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WHEN in the year 534 Justinian organized the imperial administration in Africa, and after the year 540 in Italy, it was not so much his intention to create a new civil code as to restore in the main the conditions which had existed before the break in the Roman rule. In Africa this break had been complete owing to the constitution of the Vandal kingdom. In Italy the Roman civil administration had remained unaltered, even at the time when the rule of the Gothic king had superseded the direct imperial government, and therefore, after the expulsion of the Gothic army quartered on the land, only the military administration had to be created completely anew. Maintenance of the continuity, which from an imperial point of view had legally never been broken, and equal rights with those provinces which had never bowed to the yoke of the barbarians, are therefore the natural principles upon which Justinian founded his reorganization of the West. It was, however, impossible in practice to ignore altogether the development of the last century. Africa and Italy had for so many years lived in political independence of each other, that it was no longer possible to look upon them as a united whole; in consequence of this, their administration remained entirely separate, as before. Whereas the dioceses of Africa had been under the rule of the praefectus praetorio per Italias, until its occupation by the Vandals, it now received its own praefectus praetorio, who took the place of the former, henceforth superfluous vicarius Africae, so that the praefectus Italiae was limited to Italy. Sardinia and Corsica, however, which had been in the possession of the Vandals and were now won back by Justinian together with the Vandal kingdom, remained united with Africa. It was further of decisive importance for Italy that it was no longer, as before the so-called fall of the West-Roman Empire, ruled by two emperors with a local division of power, but by one only, and that he resided in the East. For the consequence was, that the court offices and central offices proper, such as the magister officiorum, the quaestor, the comites sacrarum largitionumrerum privatarum and patrimonii, which as the highest administrative offices in Italy had been maintained within the Gothic kingdom parallel with the court offices and central offices at Constantinople, now disappeared in Italy and were amalgamated with the central offices at Constantinople. The same applies to the Senate, which likewise was not a local but an imperial governing body. There was no need to dissolve it; it disappeared from Rome in the natural course of events, for the officials, of whom it was composed at that time, henceforth only existed at Constantinople, the residence of the single emperor.

Foundation of Imperial Administration

The principle underlying the bureaucratic administration by which the Empire had been governed since Diocletian, and the details of which had only been developed during the centuries following his reign, remained unchanged: all autonomy was supplanted by a body of imperial functionaries grouped hierarchically, according to their local and practical powers, subject only to the absolute will of the Emperor and appointed by him, chosen from the ranks of the landowners, the only persons who had the right to migrate from their place of origin. They had at their disposal as an auxiliary force a body of officials (officium), arranged likewise hierarchically, but drawn from another class of the people. Opposed, however, to the ruling class, which carried out the will of the State by means of the bureaucratic organization, stood, as the working members of the State, all the rest of the population, tied hereditarily to their class and its organization, which as far as it existed had only the one object of making its members jointly responsible for the expenses of the State. The principle also of separating the civil from the military power, which had first been completely carried into force by Constantine the Great, though sometimes abandoned by Justinian in the East, was intended by the Emperor to come into full force in the West, as soon as an end had been put to the state of war.

While the details of the Italian administration have to be gathered partly from the so-called Pragmatica sanctio pro petitione Vigilii, and partly from the remaining sources, chiefly the letters of Pope Gregory, which unfortunately nowhere present a complete picture, the Codex Justinianus (i. 27) contains the statutes of the organization for the civil and military adjustment within the African dioecesis, issued by Justinian in the year 534. The statutes provided that the praefectus praetorio Africae, who as a functionary of the highest class and receiving a salary of 100 pounds gold (about £4500), stood at the head of the civil administration, should have (besides his private cabinet, the consiliarii and cancellarii, the grammatici and medici) an official staff of 396 persons, divided into ten scrinia and nine scholae. Four of the former, who were also the best paid, were entrusted with the financial administration, and one with the exchequer. Besides these there were the scrinium of the primiscrinius or subadiuva, and one each of the commentariensis and of the ab actis, who conducted the business of the chancery and the archives, and lastly the scrinium operum for the Public Works and the scrinium libellorum for the Jurisdiction. The cohortales, probably assistant clerks, were divided into the scholae of exceptoressingulariimittendariicursoresnomenculatoresstratorespraeconesdraconarii, and chartularii. The sum total of the salaries paid to the staff amounted to 6575 gold solidi (a little over £4000), which had to be raised, like the praefect's salary, by the dioecesis. Subordinate to the praefect were seven governors, three of whom had the rank of a consularis and four that of a praeses. It seems that the former the text is not quite clear were the governors of the old provincia proconsularis (Zeugitana, Carthage), of Byzacena and of Tripolis, whilst the latter, who were of inferior rank, appear to have governed Sardinia, Numidia, and the two Mauretanias (Sitifensis and Caesariensis); a staff of 50 clerks was attached to each of them.

Administrative Division

For the protection of the dioecesis, after peace had eventually been so completely restored that the conquering army and the moveable field army of the comitatenses could be withdrawn, a frontier-army was to be newly enrolled, garrisoned, and settled, and to be entrusted to the military commanders of the separate frontier-provinces (limites). These were under the duces of Tripolitana (in Leptis Magna), of Byzacena (in Capsa or Thelepte, the command of which was afterwards shared with a second dux at Hadrumetum), of Numidia (in Constantina), of Mauretania (in Caesarea), and of Sardinia. Whilst these duces were to take up a temporary residence in the capitals until the reoccupation of the old frontiers should be complete, a few of the larger forts along the frontier were given into the charge of tribunes. One of these, who was subordinate to the dux of Mauretania, was also stationed at Septum to watch the Straits of Gibraltar and to command the battleships there. Each of these duces had, besides an assessor, a staff of 40 clerks with a number of gentlemen-at-arms, the latter of whom he paid out of his own sufficiently high stipend, handed over to him by the praefect. The ducesviri spectabiles, i.e. officials of the second class, were subordinate in military rank to the commanding magister militum of the moment. It is true that this arrangement was quite provisional, for the limites were not to be definitely adjusted till the old frontiers had been won back by the Roman arms.

In Italy Justinian’s division of provinces can hardly have differed essentially from the old Roman one, which had been accepted by the Ostrogoths. The jurisdiction of the praefect was curtailed not only by the separation of Sardinia and Corsica and by the loss of the two Rhaetias on the northern frontier, but furthermore by the enactment of Justinian, which put Sicily under a special praetor of the second class, from whom an appeal passed directly to the quaestor of the court at Constantinople. It is doubtful whether the intermediate court of the two vicarii (Italiae and urbis Romae) was maintained under the praefect.  With regard to the provincial governors the Pragmatica sanctio ordains that they should be chosen from the inhabitants by the bishops and most distinguished men in each province, but must obtain the sanction of the praefect a very peculiar regulation, which does not agree with the general bureaucratic principles of the Byzantine administration, and which seems to prove that as early as the middle of the sixth century the position of the provincial governors, like that of the town councils in Italy, was brought very low and considered more of an onus than an honor. Not long afterwards this regulation was extended to the whole Empire. The special position of the municipal officials of Rome under the praefectus urbi together with other privileges of the old imperial capital was maintained, though from the outset this administrative department hardly fitted any better here than elsewhere into the frame of the general administration, and had to be relieved of a number of its former duties.

Defense of the Positions

The defense of the frontiers, temporarily established by Belisarius in Africa, was organized in Italy by Narses, who had restored the natural frontiers of Italy in the north to nearly the dimensions which had been recognized by the Lombards in Gothic times after the cession of Noricum and Pannonia to them. It is probable that the location of the frontier troops was also influenced by the distribution of the garrisons during the Gothic rule. In the east, Forum Julii (Friuli) was the centre of a chain of small fortresses on the southern slope of the Alps, which were connected with the fort of Aguntum (Innichen) by the pass over the Kreuzberg. From this point the valley of the Rienz probably became the frontier. The bishopric of Seben (Brixen) also belonged to the Empire, and further south a chain of forts from Verruca (near Trent) as far as Anagni (Nanó) can be traced. Further west, the Alpine passes were secured by forts at their southern end; thus mention is made of one situated on an island in the Lake of Como, and of another at the outlet of the pass over Mont Cenis at Susa. It is not clear in what manner these limites, which had replaced the old ducatus Rhaetiarum and the tractus Italiae circa Alpes of the Notitia Dignitatum, were separated from each other. It appears, however, that some of the troops which had come to Italy under Narses were garrisoned and settled in them, and that certain generals who had served under Narses were placed at the head of these ducatus. This would be the easiest explanation for the fact that at a very early date the command over the garrisoned legions in Italy was not held by ordinary duces, but by men holding the higher rank of magister militum.

Justinian's dispositions had all been made on the assumption that peace would be completely restored throughout the two new sections of the Empire. During the wars of conquest, the Emperor’s authorized generals were, in Africa Belisarius, who was magister militum per orientem, and in Italy latterly Narses, who, as patricius and holder of high court offices, belonged to the highest rank. These had acted without restriction, both in their military and in their civil capacity, subject only to the instructions they received from the Emperor. Procopius calls each alike War Autocrats.

The Exarch

Circumstances, however, allowed neither country any lasting peace; martial law continued as a consequence of the state of war, and neither Africa nor Italy could safely be left without an active army. It became necessary to create and to uphold a supreme authority, to which the civil administration had to be subordinated for military purposes. In Africa a passing attempt was made by Justinian to equip the praefectus praetorio with the power of a magister militum, but this was an exceptional case. In Africa, as also in Italy, when the Lombards invaded it after the recall of Narses, the rule was to appoint extraordinary military commanders, who held a high rank and were superior to the praefectus. But when the state of war proved to be chronic, the extraordinary office developed into a regular one. In the year 584 an exarch is mentioned in Italy for the first time, and here as in Africa the title exarch is henceforth commonly applied to the head of the military and civil administration. In this combination of military and civil functions the exarch reminds us of certain exalted provincial governors, whom Justinian, deviating from the general principles of the Roman administration, had already installed in the East. But the exarch is far more than these. Holding, as he does, the highest office in his division of the Empire, he not only belongs to the highest class with the title excellentissimus, but he owns also the full title of patricius, a distinction not usually shared by the praefect. If the patrician holds a court office it is usual, in official language, to substitute this for the title patricius, as for instance cubicularius et exarchus, or occasionally Patricius et exarchus. In ordinary life, when speaking of the exarch in Italy and Africa, only the title patricius was used.

The power of the exarch was practically unlimited. Like the Gothic kings, he was the emperor’s representative; and as such, like his predecessors, e.g. Belisarius and Narses, he held absolute command over the active troops temporarily stationed in that part of the Empire, as well as over the frontier legions. At the same time he took a hand, whenever it pleased him, in the civil administration, decided ecclesiastical matters, negotiated with foreign countries, and concluded armistices. His power was only limited in time, inasmuch as he might at any moment be recalled by the emperor, and in extent inasmuch as his mandate applied only to a definite part of the Empire. He could therefore issue decrees, but could neither make laws nor conclude a peace valid for the whole of the Empire. The command of the exarch of Italy extended beyond Italy to the rest of the old dioecesis of West Illyricum, and to Dalmatia, which also, since Odovacar's time, had been added to the Italian kingdom. The military system of Sicily, on the other hand, was allowed, at least in later years, to develop independently.

It followed naturally that the exarch, who resided at Ravenna, had it his court, besides an officium befitting his rank, a number of advisers and assistants for the miscellaneous branches of his activity. We will only mention here the consiliarius, the cancellarius, the maior domus, the scholastici versed in jurisprudence, and in Africa with the rank of patricius a representative of the emperor. He was further, like all generals of that time, surrounded by a number of private soldiers, gentlemen-at-arms who held a more distinguished position than soldiers of the regular army. The court of these vice emperors was in every aspect a copy of the imperial court, and their powerful position makes it conceivable that, when in the middle of the seventh century the centre of the Empire was in distress, the attempt was repeatedly made both from Africa and Italy to replace the emperor by an exarch. It was in this manner that the dynasty of Heraclius attained to the throne.

