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Book IV
Chapter 3

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

2nd edition
Oxford University Press

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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please let me know!


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Book IV
Note B

Book 4 (continued)

Vol. III
Chapter IV

Flavius Odovacar


Sources: —

Our sources of information as to the reign of Odovacar are, as will be seen from the narrative, poverty itself. We get a few scattered notices, however, from Procopius, Jordanes, and Ennodius (in the Life of St. Epiphanius). The Anonymus Valesii and the letters of Cassiodorus fill up a few gaps in our knowledge. Malchus and Joannes Antiochenus give us our most valuable information as to the relations of Odovacar with the Eastern Court.

Guides: —

Tillemont, 'Hist. des Empereurs,' VI.434‑457. Dahn's 'Könige der Germanen,' II.35‑50. Pallmann, 'Geschichte der Völkerwanderung, vol. II. Pallmann's defence of the government of Odovacar is the best thing in the book.

[For ecclesiastical matters the chief sources here are Evagrius and Liberatus (a Carthaginian deacon of the sixth century, who wrote a short account of the Nestorian and Eutychian controversies). Nicephorus Callistus wrote his Ecclesiastical History in the fourteenth century, but seems to have used the works of nearly contemporary authors.

My guides have been Baronius; Hefele's 'Concilien­geschichte (vol. II); Bower's 'History of the Popes' (vol. II);º Gieseler's 'Compendium of Ecclesiastical History (vol. II); and Milman's 'History of Latin Christianity' (vol. I).]

The humiliation of Rome was completed by the events recorded in the preceding volume. There was still, no doubt, a legal fiction according to which Rome  p123 and Italy yet belonged to the Empire, and were under the dominion of the successor of Augustus, who reigned not in Old Rome by the Tiber, but in New Rome by the Thracian Bosporus. In fact, however, one will was supreme in Italy, the will of the tall barbarian who in sordid dress once strode into the cell of Severinus,1 the leader of the Herulian and Rugian mutineers, the conqueror of Pavia, Odovacar.2

Position of Odovacar. For thirteen years this soldier of fortune swayed with undisputed mastery the Roman state. He employed, no doubt, the services of Roman officials to work the machine of government. He paid a certain deference, on many occasions, to the will of his nominal superior, Zeno, the Emperor at Constantinople. He watched, we may be sure much more anxiously, the shifting currents of opinion among the rough mercenaries who had bestowed on him the crown, and on whom he had bestowed the third part of the lands of Italy. But, on the whole, and looking at the necessity of concentrated force in such a precarious state as that which the mercenaries had founded, we shall probably not be far from wrong if we attribute to Odovacar the effective power, though of course he used not the name, of Autocrat.

Character of his government. The highest praise that can be bestowed on the government of this adventurer from the Danubian lands is that we hear so little about it. Some hardship, perhaps even some violence, probably accompanied the compulsory expropriation of the Romans from one‑third of the lands of Italy. There is some  p124 reason for supposing, however, that this would be in the main only a loss of property, falling on the large landed proprietors. Where the land was being cultivated by coloni, bound to the soil and paying their fixed rent or their share of produce to the lord, no great visible change could probably be made. From motives of self-interest, and to gratify his warlike impatience of toil, the Rugian warrior, entering upon the ownership of his sors, would generally leave the tillage of the soil in the same hands in which he found it. To him, or rather to his bailiffs (actores), instead of to those of the luxurious Roman senator, the coloni would henceforward pay their dues, and that would be the whole visible outcome of the late revolution. It seems hardly likely that there can have been much gratuitous cruelty or actual bloodshed on the part of the soldiers of Odovacar, or we should surely have had some hint of it from one of the Byzantine historians. It ought, however, to be mentioned that Ennodius draws a somewhat gloomy picture of the financial oppression of Odovacar's reign; but his purpose of blackening the fallen king in order to glorify Theodoric is so obvious that we need attach but little weight to his testimony. Perhaps his best remark is that Odovacar's consciousness of his own lowly origin made him timid in the presence of his army, and prevented him from checking their excesses.3 There are also some expressions in the letters of Pope Gelasius which  p125 hint at 'barbaric incursions' and 'the continual tempest of war'4 that had afflicted Italy, but the language employed is extremely vague, and gives us rather the impression of words used to round off a rhetorical period than of a genuine cry of sorrow forced out of the writer by the sight of the misery of his people.

As far as Italy herself is concerned, this part of her annals is an absolute blank, not one of her own sons having said anything at all about it, at least not in a voice loud enough to reach posterity. This absolute extinction of the national consciousness, in a people which had once numbered among its sons a Livy and a Tacitus, is one of the strangest symptoms of the fifth century. But in truth it seems as if even for the chroniclers, who did in their way try to preserve some of the events of their age from oblivion, the Monophysite Controversy, to us so unintelligible and so wearisome, possessed a fascination which quite diverted their gaze from the portentous spectacle of a barbarian ruling in Italy. It would probably be safe to say that we have three allusions to Timotheus Aelurus, the militant Patriarch of Alexandria, for  p126 every time that the name of Odovacar occurs in the pages of the chroniclers.

