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Milton V. Anastos

Constantinople and Rome

A Survey of the Relations between the Byzantine and the Roman Churches.

M. Anastos, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2001. ISBN: 0 86078 840 7.

18. Emperor Leo VI's fourth marriage(176)

Α short period of tranquillity ended in 912, when Nicholas Mysticus ("confidential adviser"), who was Patriarch of Constantinople from 901 to 907 and from 912 to 925, removed the name of the Pope of Rome from the Constantinopolitan diptychs because the Roman see had sanctioned the fourth marriage of the Emperor Leo VI "the Wise" (886-912). The problem arose because of the singular misfortune of the Emperor Leo, whose first three wives died without providing him with a male heir. About 894, apparently sometime before his second marriage, not realizing what fate had in store for him, Leo had himself sternly forbidden third marriages (Novel 9). Nevertheless, since he still lacked a son after the death of Zoe, his second wife, he felt compelled for dynastic reasons to press on to a third union, and subsequently even to a fourth, when Eudocia, his third wife, died in giving birth to a son who did not survive.

Then, at first, he comforted himself with a mistress named Zoe Carbonopsina ("of the coal-black eyes"). But in 905, when this fourth lady bore him a son (the future Emperor Constantine VII, one of the greatest scholars and historians Byzantium ever produced), Leo resolved that she and their son should be fully legitimated. The Patriarch Nicholas agreed to baptize the young prince (January 6, 906), but only on the condition that Leo separate himself from the child's mother. Three days later, however, Leo got a priest by the name of Thomas to perform the marriage ceremony.

In the midst of the ensuing uproar among the clergy and people of Constantinople, while Nicholas was seeking a formula by which the Byzantine Church could overcome its prohibition of fourth marriages and lend its approval to what Leo had done, Leo decided that appeal should be made to the other four patriarchates for their judgment in the matter. Actually, as it turned out, Leo was unwilling to receive any special dispensation from Nicholas who had once joined in a plot against the throne; and as soon as word arrived from the four foreign patriarchates that they saw no reason to nullify Leo's fourth marriage, Nicholas was forced to abdicate and give place to Euthymius (907-12).(177) Hence, the procedure followed in this case cannot be regarded as an example of an appeal to Rome.(178) as some have supposed, but rather as another instance of Byzantine concern for oecumenical sanction as manifested by the approval of the five patriarchates.

On the death of Leo in 912, his brother, the wastrel Alexander, became emperor (912-13), and recalled Nicholas. Euthymius was immediately deposed and handed over to ecclesiastical ruffians, who beat him unmercifully and tore out his beard. Shortly thereafter, he was excommunicated, along with all who had been in communion with him, including, thus, the successors of Pope Sergius III (904-11) of Rome, until 923, when communion was re-established. But Sergius himself was specifically exempted from anathematisation despite his support of Leo in 907.

Nicholas never succeeded in persuading Rome to condemn fourth marriages, as he
attempted to do, and he himself was forced to issue a special posthumous ruling which validated Leo's marriage to Zoe Carbonopsina. He was also compelled to crown Zoe empress, although Euthymius had steadfastly refused to do so. But, within the Byzantine Church, the privilege accorded Leo VI was deemed to have been altogether exceptional, and was so described by the Constantinopolitan Council of 920, which settled this question and reconciled Nicholas and his followers with their opponents, Euthymius and Archbishop Arethas of Caesarea, the latter's staunchest supporter. In the future, this Council ruled, fourth marriages were to be prohibited, and anyone, except a childless widower over 30 and under 40, who contracted a third marriage was, under varying conditions, to be deprived of communion.(179)

8a. Addendum

Although after 800 the Latin West was in point of fact independent of Constantinople, except in southern Italy, as Charlemagne had demonstrated, it could not free itself of the tradition that the Byzantine emperor presided over he whole of the inhabitable world, and that he had the power to confer or withhold the imperial title as he saw fit. Hence, however firmly they had secured de facto possession of their realm and royal prerogatives, the "kings" of the Franks, as the Byzantines usually called them, and later occupants of the principal thrones of western Europe, continued until the thirteenth century, and later, to seek from Byzantium a higher or, it would almost seem, a de jure sanction of the imperial titles with which they had been locally invested.

