Vatican City

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! For those new to the site, this is the day we visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These sites are all over what was once the Imperium Rōmānum. We are not so strict on if the sites were made by Romans simply that Ancient Rome impacted the location in some fashion.

Today we’re heading back to Rome, to check out the Vatican City (Civitas Vaticana)!

One of the most sacred places in Christendom, Vatican City stands as a testimony to a history of about 2 millennia and to a formidable spiritual venture. Site of the tomb of the Apostle Saint Peter, first of the uninterrupted succession of Roman Pontiffs, and therefore a main pilgrimage center, the Vatican is directly and tangibly linked with the history of Christianity.

Furthermore, it is both an ideal and an exemplary creation of the Renaissance and of Baroque art. It exerted an enduring influence on the development of the arts from the 16th Century.

The independent State, defined by the Lateran Treaty of 11 February 1929, extends its territorial sovereignty over an area of 108.7 acres in the center of Rome. Vatican City is enclosed by its walls and opens toward the city through Bernini’s colonnade of Saint Peter’s Square.

The boundaries of the city-state contain masterpieces and living institutions that are a witness to the unique continuity of the crucial role played by this place in the history of mankind. The Centre of Christianity since the foundation of Saint Peter’s Basilica by Constantine (4th century), and at a later stage the permanent seat of the Popes, the Vatican is at once the pre-eminently holy city for Catholics, an important archaeological site of the Roman world and one of the major cultural reference points of both Christians and non-Christians.

In 1984, Vatican City became a World Heritage Site as part of the Holy See (Sancta Sedes).

Connection to Rome:

Aside from being in the heart of Rome itself, there’s not much more of a connection.

The name “Vatican” was already in use in the time of the Res Publica Romana for a marshy area on the west bank of the Tiberis across from the city of Rome. Under the Imperium Rōmānum, many villas were constructed there, after Agrippina the Elder drained the area and laid out her gardens in the early 1st Century AD.

In AD 40, Agrippina’s son, Emperor Caligula built in her gardens a circus for charioteers that was later completed by Nero, so it’s usually called, simply, the Circus of Nero.

Even before the arrival of Christianity, it is supposed that this originally uninhabited part of Rome (the ager vaticanus) had long been considered sacred, or at least not available for habitation. A shrine dedicated to the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis remained active long after the Constantinian Basilica of St. Peter was built nearby.

The Vatican Obelisk was originally taken by Caligula from Heliopolis in Egypt to decorate the spina of his circus and is thus its last visible remnant. This area became the site of martyrdom of many Christians after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64.

Ancient tradition holds that it was in this circus that Saint Peter was crucified upside-down.

We hope you enjoyed your visit to Vatican City and look forward to having you back soon. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Historic Areas of Istanbul

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! For those new to the site, this is the day we visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These sites are all over what was once the Imperium Rōmānum. We are not so strict on if the sites were made by Romans simply that Ancient Rome impacted the location in some fashion.

Today we’re heading back to Turkey, to check out the Historic Areas of Istanbul!

In all honesty though, we still prefer Constantinople.

With its strategic location on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been associated with major political, religious and artistic events for more than 2,000 years. Istanbul was successively the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire.

Its masterpieces include the ancient Hippodrome of Constantinople, the 6th Century Hagia Sophia and the 16th Century Süleymaniye Mosque, all now under threat from population pressure, industrial pollution and uncontrolled urbanization.

The city is surrounded by the Golden Horn (Haliç), a natural harbor on the north, the Bosphorus on the east and the Marmara Sea on the south. The Historic Peninsula, on which the former Byzantium and Constantinople developed, was surrounded by ancient walls, built initially by Theodosius I in the early 5th Century.

The Outstanding Universal Value of Istanbul resides in its unique integration of architectural masterpieces that reflect the meeting of Europe and Asia over many centuries, and in its incomparable skyline formed by the creative genius of Byzantine and Ottoman architects.

The 4 areas of the property are the Archaeological Park, at the tip of the Historic peninsula; the Suleymaniye quarter with Suleymaniye Mosque complex, bazaars and vernacular settlement around it; the Zeyrek area of settlement around the Zeyrek Mosque (the former Church of the Pantocrator), and the area along both sides of the Theodosian Walls including remains of the former Blachernae Palace.

These areas display architectural achievements of successive imperial periods also including the 17th Century Blue Mosque, the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, the 16th Century Şehzade Mosque complex, the 15th Century Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome of Constantine, the Valens Aqueduct, the Justinian churches of Hagia Sophia, St. Irene, Küçük Ayasofya Mosque (the former Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus), the Pantocrator Monastery founded under John II Komnenos by Empress Irene; the former Church of the Holy Saviour of Chora with its mosaics and paintings dating from the 14th and 15th Centuries; and many other exceptional examples of various building types including baths, cisterns, and tombs.

Connection to Rome:

Constantinople (Constantinopolis) was the capital city of the Roman/Byzantine (330–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin (1204–1261), and the Ottoman (1453–1924) empires.

It was re-inaugurated in 324 AD at ancient Byzantium, as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great, after whom it was named, and dedicated on 11 May 330.

