THE scandals and internal divisions which gave so
much trouble to Rome and its church in the tenth
century, and which continued for so long a time, hap-
pened neither under the Greek nor Latin emperors,
nor yet under the kings of Lombardy, nor during the
reign of Charlemagne. They were evidently the con-
sequences of anarchy: and this anarchy was occa-
sioned by those very steps which were taken by the
popes to prevent it ; when, through a mistaken pol-

The Papacy before Otho. 223

icy, they invited the Franks into Italy. Had they
really been in possession of all the territories which
they pretended Charlemagne had given to them, they
would have been much more powerful sovereigns
than they are even at present. The order and rule
of elections and administration would have been
the same as they are now. But all their pretensions
were disputed them. Italy was ever the object of
ambition to foreigners, and the fate of Rome always
uncertain. Let it still be remembered that the prin-
cipal object of the Romans was to restore the ancient
republic ; that tyrants were starting up in different
parts of Italy and Rome; that the elections were
seldom, if ever, free ; and that everything was car-
ried by faction and cabal.

Pope Formosus, son of Leo the Priest, when
bishop of Oporto, had headed a faction against Pope
John VIII., for which he had twice been excommu-
nicated by that pontiff; but these excommunica-
tions, which afterwards became so terrible to
crowned heads, were of so little consequence to For-
mosus that he got himself elected pope in 890.

Stephen VI. or VII., also the son of a priest, and
who succeeded Formosus, joined all the virulence of
faction to the spirit of fanaticism; and, having
always been the declared enemy of Formosus while
living, ordered his dead body, which had been em-
balmed, to be taken up again, caused it to be clad
in the pontifical robes, and brought before a council,
which had been purposely assembled to sit in judg-

224 Ancient and Modern History.

ment on his memory. The deceased had counsel
allowed him, and was tried in form ; and the lifeless
trunk was found guilty of having exchanged bish-
oprics, by quitting the see of Oporto for that of
Rome : for which it was condemned to have its head
struck off by the hangman, three of the fingers of
the right hand cut off, and the body cast into the
Tiber ; which sentence was accordingly executed in

Stephen rendered himself so odious by this no less
ridiculous than horrible farce, that the friends of the
deceased Formosus quickly found means to raise the
citizens against him, who loaded him with chains,
and cast him into prison where, soon after, he was

The faction who deposed Stephen caused diligent
search to be made for the body of Formosus, which
they interred in a pontifical manner, for the second

These disputes only served to inflame the minds
of the people. Sergius III., who filled all Rome with
his intrigues to get himself elected pope, was ban-
ished by his rival John IX., a friend of Formosus;
but, being acknowledged pope, after the death
of John IX., he again condemned the memory of
Formosus. During these troubles, in 907, Theodora,
mother of Marozia, whom she afterwards married
to the marquis of Tuscany, with another Theodora,
all three of them notorious for their amours, bore
the principal sway in Rome. Sergius owed his

The Papacy before Otho. 225

election entirely to his mother, Theodora ; and, dur-
ing the time of his pontificate, he had a son by
Marozia, whom he publicly educated in his palace.
This pontiff does not appear to have been hated by
the pope of Rome, who, being naturally addicted
to debauchery, rather followed, than censured, his

After his decease, in 912, the two sisters, Marozia
and Theodora, procured the papal chair for one of
their favorites named Lando ; but this Lando dying
in a short time, the younger Theodora got her gal-
lant, John X., chosen pope, who had been bishop of
Bologna, afterwards of Ravenna, and now of Rome.
However, he escaped the censure that had fallen on
Formosus for having exchanged bishoprics. These
popes, whom posterity have been taught to look
upon as irreligious prelates, were, however, far from
being bad princes. This John X., whom love had
made a pope, was a man endowed with a great share
of genius and courage. He did more than all his
predecessors had been able to do. He drove the
Saracens out of that part of Italy called the Gar-

In order to render this expedition successful, he
artfully prevailed on the emperor of Constantinople
to furnish him with a body of troops, though this
emperor had as much reason to complain of the
rebellious Romans as of the Saracens. He obliged
the count of Capua to take up arms, and got the

militia of Tuscany to join him. He then put him-
Vol. 24 15

226 Ancient and Modern History.

self at the head of his army, taking with him a young
son of Marozia and the marquis Adelbert; and,
marching against the Mahometans, drove them from
the neighborhood of Rome ; after which he formed
the project of delivering Italy from the Germans
and other foreigners.

