Short URL for this page:
https://bit.ly/2ed6HODIHI9


[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous chapter]
Book VI
Chapter 8

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

by
Thomas Hodgkin


2nd edition
Oxford University Press
London
1896

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.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

next:

[image ALT: link to next chapter]
Book VI
Chapter 10

Book VI (continued)

Vol. V
p389
Chapter IX

The Papal Peace

Authorities

Sources: —

Gregorii Epistolae, Books V‑IX

Paulus Diaconus, Book IV.

The year 595 a crisis in the history of Pope Gregory. The year 595 has been generally looked upon as a turning-point in the history of Gregory's papacy. It was not only in that year that he began seriously to prepare his scheme for the conversion of England, but it was also then that he formally entered the lists to dispute the pretensions of the Patriarch of Constantinople. For we must always bear in mind the double character of the warfare which a Bishop of Rome, at that period of the world's history, deemed himself bound to wage. Locally, as the first citizen of Rome, as one who looked forth from her walls on the Sabine hills and the Ciminian forest, he felt himself to be, as he continually repeats, 'between the swords of the Lombards;'1 but, Contest with the see of Constantinople. ecclesiastically, he had to defend the so‑called rights of Peter, Prince of the Apostles, against the ever-menacing encroachments of the see of Constantinople. It has been already shown,2 and the  p390 proof need not be repeated here, how the claim of Old Rome to the ecclesiastical primacy of the world was interwoven with her old Imperial dominion, and how this claim was threatened when Constantinople became the political centre of the Empire, and her bishops the intimate friends and spiritual advisers of the Emperor. Now, the very fact that Italy was becoming more and more hopelessly lost to the Empire, and that the Bishop of Rome, if he retained any connection whatever with 'the Roman Republic,' must live a most precarious life 'between the swords of the Lombards,' to some extent imperilled even his ecclesiastical position. Pope and Exarch already found their interests diverging; those interests would probably diverge yet more in future. Yet greater in all probability would be the ever-widening gulf between Pope and Emperor; while, on the other hand, the Bishop of Constantinople, living under the shadow of the Imperial greatness, and with the hard fate of the outspoken Chrysostom ever present to his mind, tended more and more to become the mere private chaplain of the Byzantine Augustus. No wonder, therefore, that whenever a dispute arose between the First and the Second in authority in the Universal Church, the Emperor was always ready to look askance at the pretensions of Rome and to favour those of Constantinople.

John the Faster claims the title of Ecumenical Bishop. The holy man, John the Faster, whose elevation to the patriarchal throne Gregory had witnessed in 582 during his residence at Constantinople, had revived for his own benefit a dormant claim to a title which had been conceded, as a matter of courtesy, to some of his predecessors, that of Ecumenical, or Universal,  p391 Bishop.3 In the year 588 (two years before Gregory's accession) a synod was held at Constantinople in reference to the affairs of the see of Antioch, and when the Acts of this synod were received at Rome they were found to contain frequent mention of the name of John of Constantinople, with the unwelcome addition 'Universal Bishop.' Against this title Pelagius II, probably by the advice of Gregory, who knew the temper of the Eastern patriarch, energetically protested, forbade his responsalis to communicate with the usurping prelate, and even went so far as to declare the Acts of the Council null and void by reason of this irregularity.

Apparently the controversy slumbered during the first five years of Gregory's pontificate; but in 595, John the Faster, with an ingenuity in annoyance such as might be looked for in a man so holy and so abstinent, addressed to his brother of Rome a letter in which 'almost in every line he called himself 'Ecumenical Patriarch.'4 By this letter all the wrath of Gregory — not naturally a sweet-tempered man, and already sufficiently tortured by dyspepsia, gout and  p392 Lombards — was aroused against the aspiring Patriarch. The messenger who was speedily despatched to the Imperial court took with him a heavy packet of letters, all relating to this 'wicked word'5 ecumenical.6

Gregory's angry remonstrances to John the Faster. To the offending Patriarch himself Gregory wrote, as he says, 'sweetly and humbly admonishing him to cure his desire of vainglory.'7 Yet even this sweet and humble letter8 cannot have been altogether pleasant to receive.

'I am astonished,' says the Pope, 'that you, who  p393 fled in order that you might escape the honour of the Patriarchate, should now bear yourself in it so proudly that you will be thought to have coveted it with ambitious desire. In the days of my predecessor, Pelagius, a letter was sent to you in which the acts of the synod about Bishop Gregory were disallowed because of the proud title attributed to you therein, and the Archdeacon sent to the Emperor was forbidden to celebrate mass with you on account of it. That prohibition I now repeat: my responsalis Sabinianus is not to communicate with you till you have amended this error.

'The Apostle Paul rebuked the spirit which would shout, "I am of Paul and I of Apollos." You are reviving that spirit and rending the unity of the body of Christ. The Council of Chalcedon offered this title of universalis to the Roman Pontiff, but he refused to accept it, lest he should seem thereby to derogate from the honour of his brother bishops.9

'It is the last hour: Pestilence and the sword are raging in the world. Nation is rising against nation, the whole fabric of things is being shaken. Cities with their inhabitants are swallowed up by the yawning earth. All the prophecies are being fulfilled. The King of Pride is nigh at hand, and — inexpressible shame — priests are serving in his army. Yes, they are raising the haughty neck of pride who were chosen that they might set an example of humility.

'Our Lord humbled Himself for our sakes, and He who was inconceivably great wore the lowly form  p394 of manhood, yet we bishops are imitating, not His humility, but the pride of His great foe. Remember that He said to His disciples, "Be not called Rabbi, for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." He said, "Woe to the world because of offences! Woe to him by whom the offence cometh!" Lo! from this wicked word of pride offence has come, and the hearts of all the brethren are provoked to stumbling by it.'