This interpretation of the oecumenical privileges of the Byzantine emperors coincided perfectly with their own understanding of the universality of their domain. Nevertheless, despite their unwillingness to extend to the later Carolingians the same rights they had conceded to Charlemagne, they became in subsequent generations slightly less adamant in spurning "barbarian" princes who wished to assume the title of Basileus (imperator), provided that the latter refrained from affixing the genitive "of the Romans" (Romanorum in Latin; Romaion in Greek) thereto.

Thus in 925 they violently opposed Symeon of Bulgaria when he declared himself to be "Emperor of the Romans:' But in 927 they willingly allowed Symeon's son, Peter, to marry a Byzantine princess and did not object to addressing him as the Emperor of Bulgaria.

Similarly, they seemed to have accepted Otto Ι (King of Germany, 936-73), the creator of the "Holy Roman Empire," as Emperor of the Franks (962 ff.); and Otto himself apparently did not aspire to any more exalted rank than this. But Pope John ΧΙΙΙ (965-72) and members of Otto's chancery and household were aiming at the higher title, as we learn from the Relatio de legatione cοnstantinopοlitana, which Liudprand, Bishop of Cremona (920-72, Bishop from 961), wrote in 969 shortly after his return from the mission to Constantinople he had undertaken for Otto in 968.

The Relatio lacks the Rabelaisian touches(*)

[(*)As, for example, in his tale of the intimate anatomical hiding place in which Willa, wife of Boso, Marquis (marhio) of Tuscany, and sister-in-law of Hugo, Count of Arles and King of Italy, concealed a precious jewelled belt in the vain hope that it might thus escape the probing eyes of the soldiers who had been ordered to disrobe her in their search for it (Αntapοd. 4, 12: Liudprand was uncertain whether the hider or the finder was the more indecent); or in his zest for priapean details in recounting the lust of the wife of Berengar, Marquis of Ivrea and King of Italy, for her daughters' ugly, misshapen tutor (5, 32) and in reporting the passionate plea a woman made to dissuade Tedbald (Theobald, Marquis οf Camerino and Spoleto) from depriving her husband of his virility (4, 40).]

with which Liudprand embellished his Antapodosis. But it gives an earthy and spirited account of the Byzantine court in the tenth century, which, however, must be read with a critical eye. For it was designed by Liudprand to convince Otto that the Byzantines no longer deserved to be emperors of the Romans, and that the Ottoman line should supplant them.

Though Otto Ι was content to be Emperor of the Franks and did not assert himself to be Emperor of the Romans, he looked upon his imperial title as entitling him to rule over the whole of Italy and hence as a justification of his attempts to annex to his Empire the portion of southern Italy which belonged to Byzantium. He won over Capua and Beneventum by diplomatic means, and then laid siege early in 968 to Bari, the capital of Apulia and the chief Byzantine stronghold on the Adriatic coast, which he thought would easily fall into his hands. But he misjudged the strength
and determination of the Byzantines, and was forced to retreat.

Later in the same year, he again miscalculated the situation, and recklessly assumed that even after the war he had waged against them, he could persuade the Byzantines to bestow the Princess Αnna, sister of Prince Basil II and Constantine VIII, upon his son (Otto II) in marriage in return for his promise to turn over Apulia and Calabria to Byzantine rule. But since he himself was by no means master of these regions, which for the most part remained securely in Byzantine hands, and since he had just suffered defeat at Bari, his proposal must have seemed more than a little ridiculous in Constantinople.