Italy was then invaded, almost at the same time,
by the two Berengers, by a king of Burgundy, and
by a king of Aries ; but this active pontiff prevented
them all from having any mastery in Rome. How*
ever, some few years after, Guy, uterine brother to
Hugh, king of Aries, and the tyrant of Italy, having
married Marozia, who was all powerful at Rome;
this very Marozia conspired against the pope, who
had been so long her sister's gallant, and had him
seized, imprisoned, and smothered between two mat-

In 929, Marozia, now mistress of Rome, procured
one Leo to be elected pope, whom, a few months
after, she caused to be thrown into prison and mur-
dered. After this, she gave the chair to an obscure
fellow, who lived but two years ; and at last she con-
ferred the papal dignity on her own son, John
XL, the fruit of her adulterous relations with
Sergius III.

In 931 John XL was but barely twenty- four years
old when his mother made him pope; she invested
him with this dignity, on condition that he should
confine himself to his episcopal functions, and be no
other than her chaplain.

The Papacy before Otho. 227

It is said, this Marozia afterwards poisoned her
husband, Guy, marquis of Tuscany. It is a fact, that
she married her husband's brother, Hugh, king of
Lombardy, whom she put in possession of Rome,
in hopes that she should enjoy the imperial dignity
in conjunction with him. But a son of hers, by a
first marriage, headed the Romans against his own
mother, and drove Hugh out of Rome, and con-
fined Marozia, and the pope, her son, in Adrian's
Mole, now called the castle of St. Angelo. Some
say that John XL was poisoned in prison.

Stephen VIIL, a German by birth, was created
pope in 939; but, on account of his country, he
proved so odious to the Romans, that, in a tumult
which arose in the city, the people so disfigured his
face, that he could never afterwards appear in

Some time after, in 956, a grandson of Marozia,
named Octavian Sporco, by the great interest his
family had in Rome, was elected pope at the age of
eighteen. He took the name of John XII. out of
respect to the memory of John XL, his uncle. He
was the first pope who changed his name on his
accession to the pontificate. He was not in orders
when his friends elected him pope. This John XII.
was a patrician, or nobleman of Rome ; and, being
possessed of the same dignity which Charlemagne
formerly had, he united in the pontifical chair the
privileges of both temporal and spiritual authority,
by a power whose legality could not be contested.

228 Ancient and Modern History.

But he was young, sunk in debauchery, and, in other
respects, far from being a powerful prince.

It is surprising, that under so many scandalous
and impotent popes, the church of Rome lost neither
her prerogatives nor pretensions. But then indeed
it is to be considered that all the other churches were
under much the same kind of government. The
Italian clergy might despise such popes, but they
respected the papal function, because they aspired
to that dignity themselves: in short, the public
opinion held the place sacred, however detestable the
person might be.

While Rome and the Church were thus torn in
pieces, Berengarius, surnamed the Younger, dis-
puted the possession of Italy with Hugh, king of
Aries. The Italians, as Luitprand, a contempo-
rary writer, always expresses himself, wanted two
masters, that they might in fact be subject to none, a
policy equally false and fatal to their peace, as it
produced a continual succession of new tyrants, and
new calamities.

Such was the deplorable state of this fine country,
when Otho the Great was invited there by the com-
plaints of almost all the towns, and even by this
young Pope John XII., who was reduced, through
the necessity of his affairs, to implore the assistance
of Germans ; a people of all others the most odious
to him.

