web counter












“THE future of the realm”, Conrad is said to have declared with his dying words, “lies with the Saxons”, and he bade his brother Everard to bear the royal insignia to Henry, the Saxon Duke, as the one man capable of restoring the glory of the German name. The union of Frank and Saxon had given the throne to Conrad on the death of Louis the Child; the same alliance was responsible for the ascendancy of the Saxon dynasty in 9191. Everard carried out the last injunctions of the late king, waived his own claim, and caused Henry the Saxon to assume the royal dignity. The election was a purely secular function; for, either from a genuine feeling of his unworthiness or from his dislike of the higher clergy and their secular influence, a dislike which he undoubtedly possessed in the earlier years of his reign, he dispensed with the solemn ceremonials of anointing and coronation offered him by Archbishop Heriger of Mainz. It took place at Fritzlar on the borders of Franconia and Saxony in May 919.

The position of Henry the Fowler was a difficult one. As king he was scarcely more powerful than he was as duke. Saxon and Franconian princes had been present at the election, but there is little reason to believe that the princes of the southern duchies were present or that they acquiesced in the result. Everard, Duke of Franconia, had been chiefly instrumental in raising Henry to the throne, but he had previously been an inveterate enemy to the Saxon house, and his loyalty was only purchased at the price of almost complete independence in his own dukedom. The new king did not at first aspire very high. He had no scheme of governing the whole realm, as the Carolings before him, from one centre through his own officials. He had no choice but to allow the tribes to manage their own affairs according to their own customs and their own traditions. Even his modest ambition to be regarded as the head of a confederate Germany was not yet accepted. Bavaria and Swabia were outside his sphere of authority. Burchard, “no duke, but tyrant, despoiler and ravager of the land” (his unscrupulous disposal of church property had given him a bad reputation among monastic writers) was ruling in Swabia. He had just rid himself of the aggressions of Rodolph II, King of Upper (Jurane) Burgundy, who had attempted to add Swabia to his dominions, by defeating him at Winterthur. At the news of Henry’s approach, for it is uncertain whether the king actually entered Swabia, he surrendered unconditionally. Henry allowed him to retain his dukedom, only reserving to himself the right of appointing to bishoprics and the royal domain lying within the limits of the duchy. Bavaria offered a more difficult task. Arnulf ‘the Bad’, though, like Burchard, he had gained the hate of the clergy owing to his habit of appropriating the revenue and property of the Church, was exceedingly popular with the secular nobles. He had been urged, not against his will, to put forward a claim to the throne of Germany, and was only prevented by the antagonism of the clergy from making an immediate attempt to win this end. According to one account Henry was obliged to make two campaigns before he was able to bring Arnulf to terms. However that may be in 921 he approached Ratisbon (Regensburg), perhaps, as Widukind records, he actually besieged the town; and, by granting particularly favorable conditions, obtained Arnulf’s submission. The duke retained the coveted right of appointing to bishoprics within his duchy, a privilege confined to Bavaria alone; in other ways also Bavaria secured a larger measure of independence than was enjoyed by any other German tribe. Almost sovereign powers were given to its duke. Arnulf struck coins, directed his own foreign policy, and dated documents according to the year of his reign.

Henry was not satisfied with the limits prescribed by the Treaty of Verdun; he aimed at the inclusion of Lorraine in the German realm. It was not an easy matter and was only accomplished by untiring patience and by taking advantage of opportunities offered by the ceaseless disturbances in the Western Kingdom. Gilbert (Giselbert), the reigning duke, a versatile and unscrupulous man, sought and obtained the help of the German king when his dominions were overrun by the West Franks. He was reinstated and remained on friendly terms with Henry until, in 920, hostilities broke out between the Eastern and Western Kingdoms. Charles the Simple pushed his way into Germany as far as Pfeddersheim near Worms, but retired on hearing that Henry was arming against him. Gilbert, at this juncture, threw off his allegiance to Henry and assisted Charles in the campaign of the following year. Fighting was however averted: on 7 November 921 the two kings met in a boat anchored in the middle of the Rhine at Bonn. There a treaty was concluded: Henry was formally recognized as king of the East Franks, but Lorraine remained dependent on the Western Kingdom.

During the next years France was immersed in the throes of civil war. First Robert, the younger son of Robert the Strong, and on his death his son-in-law, Raoul (Rudolf), Duke of Burgundy, was set up as rival king to the helpless Caroling, Charles the Simple, who spent most of the remainder of his life in close captivity at Peronne. In the midst of this anarchy Henry sought his opportunity to wrest Lorraine from the Western Kingdom. Twice in the year 923 he crossed the Rhine. In the spring he met Robert and entered into some compact of friendship with him, probably at Jillich on the Roer; later in the year, at the call of Duke Gilbert, who had again changed sides, he entered Lorraine with an army, captured a large part of the country, and was only checked by the appearance of Raoul (Robert had been killed at Soissons in the previous June) with considerable forces. No battle took place, but an armistice was arranged to last until October of the next year and the eastern part of Lorraine was left in Henry’s possession. The state of affairs in Lorraine was less favorable to Henry when in 925 he once more crossed the Rhine. Raoul had won a large measure of recognition among the inhabitants and Gilbert, always to be found on what appeared to be the winning side, had come to terms with him. Henry however met with surprisingly little opposition on his way. He besieged Gilbert at Zillpich, captured the town, and soon made himself master of a large portion of the land. Gilbert had no choice but to accept the overlord-ship of the Saxon king. He was reinstated and was attached more closely to Henry's interests in 928 by receiving his daughter Gerberga in marriage. Raoul bowed to the inevitable: henceforward Lorraine was an integral part of the East Frankish dominion.

In the first six years of his reign Henry had achieved much. He had succeeded in making his authority recognized in the southern duchies and added Lorraine to his kingdom. Content with this recognition he did not seek to interfere further in the affairs of the duchies. It was his policy throughout to leave the administration in the hands of the dukes. Bavaria, as far as we know, he never so much as revisited: Swabia was less isolated, for after the death of Burchard, Herman, a cousin of the Franconian Everard, married his widow and succeeded to the dukedom. The family connection inevitably brought Swabia into closer relations with the central power.

Henry’s own activities were confined almost entirely to Saxony and Thuringia. The weakness of his predecessors had encouraged the audacity of the restless and barbarous neighbors to the north and east of Germany. The Danes ravaged the coast of Frisia: the Wends, inhabiting the land between the Elbe and the Oder, engaged the Saxon nobles in a ceaseless and devastating border warfare: since the accession of Louis the Child a new and still greater peril hung over Germany in the violent inroads of the Magyars. These barbarians lived for war alone. Though they were addicted to hunting and fishing, they chiefly relied for their subsistence on the spoils of their victories. Their appearance, made more grotesque and sinister by artificial means, their outlandish war-cries, their dashing onslaught, and their ruthless cruelty combined to strike terror upon those they encountered. Their unrivalled skill in archery and horsemanship gave them a reputation of invincibility. For the early years of Henry’s reign the Hungarians had remained quiet, but in 924 they once more poured westward into Germany and Italy. The lack of military organization and system of defense in Saxony was laid bare. With fire and sword they overran the whole of the province: the people fled before them and hid themselves in the forests: Henry, helpless and unable to offer any resistance, shut himself up in the fortress of Werla at the foot of the Harz mountains. By an amazing stroke of luck, a Hungarian chief, apparently a person of considerable importance, fell into Henry’s hands. Ransom was refused: the king would only surrender his prize on condition that the invaders would withdraw from Saxony and refrain from molesting him for a period of nine years; for his part, he was prepared to pay a yearly tribute. The terms were accepted, the Hungarian noble was given up, and for nine years Saxony was rid of the aggressions of her formidable neighbor.