In the 12th Century, the city was the largest and wealthiest European city and it was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times. After the loss of its territory, the Eastern Roman Empire was reduced to just its capital city and its environs.

Following the Muslim conquest in 1453, the former bastion of Christianity in the east, Constantinople was turned into the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

We hoped you enjoyed seeing the best of what was once Constantinople and the heart of the late Roman Empire. Come back soon to see what’s in store for you next.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Book 1; Thought 10

From Alexander the grammarian, to refrain from fault-finding, and not in a reproachful way to chide those who uttered any barbarous or solecistic or strange-sounding expression; but dexterously to introduce the very expression which ought to have been used, and in the way of answer or giving confirmation, or joining in an inquiry about the thing itself, not about the word, or by some other fit suggestion.Alexander of Cotiaeum

The Roman Republic and Empire

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! Life is getting busy for us around here, with the new baby and all.

After just closing out the busiest of seasons for my career as a vendor of wine, I need a break. What better way to give you some great historical information, and me some time off from writing, than by showing a video?

Today we are sharing a video lecture for Howell High School’s World History class. It is meant to supplement other learning materials in our world history course.

Thanks for stopping by. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Arch of Septimius Severus (#44)

Happy New Year and welcome to Rome Across Europe! If you were anything like us, with the ushering in of a new year you had some celebrating to do.

We took a day off and continued the list of 52 Ancient Roman Monuments that are claimed to be a “must see” by Touropia Travel Experts. Last week we brought you #45, Roman Theatre of Amman.

So RAE is going through the list of monuments each week, and adding some extra information for you.

Today we bring you the Arch of Septimius Severus at Leptis Magna!Arch

Lucius Septimius Severus was a Roman Emperor born in Leptis Magna who reigned from AD 193 until his death in 211. Leptis Magna (Great Leptis) known as Lebda to modern-day residents of Libya, was a prominent city of the Imperium Rōmānum.

The ruins of Leptis Magna are located in Khoms, Libya, 81 mi east of Tripoli, on the coast where the Wadi Lebda meets the sea. The site is one of the most spectacular and unspoiled Roman ruins in the Mediterranean.

Leptis Magna was nothing more than a trading post until the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when the city and the surrounding area were formally incorporated into the Empire as part of the province of Africa. It soon became one of the leading cities of Roman Africa and a major center of commerce.

Septimius_Severus_busto-Musei_CapitoliniSeptimius Severus favored his hometown above all other provincial cities, and the buildings and wealth he lavished on it made Leptis Magna the 3rd-most important city in Africa, rivaling Carthage and Alexandria. In AD 205, Severus and the imperial family visited the city and received great honors.

Among the changes that Severus introduced were to create a magnificent new forum and to rebuild the docks. The natural harbor had a tendency to silt up, but the Severan changes made this worse, and the eastern wharves are extremely well preserved, since they were scarcely used.

The Arch of Septimius Severus, seen here from the southwest, is as you would have seen it when you approached the city of Leptis Magna from the countryside. You are looking along the Cardo to the northeast. The arch in the distance was dedicated to Trajan.SW

The monument cannot be dated precisely, but it is likely that the citizens of Leptis started the construction as soon as possible. The most likely case is that they began immediately after their fellow citizen had become Emperor and had stabilized the Empire after the wars of the Year of the Five Emperors (AD 193).

This is confirmed by the fact that the defeated enemies, so common on an honorific arch, are Parthians, who had been defeated twice by Severus at the beginning of his reign.

The central scene shows the friendship (Concordia) within the imperial family. The Emperor is shown shaking hands with his sons, Caracalla and Geta. The head is a replica; the original was stolen by an allied soldier during World War II.Friendship of SonsTo the left we can see the Empress, Julia Domna, and to the far left is the goddess Roma. The two men to the right are the Praefecti PraetorioPlautianus, and the Emperor’s brother Geta.

Caracalla is shown as a tall young man, not quite grown-up, and this offers a clue for the moment of completion of the arch: in the early 200’s, when he was about 16 or 17. This coincides with the Emperor’s visit to Leptis Magna in 202-203, when he rebuilt many monuments in his hometown, like the Severan Forum, the Basilica, the Temple of the Septimians, and the Port.

CitizensOn this photo, we see some of the citizens of Leptis Magna. If we assume that constructing the arch lasted from AD 194 to 202, we cannot be very far from the truth.

Eight years, however, is a long time, especially when we take into account that the core of the 4 piers was already there. This can be deduced from the fact that it is made of local limestone, found at Ras el-Hamman.

The quarries, however, were closed by the age of Septimius Severus, so we must assume that the inner structure is older, and was merely redecorated. This is confirmed by the fact that the limestone was measured in Punic cubits, which had been replaced by Roman feet before the age of Severus.

The overall design is baroque because it faces 4 directions (quadrifrons), not 2. This is not unique but rare, although a similar arch, dedicated to Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius, can be found in the nearby city of Oea.

arch_severus_sw_barbarian_lAs always, we can see captive barbarians on the shackles, trophies on the pier itself and Victories in the spandrels. However, the broken pediment in the upper part is very unusual, and so is the extensive decoration underneath the groin vault, which matches the frieze in the attic.

