History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 9

By Henk Dijkstra | Go to book overview

Early
Medieval
Politics
Secular Rulers and
Papal Power

Otto II (955-983)

A bishop.
with scepter
and miter, offering
benediction;
eleventh-century
sculpture

Otto II, named king of Germany in 961, ruled as Holy Roman emperor jointly with his father from 967 to 973 and for another ten years on his own. Over that decade, he had to suppress a rebellion initiated by his cousin Henry II, duke of Bavaria, and defend Lorraine against invasion by Lothar, king of France. He staged an unsuccessful seige of Paris as part of this effort, but Lothar eventually renounced Lorraine anyway. In 982, Otto failed again, this time invading Italy. He did manage to take Naples, Salerno, and Taranto before being stopped by the Byzantines and Muslims at Cotrone. He died in Rome in 983, leaving a three-year-old son.


Otto III (980-1002)

The boy, Otto III, was made king of Germany, coregent with his Byzantine mother, Theophano, and his grandmother, Adelaide. In 991, regency authority shifted to a council. In 996, Otto III took control. Crowned as king of Lombardy and as Holy Roman emperor, he set his cousin Bruno on the papal throne as Pope Gregory. When Gregory died, Otto established his own former tutor Gerbert as Pope Sylvester II. The emperor dreamed of a Christendom united to meet both secular and spiritual needs. He wanted to restore some of the customs of ancient Rome and worked to make the city the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.

Otto III stayed in Rome until he died, leaving no direct descendants. The aristocracy was required to make the royal choice for the first time in nearly a century.


Henry the Saint (973-1024)

The nobles granted the crown to Otto's nearest relative, Duke Henry of Bavaria, to their later regret. Henry II, last of the Saxon rulers, was German king from 1002 to 1024. In 1004, he invaded Italy and was also made king of the Lombards. In that year, as well, he began a fourteen-year battle with Boleslav I, king of Poland, regaining the German territory of Bohemia in 1018. He convinced Rudolf III, king of

-1213-

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