Loss of Provence. In geographical extent, the dominions of Odovacar probably did not differ greatly from those of the Roman Emperors of the West during the last twenty-five years of their rule. It is true that Gaul was lost to him. The fair region which we now call Provence, nearly the earliest formed and quite the latest lost Provincia of Rome, that region in which the Latin spirit dwelt so strongly that the Roman nobles thought of migrating thither in 401, when Alaric first invaded Italy,5 refused to submit to the rule of the upstart barbarian. The Provençals sent an embassy to Constantinople to claim the protection of Zeno for the still loyal subjects of the Empire. Odovacar, however, sent his ambassadors at the same time, and again, as before, when the restoration of Nepos was in question, the representations of the new barbarian ruler of Italy prevailed. Zeno, we are told, 'rather inclined to the cause of Odovacar.'6 The latter however, who perhaps thought that he had enough upon his hands without forcing his yoke on the Provençals, made over his claim to Euric, king of the Visigoths, whose influence was at this time predominant in Gaul.7

Recovery of Sicily. Sicily, which had been for a generation subjected, first to the devastations and then to the rule of the  p127 Vandal king, was now by a formal treaty, which must have been nearly the last public act of Gaiseric, ceded to Odovacar, all but a small part, probably at the western end of the island, which the Vandal reserved to himself.8 A yearly tribute was to be the price of this concession; but, in the decay of the kingdom under Gaiseric's successors, it is possible that this tribute was not rigorously enforced, as it is also almost certain that the reserved portion of the island, following the example of the remainder, owned the sway of Odovacar.

The other great Italian islands, Sardinia and Corsica, as well as the Balearic isles, formed part of the maritime monarchy of the Vandals, and fell eventually, when it fell, under the sway of Byzantium.

Tight hold on Raetia. North of the Alps, the dominion of Odovacar was probably more firmly established than had been that of any Italian ruler for a generation. It will be remembered that Raetia, the oblong block of territory which extended from the Alps to the Danube, formed, in the fourth and fifth centuries, a part of the 'Diocese' of Italia.9 It seems likely that under Odovacar, himself an immigrant from the Danubian lands, and able to draw to his standard many of the bravest and strongest of the adventurers who then roved through that portion of 'Varbaricum,' the passes of the Alps may have been more strongly guarded, and Raetia  p128 may have been more of an outpost for Italy, than it had been since the wave of westward migration, at the beginning of the fifth century, changed all the landmarks on the north-western frontier of the Empire. In fact, such indications as we have of the policy of Odovacar would dispose one to think that his face was turned towards the North rather than the South. Peace with the Vandals, peace, if not a very cordial peace, with Byzantium, with an energetic policy towards the Burgundians, Alamanni, Thuringians, Rugians, on whose settlements he looked down from his Raetian stronghold — this was probably the policy of the new kingdom. It accorded well herewith that, like Honorius, though not from the same motive of personal timidity, Odovacar fixed his residence at Ravenna rather than at Rome.

Conquest of Dalmatia, 481. There came a favourable opportunity for enlarging his kingdom by an extension to the east of the Hadriatic. It will be remembered that Nepos, the exiled Emperor of the West, reigned for some years, apparently as legitimate Augustus, in the province of Dalmatia. As this province belonged to the Western Empire,10 he probably owned no subjection to his brother Emperor at Constantinople, nor confessed any other inferiority than such as the ruler of a small and precariously held state must have felt in the presence of the undoubted lord of Illyricum and the Orient. We have already met with his ambassadors at the Court of Byzantium vainly entreating one legitimate Emperor to restore the other to his rightful position:11 and we also more recently have heard the offer of Theodoric the Amal to restore Nepos, if Zeno so  p129 willed, to the Western throne.12 No effectual help, however was ever really tendered by Zeno to his dethroned kinsman, and in the year 480, as has been already related,13 Nepos fell by the traitorous blows of the Counts Viator and Ovida at his villa near Salona.14 In the following year Odovacar transported an army into Dalmatia, conquered and slew Count Ovida,15 — perhaps Viator had already fallen in some robber's quarrel over the division of the plunder, — and thus avenged the death of Nepos. There can be no doubt that the result of this campaign was the annexation of Dalmatia to the dominions of Odovacar, though this fact is not expressly asserted by the annalists.16

It is worthy of remark that the Byzantine historian Procopius,17 who probably gives the strict legitimist view of the reign of Odovacar, does not consider that reign to have commenced till the death of Nepos, and thus reduces to ten years an interval which, according to the de facto view generally adopted by historians, lasted at least fourteen.18

 p130  From this survey of foreign affairs we pass, to consider the internal condition of his kingdom.

Death of Count Bracila, 477. In the first year after he had attained to supreme power he put to death a certain Count Bracila at Ravenna.19 From the form of the name we should have supposed that this was some barbarian rival, anxious to win the favour of the soldiery and to serve Odovacar as Odovacar had served Orestes. But Jordanes, whose statements, in the great dearth of authentic information, we cannot afford utterly to despise, tells us that it was done 'that he might strike terror into the Romans.'20 Perhaps, as it had been with Stilicho the Vandal and with Ricimer the Sueve, so now was it with Bracila, the son of some unknown German princeling, that the cause of Rome was most stubbornly maintained by some conspicuous soldier not himself of Roman blood.

