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Book IX
Chapter 6

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


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Book IX
Chapter 8

Book IX (continued)

Chapter VII


Sources: —

Besides the Frankish Annals and Theophanes, there is an important letter of Charles to Nicephorus in Epistolae Carolinae (Jaffé's Monumenta Carolina, Ep. 29, p393). For Venetian affairs our best authority must now be considered to be Joannes Diaconus (Sagorninus), whose character as a historian was briefly sketched in vol. VI pp487 and 506. It will be seen by reference to that volume that this author is by no means a contemporary authority, having lived near the end of the tenth century. He evidently, however, had access to some earlier sources of information, and upon the whole he is probably the best authority available for the early history of Venice; certainly better than Andrea Dandolo, praiseworthy as his work is in many respects, since that eminent Doge lived in the middle of the fourteenth century, and manifestly derived some of his best materials for this part of his history from Joannes Diaconus himself. It is important to lay stress on this fact, since what may be called the Received Text of almost all modern histories of Venice is taken straight from Dandolo, without attempting to discriminate between the various authorities on which his narrative is founded. It should be mentioned however that, from some cause not fully explained, this part of the chronology of Joannes Diaconus has fallen into dire confusion, which is rectified in the pages of the more scientific Dandolo.

Another source, in part earlier than Joannes Diaconus, bt of a most heterogeneous character, is the so‑called Chronicon Altinate, on which, as well as on the sources of Dandolo's history, Dr. Henry Simonsfeld has written two valuable monographs.1  p219 As he points out, it might more suitably have been called Chronicon Torcellense, but it is in fact 'a heterogeneous mass of chronicles, fragments of chronicles, memoranda of various dates'​2 and of various degrees of authority, chiefly connected with the city of Torcello.

Some of these documents, in his opinion, date from the first half of the tenth,​3 or possibly even from the end of the ninth century,​4 and are thus decidedly earlier than the work of Joannes Diaconus; but the compilation of them is apparently assigned to as late a period as the beginning of the thirteenth century: and thus the Chronicon Altinate as a whole must be considered a less trustworthy authority than Joannes Diaconus.

In addition to the above-mentioned monographs by Dr. Simonsfeld, Prof. G. Monticolo has written a valuable treatise entitled 'I Manuscritti e le Fonti della Cronaca del Diacono Giovanni' (Roma, 1889), and has given us a new edition of Joannes Diaconus along with the Chronicon Gradense (a work which covers a good deal of the same ground as the Chronicon Altinate) in the first volume of his 'Cronache Veneziane Antichissime' (Roma, 1890), from which I make my quotations. A few sentences in the great work of the Emperor Constantine VII (Porphyrogenitus), 'De administrando Imperio,' written about 950, throw a valuable light on the story of Pippin's invasion of Venetia, and on the whole confirm the account of it given by the Frankish annals.

Guides: —

Prof. Harnack's essay, 'Das Karolingische und das byzantinische Reich in ihren wechselseitigen politischen Beziehungen,' is a most valuable guide to this part of Franco-Imperial history. The dissertations by Venediger (Halle, 1872) and Strauss (Breslau, 1877) on the same subject (the relations between Charles the Great and the Eastern Empire) are also useful, but Harnack's is, it seems to me, the more able performance. Venediger's work ends with 788; Strauss with the fall of Irene.

Gfrörer's 'Byzantinische Geschichten,' vol. I (Graz, 1872), written with a strong bias towards the point of view of the  p220 Latin Church, has many luminous suggestions, but is rather too prone to indulge in fanciful conjectures.

Filiasi's 'Memorie Storiche de' Veneti' (8 vols., Venice, 1796‑1798) contain a great deal of careful work on the early history of Venice, and the preference which he generally exhibits for the chronicle of Joannes Diaconus (whom he calls Sagornino) does credit to his critical faculty.

Character of the Emperor Nicephorus. The new Emperor Nicephorus who had won the diadem from Irene belonged neither to the best nor to the worst class of Byzantine sovereigns. His office before he mounted the throne had been that of Grand Logothete or Arch-treasurer, and a Grand Logothete he remained to the end of his career. He was intent on finding out new sources of taxation, and re‑imposed some duties on imports which Irene had perhaps unwisely remitted for the sake of popularity. In pursuance of the same end he deprived the convent and church lands of the exemption from the hearth‑tax which they had hitherto enjoyed. At the same time, though not reverting to the iconoclastic policy of the Isaurian Emperors, he showed himself languid in his defence of orthodoxy, and refused to persecute the Paulician dissenters from the Catholic Church. He thus came into collision with that fierce defender of the faith, Theodore of Studium, and his name is therefore loaded with abuse by the bigoted Theophanes. This abuse, as he did not redeem his heresy by military talent, like Leo III and Constantine V, as he fought feebly against the Caliph Haroun-al‑Raschid, and as his life and reign ended in a terrible disaster, inflicted by the Bulgarian ravagers, has clung perhaps too persistently to his memory. Clio may always safely scold an unsuccessful sovereign.

 p221  Embassy from Nicephorus to Charles. On his first assumption of the diadem, Nicephorus, perhaps feeling the need of some strong external support, showed himself willing to enter into diplomatic relations with Charles, though the title of the Frankish Augustus challenged his Imperial claims even more directly than those of a female sovereign like Irene. Over­looking this fact, however, Nicephorus commissioned three ambassadors, a bishop named Michael,​5 an abbot, Peter, and a white-uniformed officer of the guards​6 named Callistus, to accompany Charles's legates, Jesse and Helmgaud, on their return to the Frankish court. July (?), 803 They found the Emperor at Salz​7 on the Franconian Saale, were courteously received by him, and carried back with them what we should call a draft treaty of peace between the two monarchs, bearing Charles's signature.​8 There can be little doubt that this document contained some stipulation for the recognition by the Eastern Caesar of the Frank's imperial dignity: but it is equally plain that this recognition was withheld. The answer from Constantinople, though eagerly expected, did not arrive:  p222 there was for eight years a suspension of diplomatic relations between the two courts, and the Empires drifted into a position first of sullen isolation and at last of active and declared hostility.