 The Militarising of the Administration  

The consequences of the uninterrupted state of war, caused in Africa by the Berbers and later by the Muslims, and in Italy by the Lombards, of course affected, not only the head of the general administration, but also its organization and its efficacy. Tripolitana was detached from Africa, probably under the Emperor Maurice, and added to Egypt. Mauretania Sitifensis and the few stations of the Caesariensis which the Empire was able to uphold, were joined together into one province, Mauretania Prima, whilst distant Septum, with the remains of the Byzantine possessions in Spain, became the province Mauretania Secunda. Of still greater importance is the fact that Justinian's plan of restoring the frontiers of the Empire to the extent they had before the Vandal occupation, was never carried out. It even became necessary in several provinces to move back again the line of defense already reached, so that the duces did not hold command in the border-lands of their own provinces, but were stationed with their garrisoned legions in the interior. This makes it impossible to define the sphere of local power between the dux and the tribuni on the one hand, and the praeses on the other. The provinces themselves became as it were limites. Just as the praefect continued to exist under the exarch, so there existed, at least in the beginning of the seventh century and perhaps even up to the definite loss of Africa, side by side with the duces, a number of civil praesides, not to speak of the various revenue officers who were employed for the taxation. Naturally the duces and the tribuni who were appointed by the exarch proved the stronger, and continually extended their powers at the expense of the civil officials. The development, which must have led to the complete suppression of the civil administration, hardly reached its final stage in Africa, because it was forcibly cut short by the Mahometan occupation. It went further in Italy. The Lombards in their onslaught had broken up the whole of the Italian administration in the course of about ten years; attempts to re-establish it failed, and when about the beginning of the seventh century the Empire had accepted the inevitable, it made no further attempt to gain the remote border-lands, but saw its task in trying to secure what remained of the Roman possessions. It had been customary so far for the various army corps, of which some were recruited from the East, to fight in different parts of Italy, led by their magistri militum under the superior command of the exarch. The primus exercitus was stationed at Ravenna at the immediate disposal of the commander-in-chief. But gradually, and especially when by the repeated truces a certain state of equilibrium had been attained, there were no more reinforcements from the East, except perhaps the regiment of guards for the exarch, and the legions in Italy were stationed at those points which seemed most important for the defence. In the interior of Italy also ducatus sprang up in all directions with duces or magistri militum at their head; everywhere forts were erected and put under the command of a tribune.

By the conquests of Rothari, who seized Liguria, and of Grimoald in the seventh century, as also by those of Liutprand and Aistulf in the eighth century, the frontiers were still further displaced, but as early as the first half of the seventh century the following ducatus can be distinguished: Istria and Venetia, both confined to the coast-land and the islands; the exarchate proper (in the narrower sense), the provincial Ravennatium, the borders of which lay between Bologna and Modena in the west, along the Po in the north, and from which the ducatus of Ferrara was detached in the eighth century; the Pentapolis, i.e. the remains of Picenum, with its dux residing at Ariminum; the ducatus of Perusia, which with its numerous and strong forts covered the most important passes of the Apennines and the Via Flaminia, the only connection between the remains of the Byzantine possessions in the north, and in particular Ravenna, with Rome; Tuscia to the north of the lower course of the Tiber; Rome and her immediate surroundings, with the forts in partibus Campaniae to the south, as far as the Valley of the Liris; the ducatus of Naples, i.e. the coast-towns from Cumae to Amalfi with a part of Liburia (Terra di Lavoro); the ducatus of Calabria, consisting of the remains of Apulia and Calabria, Lucania and Bruttium. This division supplanted the old division into provinces, and, when about the middle of the seventh century not only the praefect of Italy, but also the provincial praesides disappeared completely, the names of the old provinces continued to be used in ordinary conversation only to define certain parts of Italy. The functions of the duces and praesides were completely absorbed by the magistri militum in the same way as those of the praefectus praetorio were absorbed by the exarch. The whole administration had been militarized, and the same status established which in the East under similar conditions appears as the "theme" system.

The Church and the Public Administration

The civil administration of the State, however, was not only threatened by the military organizations, but also by another factor, the Church, which prepared to occupy the gaps left by the activity of the State, and to enter upon a part of its heritage. Through means of influence peculiar to herself and not accessible to the State, the Church had in Italy a very special position through her extensive landed property, as also by right of privileges which former emperors, in particular Justinian, had accorded to her. The legal privileges of the Church went so far, that popes of the sixth century already claimed for the clergy the right to be judged by ecclesiastics only, and its landed property was protected by special laws. The influence of the Church in all matters could only be controlled by the actual power and authority of the State, for the claim of the pope and of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to be the representatives of the Civitas Dei, and as such superior to worldly authorities, permitted a growth of power to an unlimited extent.

The material foundation for this power was supplied by the immense wealth, of the Roman Church especially, which designated its possessions by preference as patrimonium pauperum. The starting-point for its activity was indeed the care of the poor, a field which had been entirely neglected by the State, but gained importance in proportion to the increasing distress of the times and the insufficiency of the public administration. The State itself, in fact, not only allowed the bishops an important voice in the election of the provincial governors, but it granted them a certain right of control over all officials, in so far as they were permitted to attend to the complaints of the oppressed population, and to convey them to the magistrates in authority or even to the emperor himself. Time after time there was intervention, mostly by the popes, and no part of the administration was free from their influence.

The predominance of the ecclesiastical influence over the secular in the civil administration shows itself very clearly in the department of municipal government, for the curiales, having lost their autonomy and become mere bearers of burdens, were already doomed. In Lilybaeum, for instance, the wealthy citizens, manifestly the curiales, had made an agreement with the bishop in accordance with which the bishop took over certain of their burdens, and in return a number of estates were transferred to the Church. At Naples the bishop tried to get possession of the aqueducts and the city gates. Above all, at Rome the pope extended the range of his power in his own interest and in the interest of the population, who could no longer depend upon the regular working of the public administration.

The Pragmatica sanctio had guaranteed the maintenance by the State of the public buildings at Rome; nevertheless, in the seventh century the care of the aqueducts as well as the preservation of the city walls passed over to the papal administration. By this time no more mention is made of the praefectura urbis, and when after almost two centuries it appears again in our sources, it has become a pontifical office. The old public distribution of provisions was replaced by the beneficial institutions of the Roman Church, by her diaconates, shelters, hospitals, and her magnificent charity organization, through which money and provisions were dealt out regularly to a large part of the population. The vast granaries of the Roman Church received the corn brought from all the patrimonies, especially from Sicily, for the purpose of feeding a population whose regular sources of income were totally insufficient for their support.

The recognized superiority of the papal administration is also illustrated by the fact that the State further felt induced to hand over to the granaries of the Church the revenue paid in kind by Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica and set aside for the provisioning of Rome and its garrison, so that the pope appears in many respects as the emperor's paymaster (dispensator). But the pope becomes also the emperor’s banker when the funds for the payment of the army are made over to him, so that for a time at least the soldiers are paid through his offices. Thus the organs of state administration were one by one rendered superfluous by the development of a well-organized papal central government, whilst the managers of the pontifical estates in the different provinces, who were entrusted with the representation of the pope in all secular matters, had an ever-increasing number of duties heaped upon them.

Militarising of Landed Property

In proportion as the reinforcements of soldiers from Byzantium failed, Italy had to depend more upon her own resources, i.e. upon the soldiers who had been settled in Italy at the time when the inner boundaries were established --evidently in imitation of the old limitanei-- and upon the native population, which latter being compelled to take its share in the watch-service (murorum vigiliae) and obliged to provide for their own up-keep, could soon no longer be distinguished from the former. For example, the castrum Squillace was erected on land belonging to the monastery of the same name, and for the allotments conceded to them the soldiers had to pay a ground-rent (solaticum) to the monastery. The castrum Callipolis had been built within the precincts of a manor owned by the Roman Church, and the coloni of the Church themselves formed its garrison. All those who were obliged to do military service in a fort under the command of the tribune formed the numerus or bandus, and being a corporation had the right to acquire landed property. The inhabitants of Comacchio, for instance, taken collectively, are called milites, and only in the large cities, such as Rome or Ravenna, the milites do not embrace the entire population. On the other hand we often find the inhabitants of a fort dependent upon a landlord. But though the power of a tribune and that of a landlord were originally derived from entirely different sources, they were naturally brought nearer to each other in the course of their development, for while it became more common for the tribunes to acquire landed property, the landowners grew more military. For the tribune did not only hold the command of a fort, the power of raising part of the taxes, and the jurisdiction over the population within the whole district of the fort, but in addition to this the landed property of the State or of the corporation fell to his share. Thus, the more the armed power assumed the character of a militia, the more important it became that the tribunes, who probably continued to pay their nomination-tax or suffragium to the exarch, should be chosen from the landlords of the district, like the officers holding command under them in the numerus, who are occasionally mentioned, such as the domesticus, the vicarius, the loci servator, and others. Probably in many cases the nomination by the exarch became a mere formality, and certain seigniorial families raised a claim to the tribunate. These local powers, the lords of the manor, who were qualified for the tribunate, formed the actual landowning military aristocracy, who, by uniting in themselves all the administrative offices of the first order, virtually ruled over Italy, although under the supervision of officials appointed by the central government.

Among these local powers were the various churches, the bishoprics, and above all the Roman Church, the estates of which must in many respects have been exempt from the government of the tribunes, much the same as were the fundi excepti of the preceding time, so that they existed by the side of the secular tribunes, but not in subjection to them. When in the beginning of the eighth century the militia in the town of Ravenna was reorganized, a special division was provided for the Church besides the eleven other bandi. About the same time we see the rector of the patrimonium of Campania leading the soldiers of the Church in a campaign.

Effect of the Italian Revolution

The conclusion and spread of this development of local powers formed the social change which led to the great Italian revolt in the first third of the eighth century. The state of anarchy in the centre of the Empire and the dangers by which Constantinople itself was threatened through the advance of Islam, had been a powerful help to the Italian struggle for independence. Different parts of Italy had at various times witnessed risings of the local powers, till the separate discontented forces united in a great opposition movement under the leadership of the pope. This took place when Gregory II boldly withheld the increased tax which Leo the Isaurian, the great organizer of the Byzantine Empire, attempted to raise for the benefit of the central government; and when, in addition to this, the edict against the worship of images and the outbreak of Iconoclasm incited religious passions against the imperial reformer. The first act of the rebels was to expel the exarch and the duces, the representatives of the central government, and to replace them by confidential friends of the local powers. At Rome the pope and at Venice an elected dux (doge) took the place of the former authorities. The dicio, as it was then called, was by this revolt transferred from the emperor to the local authorities, though they remained in formal adherence to the Empire. This, at least, was the pope’s wish, and no emperor set up by the opposition in Italy was generally recognized.

The suppression of the revolt resulted in the resumption of the dicio by the emperor, and during the next generation Italy was again ruled by his deputies and appointed duces. The fact, however, that in consequence of the Italian revolt the local powers had for a number of years been practically independent, could not be undone. Henceforth it was impossible to appoint officials in the place of tribunes. In the local organisation the landed proprietors had gained a complete victory over the bureaucracy, and in this the hereditary principle had prevailed. But the bureaucratic superstructure, by which the emperor exercised his dicio, was entirely out of touch with the seigniorial element at its base, and from this resulted at least as far as North and Central Italy were concerned, where the revolution had temporarily taken a firm hold the complete and permanent dissolution of the central power of the State.

