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Milton V. Anastos

Constantinople and Rome

A Survey of the Relations between the Byzantine and the Roman Churches.

M. Anastos, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2001. ISBN: 0 86078 840 7.

14. Charlemagne and the title "Emperor of the Romans"

One of the indirect consequences of the Byzantine losses in Northern Italy during the iconoclastic period was the meteoric rise of Charlemagne (768-814)(132) to a dominant position in western Europe. His coronation as Emperor of the Romans (Imperator Romanorum) by Pope Leo ΙΙΙ on Christmas Day in the year 800,(133) which in many ways marks a climax in his career, solemnized the division between the Latin and Greek halves of the Empire that had taken place in the latter part of the eighth century, and formally brought into being the political counterpart of the Roman Church. Charlemagne did not describe himself as Imperator Romanorum, but rather as Imperator Romanum gubernans Imperium (Emperor ruling the Roman Empire).(134) There is some uncertainty about the significance of this distinction. Charlemagne may have thought that the latter title was more modest than the former and therefore more suitable for him until he secured Byzantine recognition as emperor, i.e., as co-emperor or colleague of the ruler of Byzantium. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that he looked upon himself and was often regarded in the West, as in some sense the successor of the legitimate emperors of Constantinople.

So powerful, however, was the mediaeval conception of the unity of the Roman Empire and of the legitimacy of the claims of the Byzantine emperors to be its sole heirs and custodians, that Charlemagne went to great lengths, and was prepared to pay a high price, to obtain Byzantine endorsement of his right to succession. At first, he conceived the brilliant scheme of cementing the unity of the eastern and western portions of the Empire by marrying the Byzantine Empress Irene (797-802).(135) Unfortunately, this ingenious project, which might well have had a profound effect upon the subsequent history of Europe, failed when Irene was forced to abdicate by the Emperor Nicephorus Ι (802-11).

Charlemagne then attempted to secure the desired confirmation from the Emperor Nicephorus Ι, but was rebuffed.(136) For the Byzantines were both scornful of Charlemagne as an upstart and bitter about what they took to be an intolerable usurpation οn his part of authority and nomenclature that were reserved exclusively to their own emperors. Ιn the early years of his reign, Nicephorus was so unalterably opposed to granting any recognition whatsoever that he would not permit the Patriarch Nicephorus (806-15) to dispatch the traditional synodical letter to the Roman see announcing his elevation to the patriarchate. This breach lasted until 812, when the Emperor Michael Ι Rhangabe (811-13) again permitted Nicephorus to resume relations with Rome.

Simultaneously, Byzantine opposition to granting Charlemagne's request melted when he offered to hand back Venice and Liburnia, together with the coastal cities of Dalmatia and Istria,(137) which he had conquered, if the Byzantines would extend him the right tο use the single word imperator (basileus) οn his official stationery. At the end of his life, the Emperor Nicephorus Ι was prepared to capitulate οn these terms, and the bargain was finally consummated by Michael Ι in 812, who had nο alternative after the massacre of the Byzantine army in Bulgaria by Krum in 811. He plainly was in nο position to contemplate any kind of military or naval offensive against the Franks, and he rejoiced at the prospect of regaining the last provinces, which Charlemagne held out as bait. Accordingly, Michael's envoys acclaimed Charlemagne as Emperor (but not Emperor of the Romans) in both Greek and Latin at Aachen in 812, although the exchange of treaties was not completed until 814, when these two monarchs had been succeeded by Leo V (813-20) in the East and Louis the Pious in the West.(138)

Thus the fiction of the unity of the Empire was outwardly preserved, although in point of fact, East and West nοw formed two separate, dissimilar empires. Charlemagne was undisputed monarch of all of continental western Europe, except for the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) and a few Byzantine outposts in Italy. Nevertheless, the Byzantines never regarded him or his successors as the peer of the Byzantine emperors. Nor did they accord to Charlemagne's successors any hereditary claim upon the title, which they had reluctantly granted him personally. Despite the agreement of 814 the Emperor Michael ΙΙ (820-29) in 824 addressed Louis Ι (the Pious) somewhat insultingly as "glorious king of the Franks and Lombards, who is called their emperor" (glorioso regi Francorum et Langobardorum, et vocato eorum imperatori ).(139)