Here is one of the captive barbarians. The combination of tunica, mantle, and trousers betray that he is a Parthian. Next to him is a splendid representation of a vine with grapes.

In the spandrels, we can see the winged Victories that are part of almost any Roman triumphal arch. Like the other original reliefs, it is today in the Archaeological Museum in Tripoli, which has an entire room dedicated to the Arch of Septimius Severus.

Groin VaultLike the arch at Oea, the corners of the monument at Leptis Magna were directed to the 4 corners of the compass. The groin vault, to which the 4 gates gave access, covered the crossroads of the main streets of the city, the Cardo (which leads from the center out of town) and the Decumanus, the road along the coast that started in Alexandria in Egypt and continued to Carthage and beyond.

This was the point where all roads from Leptis Magna began, and distances were measured from the arch. Indeed, there is a milestone at a stone’s throw from the arch.

The northeast face of the Arch of Septimius Severus in Leptis Magna was directed to Oea, the great rival city of Leptis (modern Tripoli). The theme of this part of the monument is military Virtus.

The makers wanted to stress Septimius Severus’ qualities as a General. And indeed, he was a great conqueror, who had added Mesopotamia to the Empire.

Several large fragments have survived of what is called “frieze A”. Here a group of mounted men dressed in the toga, perhaps Senators or Equites, or the elite of Leptis Magna.

The central scene of this frieze is of the Emperor and his 2 sons in his triumphal chariot, entering his hometown. On the chariot itself you can see a Victory and Tyche (Fortune) crowning the 2 protective gods of Leptis Magna, Liber Pater and Hercules.Triumph

The arch must have boasted a long inscription, but we can find it on none of the 4 faces, except for these words. The 1st, Divo (to the deified), and the 3rd, Divae (which has the same meaning but refers to a woman) suggests that the arch was dedicated to the Emperor and his wife after their deaths in 211 and 217, which is a bit strange.

NEThis northeast face of the monument is decorated with “frieze B”. It represents the Emperor’s pietas, his exemplary religious behavior.

This was very important, because as the Empire’s Pontifex Maximus (High Priest), Septimius Severus was responsible for the pax deorum (peace with the gods) which ensured that the harvests were plentiful, the rivers kept their course, the earth did not move, and rain fell when it had to.

Severus had little patience with dissidents. During his stay in Leptis Magna in 203, a young Christian named Perpetua was tortured to death in Carthage.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure to discover another spectacular example of Roman Architecture. Nobody constructed monuments like they did.

Please come back again to see what we have in store for you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Lepcis Magna: Arch of Septimius Severus.

52 Ancient Roman Monuments.

Birley, Anthony R. Septimius Severus: The African Emperor. London: Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0415165911.

Cooley, Alison. Septimius Severus: The Augustan EmperorCambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN 9780521859820.

Floriani Squarciapino, Maria. Leptis Magna. Raggi, Basel 1966 (Ruinenstädte Nordafrikas 2).

Book 1; Thought 7

TabFrom Rusticus I received the impression that my character required improvement and discipline; and from him I learned not to be led astray to sophistic emulation, nor to writing on speculative matters, nor to delivering little hortatory orations, nor to showing myself off as a man who practises much discipline, or does benevolent acts in order to make a display; and to abstain from rhetoric, and poetry, and fine writing; and not to walk about in the house in my outdoor dress, nor to do other things of the kind; and to write my letters with simplicity, like the letter which Rusticus wrote from Sinuessa to my mother; and with respect to those who have offended me by words, or done me wrong, to be easily disposed to be pacified and reconciled, as soon as they have shown a readiness to be reconciled; and to read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book; nor hastily to give my assent to those who talk overmuch; and I am indebted to him for being acquainted with the discourses of Epictetus, which he communicated to me out of his own collection.

Constantine XI Palaiologos Crowned Byzantine Emperor

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! We hope you’ve enjoyed the New Year thus far. In 2016 we are going to be trying some new ideas, while also holding steady with some of our classics.

With the addition of a new baby a few weeks ago, life has changed and time is precious. What this means is that every day may not have an article, or we may reprise an original from before.

Things are up in the air at the moment, but we will do our best to put forth items of interest that are worth your attention. Having said that, let’s continue the theme of sharing events as they happened in history.

Today we bring you the coronation of Constantine XI Dragases Palaiologos as the last reigning Byzantine Emperor!ConstantinoXI

On 8 February 1405, Constantine Palaiologos (Latinized as Palaeologus) was born in Constantinople to Manuel II Palaiologos and Helena Dragaš, the daughter of the Serbian Magnate Constantine Dragaš. As the 8th of 10 children, Constantine was extremely fond of his mother and added her surname (Dragases) next to his own dynastic one when he ascended the imperial throne.

He spent most of his childhood in Constantinople under the supervision of his parents. He was Governor of Selymbria for a time, until surrendering the role to his brother Theodore in 1443. During the absence of his older brother John at the Council of Florence in Italy, Constantine served as his regent in Constantinople (1437–1440).