The nine years Henry turned to good account. He was enabled to carry out his schemes of defense undisturbed. The Saxons were unaccustomed to town life; they lived still, like the Germans of Tacitus, apart in scattered villages and hamlets; a royal fortress or a monastery, the seat of a spiritual or secular prince, alone served as places of meeting for social purposes or the transactions of business. Fortified towns were all but unknown. Henry saw the necessity not only of strengthening the existing fortresses but of building and fortifying towns. Merseburg and Hersfeld, Goslar and Gandersheim were secured within wall and moat. Quedlinburg and Pöhlde are lasting memorials of his constructive activity and prove him not unworthy of the name of ‘builder of cities’ given him by later writers. The town was to be the centre of all economic and judicial, military and social activity, the position of defense, the place of refuge in time of invasion; to promote the prosperity of the towns it was ordained that all councils and social gatherings should be held there and that no substantial or valuable buildings should be erected outside the walls. The country conquered from the Wends Henry divided into military fiefs which he granted out to his ministeriales. They were formed into groups of nine tenants, one of whom lived in the city to maintain the walls and dwellings in good repair and to take charge of a third of the total produce of the tenement to provide against an emergency. The remaining eight worked in the fields, but in the event of an attack withdrew to the city to defend it against the invader. The establishment of a colony of robbers and bandits on the outskirts of Merseburg is an interesting experiment. It was the condition of their tenure that they should only employ their craft of larceny and plunder against their Slavonic neighbors. In many of these reforms, it is thought, Henry had the example of England before his eyes. England had been alike defenseless and open to the attacks of the Danish invaders until Alfred and his son Edward the Elder adopted measures which not only checked their forward movement but even drove them back and kept them within prescribed limits. In 929 Henry asked his English contemporary Aethelstan for an English princess for his son Otto. The negotiations, which ended in Otto’s marriage with Edith, brought Henry into close touch with England and English policy, and it is not difficult to believe that through this connection he found the pattern on which to model his plans for the defense of his kingdom. The army no less than the system of defense required radical reform. The heerbann, corresponding to the Anglo-Saxon fyrd, composed of the freemen—a class which in course of years had considerably diminished in numbers—was untrained and difficult to mobilize. Being an infantry force, it was moreover wholly inadequate to cope with the Hungarian horsemen. Hence it was essential for the Saxons to learn to fight on horseback. The ministeriales established on the Wendish marches became the nucleus of the new army. But Henry seems to have exacted knight service whenever possible throughout Saxony and even in the heerbann, which continued often to be summoned in times of national danger, the cavalry element gradually became predominant.

Henry tested the mettle of his reorganized army in the campaigns against the Slavs. These restless people dwelling in the forest and swamp lands between the Elbe and the Oder had been intermittently at war with the Germans since the time of Charles the Great. But the warfare had been conducted by the Saxon nobles for private ends and with a view to enriching themselves by the plunder of their neighbors. Henry the Fowler made the subjection of the Wends a matter of national concern. Four years (928-932) were occupied in their conquest, but every enterprise Henry undertook was crowned with success. First, in a campaign against the Slavs of the Havel country in the depths of winter, he besieged and captured the ice-bound city of Brandenburg and brought the tribe to submission. Thence turning his energies against the Dalemintzi on the lower Elbe, after a siege of twenty days he took by storm their city of Jahna and planted the stronghold of Meissen as a base for further operations in that district. The subjection of Bohemia was a more serious undertaking; for this campaign he sought the help of Duke Arnulf, and for the first time Bavarian and Saxon marched together in the royal army. Wenceslas, the reigning Duke of Bohemia, had entered upon his inheritance at an early age and during a long minority his mother Drahomina, a Lusatian by birth, acted as regent; it was her policy of assisting the Wends in their wars against the Germans that brought about the enmity of the German king. When however in 929 (?) Henry and Arnulf entered Bohemia, Wenceslas had assumed the government. He had been brought up to the Christian faith by his grandmother Saint Ludmilla, who by her influence over the young duke had earned the hatred and jealousy of her daughter-in-law and at the latter's instigation had suffered the death of a martyr. Wenceslas, whose pious life and terrible end was to gain for him the reward of canonization, was prepared to make amends for the imprudent policy of his regent mother; when therefore the German army approached Prague he promptly entered into negotiations. He surrendered his lands, received them back as a fief of the German crown, and agreed to pay a yearly tribute of six hundred marks of silver and one hundred and twenty head of cattle.

But no sooner was peace restored than the Wends, chafing under the German yoke, broke out into revolt. The Redarii were the first to take up arms: they captured the town of Walsleben and massacred the inhabitants. The success was the signal for a general rising. The Counts Bernard and Thietmar, Henry's lieutenants in that district, took prompt action, marched against the fortress of Lenzen on the right bank of the Elbe, and, after fierce fighting, completely routed the enemy on 4 September 929. Many fell by the sword, many, in attempting flight, were drowned in the neighboring lakes. There were but few survivors of that bloody encounter. Widukind reckons the enemy's losses at the incredible figure of two hundred thousand. Yearly tribute and the acceptance of Christianity was the price they paid for their insurrection. In 932 the Lusatians and in 934 the Ukrani on the lower Oder were subdued and made tributary. With these Henry’s work among the Wendish tribes is completed. Much still remained to be done but he had laid the foundation for the work of his son Otto, the civilizing and the conversion of the people on the eastern frontier.

Even more important were the results of his Hungarian conflict. This warfare was to prove the soundness of his measures of defense and protection, the strength of his new towns, the supreme test of his reorganized army. Cavalry would meet cavalry, not as in the battles with the Wends, horse against foot. In 933 the nine years` truce was at an end. Henry refused the accustomed tribute. The Hungarians lost no time; they swarmed into the West in three armies, one to ravage Italy, another France and Burgundy, and a third to punish Henry for his audacious refusal of tribute. On their way they sought the help of the Dalemintzi, but instead of the expected submissiveness they were received with scorn and derision and were presented with a mongrel dog as a token of their contempt. In Thuringia they divided their forces. One army pushed on westward into Saxony. Henry at once took the initiative, fell on them, slew their leaders, and dispersed the remainder in panic to die from hunger or cold, to be slain by the sword or taken into captivity. He then lost no time in coming up with the other host while still overwhelmed by the fate of their comrades. The battle took place at Riade (perhaps Rittburg on the Unstrut or Ried) near Merseburg on 15 March 933. The seemingly impenetrable masses were broken at the onslaught of the Saxon army, the camp was taken, the remnant of the once feared and invincible army of the Magyars fled back to their own land in panic and confusion. The Danes alone remained unsubdued. They had long pushed beyond the river Eider, the limit fixed by Charles the Great; they had encroached upon Holstein and plundered continually the coast of Frisia. In 934 Henry entered Denmark; Gorm the Old, not venturing to risk a battle, sued for peace which he obtained at the price of the old Eider boundary and the establishment of the march of Schleswig.