Changes in the Administrative Division

Not very long after the termination of the Italian revolt there appears at Rome as the highest imperial authority the patricius et dux Stephanus. The title of patricius, and various other circumstances, indicate that he was no longer subordinate but equal to the exarch of Ravenna, and that Central Italy south of the Apennines had been constituted as an independent province or theme. This division of Byzantine Italy, which had long been geographically prepared, was probably due as much to strategical reasons, e.g. the advance of the king of the Lombards, as to any political necessity. Stephanus, however, seems to have been the first and last to bear the new title; after him there appears no other permanent representative of the emperor at Rome. The exarchate proper, comprising the Byzantine possessions north of the Apennines from which the ducatus of Rome had been detached, was ruled by the exarch, who resided at Ravenna until King Aistulf took possession of that town (750-751), when only Venice and a part of Istria of the lands north of the Apennines remained under Byzantine rule. All that was left to the Byzantines in the two southernmost peninsulas of Italy was, at a date which cannot be exactly determined, united into a ducatus which received the name of Calabria, and retained this name even when the Byzantines had completely evacuated the south-eastern peninsula which had formerly borne this name, and were confined to their forts of the former Bruttium in the south-west. This ducatus, which was not linked geographically to the rest of Byzantine Italy, was placed under the command of the patricius of Sicily, so that it was separated from Italy in its administration. In the same way the churches of southern Italy were, in consequence of the Italian revolt, detached from Rome and subordinated to the Greek patriarchate at Constantinople. Thus in the second quarter of the eighth century there were in the western part of the Byzantine Empire three themes under patrician governors the Exarchate, Rome, and Sicily (with Calabria), of which the latter was for the most part Greek in language and culture, whereas the two first were Latin.

Pontifical State under Byzantine Suzerainty

After the disappearance of the patrician governor from Rome, the pope took his place and claimed the right to rule directly the city of Rome with her surroundings, and also indirectly the ducatus attached to Rome in the north and south as supreme lord of the two duces, and to restore more or less the situation which had existed during the Italian revolt. The papal bureaucracy, which had been developed to a certain extent on the model of the Byzantine bureaucracy, took the place of the imperial administration. In other words, the pope assumed the dicio over Rome and the district belonging to it. Here in times of war and peace he reigned like the exarch before him, negotiated and concluded truces with the Lombards, recognizing however the suzerainty of the emperor, whose commands he received through special embassies, and reckoning his dates from the years of the emperor's reign. At the emperor's command he went to King Aistulf at Pavia, and thence probably also in accordance with the imperial wishes crossed the Alps and visited the king of the Franks. The concessions of Pepin and Charles the Great were called "restitutions," by which was understood that the old boundaries between the Empire and the Lombard kingdom, as they had been recognized before Liutprand's reign, were restored, and the sovereignty of the emperor within these boundaries was legally undisputed.

This is proved by the fact that down to the year 781 the popes reckoned their dates from the years of the emperor's reign. The dispute between the popes and the Frankish kings on the one side and the emperors on the other arose from the fact that Pepin gave the dicio of the restored domains to the pope, and not to the emperor who laid claim to it, so that the pope became the real master in the new Pontifical State and no room was left for a representative of the emperor. Moreover the pope overstepped the limits which had hitherto bounded the sphere of his power, by including in his dicio not only the former patrician ducatus of Rome but also the exarchate proper. This gave rise to protracted struggles with the archbishop of Ravenna, who as the exarch's successor assumed the dicio north of the Apennines. It was probably in the year 781 that the new state of affairs was officially recognized and thereby consolidated, by an agreement between Charles and Pope Hadrian on the one side, and the Greek ambassador on the other. According to this agreement the emperor, or rather the empress-regent Irene, abandoned all claims to the sovereignty over the Pontifical State in favor of the pope.


The emancipation from the dicio of the imperial government of those parts of Italy which still remained under Byzantine rule, was carried out in a way analogous to that of the Pontifical State, the only difference being that here the acquisition of the dicio was effected by the local powers themselves and not through the interference of a foreign ruler, and that the formal suzerainty of the Empire was maintained for a longer time. In Venice, which about the end of the seventh century had been detached from Istria as a special ducatus, circumstances were particularly favorable to the development of the seigniorial local powers as represented by the tribunes, though it is true that after the suppression of the Italian revolt it fell back under the imperial dido, and was again ruled by duces or magistri militum nominated by the emperor, not by elected chiefs. In the second half of the eighth century, however, after the fall of the exarchate, the bonds of subordination relaxed here as elsewhere, and the nomination of the Doge became more and more an act of mere formality. The Doge was placed in power by that fraction of the tribunicial aristocracy which was for the moment in the ascendancy; by them he was elected and to them he looked for support. He succeeded in making his office lifelong, and sought to legalize his position by soliciting and receiving a court title, as a form of recognition by the emperor at Constantinople. In agreement with the emperor, some Doges even tried to make the power hereditary in their families, chiefly we may suppose in virtue of their extensive landed property and their wealth. Nevertheless, from the time when in his final treaty of peace with Byzantium (812) Charles the Great definitely renounced the conquest of Venice, the suzerainty of the Greek emperor was permanently recognized. This was shown by the sending of ceremonial embassies whenever a change of sovereign took place at Constantinople, by the appeal for recognition of every new Doge, who probably had to buy his Byzantine title with a high suffragium, and by the fact that the Venetian fleet was obliged to lend support to the Byzantines, at least in the West. We also hear otherwise of occasional interference on the part of the Byzantine emperor, though Venice naturally grew more and more independent.  

Naples, Amalfi, Gaeta

In the south, the dux of Naples considered himself the successor of the imperial governor of Campania, and a right of control over him was in fact claimed by the patricius of Sicily. The actual holder of the dicio, however, was the dux, who, while professing adherence to the Greek Empire, often acted in political matters with complete independence, making his office first lifelong and afterwards hereditary. In the first quarter of the ninth century the Byzantine Empire succeeded temporarily in re-establishing a magister militum as the real functionary, but in the course of time here as elsewhere the local powers, and at times the bishop, remained victorious, so that the position of Naples resembled in every way that of Venice. It is however true that some other local seigniories, in particular Amalfi and Gaeta, detached themselves from the ducatus of Naples and, after a gradual secession from the supreme rule of the dux of Naples, exercised the dido independently within their spheres of interest, formally as direct subjects of the Greek emperor, and enjoying equal rights with Naples. At the head of these minor States were hypatoi or praefecti, who in time also developed dynasties. Thus the Byzantine bureaucracy was supplanted everywhere by local powers who usurped the dicio, and of whom some, for instance Venice and the coast towns of southern Italy, acknowledged the emperor's suzerainty, whilst others, like the Pontifical State, refused to do so. The victory of the local powers signified at the same time the universal establishment of the medieval system of seigniorial rule.




By  the Ven. W. H. Hutton


If the sixth century after Christ was one of the great ages of the world's history, it would not be difficult to claim for Pope Gregory I that he was the greatest man in it. The claim would be contested on behalf of the Emperor Justinian and the monk Benedict of Nursia, if not by many another who influenced the course of affairs; but if the work of medieval leaders of men is to be judged by its results on later ages, Gregory would seem to occupy a position of commanding greatness which is unassailable .

The facts of his life for the fifty years before he became pope are soon told, yet hardly one of them is without significance. He was born in Rome, of a family noble by race and pious by hereditary attachment to the things of God, probably in the year 540. Justinian was Caesar, dwelling at Constantinople, but exercising no slight control over Church and State in Italy. Vigilius was pope, and an example of pitiable irresolution in things both sacred and profane. Few could have foreseen in 540 that before the life — not a long one — of the child born to the ancient family of Roman senators and nobles would have closed in, a new century, the temporal power of the Papacy would have been securely founded and the power of the Empire and the authority of the Emperor in Italy threatened with a speedy end. In the onrush of barbarian conquest it was not the military success of Justinian's generals which was to be continued under the heirs of his Empire and to secure the position which they had won. They had — in the words of the Liber Pontificalis — made all Italy rejoice, but it was the patient diplomacy of a great pope which would preserve the central independence of Christian Rome, between the decaying power of the Byzantines and the extending dukedoms of the Lombard invaders. It would not be preserved for long, it is true; but so firmly was it founded on the immemorial traditions of the city, and the holy sanctions of the ecclesiastical rule, that it was destined to survive and emerge into supremacy when the discordant powers which had threatened it had passed away. And that this was so was due conspicuously to the descendant of Pope Felix IV who first saw the light before the sixth century had run half its course.

Early Life of Gregory. 540-576

Gregory was the son of the regionarius Gordianus, a rich nobleman with a fine house on the Caelian hill who held an office of organization connected with the Roman Church. His mother was afterwards ranked among the saints, and so were two of his father's sisters. He was brought up in the life of a Christian palace, among the riches of both worlds, as a saint, says his biographer John the Deacon, among the saints. In his education none of the learning of the time was neglected, and it is with the consciousness of a wider knowledge than the stricter folk of the day would allow that his biographer calls him arte philosophus, a student of Divine philosophy, not of the degraded type of Greek word-splitting which had lingered on at Athens till Justinian closed the schools ten years or so before Gregory was born. He was taught grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, after the fashion of the day. He did not learn Greek then, or even later, though he lived six years in Constantinople. For literary elegance he never cared, and he almost boasted of the barbarisms of his style. In later life he is found reproaching a Frankish bishop for expounding grammar, perhaps even for studying it; but there was more in the reproof than the mere regret for time wasted that might be more profitably employed not only by a bishop, but, as he says, by a religious layman: it was the sense of alarm with which the Christian scholars still regarded a mythology whose morals were by no means dispossessed from their influence on men. Of Art, on the other hand, he was not ignorant: towards painting as well as music he was sympathetic throughout his life. What special training he received was, there seems no doubt, in law. When boyhood was over, he emerges into light as praefect of the City of Rome (573), holding what was at least theoretically the highest office among the citizens, one of great labor and dignified ostentation, and, even in the decay of the city's independence, of serious responsibility. That his tenure of office was distinguished by any special achievement we do not know; but his leaving it was dramatic and significant. His father was dead: his mother had gone into a nunnery: he was one of the richest men, as he was the highest official, in Rome. But the religious training of his early years had never ceased to dominate his life. Now, at the very time when political leaders were most needed, and when he was in a position to win the foremost place among them, he laid aside ambition, put off his silk and his jewels, gave his father's property for the founding of six monasteries in Sicily and in charity for the Roman poor, and turned the great palace on the Caelian hill into a house of monks, entering it himself as a brother among the rest. For three years he lived in seclusion the religious life, according to the rule, there can be little doubt, of St Benedict, which he often afterwards so warmly eulogized. The chief of the Roman citizens had become a humble monk among monks: it was a contrast typical of the life, set betwixt civilization and Christianity, barbarism and ascetic devotion, of the early Middle Age.

Plans of Mission to the English . C. 580-590

In the monastery of St Andrew the second part of Gregory's training was accomplished. For three years he was learning all that monasticism could teach him. And first it taught him a keen interest in the evangelization of the heathen. It was probably at this date (though the evidence is uncertain), when he was one of the most famous personages in Rome, the chief civil ruler of the city who had given up all for the religious life, that his attention was first directed towards the distant isle of Britain. There is no reason to doubt the familiar story told so picturesquely by Bede, a narratio fidelium as the earlier Monk of Whitby calls it, that he was walking in the forum when he saw some Anglian lads, probably exposed for sale. He had heard of their coming and desired to see the denizens of a country concerning which Procopius had told the strange tale that thither Gaulish boatmen ferried the souls of the dead by night. Beautiful boys these were, with light complexion and light hair. "Alas," he said, when he was told they were heathens, "that lads so bright should be the slaves of darkness." He asked what was the name of their race. "Angli," they told him, and he answered that they had angel faces and should be coheirs of the angeli in heaven. They came from Deira: so should they be saved de ira Dei. Their king was Aelle: Alleluia should be sung in his land. From that moment Gregory planned to evangelize the English. He obtained the leave of the Pope, Benedict I; but the punning habit which seemed to have given him the first thought of his mission now intervened to check him in its course. He sat reading, during the rest time on the third day of his journey, and a locust settled on his book, and locusta seemed to mean loco sta: he should not proceed. So it proved, for messengers from the pope hurried to command his return, for the people of Rome would not suffer the departure of one whose services to them had been so recent and whose conspicuous self-abnegation seemed to shed a glory on the city of St Peter. The call of the Angles was set aside, but it was not forgotten. Gregory was given to learning, to asceticism, and to active assistance to the papal court.