Ιn 867, however, the Council of Constantinople, in the presence of Emperors Michael ΙΙΙ (842-67) and Basil Ι (867-86), seems to have acclaimed Louis II and his queen, Engilberta, as emperors (basileis), although the source from which this information is derived is notoriously unreliable.(140) But this concession, if it ever was made, was the last of its kind in Byzantine history, and was nullified in 871 by Basil Ι, who maintained in a letter to Louis ΙΙ that neither he nor his grandfather, Louis Ι, had been authorized to refer to himself as emperor.(141)

Moreover, from 812 on, the Byzantine sovereign was no longer called merely "emperor" (basileus), as he had been since 629, but "emperor of the Romans,"(142) a designation, which was intended to minimize the dignity vouchsafed for a brief period to the Carolingian kings, and to indicate the superiority of the Byzantine monarchs to all others. Τo the very end, the Byzantines regarded themselves as the sole legitimate masters of the Roman Empire, and even of the entire inhabited world. For this reason they refused to recognize anyone but their own ruler as "emperor of the Romans" or autokrator (a term which designates the wielder of sole and absolute power in the state, and was used in Byzantium ca. 681-1272 exclusively for the senior emperor, to whom the co-emperors, if any, were subordinate).

Notwithstanding the attempts of Charlemagne and his heirs to obtain confirmation of the imperial title from their Byzantine "brothers" and thus to preserve the fiction
that the Empire was still one and inseparable, the coronation in the year 800 made the political cleavage between East and West complete and irremediable. Charlemagne himself realized this, and made reference to the eastern and western empires.(143) Nevertheless, the final break in ecclesiastical relations, though imminent, was deferred until 1054, as some would have it, or, as others say, until 1204.


132. - Οn Charlemagne, see Engelbert Mühlbacher, Deutsche Geschichte unter den Karolingern (1896), with bibliography and appendix by Harold Steinacker (Stuttgart, 1959); Helmut Beumann, "Nomen imperatoris: Studien zur Kaiseridee Karls d. Gr.," HistZ, 185 (1958), 515-49; Heinrich Löwe, "Von den Grenzen des Kaisergedankens in der Karolingerzeit," DA, 14 (1958), 345-74; idem, "Eine Kölner Notiz zum Kaisertum Karls des Grossen," Rheinische Vierteljahrsblätter, 14 (1949), 7-34 (798: "missi venerunt de Graecia ut traderent ei [Carolo] imperium"); the essays given by Werner Ohnsorge in his Abendland und Βyzanz (Darmstadt, 1958): "Byzanz und das Abendland im 9. und 10. Jahrhundert: Zur Entwicklung des Kaiserbegriffes und der Staatsideologie"; "Orthodoxus imperator: Vom religiösen Motiv für das Kaisertum Karls des Grossen"; "Die Konstantinische Schenkung, Leo III. und die Anfänge der kurialen römischen Kaiseridee"; "Renovatio regni Francorum"; "Die Entwicklung der Kaiseridee im 9. Jahrhundert und Süditalien"; Percy Ε. Schramm, "Karl der Grosse im Lichte der Staatssymbolik," Karolingische und ottonische Kunst, 3 (1957), 16-42; idem, "Die Anerkennung Karls des Grossen als Kaiser," HistZ, 172 (1951), 449-515; Franz Dölger, "Byzanz und das Abendland vor den Kreuzzügen" (cited in note 1 above), 72 ff.; idem, "Europas Gestaltung im Spiegel der fränkisch-byzantinischen Auseinandersetzung des 9. Jahrhunderts," in idem, Βyzanz und die europäische Staatenwelt (Ettal, 1953), 80, 282-369, reprinted from Der Vertrag von Verdun, 843 ..., ed. Theodor Mayer (Leipzig, 1943), 203-73; Walter Mohr, Studien zur Charakteristik des karolingischen Königtums im 8. Jahrhundert (Saarlouis, 1955); Heinrich Fichtenau, "Ιl concetto imperiale di Carlo Magno," Ι problemi della civiltà carolingia = Settimane di Studio, 1 (Spoleto, 1954), 251-98, cf. 299-306; idem, "Byzanz und die Pfalz zu Aachen," Mitteilungen des Instituts, für österreichische Geschichtsforschung, 59 (1951), 1-54; idem, The Carolingian Empire, trans. Ρ Munz (Oxford, 1950); Wilhelm Wattenach et al., Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen im Mittelalter: Vorzeit und Karolinger, 2, Die Karolinger vom Anfang des 8. Jahrhunderts bis zum Tode Karls des Grossen, by W Levison and Η. Löwe (Weimar, 1953); Ρ Bonenfant, "L'influence byzantine sur les diplomes des Carolingiens," in Mélanges Η. Gregoire, 3 =AIPHOS, 11 (1951), 61-77, with notes of Franz Dölger, ΒΖ, 45 (1952), 441; Francis Dvornik, The making of central and eastern Εurope (London, 1949), see index; François L. Ganshof, The imperial coronation of Charlemagne (Glasgow, 1949); Louis Halphen, Charlemagne et l'empire carolingien (Paris, 1949); G. Neyron, "Charlemagne, les Papes et l'Orient," OrChrP, 13 (1947), 251-63; Emile Amann, L'epoque carolingienne (Fliche-Martin, Histoire de l'église, 6 [Ρaris, 1937]); Erich Caspar, "Das Papsttum unter fränkischer Herrschaft," ZKirch, 3. F. 5 = 54 (1935), 132-264; Arthur Kleinklausz, Charlemagne (Paris, 1934); idem, L'empire carolingien: Ses origines et ses transformations (Paris, 1902), 139 ff., 192 ff., 203; Κ. Heldmann, Das Kaisertum Karls den Grossen (Weimar, 1928); Amadéee Gasquet, Etudes byzantines, l'empire byzantin et la monarchie franque (Paris, 1888), 276-328, 392 f., 407-18; idem, De translatione imperii ab imperatoribus byzantinis ad reges Francorum (Clermont-Ferrand, 1879); cf Robert Folz, Etudes sur la culte liturgique de Charlemagne dans les églises de l'Empire (Publications de la Faculté des Lettres de l'Université de Strasbourg, fasc. 115 [Ρaris, 1951]); idem, Le souvenir et la légende de Charlemagne dans l'Empire germanique médiéval (Publications de l'Université de Dijon, N.S. 7 [Paris, 1950]).