Polity of the kingdom. Possibly the Teutonic adherents of the new ruler, dwelling on the lands wrested from the old possessors and assigned to them, may still have been governed by their old tribal laws, and may have preserved some remains of their tribal organization. Analogy points to this as a probable conclusion, but we have absolutely no information on the subject. There is no doubt however that, for the great mass of the inhabitants of Italy, the old order of things remained unchanged. Justice was still administered according to Roman laws by Roman magistrates. The taxes of the Empire were still collected by Roman Rationales. There  p131 were still Praetorian Prefects, Counts of the Sacred Largesses, Counts of the Domestics, Masters of the Offices, and all the rest of the administrative and courtly hierarchy introduced by Diocletian and fully developed under Constantine. Only, the centre and mainspring of all this elaborate organisation was no longer a Roman imperator, but a nondescript barbarian chief, King in relation to his followers, Patrician in his dealings with the Senate, a man not wearing the imperial purple nor crowned with the diadem,21 a man who could do everything in Italy except say by what right he ruled there.

Odovacar's ministers. One proof that the time of Odovacar's kingship was no mere revel of barbaric licence and anarchy is furnished by the names of Roman administrators — men of high character and position — who served him in the affairs of the state.22 Liberius. Chief among these we must place Liberius. We are not informed of the precise position which he accepted at this time, but from the terms, honourable both to the praiser and the praised, in which his faithful services to Odovacar are recounted by that king's successful rival, we may infer that it was a prominent one.23

Cassiodorus (Senior). Another name with which we are largely familiar, that of Cassiodorus, also emerges into notice in this reign. But, though some historians have been of a different opinion, it is now generally admitted that  p132 it was not 'Cassiodorus Senator,' minister of Theodoric and historian of the Goths, but his father who held office under Odovacar. The scanty details of the father's political career will be best reserved till we come to deal with the pedigree and the character of his illustrious son. It may be mentioned, however, that he seems to have successively filled the two great financial offices of Count of the Private Domains and Count of the Sacred Largesses.24

Pierius. Pierius, who was Comes Domesticorum or Captain of the Guard under Odovacar, was employed to superintend a certain transportation of Roman inhabitants from Noricum to Campania, which will be described in the next chapter. It is an interesting fact that there is still extant a deed of gift from Odovacar to this trusted minister. As the document throws some useful light on the internal condition of Italy at this period, and is really the only authentic record of the reign that we possess, it is transcribed in full at the end of this chapter.25

Pelagius. Pelagius, who filled the high office of Praetorian Prefect, does not show so fair a record as some of the other ministers of Odovacar. We hear his name only from Ennodius, the biographer of Epiphanius, the saintly bishop of Ticinum, and he assures us that the province of Liguria groaned under his oppressive exercise of coemptio, meaning probably the royal prerogative of buying provisions for the army at a fixed price below the market value. By this extortion, which Ennodius attributes to 'the  p133 long-concealed but at length forth-blazing ardour of the malice of Pelagius,' but which probably proceeded simply from the poverty of the exchequer, the possessores of Liguria found that their taxes, already unendurable, were virtually doubled, and the province was brought to the brink of ruin.26 Mission of St. Epiphanius. Epiphanius, that embodiment of good-nature, whose good offices as mediator were perpetually being invoked on behalf of some injured person or class, was appealed to by the half-desperate Ligurian 'possessors,' set off with alacrity for the court, and obtained, probably after a personal interview with Odovacar, a remission of the obnoxious imposts.

Relief of citizens of Ticinum. Nor was this the only concession made by the exchequer of the barbarian king to the prayers of the Bishop. Epiphanius had devoted himself to the rebuilding of the two churches of Ticinum (Pavia), both of which, as was previously told,27 had perished in the sack of the city by the revolted mercenaries. Notwithstanding the poverty of his ravaged diocese, and the opposition of 'that crafty serpent,' the devil, to whose agency his biographer attributes the fall of the colonnaded wall of one of the churches,28 the Bishop succeeded in raising both edifices, in a marvellously  p134 short space of time, to their old height, and perhaps in restoring them to their former splendour. An accident which occurred in the progress of the work, the fall of the workmen with a large hoisting machine from the very cupola of the second church,29 raised the Bishop's fame to a yet greater height, since the people attributed it to his prayers, efficacious to delay the ruin and to check the falling stones in mid‑air, that not a bone of one of the workmen was broken. Epiphanius, however, considerately remembered that the restoration of the ecclesiastical glories of his city would not repair the ruined fortunes of its inhabitants, — perhaps even he had been forced to solicit for the purpose contributions which were as hardly spared as the widow's mite, — and he therefore appealed for aid to Odovacar, who directed that Ticinum should enjoy a five years' exemption from tribute. The biographer adds that of all the citizens the Bishop who had obtained the boon reaped the least benefit from it, so modest was he in putting forward his own claims for exemption.30

Attitude towards the Popes. Such benefits, granted by the barbarian and heretical king at the request of the Catholic bishop, are honourable to both parties. But there are not wanting indications that, in his attitude towards the head of Catholic Italy, towards the Bishop of Rome himself, Odovacar exhibited the same spirit of wise and dignified toleration which during the larger part of his reign was  p135 the glory of his great successor. Though the detailed history of the Popes lies outside of the scope of this work, some pages must be devoted to the position and character of the Pontiffs who witnessed the establishment of barbarian rule in Italy.