Towards the end of his life Henry, largely no doubt owing to the influence of his wife Matilda, became more active in works of piety and in advancing the interests of the Christian Church. He was always a serious churchman and there is evidence that his early hostility to the ecclesiastical power grew less intense in his later years (as a matter of fact he was, as far as we know, the first German king to make a bishop count over his own city. In 928 he made the Bishop of Toul count in his city). The Synod of Erfurt in June 932 testifies to his interest in church matters. At his favorite home of Quedlinburg he founded a Church and a nunnery. He contemplated, says the Saxon historian Widukind, a visit to Rome, not indeed to seek the imperial crown, for he had declined the honor of coronation even in Germany, but as a pilgrim. Acceptance of Christianity was often imposed by him as a condition of peace on his conquered foes. This was the case at the break-down of the Slav revolt in 928. In 931(?) baptism was received by the prince of the Obotrites and perhaps by a Danish prince, in spite of the hostility of Gorm the Old, who devoted his life to the persecution of the Christians and to stamping out all remnants of Christianity from his dominions.

In the autumn of 935 at Bodfeld in the Harz Mountains, while engaged in a hunting expedition, Henry was struck down with paralysis. Anxious to see the succession decided in his lifetime, he summoned an assembly of nobles at Erfurt in the beginning of 936. Thankmar the eldest son was excluded on the ground that his mother Hatheburg, a Wend, was under a vow to take the veil when Henry sought to marry her; though Henry, the younger and favorite son of Queen Matilda, had claims on the ground that he was born after his father's accession to the German throne, Otto, the elder son, seemed the most fit to carry on the work his father had begun and was accepted as the successor by the assembled princes. At Memleben on 2 July, when nearly sixty years of age, Henry the Fowler succumbed to a second stroke and was buried in his own foundation, the Church of St Peter at Quedlinburg. The chroniclers of the period are unanimous in their praises of Henry’s character and achievements. He was a just and farsighted statesman, a skilful and brave general: with foreigners and enemies he was stern and uncompromising, but to his own countrymen he was a lenient and benevolent ruler. He was a keen sportsman, a genial companion. In his own day Henry was recognized as the founder of a new realm. As Duke of Saxony, he was in a good position to inaugurate a new era, for the Saxons were in blood and in customs the purest Germans, the least touched by Frankish influence. It was the work of Henry that prepared the way for the more brilliant and the more permanent achievements of his son and successor.


Otto I the Great

Otto came to the throne in the full vigor and idealism of youth (he was born in 912): he was possessed of a high sense of honor and justice, was stern and passionate, inspiring fear and admiration rather than love among his subjects; he was ambitious in his aspirations and anxious to make the royal power felt as a reality throughout Germany. The difference between father and son becomes immediately apparent in the matter of coronation. He had already been elected at an assembly of Saxon and Franconian princes held at Erfurt in his father’s lifetime; but not content with this, he laid great stress on the importance of a solemn ceremony which took place early in August at Aix-la-Chapelle, the old Carolingian seat of residence. There the Archbishop Hildebert of Mayence presented the young duke to the assembled multitude of people with the words: “Behold, I bring to you Otto, the elect of God, the chosen of our lord Henry, and now made king by all the princes. If the election is pleasing to you, declare it by show of hands”. Immediately the whole people lifted their hands and hailed the new king with clamorous shouts. He was invested at the hands of the Archbishop with the insignia of royalty, the sword with which to strike down the enemies of Christ, the bracelets and cloak, the emblems of peace, the scepter and the staff by which tokens he is inspired to chasten his subjects and to stretch out the hand of mercy to the servants of God, to widows and orphans. Finally he was anointed and crowned by the Archbishop of Mayence assisted by Archbishop Wikfried of Cologne and by them was led by a special stair to a throne set up between marble pillars where he could see and be observed by all. After the celebration of mass, the company adjourned to the palace for a state banquet at which the dukes officiated, Gilbert of Lorraine as Chamberlain, Everard of Franconia as Steward, Herman of Swabia as Cupbearer, and Arnulf of Bavaria as Marshal. It was a festival of the highest significance; it was a public recognition of the union of the German tribes, the foundation of the German monarchy.

The royal influence was no longer to be confined to the limits of Saxony; while he retained the duchy in his own hands he delegated many of the ducal functions to Herman Billung, a noble connected with the royal house and founder of the later ducal house of Saxony. Another important post was granted to Count Siegfried, who is described as second only to the king among the Saxon chiefs; and on his death it passed to Count Gero. Herman and Gero were the two men who, throughout the reign of Otto, by their untiring efforts not only kept the Wends in check, but established German authority on a firm footing in the marches between the Elbe and the Oder; they relieved the king of a difficult task, enabling him thereby to turn his whole attention to his policy of centralizing the government, of extending the royal influence, and later of adding Italy to his dominions and of restoring the imperial title. But these appointments were unpopular in Saxony. Wichmann was jealous of the advancement of his younger brother Herman, and by the selection of Gero, Otto lost the support of his half-brother Thankmar, who in spite of being barred from the throne had hitherto shown himself a loyal subject. Being akin to Siegfried he had counted on succeeding to his position and estates; disappointed in this, he joined with Everard in the rebellion of 938.

At the coronation festival at Aix-la-Chapelle the dukes had fully recognized Otto as king and, no doubt with the idea that he would continue his father's policy, had done homage for their dukedoms. But no sooner had Otto revealed his intentions than they were up in arms. The trouble began in Bavaria. Arnulf died in July 937 and his sons refused their homage. Two campaigns in 938 were necessary to restore the royal authority. Berthold, Arnulf’s brother, formerly Duke of Carinthia, was set over the duchy, but with limited powers. Otto took to himself the right of nominating to bishoprics and also, now or shortly after, set up Arnulf, son of the late duke, as Count palatines to safeguard the royal interests in the duchy.

Between the two Bavarian campaigns Otto had been called away to deal with a more serious rising in Franconia. Small raids had been frequent on the borders of Saxony, raids in which Duke Everard had been involved. In one of these Everard burnt the city of Hellmern and slaughtered the inhabitants; the duke was fined and the abettors of the crime were condemned to the indignity of carrying dogs through the streets of Magdeburg. But the disturbance was not at an end: the delinquents were emboldened rather than deterred by the lenient treatment they received from Otto at a diet held at Steele on the Ruhr in May, and the petty warfare rose to the dimensions of civil war. 

Thankmar, who, as we have seen, had his own reasons to be displeased with Otto's rule, joined forces with Everard: together they captured Belecke on the Möhne and with it the king's younger brother Henry. But a reaction followed: the discontented Wichmann returned to loyalty and the insurrection in Saxony completely broke down: the fortress of Eresburg, which Thankmar had taken, opened its gates at Otto's approach. Thankmar himself fled to the Church of St Peter where he was slain at the altar, an act of sacrilege of which Otto was entirely innocent. Everard was restored to favor after undergoing a short term of honorable imprisonment at Hildesheim; but before making his peace he entered into a secret compact with Henry by which they should, when the opportunity offered, combine against Otto. The crown was to be Henry’s reward.