The Byzantines insisted (Relatio, cc. 15 f.) that they would not give a princess born in the purple (porphyrogennetos)(*)

[(*) This term had reference, as Liudprand points out
in the Antapodosis (1, 6; 3, 30), to the fact that the wives of the Byzantine emperors, when about to give birth, went to the Porphyra Palace, so named because the walls were lined with revetments of porphyry-presumably of the purple variety. Their offspring were therefore known as porphyrogennetoi (porphyrogeniti, singular porphyrogenitus, in the Latin form of the word), i.e., born in the Porphyra Palace- "born in the purple." Hence,
all children οf emperors who were born during the reign of their father were so called, and distinguished in this way from other princes born under different

to a foreigner. But as a special concession they would do so if Otto would yield them Ravenna and Rome, together with all the lands lying between them and the Byzantine territories in southern Italy. Alternatively, they expressed willingness to negotiate a treaty of peace without a marriage (amicitiam absque parentela) in return for Rome, Capua, and Beneventum.

Liudprand's summary of these terms is hardly to be questioned. Nor is there any reason to cast doubt upon his account (cc. 47, 50 f.) of the violent reaction of the Byzantines to a letter from Pope John ΧΙΙΙ which referred to Otto as the Emperor of the Romans, and thus contrasted him with Nicephorus, whom he dubbed the "Emperor of the Greeks." The Byzantine court was outraged and expressed itself with such vehemence that Liudprand felt constrained to promise that the offense would not be repeated, and that in the future the papal chancery would address Nicephorus as Emperor of the Romans.

But, Liudprand slyly remarked, in extenuation of the papal error on this point, in terms (c. 51) somewhat reminiscent of the language Pope Nicholas Ι had used in writing to Emperor Michael III in 865, "The pope by expressing himself in this way intended to honour, not to insult the Emperor. Naturally, we know that the Roman Emperor Constantine came to Constantinople with the nobility of Rome and gave his name to the city he founded. But since you have changed your language [i.e., from Latin to Greek], your customs, and your mode of dress, the most holy Pope assumed that you disliked the name of the Romans as much as their taste in clothing."

In making out his case against the Byzantines, Liudprand lays stress on what he regarded as their many shortcomings and the gross insults they had showered upon him despite his ambassadorial status. He starts on a querulous note, and protests that he was held virtually a prisoner for over four months (c. 46) in a frightful palace devoid of comforts, which offered protection against neither heat, nor rain, nor cold. As a result of this treatment, he complains, he fell sick, being unable to sleep on hard marble floors without bedding (c. 12), loathing the food (e.g., c. 20: a fat goat, stuffed with garlic, onions, and leeks, and served with fish sauce), and perishing of thirst for lack of drinking water (c. 1) or potable wine (cc. 13 and 55), which, he objects, was mixed with pitch, resin, and plaster (c.1: Grecorum vinum ob picis, taedae, gypsi, cοmmixtionem nobis impotable fuit).

On a previous embassy to Constantinople in 949, as described in the sixth book of his Antapodosis, he had been charmed by everything he had seen and had nothing but praise for his hosts. This time, as a result of the change in the political situation, he denounces them as boors, ruffians, cowards, liars, and eunuchs (c. 54 etc.). His chief target was the Emperor Nicephorus, whom he ridicules (c. 3) as a "monstrosity of a man, a dwarf, fat-headed, with the eyes of a mole and a neck an inch long, ... in short, not the kind of man you would like to come upon in the dark, sharp-tongued, a fox by nature, in perjury and falsehood a Ulysses."

Given Liudprand's arrogance and Otto's assaults upon the Byzantine position in Italy, it is not strange that the Byzantines returned these compliments (c. 51) by heaping scorn upon Otto as a barbarian, and denouncing "the silly blockhead of a pope ( fatuus, insulsus) (who) does not know that Constantine transferred hither (i.e., to Constantinople) the imperial sceptre, the senate, and all the Roman knighthood and nobility (militia), and left nothing in Rome but vile slaves, fishermen, confectioners, poulterers, bastards, and lackeys" (vilia mancipia, piscatores, scilicet, cupedinarios, aucupes, nothos, plebeios, servos).

This vituperative exchange brings to the surface the hostility felt by the two sides for each other and often veiled under the thin veneer which they assumed for the purpose of conducting diplomatic negotiations. But mutual animosity and bitterness were deeply rooted, and were revealed not only in the disputes over the imperial title but also more dramatically in the conflict that could not be dissociated from it, over the control of the churches in southern Italy, which the Roman clergy were eager to retain for themselves or acquire (in the districts in which the ecclesiastical administration was in Byzantine hands).