The learning of his school-days was now continued on more exclusively ecclesiastical lines. In earlier years he had loved to read Augustine and Jerome. He became a deep student of the Bible. Later years, when he can have had little time for close study, showed that he had become acquainted with the text of the Scriptures in detail more exact than was at all common in his day. What he read he pondered on, and he became a master of that "divine art" of Meditation which was to be so exhaustively developed in the Medieval Church. And to meditation he added vigil and fast till his health was injured for the rest of his life. But the time, as he looked back to it again and again from the troubled world, seemed like a happy shore as seen by the storm-tossed mariner on the waves of a mighty sea. On the sea of public life indeed he was soon about to embark again.

Gregory as Apocrisiarius. 577-590

First he was made one of the Seven Deacons who shared with the pope the governance of Rome, in charge of the seven regions of the city. For such a post few could have been so well fitted as he who had played so conspicuous a part in municipal life. This may have been in 578. In that year Benedict I died; while the city was in throes of plague and flood, and the Lombards were on the point of attack. Pelagius II, the new pope, determined to send to Constantinople, as his resident at the Emperor's court, one who knew so completely the needs and the dangers of old Rome. In the spring of 579 Gregory left Italy as the apocrisiarius of the pope. The six years, or more, during which he resided in the imperial city supplied perhaps the last and most important of the formative influences of his life. Tiberius II was emperor (578-582), Eutychius was patriarch (577-582). The papal envoy was theologian as well as statesman, and he controverted a theory of the latter that the resurrection-body would be impalpable, convincing at least the former so that he put the erroneous treatise in the fire. But while he did not neglect theology, for he also wrote while he was at Constantinople his famous Moralia, a commentary on the Book of Job, a very Corpus of Divinity in itself, containing also many wise saws and modern instances, he was more continuously and actively employed in studying the magnificent system of imperial government. In a city notorious for the luxury of the nobles and the political independence of the people, where public interest was divided between the controversies of theologians and the games of the hippodrome, he saw how the turbulent life of a fickle and arrogant population was guided, not always wisely, by ecclesiastics, and restrained with extraordinary and imperceptible tact by an army of officials who, when dynasties changed and the throne tottered, preserved the fabric of the imperial constitution through all hazards and gave for centuries the most marvelous example of constitutional organization amid the confused revolutions of Medieval Europe. As a theologian Gregory made it his business to see and talk with heretics that he might win them to truth, contrary to the example of those among whom he lived, some of whom were "fired by mistaken zeal and imagine they are fighting heretics while indeed they are making heresies." As for his own theological controversies, if he entered upon them charitably he certainly took them seriously: John the Deacon tells that at the end of his dispute with the patriarch Eutychius he took to his bed from exhaustion. In 582 Eutychius was succeeded by a famous ascetic, John "the Faster," a Cappadocian. With him Gregory had no dispute till later days: but the first letter between them that is preserved, written in 590, reads as though their cordiality had never been great.

Constantinople and Rome. 585-590

In the imperial court the papal envoy made many friends: and when Tiberius had chosen Maurice for his successor Gregory had still closer relations with those of Caesar's household. Theoctista, the new Emperor's sister, and Narses, one of his generals, are found later among those to whom he wrote. He was intimate, too, with other foreign ecclesiastics, visitors like himself at the centre of imperial power, notably with Leander of Seville, afterwards the victorious champion of Catholicism against the Arian Visigoths. Leander and Gregory became close friends: it was Leander who induced Gregory to write his Moralia, and he received its dedication. In later years no congratulations on Leander's success were so warm as those of his old companion; though the Spanish prelate was absent in body yet, said Gregory, he was felt to be ever present in the spirit his image impressed upon the heart of his friend. Anastasius, once patriarch of Antioch, also lived in Constanti­nople, with memories of the theological storm which clouded the last days of Justinian, and he was said to have refuted the Aphthartodecetic opinions which that Emperor probably never held and the edict in favour of them which he certainly never issued. With him also Gregory was on cordial terms.

But from the imperial Court itself the papal apocrisiarius could find no support for the cause which he came to advocate. The Lombards had northern Italy at their feet, Pelagius wrote piteously begging for succor. But Maurice looked eastwards rather than towards the West, and as Caesar would not, or could not, help the pope. When Gregory returned to Rome in 585 he had accomplished nothing. But he had acquired a knowledge of foreign politics, of the routine of imperial administration, and of the great personages of his time, which was invaluable to him.

For five years Gregory remained at Rome as head of his own monastery, and he made it a school of saints, and a home of Biblical study. He himself wrote commentaries on several of the Scriptures, and completed his lectures on the Book of Job which (like the Magna Moralia) became almost a popular classic in the Middle Age and proved a store­house from which very much of later theology was extracted. To him also was entrusted by Pope Pelagius the conclusion of the unhappy controversy of Justinian's day on the Three Chapters; and he set before the bishops of Istria the orthodox creed as Rome and Constantinople had accepted it in a treatise of lucid and masterful reasoning. In 590 Pelagius died and the Roman people insisted that he who had once been their highest official and was now the most eminent of their monks should become their bishop. If he was reluctant to accept it, he yet in the interval before the imperial assent could be obtained showed himself to be the religious leader that the city needed in its distress.

Gregory Pope. 590  

Rome was swept by the plague: Gregory had himself done his utmost to abate it by sanitary measures: Pelagius himself had been its victim. Now the abbot of St. Andrew's organized a demonstration of public penitence, and preached a famous sermon which another Gregory, himself a hearer, and afterwards the great bishop of Tours, statesman and historian, recorded from his lips. As the penitential procession, moving in seven bodies and singing litanies, passed through the streets, death was still busy: in one hour, as the solemn march went on, eighty men fell dead: but at last, said a legend of later days, the Archangel Michael was seen to stand on the cupola of the Mausoleum of Hadrian and to sheathe his flaming sword. So the plague was stayed: and the Castle of Sant Angelo, with all its long history of romance and crime, bears witness to the memory.

Six months after the death of Pelagius, in August 590, came the sanction of Maurice the Emperor to the choice that had been made of his successor. Gregory, still a deacon, prepared for flight, but he was discovered, taken to St. Peter's and consecrated a successor of the Apostle as bishop of Rome. It was on 3 September 590.

It was a ship rotten in every plank and leaking at every seam that he came to captain: so he wrote to his brother of Constantinople. With a real regret did he abandon the Rachel of contemplation for the Leah of active life. Yet if any ecclesiastic was ever fitted for rule, for statesmanship, for practical labor among men, it was Gregory the Great.

If Gregory's most obvious achievements, in the sight of his own time, lay in the region of politics, it must be remembered always that he himself viewed his whole work from the standing-point of a Christian bishop. He sets this before every reader in his Regulae Pastoralis Liber, a book which, probably addressed to John of Ravenna, his "brother and fellow-bishop," was welcomed by all who knew him, both clerk and lay, by the Emperor Maurice, who had a Greek translation made of it, as well as by Leander of Seville: and, later on, to read it became part of the necessary rendition of a bishop. Throughout the book there is a sense of tremendous responsibility. The conduct of a prelate, says Gregory, ought to surpass the conduct of the people as a shepherd's life does that of his flock. In his elevation he should deal with high things, and high persons, yet should he not seek to please men, being mindful of the duty of reproof and yet reproving with gentleness. The mind anxious about the management of exterior business is deprived of the sense of wholesome fear; and the soul is flattered with a false promise of good works: there is danger in refusal as well as in acceptance of high places; but most danger lest while earthly pursuits engross the senses of the pastor the dust that is driven by the wind of temptation blind the eyes of the whole Church. The entire treatise shows an intimacy of practical knowledge in regard to men of all classes and of all characters which is evidence how well fitted was the writer for dealing with all sorts and conditions of men. And how he dealt with them may be found out from the fourteen books of his epistles, that wonderful storehouse of Roman religion and diplomacy laid up by the first of the great popes. The register of his letters is known to have been in existence not long after his death. It was known in later years to Bede and Boniface, and formed the basis of the latest collection and arrangement. In this many details of policy may be followed, and the main aims and methods of the great pope may be studied. Each alike, the treatise and the letters, shows the same ideal of the pastoral office, that it is a work of governance of men to be exercised by those who have intimate knowledge of men's hearts and are skilled in the treatment of their souls. Politics are but a branch of the dealing with men on behalf of God which belongs of obligation to a bishop of Christ's Church. And this thought, almost as much as any necessary assertion of orthodox faith and profession of brotherly kindness, is to be seen in the synodical letter in which he announced to the patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem his accession to the Roman bishopric, and his belief in the doctrine of the Four General Councils, as also in that of the more recent Fifth. The practical expression of this ideal in the life of the new pope could be read by all men who came in contact with him. He lived ascetically, as he had lived in his own monastery, and while nuncio at Constantinople: he surrounded himself with grave and reverend men, dismissing the curled and exquisite fops who had thronged the courts of earlier popes, a gang of self-indulgent scholars and servants obnoxious to the stern man who had not so learned Christ. Of himself the words of his early biographer Paul the Deacon present a vivid picture: "He was never at rest. Always was he busy in taking care for the interests of his people, or in writing some treatise worthy of the Church, or in searching out the hidden things of heaven by the grace of contemplation." His daily audiences, his constant sermons, filled up the burden of his continual correspondence. And all through the fourteen years of his pontificate he struggled against the illnesses which had perhaps their beginning in his ascetic rigors. If his letters breathe a spirit of sternness and make high demands upon men of commonplace intellect and low ideals, there was no one with whom he was more stern, no one before whom he set higher ideals, than himself.

Gregory's policy towards the whole Christian world radiated from the centre. There, at Rome, men could see his life of strict rule: they could see him re-consecrating Arian churches to Catholic use, could hear him preaching, could watch his elaborate measures for the relief of the poor. "Other pontiffs," says his biographer, "gave themselves to building churches and adorning them with gold and silver; but Gregory, while he did not altogether neglect this duty, was entirely taken up with gaining souls, and all the money he could obtain he was anxious to give away and bestow upon the poor." He was a practical ruler first of all and that as a Christian bishop: afterwards he was a theologian and a statesman. This accounts for the fact that he views all political questions sub specie aeternitatis and shows no interest in any work of pure learning or scholarship even in Rome itself.

Gregory's Administration. 590-603

And indeed the practical needs of the time were enough to absorb the whole thoughts of any man who was set to rule. If in the East the emperors were fully occupied with wars against Persians and Avars, and were able to give little heed and no help to the stress of the city from which their sovereignty took its name, the Papacy, already partly the representative and partly the rival of the imperial power, was beset on every side by the barbarian invasion and settlement. Rome itself had become, for all practical purposes, an isolated and distant part of the Roman Empire. Imperial power in Italy had dwindled till it was only a name. But at the ancient centre of the ancient Empire sat, in the fourteen years from 590, a man of commanding genius, of ceaseless vigilance, and of incessant activity, whose letters covered almost every political, religious, and social interest of his time. His influence as a great spiritual teacher and a great ruler of men radiated over the whole Christian world.