The negotiations broken off. What may have been the motive of Nicephorus for thus uncourteously closing negotiations which he himself had opened we are not informed. Possibly he saw that his own subjects would not tolerate a recognition which seemed like a dethronement of the New Rome in favour of the Old. Ecclesiastical complications. The relations between the two Churches also were becoming more and more embittered, and the two disputes, ecclesiastical and political, acted and reacted upon one another. On the one hand, we have (in 809) the piteous complaint of the monks on Mount Olivet to the Pope that the abort​9 of S. Saba​10 called them heretics and cast them rudely out of the cave of the Nativity at Bethlehem, because they sang the Nicene Creed with the added words concerning the Holy Spirit, 'which proceedeth from the Father and the Son.' 'Pray inform our Lord Charles the Emperor,' they say, 'that we heard these words, which we are accounted heretics for using, sung in his own chapel.' They evidently hoped that the long arm of the mighty Frank, the rival of Nicephorus and the ally of Caliph Haroun and his son, would be stretched forth to protect them from the arrogant Greeks.​11 On the other hand, Nicephorus the patriarch of Constantinople (who was raised to that dignity in February, 806, on the death of Tarasius) was, throughout the lifetime of his  p223 Imperial namesake, forbidden to hold any communication with the see of Rome, evidently because Leo was supposed to be devoted to the interests of Charles.

Venice in the eighth century. The quarrel thus commenced between the two Empires was fought out in the waters of the Adriatic, and we must therefore turn our attention to the little cities of maritime Venetia which have hitherto (save for one passing allusion in the letters of Hadrian)​12 been unnoticed since the year 740, when they took part in the recapture of Ravenna from Liutprand.13

At the period of that recapture we found the Venetian islanders trying abortive changes in their constitution, substituting Magistri Militiae for Dukes, and then finally settling down again under the rule of their old chief magistrate, the Dux Venetiarum.

Dux, not Doge. The title of Doge — the form which this Latin word assumed in the Venetian dialect — has been made famous over the wide world by the exploits and the disasters, the virtues and the vices of the statesmen who for 'a thousand years of glory' presided over the fortunes of the Venetian state. But for that very reason I prefer not to use it at the present early period of their history. Too many and too proud associations are connected with that form of the name. In the eighth century the Duke of Venice differed little from the Duke of Naples or any other duke of a city under the Byzantine rule, save that perhaps already the people had a larger share in his election than in most of those other cities. Therefore the first man in the Venetian state shall still be to us a Duke and not a Doge.

Duke Deusdedit, 742‑755; Duke Galla, 755‑756; Duke Domenicus (Monegarius), 756‑764. After the restoration of the ducal dignity, three  p224 dukes, Deusdedit, Galla, and Domenicus (surnamed Monegarius), followed one another in somewhat rapid succession. Each precarious reign came to a violent end. Deusdedit was supplanted by the traitor Galla; Galla was upset by a popular revolution; Monegarius was the victim of a conspiracy; and each duke as he fell from power was subjected to the cruel punishment of the plucking out of his eyes, a punishment which the Venetians had perhaps adopted from their Byzantine over­lords.

Temporary institution of the Tribunate, 756. The only point in the history of these shadowy dukes which seems worthy of notice is the limitation which the Venetians imposed on the power of Monegarius. Joannes Diaconus informs us that the Venetians when they had raised this duke to power, 'after the fashion of the vulgar herd, who never remain long in one fixed purpose, but with superstitious folly are always looking out for one political nostrum after another, in the first year of Monegarius' duchy set over themselves two tribunes, who were to hold office under the ducal decree; an experiment which they tried' [but apparently tried vainly] 'to repeat, for each successive year of his tenure of the duchy.' We surely behold in this abortive attempt to limit the power of the sovereign the promptings of the same spirit which in the fourteenth century devised the Council of Ten and in the fifteenth gave birth to the awful tribunal of the Invisible Three.

Duke Mauritius, 764‑787. On the deposition of the unpopular Monegarius a citizen of Heraclea named Mauritius was elected duke, a grave and statesmanlike man, who seems to have governed the islands well for twenty-three years (764‑787). In which perhaps a sign of his statesmanlike  p225 prudence that he accepted the long low island of Malamocco​14 (which had been the seat of government since the accession of Deusdedit) as his residence, and did not attempt to make his native city Heraclea once more the capital. For still the Genius of the Venetian Republic had not found its destined home. It was to be found at Malamocco, on the Lido, at Torcello; anywhere but on the hundred islands of the Deep Stream.​15 However, the day was drawing near. In the eleventh year of Duke Mauritius' reign (775) the little island of Olivolo, the easternmost of the cluster on which Venice now stands, was by Papal authority erected into a new bishopric; an indication that inhabitants were beginning to settle in that neighbourhood.

Party strife. A Frankish and a Byzantine party. Party spirit, as we can see from the annals of that stormy time, ran high in the Venetian islands. The old rivalry between Heraclea and Equilium​16 may probably have been still smouldering. It is also clear that there were two parties in the confederacy, one of which looked towards the sea and was in favour of loyal submission to the Byzantine Emperor, while the other looked landward and was ready to accept patronage (not perhaps domination), first from the Lombard and then from the Frankish rulers of the Terra Firma of Italy. It was indeed inherent in the nature of things that this should be so. Venice's only chance of obtaining or preserving freedom or self-government lay in the balanced strength of these two Empires, either of which could crush her if it stood alone. Venetian trade. And moreover the course of her trade required that she should  p226 be on fairly good terms with both these powers, each of which was a customer, while each supplied her with some part of the staple of her trade.​17 From Charles's dominions she received the Frisian wool which she wove into cloth, and exported in the shape of rugs and mantled to the Saracens of Bagdad. On the other hand, from all the countries of 'the gorgeous East' she was beginning to import the costly fabrics of silk and velvet, the mantles trimmed with peacock and ostrich feathers, the furs of sable and ermine which she was sending over the passes of the Alps for sale to the splendour-loving nobles of Rhineland and Burgundy.18