The Rebellion of the Dukes in 939

Early in the year 939 everything was in readiness. The arrangements were made at a gathering of malcontents at Saalfeld. Gilbert of Lorraine had been drawn into the ranks of the disaffected dukes. All the three leaders, Henry, Everard, and Gilbert, according to Liudprand, Bishop of Cremona, had designs on the throne, trusting perhaps to the fortunes of war to bring one or the other of them to the uppermost. Hostilities broke out in Lorraine. Otto hastened to the scene of action, while the enemy were advancing towards the Rhine near Xanten. The paucity of boats enabled but a small portion of the royalist troops to cross the river before their adversaries came in sight. While the king, with the main body of his army, watched from the opposite bank, this small detachment, perhaps no more than a hundred men, by strategy, by cunning, and by a vigorous attack in front and rear, won a victory on the field of Birthen. It was little short of a miracle, a miracle attributed by the legend to the Holy Lance which Otto held in his hand. This success relieved Otto from all immediate danger. The opposition broke down in Saxony and Thuringia.

Dortmund, one of Henry’s fortresses, had submitted to the king as he marched towards the Rhine; after the fight at Birthen, in which it was rumored that Henry had fallen, Merseburg and Scheidungen on the Unstrut alone held out. To the former of these Henry fled after his defeat with but nine followers. After a siege of two months the garrison capitulated and Henry was granted a truce of thirty days to quit Saxony. By the beginning of June the first campaign was over and, says the Saxon historian, “there was rest from civil war for a few days”.

The second campaign of the year 939 had a different and more alarming aspect. It received the support of Louis IV (d'Outremer), son of Charles the Simple, who on the death of Raoul of Burgundy had been summoned from his place of refuge at the court of his uncle King Aethelstan and set on the throne of France by Hugh the Great, the powerful Count of Paris. The latter had expected to have things his own way under a king of his own choosing, but soon found he was mistaken. Louis had no intention of being a puppet in the hands of the great duke and at once asserted his independence of action. Within a year of his accession he had alienated from himself all the powerful nobility of France. When, therefore, Louis, in the hope of attaching Lorraine once more to the West Frankish dominions, joined forces with Duke Gilbert, Otto found abundant assistance ready at hand among the discontented feudatories of France. In September he actually entered into some sort of compact with Louis' chief antagonists Hugh the Great, Herbert, Count of Vermandois, William, Duke of Normandy, and Arnulf, Count of Flanders. Henry, the king's brother, liberated from Merseburg, hastened to join Gilbert in Lorraine. Otto, following in hot pursuit, found them garrisoned in the castle of Chevremont near Liege; he laid siege to the fortress, but was compelled to relinquish it, for Louis was making headway in the neighborhood of Verdun, where several bishops (perhaps those of Metz, Verdun, and Toul) had submitted themselves to his authority. Otto set out against him, and drove him back to his capital at Laon.

At this point in the campaign the scheming Duke of Franconia openly joined in the revolt. Otto besieged him in the strong fortress of Breisach on the Rhine. An attempt was made to come to terms: Frederick, Archbishop of Mayence, was employed to negotiate with Everard, but he went beyond his powers, conceding more than the king was prepared to yield and Otto refused to ratify the treaty. The effect was to throw the Archbishop into the ranks of the insurgents. He fled secretly by night to Mainz where he expected to fall in with Henry and Gilbert; but the latter had already started to join forces with Everard: whether Henry accompanied the dukes on the fatal expedition to the Rhine is uncertain; more probably, making Metz his headquarters, he remained behind to organize resistance in Lorraine. Everard and Gilbert made a plundering raid and returned westward, intending to recross the Rhine at Andernach. Part of their army had already crossed the river and the dukes were quietly eating their dinner before crossing themselves, when a body of Franconian troops led by Udo and Conrad KurzpoldFranconian counts, whose lands had especially suffered from the raid, came up with them. Both the dukes fell in the fight that ensued. Everard was slain by the sword, Gilbert was drowned: according to one account he got into a boat already overloaded with fugitives and the boat capsized; according to another he leapt with his horse into the river and so met his end. By a mere stroke of luck the two leaders of the rebellion were disposed of in a skirmish hardly worthy of the name of battle at a moment when Otto's cause seemed desperate, and when, says Widukind: “there seemed no hope of his retaining rule over the Saxons, so widespread was the rebellion”.

The effect was instantaneous. Breisach capitulated: Lorraine was restored to order. Of the remaining leaders, Frederick, after being refused admittance into his own town of Mainz, was captured and punished by a short term of imprisonment; Henry, on hearing the news which deprived him of all hopes of the crown, fled to his old stronghold of Chevremont but found the gates closed against him; he made his way to France, but finding his cause to be hopelessly lost, yielded himself up to his brother’s mercy. Otto with his habitual generosity and magnanimity forgave him everything and took him again into his favor. The royal authority was now firmly established. Henry made one more attempt to overthrow his brother, but it was too late and the conspiracy of 941 collapsed without recourse to arms. The intention had been to assassinate the king at the Easter festival at Quedlinburg: it reached the ears of Otto who proceeded as usual to the feast but with a strong guard, and there seized and executed the whole gang of conspirators. Henry fled, was captured and imprisoned at Ingelheim, but before the end of the year received the king’s pardon. The unscrupulous Archbishop of Mainz was also implicated but cleared himself of guilt by receiving the sacrament in public.

The civil wars involved extensive changes in the government of the duchies. During the years which followed the restoration of order, Otto inaugurated and gradually established the policy of attaching the dukedoms more closely to himself by granting them to members of his own family. The administration of Lorraine was in 931 entrusted to a certain Otto, son of Ricwin, and on his death in 944 the duchy was conferred upon Conrad the Red, a nephew of King Conrad I, who in 947 was married to Otto’s daughter Liutgard. Franconia, after the death of Everard at the fight of Andernach, the king retained in his own hands. When Duke Berthold died in 947 his duchy of Bavaria passed to the king's own brother Henry, who, after the failure of his last attempt to win the throne in 941, had become one of the loyalest of Otto’s subjects and who was already akin to the Bavarian ducal house through his marriage in 938 (?) with Judith, the daughter of the old duke Arnulf. Lastly, on the death of Duke Herman in 949, Swabia was given to Otto’s son Liudolf, who married Ida, the daughter of the late duke. By these arrangements the ancient supremacy of the Franconian tribe was forever crushed; but in the southern duchies the order of things remained unchanged, for while granting the dukedoms to his own kinsmen, he maintained the traditions and customs of the tribal duchies by giving the new dukes in marriage to the daughters of the old ducal houses.

In the meanwhile the eastern neighbors of Germany had taken full advantage of the intestine troubles which filled the opening years of the new reign. In the midst of the ducal rebellion of 939 Widukind deplores the numerous enemies that beset his native Saxony, “Slavs from the east, Franks from the south, Lorrainers from the west, and from the north Danes and more Slavs”; he might have added Hungarians from the south-east, for their barbaric hordes swept into Thuringia and Saxony in 937 and 938. They were beaten back and never again ventured into Saxon territory.