Constantine XI would twice marry. The first was on 1 July 1428 to Theodora Tocco, niece of Carlo I Tocco of Epirus, who died in November 1429. The second time was in August 1441 to Caterina Gattilusio, daughter of Dorino of Lesbos, who also died, during childbirth (1442).

He had no children by either marriage. After his coronation, in 1451, Constantine XI sent a commission under George Sphrantzes asking Mara Branković, daughter of the Serbian Despot Đurađ Branković and Byzantine princess Irene Kantakouzene.Constantine_XI_Palaiologos_miniature

The proposal was welcomed by her father, but it foundered on the objection of Mara herself who had vowed that “if God ever released her from the hands of the infidel she would lead a life of celibacy and chastity for the rest of her days”. Accordingly, the courtship failed and Sphrantzes took steps to arrange for a marriage with a princess either from the Empire of Trebizond or the Kingdom of Georgia.

The choice eventually fell to an unnamed Georgian princess, daughter of George VIII. He started official negotiations with the Georgian king, who had sent an ambassador in Constantinople for that reason. It was agreed that, next spring, Sphrantzes would sail for Georgia to bring the bride to Constantinople, but Constantine’s plans were overtaken by the events of 1453.

Despite the foreign and domestic difficulties during his reign, which culminated in the fall of Constantinople and of the Byzantine Empire, contemporary sources generally speak respectfully of the Emperor Constantine. When his brother, Emperor John VIII Palaiologos, died childless, a dispute erupted between Constantine and his brother Demetrios Palaiologos over the throne.

Demetrios drew support for his opposition to the union between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. The Empress Helena, acting as regent, supported Constantine. They appealed to the Ottoman Sultan Murad II to arbitrate the disagreement.

Murad decided in favor of Constantine and on 6 January 1449 Constantine was crowned in the cathedral at Mistra by the local bishop. It was rare but not unprecedented for an Emperor to be crowned in a provincial city and then have another ceremony at Constantinople performed by the patriarch.double-headed+eagle+in+the+Church+of+St+Demetrios+in+Mystras

Constantine was the exception. The patriarch at the time, Gregory III, was a unionist shunned by most of his clergy. Constantine knew that to receive his crown from Gregory would add fuel to the existing fires of religious discord in the capital.

He sailed from Greece on a Venetian ship and arrived in Constantinople on 12 March 1449.

Sultan Murad died in 1451, succeeded by his 19-year-old son Mehmed II. Mehmed II was obsessed with the conquest of Constantinople. Constantine responded to this by threatening to release Prince Orhan, who was a contender to the Ottoman throne, unless Mehmed met some of his demands.

Because of this, Mehmed considered Constantine to have broken the truce and the following winter of 1451–52, Mehmed built Rumelihisarı, a hill fortress on the European side of the Bosporus, just north of the city cutting the communication with the Black Sea to the east.

This complemented the Anadoluhisarı fortress on the Anatolian (Asian) side of the Bosporus, built between 1393 and 1394 by Sultan Bayezid I. For Constantine that was a clear prelude for a siege and he immediately started organizing his defense.

Constantine_PalaiologosConstantine managed to raise funds to stockpile food for the upcoming siege and to repair the old Theodosian walls, but the poor state of the Byzantine economy did not allow him to raise the necessary military forces to defend the city against the massive Ottoman army. Desperate for any type of military assistance, Constantine XI appealed to the West reaffirming the union of Eastern and Roman Churches which had been signed at the Council of Florence, a condition the Catholic Church imposed before any help could be provided.

The union had been overwhelmingly criticized by the strong anti-union part of his subjects. His Megas Doux (Chief Minister and Military Commander) Loukas Notaras, is alleged to have said, “Better to see the turban of the Turks reigning in the center of the City than the Latin mitre.”

Although some troops did arrive from the mercantile city states in the north of Italy, the Western contribution was negligible compared to the needs, given the Ottoman strength. Constantine also sought assistance from his brothers in Morea, but any help was forestalled by an Ottoman invasion of the peninsula in 1452, executed to tie down the soldiers there.

The siege of the city began in the winter of 1452. Constantine faced the siege defending his city of less than 50,000 people with an Army only numbering 7,000 men. Confronting the Byzantine forces was an Ottoman army numbering around 10 times that, backed by state-of-the-art siege equipment provided by a very competent Hungarian arms maker named Orban.

Before the beginning of the siege, Mehmed II made an offer to Constantine XI. In exchange for the surrender of Constantinople, the Emperor’s life would be spared and he would continue to rule in Mistra; to which Constantine replied:

To surrender the city to you is beyond my authority or anyone else’s who lives in it, for all of us, after taking the mutual decision, shall die out of free will without sparing our lives.

He led the defense of the city and took an active part in the fighting alongside his troops in the Walls of Constantinople. At the same time, he used his diplomatic skills to maintain the necessary unity between the Genoese, Venetian and the Greek troops.Fall of Constantinople 1453

He died the day the city fell, 29 May 1453. His last recorded words were: “The city is fallen and I am still alive.” Then he tore off his imperial ornaments so as to let nothing distinguish him from any other soldier and led his remaining soldiers into a last charge where he was killed.

