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Rulers' titles in Middle Age Italy

Rulers' titles in Middle Age Italy

For centuries in the Middle Ages, in many regions of Europe there were not kings, but dukes, archdukes, etc. For instance, in Italy one had the Archduke of Tuscany and the Duke of Piedmont (until 1720) or the Duke (Doge) of Venice, etc. They were completely autonomous entities, but they were not kings. Apparently in some cases, this mattered a lot: the Duke of Piedmont gave up Sicily in 1720 in order to get Sardinia, with which he could finally be considered King of Sardinia (which included Piedmont, Liguria, Savoy etc).

My question is: What prevented the Dukes and Archdukes from saying, "well, from tomorrow, please call me a king"? Why was becoming a king so important for the Duke of Piedmont? What could he do as a king that could not as a duke?

I know that in theory the Holy Roman Emperor was his master, but as far as I can see, the German emperor had no practical influence on most of these states for centuries and I doubt he would have had anything to say if the Duke wanted to be called a king.

Did the Pope have influence on this? Maybe they really would not have accepted it and would have moved in with their troops. If so, why? Is just being called a king more threatening for the emperor, the Pope, or the other states, than being a duke?


As T.E.D. already mentioned, titles were tied to the territory, and mostly didn't change unless a feudal lord higher up in the "foodchain" granted one of its vassals a higher title (it usually came with further land and possessions as well). Also, once you fulfilled certain requirements to create a title, you could do so (great example, the British Empire, which was created after it annexed other titles on the same level as kingdoms in India).

As for Italy, there were various kingdoms throughout its history. Before Rome became a republic, Rome was ruled by several kings and after the fall of the Roman Empire the land was split among many factions, among them kingdoms. Byzantium got some of southern Italy later on, but first both Odoacer and Alarich of the Visigoths founded kingdoms in Italy. They were lastly supplanted by the Longobards, who ruled most of Italy either as dukes or kings. They were then mostly conquered by the Carolingians, namely Charlemagne, which put an end to titles of the level of "king" in Italy for a long time. It also marked the annexation to the frankish empire later HRE. (You mentioned Savoia, which initailly was part of burgundy by the way). The only exception was the papal state, which to this date still is a monarchy of "king-level", where the pope still holds the title of king of the vatican and bishop of the 'holy see' -which are technically two separate titles with two separate functions (forgive the technicality, but that's what we're talking about here anyways - also check out the video about the vatican by cgp grey, it's great at explaining these title relationships).

In the following time, most dukes, counts and marquis in Italy were de iure (by right, i.e. formally) a vassal of the HRE but many were de facto autonomous, sovereign states. Exceptions here are the muslim emirate of sicily (which was later conquered by normans and became a sovereign county), the papal state and the republic of venice, which were all independent states. Sicily however retained a de iure kingdom status, but no one claimed the title. Sardinia also, after some trouble between Pisa, the Pope and the kingdom of Aragon, gained the title of kingdom. And that's important.

Now as to Savoia: it started off as a county, became a duchy (still imperial) as you already mentioned. After the war of Spanish succession it gained Sicily, which had (see above) the formal possibility of being declared kingdom. It was swapped for Sardinia, which too had the formal title of "regno di Sardegna". The Duca di Savoia actually already had some formal titles of kingdoms, remainders of the crusades, but the Duchy of Savoia still was his main title. After gaining the kingdom of Sardinia, he officially became king "Re di Sardegna", though his primary title still was "Duca di Savoia". In the 19th century the title was merged, creating the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. Note that after the restoration the only other peninsular kingdom beside the papal state and the kingdom of Piedmont-sardinia was the kingdom of Two Sicilies, which also traces back it's "titolo regio" to Sicily being a king-level possession.