Share in the slave-trade. Along with this legitimate trading, however, the Venetian islanders appear to have carried on a traffic in slaves, of a kind which was condemned by the conscience of Christian Europe. 741‑752 In the days of Pope Zacharias, as we learn from the Liber Pontificalis,​19 Venetian merchants were wont to visit Rome, and in the markets of that city (such markets as that wherein Gregory the Great saw the boys from Deira exposed for sale) they bought a multitude of slaves, both male and female, whom they shipped off to Africa to be sold to the subjects of the Abbasside or Aglabite Caliphs. Though slavery was not yet a forbidden institution,  p227 this selling of Italian peasants, baptized Christians, into bondage to the Moors, shocked the feelings of Christendom. Zacharias redeemed the captives whom the Venetians had bought, and prohibited that trade for the future in the markets of Rome: but it is not probable that he had the power to prevent it in other cities of Italy. It seems likely that the slave trade for which Charles rebuked the subjects of Hadrian and the shame of which the Pope threw back upon the 'Greek' traders,​20 may have been, in part at least, carried on by the enterprising merchants of Heraclea and Malamocco.

The only blot on the wise administration of Duke Mauritius, so far as it has been recorded, was his attempt to make the ducal dignity hereditary in his family. 778 Nine years before his death​21 he persuaded the Venetians, 'eager to give him pleasure,' to associate with him in the duchy Dukes Joannes, 787‑804, and Mauritius II, 794‑804. his son Joannes, who after his death reigned for some time alone, and in the seventh year of his reign associated with himself his son Mauritius II. Neither son nor grandson seems to have been a worthy ruler of the Venetian state. Of Joannes, the chronicler​22 writes, 'Neither by written document nor by oral tradition can I find that he handled affairs well for the advantage of his country.' He remarks in passing that in the time of the joint government of these two men, Joannes and Mauritius, 'the sea overflowed so much that it unreasonably covered all the islands.'23

Relations with the Patriarch of Grado. During all this time, and in fact for nearly seven  p228 centuries longer, the ecclesiastical head of the Venetian state was to be found at the little city of Grado, fifty miles away from Venice, wearing the proud title of patriarch, and often disputing with his neighbour and old rival the patriarch of Aquileia.​24 At the beginning of the ninth century, John, patriarch of Grado,​25 had in some way incurred the displeasure of the duke of Venice, who sent his son, the young Mauritius, with a fleet to execute his vengeance. Murder of the Patriarch Joannes, circa 801‑2. The patriarch was captured and was thrown headlong from the loftiest turret of his palace. 'His death,' says the chronicler, 'caused great grief to his fellow-citizens, for he was slain as an innocent man, and he had governed the Church of Grado for thirty‑six years.'​26 He was buried near the tombs of the martyrs, and for generations the stain of his blood upon the stones was shown to wondering visitors.27

The Patriarch Fortunatus. The successor of the slain patriarch was his kinsman, Fortunatus of Trieste. A restless and intriguing politician rather than a churchman, Fortunatus devoted all his energies to avenging the murder of his relative, with perhaps the additional object of wresting the ecclesiastical province of Istria from his rival of Aquileia and subduing it to his own jurisdiction. Some years after the time which we have now reached, Pope Leo,  p229 even while pleading for the bestowal of some ecclesiastical preferment on Fortunatus, added a postscript begging the Emperor Charles to care for his soul and admonish him as to the discharge of his spiritual duties. 'For I hear such things concerning him as are not seemly in an archbishop, neither in his own country nor in those districts of Frank-land where you have given him preferment.'28

Flight of Fortunatus to the Frankish court, 803. The intrigues of the new patriarch against the dukes of Venetia having been detected, he was compelled to take refuge in Charles's dominions. He crossed the Alps, and at last reached the Emperor's court, which was still being held at Franconian Salz. In order to conciliate Charles's favour, he brought with him as a present two ivory doors carved with marvellous workman­ship. These doors perhaps resembled the curious ivory plaques, representing scenes from the life of the Saviour, which still adorn the episcopal throne of Maximian at Ravenna. At the same time two Venetian tribunes, Obelerius of Malamocco and Felix, together with some others of the chief men in the islands, fled to the mainland, but did not go further than the city of Treviso. Revolution in Venetia. Whether or not their flight was the result of a discovered plan of rebellion in which Fortunatus was their accomplice we are not clearly informed, but so it was that the Trevisan refugees, in correspondence with their partisans in Venetia, succeeded in effecting a revolution. Obelerius, duke, 804‑810, with Beatus and Valentinus. Obelerius was chosen duke; Joannes and Mauritius, who evidently had lost all hold on the affections  p230 of the people, fled to the mainland, Mauritius across the Alps into Frank-land, Joannes to Mantua, and neither of them ever returned to the island-duchy.

Obelerius (whom the Frankish annalists call Willeri or Wilharenus) held the ducal office for six years; and with him were associated two of his brothers, first Beatus and then Valentinus. This period is one of the most important but also one of the most obscure in the early history of Venice. There was evidently a sharp struggle for supremacy between the Byzantine and the Frankish parties in Venetia, but on which side the ducal influence was thrown it is not easy to say. His alleged Frankish partiality. Later tradition assigned to Obelerius a Frankish wife (whom one chronicler,​29 in defiance of all known facts, even called a daughter of Charles), and declared that under her influence he played the traitor to the true interests of his country and made himself the pliant instrument of the Frankish court. On the other hand, we find him accepting at the hands of the Greek general Nicetas the dignity of Spatharius,​30 and his brother Beatus going with the same Nicetas to Constantinople and returning decorated with the honour of a consul­ship.​31 Probably the fact was that the Venetian dukes were in their heart true to neither power, but trimmed their sails adroitly, as the breeze seemed blowing most steadily from the East or from the West, and thus made themselves suspected by both.