133. - Einhardi Vita Karoli Magni, 28, MGH SS, 2, 457 f. (MGH SRG, 6th ed., ed. Ο. Holder-Egger [Hannover, 1911], 32 f); Theophanes, Chronographia, ed. C. De Boor, 1 (Leipzig, 1833), 472.23-473.4, 475.11 f.; Liber pontificalis, ed. Duchesne, 2 (Paris, 1892), 7. Cf. also Annales Laurissenses and Einhardi annales, a. 801, MGH SS, 1, 188 f; and other Carolingian chronicles, ibid., 120, c. 32, etc. (in MGH SRG, ed. F. Kurze [Hannover, 1895]; the former of these is entitled Αnnales regni francorum); Heinz Dannenbauer, Die Quellen zur Geschichte der Kaiserkrönung Karls des Grossen (Berlin, 1931).

134. - Peter Classen, "Romanum gubernans imperium: Zur Vorgeschichte der Kaisertitulatur Karls des Grossen," DA, 9 (1952), 103-21; Dölger, "Europas Gestaltung," 297 ff. (Vertrag vοn Verdun, 216 ff.).

135. - Theophanes, ed. cit., 1, 475.12-15, 27-32; Dölger, Regesten, 1, nο. 357; idem, "Europas Gestallung," 301 f.

136. - Einhardi Vita Caroli Μagni, c. 16, MGH SS, 2, 451.33-452.4 (MGH SRG, pp. 19.26-20.8) and c. 28 (cited in note 133 above); Theophanes, ed. cit., 1, 494.20-25. For notes 136-38, see Ostrogorsky, History, 175 f.; Dölger, "Europas Gestaltung," 303 f.; idem, Regesten, 1, nos. 385, 391, cf 361, 371; Kleinklausz, Charlemagne, 320-26; idem, L'empire carolingien, 204-9;J. Β. Βury, Α history of the Eastern Roman Empire (London, 1912), 321 ff.