Pope Hilarus, 461‑467. The stately Leo, the tamer of Attila and the hammer of Eutychian heretics, died on the 10th of November, 461, and was succeeded by Hilarus the Sardinian. The pontificate of Hilarus, which lasted nearly six years, was chiefly occupied with attempts to assert the Papal supremacy over the Churches of Gaul and Spain in a more despotic style than had yet been possible. These attempts were successful. It is a marvellous sight to see how, as the political power of Rome over the provinces of the Empire ebbs away, the ecclesiastical power of her bishop increases. The Tribune and the Centurion disappear, but the Legate of the Pope comes oftener, and is a mightier personage each time of his return. So, too, with the outward splendour of the Papal Court: it grows brighter as that of the Caesars wanes. A long page in the Lives of the Popes is filled with the catalogue of the costly gifts of gold and silver offered by Pope Hilarus, chiefly in the three oratories which he erected in the Lateran Basilica. The names of these vessels (to us scarcely intelligible), their shapes, their weights, are recorded with tedious minuteness by the enthusiastic scribe.31 But, as has been well observed,32 these gifts, purchased with the revenues of the spacious and ever-increasing Church domains, were almost a satire on the general poverty of the city. While the life of the citizens was growing  p136 harder and the civil edifices were every year putting on more of the appearance of squalor and desolation, the shrines of the martyrs and saints were glowing with ever-fresh splendour before the eyes — shall we say the envious, or the awe‑stricken eyes — of the Christian Quirites.

Pope Hilarus also made his mark on his times by withstanding a faint attempt at toleration made by the secular power. Toleration resisted, 467. The Emperor Anthemius was darkly suspected of plotting, in concert with a certain citizen of Rome named Severus, a restoration of the worship of the gods of the Capitol.33 This was perhaps mere calumny; but what was undoubted was that he was accompanied to Rome by Philotheus, an asserter of the Macedonian heresy and a denier of the divinity of the Holy Ghost. At the instigation of this Philotheus, Anthemius proposed to allow full liberty to all the sects to hold their conventicles in Rome. But the aged Hilarus, who was within a few months of his end (for he died in September 467, only five months after Anthemius' triumphal entry), thundered with so loud and clear a voice in St. Peter's against the proposed act of toleration, that the Emperor was obliged to relinquish his design and to pledge himself by a solemn oath to the Pontiff never to resume it.34

 p137  Pope Simplicius, 468‑483. The successor of Hilarus, Pope Simplicius, presided over the Church fifteen years, and in that time saw some great events. He witnessed the deposition of Augustulus, and the accession to supreme power in Italy of a Teutonic mercenary. He heard also of an event far more important in the eyes of chroniclers of the time, the publication of the Henoticon of the Emperor Zeno, that document wherein an emperor, by his sole authority, without the sanction of pope or council, endeavoured to fix the land-marks of Christian belief and to terminate the Monophysite controversy. The long pontificate of Simplicius was chiefly occupied by his struggles for ascendency against the able but somewhat unscrupulous Patriarch of Constantinople, Acacius. This struggle prepared the way for, and perhaps necessitated, the first great schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, which was opened under his successor.

Struggle for primacy with Constantinople. In this struggle we are bound to remember that there was an element of self-defence mingled with all the aggressiveness of the Roman Pontiffs. Looking back through the dim vista of the middle-ages at the steady and resistless growth of the papal power — a growth lasting over far distant centuries which, we are inclined to say, never conspired together for one single end as they did for this, — we perhaps sometimes overrate the distinctness of vision wherewith the individual pontiffs saw the goal to which they were tending, while we underrate the actual pressure of cares and perils in each successive generation by which they were surrounded. Thus, for instance, at the point of time which we have now reached, in the last quarter of the fifth century from the birth of Christ, it might  p138 sometimes seem a doubtful matter of contemporary opinion whether the Roman See would not have to descend from the high place of its dominion at the head of the Christian world. It was true that the person of the Pope was exalted by the humiliation and the eventual disappearance of the Western Caesar;35 but the see was in some danger of sharing the fallen fortunes of the city in which it was placed. Whatever might be the precise degree of support which they derived from the theory of an apostolical succession from Peter and an heirship of his power of the keys, it will not be disputed that in fact the position of the Popes at the centre of gravity of the Roman world, in the one great city to which all roads converged, enormously smoothed the way for their advance to the undisputed primacy of the Church. The whole constitution of the new religious community imitated that of the great political system in which it found itself imbedded; and, like it, depended on the recognition of great cities as centres of life and power for the countries in which they were situated. The Bishop of Antioch was head of all the Churches of Syria. The Bishop of Alexandria was head of all the Churches of Egypt. It was only natural, in the second and third centuries, that the Bishop of Rome would be head of all the Churches of the Roman Empire, which was practically conterminous with Christendom. Had Peter lived and died at Bethsaida, it is possible that the primacy of the Christian Church might have been claimed for the bishopric of Bethsaida: it is certain that the claim  p139 would not have met with so easy nor so world-wide acceptance.

Elements of weakness in the Papal position. Since, then, the position of the Roman bishops in the forefront of the Christian Church was originally connected so closely with the political ascendency of their city, it was possible, now that political ascendency was lost, that ecclesiastical supremacy might go with it. And, if the Pope lost his primacy, to no see was he more likely to lose it than to the pushing, ambitious, powerful see of Constantinople; that see whose representatives were ever at the ear of the Emperor, moulding the ecclesiastical policy of his reign; that see whose splendour was beheld by all the strangers who visited the New Rome; that see which already, in the course of little more than a century, had acquired the primacy first of Thrace, then of Pontus and Asia; that see which had just succeeded in accomplishing the subjection of the Patriarch of Antioch, and was now profiting by the religious wrangles of the Egyptians to reduce to similar dependence him of Alexandria.36