The internal cares belonging to the "patrimony of St Peter" were not light. The estates from which the income was derived were scattered all over Italy, most largely in Sicily and round Rome, but also in east and south, beyond the peninsula in Illyricum and Gaul, in Africa, and in the isles of Corsica and Sardinia. They were ad­ministered by a multitude of officials, often with the help of the imperial administrators. Gregory liked to choose his agents from among the clergy, and employed priests and even bishops in this secular service.

All were directly under the orders of the bishop of Rome himself, and Gregory's letters of appointment contain special provision for the care of the poor, for the keeping of strict accounts to be sent to Rome, for the maintenance generally of ecclesiastical interests. This the rectores and defensores were often charged with a sort of supervision which, while it at several points encroached upon the proper province of the bishop, served to keep the distant and scattered estates in close touch with the central authority of the Roman See. Thus what was at first a mere matter of the ownership of property, through its duties and responsibilities being enjoyed by the greatest bishop of the Church, tended to become a lordship no less spiritual than material. Even bishops themselves were under the eye of the pope's representative, and that naturally came to mean that sooner or later they would fall under the jurisdiction of the pope. For this Gregory's indefatigable care was largely responsible. We find him within the first eighteen months of his pontificate writing almost once a month to the Rector Siciliae, the subdeacon whom he long employed in positions of trust in different parts of Italy. The letters show minute care for justice, for the suppression of unjust exactions, for the redress of grievances, as well as for the maintenance of proprietary rights: besides the great landlord, there speaks the great bishop and shepherd of the souls of men. No matter was too small for the pope's attention, whether it was a safeguard for the interests of a convert from Judaism, a direction as to the disposal of cows and calves, of houses and granaries, or a criticism of the provision for personal needs. "You have sent us" he once wrote, "a miserable horse and five good donkeys. The horse I cannot ride because it is miserable, nor the donkeys, good though they be, because they are donkeys." Different views have been taken of this interesting correspondence between Gregory and his factor, but at least it reveals the very close attention which the pope paid to detail in the oversight of the vast possessions of his see. "As we ought not to allow property belonging to the Church to be lost, so we deem it a breach of law to try to take what belongs to others," are words which might serve as a motto for his relation towards temporal things. With minute care he stopped the abuses which had stained the administration under his predecessors. But above all the pope endeavored to show impractical alms-giving the fervent charity of his heart. John the Deacon tells that there was still preserved, nearly three hundred years later, among the monuments of the Lateran, a large book in which the names of the recipients of his benefactions, in Rome or the suburbs, in the Campagna and on the coast, were set down. In nothing was he more insistent than in the duty of ransoming captives, those taken in the wars and sold as slaves in markets even so far away as Libya. Many letters deal with the subject, convey his exhortations to bishops to join in the work and return thanks for the gifts he had received to help it. Thus did the largest landowner in Italy endeavor to discharge the duties of his trust.

From his administration of the papal patrimony we pass naturally to his policy as a ruler, his dealings with the affairs of the world, as a statesman and as a pope.

As a statesman his first and closest concern was with the Lombards. Already he had been concerned in endeavoring to protect Rome and the parts of Italy still unconquered: that had been the special object of his long embassy at Constantinople. The emperors had given no aid, but the Franks had caused a diversion by thrice at tacking the Lombards in flank. But the snake was not killed, hardly scotched; and before Gregory had been long on the throne peace between Franks and Lombards had been made by the new king Agilulf, who had married Theodelinda, the late king's widow, and he turned the thoughts of the Lombards towards the extension of their conquests from imperial Rome.

Still the ancient Empire, dimmed in its glory and with ill-welded traditions from Christian and pagan past, held out in the great cities of Genoa and Naples, of Ravenna and Rome, the two last the centres of government under exarch and pope. At first the danger seemed to come not from the king but from one of the dukes. At Spoleto on the Flaminian Way was settled a Lombard colony of invaders under Ariulf, the outposts of whose territory were almost within sight of Rome; and Gregory when he wrote to his friends at Constantinople declared that he found himself "bishop not of the Romans but of the Lombards, men whose promises are swords and whose grace a pain."

Against "the unspeakable Ariulf" he was ever on the watch. In 591 and 592 he was taking constant precaution, telling the Magister militum at Perugia to fall, if need be, on his rear, and bidding the clergy and people of the lesser cities in the neighbourhood to be on their guard and to obey the pope's representative in all things. Step by step the Lombard duke approached, as yet without active hostility. In July 592 at length he spoke of Ariulf as being close to the city, "slaying and mutilating"; and Arichis, the Lombard duke of Benevento, was at the same time threatening Naples. The pope himself sent a military commander to the southern city. He bitterly resented the weakness of Romanus the exarch, which prevented him from dealing in martial fashion with the duke of Spoleto. Left helpless, he prepared to make a peace with Ariulf, and in July 592 it seems that a separate agreement was concluded which saved Rome from sack. Paul the Deacon tells that an interview between the Lombard duke and the Roman bishop made the "tyrant" ever after a devoted servant of the Roman Church. "His heart was touched by divine grace, and he perceived that there was so much power in the pope's words that with humblest courtesy he made satisfaction to the most religious Apostolic bishop." Gregory's states­manship and charm won a diplomatic victory which preserved Rome from the Lombards.

But indirectly it would seem as if this success laid the city open to another attack. Romanus the exarch was encouraged by it to secure the communications between Ravenna and Rome by a campaign which recovered many cities, including Perugia, from the Lombards. This new activity on the part of the Empire which he may well have deemed moribund aroused Agilulf, the Lombard king, to action. He marched southwards, recaptured Perugia, and put to death Maurisio, a duke of the Lombards, who had surrendered the city to the exarch and now held if for the Empire. Thence he marched to Rome.

Gregory was illustrating Ezekiel, in sombre homily, by the tragic events of his day, the decay of ancient institutions, the devastation of country, the destruction of cities. Daily came news which deepened the gloom of his picture, till at length he closed the book and set himself to defend the city. The defense as before was that of spiritual not material arms. Agilulf met Gregory on the steps of St Peter's, and the weighty wisdom of the prelate gave power to his prayers for the city: they prevailed, the siege was abandoned, and Agilulf went back to Milan, where the letters of Gregory were as familiar to the clergy and as powerful as was his rule in Rome.

Thither came epistles to Theodelinda, the Arian Agilulf's Catholic wife, instructing her in the right belief as to the still unfinished strife about the Three Chapters, and to Constantius the bishop, begging him to negotiate a peace between the Lombards and the Empire.

Disputes with the Emperor. 593-595

Peace was impossible so long as the Caesar at Constantinople claimed the lordship of all Italy, and the Lombard barbarian asserted all real power over the peninsula. Nor was Gregory at the time the person to bring the foes together, for in August 593 he had written to the Emperor Maurice in terms of criticism strangely bold and direct. When Maurice was "not yet lord of all" he had been Gregory's own lord, and still the pope would call himself the unworthy servant of the pious Emperor. But a new edict which forbade a civil servant of the Empire, or a soldier, to become priest or monk, seemed to him a monstrous infringement of individual and religious liberty. By it, he said, the way to heaven would be closed to many, for while there were those who could lead a religious life in a secular dress, yet more there were who unless they forsook all things could in no way attain salvation. What answer would he, who from notary had been made by God first captain, then Caesar, then Emperor, then father of Emperor yet to be, and to whose care the priests of God had been entrusted, make to the divine inquest of the Last Day if not one single soldier was allowed to be converted to the Lord? And Gregory drew a lurid picture of the "end of the ages" which seemed to be at hand, the heavens and the earth aflame and the elements melting with fervent heat, and the Divine Judge ready to appear with the six orders of angels in His train. Yet it is an illustration of the fidelity with which Gregory performed all his secular obligations that he had caused the law against which he so vehemently protested to be published in the usual way.

This was not the only divergence in opinion between the pope and the imperial Court. Gregory, with all his respect for authority, was at least able to hold his own, and there was for a while at least no breach in the friendly relations with Constantinople. Maurice sent relief to the sufferers from the Lombard invasion, and Gregory lost no opportunity of advising that the separate peace which he had made with Agilulf should be enlarged at least into a general truce. Gregory, inter gladios Langobardorum, could appreciate the needs of Italy in a way that was impossible for the distant Augustus. In 595 however the divergence came to a head. The Emperor reviewed the pope's peace policy in terms of contemptuous condemnation and Gregory answered in one of the most vigorous of all his letters, dated June 595. He resented the imputation that because he thought that a firm peace could be made, as indeed it had been made, with Ariulf of Spoleto, he was a fool. Fool indeed was he to suffer what he suffered in Rome among the swords of the Lombards; but still he was a servant of the truth, and grave injustice was it to the priesthood that he should be deemed a liar. On behalf of all priests he made dignified protest, recalling the action and words of the great Constantine as a rebuke to his successor in the Empire. "Where all is uncertain I betake myself to tears and prayers that Almighty God will rule with His own hand our most pious lord, and in the terrible judgment will find him free from all offences, and so cause me to please men that I may not offend against His grace."

Pope and Patriarch

How the Emperor received this letter we do not know; but already there were other causes of dispute between Rome and Constantinople. His experience had not made the pope very cordial towards Church or State in the New Rome. Useful at Constantinople Gregory must undoubtedly have been, but the fact that he never learned Greek shows at least that there were limits to his usefulness. The information he received would often be inadequate, the means of communication with the people among whom he dwelt incomplete. Official interpreters do not always represent meanings faithfully. Gregory had to deal most with the imperial Court, where his ignorance of Greek may not have been so great a barrier; but, in his relations with the Patriarch, it would at least serve to prevent any strengthening of the friendship between Churches which were already beginning to drift apart.

That the Church was under the rule of five patriarchs was a familiar view, and at least from the time of Vigilius (537-555) it had been accepted in official language at Rome. Thus Gregory had announced his own election to the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch. His letters show traces of another theory, that of the three patriarchates, Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, sharing, as it were, the throne of St Peter. But Constantinople had long asserted a pre-eminence. Justinian had recognized its precedence as second of the great sees, superior to all others save Rome, and had declared the Church of Constantinople to be "the head of all the churches." In doing this no doubt the Empire had claimed no supreme or exclusive dignity for the New Rome, nor asserted any indivisible or unalterable jurisdiction. But what the law recognized had encouraged further expansion of claim. At first the relation between Constantinople and the elder see was regarded as parallel to that between the two capitals: they represented not diversity but unity: as there was one Empire, so there was one Church. When John the Patriarch accepted the formula of faith drawn up by Pope Hormisdas he prefixed to it an assertion of the mutual relation: "I hold the most holy Churches of the old and the new Rome to be one. I define the see of the Apostle Peter and this of the imperial city to be one see." From this it was an inevitable step to use titles which Rome used. The pontiff of Constantinople claimed to be ecumenical patriarch.