137. - Einhardi Vita Caroli Magni, c. 15, MGH SS, 2, 451.8-10 (MGH SRG, 418.19-22), according to which Charlemagne held "Histriam quoque et Liburniam atque Dalmatiam, exceptis maritimis civitatibus, quae ob amicitiam et iunctum cum eo foedus Constantinopolitanum imperatorem habere permisit." Einhardi annales, a. 810, MGH SS, 1, 197.16-18, 198.7-9; cf. a. 809, ibid., 196.1-2 (MGH SRG, Αnnales regni francorum, under years noted).

138. - Einhardi annales, aa. 810-14, 815, 817, MGH SS, 1, 198.7-9, 15 ff; 199.25-34; 200.7-9, 38 ff.; 201.3-19; 202.28-30; 203.26 ff. (MGH SRG, Annales regni francorum, ed. F Kurze, under the years noted); Einhardi Fuldenses annales, aa. 803, 811-12, etc., MGH SS, 1, 353.8 ff., 355.14 ff., 29-35 (MGH SRG, Αnnales Fuldenses, ed. F. Κurze [Hannover, 1891], under years noted); Charlemagne, Εpp. 32 and 37 to the Emperors Nicephorus Ι and Michael Ι in 811 and 813 respectively: MGH Epist., 4, Karolini aevi, 2, 546-48, 556 f.

139. - Mansi, Concilia, 14, 417ΑΒ; Dölger, Regesten, 1, nο. 408; idem, "Europas Gestaltung," 309 f.

140. - Mansi, Concilia, 16, 260 Ε, 417DE. Both Dvornik (Photian schism [cited in note 62 above], 121 f.; "The Patriarch Photius in the light of recent research;" Berichte zum ΧI Internatiorialen Byzantinisten-Kongress [Munich, 1958], III, 2, p. 31) and Dölger ("Europas Gestaltung," 310 f., 316 f.), despite disagreement in details, believe that Louis II was acclaimed as basileus by the Byzantines in 867.

141. - MGH Εpist., 7, Κarolini aeνi, 5, 387.39-41. Dölger, loc. cit., 312 ff (226 ff.); Grumel, Regestes, n. 504; Walter Henze, "Uber den Brief Kaiser Ludwigs II. an den Kaiser Basilius Ι.,"Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde, 35 (1910), 661-76. Ιn 925, Symeon the Bulgarian proclaimed himself Emperor and Autocrator of the Romans and the Bulgars, but Byzantium never consented to this usurpation, although Symeon's son Peter, if not Symeon himself, was granted authorization to use the title Emperor of Bulgaria: Ostrogorsky, History, 232 f.; idem, "Die byzantinische Staatenhierarchie," SemKond, 8 (1936), 45; idem, "Autokrator: Samodrzac" (in Serbian), Glas, Srpska kralevska Akademija, 164 (1935), 95-187; idem, "Die Krönung Symeons von Bulgarien durch Nikolaos Mystikos," in Actes du IVe Congrès international des études byzantiαes, 1 (Bulletin de l'Institut archéologique bulgare, 9 [Sofia, 1935]), 275-86; Franz Dölger, "Der Bulgarenherrscher als geistlicher Sohn des byzantinischen Κaisers," in Sbornik (Recueil) dédié à la mémoire du professeur Peter Nikov = IzvIstDr, 16/17 (1939), 219-32; and idem, "Bulgarisches Zartum und byzantinisches Kaisertum," in Actes du IVe Congrès (cited above), 57-68, both of which are reprinted in Byzanz und die europäische Staatenwelt (Ettal, 1953), n.b. 151 ff, 183 ff; Steven Runciman, Α history of the first Bulgarian Empire (London, 1930), 173 ff. Ιn later times, however, some Byzantine writers were willing to yield in this matter, as, e.g., in the middle of the fifteenth century, when Michael Apostolios addressed the Emperor Frederick III as Emperor (Basileus) of the Romans and of all Christians, ed. Basil Laurdas, Geras Αntoniu Keramopulu (Society of Macedonian Studies, Philological and theological series, 9 [Athens, 1953]), 518.

142. - Dölger, "Europas Gestaltung," 297-300 (215 ff.); Ostrogorsky, History, 176 f.

143. - Εp. 37 (in 813), MGH Epist., 4, Karolini aevi, 2, 556.8 f.

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