Submission of Venetia and Dalmatia to Charles, 806. However, one fact vouched for by the Frankish  p231 annalist stands out clear and incontestable. In the year 806, Venetia with the opposite coast of Dalmatia became for the time a recognised part of the Western Empire. In the Christmas of that year, Charles was holding his court at the villa of Theodo on the Moselle, and 'thither came [the so‑called] Willeri and Beatus, dukes of Venetia, together with Paulus duke of Zara, and Donatus bishop of the same city, ambassadors of the Dalmatians, with great gifts, into the presence of the Emperor. And there the Emperor made an ordinance concerning the dukes and their subjects, as well of Venetia as of Dalmatia.'​32 This is the first mention that we have had of Dalmatia, the first hint that Charles's empire was extending down the eastern shore of the Adriatic; and it is perhaps accounted for by the fact (recorded by Joannes Diaconus) that the two Venetian dukes soon after their accession had 'sent forth a naval armament to lay waste the province of Dalmatia.'​33 That is to say, that Obelerius and Beatus having decided, for the time, to accept the protection of Charles rather than that of Nicephorus, constrained their Dalmatian neighbours to follow their example.

War with Byzantium. The subjection of Venetia and Dalmatia to the Frankish power, although but temporary, seems to have been the exciting cause which changed the smouldering ill‑will of the Byzantine ruler into active hostility. Expedition of Nicetas. In the latter part of the year 806 a fleet was sent from Constantinople into the Adriatic under command of the patrician Nicetas. Dalmatia appears to have  p232 been first subdued, and then the fleet came into Venetian waters. Fortunatus​34 the patriarch, that stormy petrel of Venetian politics, who had not long returned to his see of Grado, quitted it in haste when the ships of Nicetas were seen in the distance, and fled again to his Frankish patron. The operations of Nicetas seem to have been completely and speedily successful,​35 and through the greater part of the year 807 he remained with his fleet in the Venetian waters, wielding probably the same kind of authority which an exarch of Ravenna had possessed while exarchs still remained. It was at this time that Obelerius received from Nicetas the dignity of Spatharius, and consented that his brother Beatus should go, virtually as a hostage, to Constantinople. The young Frankish king Pippin had evidently at this time no fleet with which he could pretend to meet the Imperial squadron, and he was fain to consent to a suspension of hostilities till August, 808, which gave Nicetas time to return to Constantinople. He took with him not only the ducal hostage Beatus, but two prisoners, Christopher, bishop of Olivolo (a young Greek who had become a vehement partisan of Fortunatus and had thus probably been drawn into anti-Byzantine  p233 courses), and the tribune Felix, who had taken a leading part in the revolution of 804, and had perhaps thus incurred the displeasure of Constantinople. Both these captives appeared in the presence of 'Augustus' (Nicephorus), and were by him sentenced to perpetual banishment.36

Demolition of Heraclea. To this period is referred one of the most mysterious events in the early history of Venetia — the partial​37 destruction of the city which had once been her capital, the proud and turbulent Heraclea. That the destruction was the work of Venetian hands is clear,​38 but the motive which prompted it is not manifest. We have not heard for some time of the old feuds between Heraclea and Equilium, but it is probable that they had broken out afresh. There are some indications that Equilium herself shared the fate of her rival — Dandolo records at great length the names of the families belonging to both cities​39 which were transported thence to Rialto — and it seems possible that the other islanders came to the conclusion that this sempiternal quarrel would only be appeased when the waters of the lagunes flowed over the burnt ruins of both the rivals. Possibly, too, the party which looked  p234 seawards and eastwards for the future of Venetian politics, deemed it desirable to destroy such of the cities as were situated on Terra Firma, lest they should be used hereafter as hostages by the Frankish lords of Italy and hinder the free and unshackled growth of the city of the Lagunes.

Paulus, the Byzantine admiral, fails in his attack on Comacchio. At the end of the truce the Byzantine fleet returned first to Dalmatia and then to the Venetian waters, where it abode during the winter. Its commander was now not Nicetas but an officer named Paulus, and he early in 809 made an attack on Comacchio, the city which, as we have seen,​40 marked the extreme northern limit of the Papal territory. The attack was successfully repelled by the garrison — we have no indication whether its commander was in the Papal or the Frankish service — and after this failure Paulus opened negotiations for peace with the young king of Italy. It is possible that herein he somewhat exceeded his commission: but, however that may be, the negotiations came to nothing, being frustrated, as the Franks believed, by the tricks and devices of the dukes of Venetia, whose interest required that the two Empires should continue hostile.​41 The Byzantine admiral, discovering their treachery, and having reason to believe that they were even plotting his assassination, weighed  p235 anchor and sailed away from the lagunes, leaving the ungrateful islanders to their fate.

Pippin's invasion of Venetia, 810. Now, in the year 810, followed that great invasion of Venetia by Pippin which is the first conspicuous event in the history of the island-state, an event glorified by painting and by song, but as to the real history of which we are still profoundly ignorant. It is a hopeless task to attempt to combine the various accounts of this campaign into one consistent narrative, and they must therefore be reproduced separately with all their mutual divergences. We have (1) the Frankish account of the affair, (2) the early, and fairly trustworthy, Venetian account of it, (3) the Byzantine version, and (4) the legends which passed current concerning it in the thirteenth century, and which may contain some precious grains of historic truth, or may be absolute romance.

The Frankish narrative (contemporary). I. The Frankish narrative:42

'Meanwhile King Pippin, roused by the perfidy it Venetian dukes, ordered [his generals] to make war on Venetia both by sea and land, and having subjected that region and received the surrender of its dukes, he sent the same fleet to lay waste the shores of Dalmatia. But when Paulus the prefect of Cephalonia came with the Eastern fleet to the help of the Dalmatians the royal [Frankish] fleet returned to its own quarters.'

The narrative of Joannes Diaconus (end of the tenth century). II. The early Venetian narrative:43

'Meanwhile the treaty which the peoples of the Venetian [islands] had of old with the Italian king was at this time broken by the action of King Pippin. For that king moved forward an immense army of the Lombards in order to capture the province of the Venetians; and  p236 when with great difficulty he had passed through the harbours which divide the shores of the islands, he at last came to a certain place which is called Albiola, but he was by no means able to penetrate further in, and there the dukes, begirt by a great array of the Venetians, boldly attacked the same king, and by the grace of God a triumph was given to the Venetians over their enemies, and thus the aforesaid king retired in confusion.'