Otho the Great. 229



OTHO entered Italy in 961, where he behaved as
Charlemagne had done before him. He conquered
Berengarius, who aspired to the sovereignty, and
in 962 caused himself to be consecrated and crowned
emperor of the Romans, by the hand of the pope;
after which he took the name of Caesar and Au-
gustus, and compelled the pope to swear allegiance
to him, upon the tomb where the body of St. Peter
is said to be deposited. An authentic instrument of
this act was drawn up ; and the clergy and nobility
of Rome obliged themselves never to elect a pope,
but in presence of the emperor's commissioners. In
this act Otho confirms the donations made to the
see of Rome, by Pepin, Charlemagne, and Louis the
Debonnaire, without specifying the donations in
dispute ; " Saving in all things," says he, " our
authority, and that of our son and descendants."
This instrument, written in letters of gold, and
signed by seven German bishops, five counts, two
abbots, and a number of Italian priests, is still pre-
served in the castle of St. Angelo. It is dated Feb.
13, 962.

Some writers say, and Mezeray after them, that
Lotharius, king of France, and Hugh Capet, who
was afterwards king, assisted at the coronation of

230 Ancient and Modern History.

Otho. It is certain that the kings of France were at
that time so weak, that they might serve as an orna-
ment at the coronation of an emperor; but neither
the name of Lotharius, nor of Hugh Capet, is to be
met with among those who signed this act.

The pope having thus given himself a master
when he only wanted a protector, soon proved
false to his oath, and entered into a league against
the emperor with Berengarius himself, who had
been driven to take refuge with the Mahometans,
settled on the coast of Provence. He sent to Rome
for Berengarius' son, while Otho was at Pavia.
He sent likewise to the Hungarians, to engage them
to make incursions again on Germany. But he
wanted power to carry him through this bold under-
taking, and the emperor was strong enough to pun-
ish him for it.

Otho then returned immediately from Pavia to
Rome, and having secured the city, called a council,
in which he brought the pope to a formal trial. He
convened the German and Roman lords, forty
bishops, and seventeen cardinals, in the church of
St. Peter, where, in presence of all the people, he
publicly accused the holy father of having lain with
several women, particularly one Etienette, who died
in child-bed. The other heads of accusation were,
that he had made a child of ten years of age bishop
of Lodi ; that he had made a sale of ordinations and
benefices; that he had put out the eyes of one of
his relations; that he had caused a cardinal to be

Otho the Great. 231

castrated, and afterwards put to death : in fine, that
he did not believe in Jesus Christ, and had invoked
the devil ; two things which seem to contradict each
other. Thus, as it generally happens, they blended
falsehood and truth in their accusations; but not
a syllable was mentioned of the true reason of
assembling the council, the emperor being doubtless
apprehensive of stirring up anew that revolt and
conspiracy, in which even the pope's accusers them-
selves had been concerned. However, this young
pontiff, who was then only twenty-seven years of
age, appears to have been deposed for his incestuous
and scandalous amours, though it was in truth only
for having endeavored, like every other Roman, to
overthrow the German power and authority in

Otho could not seize on the person of this pope ;
or if he could, he was guilty of a great oversight
in leaving him his liberty: for no sooner had he
elected Pope Leo VIII. in his stead, who, if we will
believe Arnold, bishop of Orleans, was neither a
churchman, nor even a Christian; scarcely had he
received the homage of this new pontiff of his own
making, and quitted Rome, from which certainly he
ought not to have withdrawn himself, while affairs
were in that situation, than John XII. had the
courage to stir up the Romans again, and opposing
council to council, Leo VIII. was deposed, and at
the same time an act was passed, declaring, " that
no inferior could ever degrade his superior."

232 Ancient and Modern History.

By this decree, the pope not only meant, that the
bishops and cardinals could never depose the pope,
but likewise hinted at the emperor, whom the
bishops of Rome always regarded as a layman, who
owed to the Church the very homage and oath of
allegiance which he exacted from her. The cardinal
named John, who had written and read the accusa-
tions against the pope, had his right hand cut off,
and the person who acted as register to the council
who deposed him, had his tongue plucked out, and
his nose and two of his fingers cut off.