Gregory then quotes the words of Christ (Matt. xviii.15‑17) about telling a brother his fault 'between him and thee alone,' and continues,

'I have, by my responsalis, once and twice told you your fault, and am now writing to you myself. If I am despised in this endeavour to correct you, it will only remain to call in the Church.

'I have received the very sweet and kind letters of your Holiness about the causes of John and Athanasius,10 about which, with the Lord's help, I will reply to you in my next, because under the weight of so great tribulations, surrounded as I am by the swords of the barbarians, I am so oppressed that I cannot say much, nay can hardly breathe.'

So ran the letter to the arch-offender. To his represen­tative at Constanti­nople. To his responsalis, Sabinianus, the Pope wrote,11 saying that he had addressed his most reverend brother John with a proper admixture of frankness and courtesy,12 but, if he persisted, another letter would be addressed to him which his pride would not relish.

'But I hope in Almighty God,' said Gregory, 'that his hypocrisy  p395 will soon be brought to nought by the Supernal Majesty. I marvel, however, that he should have been able so to deceive you, dear friend, that you should allow our Lord the Emperor to be persuaded to write, admonishing me to live in peace with the Patriarch. If he would act justly, he should rather admonish him to give up that proud title, and then there would be peace between us at once. You little thought, I can see, how craftily this was managed by our aforesaid brother John. Evidently he did it in order to put me in this dilemma. Either I must listen to our Lord the Emperor, and so confirm the Patriarch in his vanity, or not listen, and so rouse the Imperial mind against me.

'But we shall steer a straight course in this matter, fearing none save God Almighty. Wherefore, dear friend, tremble before no man; for the truth's sake despise all whom you may see exalting themselves against the truth in this world; confide in the favour of Almighty God and the help of the blessed Peter; remember the voice of Truth which says, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world;" and do with fullest authority, as from us, whatever has to be done in this affair.

'For after we have found that we could in no way be defended [by the Greeks] from the swords of our enemies, after we have lost, for our devotion to the Republic, silver, gold, slaves and raiment, it is too disgraceful that we should, through them, lose our faith also.13 But to consent to that wicked word is  p396 nothing else than to lose our faith. Wherefore, as I have written to you in previous letters, you must never presume to communicate with him.'

To the Emperor. It will be seen from this letter that the aspiring Patriarch had invoked the assistance of the Emperor against the Pope, even before the latter had received the extreme provocation of the letter which bristled with the obnoxious word 'ecumenical.' Evidently John of Constantinople had represented his brother of Rome — not altogether without truth — as exacting and quarrelsome; and Maurice, sincerely desirous for peace in the Church, had addressed Pope Gregory in language similar to that which Constantine had employed to the contending prelates at Nicaea. To Maurice, therefore, the Pope addressed a long and eloquent letter,14 praising his zeal for the peace of the Church, but insisting that the whole trouble arose from the pride of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Yes, the pride of the clergy was the real cause of the disasters of the Empire, of the triumphs of the barbarians. To disarm criticism, Gregory appears to associate himself with the sins of which he accuses his rival, but this is evidently a mere rhetorical artifice, and when he says 'we,' he means the obnoxious Faster alone.

'When we leave the position which befits us, and devise for ourselves unbecoming honours, we ally our own sins to the forces of the barbarians; we depress  p397 the strength of the Republic and sharpen against us the swords of her enemies. How can we excuse ourselves, who are preaching one thing to our flocks, and ourselves practising the opposite? Our bones are worn away with fasting and our hearts are swollen with pride: our body is clothed with vile raiment, and in the elation of our souls we surpass the purple of the emperors. We lie in ashes, and we nourish proud fancies. Teachers of the lowly and generals of pride, we hide a wolf's teeth behind a sheep's visage. But God sees our spirits and is putting it into the heart of the Most Pious Emperor to restore peace to the Church.

'This is not my cause, but the cause of God Himself. It was to Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, that the Lord said, "Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my Church." He who received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he to whom the power of binding and loosing was entrusted, was never called the Universal Apostle; and yet that most holy man, my fellow-bishop John, strives to get himself called the Universal Bishop. When I see this I am compelled to cry out: "O tempora! O mores!"

"Lo! all Europe is handed over to the power of the barbarians; cities are destroyed, villages overthrown, provinces depopulated; no tiller cultivates the soil; idolaters rage and rule, daily murdering the faithful; and yet the priests, who alone should have thrown themselves on the pavement and wept in sackcloth and ashes, are seeking for themselves names of vanity and flaunting new and profane titles."

The Pope then enlarges on the undoubted fact that Bishops of Constantinople had been more than once  p398 convicted of heresy,15 and after touching on some of the arguments brought forward in the accompanying letters, he tries to excite the Emperor's resentment by hinting that the hated word implied a covert attack on his own crown and dignity.a

'We are all suffering from the scandal of this thing. My Most Pious Lord must coerce this proud man, who is disobeying the canons of the Church, and is even setting himself up against the honour of your Imperial dignity by this proud private word.

'Let the author of this scandal return to a right life and all the quarrels of bishops will cease. I am myself the servant of priests, so long as they live priest-like lives. But as for this man, who in his swelling vainglory raises his neck against Almighty God and against the statutes of the fathers, I trust in God that he shall never bend my neck, no, not with swords.'

So wrote the first citizen of Old Rome to the Monarch of the New; and his words, though uttered in the bland tone of the Churchman, had in them a ring which reminds us of Regulus and Coriolanus.

To the Empress. Lastly, Gregory wrote to the Empress Constantina,16 thanking her for having thrown her influence on the side of St. Peter against some who were proudly humble and feignedly meek. For this she would be rewarded both in this life and in the life to come, when she would find the benefit of having made him who had the power of binding and loosing, her debtor.

'Do not let any hypocrisy,' he says, 'prevail against the truth. There are some who, by sweet speeches and fair words, deceive the hearts of the simple:  p399 shabby in dress, but proud in heart, they seem as if they despised everything in the world, yet they are scheming to obtain all this world's treasures. They profess themselves the unworthiest of men, yet they are trying to acquire titles which proclaim them worthier than all others.