The Byzantine narrative (tenth century). III. The narrative of the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus:44

'Many years after the departure of Attila there came [against Venetia] Pippin the king, who then ruled over Pavia and other kingdoms, for this Pippin had three (!) brothers who ruled over all the Franks and Sclavonians. Now when King Pippin had come against the Venetians with great power and a multitude of people, he encamped on the mainland on the other side of the channel between the Venetian islands, at a place which is called Aeibolae (sic). The Venetians then, seeing King Pippin with his power coming against them and intending to disembark with his cavalry at the island of Madamaucus (sic), for that is the island nearest to the mainland, by throwing masts [across]45 blocked up the whole of the passage. Pippin's followers being thus defeated in their design, since there was no other available passage, took up their quarters for six months on the mainland, and made war every day on the Venetians. The latter went on board their ships and stationed themselves behind the masts which they had placed there, while King Pippin stood with his people on the shore.  p237 The Venetians fought with bows and missile weapons, not suffering them to cross over to the island. Then King Pippin, being at his wits' end, said to the Venetians, "Come under my hand and sovereignty, since you belong to my country and sphere of rule." But the Venetians answered, "We are servants of the Emperor of the Romans, and not of thee." But [at last] being overcome by the harassment which he caused them, they made a treaty of peace with King Pippin on condition of paying a large tribute. But from that day the tribute has been continually diminished, yet it subsists even till the present time: for the Venetians pay to him who holds the kingdom of Italy or of Pavia every year thirty‑six pounds of uncoined silver.'​46

The legendary narrative (thirteenth century). IV. The legendary story:47

'Belenger (Obelerius), duke of Venice, was a traitor, and went to France with the priest Fortunatus and his wife, and persuaded Charles (sic), son of lord Pippin, and Emperor, to invade Venetia. He came to Methamaucus (Malamocco), which was at that time a very fair city of the Venetians, and when the inhabitants saw King Charles approaching with his great army, they all fled, both great and small, into the capital city of the Venetians which is called Rialto, and there remained in Methamaucus only one old lady. Then when Charles was in seisin of that city, he began the siege of the capital, and was there for six months, his men living in tents along the sea‑shore, and making prisoners of the Venetians who passed that way in their ships. But one day when the Venetians came to the mêlée with  p238 the Franks, having great quantity of bread in their ships they hurled some of it against the Franks. This disheartened Charles, who hoped to reduce the enemy by famine. Then he sent to seek for the one old lady who was left behind in Methamaucus. When she was brought into his presence his retainers treated her discourteously, but he said to her, "Tell me, dost thou know of any device by which I may enter yonder city?" The old lady said, "They were bad men who fled away, taking all the city's treasure with them, and left me here to perish miserably. But if you give me two squires who will conduct me into that city, I know many poor men there who, if you will give them some of your money, will make such a contrivance as shall bring you and your men into the city." The Emperor hearing this believed the old lady, gave her some of his money, and caused her to be rowed across into the city, where she spoke to the duke and revealed to him all that the king had said to her. Hereupon the duke gave her a hundred artisans, with whom she returned to the king, and said, "Sire, give of your substance to these men that they make a bridge of osier wood across the water by which your horsemen may enter the city." Then King Charles gave of his substance to these artisans, and they bought boats and wood and ropes, and made the bridge over the water and bound it fast to the ropes. And when King Charles saw the bridge he believed right well that his men might mount upon it and go into the city. And the old lady said to him, "Sire, let your men cross over this bridge by night and they will find the Venetians in their beds and you will have the city without fail."

'When the night came, the Franks went with their  p239 horses on to the bridge, and the artisans who had made it began to sail towards the city. But when the horses smelt the water they began to fall this way and that, and broke their legs, and knocked their heads against the sides, and thus they broke the bridge, and the riders fell into the water and were drowned therein. The old lady and the Venetian workmen fled into the city, and the Venetians went on board their ships and surrounded Methamaucus and found there King Charles the Emperor, who was in a great rage and cursed grievously when he saw the loss of so many of his men and horses, and the sea covered with their dead bodies and the wreckage of the bridge scattered hither and thither. And when the Emperor saw the Venetians with their navy all well armed, he said, "Where is the Duke?" Then they prayed him to come on shore, and my lord duke Beatus met him there, and Charles and all his knights dismounted, and the Emperor asked Beatus for news of his brother, duke Belenger, and said before all the Venetian nobles that Belenger had counselled him to come and take Venice, to which Beatus and the other Venetians said nothing, because they were determined to take vengeance of Belenger. Then they prayed King Charles to come and see the chief city of the Venetians. And the king kissed the duke and all the other noble Venetians who were there, and then he went on board the duke's vessel. And while they were sailing along lord Charles held a mighty great spear in his hand, and when he saw the greenest and deepest water, he threw his spear into the sea with all his force and said, "As surely as that spear which I have thrown into the sea shall never be seen again by me, nor by you, nor by  p240 any other creature, so surely shall no man in the world ever have power to hurt the kingdom of Venice, and he who shall desire to hurt her, on him let fall the wrath and vengeance of our Lady, as it has fallen on me and on my people." All the clergy and people of Venice were assembled to meet King Charles when he landed, and on his return from the church to which he at first repaired they gave him a great banquet, and then escorted him to Ferrara.'

The chronicler then goes on to describe the measures taken with reference to the traitorous duke 'Belenger,' but we need not further follow his untrustworthy recital.