And yet in all these councils, which were guided
by the spirit of faction and revenge, they constantly
quoted the gospels and the fathers, and implored
the light of the Holy Spirit, in whose name they
pretended to speak, and even passed some useful
regulations ; so that a person who reads those acts,
without knowing something of history, would be
tempted to believe that he was reading the acts of

All this was done almost under the emperor's eye ;
and who can tell how far the courage and resent-
ment of the young pontiff, and the revolt of the
people in his favor, together with the natural antip-
athy which all the other towns of Italy bore to the
German government, might have carried this
revolution? But Pope John XII. was murdered
about three months after, in 964, in the arms of a
married woman, whose husband, with his own
hands, avenged the injury done to his honor. Wri-

Otho the Great. 233

ters tell us, that he did not believe in the religion of
which he was pontiff, and refused when dying, to
receive the sacrament.

This pope, or rather patrician, had instilled such
courage into the Roman people, that even after his
death, they had the resolution to stand a siege, and
did not yield till they were driven to the last extrem-
ity. Otho, twice conqueror of Rome, was now mas-
ter of Italy, as well as Germany.

Pope Leo, a pontiff of Otho's own creation,
together with the senate, the heads of the people,
and the Roman clergy, solemnly assembled in the
church of St. John Lateran, confirmed the emperor's
right of choosing a successor to the kingdom of
Italy, of confirming the election of a pope, and of
giving the investiture to bishops. After all these
treaties and oaths extorted by fear, the emperor
should have resided at Rome, to see them observed.

Scarce was Otho returned back to Germany, when
the Romans resolved to make another effort to
recover their freedom; they seized on their new
pope, the emperor's creature, and threw him into
prison. The prefect of Rome, the tribunes of the
people, and the senate, attempted to revive their
ancient laws; but what at one time is an heroic
action, at another becomes a seditious revolt. In
966 Otho hastens back to Italy, hangs a part of
the senate, and causes the prefect of Rome, who
aimed at being a second Brutus, to be publicly
whipped naked through the streets upon an ass, and

234 Ancient and Modern History.

afterwards thrown into a dungeon, where he died of



THIS was nearly the situation of Rome, under Otho
the Great, and his successors, Otho II. and III. The
Germans held the Romans in subjection, and these
embraced every opportunity of throwing off the
yoke, when it was in their power.

A pope who had been elected by the emperor's
order, or at least nominated by him, became the
object of general detestation with the people of
Rome, who still cherished in their hearts the design
of restoring the ancient republic; but this noble
ambition was productive only of a series of the most
dreadful and humiliating calamities.

Otho II. marches to Rome against his father.
What a government! What an empire! And what
a pontificate! A consul named Crescentius, son of
Pope John X. and the famous Marozia, receiving
with this title, a settled hatred to royalty, armed
Rome against Otho II. He caused Pope Benedict
VI., the emperor's creature, to be murdered in
prison; and Otho, though at a distance, having by
his authority, during these disorders, conferred the
papal see on the chancellor of the empire in Italy,
he was made pope by the name of John XIV.
This unhappy prelate was a new victim sacrificed


Emperors Otho II. and III. 235

by the Roman party. Pope Boniface VII.,' the
creature of the consul Crescentius, though already
stained with the blood of Benedict VI., caused John
XIV. likewise to be put to death. The times of
Caligula, Nero, and Vitellius, did not produce more
deplorable calamities, nor more horrid barbarities.
But the villainies and misfortunes of these popes
are as obscure as themselves. These bloody trage-
dies were performed on the theatre of Rome, when
the city had grown weak; whereas those of the
Caesars had all the known world for their theatre.