'I have received my Most Pious Lord's letters, telling me to live peaceably with my brother John. It is quite fitting that a religious Emperor should send such instructions to his bishops. But when my brother, by a new and unheard‑of presumption, calls himself "Universal Bishop," it is a hard thing in my Most Serene Lord to correct, not him whose pride is the cause of all the trouble, but me, who am defending the rights of the Apostle Peter and the canons of the Church.

'In my brother's pride I can only see a sign that the days of Antichrist are at hand. He seems to imitate him who said, "I will set my throne above the stars of heaven: I will sit on the mount of the covenant on the sides of the north, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. I will be like the Most High."17 Do not suffer this perverse word to be used. Perhaps the sins of Gregory may have deserved such a humiliation, but Peter has not sinned; and it is Peter who will be the sufferer. Again I say: see that the honour paid by your pious predecessors to Peter suffers no diminution, and Peter will be your helper here in all things, and hereafter will discharge your sins.

It is now seven and twenty years18 that we have  p400 been living in this City between the swords of the Lombards. How much we have had to pay daily from the Church's treasury, in order that we might be able even to live among them, cannot be calculated. Briefly, I will say that as my Lords have at Ravenna an officer called Paymaster19 of the First Army of Italy, who, as necessity arises, provides for the daily expenditure, so in this City in such matters I am their Paymaster.20 Yet this Church, which is incessantly spending such vast sums on the clerics, on the monasteries, on the poor, on the people, and on the Lombards also, must be further oppressed by the affliction of the other Churches, all of which groan over this man's pride, though they do not dare to express their feelings.'

Such was the tenor of the letter to the Empress. Let it not be thought that in drawing so largely from this correspondence we are devoting too much time to a mere ecclesiastical squabble, which might find a place in the history of the Church but scarcely concerns the history of Italy. Besides its valuable incidental allusions to the miseries inflicted by the ravages of the Lombards, this correspondence is of truly 'ecumenical' importance in its bearing on the relations of East and West, of the Tiber and the Bosphorus. It was the growing estrangement between the Churches which prepared the way for the separation of the Empires. Had there been any real cordiality through the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries  p401 between Pope and Patriarch, it is not probable that the descendant of a Frankish Mayor of the Palace would ever have been hailed as Augustus in the streets of Rome.

In this particular case the dispute between the two sees ended in something like a drawn battle. In the very year in which the fierce correspondence quoted above had taken place, perhaps only a few weeks after Gregory's angriest letter had arrived at Constantinople, Death of John the Faster, Sept. 2, 595. John the Faster died. When the Universal Conqueror had thus mowed down the Universal Bishop, one element which had lent peculiar acrimony to the dispute, namely, the emulation of austerity between the two chief combatants, disappeared. The Emperor, sincerely anxious for the peace of the Church, lingered for some time over the choice of a successor to the Faster, and at length selected Cyriacus, a man apparently of gentle and unassuming nature, who had been a friend of Gregory during his residence at Constantinople. The new Patriarch's Embassy to Rome, Oct. 596. The two responsales21 whom the new Patriarch despatched to Rome were cordially received, and unhesitatingly admitted to communion with the Pontiff; 'for why,' as Gregory himself argued,22 'should the fact that I forbade my representative to accept the sacred mysteries at the hands of one who had fallen into the sin of pride and elation, or who had failed to correct that sin in others, prevent his ministers from receiving them at the hands of one who, like myself, has not fallen into that sin?' After five months' residence at Rome the messengers of Constantinople were at length reluctantly and affectionately dismissed.

 p402  Further communications. To the Emperor Gregory wrote,23 thanking him for his delay in choosing John's successor, and for his final appointment of Cyriacus. To the new Patriarch himself the Pope wrote a few letters,24 in a gradually diminishing tone of affection, as it became more and more manifest that the 'wicked word' Ecumenical, though not obtruded by him, would not be abandoned. But though Gregory still emphatically asserted that whoever called himself 'Ecumenical Bishop' was the precursor of Antichrist, the correspondence on the subject lost much of its former heat and we may perhaps say that, the title having been claimed by Cyriacus for the honour of Constantinople, and protested against by Gregory for the honour of Rome, the personal relations of the two Patriarchs became friendly, if not cordial.

Issue of the Controversy. The issue of the controversy, which shall be finally stated here, was so illogical as to be almost amusing. Notwithstanding a decree of Phocas, the successor of Maurice, confirming in strong terms the primacy of the see of Rome, the Patriarchs of Constantinople continued to use the objectionable title, and at length the Roman Pontiffs, finding that they could not inhibit the use of it by their rivals, decided to adopt it themselves. Pope and Patriarch both 'Ecumenical Bishops.' About the year 682 the Popes began to style themselves, and to allow others to style them, Ecumenical Bishops or Ecumenical Popes; and in the two succeeding centuries the title, as used by or of the bishops of Rome, was of frequent occurrence. The world had thus the curious spectacle of two rulers of the Church, each of whom claimed universal jurisdiction, though not yet at open war with one another;  p403 and the Church of Rome saw Pope after Pope assuming a title which, in the judgment of their greatest predecessor, was a distinct note of the precursor of Antichrist.25

So much for the ecclesiastical war of Patriarchates. We return to the endeavours which Gregory was making, with praiseworthy perseverance, to secure peace to Italy. Gregory's complaints of the Exarch Romanus, June 1, 595. Throughout the year 595, and at least the first half of 596, he was sore in spirit because of the continued hostility of the Exarch Romanus.

