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He gave the Franks much trouble, since he ravaged all the coast where it was unguarded, but took to his ships again when a large army was sent against him. In 810 he penetrated so far into Frisia, that he spoke, in boasting mood, of paying Charles a visit at Aachen. But in the same year he was murdered by his own people, and his nephew and successor Hemming made peace with the Franks. The peace was illkept, for we hear of isolated Danish raids in the last years of Charles's reign and a fleet of war-ships, which were built in the ports of Neustria for the defence of the coast, does not seem to have protected the Frisian waters very efficiently.
But Charles did not survive to see the serious development of the Danish attack: he died before his realm had suffered any serious loss from their ravages, and must have been far from suspecting that ere he was fifty years dead these halfknown and somewhat despised foes would pierce through the Frankish empire from end to end, and even sack his own chosen dwelling, the royal palace of Aachen.
CHARLES THE GREAT AND THE EMPIRE
Survival of the Theory of the Empire in Western Europe, and especially in Italy—Its influence—Troubles of Pope Leo in.—He crowns Charles on Christmas Day 800—Consequences, immediate and remote, of the coronation—The Papacy and the Empire—Charles as administrator and legislator—His encouragement of Literature, Architecture, and Science —His later years and death.
While narrating the never-ending wars of the great king of the Franks, we have barely found time to mention the internal changes which he wrought in the condition and constitution of his realms. Of these the first and foremost was his introduction of a new political theory into the government of Western Christendom, when he caused himself to be crowned emperor by Pope Leo in. in the memorable year 800. We have had occasion to remark in an earlier chapter that the theory of the universal dominion of the Roman Empire had long survived the extinction of any real power of the temperors in most of the countries of Western Europe. Theodoric the Ostrogoth and Chlodovech the Frank had been proud to acknowledge themselves as the first subjects of the Constantinopolitan Caesar, and to receive from his hands high-sounding titles and robes of honour. Till the middle of the sixth century Gaul, Spain, and Italy had all owned a nominal allegiance to the empire, and their homage had only been denied when Justinian by his bold attempt to recover the whole of the West had forced the Teutonic kings to take arms against him in their own defence. Then Baduila,
PERIOD I. 2 A
Leovigid, and Theudebert had disclaimed their allegiance, and banished the imperial name from their coins and their charters. The last practical traces of the old Roman connection had been lost in Spain when the soldiers of Heraclius were driven out by Swinthila (623),*-and in Gaul when the encouragement and the subsidies of Maurice had failed to sustain the pretender Gundovald (585).2 Yet there still lingered on in the minds of the educated classes a memory of the ancient empire; curious turns of expression in chroniclers of the seventh century often show us that they still remembered the old theory of the world-wide rule of Rome. A Spanish chronicler writing in the seventh century can still call the East Roman armies 'the soldiers of the respublica.' Subjects of the Frankish kings in Gaul still dated their letters by Constantinopolitan indictions.
In Italy, of course, the tradition of the unity of Christendom under the emperors was in no danger of being forgotten. Appeals to the ancient temporal and spiritual supremacy of Rome were the most powerful items in the Pope's stock of arguments, when a Gregory or a Zacharias stated his pretensions to patriarchal authority in the West, or denounced the wickedness of the intrusive Lombard. The personal ambition of the Popes was always leading them to indulge in fond reminiscences of the ancient glories of the Empire. The vanity of the degenerate populace of Rome sometimes found vent in futile claims that they, 'the Roman senate and people,' really were the heirs of Augustus and Constantine, while the Caesar at Constantinople was nothing more than a mere Greek. When, by the rupture between Leo the Isaurian and Pope Gregory n., Rome practically passed out of the hands of the Eastern Augustus, it was easy enough for an Italian to maintain The Em ire tnat Constantine Copronymus or Leo the Chazar and the had no longer any true right to use the Roman West- Imperial title. And the Italian malcontent would
add, not, of course, that Rome had ceased to form part of the 1 See page 224. 2 See page 170.
Roman Empire, but that the title of emperor had passed away from the heretical Isaurian house, and fallen into abeyance, while the empire itself still existed, for its cessation had grown to be inconceivable to the Italian mind.
The Italians, and to a less extent the Franks, were sorely puzzled by the long continuance of the anomalous condition of affairs, when for sixty years the titular emperors had remained heretics, and had failed to maintain their hold on Rome. Nor was the position improved when the Eastern Empire relapsed into orthodoxy indeed, but at the same time passed into the hands of an empress-regnant, a thing repugnant to all those who remembered the ancient Roman horror of a woman's reign. Irene herself, too, had obtained the crown by such a series of crimes against her son, that not merely constitutional jurists, but all right-minded men shrank, in spite of her extreme orthodoxy, from the idea of recognising in her the legitimate ruler of Rome.
More than once during the long quarrel between the Popes and the Isaurian emperors there had been some talk of electing a separate Augustus to bear rule over Roman Italy,—those districts of the peninsula which were not in the hands of the Lombards. The scheme had not been carried „, ,
out, mainly because the Popes opposed it, but it to separation had not been forgotten. Now that the greater in Italy. part of Italy, both Lombard and Roman, was under the rule of a single king, and one well liked both by the Pope and by the Roman people, it would have been strange if the idea of completely repudiating the ignominious dependence of Rome on Constantinople had not been once more mooted. For as long as there remained but one person bearing the Imperial style,—the ruler of the East,—the Pope and his Roman and Italian contemporaries had an uneasy consciousness that their homage ought still, perhaps, to be paid to that person, Greek and heretic though he or she might be.
We may suppose that these doubts hardly troubled the Frankish vassals of Charles the Great, but to his Italian subjects they were a constant source of vexation of spirit; while practically they were liegemen of the Frankish king, they were not quite sure whether in theory they might not still be considered the liegemen of the hated Caesars at Constantinople.
Such thoughts must have been running through the heads of all the Popes who held the Roman See from 773 to 800. But it would seem that it was Pope Leo in. who first bethought him of the easiest way of settling the situation—to declare the king of the Franks Roman emperor, and not merely Roman patrician. A barbarian Augustus would be unprecedented, but not more so than the female ruler of the Empire who now swayed Constantinople. It was evidently the sight of a woman—and a very wicked woman—on the Byzantine throne that gave the final impulse to the desire of the Italians to cut off the last thread of connection with the Imperial line in the East. Their desire must have been well known to Charles himself, but it would seem that he for some time shrank from granting it. Perhaps he feared the responsibilities of the title; more probably he did not see how it legally could be conferred upon him: there was no precedent to settle what person or body in the West could claim to give it, and it was most certain that the court of Constantinople would utterly refuse to grant it, and would view its assumption by a 'barbarian ' king of the West as a gross piece of insolence.
It would seem that the fervent gratitude of Pope Leo in. for his deliverance by the hand of Charles from certain domestic enemies in Rome, was the active cause of the great ceremony of Christmas Day 800. Leo had been cruelly malLeo in, and treated by personal enemies in Rome, the kinsmen Charles. of m's predecessor Hadrian I.; they had seized his person and tried to blind him. But he escaped, fled over the Alps, and took refuge with the great king at his camp near Paderborn, in Saxony. Charles investigated the dispute between Leo and his enemies, and he determined that he would come to Rome arid decide the matter in person; meanwhile he sent Leo home under the protection of some Frankish