Long story short: he didn't swap Sicily for a titular difference, but for practicality: it was closer thus easier to rule. Also, technically most italian States were vassals of the empire, but only de iure, because the emperor always had problems controlling italian vassals. Italians were very unruly: anyone who claimed it had so many problems with it that it either lost the territory or just said "meh, i'll let you do as you please, just as long as you formally belong to me". That goes for spaniards, french, austrians and even the HRE. I'd like to add, that being a duke of the empire, the duke of Savoy still had a voting right and a place in the imperial Diet, though he never made use of it.


Titles of nobility literally came with the territory. Thus if you rule a principality, you are a prince, if you rule a duchy, you are a duke, and if you rule a kingdom, you are a king.

The main place it mattered was in dealing with other European nobility. In any social situation, kings got priority over dukes, who got priority over princes.

Your Savoyard example is instructive. Savoy was actually considered a duchy, and Piedmont a principality. However, the political situation was pretty much reversed, as the leadership of the kingdom was entirely based in Piedmont for most of its history. Since Sardinia was considered a kingdom, most people at the time referred to the unit as the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Piedmont-based ruler as the King of Sardinia.


For centuries in the Middle Ages, in many regions of Europe there were not kings, but dukes, archdukes, etc. For instance, in Italy one had the Archduke of Tuscany and the Duke of Piedmont (until 1720) or the Duke (Doge) of Venice, etc. They were completely autonomous entities, but they were not kings. Apparently in some cases, this mattered a lot: the Duke of Piedmont gave up Sicily in 1720 in order to get Sardinia, with which he could finally be considered King of Sardinia (which included Piedmont, Liguria, Savoy etc

The OP made several errors and false assumptions. During the Middle Ages there were very few "king free" regions in Catholic Europe. Pagan rulers might not have been counted as kings by Christians, however much they might seem objectively to be pagan kings. But most areas ruled by Catholic Christians were considered part of Catholic kingdoms.

Poland was ruled part of the time by kings and part of the time by dukes with seniority over the other dukes. Lithuania was briefly a kingdom but mostly a grand duchy. Bohemia was a duchy for a few centuries before becoming a kingdom.

When King Otto the Great of Germany and Italy became emperor in 962, a large area in what is now eastern Germany and western Poland Was ruled by pagan groups tributary to the Kingdom of Germany. Later the region was converted to Christianity and organized into fiefs that were part of the Holy Roman Empire, but I don't know if those lands were supposed to be part of the Kingdom of Germany.

Thus someone who wanted to be king had a low probability that he was not already the vassal of a king who would not be pleased by him making himself king and committing treason.

A ruler using a title like baron, count, viscount, margrave, landgrave, count palatine, duke, etc. was using a title from the feudal hierarchy and thus claiming to be subordinate to a king. If he started calling himself a king he would be saying "Look everyone, I just committed treason!"

And for most of the middle ages in most areas a new king had to be crowned and anointed with holy oil by high ranking clergy, needing their approval of how he became king.

Examples of nobles forming kingdoms out of larger kingdoms include Count Boso of Provence in 879, Rudolph of upper Burgundy in 888 (both carved out of the West Frankish Kingdom), Count Roger II of Sicily in 1130 (formed out of Muslim and Christian territories), and Count Alfonso of Portugal in the Kingdom of Leon in 1139.

Catholic nobles also formed kingdoms out of Muslim lands such as the Kingdom of Jerusalem and out of Eastern Orthodox lands such as the kingdoms of Cyprus and Thessalonica.

The Kingdom of Sardinia did not include Savoy, Piedmont, etc. until the Congress of Vienna in 1815. It included only the Island of Sardinia until then. The Duchy of Savoy was part of the Kingdom of Burgundy or Arles, and the Principality of Piedmont was part of the Kingdom of Italy or Lombardy.