On the Wendish border there had been ceaseless activity. Fortunately for Otto, the frontier command was in capable hands; Herman Billung and Gero repressed the risings with a firm hand and even extended German influence further eastward. The death of Henry the Fowler had been the first signal for insurrection, in which the Redari seem to have taken the leading part. Henry they had learnt to fear, but Otto was untried and had yet to prove his strength. He hastened back from his coronation at Aix-la-Chapelle and suppressed the rising. The Wends were held in check till the year 939 when Germany was in the throes of civil war, when the total subversion of the royal authority seemed inevitable, and an unrivalled opportunity of throwing off the German yoke presented itself. They made repeated inroads which were beaten off by Gero, and even the king himself, it appears, found time on more than one occasion to enter into the border conflict. In Bohemia, Boleslav, who had in 936 gained the throne by murdering his brother Wenceslas at the gates of the church of Alt-Bunzlau, asserted his independence; and though temporarily checked by a force of Saxons and Thuringians sent against him in 938, he continued to be a source of danger and disturbance till Otto in 950 made an expedition in person to Bohemia and was recognized as overlord. The results, however, of the frontier fighting were on the whole satisfactory. Partly by his own efforts, partly by his keen insight into character which enabled him to select the right men for the work, Otto made progress, extended the German sway as far as the Oder, and prepared the way for the next stage in his Eastern policy, the consolidation of his conquests and the conversion of the conquered peoples to the Christian religion. The newly acquired territory was divided into two marches under the control of Herman and Gero. The tribute and rents accruing from these sources were appropriated to the maintenance of the frontier garrisons, to the establishment of colonies, and to the endowment of churches. In 948, probably on the occasion of the visit of the papal legate Marinus, Bishop of Bomarzo, to Germany, bishoprics were founded at Brandenburg and Havelberg in the province of Mayence, and at Ripen, Aarhus and Schleswig in the metropolitan diocese of Bremen for the organization of further missionary work.

On the western frontier, also, the state of affairs was troublesome. The possession of Lorraine was by no means entirely a source of strength to the German monarchy. Owing to its position between the East and West Frankish dominions it involved the German king in the everlasting turmoil which characterized the history of France in the tenth century. Moreover Lorraine was always firmly attached to the Carolingian tradition, and there was always a party ready to support the Caroling kings in their attempts to win back the province for the Western Kingdom. There Louis IV was engaged in an incessant struggle to hold his own against a strong coalition of feudal nobles under the leadership of the all-powerful Count of Paris. During the decade 940-950 Otto was busily engaged beyond the Rhine. He lent his aid first to one side, then to the other, mediated between them and compelled both parties to realize the weight of his power, the wide scope of his authority, the value of his mediation. In the summer of 940 he entered France to punish Louis for his interference in Lorraine and drove him into Burgundy: but the expedition had daunted neither the spirit nor the enterprise of Louis, who, as soon as Otto was back in Germany, again set out for Lorraine. Otto once more turned westward, but as it was late in the year the kings effected a truce and parted without fighting. For two years Louis was pursued by his relentless adversaries; at last, however, in 942, possibly as a result of the visit of the legate of Pope Stephen VIII who commanded the princes to recognize Louis as their king on pain of excommunication, a solemn assembly took place and a general peace was concluded at a place uncertain but conjectured to be Vise on the Meuse, a few miles north of Liege. A similar obscurity exists with regard to the terms, but it is clear that Louis on his side engaged to desist from interfering in the affairs of Lorraine, while Otto for his part agreed to refrain from assisting the French lords against their king.

This settlement was but transitory, and two years later Otto was again drawn into the affairs of the Western Kingdom. But the position was altered: two of Louis’ dangerous opponents, William of Normandy and Herbert of Vermandois, were now dead; for a moment the king and the Count of Paris were on terms of friendship. Then a trivial difference and an accident brought about another change, and Louis was a prisoner in the hands of his powerful feudatory. This was in 944. Hugh, with his valuable prisoner in safe keeping at Laon, sought an interview with Otto. The latter, however, perhaps anxious to abide by the compact of 942, perhaps from a genuine feeling of pity for the luckless king, declined to accept Hugh’s overtures and espoused the royal cause. The menace of Otto’s displeasure saved Louis: after nearly a year’s confinement, he was liberated, but only at the heavy price of losing his one sure stronghold, the fortress of Laon. Louis was free, but without shelter, almost without friends. Gerberga, his queen, made a pressing appeal to her brother. Otto’s French campaign in the late summer of 946 met with very limited success. Laon, Rheims, and Senlis were all in turn besieged, but Rheims alone was captured. The two kings then made a plundering raid into Normandy; they even, according to one account, laid siege to Rouen. But in this enterprise they were alike unsuccessful, and Otto made his way back to Germany.

The year 947 was occupied by a series of fruitless assemblies called together to decide a dispute over the archbishopric of Reims. The two parties in France had each its candidate for the see, and the party uppermost unscrupulously imposed the man of its choice upon the diocese. These transactions, vain as they were, are not without their importance, for they led up to the solemn synod held at Ingelheim on 7 June 948. The legate of Pope Agapetus II, Bishop Marinus of Bomarzo, presided over it. It was an assembly of the highest significance: it was the first occasion since the accession of the Saxon dynasty, since the synod of Hohen Altheim in 916, that a papal legate had appeared in Germany. It was attended by more than thirty bishops, and the two kings Louis and Otto were present in person. The business was not restricted to the Reims dispute. The discussion on the political question at issue resulted in a canon being passed against attacks on the royal power and a declaration that Hugh should make his submission under pain of excommunication. The dispute over the see of Reims was decided in favor of Artaud, the candidate of the royal party; his rival Hugh, son of Herbert of Vermandois, was excommunicated. Hugh the Great held the decrees of the synod at defiance; he was excommunicated at the Synod of Treves (September 948); he continued in his obduracy and carried on hostilities against Louis and his allies Otto and Conrad of Lorraine till 950, when, at a meeting held on the banks of the Marne, he made his submission, restored Laon, and, by his homage, recognized Louis as his lord.


Situation in Italy in 950

The affairs of France were no sooner settled on a satisfactory basis than a turn of events in Italy provided the occasion for Otto’s first expedition across the Alps. The occasion was the death of King Lothar, leaving his widow Adelaide with a title to the Italian throne in her own right, defenseless and soon to be a prisoner in the hands of BerengarMarquess of Ivrea, who was himself crowned King of Italy at Pavia on 15 December 950. The old connection between Germany and Italy founded on the Empire of Charles the Great, though it had ceased to be a reality since the death of the Emperor Arnulf in 899, is recalled to memory by many minor incidents in the dark years of the first half of the tenth century. The dukes of Swabia and Bavaria were frequently drawn into the Italian struggles; Berengar of Ivrea, fleeing from the murderous designs of his rival Hugh of Arles, had crossed the Alps, taken refuge in Swabia, and even commended himself to Otto (941), an act which perhaps gave Otto the right to expect an acknowledgment of overlordship from Berengar when the latter ascended the Italian throne in 950. With the opposite faction Otto was also brought into close connection through Conrad of Burgundy, who had spent his youth at the German court and whose sister Adelaide had married Hugh’s son Lothar.