Controversy with John the Faster. 588-5951

In 588 Pelagius declared the acts of a synod at Constantinople to be invalid because the patriarch had used the phrase. Very likely Gregory himself had been the adviser of this course. Now in 595 he pursued the protest. John the Faster had written to him and had employed the offensive title "in almost every line." Gregory wrote, as he describes it, "sweetly and humbly admonishing him to amend this appetite for vain glory." He forbade his envoy to communicate with the patriarch till he had abandoned the title. At the same time he repudiated any wish to assume it for himself. "The Council of Chalcedon," he said, "offered the title of universalis to the Roman pontiff but he refused to accept it, lest he should seem thereby to derogate from the honor of his brother bishops." He saw indeed that political interests were complicating the ecclesiastical claim. His envoy had been commanded by the Emperor to adjure him to live in peace with the patriarch, who seemed to him to be as hypocritical as he was proud. Then either he must obey the Emperor and encourage the proud man in his vanity, or he must alienate the Emperor, his lord and the natural defender of Rome. He did not hesitate. He wrote to the Emperor, tracing the misfortunes of the Empire to the pride of the clergy. When Europe was given over to the barbarians, with cities ruined, villages thrown down, and provinces without inhabitants; when the husbandman no longer tilled the soils and the worshippers of idols daily murdered the faithful, the priests, who should have abased themselves in sackcloth and ashes sought for themselves empty names and titles novel and profane. Peter was never called Universal Apostle, yet John strove to be Universal Bishop. "I confidently affirm that whosoever calls himself sacerdos universalis, or desires to be so called by others, is in his pride a forerunner of Antichrist." What he said to the Emperor he reinforced to the Empress. There should be no peace with the patriarch so long as he claimed this outrageous designation. On the other side the argument became no attitude of aggression, hardly a claim for equality. The patriarchs did not assert that they were above the popes, and they constantly declared that they had no wish to lessen the authority of the other patriarchs. But whatever the Greeks might say, the Latins saw that words represented ideas; and universality could not be predicated of Constantinople in any sense which was not offensive to the venerable see and city of Rome. The bitterness of the strife abated when John the Faster died on 9 September 595, it may be before Gregory's severe judgment had reached him. Cyriacus, his successor, was a personal friend of the pope, and a man of no personal pride. Gregory welcomed his accession and thanked the Emperor for his choice. But in spite of friendly letters the claim was not abandoned. The patriarchs continued to use the title of ecumenical bishop, and before a century had passed the popes followed their example.

Church and State

Gregory saw that the patriarchs of Constantinople were in danger of sinking into mere officials of the State, for with all their lofty position they were in the power of the imperial Court. But the tone in which he addressed them was always distinct from that which he employed towards the lay officials of the Empire. From the beginning of his pontificate he had carefully cultivated relations with the exarchs of Ravenna and of Africa, the praetor of Sicily, the dukes of Naples and Sardinia, the praefect of Illyria, the proconsul of Dalmatia, and with lesser officials rural and urban. His constant letters show how closely he mingled in their concerns, watched their conduct, approved their industry, advised on their political action, intervened on their behalf or against them at Constantinople. Many of the officials were his close friends; and the Emperor, in spite of the divergence between them, did not cease to give heed to the counsels of one whom he knew to be a wise and honest man.

The maintenance of the imperial power in Italy indeed depended not a little on the great pope, who yet by his incessant and widespread activity was preparing the way of the ecclesiastical power which should succeed it in the rule of the peninsula. The subdeacon who was his agent at Ravenna, and those who administered the property of the Church in the Campagna or in Sicily, the bishops themselves all over the Empire, reported to Rome, and their words were not without effect, and in all the advice which issued from this information Gregory pressed without faltering the authority of the Church: the pope was above the exarch, the Church above the State: if the civil law was invoked to protect the weak, to guide the rulers, to secure the rights of all Christian men, there was behind it the supreme sanction of the law of the Church. It was natural indeed that they should not be distinguished: a wrong against man was a wrong against God. It did not matter whether it was the oppression of a peasant or the pillage of a monastery: iniquity, it was the perpetual cry of the great pontiff, should not go unpunished. And, in a corresponding view to his attitude towards civil justice, Gregory insisted on the privileges of clergy in the law courts; and in the civil courts he is found placing representatives of his own beside the lay judges. Outside the law there were still a wide sphere in which the aid of the State was demanded on behalf of the Church. Governors would bring back schismatics, was congratulated on their victories over heathen, were urged to act against heretics, and to protect and support those who had returned to the faith.

On the other hand he no doubt set plain limits, in his own mind, to his sphere of action and that of the bishops. He constantly told the Italian bishops to observe the rights of the lay courts, not to interfere in the things of the world save when the interests of the poor demanded help. But his own keen sense of justice, his political training, his knowledge of affairs, forbade him to hold his tongue. The Empire, like the Church, was to him a splendid power of holy and heroic tradition: there was ever, he said to an imperial official, this difference between the Roman emperors and the barbarian kings that while the latter governed slaves the former were rulers of free men. To keep this always in the mind of the governing class must have been his aim, and his consolation, when, as he said, the cares of the world pressed so heavily upon him that he was often doubtful whether he was discharging the duties of an earthly official or those of a shepherd of men's souls.

In both capacities his work was continuous and engrossing. Invasion, rapine, insecurity of life and property, made clerk as well as lay lax livers, negligent stewards, cruel and faithless, luxurious and slothful. Against all such Gregory was the perpetual witness.

Dealings with the Lombards. 596-5991

When Romanus the exarch died, probably in 596, his successor at Ravenna, Callinicus, received a warm welcome from the pope. For a time there was a lull in the tempest, but still Gregory preached vigilance, to bishop and governor alike, for Italy had not shaken off the terror even if Rome was for the moment outside the area of the storm. Writing in 598 to a lady in Constantinople the pope was able to assure her that so great was the protection given by St. Peter to the city that, without the aid of soldiers, he had "by God's help been preserved for these many years among the swords of the enemy." A truce was made with Agilulf, it seems, in 598: in 599 this became a general peace in which the Empire through the exarch, and with the active support, though not the signature, of the pope, came to agreement with Agilulf the Lombard king and with the dukes of Spoleto and Benevento. His letters show how much this was due to the tact, the wisdom, the patient persistence of Gregory; and it is certain also that Theodelinda, the Catholic wife of Agilulf, had played no unimportant part in the work of pacification. At Monza remain the relics of this wise queen; fitly beside the iron crown of the Lombards is the image of the protection that was given by the peace of Church and State, a hen that gathers her chickens under her wings.

The year 599 which dates this peace between the "Christian Republic" and the Lombards marks a definite epoch in the history of Italy. Paul the Deacon in his History of the Lombards shows that it was a time of crisis, conquest, and resettlement for Agilulf the king. The letters of Gregory show that it was for him a period of incessant activity and reassertion of papal authority, while at Rome the city was "so reduced by the languor of various diseases that there are scarce left men enough to guard the walls" and the pope himself was in the clutch of increasing sickness, often unable to leave his bed for days together. Italy was still swept by pestilence; and exhaustion as well as political peace gave quiet for some two years.

In 601 the flames of war were rekindled by a rash move on the part of the exarch Callinicus. Agilulf again took up arms, seized Pavia and levelled it to the ground — a fate which the medieval chroniclers century by century record to have befallen the unhappy city. He made alliance with the heathen Avars, and with them ravaged Istria. He passed over northern Italy in a career of conquest: he carried the Lombard frontier forwards to include the valley of the Po. At Ravenna the imperial authority lingered on, and the exarch Callinicus was succeeded by Smaragdus, holding office for a second time. But the reality of power was passing, if it had not already passed, under the incessant energy of Gregory, into the hands of the pope, who had become the practical ruler of central Italy. It was in the year 603, when the Empire and the Lombards were at war, that Gregory showed his aloofness from a strife which seems to have left the power of the Church undisturbed, by his rejoicing at the Catholic baptism of Adaloald, the firstborn son of Agilulf the Arian and Theodelinda the Catholic queen. Paul the Deacon indeed says, though he is unsupported by other witness, that Agilulf the father had already accepted the Catholic faith. As his sickness grew the great pope saw the future less dark than it had been during his life of anxiety. Rome, if impoverished and enfeebled, was securely in the possession of its bishop; and the conflicts which raged over northern and central Italy could hardly end, now that Catholicism was conquering the Lombards, otherwise than in favour of the papal power.

Gregory and Phocas. 601-603

It may well be that this feeling colored his attitude when news came to him of the revolution at Constantinople in 602. Maurice had long seemed to Gregory, as indeed he had seemed to his people, to be unworthy of the imperial throne. He was timid when he should have been bold, rash when prudence was essential to the safety of the State. His health had broken down, and fits of cowardice alternated with out­bursts of frenzied rage. All the tales of him that reached Rome would increase Gregory's dislike and distrust. Already he had rebuked the Caesar to his face, and well he may have thought, when he heard of his deposition and murder by the centurion Phocas, that the warning he had given had been disregarded, and the judgment he had prophesied had come. With Maurice perished his whole family, with whom Gregory had been on terms of affectionate regard. Maurice had been an unwise, perhaps a tyrannical ruler, and certainly he had seemed to the pope an oppressor of the poor. And he had supported the patriarch in his overweening pretension to be "universal bishop." When Phocas therefore announced his accession, silent no doubt as to the butcheries which accompanied it, and dwelling rather on his orthodoxy and attach­ment to the Apostolic See, Gregory replied in language of surprising cordiality. The revolution was to him something that came from "the incomprehensible providence of God "; and he trusted that soon he should be comforted by the abundance of rejoicing that the sufferings of the poor had been redressed —"We will rejoice that your benignity and piety are come to the imperial throne." Later letters to Phocas and his wife Leontia breathe the same spirit: of congratulations on the political change: of hope that it will mean relief and liberty for the Empire: of solicitude that the aid which Maurice had long denied might now be given to Italy, trodden down by the barbarian and the heretic. We are shocked as we read Gregory's cordial letters to the brutal murderer of Maurice; but we must remember that the pope had no representative at Constantinople to tell him what had really happened: all that he may have known was that popular indignation had swept a tyrant from the throne and avenged its injuries on him and his innocent family, and that a soldier had been set up, with all due forms of law, as ruler in his stead. From a bed of suffering he indited these letters to those from whom he might have new hopes of the salvation of Italy. But he wrote as an official of the Church to an official of the State, and he mingled with his formal words of congratulation and the Church's Gloria in excelsis no words of personal adulation. Whatever may be the true judgment on Gregory's attitude at this moment, it is obvious that in the change of dynasty he hoped for a better prospect for Italy and knew that more power would come to Rome itself and the Roman bishop.

It is as a Roman and a Roman bishop that Gregory fills the great place he holds in the history of the Middle Age. He was a Roman of the Romans, nurtured on traditions of Rome's imperial greatness, cherishing the memories of pacification and justice, of control and protection. And these, which belonged to "The Republic," he was eager to transfer to the Church. Vague were the claims which the Roman bishops had already put forth in regard to the universal Church. But what all bishops held as inherent in their office, the right of giving advice and administration, was held by the Roman pontiffs to belong especially to the see which was founded in the imperial city. There was a prerogative of the Roman bishop as of the Roman Emperor, and already the one was believed to run parallel to the other. The pope directly superintended a large part of the Christian world: everywhere he could reprove and exhort with authority, though the authority was often contested. And Gregory's exercise of this power was one of the great moments in the world's history. To the practical assertions of his predecessors he gave a new moral weight, and it was that which carried the claims to victory. Well has it been said by Dean Church that "he so administered the vast undefined powers supposed to be inherent in his sea; that they appeared to be indispensable to the order, the good government, and the hopes, not of the Church only, but of society." And this success was due not so much to the extent of her claims or the weakness of his competitors, but to the moral force which flowed from his life of intellectual, moral, and spiritual power.

The Church in Africa. 591-596  

We can trace, in different but conspicuous ways, the effect of this force in Africa, in Britain, in Spain, and in Gaul, in Istria and Dalmatia, as well as nearer home. In Africa there was a period of revival since the imperial reconquest from the Vandals. For more than half a century the Church, diminished in power no doubt and weakened in its organization, had been re-established, and Arianism had been successfully extirpated, if we may judge from the silence of the pope's letters. The imperial officials were ready to accept his advice, or even authority. Side by side with the bishops of Numidia and Carthage, we find Gennadius the exarch extending the influence of the papal see; and appeals to Rome seem to have been recognized and encouraged. On the other hand Gregory was careful to make no practical encroachment on the power of the bishops and even to encourage their independence, while he asserted the supremacy of Rome in uncompromising terms: "I know of no bishop who is not subject to the Apostolic See, when a fault has been committed." His intervention was chiefly invoked in regard to the still surviving Donatism of Numidia. Against the Donatists he endeavored to encourage the action of both the secular and the ecclesiastical power. "God," he said to the praetorian praefect Pantaleo, "will require at your hand the souls that are lost." In one city even the bishop had allowed a Donatist rival to establish himself; and Church and State alike were willing to let the heretics live undisturbed on the payment of a ransom-rent. To Gregory it seemed that the organization of the Church was defective and her ministers were slothful.