Soldiers were sent to search amongst the dead for his body. The first body that was believed to be the Emperor’s, a body that had silk stockings with an eagle embroidered in it, was decapitated and marched around the ruined capital.

However, it failed to gather any recognition from the citizens of Constantinople. There were no known surviving eyewitnesses to the death of the Emperor and none of his entourage survived to offer any credible account of his death.

A legend tells that when the Ottomans entered the city, an angel rescued the Emperor, turned him into marble and placed him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate, where he waits to be brought to life again to conquer the city back for Christians.

While serving as ambassador to Russia in February 1834, Ahmed Pasha presented Tsar Nicholas with a number of gifts, including a jewel-encrusted sword supposedly taken from Constantine XI’s corpse.

Constantine XI’s legacy was used as a rallying cry for Greeks during their war for Independence with the Ottoman Empire. Today the Emperor is considered a national hero in Greece.

During the Balkan Wars and the Greco-Turkish War, under the influence of the Megali Idea, the name of the then-Greek king, Constantine, was used in Greece as a popular confirmation of the prophetic myth about the Marble King who would liberate Constantinople and recreate the lost Empire.Mitropoleos Sqr, Athens

Constantine Palaiologos’ legacy is still a popular theme in Greek culture. The well known contemporary composers Apostolos Kaldaras and Stamatis Spanoudakis have written elegies for the Marble King.

Conquest1453In Popular Culture, Emperor Constantine XI has been shown in various works. He was portrayed by Cahit Irgat in Turkish film İstanbul’un Fethi (1951). Recep Aktuğ portrayed Emperor Constantine XI in the Turkish film Fetih 1453 (2012). Constantine was also the protagonist in Constantinopolis, a novel by James Shipman (2013).

It’s always nice to see history maintained by the modern generation. We hope you enjoyed a look at Constantine XI and look forward to having you back again.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Crowley, Roger. 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West. Hyperion, 2005. ISBN 1-4013-0850-3.

Harris, Jonathan. The End of Byzantium. Yale University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-300-11786-8.

Nicol, Donald M. The Immortal Emperor. Cambridge University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-521-46717-9.

Murr Nehme, Lina. 1453: The Fall of Constantinople. Aleph Et Taw, 2003. ISBN 2-86839-816-2.

Runciman, StevenThe Fall of Constantinople, 1453. Cambridge University Press, 1965. ISBN 0-521-09573-5.

The Kingdom of Italy – Part of the Holy Roman Empire

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! We hope you enjoyed your Christmas and New Year, and are glad to start 2016 off with our friends and family.

We ended 2015 with an explosion of varying topics and found ourselves pushing the limits of the Imperium RōmānumNot only did we go to the farthest of borders, but we also started venturing passed the timeline of the Roman Empire itself.

Today we continue this trend of expansion as we take a look at the Kingdom of Italy!Royal_standard_of_Italy_(1861_-_1880)

Known in Latin as the Regnum Italiae or Regnum Italicum (ItalianRegno d’Italia) it was one of the constituent kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire, along with the kingdoms of Germany and Burgundy. It comprised most of Northern and Central Italy, but excluded the Republic of Venice. Its original capital was Pavia until the 11th Century.

In 773, Charlemagne, the King of the Franks, crossed the Alps to invade the Kingdom of the Lombards, which encompassed all of Italy except the Duchy of Rome and some Byzantine possessions in the south. In June 774, the kingdom collapsed and the Franks became masters of northern Italy. The southern regions remained under Lombard control.

CharlemagneCharlemagne adopted the title King of the Lombards and in 800 had himself crowned Emperor of the Romans in Rome. In 781, he gave Italy to his son, Pepin.

With the death of Pepin in 818, that line died out and the kingdom passed to his cousin, Lothair I. Members of the Carolingian dynasty continued to rule Italy until the deposition of Charles the Fat in 887, after which they once briefly regained the throne in 894–96.

Until 961, the rule of Italy was continually contested by several aristocratic families from both within and outside the kingdom.

In 961, King Otto I of Germany, already married to Adelaide, widow of a previous King of Italy, invaded the kingdom and had himself crowned in Pavia on 25 December. He continued on to Rome, where he had himself crowned Emperor on 7 February 962.

The union of the crowns of Italy and Germany with that of the so-called Empire of the Romans created the Holy Roman Empire, to which Burgundy was added in 1032. From this point on the Holy Roman Emperor was usually also King of Italy and Germany, although Emperors sometimes appointed their heirs to rule in Italy and occasionally the Italian bishops and noblemen elected a king of their own in opposition to that of Germany.Holy_Roman_Empire_1000_map

The absenteeism of the Italian monarch led to the rapid disappearance of central government in the High Middle Ages, but the idea that Italy was a kingdom within the Empire remained and Emperors frequently sought to impose their will on the evovlving Italian city-states. The resulting wars between Guelphs and Ghibellines, the anti-imperialist and imperialist factions, respectively, were characteristic of Italian politics in the 12th–14th Centuries.