It has seemed better to quote this romance at length in order that the reader may see the whole absurdity of it at once. It cannot be necessary to point out its utterly unhistorical character. Charles the Great probably never visited Venice: he was certainly not south of the Alps in the year 810. Nor is the story made credible by substituting Pippin's name for that of his father. The loaves of bread discharged from the Venetian catapults; the old dame of Malamocco with her hundred working men from Venice; the bridge (more than a mile long) from Malamocco to Rialto made by the Venetian artisans and broken to pieces by the stumbling horses, — all these incidents evidently belong to the domain of mere fiction and are inspired by the wildest spirit of medieval mythology. But the historian of Venice will never be able entirely to disregard even this preposterous legend, since, pruned of some of its more obvious absurdities, it has found a place in the classic pages of Andrea Dandolo, and it is portrayed in two large pictures by Vicentino on the walls of the Sala dello Scrutinio in the Ducal  p241 Palace. For generations to come, visitors to Venice will no doubt gaze upon those painted romances and believe that they record actual events in the earliest history of the great Republic.

Historical residuum. When we come to discuss the small residuum of historic fact at the bottom of all this foam and froth of patriotic imaginings, all that we can safely say is that the young king Pippin instituted a strict blockade of the Venetian islands, which may have lasted for half a year; that he possibly made an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate to the inner group of islands, which was, however, of the less importance because Malamocco not Rialto was still the chief seat of the Venetian state; but that the injury which his blockade did to the commerce of the islands was so considerable that in the end, seeing themselves abandoned by their Byzantine protectors, they consented to accept Charles as their over­lord, and to pay him a certain yearly tribute.

That this was in fact the result of Pippin's expedition, that it was not a failure in the end, whatever partial reverses he may have met with, is sufficiently shown by the words of the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, whose account of Pippin's Venetian campaign seems on the whole the most worthy of credence. He had no motive to magnify, but rather strong motives to minimise, the degree of the Venetian subjugation to the Western ruler: yet he evidently implies that Pippin's operations, though by no means brilliant, were on the whole successful.

Foundation of the new Venice. We shall find, however, that Frankish domination over Venetia was short-lived. The real world-historical importance of Pippin's invasion lay in the fact that it  p242 opened the eyes of the Venetians to the insecurity of their position at Malamocco and the other islands of the outer barrier of the lagunes. One of their first acts after the restoration of peace was formally to remove the capital of their state to the place named the Deep Channel (Rivus Altus). There, in that little cluster of islands, sheltered from attack by land or sea, in a spot whose narrow and winding channels were accessible to commerce but inaccessible to war, they reared that wonderful city which has made the name of Rialto for ever memorable in the literature of the world.

This was the true foundation of Venice, the true beginning of her proud history. All that had gone before was but a prologue, spoken on some one or other of the outlying islands, to the mighty drama of the Bride of the Sea. It interests us Englishmen to remember that 802 only eight years before the foundation of the new Venice, Egbert the West-Saxon, having been long an exile at the court of Charles the Great, returned to his own country, and assumed, first of all his race, the title of King of England. The two ocean queens were born, as it were, on the same day.

Pippin's Dalmatian expedition, After receiving the submission of Venice, Pippin sailed to the coast of Dalmatia, but here he was met by a Byzantine navy under command of Paulus,​48 Prefect of Cephalonia and was compelled to retire without having achieved any conquest. and death, July 8, 810. Very soon after his return he died, on the 8th of July, 810, and was buried at Milan, where his tombstone, a slab of white marble, was discovered not many years ago in  p243 the church of St. Ambrose.​49 What was the nature of the disease which carried off the young, brave, and beautiful king of Italy in the 33rd year of his age, we are not informed. It is an obvious conjecture that it was connected in some way with his Venetian and Dalmatian campaign, and that either chagrin at his partial failure or a fever caught during his encampment by the lagunes winged the arrow of death: but this is only a conjecture unsupported by any sentence in our authorities.

Pippin's family. Pippin left five daughters, who after his death were educated at their grandfather's court, and a son, Bernard, whose story is one of the saddest pages in the family history of the Carolingians. Two years after his father's death he was proclaimed king of Italy (or perhaps rather in official style, king of the Lombards), and was sent to govern his father's realm, which had during the interval been ruled by missi dominici, chief among them Charles's cousin Adalhard, abbot of Corbie, the generous defender of the divorced Desiderata.​50 Bernard was probably at this time about fifteen years of age. His revolt against his uncle Louis the Pious, his cruel death, and the depressing influence of remorse for that crime on his uncle's character, all lie outside the range of this history.

Another Byzantine embassy. Before the news of the death of Pippin had reached  p244 the Byzantine court, Nicephorus had despatched to Italy a messenger, Arsafius the Spatharius, to see if he could arrange terms of peace between the two great Adriatic powers. There was this advantage in directing the embassy to Pippin, king of the Lombards, that the difficult question of the recognition of Charles as Emperor of the Romans was thereby evaded,​51 but that advantage was of course lost when the ambassador, arriving at Milan or Pavia, found the palace empty and Pippin in his grave. However the old Emperor, who had long been waiting for some such tender of the olive-branch from Constantinople, succeeded in indu­cing Arsafius to cross the Alps and take up with himself at Aachen the web of diplomacy which was to have been woven with his son. A few sentences from Charles's letter to Nicephorus,​52 written in the early part of 811, will best explain the then existing posture of affairs: —

Charles's letter to Nicephorus. 'We have received with all honour the ambassador Arsafius, whom you sent with a verbal message and with letters to our son Pippin, of blessed memory. And though he was not accredited directly to us, yet perceiving him to be a prudent man, we have held discourse with him and given diligent heed to the things which he had to relate. And with good reason, for his messages, both written and verbal, were so full of the desire for peace and mutual charity that only a fool would have found them uninteresting.53  p245 Wherefore, as soon as we heard that he had come to the borders of our realm, a happy instinct moved us to desire that he should be brought into our presence; and now since he to whom he was sent, our dear son, by God's providence has been removed from human affairs, we resolved that he should not return empty-handed nor with the disappointment of a mission unperformed.

