The Amazing Frederic

The Amazing Frederic

The Amazing Frederic

The Amazing Frederic

Excerpt

Frederic II, "Emperor of the Romans, King of Sicily and Apulia, and King of Jerusalem," lived through the first half of the thirteenth century. The grandson of the Norman King, Roger II of Sicily, and of the German Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, he fell heir to the sovereignty of the most civilized country of Europe, "the first modern state," and to the greatest civil power of the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire. In that double rôle he became the protagonist of the dramatic struggle between the Empire and the Papacy, and so bitter was the conflict that his fascinating personality and his astonishing achievements have been obscured, from his time to ours, by the complexity of the historic drama. This book is an attempt to extricate his character from the contradictory reports of partisan commentators and to tell the story of his life as it emerges from his own words and from the opinions of his contemporaries.

The sources of a biography of Frederic II must include everything that is known about Europe and the Holy Land in the century of which he was the hero. Most important are the letters and documents of his reign collected and edited by Huillard-Bréholles in the Historia Diplomatica Frederici Secundi. The only other reliable sources are the annals and chronicles, the tales and the poetry of the time, supplemented by the enduring products of his genius. And Dante, the all-knowing commentator upon the generation preceding his own, throws light upon Frederic and his heirs, as he himself is better understood by knowing them.

Since most of the annalists of the age belonged to the papal party and even the poets were partisans in the complex movements of their day, it is difficult to balance truth against prejudice. In recent years, historians have rendered a belated justice to Frederic's intellectual pre-eminence and his originality. By sifting the facts, it is now possible to know him as he was.

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