Friday, 9 December 2016

German King, Otto II

Otto II (955 – December 7, 983), called the Red (Rufus), was Holy Roman Emperor from 973 until his death in 983. A member of the Ottonian dynasty, Otto II was the youngest and sole surviving son of Otto the Great and Adelaide of Italy.
Otto II

Otto II was made joint-ruler of Germany in 961, at an early age, and his father named him co-Emperor in 967 to secure his succession to the throne. His father also arranged for Otto II to marry the Byzantine Princess Theophanu, who would be his wife until his death.

When his father died after a 37-year reign, the eighteen-year-old Otto II became absolute ruler of the Holy Roman Empire in a peaceful succession. Otto II spent his reign continuing his father's policy of strengthening Imperial rule in Germany and extending the borders of the Empire deeper into southern Italy.

Otto II also continued the work of Otto I in subordinating the Catholic Church to Imperial control. Early in his reign, Otto II defeated a major revolt against his rule from other members of the Ottonian dynasty who claimed the throne for themselves.

His victory allowed him to exclude the Bavarian line of Ottonians from the line of Imperial succession. This strengthened his authority as Emperor and secured the succession of his own son to the Imperial throne. With domestic affairs settled, Otto II would focus his attention from 980 onward to annexing the whole of Italy into the Empire. His conquests brought him into conflict with the Byzantine Empire and with the Muslims of the Fatimid Caliphate, who both held territories in southern Italy.
Otto II coin

After initial successes in unifying the southern Lombard principalities under his authority and in conquering Byzantine-controlled territory, Otto II's campaigns in southern Italy ended in 982 following a disastrous defeat by the Muslims. While he was preparing to counterattack Muslim forces, a major uprising by the Slavs broke out in 983, forcing the Empire to abandon its major territorial holdings east of the Elbe river. Otto II died suddenly in 983 at the age of 28 after a ten-year reign. He was succeeded as Emperor by his three-year-old son Otto III, plunging the Empire into a political crisis.
Otto II coin

Otto II was born in 955, the third son of the King of Germany Otto I and his second wife Adelaide of Italy. By 957, Otto II's older brothers Henry (born 952) and Bruno (born 953) had died, as well as Otto I's son from his first wife Eadgyth, the Crown Prince Liudolf, Duke of Swabia. With his older brothers dead, the two-year-old Otto II's became the Kingdom's crown prince and Otto I's heir apparent. Otto I entrusted his illegitimate son, Archbishop William of Mainz, with Otto II's literary and cultural education. Margrave Odo, commander of the Eastern March, taught the young crown prince the art of war and the kingdom's legal customs.
Otto II

Needing to put his affairs in order prior to his descent into Italy, Otto I summoned a Diet at Worms and had Otto II elected, at the age of six, co-regent in May 961. Otto II was later crowned by his uncle Bruno the Great, Archbishop of Cologne, at Aachen Cathedral on May 26, 961. While Otto I had secured succession of the throne, he had violated the Kingdom's unwritten law that succession rights could only be granted to a child who has reached the age of majority. He was likely motivated by the high-risk associated with his expedition into Italy to claim the Imperial title from the Pope.

Otto I crossed the Alps into Italy, while Otto II remained in Germany, and the two Archbishops, Bruno and William, were appointed as his regents. After three and a half year absence in Italy, Otto I returned to Germany early in 965 as Holy Roman Emperor. In order to give the hope of dynastic continuity after his death, Otto I again confirmed Otto II as his heir on February 2, 965, the third anniversary of Otto I's coronation as Emperor.

In July 983, Pope Benedict VII, a longtime Ottonian supporter, died of natural causes after having reigned for almost ten years. Otto II returned to Rome in September to name a new Pope, selecting the Bishop of Pavia Pietro Canepanova (who reigned as Pope John XIV) in November or early December. While Otto II was in Rome overseeing the election of a new pope, a malaria outbreak in central Italy prevented the resumption of military activity in southern Italy.
Otto II
The outbreak ultimately led to the death of the Emperor himself: he died in his palace in Rome at the age of 28 on December 7, 983, after having reigned for just over a decade. Otto II's money and possessions were divided among the Catholic Church, the poor of the Empire, his mother Adelaide and sister Matilda, and those nobles loyal to him. Otto II was then buried in the atrium of St. Peter's Basilica, becoming the only German ruler to be buried in a foreign country instead of in Germany.

Otto II's three-year-old son Otto III was crowned as King of Germany in Aachen on Christmas Day in 983, three weeks after his father's death. Otto III was crowned by Willigis, the Archbishop of Mainz, and John, the Archbishop of Ravenna. News of Otto II's death first reached Germany after Otto III's coronation.The unresolved problems in southern Italy and the Slavic uprising on the Empire's eastern border made the Empire's political situation extremely unstable. The arrival of a minor on the Imperial throne threw the Empire into confusion, allowing Otto III's mother, the Byzantine Princess Theophanu, to reign as his regent.

In 976, Otto II had deposed Henry II as Duke of Bavaria and imprisoned him. In early 984, Henry II escaped from his imprisonment by the Bishop of Utrecht. Free from his confinement, he seized the infant Otto III and, as a member of the ruling Ottonian dynasty, claimed the regency of the Empire for himself. Henry II eventually went so far as to claim the German throne outright, obtaining the allegiance of Mieszko I of Poland and Boleslaus II, Duke of Bohemia. Henry II's claims were supported by Archbishop Egbert of Trier, Archbishop Gisilher of Magdeburg, and Bishop Dietrich I of Metz.

 Otto III's right to the throne, however, was supported by Archbishop Willigis of Mainz and the Dukes of Saxony, Bavaria, and Swabia. The threat of war from Willigis and Conrad I, Duke of Swabia forced Henry II to relinquish Otto III on June 29, 984 and to respect the regency of Theophanu. The early death of Otto II and the ensuing events proved to be a serious test for Empire. Despite having a child under the regency of his mother as a ruler, the structure established by Emperor Otto the Great remained strong as most of the Empire's most powerful officials stayed loyal to the Imperial system.

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