Monday, 23 January 2017

German King, Otto III

Otto III (June/July 980 – 23 January 1002) was Holy Roman Emperor from 996 until his early death in 1002. A member of the Ottonian dynasty, Otto III was the only son of the Emperor Otto II and his wife Theophanu.
ivory vessel used at the consecration of Otto III
 Otto III was crowned as King of Germany in 983 at the age of three, shortly after his father's death in southern Italy while campaigning against the Byzantine Empire and the Emirate of Sicily. Though the nominal ruler of Germany, Otto III's minor status ensured his various regents held power over the Empire.

His cousin Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, initially claimed regency over the young king and attempted to seize the throne for himself in 984.

When his rebellion failed to gain the support of Germany's aristocracy, Henry II was forced to abandon his claims to the throne and to allow Otto III's mother Theophanu to serve as regent until her death in 991. Otto III was then still a child, so his grandmother, the Dowager Empress Adelaide of Italy, served as regent until 994.

In 996, Otto III marched to Italy to claim the titles King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor, which had been left unclaimed since the death of Otto II in 983.

Otto III also sought to reestablish Imperial control over the city of Rome, which had revolted under the leadership of Crescentius II, and through it the papacy. Crowned as Emperor, Otto III put down the Roman rebellion and installed his cousin as Pope Gregory V, the first Pope of German descent. After the Emperor had pardoned him and left the city, Crescentius II again rebelled, deposing Gregory V and installing John XVI as Pope.

Otto III returned to the city in 998, reinstalled Gregory V, and executed both Crescentius II and John XVI. When Gregory V died in 999, Otto III installed Sylvester II as the new Pope. Otto III's actions throughout his life further strengthened imperial control over the Catholic Church. From the beginning of his reign, Otto III faced opposition from the Slavs along the eastern frontier. Following the death of his father in 983, the Slavs rebelled against imperial control, forcing the Empire to abandon its territories east of the Elbe river. Otto III would fight to regain the Empire's lost territories throughout his reign with only limited success.
Emperor Otto III enthroned (fol. 16r)
While in the east, Otto III strengthened the Empire's relations with Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary. Through his affairs in Eastern Europe in 1000, he was able to extend the influence of Christianity by supporting mission work in Poland and through the crowning of Stephen I as the first Christian king of Hungary. Returning to Rome in 1001, Otto III faced a rebellion by the Roman aristocracy, which forced him to flee the city. While marching to reclaim the city in 1002, however, Otto III suffered a sudden fever and died in a castle near Civita Castellana at the age of 21. With no clear heir to succeed him, his early death threw the Empire into political crisis.

Otto III was crowned as king on Christmas Day 983, three weeks after his father's death, by Willigis, the Archbishop of Mainz, and by John, the Archbishop of Ravenna. News of Otto II's death first reached Germany shortly after his son'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. With a minor on the throne, the Empire was thrown into confusion and Otto III's mother Theophanu assumed the role of regent for her young son.
Emperor Otto III enthroned 

As Otto III grew in age, the authority of his grandmother gradually waned until 994 when Otto III reached the age of 14. At an assembly of the Imperial Diet held in Solingen in September 994, Otto III was granted the ability to fully govern the kingdom without the need of a regent. With her grandson no longer in need of a regent, Adelaide retired to a nunnery she had founded at Selz in Alsace. Although she never became a nun, she spent the rest of her days there in the service of the Church and in acts of charity. As Otto III was still unmarried, from 995 until 997 his older sister Sophia accompanied him and acted as his consort.
From 10 Gospel of Otto III Empty Tomb
One of Otto III's first actions as an independent ruler was to appoint Heribert of Cologne as his chancellor over Italy, a position he would hold until Otto's death in 1002. In the summer of 995, Otto sent the Archbishop of Piacenza, John Philagathos, to Constantinople as his representative to arrange a marriage between himself and a Byzantine princess. The Lutici federation of West Slavic Polabian tribes had remained quiet during the early years of Otto III's reign, even during Henry II's failed rebellion. In 983, following Otto II's defeat at the battle of Stilo, the Slavs revolted against Imperial control, forcing the Empire to abandon its territories east of the Elbe Rivier in the Northern March and the Billung March.

With the process of Christianisation halted, the Slavs left the Empire in peace, and with Henry II's rebellion put down, Theophanu launched multiple campaigns to re-conquer the lost eastern territories, beginning in 985. Even though he was only six at the time, Otto III personally participated in these campaigns. During the expedition of 986 against the Slavs, Otto III received the homage of Duke Mieszko I of Poland, who provided the Imperial army with military assistance and gave Otto III a camel. Although the Lutici were subdued for a time in 987, they continued to occupy the young king’s attention.
From Book of Otto III 
In September 991, when Otto III was eleven, Slavonic raiders captured the city of Brandenburg. In 992 this invasion, as well as an incursion of Viking raiders, forced Otto III to lead his army against the invaders, and he suffered a crushing defeat in this campaign. The next year, Germany suffered an outbreak of famine and pestilence. In 994 and 995, Otto III led fruitless campaigns against the northern Slavs and the Vikings, but he did successfully re-conquer Brandenburg in 993, and in 995 he subdued the Obotrite Slavs.

In the fall of 995, after Otto III reached his majority, he again took to the field against the Lutici, this time aided by the Polish Duke Bolesław I Chrobry. Then in 997 he had to deal with a new Lutician attack on Arneburg on the Elbe, which they managed to retake for a short while. After summoning his army in late 1001, Otto III headed south to Rome to ensure his rule over the city. During the travel south, however, Otto III suffered a sudden and severe fever. He died in a castle near Civita Castellana on 24 January 1002. He was 21 years old and had reigned as an independent ruler for just under six years, having nominally reigned for nearly 19 years.
Otto III coin
The Byzantine princess Zoe, second daughter of the Emperor Constantine VIII, had just disembarked in Apulia on her way to marry him. Otto III's death has been attributed to various causes. Medieval sources speak of malaria, which he had caught in the unhealthy marshes that surrounded Ravenna. Following his death, the Roman people suggested that Stefania, the widow of Crescentius II, had made Otto III fall in love with her and then poisoned him. The Emperor's body was carried back to Germany by his soldiers, as his route was lined with Italians who hurled abuses at his remains. He was buried in Aachen Cathedral alongside the body of Charlemagne.

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