Acacius, Patriarch of Constantinople, 471‑489. Of all the many able and somewhat unscrupulous men who ever stood in the ambo of the great church at Constantinople perhaps none was cleverer and none bolder than Acacius. We have already seen him37 opposing the usurper Basiliscus, restoring Zeno, and guiding the pen of that Emperor as he traced the characters of the great Henoticon, that instrument  p140 which, as he no doubt hoped, would be looked back to by posterity as a more triumphant 'End of Controversy' than the Tome which the great Leo himself had presented to the fathers of Chalcedon. Now that our point of view is transferred to Rome from Constantinople, we can perhaps see a little more clearly what reasons Acacius had, apart from any deep spiritual interest of his own in the subject-matter of the controversy, for desiring its settlement on the basis of the Henoticon. The Council of Chalcedon had by its twenty-eighth canon (a canon passed, it is said, after the departure of Leo's legates and of the majority of the bishops) rested the primacy of Old Rome solely on the political ground, making no mention of the commission to Peter, and had assigned the same prerogatives to the Bishop of New Rome, leaving apparently but an honorary precedence to the Bishop of the elder capital.38 Since this was the judgment of Chalcedon, a judgment which, when the grounds of it were considered, would evidently, in a very few years, through the political changes that were going forward, give the see of Constantinople priority over that of Rome itself, the authority of the Council of Chalcedon must be upheld, and therefore neither Basiliscus nor any  p141 other emperor should be allowed to lapse into mere Monophysitism. But, on the other hand, since the good-will of the occupants of the thrones of Antioch and Alexandria was necessary to the success of the designs of Acacius, since the doctrine of the single nature of Christ was popular in those capitals and the name of the Council of Chalcedon was abhorred by very many, it would be wise to readmit them to communion by a scheme which should avoid the actual mention of the double nature of Christ and the express ratification of the decrees of the Third Council. With this object the Henoticon was framed, and for a generation or two seemed likely to be successful. In this, as in most ecclesiastical controversies, words were the all‑important things. The personal vanity of the combatants must be conciliated, their pretensions to knowledge of Divine things must be respected: if these could be saved harmless, the faith might take care of itself.

Struggle of Simplicius with Acacius. Of course, just as much interest as Acacius Bishop of Constantinople had in upholding the Henoticon, just so much had Simplicius Bishop of Rome in destroying it, and the troubles of the see of Alexandria afforded him a useful lever for the purpose. 477
Timothy the Weasel was dead. His rival, the other Timothy, called Solofaciolus, died five years later. Acacius determined to put Peter the Stammerer, a well-known follower of the Weasel's, on the episcopal throne of Alexandria, the Henoticon being the basis of union between the two Churches, by the Bosporus and by the Nile. At first the plan succeeded. Peter the Stammerer subscribed the Henoticon, reigned as bishop at Alexandria, and was during his  p142 eight years' episcopate the useful tool of his Byzantine benefactor. But there was a rival candidate for the see, one John Talaias, who had been actually elected on the death of Timothy, but who had, so it was said, solemnly sworn to Zeno that he would never accept the dignity. He was also charged with simony and with misappropriation of the treasures of the Church. What was more undoubted, and perhaps more to the point, was that he was a friend and dependent of Illus, who was now falling into disgrace at Constantinople, and was indeed on the very verge of rebellion. All these circumstances made it easy for Acacius to nullify the election of Talaias and drive him into exile from Alexandria. He fled, however, to Rome, and there, in Pope Simplicius, found a willing listener to all his grievances against the Patriarch of Constantinople. Once, twice, even four times did Simplicius write to Acacius insisting more and more peremptorily that he should withdraw from the communion of Peter the Stammerer, that rebel against the decrees of Chalcedon, and should not hinder the return of Talaias to his see. Acacius had not the courtesy to reply to any of these letters. While affairs were still in this position the fifteen years' pontificate of Simplicius came to an end. Death of Simplicius. He died on the 2nd of March, 483, and his relics are still exhibited to the people once a year in his native town of Tivoli. The Pope who, born by the waters of 'headlong Anio,' had doubtless as a boy often wandered through the vast villa of Hadrian, then still in its original glory, had lived to see Rome itself, the Rome of Horace and of Hadrian, pass under the yoke of a petty chieftain of Herulian mercenaries.

 p143  Singular decrees of Odovacar, On the death of Simplicius,39 when the clergy and people of Rome were assembled in the church of St. Peter to elect his successor, one of the Roman ministers of King Odovacar made his appearance among them. This was Basilius, perhaps the same Caecina Basilius whom Sidonius had chosen for his patron twenty‑six years before, when he visited Rome,40 and whose somewhat reserved but honest character he described in writing to his friends. He now filled the office of Praetorian Prefect to the barbarian King — another indication that in the civil government of Italy Odovacar retained the forms of the imperial hierarchy of office unaltered. Addressing the assembled multitude, as to election of new Pope, Basilius informed them that they must not presume to elect a new Bishop of Rome without the concurrence of his master. This announcement probably only meant that all such rights, not of nomination but of veto, as the emperors had wielded previously to 476, must now be deemed to have survived to Odovacar. and alienation of Church property. But he then proceeded to read a decree forbidding the new Pope, whoever he might be, to alienate any of the lands or ornaments of the Roman Church, and in case of disobedience, threatening the buyer with civil penalties, and the seller — strange menace from a layman and an Arian — with the spiritual penalty of anathema. We know nothing of any special proceedings of Simplicius which may have prompted this decree. It seems to have been accepted without murmuring at the time, though, nineteen years after, it was  p144 denounced by a similar assembly held in the same place, as an unhallowed interference on the part of a lay ruler with the affairs of the Church, and the assembled clergy with difficulty, while the decree was being read, restrained their indignation at the insolent tone of the fallen layman who had dared to interfere with a priest's monopoly of anathema.41