'Most holy brother,' he wrote to Bishop Sebastian,26 'the things which we suffer in this country from the influence of your friend, the lord Romanus, are such as we cannot describe. Briefly, I may say that his malice towards us is decidedly worse than the swords of the Lombards, so that the enemies who slay us outright seem kind in comparison with the rulers (judices) of the Republic who consume us by their spite, their rapine, and the treachery of their hearts. But to have simultaneously to support the care of the bishops and  p404 clergy, of the monasteries and the people, to watch with anxious vigilance against the snares of the enemy, to have always to defend oneself as a suspected person against the tricks and malice of the [Imperial] generals: — what labour and what grief this is, your Brotherhood who loves me so well and so purely, will be able truly to conjecture.'

Demoralisation of the clergy. Moreover the cowardice or the licentiousness of the clergy demoralised their flocks, and so made the work of the invaders easier. In the beginning of 596 Gregory wrote to his representative in Campania27 that it had come to his ears that Pimenius, bishop of Amalfi, was not content to dwell in his own Church, but was roaming about to different places, that his flock, following his bad example, were deserting their own village.28 All this was simply inviting the enemy to make depredations on their homes, and therefore Pimenius must be sharply rebuked and ordered to remain thenceforward in his own Church, where a bishop ought to be. If disobedient, he was to be shut up in a monastery, in which case Gregory would take measures for the appointment of a successor.

The Pope's Secretary is lampooned at Ravenna, because of his exertions for peace. Castorius the Papal chartularius, who was much employed by the Pope about this time in certain ecclesiastical matters concerning the succession to the see of Ravenna, became also a person of considerable political importance, as one acquainted with the views of the Pope on the subject of peace, and as the intermediary between him and Agilulf. It was he who brought to Rome the report of the negotiations which  p405 his colleague Secundus had been carrying on with the Lombard king,29 But his activity in this negotiation did not render him popular with the citizens of Ravenna. Shut up in their impregnable city, they could afford to despise the sufferings of the coloni of Campania — those sufferings which tore the heart of Gregory — and could boast, with easy courage, that they would have nothing to do with any surrender to the barbarian. A curious letter of the Pope's, which was probably written in the spring of 596,30 states that

'some person, at the instigation of a malign spirit, has in the silence of the night affixed a placard31 in a public place at Ravenna, speaking of Castorius in libellous terms, and even bringing crafty insinuations against ourselves in reference to the conclusion of peace. Hereupon all the priests and Levites,32 the generals, the nobles, the climax, the monks, the soldiers and the people of Ravenna, at home or abroad, are called solemnly to witness that the author of this libel, unless he shall come forth in public and confess his sin, is excluded from participation in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. If he presume to partake thereof after this denunciation, it shall be anathema unto him, and if the unknown writer be a person to whom, in our ignorance, we have letters of congratulation,33 the good wishes contained in those letters will be null and  p406 void. The only condition upon which the offender can be restored to the communion of the Church, and relieved from this awful curse, is that he shall come forth in public either to prove his assertions or to retract them.'

Redemption of captives. As the ill‑timed obstinacy of the Imperial government, backed up as it evidently was by the public opinion of Ravenna, still prevented the conclusion of the peace so necessary for Italy, Gregory exerted himself at least to lessen the miseries of war by promoting the redemption of some out of the many captives carried off in the train of each Lombard army. April, 596 Writing to his Campanian representative Anthemius, he said,34

'How great is the sorrow and affliction of our heart, arising from the events which have happened in the regions of Campania, we cannot describe, but you will imagine, from the greatness of the calamity. To remedy this, we are sending you money by the hands of Stephen, Vir magnificus,35 which we desire you diligently to employ in the immediate liberation of such freemen as are not able to pay their own ransoms, also of all those slaves whose masters are too poor to redeem them, and especially of such slaves on the Church's estates as have perished [fallen into the hands of the enemy] through your negligence. Make a careful list of the names, occupations, dwelling-places, birthplaces, of all whom you redeem. Give your best attention to this work, that those who are to be redeemed may not incur any peril through your negligence, nor you hereafter undergo our vehement displeasure. Especially strive to redeem the captives  p407 at as low a price as possible, and send us the list above mentioned with all speed.'

Contributions from Constantinople. For this pious work of the liberation of captives, Gregory thankfully accepted the help of the powerful and wealthy friends whom he had made at Constantinople. In two letters,36 written about the middle of June 597 to his old allies, Theoctista, the Emperor's sister, and Theodore, his physician,37A he gratefully acknowledges the large sums which they have sent him for the redemption of captives and the relief of the poor. The physician's contribution is not mentioned; that of Theoctista amounted to 30 lbs. of gold (£1200). In his letters to the latter,37B after congratulating her on her generosity, and pitying himself for the added responsibility thus brought upon him, he says: —

'I will mention to you, however, that from the city of Crotona on the Adriatic, which was taken by the Lombards in the past year, many men and many noble women were led away as booty: and sons were divided from their parents, husbands from their wives: but because they ask heavy ransoms for them, many to this hour have remained among the unutterable Lombards. However, I at once remitted for their liberation half of the money which I received from you, but out of the other half I have arranged to buy bed‑clothes for the maids of God (whom you call in Greek monastriae), because they suffer sadly from the cold in our City from the scantiness of their bed‑clothes. Of these maids there are many in this City, for according to the memorandum of distribution there have been found 3000 of them, and they receive from  p408 the Patrimony of St. Peter 80 lbs. (£3200) annually. But what is that among such a multitude, especially in this City, where everything is sold at such a high price? But their life is of such a kind, so strictly passed in fasting and in tears, that we believe if it were not for them, none of us would have been able to exist for so many years between the swords of the Lombards [i.e. we owe our lives to their sanctity and prayers].'