The arrangements for the Italian expedition were settled at the Easter festival held at Aix-la-Chapelle, 30 March 951. Otto formed his plans in close consultation with his brother Henry, now his most trusted adviser, whose brilliant campaigns against the Hungarians, resulting in the acquisition of the march of Aquileia, gave additional weight to his councils. Liudolf, on the other hand, was apparently not taken into the king’s confidence: indignant at his exclusion, jealous of his uncle, impetuous and anxious to make a name for himself on his own account, he determined to anticipate his father. He rapidly crossed the Alps with a small army of Swabians; but his expedition was a complete failure and before long he returned to sow the seeds of rebellion, the news of which recalled Otto, who had assumed the title of King of the Lombards at Pavia and taken Adelaide as his wife, in haste to Germany. It was not only disappointment at his failure in Italy that led Liudolf to rebel against his father. Otto's second marriage was not likely to be to his son’s advantage; it would lead to a new circle at the court in which he would take but a secondary place; he might even look to being ousted from the succession by the offspring of this new alliance—an event which in fact occurred, for it was Adelaide’s son, Otto, who was designated as the successor to the total disregard of the claims of his nephew and namesake, the son of Liudolf. The plans for the rebellion were formed at a Christmas gathering held at Saalfeld; the place is significant, for it was there that Henry had divulged to his friends his designs against Otto in 939. Among the conspirators was Frederick, Archbishop of Mayence, whose implication in the previous rebellions of 939 and 941 was more than suspected. He had been employed as Otto’s envoy to the court of Pope Agapetus and the failure of his mission may have led to a rupture with Otto.

The news of this ominous assembly was the immediate cause of Otto’s return to Germany. He crossed the Alps in February 952 and by Easter was again in Saxony. Conrad, Duke of Lorraine, was left behind in Italy to complete the overthrow of Berengar. But instead of pursuing the advantage which Otto had already gained, he made terms with Berengar and returned with him to Germany to obtain the king's ratification of his arrangements. They found the court at Magdeburg. Otto was, however, far from satisfied: he had counted on the complete subversion of Berengar. For three days the latter was not permitted to approach the royal presence and even then, through the counsel of Duke Henry, he was “barely granted his life and a safe return to his country”. The final settlement with regard to Italy was postponed to a meeting to be held at Augsburg. On 7 August the diet met in the spacious Lechfeld which extended to the south of the city. Franks, Saxons, Swabians, Bavarians, Lombards, and even ambassadors from the Byzantine court attended the gathering, to which a contemporary annalist assigns the imposing Frankish title of Conventus publicus. There Berengar and his son Adalbert took the oath of homage and fealty and, by the solemn handing over of the golden scepter, received back the kingdom of Lombardy as a fief of the German crown. But Duke Henry had his reward for his consistent loyalty at Berengar’s expense: the marches of Aquileia and Verona were added to the Bavarian dukedom.

Up to this point there had been no overt act of rebellion on the part of the conspirators. Liudolf and the Archbishop of Mayence had been present at the Augsburg diet; indeed the latter had taken a leading part in the ecclesiastical business transacted there. But as the rebellion matured, the causes of discontent increased. The marked displeasure of Otto at Conrad's management of the affairs of Italy had driven the Duke of Lorraine into the ranks of the malcontents. The appointment of the king's brother Bruno to the post of arch-chancellor of Italy was an additional grievance to Archbishop Frederick, who had counted upon that dignified sinecure for himself. Whereas Henry had gained by the settlement at Augsburg, Liudolf had received no share in the spoils. Possibly the birth of a child to Adelaide, a boy named Henry who died in infancy, at the end of the year 952, was the decisive event, which determined the outbreak of hostilities.

Otto appears to have been blind to the dangers which surrounded him. It was only while journeying to Ingelheim on his return from Alsace, whither he had gone to visit his wife's relations, that he realized the critical state of affairs. Judging it imprudent to keep the Easter festival, as he had purposed, at so isolated a place as Ingelheim, he turned aside to Mayence; but Mayence proved no less dangerous. He found the gates of the city closed against him and in an unseemly manner he was kept waiting until the Archbishop, who was absent from the city performing his Lenten devotions in retreat, returned to grant him admittance. Liudolf and Conrad also appeared on the scene, and the king was caught in a trap. The conspirators made haste to clear themselves of having any designs against their sovereign; but they acknowledged that it had been their intention to waylay Henry in the event of his coming to Ingelheim for the Easter festival. Even towards the king their attitude was not so peaceable as they had affirmed; by duress they extorted from him some sort of treaty, of which the terms are unrecorded, but the nature may be fairly conjectured. It was no doubt as advantageous to Liudolf as it was detrimental to the interests of Duke Henry. Liudolf was assured of the succession and possibly was even to have an immediate share in the government. Otto was glad to escape at any price. Nevertheless, once safe in Saxony he did not scruple to revoke the treaty. He summoned Liudolf and Conrad to appear before him and ordered them either to hand over their confederates or else to receive the punishment due for their offence. A diet for the discussion of their case was to meet at Fritzlar. The dukes did not present themselves at the diet; they were deprived of their dukedoms, and hostilities began in earnest.

In this rebellion, it is remarkable that the duchies invariably sided against their dukes. The Lorrainers, under the leadership of Adalbero, Bishop of Mainz, and Reginar, Count of Hainault, were, almost to a man, loyal to the king and therefore in opposition to their duke, Conrad; whereas in Bavaria the king and his brother Henry met with their bitterest and most dangerous opponents. At first Conrad sought to recover his position in Lorraine; but on the banks of the Meuse, in a desperate battle lasting from noon to sunset, he was defeated, quitted his duchy, and betook himself to Mayence, which henceforth became the headquarters of the insurgents. With an army of Saxons reinforced on the march by troops from Lorraine and Franconia, Otto invested the city. He was soon joined by Henry with his Bavarians. For nearly two months the royal army tried in vain to capture the stronghold of the rebels; every device of siege warfare was employed but all to no account; engines were no sooner brought up to the walls than they were destroyed or burnt; assaults were made upon the gates only to be beaten off with loss by the defenders. At last, wearied by lack of success, Otto made overtures for an armistice and sent his cousin Ekbert as an hostage. But the negotiations came to nothing, and the king's ambassador was won over to the side of the enemy. For Otto the situation was desperate. The defection had spread to Saxony and to Bavaria; in the latter duchy Arnulf, the Count palatine, put himself at the head of a tribal revolt against the rule of Duke Henry. This was perhaps the most serious phase in the rebellion. The Bavarians, led by their duke to assist in the siege of Mainz, went over in a body to the enemy. Leaving the defense of the city in the charge of Conrad, Liudolf hastened with the Bavarian deserters to Ratisbon, seized and plundered the city, and drove Henry’s family and adherents from the country. In September Otto abandoned the siege of Mayence with the object of attempting to secure Ratisbon, but in this enterprise he was also doomed to failure. Shortly before Christmas, almost at the end of his resources, he withdrew to Saxony.