Pope Felix II (III), 483‑492. Embassy to Constantinople. The new Pope, Felix II,42 threw himself heartily into the quarrel with Constantinople. He sent two legates, Vitalis and Misenus, with a letter to the Emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople, haughtily commanding them to desist from all further proceedings in the matter of the recognition of Peter the Stammerer. The legates were imprisoned as soon as they arrived at the Hellespont, their papers were taken from them, and they were threatened with death unless they would obey the Emperor's orders and recognise Peter as Patriarch of Alexandria. On the other hand, gifts and promotion were to be theirs if they complied with the imperial mandate. The legates, who were evidently weak and timid men, submitted to the coercion and the blandishments of the dread Augustus, and communicated with Acacius at a solemn festival at which the name of the Stammerer was read in the Diptychs, or tablets containing the roll-call of orthodox prelates in communion with the see of Constantinople. By this concession they of course surrendered the whole matter in dispute. Their master, Felix, was informed of this disloyalty by his  p145 faithful allies, the so‑called 'sleepless' monks of Constantinople, who, perhaps from pure conviction, were passionate adherents of the Council of Chalcedon. On the return of his legates 484 he held a synod at Rome (no doubt attended only by the Italian bishops), and therein condemned the traitorous conduct of his legates, deposed them from their sees, and even excluded them from the holy Table. He went further, and the Council accompanied him. Excommunication of Acacius. By an unheard‑of stretch of power they condemned Acacius as promoter of heresy, pronounced him deposed from his episcopal office, and cut him off 'as a putrid limb' from the body of the Church.43

The sentence served on Acacius. Next came the question by whom this sentence was to be served on the subject of it, on the great Acacius, in all his pride of place and strong in the favour of his sovereign. Tutus, a Defensor of the Church, was despatched on this errand; and, notwithstanding the vigilance of the imperial guards, arrived in safety at Constantinople. There monkish fanaticism relieved him of the most dangerous part of his task. 'One of the Sleepless ones fastened the fatal parchment to the dress of Acacius as he was about to officiate in the church. Acacius quietly proceeded in the holy ceremony. Suddenly he paused: with calm, clear voice he ordered the name of Felix, Bishop of Rome, to be struck out of the roll of bishops in communion with his Church. The ban of Rome was encountered by the ban of Constantinople.'44  p146 Some of the monks who had dared to affix such a stigma on the all‑powerful Patriarch were killed by his indignant followers, others were wounded, and the rest were shut up in prison.45

The schism begun. This scene in the great Church of the Divine Wisdom at Constantinople was the commencement of the first great schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, — 484‑519 a schism which lasted thirty-five years, and covered almost the whole period of the reign of Theodoric. Several overtures towards reconciliation were made. One by one all the chief actors in the scene were removed by death, Acacius in 489, Zeno in 491, Felix in 492. But the see of Rome was inflexible; she might 'spare the fallen,' but she would 'war down the proud.'46 There could be no peace with Byzantium till the name of Acacius, who had dared to strike a Roman pontiff out of the diptychs, was struck out of the diptychs itself, nor till Peter the Stammerer's accursed name was also expunged: all which did not take place till the year 519.

It is possible that the quarrel between the two sees of Rome and Constantinople reacted on the political relations of Italy and the Empire. It is certain that these relations became rapidly more unfriendly soon after the mutual excommunication of the pontiffs, and continued so till the end of the reign of Odovacar.

 p147  Zeno's attitude towards Odovacar. At the outset it is probable that Zeno did not view the Teutonic mercenary's accession to power with any great dissatisfaction. In Augustulus he could have no interest: for his kinsman Nepos his sympathy was of a very languid character. His vanity was flattered by the fact47 that 'all the ornaments of the palace,' including no doubt the diadem and the purple robe, were sent by Odovacar to Constantinople. The story of the embassies from Italy to Byzantium told by Malchus48 illustrates that aspect of the case in which it was possible for the Eastern Caesar to look upon the recent events in Italy with not unmingled dissatisfaction. It was not unpleasant to hear from the lips of a Roman Senator that Italy did not need a separate royalty, since Zeno's own imperial sway would suffice for both ends of the earth. And, however little the facts of the case might correspond with this deferential theory, Odovacar suing with some humility for the title of Patrician, Odovacar representing himself as in some sort a lieutenant of the Emperor, presented a not unwelcome spectacle to the imperial vanity. Add to this, that at any rate for the first three or four years of the reign of Zeno, Onoulf the brother of Odovacar, the client and the assassin of Harmatius, was a soldier of fortune about the Court, probably a connecting link between the Augustus and his brother. We can thus understand why, down to about 480 or 481, the Courts of Ravenna and of Constantinople may have regarded one another with no very unfriendly feelings.

481 The conquest of Dalmatia may have told both ways on this friendly relation. The barbarian's promptitude  p148 in avenging the death of her cousin Nepos would recommend him to the favour of the Empress Ariadne; but, on the other hand, by the addition of Dalmatia to his dominions he became a disagreeably near neighbour to the lord of the Lower Danube.