To each of his friends in return for their munificent offerings, Gregory sent his usual present of a golden key which had lain by the body of St. Peter, and which contained some filings from his chains; and to Theoctista he told the story of a miracle which connected her key with the Lombard king Authari: —

The miraculous key. 'A certain Lombard who had entered a city beyond the Po, found this key, and despised it as being a key of St. Peter, but seeing that it was golden desired to make something out of it, and took out his knife that he might cut it. But at once, being arrested by the Spirit, he stuck that same knife into his throat and fell dead the same hour. Autharith [sic], king of the Lombards, came up, with many of the men, found the dead man lying on the ground, and the key lying by itself, and they were all at once struck with grievous fear, so that none of them dared to lift that key from the earth. Then a certain Catholic Lombard, Mimiulf by name, who was known to be given to prayer and almsgiving, was called, and he raised it from the ground. But in remembrance of such a miracle, Autarith caused another golden key to be made, and sent it along with this one to my predecessor of blessed memory, relating what  p409 a miracle it had wrought. I therefore wished to send it to your Excellency, that the same instrument through which Almighty God killed a proud infidel may bring present and eternal salvation to you who love and fear Him.'

The letter to Theoctista, a very long one, from which these quotations have been made, is also interesting, not only as containing some of Gregory's most beautiful thoughts, and a specimen of his most extravagantly allegorizing38 interpretation of Scripture, but also as giving us a glimpse of the Imperial nursery as presided over by the Patricia, the aunt of the young princes: —

The Imperial nursery. 'I beg also that you will take care to train the little lords whom you are nursing, in excellent morals, and to warn the Glorious Eunuchs, who are charged with their education, to speak to them in such fashion, that their hearts may be softened towards one another in mutual love and tenderness, and that if they have conceived any passion of hatred among themselves, it should not break forth into a quarrel.'

Death of Exarch Romanus, 596‑7. In the same year, probably, in which these letters were written to Constantinople, one great obstacle to peace was removed by the death of the Exarch Romanus.39 He is succeeded by Callinicus. He was succeeded by a man of less  p410 difficult disposition, and more statesmanlike intellect, whose true name was Callinicus; but it is characteristic of the increasing divergence between the two divisions of the Empire that this regularly formed Greek name, which had been borne by rhetoricians, martyrs, and bishops in the eastern world, was now evidently a stumbling-block to western Romans, and was gradually converted by them into the barbarous Gallicinus.40

Friendly relations between the Pope and the new Exarch. Already, in May 597, we find a more hopeful tone in Gregory's letters. Writing41 to his representative in Sicily, the deacon Cyprian, he mentions the case of a certain Libertinus, Vir magnificus, who had apparently filled the office of Praetor of Sicily, and had received a hostile summons to Ravenna, there to give an account of his stewardship. Gregory's language is not very clear, but he seems to say, 'Do not let Libertinus distress himself. We have received  p411 a letter from Ravenna which we enclose for your perusal, and which shows that his enemies will not get the upper hand. Bid him therefore to be of good cheer, for we believe that our most excellent son the Exarch will do nothing to grieve him. We did not forget to write about his business; but as the said Exarch is now busied in the valley of the Po, we have not yet received his reply.' There can be little doubt that we are here dealing with a new régime. The Pope's 'most excellent son' is the new and friendly Exarch Callinicus, and his occupations in the valley of the Po have possibly something to do with negotiations for peace.

But all the members of the new Exarch's suite were not equally friendly with himself, and in a letter written about the same time as the last to his old ally the scholasticus Andreas at Ravenna, we find Gregory saying,42 'Moreover, I thank you for putting me on my guard about two persons who have come with the Glorious Callinicus, although we have already had some very disagreeable experience of the person first named by your Excellency. But inasmuch as the times are evil, we bear all things — with a groan.'

Uneventful character of the year 598. In the year 598 no great change seems to have occurred in the position of affairs. Pope Gregory's letters for this year43 are few in number, suggesting the probability that communications with the other  p412 parts of Italy may have been unusually disturbed by hovering swarms of Lombards. Gregory's letter to the bishop of Terracina; Certainly the language employed by the Pope to the bishop of Terracina44 shows that the inhabitants of that city, though only sixty miles from Rome, and close to the friendly sea, were still harassed by war's alarms: — 'We have heard that many are excusing themselves from sentry duty on the walls: and we therefore wish you to take anxious heed that no one, either in our own name or in that of the Church, obtains exemption from this duty, but that all collectively be compelled to undertake it: so that by the vigilance of all, and by Divine help, the guarding of the city may be secured.'

In the midst of all the terror which filled the rest of Italy, the City of Rome itself remained not only unharmed, but apparently unmenaced; an immunity which was doubtless due to the spiritual ascendency which Gregory had obtained over the minds of Ariulf and Agilulf. to Rusticiana. This special security granted to Rome is much insisted upon by the Pope in a letter written in the summer of 598 to Rusticiana, a great lady of Constantinople.45 He thanks her for the 10 lbs. of gold (£400) which she has sent him for the redemption of captives. He gently chides her for tarrying so long at Constantinople, and postponing indefinitely her visit to Rome, 'a visit which would greatly redound to her profit hereafter in the life eternal.'46 (And here we observe in passing that Rome, the Babylon of the  p413 Apocalypse, which was to become the hold of every unclean and hateful bird, is already, by the end of the sixth century, become a sacred City, a pilgrimage to which confers spiritual benefits on the traveller.) 'The Gospel orders us,' says Gregory, 'to love even our enemies. Think then what a grave fault it must be to love too little those who love us. Your servant will tell you how great desire we all have to behold your face. If any one tells us that he loves us, we know very well that no one loves those whom he does not care to visit. But if you are afraid of the swords and the wars of Italy, you ought to see for yourself how great is the protection vouchsafed by Peter, prince of Apostles, to this City, in which, without any great number of people, and without help from soldiers, we have by God's help been preserved for so many years unhurt between the swords of the enemy. All this we say to you because we love you. May Almighty God grant you whatsoever He may see to be for the everlasting benefit of your soul, as well as for the present repute of your household.'