This controversy reached its climax in the eleventh century in the time of the Patriarch Michael Cerularius (see § 19). But Liudprand's Relatio shows that it was raging furiously in the tenth century and that the Emperor Nicephorus had no intention of yielding to Rome. From the Roman point of view (c. 62), Nicephorus's assertion of authority over the churches in southern Italy (in elevating Otranto to an archbishopric and ordering that in Apulia and Calabria the liturgy be celebrated only in Greek, not in Latin) amounted to an intolerable encroachment upon the jurisdiction of Rome. According to Liudprand, Constantinople itself was subject to the apostolic authority of Rome.

But, so far as Byzantium was concerned, Nicephorus's measures for the regulation of the ecclesiastical affairs of southern Italy fell well within the scope of the imperial power. It would have been incompatible with the sovereignty of the Byzantine emperor for him to allοw any official, lay or ecclesiastical, Roman or Byzantine, to usurp this function, or overrule him in his exercise of it. So long as Apulia and Calabria remained within the Empire, the emperor would dominate the administration of the Church there established and look with extreme displeasure upon papal intervention. In fact, the Byzantines did not distinguish between ecclesiastical and political jurisdiction, and interference with either was looked upon as an act of treason.

Though Nicephorus brusquely turned down the request for a marriage alliance and presumably withdrew the endorsement of Otto as Emperor of the Franks which, it has been conjectured, had been granted by Romanus II (959-63), conditions changed once again with the accession of John Ι Tzimisces (969-76). In all probability induced by a promise on the part of Otto to respect Byzantine holdings in southern Italy and perhaps to retrocede lands which had been detached from the Empire, Tzimisces consented to the marriage of Theophano, a relative of his (probably a niece), to Otto II, who had been made co-emperor in 967 (sole emperor, 973-83).

Otto Ι did not succeed in securing the Princess Αnna Porphyrogennete (who in 988 was given to Vladimir of Russia) as a bride for his son, and there was some dissatisfaction in the West because a lesser personage had been substituted for her. It seems likely, however, that it was not the Ottos who were displeased with the match that was arranged, since it presumably secured the desired Byzantine sanction of the imperial title, but rather Pope John ΧΙΙΙ and his entourage, who had been holding out for the most highly placed princess available in order to further their scheme for the transfer of the centre of the Roman Empire from Byzantium to the West.

In any case, the consummation of the nuptials led to a great increase in Byzantine influence in Germany in many areas, including political theory. Theophano presumably was instrumental in persuading her husband, Otto II, that he was the Emperor of the Romans, since he made use of this high-sounding designation for a brief period (982-83). But, to judge by the extant documents, he did not continue to do so after June 15, 983. Nor did he insist upon all of the oecumenical implications of this title.

Under Theophano's tutelage, however, their son, Otto III (Emperor, 983-1002), became so indoctrinated in the political theory of the Byzantines that, like them, from 996 on he insisted upon the full exclusiveness of the imperial title. In his view, he was the only true emperor of the Romans, and the Greeks were inferior in status. At the same time, however, he clung to his independence of the papacy, and formally rejected the Donations of Constantine and Charlemagne as papal forgeries. Since the Byzantines had made up their minds to allow Otto III to marry the daughter of the Emperor Constantine VIII, it can probably be assumed that they had been prepared to recognize Otto as the Emperor of the Franks, but no more than that.

From then on, until the end of the thirteenth century, the dispute on the right to the imperial title entered upon a new phase. The Byzantine emperors maintained as vigorously as ever that they alone were empowered to preside over the whole of the Roman Empire and usually referred to the western sovereigns merely as kings, only a very few of whom they ever condescendingly addressed as emperors of some specific nation or region.