'And not only so: but looking back to the time when, in the first year of your reign, you sent the metropolitan Michael and the abbot Peter, and the life-guardsman Callistus to settle the terms of peace with us and to federate and unite these two realms in the love of Christ,​54 we remained like one standing on a watch-tower, waiting for the appearance of the messenger or the letter which should bring back to us the reply of your amiable Brotherhood. But now — such is the natural weakness of the human mind — hope in this matter had wellnigh given place to despair. Still we trusted in Him who never deserts those who put their confidence in Him, and believed that, as the Apostle says, He would not suffer our labour to be in vain in the Lord. Therefore we greatly rejoiced when we heard of the arrival of your messenger the glorious Spatharius Arsafius, believing that we should arrive at the much desired certainty concerning the things which were left uncertain, and that we should receive your answer to the letters which we gave to your aforesaid messengers. And so in fact it has proved, for we look upon the words and letters which have thus been addressed to our  p246 son as substantially containing the desired reply. Wherefore with thanks to Almighty God who has thus breathed into your heart the desire for peace, we at once without doubt or delay have prepared our embassy to your amiable Brotherhood.'

This letter is important as a comment on Einhard's words, 'Charles bore with patience the indignation of the Roman emperors and vanquished their stubbornness by his frequent embassies and fraternal letters.' It explains the strained relations which undoubtedly for eight years (803‑811) existed between the two empires. And it entirely disposes of the erroneous statement made by Dandolo, and on his authority largely adopted even by accurate historians, that the arrangement for fixing the boundaries of the two empires, which I am now about to describe, was concluded in 803 instead of eight years later.

It was a striking illustration of the wide-reaching character of Charles's statesman­ship that the ambassadors from Constantinople met at Aachen the ambassadors from Cordova who had come to negotiate a peace on behalf of the Emir El Hakem, the tyrannical sovereign of Moorish Spain.

Charles's return embassy. The ambassadors whom Charles now despatched to Constantinople were three, Haido bishop of Basle, Hugo count of Tours, and Aio a Lombard of Friuli. The terms of the treaty of peace which they were authorised to conclude were on Charles's part the surrender of the Venetian islands and of the maritime cities of Dalmatia, that is practically of the whole coast-line of the Northern and Eastern Adriatic.​55 On  p247 the part of Nicephorus there can be no doubt, though it is nowhere distinctly stated in our authorities, that the essential condition was the recognition of Charles as Emperor, that is virtually the admission that the Empire was no longer one, but two.

Fall of Obelerius. Charles's abandonment of Venice involved the abandonment of the duke Obelerius, who had certainly been disloyal to the Byzantine, if not too faithful to the Frank. The ambassadors who were sent to Constantinople took him with them in their train and handed him over to the Eastern Caesar, along with the Sicilian Leo who, as we have seen, ten years before had fled for refuge to Charles's court. Obelerius was probably condemned to perpetual exile, certainly not put to death, since twenty years later he returned to Venice and attempted a counter-revolution which cost him his life.56

Duke Agnellus (Angelo Participazio or Badoer), 811‑827. As the claim of the Eastern Emperor to the overlord­ship of Venice was now undisputed, the election of a successor to Obelerius and his brothers — all now deposed — was held under the presidency of Arsafius,​57 and the choice fell upon Agnellus who, according to the lately introduced expedient, had two tribunes assigned to him yearly as his assessors. Agnellus, who figures in the later histories of Venice as Angelo Participazio or Badoer, seems to have been a wise and prudent ruler. His son Joannes was for a time associated with him in the sovereignty, and men of  p248 the lineage of Agnellus were generally to be found on the list of the dukes of Venice for nearly a century and a half from his elevation.

This duke is a figure of especial interest for all lovers of art, as he was the first founder of the great Ducal Palace. The building raised by him was still standing at the end of the tenth century when Joannes Diaconus, chaplain of the Doge of Venice, wrote his history.58

Return of Fortunatus to his See. As we are here leaving the story of the Venetian commonwealth it should be mentioned that the fortunes of the patriarch Fortunatus appear not to have been neglected by his Frankish patron. As a result of the negotiations at Aachen this refugee bishop seems to have been permitted to return to his see of Grado, to which by Charles's permission he was probably allowed to subject the dioceses of Istria.59

Importance of this treaty on the after history of Venice. The fact that in this severance between the Eastern and Western Empires, Venice was allotted to the former, was of transcendent importance in the history of the Queen of the Adriatic. It is true that her subjection to the Augustus at Constantinople was of the gentlest kind and transferred itself with little difficulty, in the course of the ninth and tenth centuries, from subjection to alliance. Still that subjection, or connection, did exist and always enabled Venetian statesmen to plead that they were de jure as well as de facto independent of the Western Empire, thus preventing them from being swallowed up in that morass of feudal anarchy into which the Carolingian Empire sank so soon after the death of its founder.  p249 Had it not been for the treaty of Aachen it is possible that instead of the gorgeous city of the Rialto the world would have seen a petty town with insignificant commerce, taxed and tolled, and judged or misjudged without mercy at the caprice of some turbulent little baron, her feudal superior.60

The Author's Notes:

1 'Venetianische Studien,' I; München, 1878: 'Andreas Dandolo und Seine Geschichtswerke'; München, 1876.

2 Andreas Dandolo, &c., p79.

3 A. Dandolo, &c., p80.

4 Venetianische Studien, I.31, n. 1.

5 The name of Michael's see does not seem to be given. Charles in his letter to Nicephorus calls him metropolitanus (but see p252).

6 Candidatus.

7 Now Königshofen, in north of Bavaria, about forty miles north-west of Bamberg.

8 This seems to be the meaning of the words in Annales Einhardi, 'et pactum faciendae pacis in scripto susceperunt.' The peace was still only 'facienda,' not 'facta': a grammatical distinction which it would perhaps not be safe to insist upon, were it not that it is so fully confirmed by Charles's letter to Nicephorus in 811. The Annales Sithienses, which say 'Pax inter Carolum et Niciforum imperatores per conscriptionem pacti confirmata,' are not a first-rate authority, but an abridgment apparently from older and fuller records.

9 Igumenus (ἡγούμενος).

10 Between Bethlehem and the Dead Sea.

11 See Epistolae Carolinae, 22 (Jaffé, p382).

12 p47.