The peace negotiations prosper. In the autumn of 598 the long pending negotiations for peace at length began to assume a favourable aspect. Gregory's representative at the Lombard court was now the abbot Probus,47 and the Pope heard from him in the month of September that the terms of the peace might be considered as settled, both King and Exarch having given their consent. Our chief information as to this crisis of the negotiations is derived, curiously enough, from a letter of the Pope  p414 to Januarius, bishop of Sardinia.48 Warning to the bishop of Sardinia. That strange and silly old man had not only to be restrained from sallying forth from his cathedral just after the celebration of mass to plough up his neighbour's harvest-field49 — but also to be warned of the continued necessity of vigilance against the Lombards. Both he and Gennadius the Exarch of Africa, to whose province Sardinia belonged, had been already in vain admonished by the Pope to put the island in a proper state of defence; and their carelessness had been punished by an attack of the barbarians (possibly on Caralis50 the capital), by which, though no permanent settlement had been effected, much injury had been done to the property of the islanders.51 The Pope expressed his hope that Januarius would learn a lesson from this misadventure, and keep a better guard in future, and he promised that for his part he would omit nothing which might be of service to the islanders in their preparations for defence. 'Know, however,' said he, 'that the abbot, whom a long time ago we sent to Agilulf, has by God's favour arranged a peace with him according to the most excellent Exarch's letters to us. And therefore till the actual signing of the articles for the confirmation of peace, cause the sentinels on your walls to discharge their duty with anxious vigilance, lest by chance in this time of delay our enemies should think to make another visit to your parts. We trust in our Redeemer's power that the assaults  p415 or the stratagems of our adversaries will work you no further harm.'

In a later letter52 the Pope seems to speak of the peace as now actually concluded. But as it was for a limited time — we learn from other sources that it was only concluded for two years — he warns Januarius of the probability that at the end of that time Agilulf would renew the war: —

'As we have no less concern for your safety than for our own, we thought it right at once to point out to you that when this peace is ended, Agilulf, king of the Lombards, will not make [another] peace. Wherefore it is necessary that your Brotherhood while you still have liberty, should cause your city and other places to be more strongly fortified, and should take care that abundant store of provisions be laid up in them, so that when the enemy, by God's wrath against him, arrives there, he may not find anything that he can injure, but may go away disappointed.'53

Strange delay at the last in the conclusion of peace. The peace negotiations seem after all not to have been finally concluded till the spring of 599. The reason for such an inordinate delay (which reminds us of the prolonged negotiations of Münster or of Utrecht), is partly disclosed to us by a letter of the Pope to Theodore the Curator (or, as we should say, the Mayor) of Ravenna.54 From this we learn that after Agilulf the King and Callinicus the Exarch had been brought to agree as to the terms of peace, a  p416 difficulty arose as to its signature on the part of Ariulf and Arichis, the Dukes of Spoleto and Benevento, and strange to say on the part of Gregory also, who, when the object of his earnest strivings for seven years seemed at length within his grasp, displayed either a strain of morbid consciousness left in him by his cloister life, or else an ignoble desire to shield himself from responsibility, and make others his instruments for extracting the advantage by which he was to profit. Whatever the motive, he declined himself to sign the peace, offering one of his suffragan bishops, or at any rate an archdeacon, as a substitute. The part of the letter which is important for our purpose is as follows: —

Gregory's letter to the Curator of Ravenna. Our responsales have always brought us tidings about you which have gladdened our hearts, but now preeminently our son the abbot Probus has told us so much about your Glory's liberal expenditure on behalf of peace, and the earnest desire which you have manifested for the same (a desire which was never displayed by any previous citizen of Ravenna), that we can only pray that your labours for the common weal may be abundantly repaid to your own soul hereafter. We observe therefore that Ariulf has sworn for the preservation of peace not [unconditionally] as the king himself swore, but only on condition (1) that there shall be no act of violence committed against him, and (2) that no one shall march against the army of Arichis.55 As this is altogether unfair and deceitful,  p417 we look upon the case precisely as if he had not sworn at all, for he will always find something to complain of as "an act of violence against himself," and the less suspicious we are of him the more easily he will deceive us. Warnilfrida too, by whose counsel, or as I might say no‑counsel,56 Ariulf is ruled in all things, absolutely refused to swear. And thus it has come to pass that from that peace from which we expected so much, we in these parts shall receive practically no remedy, because the enemies by whom we have hitherto been chiefly suspected will in future continue to suspect us.

'Your Glory ought to also to know that the king's men who have been passed on hither insist that we ought to sign the agreement for peace. But remembering the reproaches which Agilulf is said to have addressed to Basilius, Vir clarissimus, tending through us to the injury of blessed Peter (though Agilulf himself entirely denies having thus spoken), we nevertheless decide to abstain from signing, lest we who have been suitors and mediators between him and our most excellent son the lord Exarch, if by chance anything is privately carried off,57 should seems to fail in any point, and so our own promise should be brought into doubt. Thus should any similar occasion arise in future (which God forbid), he will make an excuse for not granting our petition. We therefore beg of you, as we have already begged of our aforesaid most Excellent son, that you will, with your wonted goodness to us, bring it to pass that when the king's men return from Arichis he shall speedily send them writings which are to be brought to us, and in which he shall command them not to ask  p418 for our signature. If that be conceded we will cause our brother Gloriosus,58 or one of the bishops, or at any rate an archdeacon, to sign the pact.'

Gregory's distrust of Ariulf. In reading this letter we cannot but be struck by the distrust of Ariulf which is evidently displayed by the Pope. Had he himself come round to the opinion of the Emperor and did he look upon him as fatuus having seven years before listened to the fair words of the duke of Spoleto? The Vir clarissimus Basilius, whoever he may have been — probably some great Byzantine official — had made mischief between King and Pontiff by repeating some unguarded words of the former which Gregory chose to understand as reflecting injuriously on his honour, and through him on that of the blessed Peter.

Peace concluded, 599. But this was not the permanent relation of the two potentates. The influence of that devout Theudelinda was being ever exerted to smooth away asperities and to make her husband and her unknown friend Gregory kindly disposed one toward the other. It was probably through her influence that the difficulties which had arisen at the last moment, and which seemed so menacing, were smoothed away. The dukes of Spoleto and Benevento must have been persuaded to acquiesce in the proposed arrangement; the Pope's guarantee must have been either obtained or dispensed with. In some way or other the weary negotiations were brought to a close and peace was concluded between Agilulf and Callinicus.