The Lombard League was the most famous example of this situation. Though not a declared separatist movement, it openly challenged the Emperor’s claim to power.

By the 15th Century, the power of the city-states was largely broken. A series of wars in Lombardy from 1423 to 1454 further reduced the number of competing states in Italy.

The next 40 years were relatively peaceful in Italy, but in 1494 the peninsula was invaded by France. The resulting Great Italian Wars lasted until 1559, when control of most of the Italian states passed to King Philip II of Spain.

The Spanish branch of the Habsburg dynasty, the same dynasty of which another branch provided the Emperors, continued to rule most of imperial Italy down to the War of the Spanish Succession. After the Imperial Reform of 1495–1512, the Italian kingdom corresponded to the unencircled territories south of the Alps.

The Emperor, however, maintained an incomparable interest in them as nominal king and overlord. The government of the kingdom, though, consisted in little more than the plenipotentiaries the Emperor appointed to represent him and those Governors he appointed to rule his own Italian states.

Imperial rule in Italy came to an end with the campaigns of the French Revolutionaries in 1792–97, when a series of client republics were set up. In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved by the last Emperor, Francis II, after its defeat by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz.

After the Battle of Taginae, in which the Ostrogoth King Totila was killed, the Byzantine General Narses captured Rome and besieged CumaeTeia, the new Ostrogothic King, gathered the remnants of the Ostrogothic forces and marched to relieve the siege.

In October 552, Narses ambushed Teia at Mons Lactarius (modern Monti Lattari) in Campania, near Mount Vesuvius and Nuceria Alfaterna. The battle lasted 2 days and Teia was killed in the fighting.

Ostrogothic power in Italy was eliminated, but Narses allowed the few survivors to return to their homes, as subjects of the Empire. The absence of any real authority in Italy immediately after the battle led to an invasion by the Franks, but they too were defeated and the peninsula was, for a short time, reintegrated into the Empire.

The Kings of the Lombards (Reges Langobardorum) ruled that Germanic people from their invasion of Italy in 567–68 until the Lombardic identity became lost in the 9th and 10th Centuries. After 568, the Lombard kings sometimes styled themselves Kings of Italy (Rex Totius Italiæ).

Upon the Lombard defeat at the 774 Siege of Pavia, the kingdom came under the Frankish domination of Charlemagne. The Iron Crown of Lombardy (Corona Ferrea) was used for the coronation of the Lombard kings, and the kings of Italy thereafter, for centuries.Iron Crown of Lombardy

The primary sources for the Lombard Kings before the Frankish conquest are the anonymous 7th Century Origo Gentis Langobardorum and the 8th Century Historia Langobardorum of Paul the Deacon. The earliest kings, or the pre-Lethings, listed in the Origo are almost certainly legendary.

They purportedly reigned during the Migration Period. The first ruler attested independently of Lombard tradition is Tato.

The actual control of the sovereigns of both the major areas that constitute the kingdom, Langobardia Major in the center-north and Langobardia Minor in the center-south, was not constant during the 2 centuries of life of the kingdom. An initial phase of strong autonomy of the many constituent duchies developed over time with growing regal authority, even if the Dukes’ desires for autonomy were never fully achieved.

The Lombard Kingdom proved to be more stable than its Ostrogothic predecessor, but in 774, on the pretext of defending the Papacy, it was conquered by the Franks under Charlemagne. They kept the Italo-Lombard realm separate from their own, but the kingdom shared in all the partitions, divisions, civil wars, and succession crises of the Carolingian Empire of which it became a part until, by the end of the 9th Century, the Italian Kingdom was an independent, but highly decentralized, state.

The death of the Emperor Lothair I in 855 led to his realm of Middle Francia being split among his 3 sons. The eldest, Louis II, inherited the Carolingian lands in Italy, which were now for the initial time, save the brief rule of Charlemagne’s son Pepin in the first decade of the century, ruled as a distinct unit.Imperial Italy

The kingdom included all of Italy as far south as Rome and Spoleto, but the rest of Italy to the south was under the rule of the Lombard Principality of Benevento or of the Byzantine Empire. Following Louis II’s death without heirs, there were several decades of confusion.

The Imperial crown was initially disputed among the Carolingian rulers of West Francia and East Francia, with primary the Western King Charles the Bald and then the Eastern King Charles the Fat attaining the prize. Following the deposition of the latter, local nobles — Guy III of Spoleto and Berengar of Friuli — disputed over the crown, and outside intervention did not cease, with Arnulf of Eastern Francia and Louis the Blind of Provence both claiming the Imperial throne for a time.

The kingdom was also beset by Arab raiding parties from Sicily and North Africa. The central authority was minimal at best.

In the 10th Century the situation hardly improved, as various Burgundian and local noblemen continued to dispute over the crown. Order was only imposed from outside, when the German King Otto I invaded Italy and seized both the Imperial and Italian thrones for himself in 962.

