Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XXI.

RIENZI.—THE ROMANS OF THE MIDDLE AGES.

For the character and exploits of Rienzi the reader may be referred to the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.'* Those who have given us a portrait of the Romans of the dark ages have represented them as uniting in their persons all the vices that can degrade the human character; but, in spite of the invectives of Luitprandt

* Cap. xlix. lxix. lxx.

Luitprand was told, at the court of Nicephorus Phocas, that he was not a Roman, although he came from the pretended Roman Emperors, the Othos and Adelheid, but only a Lombard. It was on that occasion that the bishop of Cremona became violent, and attacked the Romans with that sentence which is extracted into the Decline and Fall, cap. xlix. note 44. If, however, the reader will consult the original, Liutprandi legatio ad Nicephorum Phocam, ap. Scrip. Rer. Ital. tom. ii. p. 479 to 489, he will see that the insolence of the Greek Emperor, who said the Lombards were too bigbellied to fight, accusing them of gastrimargia," was the cause of the ambassador's abuse, which was directed, perhaps, rather more against the Byzantines, who had exclusively assumed the name of Romans, than against the inhabitants of Rome. Liutprand, indeed, shows he did not allude to the Roman citizens of his day particularly, though he does talk of their subjection to harlots, the Theodoras and Marozia, for he begins his attack with Romulus. “ Romulum fratricidam, ex quo et Romani dicti sunt, porniogenitum, hoc est ex adulterio natum chronographiâ innotuit.” — Ibid. p. 481. Nice

and Saint Bernard,* those vices, with the exception of such as they shared with their barbarous contemporaries, seem reducible to their ancient reproach, that they could not bear complete servitude nor perfect freedom. The barbarian blood which had been transfused into their veins was likely to irritate rather than allay this impatience of control; and conceptions of original equality, to which the enslaved subjects of the Cæsars had long been strangers, might be imported by their union with the savages of the north. The ambassador of a despot and a saint might easily be disgusted with the thousand horrid forms which this tormenting feeling would assume, and which would betray itself in violence or perfidy, in arrogance or meanness, in proportion as they were able to shake away, or obliged to submit to, the yoke. Their conduct, from the first assumption of temporal power by the Popes, must seem absurd and contradictory, if it be not regarded as the consequence of a resolution to submit to no resident

phorus mounted the throne in 963, and, to believe Luitprand and S. Bernard strictly, we should think that the Romans continued to be the same abandoned race for two centuries ; if so, the Saxon Emperors had not improved them. Luitprand, it is true, might fairly say that the descendants of Romulus had forfeited their title of lords of the world, kosmocratores.

* Decline and Fall, cap. lxix. p. 270, vol. xii. oct. edit. See also Muratori, Annali, ad an. 1152, tom. vi. p. 499.

t “ Sed imperaturus es hominibus, qui nec totam servitutem pati possunt nec totam libertatem.” The Emperor Galba said this to Piso.— Tacit., Hist., lib. i. cap. xvi.

master whose foreign authority might enable him to employ a foreign force for their enslavement. The objection applied both to popes and emperors; and their history, if a few broken notices may be so called, is a perpetual struggle against both, sometimes united and sometimes separated by a temporary alliance with the people themselves, formed for the same purpose of final enfranchisement.

We must not feel indignant at their ill-directed efforts because they did not terminate in the independence obtained by the states of Tuscany and Lombardy. Their city had the misfortune of being the metropolis of Christianity, in which it was for the interest of the sovereigns of Europe that a priest should reign; and, secondly, their too glorious name and the pride of their Pontiffs had tempted the ambition of every conqueror with a crown which could be conferred nowhere but on the banks of the Tiber. Thus they had to contend with pretenders who could never die, and who failed not to unite their efforts when the Romans thought themselves strong enough to aspire to an independence of both. . . It was the endeavour of the people and nobles to deprive Leo III. of all temporal power that made him apply to Charlemagne, and merge both the republic and the patricianate in the imperial title of the Frank.*

John XII. invited Otho the Great to Rome, in 962, under pretext of assistance against Berenger and Adalbert, and restored the Western Empire, which had been vacant since the death of Berenger Augustus,* in 921.

* See Annali d'Italia, ad an. 799, tom. iv. p. 431, 432.

It was to assist Gregory V. that Otho III. marched to Rome;t and the protection of Benedict VIII. brought down | Henry II. in 1014.

The league between Adrian IV. and Frederic Barbarossa cost Arnold of Brescia his life, as the price of the Emperor's coronation.

As then the imperial and papal interests combined against the spirit of revolt, and called in succession Charlemagne, the Othos, the Henries, and the first of the Frederics, to Rome, so the annalists of either party have joined in the censure of every independent leader. The patrician Alberic, the son of Marozia, is handed down to us as a tyrant,|| yet he held the dominion of Rome for two-and-twenty years, successfully resisted the repeated sieges of the capital, and peaceably transmitted his authority to his son, a youth of seventeen years of age. The Consul, or rather the Cæsar, Crescentius, I

* Annali ad an. 961, tom. v. p. 961, 399.
† Ibid. ad an. 996, tom. v. p. 504.
I Annali, tom. vi. p. 46.
§ Annali ad an. 1155, tom. vi. p. 516.

| “Terminò in quest' anno il corso di sua vita Alberico Patrizio o Principe o vogliam dire Tiranno di Romana.”—Annali ad an. 954, tom. v. p. 384.

Gibbon, cap. xlix., calls him the Brutus of the Republic, but, in fact, he affected the empire. The Marquis Maffei's gallery contained a medal with IMP. CÆS. AUGUST. P P CRESENTIUS, on one side, round the head of the prince, and on the reverse a man on

is, in the same manner, declared “a bad man, a man blinded by ambition,” whose just punishment "served to deter those who knew not how to obey Pope or Emperor." * If Muratori says this, what is to be expected from Baronius? Yet the Emperor Otho III., who murdered Crescentius, undertook a barefoot pilgrimage to Mount Garganus to expiate his treachery.t The Guelf and Ghibeline writers are alike unmerciful to popular leaders. The antipopes of the people are Volponi with Muratori : those of the Emperors sometimes a little anti-canonical, but often legitimate; there is no depth deep enough for either in the Ecclesiastical Annals.

Arnold of Brescia | is also delivered over to posterity as an heresiarch whose rebellious doctrines justly con

horseback haranguing soldiers, with the legend exercitus S. C. below; and on the base S. P. Q. R., similar to the allocutions on horseback of Hadrian, Posthumus, and others. The arts appear to have been still preserved even in those ages, if we may judge from this medal.- Verona Illustrata, par. iii. p. 500, edit. 1732. Crescentius was put to death in May 998, and hanged with twelve others round the bastion St. Angelo.

* “ Un mal' uomo, un uomo acciecato dall' ambizione, convien dire che fosse Crescenzio Console di Roma.”—Annali, &c., tom. v. p. 504.

“Il che servi ad atterrir chiunque non sapeva allora ubbidire nè al Papa nè all' Imperatore.”—Ibid. p. 510. f Annali ad an. 1001, tom. vi, p. 1, 2.

“ Porro circiter annum Christi MOXLII. Romanus Populus ab Arnaldi Brixiani heresiarchie verbis seductus, rebellionem contra Petri successores justos urbis dominos primum instituit, rempublicam nempe atque Senatum prout antiquis temporibus fuerant restituere ausus.”— Antiq. Med. Ævi, tom. ii. p. 559.

« ZurückWeiter »