This chapter, discovered to the story of a peace which formed a turning-point in the history of Lombard  p419 Italy, may be fittingly ended by a translation of the two letters which the Pope addressed shortly before the conclusion of the peace to the king and queen of the Lombards.59

Gregory's letter to Agilulf; 'To Agilulf, king of the Lombards: —60

'We render thanks to your Excellency that you have heard our petition, and justified the confidence which we had in you, by arranging a peace which will be profitable to both parties. Wherefore we greatly praise the wisdom and goodness of your Excellency, because in loving peace you have proved that you love God who is the author of peace. For if it had unhappily not been made, what else could have followed but the sin and danger of both parties, accompanied by the shedding of the blood of the miserable peasants whose labour is serviceable to both? But in order that we may feel that peace, as you have made it, we pray while saluting you with fatherly love — that whenever opportunity offers, you will by your letters order your Dukes who are commanding in various districts, but especially in these parts, to keep this peace in its integrity, according to your promise and not to look for occasions of strife or unpleasantness. Thus doing you will earn from us yet ampler gratitude.

'We have received the bearers of these presents, as being truly your servants, with proper affection: since it was right that we should give a loving greeting and farewell to wise men who announced the peace made by the favour of Almighty God.'

 p420  Gregory to Theudelinda. 'To Theudelinda, queen of the Lombards: —61

'We have learned, by the report of our son the abbot Probus, how kindly and zealously, according to your wont, you have exerted yourself for the conclusion of peace. We knew that we might reckon on your Christianity for this, that you would by all means apply your labour and your goodness to the cause of peace. Therefore we render thanks to Almighty God, who has so ruled your heart as not only to bestow on you the true faith, but to cause you to accomplish His own decrees.

'Do not think, most excellent daughter, that it is any trifling reward which you will reap from staying the effusion of blood on both sides. Therefore while thanking you for your willing help in this thing, we pray our compassionate God to give you his recompense for your good deeds both in body and soul, both here and hereafter.

'Saluting you, moreover, with fatherly love, we exhort you to use your influence with your most excellent consort that he may not reject the alliance of the Christian Republic. For, as we think you know, it is in many ways expedient that he should be willing to accept its friendship. Do you therefore, according to your custom, ever study all that tends to grace and the reconciliation of foes and when you have such an opportunity of earning reward, labour that you may yet more conspicuously recommended your good deeds before the eyes of Almighty God.'


The Author's Notes:

1 'Intra gladios Langobardorum,' a phrase of frequent occurrence in Gregory's letters.

2 See vol. III pp150‑152.º

3 Οἰκουμενικὸς ἐπίσκοπος. (Sometimes the title claimed is Universal Patriarch.) The title was not really new, had in fact been applied to Pope Leo I by the bishops of Egypt in 451 and had been claimed for themselves by the bishops of Constantinople in the Synod of Constantinople (518), and in that of Mennas (552). But either it had since then been tacitly dropped, or the attention of the popes had not been called to so dangerous an encroachment on their own rights of primacy (see Wolfsgruber, pp134‑137).

4 'Ad hoc enim usque pervenit, ut sub occasione presbyteri Johannis gesta hic transmitteret, in quâ se paene per omnem versum ycomenicon (sic) Patriarcham nominaret' (Ep. V.19 (45)). The occasion of the letter was the appeal of a certain presbyter, John, from Constantinople to Rome.

5 'Sceleste vocabulum' (Ep. V.19 (45)).

6 When were these letters sent, and when did the ecumenical controversy burst into a flame? According to the dates assigned in the edition in the Monumenta Germanica Historica, and accepted by Weise, they were all sent in June 595. It is admitted, however, that there is much, in fact preponderating, MS. authority in favour of January; only there are signs of hesitation and correction on the transcribers' part. The Benedictine editors accept the January date, and therefore put these letters earlier in Book V than Ewald has done. As Weise, who is so often the unsparing critic of Ewald's reconstruction, here adopts his views, I have thought it safer to accept virtually the same date, and to put the ecumenical-bishop controversy after the Emperor's rebuke to Gregory, which called forth the reply quoted in the last chapter. But I cannot resist the suspicion that, after all, the January date may be the right one. It is very difficult to bring the ecumenical-bishop letters, especially that to Maurice (Ep. V.20 (37)), into such close contact with the letter about the Pope's fatuity in trusting to Ariulf (Ep. V.40 (36)), when there is not the slightest reference in either letter to the other. And on the other theory it would be easy to understand how the Emperor, piqued by Gregory's persistent refusal to concede the title Ecumenical to his Patriarch, might retort upon him by the angry letter in which he conferred on the Pope the undesired title 'fatuus.'

7 'Ego autem . . . praedicto consacerdoti meo et dulciter scripsi et humiliter ut ab hac inanis gloriae appetitione sese emendet admonui' (Ep. V.20 (37)).

8 Ep. V.18 (44).

9 No such formal offer seems to have been made by the Council, though some documents were read without disapproval, in which Leo was called 'ecumenical bishop.'

10 Two presbyters who had appealed against John to the Pope.

11 Ep. V.19 (45).

12 'Rectitudinem et blandimentum.'

13 'Postquam enim defendi ab inimicorum gladiis nullo modo possumus, postquam pro amore reipublicae argentum, aurum, mancipia, vestes perdidimus, nimis ignominiosum est ut per eos etiam fidem perdamus.' As 'eos' can hardly refer to 'inimicorum' (which must surely mean the Lombards), the sense seems to require that we should understand after 'defendi' some such words as I have placed in brackets.

14 Ep. V.20 (37).

15 Macedonius and Nestorius.

16 Ep. V.21 (39).

17 Isa. xiv.13, 14.

18 568‑595; an important passage for fixing the date of the Lombards' entry into Italy.