484 Then came, almost contemporaneously and not unconnected with one another, the schism between the two sees and the revolt of Illus. John Talaias, the fugitive patriarch of Alexandria, the client of the Roman popes, was, as we have seen, also a client of Illus, and may very probably have been the medium of communications between that general and Odovacar. Onoulf also, perhaps at this time, quitted the service of Zeno, since three years later we find him commanding his brother's armies in Noricum. But, as our information concerning this alienation between the Emperor and the King is very meagre, and is all furnished by one author (Joannes Antiochenus), it will be best to give it in his own words:—

Understanding between Illus and Odovacar. 'Illus therefore, having gone into open revolt, proclaimed Marcian Emperor, and sent to Odoacer the tyrannus of Western Rome, and to the rulers of Persia and Armenia: and he also prepared a navy. Odoacer, however, replied that he could ally himself with him, but the others promised alliance as soon as he could join his forces with theirs.'49

Joannes then describes the revolt of Illus, its early successes and subsequent decline, and continues:—

'In the consulship of Longinus [486, two years after the date of the previous extract], when Theodoric was again disposed for revolt and was ravaging the districts  p149 round Thrace, Zeno stirred up against Odoacer the nation of the Rugians, since he was apprised that the latter was making arrangements to ally himself with Illus. But when Odoacer's troops had obtained a brilliant victory [over the Rugians], and moreover had sent gifts to Zeno out of the spoils, he disclaimed his allies and professed satisfaction with what had been done.'50

Embroilment with the Rugians. The story of the Rugian war, taking us as it does out of Italy into the lands of the Middle Danube, and opening up some interesting glimpses into the life of the new barbarian states founded amidst the ruins of the Empire, must be told in the next chapter. But meanwhile it is important to note that already in the year 486 the friendly relations between Odovacar and Zeno had been replaced by scarcely veiled enmity; and thus the mind of the Emperor was already tuned to harmony with that fierce harangue against 'the usurped authority of a king of Rugians and Turcilingians' which, according to Jordanes, Theodoric delivered before him some time in the year 488.

The Author's Notes:

1 See vol. II p515.

2 It will be seen, from the note at the end of this chapter, that this is the true contemporary spelling of the name.

3 This seems to be the meaning of 'Metuebat parentes exercitus, quem meminisse originis suae admonebat honor alienus; nam ire ad nutum suum legiones et remeare pavore algidus imperabat. Suspecta enim est obedientia quae famulatur indignis,' &c. (Panegyricus, p172, ed. Migne).

4 Epist. III to the Bishops of Dardania (assigned to the year 492): 'Ubi primum respirare fas est a continuorum tempestate bellorum, quae in illis provinciis, vel in istis temporibus qualitas incessanter exercuit, cunctos per Dardaniam Domini sacerdotes fraternae sollicitudinis caritate duximus alloquendos.'

Epist. VII (to the Bishops in Picenum): 'Barbaricis hactenus dolebamus incursibus maxime vicinas Urbi provincias et bellorum saeva tempestate vastari.'

This last letter is noticeable because there are several indications that the settlements, first of Odovacar's followers and afterwards of the Ostrogoths, were particularly numerous in Picenum.

5 See vol. I p714.

6 We get this important but obscurely described event from Candidus (as abstracted by Photius): Καὶ στασιασάντων αὐτῷ (Ὀδοάκρῳ) τῶν δυσμικῶν Γαλατῶν, διαπρεσβευσαμένων τε αὐτῶν καὶ Ὀδοάκρου πρὸς Ζήνωνα, Ὀδοάκρῳ μᾶλλον ὁ Ζήνων ἀπέκλινεν (ap. Müller, IV.136).

Thayer's Note: Photius, Bibl. 79. In the translation by J. H. Freese: "But the western Gauls rebelled against him, and both they and Odoacer sent ambassadors to Zeno, who rather favoured Odoacer."

7 Procopius, De Bello Gothico, I.12 (p64, ed. Bonn). The date of Euric's conquest of Provence is a much-disputed point.

8 Victor Vitensis, I.4: 'Siciliam Odoacro Italiae regi . . . tributario jure concessit [Geisericus], ex qua ei Odoacer singulis quibusque temporibus ut domino tributa dependit, aliquam tamen sibi reservans partem.' The sense seems to require that reservans should qualify Geisericus: otherwise to couple it with Odoacer would have been the more natural construction.

9 See vol. I pp619 and 623.

10 See vol. I p677.

11 Vol. II pp525‑527.

12 See the preceding chapter. The words of Malchus are, Ἔτοιμος δέ, εἰ προστάξειε βασιλεύς, καὶ εἰς Δαλματίαν ἀπελθεῖν, ὡς Νέπωτα κατάξων (p129, ed. Müller).

13 Vol. II p501.

14 'Nepos, quem dudum Orestes imperio abdicaverat. Viatoris et Ovidae comitum suorum insidiis, haud longe a Salonis, sua in villa occisus est' (Marcellinus Comes, s. a. 480).

15 'Hoc consule Odoacer in Dalmatiis Odivam [sic] vincit et perimit' (Cassiodorus, s. a. 481).

16 See the Deed of Gift to Pierius at the end of this chapter, in which Odovacar bestows on Pierius the island of Meleda off the coast of Dalmatia.

17 De Bello Gotthico, I.1: Τὴν τυραννίδα ἐς ἔτη ἐκρατύνετο δέκα.

18 From 476 to 490, when Odovacar was finally shut up in Ravenna. Seventeen years (476 to 493) if we reckon to his death. This observation is made by Pallmann, II.351.