The primacy in northern Africa, except the proconsular province, where the bishop of Carthage was primate, belonged to the senior bishop, apart from the dignity of his see or the merits of his personal life; and it was claimed that the rule went back to the time of St. Peter the Apostle and had been continued ever since. Gregory accepted the historic account of the origin of the African episcopate, as is shown by a letter to Dominicus, bishop of Carthage. On it he based an impressive demand for steadfast obedience, and he appointed a bishop named Columbus to act as his representative, though he was not formally entitled Vicar Apostolic. A council in 593 received his instructions; but they do not seem to have been carried out. A long correspondence shows the urgency of the need for action against the Donatists, and the difficulty of getting anything done. By the toleration of the imperial government they had been enabled to keep their churches and bishops; they conducted an active propaganda, they secured the rebaptism of many converts. For six years, from 591 to 596, Gregory's letters show the vehemence of the contest in which he was engaged. In 594 a council at Carthage received an imperial decree stirring Church and State to action; but the State did not abandon its tolerant attitude: still there was great slackness, and Gregory wrote urgently to the Emperor on the subject. It would seem that some measures were taken, and that the law was in some districts enforced  but Donatism if it died down did not become extinct. It was largely through his constant interventions in the matter of heresy that Gregory was able to establish on so firm a basis the papal authority in the exarchate of Africa. He concerned himself no less with the surviving pagans, urging Gennadius to wage war against them "not for the pleasure of shedding blood but with the aim of extending the limits of Christendom, that by the preaching of the faith, the Name of Christ should be honoured among the subject tribes." Constant in urging the secular officials to action, Gregory was still more urgent with the bishops. A continual correspondence was maintained with the African episcopate: everyone who had a grievance applied to him: no important decision was arrived at without his consent. He claimed to defend with unchanged determination "the rights and privileges of Saint Peter." Paul of Numidia applied to him for justice against the Donatists, and the patrician Gennadius, who persecuted him, bishop though he was. With stedfast persistence the pope insisted on securing the trial of the case himself, and sent the bishop back to Africa assured of the imperial protection. Almost insensibly his persistence and the moral grandeur of his character told on the independence of the imperial officials. They began to listen to his advice, and then to admit his authority; and it was soon hard to distinguish their respect for the man from their obedience to the See. And at the same time, amid the chaos of administrative disorder, the people put their trust in the Church: they took the bishops for their defenders, and most of all the Bishop of Rome. Gregory exercised the authority then bestowed upon him partly through Hilarus, whom he sent to be overseer of the patrimony of the Church, and partly through the Numidian bishop Columbus. If protest was made — as it seems to have been made by a Numidian primate Adeodatus and by Dominicus of Carthage—it was overruled: Rome, said Gregory, was the mother church of Africa, and her authority must be respected. Such a pope was one to make it respected, whether he advised and exhorted in regard to the decay of spiritual life in monas­teries, or reproved administrators and judges for unjust exaction of tribute. No better illustration of the way in which the papal claims attained acceptance could be found than is afforded by the history of Africa in the time of Gregory the Great.

Istria: Gaul. 595-596

While Donatism died hard in Africa, nearer home the controversy of the Three Chapters was not yet concluded. In Istria the Church was in schism, for it had not submitted to the decision of East and West. Gregory invoked (with but small success) the secular arm against Severus, patriarch of Aquileia, and summoned him to Rome. The bishops of the province protested and adjured the Emperor to protect them, professing no obedience to Rome and threatening to acknowledge the ecclesiastical authority of Gaul. Maurice commanded Gregory to stay his hand, which he did very reluctantly. He had long before intervened in the matter as the secretary of Pelagius II: he distrusted the Istrian bishops as schismatics and as assertors of independence, and when he became pope had again addressed them in lucid theological arguments. He received individual submissions, and he used every kind of pressure to heal the schism; but when he died his efforts had not been entirely successful. With Milan too he had similar difficulties. Defective theology was combined with provincial independence in resistance to papal power. In Dalmatia and Illyria other difficulties needed other treatment. An archbishop whose manner of life did not befit his office was rebuked, ironically exhorted, pardoned: when he died a strong attempt was made to fill his place by a man of austere life whom the pope had long honoured. The attempt was a failure, and a very long and bitter struggle ensued in which Maximus, the imperial candidate, was refused recognition, summoned to trial at Rome and only at last admitted to his see as lawful prelate when he had lain prone in penance at Ravenna, crying "I have sinned against God and the most blessed Pope Gregory." Over Illyria generally, in spite of the creation of Justiniana Prima as a patriarchate by the Emperor who had given it his name, he exercised the power of a patriarch. He forbade the bishops to attend a synod at Constantinople without his leave. He made it plain that Illyria belonged to the West and not to the East.

Mission to the English . 596-601

And in the West he was ever eager to enlarge the boundaries of the Church. Already as a young man he had set his heart on the conversion of the English. As pope he had the means to undertake it. It may be that he planned it, as Bede says, as soon as he came to discharge the office of pontiff, and also, as one of his letters suggests, that he prepared for it by ordering the purchase of English slave boys to be trained in Gaulish monasteries. It was probably in 595 that he first sent forth the monk Augustine and his companions to journey through Gaul to Britain for the conversion of the English. When, daunted by anticipated dangers, the monks sent Augustine back, Gregory ordered him to return as their abbot, and furnished him with letters to the bishops of Gaul, and notably to Vergilius of Arles, the bishop of Aix, and the abbot of Lerins, as well as to Theodebert of Austrasia and Theodoric of Burgundy, children of nine and ten, under the guardianship of Brunhild their grandmother. To Brunhild herself, "queen of the Franks," who went with him, he was sure, " in heart and soul," the pope said that the English nation, by the favor of God, wished to become Christian, and he was sending Augustine and other monks to take thought — in which he bade her help — for their conversion. He considered that the bishops of Gaul had been remiss, in doing nothing for the conversion of those English tribes whom he regarded as their neighbors: but when in 596 he set the new mission in motion, he was able, as his letters show, to rely upon personal kindness from the queen towards the missionaries and upon the aid of Gaulish priests as interpreters of the barbarous English tongue. The mission was, vaguely, to "the nation of the English," for Gregory knew no difference between the men of Deira and the men of Kent; and Augustine would learn at Paris, if not before, that the wife of Aethelberht of Kent was daughter of a Frankish king.

The tale of the landing, the preaching, and the success will be told elsewhere. Here it belongs only to note that Gregory continued to take the keenest interest in the venture he had planned. He instructed Vergilius of Arles to consecrate Augustine as bishop, and spread over Christendom the news of the great work that was accomplished. To Eulogius, patriarch of Alexandria, he told of the conversion due, as he said, to their prayers, and he warmly thanked Syagrius, bishop of Autun, and Brunhild for their aid. To Augustine in 601 he sent the pallium, a mark of favour conferred by pope or emperor, not, it would seem, as conferring metropolitan authority, which Augustine had already exercised, but as recognizing his position as a special representative of the Roman See. To the queen Berhta, whose somewhat tardy support of the Christian faith in her husband's land he was able now to eulogize and to report even to the Emperor at Constantinople, he wrote words of exhortation to support Augustine, and to Aethelberht her husband admonition and praise with his favorite eschatological reference. To the end Gregory remained the trusted adviser of the Apostle of the English. He sent special reinforcements, with all manner of things, says Bede, needed for public worship and the service of the Church, commending the new missionaries again to the Gaulish bishops and instructing them especially as to the conversion of heathen temples into Christian churches. And he gave a very careful reply, written with characteristic breadth and tact, to the questions which Augustine addressed to him when the difficulties of his work had begun to be felt. The authenticity of these answers, it is true, has been doubted, but the evidence, external as well as internal, appears to be sufficient. The questions related to the support of the mission clergy, the liturgical use of the national Church now formed in England, the cooperation necessary in the consecration of bishops, and to matters touching the moral law about which among a recently heathen nation a special sensitiveness was desirable. Gregory's answers were those of a monk, even of a precisian, but they were also eminently those of a man of affairs and a statesman. "Things," he said "are not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things," and the claim of Rome herself depended on such an assertion. As a monk he dealt firmly with morals: as a statesman he sketched out the future organization of the English Church. London was to be one metropolitan see, York the other, each with the pallium and with twelve suffragan sees. Neither bishop was to be primate of all England by right, but the senior in consecration was to be the superior, according, it seems, to the custom of the Church in Africa of which he had experience, but restricted as his wisdom showed to be desirable. It may be that Gregory had already heard of the position of the British Church: if so, he provided for its subjection to a metropolitan. Certainly he judged acutely according to the knowledge he possessed.

The beginnings of the English mission had brought the pope into closer observation than before with the kings and bishops of peoples but recently converted to the faith. In Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy reigned a race of kings whose wickedness was but slightly tempered by the Christianity they had accepted. In Spain there was more wisdom and more reality of faith.

Gregory and the Franks . 595-599 

From Britain we pass naturally to the country through which Gregory's envoys passed on their way to new spiritual conversion: from Gaul we may pass to Spain. So far did Gregory's interests extend: of his power it may not be possible to speak with so much certainty. In truth the Church in Europe was not yet a centralized body, and local independence was especially prominent among the Franks. Even in doctrine there are traces of divergence, though these were kept in check by a number of local councils which discussed and accepted the theological decisions which came to them from East and West. But the real power resided in the bishops, as administrators, rulers, shepherds of men's souls. Christianity at this period, and notably Frankish Christianity, has been described as a federation of city churches of which each one was a little monarchy in itself. If no one doubted the papal primacy, it was much further away than the arbitrary authority of the kings, and in nothing were the Merovingians more determined than in their control of the Church in their dominions. If in the south the bishop of Arles, as vicar of the Gauls, maintained close relations with the Roman see, the episcopate as a whole held aloof, respectful certainly but not obedient. The Church in Gaul had been engulfed in a barbarian conquest, cut off from Italy, severed from its ancient spiritual ties. The conversion of Clovis gave a new aspect to this separation. The kings assumed a powerful influence over the bishops, and asserted their supremacy in ecclesiastical matters. Whatever may have been the theory, in practice the interference of Rome in Gaul had become difficult, and was consequently infrequent: it had come to be considered unnecessary: the Church of the Franks had outgrown its leading-strings. But in practice? The special privileges of the see of Arles are evidence of a certain submission to the Papacy on the part of the Merovingian kings, though the monarchs were autocrats in matters of religion as well as in affairs of state, and did not encourage resort to the Holy See. It fell to Gregory, here as elsewhere, to inaugurate an era of defined authority.

When he became pope the royal power of the Merovingians was at its height: in a few years it would totter to its fall, but now the clergy were submissive and the bishops for the most part the creatures of the court. When he died the claims of Rome to supremacy were established, even if they were not fully admitted. With Gaul throughout his pontifi­cate he maintained close relations. Gregory of Tours tells with what joy his namesake's election was received by the Franks, and from the first sets himself to tell his doings and sayings with an unusual minuteness. Within a year of his accession the new pope was called upon to judge the bishops of Arles and Marseilles, whom Jewish merchants accused to him of endeavoring forcibly to convert them: Gregory reproved and urged the bishops rather to preach and persuade than to coerce. Again, he reproved Vergilius of Arles and the bishop of Autun for allowing the marriage of a nun, commanding them to bring the woman to penitence, and exhorting them with all authority. He intervened in the affairs of monasteries, granting privileges and exemptions in a manner which shows the nature of the authority he claimed. By his advice the difficult questions raised by the insanity of a bishop in the province of Lyons were settled. He claimed to judge a Frankish bishop and restore him to his see, though here he felt it necessary to explain and justify his conduct to the masterful Brunhild. He is found reproving the iconoclastic tendencies of Serenus of Marseilles, and ordering him to replace the images which he has thrown down. He gave directions as to the holding of church councils, he advised bishops as to the administration of their dioceses and the enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline. His correspondence with bishops and monks was constant, the requests to him to intervene in the affairs of the Gallican Church were frequent. Thus he prepared himself to inaugurate in Gaul a decisive and necessary reform.