19 Saccellarium.

20 'Ita et in hac urbe in causis talibus eorum saccellarius ego sum.' 'Eorum' probably refers to 'my lords,' but the parallelism would be better if it referred to 'the Lombards.'

21 Presbyter George and Deacon Theodore. Greg. Ep. VII.15.

22 Ep. VII.33 (30).

23 Ep. VII.6.

24 Ep. VII.4.31 (5.28), XIII.40.

25 The passage in which Gregory repeats to the Emperor this favourite assertion of his is worth quoting. Maurice had begged him not to cause the scandal of a quarrel for the mere adoption of a foolish title (frivoli nominis). 'But I beg the Imperial Piety to consider that some frivolous things are quite harmless, and others grievously hurtful. Surely when Antichrist comes and calls himself God, that will be a very foolish thing, but yet a very pernicious one. If you think of the length of the word, how few syllables it contains: but if you think of its weight of iniquity 'tis a whole world of mischief. But I say with confidence that whosoever calls himself Universal Bishop (sacerdos), or desires to be called so by others, in his elation is a forerunner of Antichrist, because in his pride he exalteth himself over all others' (Ep. VII.33 (30)).

26 Ep. V.42 (40). Sebastian was bishop of Sirmium, or, according to Ewald's reading, of Resinum in Dalmatia.

27 The sub‑deacon Anthemius. Greg. Ep. VI.23.

28 'Castro.' This word was used by Gregory, and other writers of the time, of a small town or village, not necessarily fortified.

29 Ep. VI.30 (63).

30 Ep. VI.31 (VII.42).

31 Contestatio: what would have been called in Rome in later centuries a pasquinade.

32 Deacons.

33 Here perhaps Romanus is glanced at; or possibly the new bishop Marinianus, who, though he had once been a friend and fellow-monk of Gregory, had recently incurred his censure (Ep. VI.30 (63).

34 Ep. VI.35 (32).

35 Probably some person high in the civil service of the Empire.

36 Ep. VII.26 (23) and 28 (25).

37A 37B See p295.

38 Gregory describes the two sorts of compunction, a beautiful passage; followed by an absurd bit of allegorizing about Achsah, daughter of Caleb, who asked of her father the upper and nether springs (Judges i.15). Achsah sitting on her ass is the soul presiding over the irrational emotions of the flesh. Zeal for God without the grace of tears is the south land, dry and parched: the upper and nether springs are the two sorts of compunction: the upper springs the tears shed from longing after heaven: the nether springs those which flow from fear of hell, and so on.

39 That Romanus died at his post and was not recalled we learn from Paulus, H. L. IV.12. We have no very clear indication of the date of his death. Weise (p206) is inclined to place it about April 598, but seems herein to attach too much importance to a statement of Rubeus (of no authority unless we knew whence he derived it) that Romanus died in his tenth year of office. On the other hand, Weise has strangely missed the clear reference to Callinicus in Greg. Ep. VII.29 (26), a letter which in the M. G. H. is referred to June 597. And it seems probable that Ep. VII.22 (19) also refers to him. Romanus' death might, I think, have occurred even in the latter part of 596, but cannot well be pushed back to April of that year, the time of the pasquinade against Castorius. Ep. IX.9 to Callinicus, and Ep. IX.10 about him to Marinianus, probably belong to May 599.

40 Which was perhaps supposed to have something to do with cockcrowing. Paulus always calls the Exarch Gallicinus. The Benedictine edition of Gregory's letters has Callicinus, but it appears from M. G. H. that the best MSS. have the correct form Callinicus.

41 Ep. VII.22 (19).

42 Ep. VII.29 (26).

43 Strictly speaking, not for the year 598, but for the First Indiction, Sept. 1, 597–Aug. 31, 598. The number of letters for this year in the Benedictine edition is thirty-five, the smallest for any except the last, 603‑604, which was cut short by Gregory's death. The average number for each year (excluding the last) is sixty-three.

44 Ep. VIII.18.

45 She is addressed as Patricia, VIII.22.

46 'Quantum enim ad colligendas aeternae vitae mercedes vestrae animae expedire possit.'

47 We get the name of Probus from Ep. IX.43 and 98. He is only spoken of as the abbot in Ep. IX.4.

48 Ep. IX.4.

49 See p323.º

50 Now Cagliari.

51 I think we may infer thus much from the words of Gregory, 'Quod si secundum ea quae tam vobis quam excellent­issimo filio nostro Gennadio hoc fore nuntiantes scripsimus, sollicitudo fuisset adhibita, inimici illuc aut non accederent, aut accedentes periculum quod fecerunt incurrerent.'

52 IX.6.

53 Weise (p208) understands these words of some preliminary peace or truce signed in 598 (of which we have no other information). But it seems to me more natural to understand it of the great peace of 599.

54 Ep. IX.98 (44). This letter is assigned by Ewald to October 598.

55 'Indicamus itaque Ariulfum de servandâ pace, non ut rex ipsius juravit, sed sub conditione si sibi in quoquam excessum non fuerit, aut si nullus contra Arogis exercitum ambulaverit, sacramenta praestitisse.'

56 'Ad ejus non consilium.'

57 'Si quid forte clam sublatum fuerit.'

58 No doubt Gloriosus, bishop of Ostia.

59 According to Ewald's arrangement these letters were written in December, 598. Probably the hitch in the negotiations described above postponed the formal conclusion of the peace for some months after Gregory had deemed it sufficiently secure to write these letters.

60 Ep. IX.42.

61 Ep. IX.43.


Thayer's Note:

a A truly amazing argument on Gregory's part, considering that it is the very same argument brought to bear by a mob (manipulated by the priests of Jerusalem) on Pontius Pilate to excite him to condemn Jesus. As quoted from the King James Version (John 19:12):º

From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar."


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 22 Jul 20