Owing to the firm rule of Herman, the insurrection in Saxony had broken down, and Lorraine also remained loyal; but the greater part of Franconia and practically the whole of Swabia and Bavaria had taken up arms against him. So widespread was the disaffection that it has been sometimes regarded as an expression of a national resistance against Otto's imperial policy, as though the interests of Germany were prejudiced by his acquisition of the Italian throne. It is, however, more in accordance with the facts to attribute the civil war rather to tribal than national causes: the separate tribes were rebelling against the authority of their dukes. It was the duke who was attacked in Bavaria, in Lorraine, and in Saxony. Only in Swabia was Liudolf’s personal popularity sufficiently strong to secure the loyalty of the tribe; though even there an anti-ducal party was formed under the leadership of Burchard, a kinsman of the former duke. The inception of the war may be traced to personal causes, to the personal jealousy of the leaders: its support to the tribal opposition to the centralizing system of the dukedoms. The issue was decided not by any military exploit, successful campaign, or victory in the field, but by the diversion created by an Hungarian inroad, and by the violent reaction which followed against the party which sought to gain advantage from alliance with the invaders.



Hungarian invasion

The Hungarians had at the outset of Otto’s reign, in 937 and in 938, made two abortive attempts to invade Saxony. In 948 and in 949 they had made incursions into Bavaria, but had been beaten off by Duke Henry, who in two campaigns in the following year had successfully carried the war into their own country. Nevertheless, early in the year 954 the Hungarians, who were always ready to turn the intestine troubles of their neighbors to their own advantage, once more poured into Germany. Contemporary historians have laid the charge of inviting the barbarians upon both parties concerned in the struggle, but the occasion was too obvious to require any solicitation. Certain it is, however, that the invaders were eagerly welcomed by Liudolf and Conrad, who supplied them with guides. They swept through Bavaria and Franconia, plundering as they went; they were publicly entertained at Worms on Palm Sunday and loaded with presents of silver and gold. Conrad himself led them on across the Rhine in the hope of regaining his own duchy through their aid. But the raid of the barbarians did nothing to improve the duke's position in Lorraine; they penetrated as far as Utrecht merely laying waste the land as they passed; thence they moved southward through VermandoisLaon, and Reims into Burgundy, and the remnant of their band, much reduced in numbers by fighting and disease, returned to their own country by way of Italy.

The invasion was Otto’s deliverance. The royal army pressed hard upon the Bavarians, who were forced to crave a truce, which was granted till 16 June when a diet was to be held at Langenzeim, near the present town of Nuremberg, where the case was to be decided. At the diet of Langenzenn, all the leaders of the revolt, realizing that their cause was lost, made their appearance. During the proceedings each party accused the other of introducing the Hungarians. The Archbishop of Mainz and Conrad made their submission, but Liudolf remained obdurate; he rode off in the night with his attendants to Ratisbon. The king followed in pursuit, fighting on his way an indecisive engagement at RosstallRatisbon withstood the assault of the royal army. A long siege followed, during which many skirmishes were fought before the walls, and the burghers were reduced to the point of starvation. Finally, after the city had been invested for some six weeks, Liudolf and the citizens obtained a truce, pending a settlement to be arranged at a diet to be held at FritzlarLiudolf made a last attempt to rally his cause in Swabia; failing in this, he sought and gained his father's forgiveness. But neither he nor Conrad recovered their dukedoms. As a result of the civil war there were many new appointments to be made. For this purpose a diet was held at Arnstadt on 7 December. The dukedom of Swabia was given to Burchard, probably the son of the old Duke of Swabia of that name and so a first cousin to Queen Adelaide. Lorraine had already been granted to the king's brother Bruno, who in the previous year had succeeded Archbishop Wikfried in the metropolitan see of Cologne. The see of Mayence was also vacant, since the turbulent Archbishop Frederick had died a few weeks before the meeting of the diet. His place was filled by William, Otto’s natural son. Bavaria held out until the spring; but Henry was victorious over Herold, the rebellious Archbishop of Salzburg, and the burghers of Ratisbon, again reduced to the extremities of famine, submitted themselves to Otto. So by the end of the spring of 955 Otto was able to return in peace to his native Saxony.

The Hungarians, encouraged by their successful raid of the previous year, made another inroad early in the year 955. It was checked, and Otto received in Saxony what purported to be an Hungarian embassy; in fact its intention was nothing more nor less than to spy out the land, and immediately afterwards Duke Henry sent word that the barbarians had crossed the frontier. Their main body was encamped on the banks of the Lech near Augsburg. The city was defended by its Bishop St Ulric, whose contemporary biographer speaks of the desperate straits to which he was reduced; the city walls were dilapidated and unprovided with towers; it seemed impossible to withstand an assault from an enemy whose numbers are said to have amounted to one hundred thousand horsemen. Yet one day the bishop, arrayed in his pontifical robes, sallied forth, himself unarmed, into the ranks of the enemy and threw them into confusion. On the following day, the feast of St Lawrence (10 August), as the bishop quietly awaited the inevitable counter-attack, he heard the welcome news of Otto's approach. When the news of the invasion reached him Otto had hurried southward with a small band of Saxons. On his march, other troops collected and he reached the neighborhood of Augsburg with a vast army drawn from all parts of Germany. The host was formed up in eight divisions: three from Bavaria, two from Swabia, and one each from Saxony, Lorraine and Bohemia. The battle was fought in the Lechfeld to the south of the city on the left bank of the river.

As on other occasions, legend gives the credit of the victory to the Holy Lance with which Otto was armed. At first the enemy made headway against the Swabian and Bohemian divisions; but the courage and resource of Conrad, the deposed Duke of Lorraine, who fell in the battle, restored the fortunes of the royal army. The victory was complete; and for three days the scattered remnants of the Hungarian hordes were pursued and killed or taken captive. The victory had far-reaching effects both for the conqueror and the conquered. Germany was forever relieved of the menace of invasion and the Hungarians gave up their restless mode of life and took to a settled and peaceful existence.

The Hungarians were not the only neighbors of Germany who had sought to take advantage of the civil war. The Wends rose in revolt against German rule. In 954 Margrave Gero and Conrad (it is characteristic of Otto to entrust his recent antagonist with a command) won a victory over the Ukrani. Further north, in the district under the authority of Duke Herman, the trouble was more serious; the duke’s nephews Wichmann and Ekbert, who had already attempted without success to raise Saxony in revolt against their uncle, now joined with the Wends. No decisive victory determined the fighting, which continued intermittently and with varying success for a period of two years. It was the news of the defeat of the Hungarians on the banks of the Lech which struck the Wends with awe, and compelled them to make an abject submission. They sent messages offering their accustomed tribute: but Otto was not disposed to let them off so lightly. Accompanied by Liudolf and Boleslav of Bohemia, he ravaged their land as far as Recknitz to the west of the Isle of Rügen. Their leader Stoinef was slain: Wichmann and Ekbert fled the country and took refuge at the court of Duke Hugh in France. In 957 Wichmann again appeared in alliance with the Wends, but he was finally defeated in 958 and received a pardon on taking “a terrible oath never to conspire again against Otto or his kingdom”.