Before 1720 the title of victor Amadeus was:

Vittorio Amedeo per gratia di Dio Re di Sicilia, di Gerusalemme e di Cipro, Duca di Savoia, Monferrato, Aosta, Ciablese e Genevese, Prencipe di Piemonte e d'Oneglia, Marchese d'Italia, di Saluzzo, Susa, Ivrea, Ceva, del Maro e Sesana, Conte di Mauriana, Geneva, Nizza, Tenda, Romont, Asti e Alessandria, Barone di Vaud e Faucignì, Signor di Vercelli, Pinerolo, Tarantasia, Lumellina e Val di Sesia, Prencipe del Sacro Romano Imperio, e Vicario perpetuo in Italia, ecc.

And after 1720 it was:

Nos Victorius Amedeus, Dei gratia Rex Sardiniae, Cypri ct Hyerusalem, Dux Sabaudiae, Montisferrati, Augustae Salassorum, Chablasij et Gebennensis, Princeps Pedemontis et Oneliae, Marchio in Italia, Salutiarum, Secusiae, Hiporediae, Cevae, Oristanei, Marri et Cesanae, Comes Maurianae, Genevae, Nissiae, Tendarum, Romontis, Astae, Alexandriae et Goceani, Baro Baudi et Faugigniaci, Dominus Vercellarum, Pineroli, Tarantasiae, Lumellinae et Valus Sicidae, Sacri Romani Imperil Princeps, et ejusdem in Italia Vicarius perpetuus

He still had to list all the other fiefdoms because they were outside of either the Kingdom of Sicily or the Kingdom of Sardinia and his right to rule in those fiefdoms was totally separate from his right to rule in either kingdom.

If Victor Amadeaus had tried to annex all his lands to the Kingdom of Sardinia he would have been committing treason against the kings of Italy and Burgundy, who happened to be the Emperor. Did you know that after the Austrian army chased the French army out of northern Italy in the War of the Spanish Succession Emperor Joseph I collected millions of florins in imperial war tax from the states in Northern Italy in 1708?

If Victor Amadeus had proclaimed himself King of Piedmont, he would have run the risk of becoming Victim Amadeus. In England lands and titles confiscated from traitors were often restored in whole or in part to their heirs after a generation or two. But in the Holy Roman Empire confiscated lands were usually gone and lost forever for the descendants of the traitor, usually being granted to a loyal relative of the traitor. Duke Ferdinand Charles of Mantua and Montferrat had his duchies confiscated in 1708 for supporting the French, for example.


Battle of Montaperti: 13th Century Violence on the Italian ‘Hill of Death’

The 13th century was arguably the darkest period of Italian history, marked by bloody struggles between rival political factions. The 15th century (the so-called Age of Warlords) was likewise replete with unscrupulous Italian despots who ruled with a refined cruelty, from Giangaleazzo Visconti to Cesare Borgia, but at least it was also a time of great creative achievement — the Renaissance.

In contrast, the 13th century was generally a time of unmitigated violence. Entire families were expunged in escalating blood feuds reminiscent of vendettas among the Mafia families in more recent times. The tragedy of Romeo Montecchi and Juliet Capuleti (made famous by William Shakespeare’s play in 1595) took place in that time.

The game of power made every northern Italian town a theater of civil wars. A family backing a particular political party often controlled a neighborhood adjacent to one controlled by a family belonging to a rival party. The year 1198 saw the beginning of two such political parties–the Guelphs and Ghibellines. (The Montecchis were Ghibellines the Capuletis were Guelphs.) The names are of German origin. At that time, German emperors also reigned over Italy, through a parallel kingdom built up by the Unrochingi, which by 888 was the first dynasty of the world whose rulers wore crowns considered holy by the Church.

The Guelphs became the upholders of papal supremacy, while the Ghibellines supported the political claims of German emperors and kings of Italy. Later, the Guelphs split into two factions: the Blacks (extreme Guelphs) and the Whites (moderate Guelphs). Ghibellines came to be regarded as the party of noblemen, Black Guelphs the faction of the upper middle class, and White Guelphs the faction of the lower middle class. The truth, however, was that all of those parties and factions steadily degenerated into gangs without any ideology who fought for the hegemonic ambitions of their own bosses to control local businesses and rackets.