In 951 King Otto I of Germany had married Adelaide of Burgundy, the widow of late King Lothair II of Italy. Otto assumed the Iron Crown of Lombardy at Pavia despite his rival Margrave Berengar of Ivrea.Otto_I_Manuscriptum_Mediolanense_c_1200

When in 960 Berengar attacked the Papal States, King Otto, summoned by Pope John XII, conquered the Italian kingdom and on 2 February 962 had himself crowned Holy Roman Emperor at Rome. From that time on, the Kings of Italy were always also Kings of Germany, and Italy thus became a constituent kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire, along with the Kingdom of Germany (Regnum Teutonicorum) and Burgundy.

In general, the monarch was an absentee, spending most of his time in Germany and leaving the Kingdom of Italy with little central authority. There was also a lack of powerful landed magnates — the only notable one being the Margraviate of Tuscany, which had wide lands in TuscanyLombardy and the Emilia, but which failed due to lack of heirs after the death of Matilda of Canossa in 1115.

This left a power vacuum, increasingly filled by the Papacy and by the bishops, as well as by the increasingly wealthy Italian cities, which gradually came to dominate the surrounding countryside. Upon the death of Emperor Otto III in 1002, one of late Berengar’s successors, Margrave Arduin of Ivrea, even succeeded in assuming the Italian crown and in defeating the Imperial forces under Duke Otto I of Carinthia.

Not until 1004 could the new German King Henry II of Germany, by the aid of Bishop Leo of Vercelli, move into Italy to have himself crowned Rex Italiae. Arduin ranks as the last domestic King of Italy before the accession of Victor Emmanuel II in 1861.Victor Emmanuel II

Henry’s Salian successor Conrad II tried to confirm his dominion against Archbishop Aribert of Milan and other Italian aristocrats (seniores). While besieging Milan in 1037, he issued the Constitutio de feudis in order to secure the support of the vasvassores petty gentry, whose fiefs he declared hereditary. Indeed, Conrad could stable his rule; however, the Imperial supremacy in Italy remained contested.

The cities initially demonstrated their increasing power during the reign of the Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, whose attempts to restore imperial authority in the peninsula led to a series of wars with the Lombard League, a league of northern Italian cities, and ultimately to a decisive victory for the League at the Battle of Legnano in 1176, which forced Frederick to recognize the autonomy of the Italian cities.

Frederick’s son Henry VI actually managed to extend Hohenstaufen authority in Italy by his conquest of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, which comprised Sicily and all of Southern Italy. Henry’s son, Frederick II, was the first Emperor since the 10th Century to actually base himself in Italy.

Frederick II attempted to return to his father’s task of restoring imperial authority in the northern Italian Kingdom, which led to fierce opposition not only from a reformed Lombard League, but also from the Popes. It seems the Papacy had become increasingly jealous of their temporal realm in central Italy (theoretically a part of the Empire), and concerned about the hegemonic ambitions of the Hohenstaufen Emperors.Lombard League

Frederick II’s efforts to bring all of Italy under his control failed as signally as those of his grandfather, and his death in 1250 marked the effective end of the Kingdom of Italy as a genuine political unit. Conflict continued between Ghibellines (Imperial supporters) and Guelfs (Papal supporters) in the Italian cities, but these conflicts bore less and less relation to the origins of the parties in question.

The Italian campaigns of the Holy Roman Emperors decreased, but the Kingdom did not become wholly meaningless. In 1310 the Luxembourg King Henry VII of Germany with 5,000 men again crossed the Alps, moved into Milan and had himself crowned with the Iron Crown of Lombardy, sparking a Guelph rebellion under Lord Guido della Torre.

Henry restored the rule of Matteo I Visconti and proceeded to Rome, where he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by a trio of Cardinals in place of Pope Clement V in 1312. His further plans to restore the Imperial rule and to invade the Kingdom of Naples were aborted by his sudden death the next year.

Successive Emperors in the 14th and 15th Centuries were bound in the struggle between the rivaling Luxembourg, Habsburg and Wittelsbach dynasties. In the conflict with Frederick the Fair, King Louis IV had himself crowned Emperor in Rome by Antipope Nicholas V in 1328.

Charles_IV,_Holy_Roman_EmperorThe successor, Charles IV, also returned to Rome to be crowned in 1355. None of the Emperors forgot their theoretical claims to dominion as Kings of Italy.

Nor did the Italians themselves forget the claims of the Emperors to universal dominion. Writers like Dante Alighieri and Marsilius of Padua expressed their commitment both to the principal of universal monarchy, and to the actual pretensions of Emperors Henry VII and Louis IV, respectively.

The Imperial claims to dominion in Italy mostly manifested themselves, however, in the granting of titles to the various strong-men who had begun to establish their control over the formerly republican cities. Most notably, the Emperors gave their backing to the Visconti of Milan, and King Wenceslaus created Gian Galeazzo Visconti Duke of Milan in 1395.

Other families to receive new titles from the Emperors included the Gonzaga of Mantua, and the Este of Ferrara and Modena.

By the beginning of the early modern period, the Kingdom of Italy still existed, but was a mere shadow. Its territory had been significantly limited.

The conquests of the Republic of Venice, which considered itself independent of the Empire, in the domini di Terraferma had taken most of northeastern Italy outside the jurisdiction of the Empire. Then the Popes claimed full sovereignty and independence in the Papal States in Central Italy.