Here he came into direct relations with the kings. In 595 Chil­debert of Austrasia applied to him for a recognition of the powers, as papal representative, of the bishop of Arles — evidence of the survival of the traditional idea of dependence on the Roman Church. In granting the request Gregory took occasion to develop his scheme of ecclesiastical discipline. Simony, interference with the election of bishops, the nomination of laymen to the episcopate, were crying evils: and the kings were responsible for them. He believed that the Frankish monarchy, the purity of whose faith shone by comparison with the dark treachery of other peoples, would rejoice to carry out his wishes; and in the notorious Brunhild he strangely found a deep religious sense and good dispositions which should bear fruit in the salvation of men: to her he repeated the desires which he had expressed to Childebert and urged her to see that they were carried out. He applied to her to put down crime, idolatry, paganism, to prevent the possession by Jews of Christian slaves —with what success we do not know. Unsuccessful certainly he was when he urged Theodoric and Theodobert to restore to the bishop of Turin the parishes which he had lost during the barbarian invasion and which the Frankish kings were by no means willing should be under the control of a foreign bishop. But with Brunhild he seems always to have held the most cordial relations: she asked his advice and assistance in matters of religion and politics, in regard to a question of marriage law and to the relation of the Franks with the Empire in the East. And throughout his pontificate the attitude of the kings was one of deep respect, that of the Pope that of father by counsel which easily wore the cloak of authority.

It was thus that early in his pontificate Gregory warned Childebert and Brunhild, as he warned Vergilius and the bishops of Childebert's realm, of the need of instant action against the gross simony which was eating away the spiritual life of the Church. Young men, evil livers, laymen snatched from the business or pleasures of the world, were hurriedly ordained or hurriedly promoted and thrust into the high places of the Church. In 599 he addressed the bishops of Arles, Autun, Lyons, and Vienne in vigorous protest, laying to their charge at least the acquiescence which made gross abuses possible. Ready though he was to submit to lawful exercise of the royal power in nomination, he utterly forbade the ordination of laymen in high office, as inexcusable and indefensible. The Church was to be strengthened against the world by total prohibition of marriage to the clergy and by the summoning of yearly councils for the confirmation of faith and morals. In the councils everything was to be condemned which was contrary to the canons; and two prelates should represent him and inform him of what was done. The abbot Cyriacus was sent on a special mission, with letters to bishops, to kings, and to the queen Brunhild, to bring discipline to the Gallican Church. But the murderous uncertainty of dynastic intrigues set every obstacle in the way of a reform which might make the bishops less the creatures of the kings. To Theodoric at one moment thanks were given for his submission to papal commands, and he was directed to summon a council. At another a special envoy was sent to indicate and insist on reform. At another letter after letter in vehement exhortation was addressed to Brunhild, apparently the real ruler of the distracted realm. Bishops were again and again reproved, exhorted, reproached. But it is difficult, perhaps through the scanty nature of the historical materials of the period, to discover cases of definite submission to the papal authority. It was asserted with all the moral fervour and all the sagacious prudence which belonged to the great man who sat in the papal chair. It was not repudiated by Frankish kings and bishops: rather the assertion was received with judicious politeness and respect.

But beyond this the evidence does not carry us. That the policy of the Frankish State was affected, or that the character of the kings, the ministers of the Crown, or even the bishops, was moulded by the influence of the Papacy it would be impossible to say. Tyrannous and fratricidal, the Merovingian kings lived their evil lives unchecked by more than a nominal regard for the teaching of Christian moralists. But Gregory's continual interest in the Frankish Church was not in vain. He had established a personal relation with the barbarous kings: he had created a papal vicar in the kingdom of the South: in granting the pallium to the bishop of Autun he had at least suggested a very special authority over the lands of the Gauls: he had claimed that the Roman Church was their mother to whom they applied in time of need. If the practical result was small; if the Frankish Church maintained a real independence of Rome, and Arles never became a papal vicariate; yet Frankish monks, priests, poets, as well as bishops and kings, began to look to Rome as patron and guide. Venantius Fortunatus, Columbanus, Gregory of Tours, in their different ways, show how close was the relation of Gregory the Great to the religion of the Franks.

Gregory and the Visigoths . 585-586

Brighter was the prospect when Gregory turned from the moral chaos of Gaul to the growing unity of Spain. The Visigothic race had produced a great warrior in Leovigild, whose power, as king of all the Goths, extended from Seville to Nimes. He obtained for his son Hermenegild Ingundis the daughter of Brunhild (herself the child of Athanagild, Leovigild's predecessor as Visigothic king) and the Frankish king Sigebert. From Gregory's letters we learn a story of martyrdom as to which there is no reason to believe that he was deceived. Ingundis, beset by Arian teachers who had obtained influence over Leovigild, not naturally a persecutor, a tyrant, or a fanatic, remained firm in her faith, and when her husband was given rule at Seville she succeeded with the aid of his kinsman Leander, bishop of Seville and friend of Gregory, in converting him to the Catholic belief. War was the result. Leovigild attacked his son, says John of Biclar, for rebellion and tyranny. Hermenegild sought the aid of the Catholic Sueves and "the Greeks" —the imperial garrisons which had remained since the partial reconquest of Spain by Justinian. But Leovigild proved the victor: the Suevic kingdom was extinguished, and Hermenegild was thrown into prison. Ingundis escaped with the Greeks and died at Carthage on her way to Constantinople. "Hermenegild was killed at Tarragona by Sigisbert" is the simple statement of John of Biclar, Catholic bishop of Gerona. Gregory in his Dialogues tells the tale more fully. On Easter Eve 585 he was offered communion by an Arian bishop, and when he refused to receive it at his hands he was murdered by the order of his father. He was regarded as a martyr and 13 April was observed throughout all Spain. His blood proved the seed of the faith.

A year later his brother Recared became king and accepted Catholicism. "No wonder," says Gregory, "that he became a preacher of the true faith, for his brother was a martyr, by whose merits he is aided in bringing back many souls to the bosom of God." Nor could this have happened had not Hermenegild the king laid down his life for the truth. So one Visigoth died that many might live. In a great synod at Toledo Recared abjured Arianism, and in May 589 was summoned the council which was to confirm the Catholicism of Spain. Leander preached the sermon which concluded the assembly, and reported to the pope the orthodox speech of Recared, the acceptance of the creeds and decisions of the four general councils, and the enactment of canons to regulate the lives and professions of the now Catholic people. Leander's letter was a veritable song of triumph for a victory to civilization as well as religion, and as such Gregory accepted it with delight. In later years the pope corresponded with Recared himself, wisely refraining from mix­ing himself up in the Visigothic relations with Constantinople, where Athanagild, son of the martyred Hermenegild, was being brought up, but praising him warmly for his devotion, and pointing him, as was his wont, for warning and encouragement, to the day of doom which was always in his own thoughts. To Leander he wrote frequently to the end of his life. He had sent him a pallium, through King Recared, as a recognition of ancient custom and of the merits of both king and prelate. He advised him, as he advised Augustine, in important matters of doctrine and practice. He gave him his Pastoral Care and his Moralia: and he remained his friend to the end of his life. At the exercise of authority over the Spanish Church Gregory made no attempt. He was content to recognize the great miracle, as he called it to Recared, of the conversion of a people, and to leave to their kings and bishops the direction of their Church. But outside the Gothic dominions his letters dealt with a case, in which he believed that injustice had been done to a bishop of Malaga, with great explicitness and claimed an authority which was judicial and political as well as ecclesiastical. If the documents are genuine, as is probable, they show that Gregory was prepared not only to use to the full the powers of the Empire, when it was in agreement with him, for the redress of injustice in Church as well as State, but to extend by their means the jurisdiction and authority of the papal see. But equally clear is it that when he did so it was justice he sought to establish, not personal power: Spain for a long while remained to a considerable extent apart from the general current of life in the Western Church.

Character and Influence of Gregory

In June 603 the long agony with which the great pope had so bravely struggled came to an end. The Romans to whom he had devoted his life paid no immediate honor to his memory: but a legend in later days, based perhaps on a statement of his archdeacon Peter, attributed to him a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and gave rise to his representations in art with a dove hovering over his head. His enormous energy had bequeathed to the Church a mass of writings which placed him among her four great doctors and exercised a powerful influence on the theology of the following centuries. For long Gregory was regarded as the great Christian philosopher and moralist, the interpreter of Holy Scripture, the teacher of the rulers of the Church. His sermons, his music, his dogmatic theology, and his method of interpretation were for long the models which the Western Church followed unquestioningly. But the historical importance of his life would be as great as it is had he never written a single theological treatise. The influence of his career came from his personal character, the intense power of the active Christianity which radiated from his sick bed as from his throne.

Gregory emerges from the darkness of his age as a figure whom men can plainly see. His letters reveal him as few other heroes of the Middle Age are revealed: hardly any great ecclesiastics save Bernard and Becket are so intimately known. We recognize him as a stern Roman, hating the barbarians as unclean, despising the Greeks as unworthy of their share in the Empire which had sheltered them with its name. He was a passionate advocate of justice between man and man, a guardian of men's rights, a governor set to repress wrong and to preserve the stability of the ancient State. He was eminently practical, as a builder, an administrator, a philanthropist, and a patriot. No doubt his fame is due partly to the weakness of his predecessors in the Papacy and partly to the insignificance and wickedness that followed. But his fame is due still more to the real achievement of his life. He gave to the Papacy a policy and a position which were never abandoned or lost.

The primacy of the see of Rome was by him translated into a practical system as well as a theory and a creed. His personal character, and that passion of his for a justice more righteous even than that of the old Roman law, made his claim to hear appeals, to be judge as well as arbiter, seem more than tolerable, even natural and inevitable. In the decay of old civilization, when the Empire, East and West, could scarce hold its own, there remained in Rome, preserved through all dangers, a centre of Christian authority which could exercise, in the person of Gregory, wisely, loyally, tactfully, the authority which it claimed. Gregory was indeed, as John the Deacon calls him, Argus luminosissimus. He could admonish princes, and rebuke tax-gatherers: nothing seemed too small or too great for the exactness of his survey. And, after the example of all great rulers, he founded a tradition of public service which could be passed on even by weak hands and incompetent brains. He made Christian Rome a centre of justice. He gave to the Papacy a policy of attracting to itself the best in the new nations which were struggling for the sovereignty of Italy. If it was impossible for the Empire to fight the barbarians, peace must be made with them, and if peace, a lasting peace. In any case the Church should be their home, and tyranny should be turned into love. This was his ideal for Italian and Lombard alike. And his principles, of even-handed justice, of patriotism, of charity, were the bases on which he endeavored to erect a fabric of papal supremacy. From his letters, as from a storehouse of political wisdom, there came in time rules in the Canon Law, and powers were claimed far beyond what he had dreamed of. Where he was disinterested lesser men were greedy and encroaching: where he strove to do justice others tried to make despotic laws. All over the Christian world Gregory had taught men to look to the pope as one who could make peace and ensue it. On this foundation the medieval Papacy was founded. Not long was it contented so to rest.