19 Marcellinus, s. a. 477; Jordanes, De Reb. Get. XLVI.

20 'Interea Odoacer rex gentium omnem Italiam subjugatam ut terrorem suum Romanis injiceret, mox initio regni sui Braciliam comitem apud Ravennam occidit;' Jord. De Reb. Get. XLVI.

21 'Nomenque regis Odoacer assumpsit, cum tamen nec purpura nec regalibus uteretur insignibus;' Cassiod. Chronicon, s. a. 476.

22 Pallmann (Völkerwanderung, II.332) dwells, as he has a right to do, on the attestation thus furnished to the civilised character of Odovacar's rule.

23 See Cassiodori Variarum, II.16.

24 For some account of the duties of these offices see vol. I pp616 and 611.

25 See Note B, On the Deed of Gift to Pierius.

26 'Nam coemptionum enormitate gravissima tributa duplicabat, reddebatque onus geminum, quod simplex sustinere non poterat' (Vita S. Epiphanii, p224, ed. Migne). Though comparatio is the technical word for what our lawyers call 'purveyance' (see Cod. Th. XI.15), coemptio is also used for it (Cod. Th. XIV.16.3), and I have no doubt that it bears that meaning here.

27 Vol. II p521.

28 'Extemplo alterius ecclesiae tum columnatus repente paries impulsu callidi serpentis ejectus est.' The 'columnatus paries' is well illustrated by the earliest churches of Rome and Ravenna.

Thayer's Note: Presumably this means the column partitions between the nave and the side aisles commonly seen in these churches.

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Rome, S. Giorgio al Velabro.

29 'Ab ipso templi tholo artifices cum ingenti machina corruerunt: nullus tamen eorum aut crure debiles factus est, aut aliqua membrorum parte truncatus.' We have another interesting architectural hint in the word 'tholus' (cupola).

30 I presume that this is the meaning of 'ad quae beneficia per singulos dispertienda, tanta se castitate continuit, ut nemo ex his minus acciperet, quam is quo fuerant impetrante concessa.'

31 Anastasius Bibliothecarius, ap. Muratori, III.120.

32 By Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Rom, I.222‑3.

33 Damascius, ap. Photium, Cod. CCXLII. (Migne, Patrol. CIII.1266 and 1275).

34 We learn this from the letter of Pope Gelasius to the Bishops of Dardania (Migne, Patrol. LIX.74): 'Sanctae memoriae quoque papa Hilarus Anthemium imperatorem, cum Philotheus Macedonianus ejus familiaritate suffultus diversarum conciliabula nova sectarum in urbem vellet inducere, apud beatum Petrum apostolum palam ne id fieret clara voce constrinxit, in tantum ut non ea facienda cum interpositione sacramenti idem promitteret Imperator.'

35 This obvious result of the events of 476 has been touched upon in a previous volume, II.531.

36 These successive aggrandisements of the See of Constantinople are traced by Bower (Hist. of the Popes, II.64‑68). A reference to the maps in my first volume (at p185 and p237) will make his statements somewhat clearer.

37 See chap. II.

38 'Rightly did the Fathers concede its privileges to the throne of the Elder Rome, because that city bears royal sway. And influenced by the same aim, the 150 most religious bishops [assembled at Chalcedon] have allotted the same privileges to the most holy throne of the New Rome, rightly judging that the city which is honoured by the presence of the Emperor and the Senate, and which in political matters enjoys the same privileges as the elder Queen-City, ought also in ecclesiastical affairs to be glorified as she is, being second after her.'

39 The decree about the Papal election was drawn up before the death of Simplicius, but may not have been communicated to the people till after that event.

40 See vol. II p457.

41 I take my account of this decree from Hefele, Concilien­geschichte, II.644.

42 Called by some writers Felix III. The difference arises from the doubt whether Felix II (so called), the rival of Liberius (355‑365), was a regularly chosen Pope or not.

Thayer's Note: The Catholic Encyclopedia (q.v.) calls him Pope St. Felix III.

43 Mansi, Concilia, VII.1140.

44 I have taken a few sentences here from Milman's History of Latin Christianity. I have some doubts, however, whether the scene of the counter-anathema was quite so dramatic as he describes. Theophanes (eighth century) seems to be the only authority for this version of the story. Contemporary writers, Liberatus and Nicephorus, are colder and less pictorial.

45 Nicephorus, Eccl. Hist. XVI.17.

46 'Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.'

Thayer's Note: The famous tag is from Vergil, Aeneid, VI.853.

47 Vouched for by the Anonymus Valesii, § 64.

48 See vol. II pp525‑527.

49 Joannes Antiochenus, fr. 214 (p620 in the 4th vol. of Müller).

50 Ὁ Ζήνων πρὸς τὸν Ὀδόακρον τὸ τῶν Ῥόγων ἐπανέστησε γένος, ὡς ἔγνω τοῦτον πρὸς τὴν Ἰλλοῦ συμμαχίαν παρασκευαζόμενον. Λαμπρὰν δὲ ἀναδησαμένων νίκην τῶν περὶ τὸν Ὀδόακρον, πρὸς δὲ καὶ πεμψάντων δῶρα τῷ Ζήνωνι τῶν λαφύρων, ἀποπροσποιησάμενος συνήδετο τοῖς πραχθεῖσιν. Joan. Ant. fr. 214 (p621, Müller).

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