While these things were going on, in 981, Otho II.
arrives at Rome. The popes had formerly shaken
off the yoke of the emperors of the East, by calling
the Franks into Italy. What did they in this present
conjuncture? They, seemed in appearance ready to
return under their old masters, and having impru-
dently called in the Saxon kings, they are now for
driving them out again. This very Boniface VII.
went in person to Constantinople, to press the
emperors Basil and Constantine to come and restore
the throne of the Caesars in Rome. This unhappy
city knew not truly what it was, nor to whom it
belonged. The consul Crescentius, and the senate,
were for restoring the ancient republic: the pope
was in fact neither for having a republic nor a mas-
ter : Otho II. was resolved to reign despotically. He
entered Rome, and invited the principal senators
and followers of Crescentius to an entertainment
where, if we believe Godfrey of Viterbo, he caused

236 Ancient and Modern History.

them all to be put to the sword. Thus was the pope
delivered by the hands of his enemy, from the sena-
tors of the republican party. But he wanted besides
to get rid of the tyrant himself ; and as if the troops
of the emperor of the East, which filled all the
neighborhood of Rome, were not sufficient, the pope
called in the Saracens also. If the massacre of the
senators at this bloody banquet, such as it is related
by Godfrey, be true, it was doubtless much better to
have Mahometans for protectors, than this cruel
Saxon for master. After being beaten several times
by the Greeks and Mahometans, he was at length
made prisoner, but contrived means of escaping;
and taking advantage of the divisions existing
among his enemies, he again entered Rome, where
he died in 983.

After his death, the consul Crescentius maintained
for a little time the shadow of the Roman republic.
He drove Gregory V., nephew to Otho III., from the
papal chair : but at length Rome was again besieged
and taken, and Crescentius, who suffered himself to
be drawn from his place of security in the castle of
St. Angelo, by the hopes of an accommodation, and
on the faith of the emperor's solemn promise, had
his head struck off, after which his body was hung
up by the heels; and the new pope, elected by the
people of Rome, under the name of John XV., had
his eyes put out, and his nose cut off, and in this
condition was thrown from the top of the castle of
St. Angelo into the market-place.

Emperors Otho II. and III. 237

The people of Rome then renewed to Otho III.
the oaths they had sworn to Otho I. and to Charle-
magne ; and the new emperor, on his side, made an
assignment of the lands in the march of Ancona,
to the popes, to support their dignity.

After the death of the three Othos, the struggle
for the German sovereignty and the liberty of Italy
remained for a long time on the same footing.
Under the emperors Henry II. of Bavaria, and Con-
rad II., named the Salic, whenever the emperor was
employed in Germany, a party was formed in Italy.
Henry II. like the Othos, immediately went there,
to disperse factions, to confirm the popes in the
donations they had received from former emperors,
and to receive the same homage. In the meantime,
however, the papal see was put up to the highest
bidder, as well as all the other bishoprics.

Benedict VIII. and John XIX. purchased it pub-
licly one after the other. They were brothers of
the family of the marquis of Tuscany, which had
always borne a great sway in Rome, since the time
of Marozia, and the two Theodoras.

After their deaths, in 1034, in order to perpetuate
the pontifical dignity in their family, the suffrages
were purchased for a child of twelve years old.
This was Benedict IX., who got the bishopric of
Rome in the same manner as we at present see a
number of families privately purchase benefices for
their children.

This irregularity had no bounds; for in the

23 8 Ancient and Modern History.

pontificate of this Benedict I^C. there were two other
popes elected by dint of money ; and thus there were
seen three popes at the same time in Rome, excom-
municating each other : but by a happy agreement,
these seeds of civil war were stifled in their begin-
ning; and the three pontiffs mutually consented to
divide the revenues of the Church between them,
and to live in peace, each with his mistress.

This pacific, and very extraordinary triumvirate
lasted no longer than there was money to be had;
and at length, when that began to fall short, each
sold his share of the pontificate to Gratian, a deacon,
a man of quality, and very rich. But as young
Benedict had been elected a long time before the
other two, they left him by a solemn agreement, the
enjoyment of the tributes paid by England to Rome,
called Peter's Pence, to which a Danish king of
England, named Etelvolft, Edelvoft, or Ethelwulph,
had submitted himself and kingdom, in 852.

This Gratian, who assumed the name of Gregory
VI., was in peaceable possession of the pontificate,
when the emperor Henry III., son of Conrad II.,
called the Salic, came to Rome.

Never did any emperor exercise a fuller author-

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