Charles_V,_Holy_Roman_EmperorNevertheless, the Emperor Charles V, owing more to his inheritance of Spain and Naples than to his position as Emperor, was able to establish his dominance in Italy to a greater extent than any Emperor since Frederick II. He drove the French from Milan, prevented an attempt by the Italian princes, with French aid, to reassert their independence in the League of Cognacsacked Rome and brought the Medici pope Clement VII to submission, conquered Florence where he reinstalled the Medici as Dukes of Florence and, upon the extinction of the Sforza line in Milan, claimed the territory as an imperial fief and installed his son Philip as the new Duke.

This new Imperial dominance, however, did not remain with the Empire, in which Charles was succeeded by his brother Ferdinand. Instead it was transferred by Charles to his son, who became King of Spain.

Even so, the Imperial claims to suzerainty remained, and were actually called forth in the early 17th Century when the Duchy of Mantua fell vacant in 1627. Emperor Ferdinand II used his rights as feudal overlord to prevent the heir, the French Duke of Nevers, from taking over the Duchy, leading to the War of the Mantuan Succession, a part of the much larger Thirty Years’ War.Batalla_de_rocroi_por_Augusto_Ferrer-Dalmau

In the early 18th Century, during the War of the Spanish Succession, imperial claims to suzerainty were used again to seize Mantua in 1708, which was now attached by the Austrian Habsburgs to the newly conquered Duchy of Milan.

This was the last notable usage of Imperial power, as such, in Italy. The Austrians retained control of Milan, Mantua, and other territories intermittently, but the claims to feudal overlordship had become practically meaningless.

The imperial claims to Italy remained only in the lesser title of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne to be Arch-Chancellor of Italy. Various treaties resolving the succession of various northern Italian states were still considered to be imperial fiefs.

During the French Revolutionary Wars, the Austrians were driven from Italy by Napoleon, who set up republics throughout northern Italy, and by the Treaty of Campo Formio of 1797, Emperor Francis II relinquished any claims over the territories that made up the Kingdom of Italy. The imperial reorganization carried out in 1799–1803 left no room for Imperial claims to Italy.

Even the Archbishop of Cologne was gone, secularized along with the other ecclesiastical princes. In 1805, while the Empire was still in existence, Napoleon, by now Emperor Napoleon I, claimed the crown of Italy for himself, putting the Iron Crown on his head at Milan on 26 May 1805.napoleon_italy_flg

The Empire itself was abolished the next year.

We hope you found the Kingdom of Italy as interesting as we did. Come back soon to see what we have in store.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Liutprand. Antapodoseos sive rerum per Europam gestarum libri VI.

Liutprand. Liber de rebus gestis Ottonis imperatoris.

Anonymous. Panegyricus Berengarii imperatoris.

Anonymous. Widonis regis electio.

Anonymous. Gesta Berengarii imperatoris [ed. Dumueler, Halle 1871].


Medieval City of Rhodes

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! For those who’ve been here before, you know that this is the day we visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These sites are all over what was once the Imperium Rōmānum. We are not so strict on if the sites were made by Romans simply that Ancient Rome impacted the location in some fashion.

Today we’re heading to an island in the Dodecanese to check out the Medieval City of Rhodes!

Rhodes is the principal city, and a former municipality on the island of Rhodes in Greece. It has a population of approximately 100,000.

Rhodes has been famous since antiquity as the site of Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The citadel of Rhodes, built by the Hospitalliers, is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe.

The Order of St John of Jerusalem occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 and set about transforming the city into a stronghold. It subsequently came under Turkish and Italian rule.

With the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Great Hospital and the Street of the Knights, the Upper Town is one of the most beautiful urban ensembles of the Gothic period.

In the Lower Town, Gothic architecture coexists with mosques, public baths and other buildings dating from the Ottoman period.

In 1988 was designated as a World Heritage Site. The city of Rhodes is a popular international tourist destination.

Connection to Rome:

In 164 BC, Rhodes came under Roman control, keeping its beauty and developed into a leading center of learning for arts and science. The Romans took from the Rhodians their maritime law and applied it to their shipping.

Many traces of the Roman period still exist throughout the city and give an insight into the level of civilization at the time. According to Acts 21:1, the Apostle Paul stopped at Rhodes near the end of his third missionary journey.

In medieval times, Rhodes was an important Byzantine trading post, as also a crossroads for ships sailing between Constantinople and Alexandria. In the early years of the divided Roman Empire, the Isaurians, a mountain tribe from Cilicia, invaded the island and burned the city.

In the 7th Century AD it was captured by the Arabs. The latter were the ones who removed the scattered pieces of the Colossus from the port and moved them to Syria where they destroyed them to make coins.

After the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the native noble Leo Gabalas took control of the island, but after his death and succession by his brother John, the island was briefly occupied by the Genoese before being returned to the Emperor of Nicaea, though ushering in a new, but short-lived, Byzantine period.

We hope you enjoyed checking out the City of Rhodes, and look forward to having you back again soon. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!