In Lorraine also there were signs of trouble, but the wise and states-manlike rule of Bruno restored and maintained peace. Count Reginar of Hainault was at the root of the disturbance; it was his hostility to Conrad that secured the loyalty of Lorraine during the civil war. Apparently he expected reward for his services, and, failing to get it, he stirred up revolts against the authority of Bruno. The archbishop suppressed two risings in 957 and 959 and, as a precaution against disorder in the future, deemed it advisable to divide the duchy into two units of administration: a certain noble of the country named Godfrey had already been placed over the lower, and Frederick, brother of the powerful Bishop Adalbero of Metz, was now set over the upper province. To the prudent and judicious policy of the Archbishop of Cologne, it may be added, was due the maintenance of friendly relations with France, and it is no exaggeration to assert that to his support Lothair, on the death of Louis IV in 954, owed his peaceful and uncontested succession in that kingdom.

By the year 960 Otto’s rule in Germany was firmly established. The Hungarians were defeated once and for all; the Wends between the Elbe and the Oder were quelled; Lorraine and the Western Kingdom, thanks to Bruno, were at peace. The presence of envoys from foreign courts at his solemn assemblies testifies to the strength of his rule and to the extent of his fame. Romans and Greeks, Saracens and Russians visited his court, bringing him gifts of gold, silver and ivory, balm and precious ointments, and lions, camels, monkeys, and ostriches, animals hitherto unknown in Saxony. All nations of the Christian world, concludes Widukind, looked to the great king in their troubles. So in 959 ambassadors from the Russian Queen Olga, who was baptized in 957, came to Germany to beg Otto to send missionaries to their heathen country. A certain Libertius was ordained bishop for the purpose but died before he could embark on his difficult enterprise; Adalbert from the monastery of St Maximin at Treves was chosen in his place, but after a year’s fruitless endeavor returned to his own country.

So again, John XII, Pope and patrician of Rome, sought Otto’s assistance against the oppression of Berengar and his son Adalbert. The project suited Otto’s own policy. The conduct of the vassal king of Italy had already earned his displeasure; but unable to go in person he had sent Liudolf, who, since he had lost his dukedom, was in need of employment. A brilliant and successful campaign (956-7) was, however, cut short by the death of its leader. Liudolf died of fever at Pombia and the work was left unfinished. At the appeal of the Pope in 959, Otto prepared to cross the Alps himself. Anxious to secure the throne in his own line in the event of his death during the campaign, he caused his infant son Otto to be elected king at Worms and to be solemnly crowned and anointed in the royal chapel of Charles the Great at Aix-la-Chapelle. Then leaving the boy in charge of William, Archbishop of Mainz, he set out to deliver Italy from its enemies and to receive the imperial crown from the hands of Pope John XII.

Of the last twelve years of his life and reign, the Emperor spent scarcely more than two in Germany. The imperial title brought with it new responsibilities to bear, new difficulties to overcome; the work of his later years was beyond the Alps. Nevertheless, it is unjust to lay to his charge the neglect of Germany, a charge which can be supported against his grandson Otto III. Otto the Great never lost interest, never disregarded the affairs of his original kingdom. At Rome one of his first considerations was the organization of the Church on the eastern frontier of Saxony, the carrying out of his cherished plan, the foundation of a metropolitan see at Magdeburg. As early as 955 he had sent Hademar, Abbot of Fulda, to Rome to discuss this project with Pope Agapetus. The jealousy of the Bishop of Halberstadt and of the Metropolitan of Mainz put every obstacle in his path. But at last, on 12 February 962, he was able to make the final arrangements and obtained from Pope John XII a bull for the erection of an archbishopric at Magdeburg and a bishopric at Merseburg. It was not, however, until 968 that effect was given to it by the appointment of bishops. Adalbert, the first Archbishop of Magdeburg, was a man of peculiar interest. He began life in the monastery of St Maximin at Treves, for some years he was a notary in the chancery, in 961 he was sent as a bishop to preach the gospel in Russia. In 966 he became Abbot of Weissenburg in Alsace, and in 968 Archbishop of Magdeburg. He is also conjectured to be the author of the Continuation of the Chronicle of Regino of Prüm, and his varied life and profound experience make his work of the highest value for the history of Otto the Great.

The Emperor returned to Germany at the beginning of the year 965. After an absence of more than three years there was much work requiring his attention. The Wends, again assisted and roused by the turbulent Wichmann, had given much trouble to Otto’s vicegerents, Herman and Gero, and the intermittent warfare was only brought to an end in 967 when Wichmann, then in alliance with the Redarii, was defeated and slain. Nevertheless, in spite of the many difficulties in the way, Christianity and German influence had extended very rapidly. In a campaign in 963 Gero subdued the Lusatians and received the submission and tribute of Mesco, Duke of the Poles, who was also engaged in war with the Wends. Bohemia was on terms of close friendship with Germany when under the younger Boleslav, who appeared in person at Otto's court in 973. He was zealous in the cause of Christianity and it was through the influence of his daughter Dabravka that Mesco was baptized and missionary work was set on foot for the first time in Poland. About the same time Harold Bluetooth, King of Denmark, was baptized, and enjoined the Christian faith upon his subjects. The death of Gero, soon after his return from a pilgrimage to Rome in 965, was a set-back to German expansion. He was the real founder of the German dominion between the Elbe and the Oder, and his place was difficult to fill. It provided the occasion for the division of the conquered territory into the later system of marches. The death of Archbishop Bruno in the same year deprived the Emperor of another of his most loyal and most valuable governors. In his ducal office he had no successor: the division of the duchy into the provinces of Upper and Lower Lorraine, carried out by Bruno in 959, rendered a duke or archduke over the whole superfluous.

The years 966 to 972 were spent in Italy. Two events which bear upon German history may be recorded; first, the young king Otto II was crowned Emperor at the hands of the Pope John XIII on Christmas Day 967; and secondly, after a long series of negotiations, a Byzantine princess, a niece of John Tzimisces named Theophano, was given in marriage to the young Emperor.

At Christmas 972 Otto the Great was again in Germany. He was honored by embassies to his court from distant lands, even from the Saracens in Africa. His work, however, was completed, he had outlived his friends and associates. While he was absent in Italy, his son William and his mother Matilda had died (March 968): soon after his return he lost his trusted and loyal servant Herman. He himself did not survive much longer. He died at Memleben, the little town in the Harz Mountains which had also witnessed the death of his father, on 7 May 973, in his sixty-first year. His body was taken to Magdeburg and buried in the cathedral he had built.

The Saxon historian, Widukind, sums up the achievements of his life in the voice of popular opinion: “The people, saying many things in his praise, recalled to mind that he had ruled his subjects with paternal piety, he had liberated them from their enemies, had conquered with his arms the proud Avars, Saracens, Danes, and Slavs; he had brought Italy under his yoke; he had destroyed the temples of his heathen neighbors and set up churches and priests in their place”. All this he had accomplished. If he had failed in his attempt to centralize the government of Germany, his failure was due to the inevitable progress towards feudalism and the too deeply rooted tribal traditions. If in this direction his empire fell short of its model, the empire of Charles the Great, in another direction it was conspicuously in advance of it. His work, in the extension of German influence and civilization and in the progress of Christianity towards the north and east of his dominions, was of permanent value, and stood as the firm basis of future expansion and future development.