176. - Vita Euthymii 7 f.,10-15, 17-19, 21 f., ed. C. de Boor (Berlin,1888); new ed. with "English" trans. by Ρ Karlin-Hayter Βyzantiοn, 25-27, fasc. 1 (1955-57), 45-57, 65-111, 115-31, 136-43; Nicholas Mysticus, Εp. 32 and 28, cf. 53-56, 77, PG, 111, 176D-181A, 196Α-220Β, 248Α-257Β, 280Β-281Αs Theophanes Continuatus, CSHB, 360.17 ff., 361.23 ff., 362.17 ff., 364.9 ff., 365.8 ff., 366.10 ff., 370.8 ff., 375.9 ff., 377.19 ff.; Symeon Magister, 694.14 ff., 701.20 ff., 702.9 ff., 703.15 ff., 705.11 f., 70822 ff, 709.3 ff., 711.23 ff, 715.19 ff.; George Monachus, ibid., 855.20 ff., 856.14 ff, 858.3 ff., 860.8 ff., 861.18 ff., 862.14 ff, 865.8 ff etc.; George Cedrenus, Historiarum compendium, CSHB, 2, 259.20 ff., 261.17 f., 264.22-266.2, 274.12 ff. The whole affair is admirably summarized by S. Salaville, "Leon VI le Sage," DTC, 9, 1 (1926), 367-79 (with full citation of the sources). Cf. also R. J. Jenkins and Basil Laourdas, "Eight letters of Arethas on the fourth marriage of Leo the Wise," Hellenika, 14 (1956), 293-372; R. Guilland, "Les noces plurales a Byzance," BS, 9 (1947) 9-30; V. Grumel, Regestes, nos. 602 f., 611-14, 625-32, 635, 650, 669, 671, 675, 695, 711 f.; idem, "Chronologie des événements du regne de Léon VI (886-912)," ΕΟ, 35 (1936), 5-42; Charles Diehl, "Les quatre marriages de l'Empereur Léon le Sage," in Figures byzantines, 1, 8th ed. (Paris, 1920), 181-215; Ν. Ροpοv, The Emperor Leo Vl the Wise and his rule (in Russian) (Moscow, 1892). Cf S. Antoniadis, "Etude stylistique sur les lettres de Nicolaos Mysticos;' in Pepragmena tu 9. Diethnus Byzantinologiku Synedriu, 3 (Hellenika, Parartema 9 [Athens, 1958]), 69-98.

177. - The important role of Arethas in this affair is well stressed by Jenkins and Laourdas, lοc. cit. Ι believe, however, that the decisive factor in Leo's attitude towards the Patriarch Nicholas was the latter's lack of loyalty as manifested by his association with the revolt of Andronicus Ducas. Τhe Vita Euthymii is mistaken on the date of this conspiracy against Leo, as Jenkins shows. But Nicholas's complicity in it cannot be denied and accounts for Leo's determination to depose him from the patriarchal throne. Ι strongly doubt that Nicholas wavered in his decision to condone Leo's fourth marriage because of the opposition of the clerical party dominated by Arethas. In Byzantium, clerical dissidents were always helpless against the emperor, and if Nicholas had retained Leo's favour, he could have ignored such protests (which Jenkins proves to have been hypocritical), and removed his opponents from their see.

178. - Nicholas in Εp. 32 stresses the part Rome played in approving Leo's fourth marriage, as was to have been expected, since he was addressing the Pope, and was anxious to emphasize what the Roman legates had done. He probably presented the matter in the same light to the clergy of Constantinople also, in the hope that the anti-Latin sentiments of the populace might help him win support against Leo and the fourth marriage. Still, he alludes to the fact that the other patriarchates had been consulted (PG, 111, 200D), and the Vita Euthymii (cf. Βyzantiοn, 25-27, pp. 78 f., 84 f., 90-93, 106 f.) shows that the four patriarchates were unanimous in allowing Leo's fourth marriage to stand. See also Eutychius of Alexandria (late 9th cent.), Annales, PG, 111, 1144D.

179. - Cf. PG, 138, 596Α-604Α; PG, 144, 1157Α-1161Α; J. and Ρ. Zepos, Jus graecoromanum, 1 (Athens, 1931), 192-97; Grumel, Regestes, n. 669 (summary and literature).

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