13 Vol. VI pp486‑490.

14 Then called Methamaucus.

15 Rivus AltusRialto.

16 See vol. VI p484.

17 This part of the subject is well handled by Gfrörer, I.81‑88.

18 In this connection I may refer to the story told by the Monk of St. Gall (II.17) about the hunting-party organised by Charles in order to cure his courtiers of their love of misplaced finery (see p153, n. 2). The gorgeous raiment there described is said to have been 'brought by the Venetians from Eastern countries to Pavia.' The Monk of St. Gall is a good witness as to manners and customs if a poor one for historical facts.

19 I.433 (ed. Duchesne).

20 See p45, and Ep. 64 in Codex Carolinus.

21 So says Andrea Dandolo, lib. VII cap. 12, 27: two years before his death according to Joannes Diaconus.

22 Joannes Diaconus, p99.

23 'Temporibus quorum apud Veneciam adeo excrevit mare ut omnes insulas ultra modum cöoperiret.'

24 For the curious history of these two patriarchates see vol. V pp454‑84; vol. VI p466.

25 The same whose letter to Hadrian was intercepted at Ravenna (see p26).

26 Joannes Diaconus, p100. The number of years is obliterated in the MS., and has to be supplied from other sources.

27 'Cujus sanguis in testimonium mortis suae in petris praesentaliter apparet,' quoted by Dandolo in the fourteenth century verbatim from Chronicon Altinate (tenth century): a curious illustration of the danger of this 'scissors and paste' way of compiling history.

28 'Quia non audivimus de eo, sicut decet de archiepiscopo, neque de partibus istis, neque de partibus Franciae ubi eum benefeciastis'º (Leonis Epistolae, 5; ap. Jaffé, p322). Jaffé dates this letter 806‑810.

29 Chronicon Altinate.

30 Colonel of the Life-guards.

31 'Tunc Beatus dux qui cum Niceta patricio Constantinopolim ivit, in Veneciam reversus, ab imperatore Honore ypati condecoratus est' (Joannes Diaconus, pp103‑104).

32 Annales Einhardi, s. a. 806.

33 'Deinde predicti duces navalem exercitum ad Dalmaciarum provinciam depopulandam destinaverunt' (Joan. Diac., p102).

34 The movements of Fortunatus between 803 and 806, though described at some length by Joannes Diaconus, are very difficult to understand, and I shall not attempt to explain them here.

35 That Venetia was lost to Charles before the end of 806 is shown by the statement of Annales Einhardi under that year, that 'the ambassadors who four years before had been sent to the king of the Persians [the Caliph], sailing through the very stations of the Greek ships, returned to the place on the coast which served as a port for Treviso (ad Tarvisiani portus receptaculum), unperceived by the adversary.' Evidently the ambassadors after their four years' absence from the West had a very narrow escape from capture by the Byzantine fleet harbouring at Venice.

36 'Quos Augustus exilio dampnavit' (Joan. Diac. p103).

37 I use the words 'partial destruction' notwithstanding the apparently positive statement of Joannes Diaconus ('igne combusta est'), because there is such a strong tradition that the final destruction of Heraclea took place in 810, at the time of Pippin's invasion.

38 'Eodem quoque tempore civitas Eracliana a Veneticis iterum devastata atque igne combusta est' (Ibid. p103). The 'iterum' is explained by a previous entry to the same effect immediately after the accession of Obelerius (p102).

39 The 'Proceres et Magnates Aquilegienses' of Dandolo (VII.14.12) must surely mean nobles of Equilium.

40 See vol. VII p218.

41 Our information as to these transactions is derived entirely from Annales Einhardi (it is singular that Theophanes makes not the slightest allusion to these Venetian campaigns); and their language is somewhat enigmatic: 'Dux autem qui classi praeerat, nomine Paulus, cum de pace inter Francos et Graecos constituendâ, quasi sibi hoc esset injunctum, apud Pippinum Italiae regem agere moliretur, Wilhareno [Obelerio] et Beato, Venetiae ducibus, omnes inchoatus ejus impedientibus, atque ipsi etiam insidias parantibus, cognitâ illorum fraude, discessit.'

42 Annales Einhardi, s. a. 810.

43 Joannes Diaconus, p104.

44 De Administrando Imperio, cap. 28 (pp123‑125, ed. Bonn).

Thayer's Note: In the more recent Dumbarton Oaks edition, fa­cing the Greek text, online at Archive.Org.

45 Βαλόντες κερατάρια. Translation doubtful.

46 The text, probably corrupt, has διβάρια, an unknown word.

47 In Chronicon Altinate and Chronicle of Canale (thirteenth century; old French), quoted by Simson (Jahrbücher, pp595‑6).

48 Probably the same as the admiral who made the attack on Comacchio in 809.

49 The tombstone which was discovered in 1874 bears this inscription: —

✠ Hic Pipinus rex quiescit in pace qui in hac regnavit provincia ann.

xxviii m. iii. Depositus v Idus Jul. indictione iii fil. d. m. Caroli.

50 See vol. VII p327.

51 This is pointed out by von Döllinger (Akademische Vorträge, III.128).

52 Epist. Carol. 29 (Jaffé, pp393‑396).

53 'Possetque judicari penitus insipiens cui talia . . . videntur insipida.'

54 'Ad constituendam nobiscum pacem et federanda atque adunanda haec duo in Christi caritate' (sic).

55 The surrender of maritime Venetia is stated in Annales Einhardi, s. a. 810, 'Nam Niciforo Venetiam reddidit': of the cities of Dalmatia in Einhardi Vita Karoli, cap. xv: 'Dalmaciam, exceptis maritimis civitatibus, quas, ob amicitiam et junctum cum eo foedus, Constantino­politanum imperatorem habere permisit.'

56 Joannes Diaconus, p110.

57 Called Ebersapius by Joannes Diaconus, p105.

58 'Agnellum . . . qui palatii hucusque manentis fuerat fabricator' (Joan. Diac. p106).

59 See on this point Gfrörer, I.123‑130.

60 This point is well brought out by Gfrörer, I.135.

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