In the middle of the 13th century, northern Italy, the so-called kingdom of Italy, was a myriad of independent city-states–more than 60, not counting smaller villages and excluding the independent republic of Venice. Central Italy was made up of the Papal States, from which the popes vied for rule over European Christendom with the Holy Roman Empire.

Southern Italy and the island of Sicily made up the kingdom of Sicily, whose ruling Norman Altavilla dynasty was replaced in 1194 by the Swabian dynasty–officially through a joyful marriage, but also by killing all the upholders of the Altavillas who did not agree with the change. As a child, William III, the last offspring of the Altavillas, was maimed by the Swabian thugs and then disappeared (it seems he died in what is now western Austria). An unusual fiefdom within the Sicilian domain was the town of Lucera, which was an autonomous Islamic republic allied with the Swabians.

In 1258, King Manfredi I ruled over southern Italy and also in northern Italy, where he was regarded as the chief of the Ghibelline Party. In Italy, his allies included Ezzelino da Romano, the powerful tyrant of Venetia, called the ‘Son of the Devil’ because of his violent temperament. Ezzelino, who married into the Swabians, ruled over a large territory and threatened all of his neighbors. Moreover, as a Ghibelline he controlled the strategic road to Germany. Manfredi, who controlled a kingdom that was supposed to have been ruled by his nephew Conradino (Little Conrad), had stolen the crown. He then set his ambitions on becoming ruler over Germany and northern Italy. Manfredi was heavy-handed when it came to domestic politics in southern Italy, he defended his power by sweeping away all opposition. His foreign politics were just as unscrupulous. Hoping to improve relations with the papacy (the popes hated the Swabians), he supported Pope Alexander IV when the latter decided to eliminate the tyrant Ezzelino, who was Manfredi’s brother-in-law. The Guelphs’ crusade against Ezzelino, who they represented as a tyrant who scorned God and all human beings, was made up of the Papacy, Venice, Milan, Ferrara, Padua, Mantua and Cremona. At the Battle of Cassano d’Adda, fought on September 19, 1259, Ezzelino was wounded, defeated and arrested. He died in the prison of Soncino a few days later. His entire family was subsequently killed.

After Cassano d’Adda, the relationship between the papacy and Manfredi did not permanently improve. The struggles also continued between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, especially in Tuscany, where the hatred between Florence (Guelph) and Siena (Ghibelline) escalated. Both towns wanted hegemony over Tuscany.

The Sienese, who knew that the Florentines wanted to destroy their town, asked Manfredi for help. In December 1259, Manfredi sent a force of 800 German knights and some Muslim noblemen from Lucera, led by his brother, Giordano d’Anglona.

In April 1260, Florence organized a great coalition to smash the Sienese. Jacopino Rangoni, the mayor of Florence, soon had 12 generals and nearly 35,000 soldiers at his disposal. All of the males of Florence aged 15 through 70 took up arms, and they were joined by troops from Genoa, Piacenza, Bologna, Lucca, Pistoia, Prato, Arezzo, Volterra, San Gimignano and the papal towns of Perugia and Orvieto. From smaller towns and from Germany, upholders of Conradino also came to fight. There were even Sienese fighting–exiled Guelphs who wanted to take power in their own town.

On the other side, Siena got additional support from Pisa (a traditional enemy of both Genoa and Florence), Cortona, and the Ghibellines of Florence (the most prominent of whom were Guido Novello and Farinata degli Uberti), who were trying to regain power in the town after 10 years in exile. In sum, the Sienese commander in chief, Aldobrandino di Santa Fiora, had about 20,000 soldiers.

September 4, 1260, a Saturday, would be the bloodiest day of the Italian Middle Ages. The ‘eternal peace’ signed by Florence and Siena on July 31, 1255, was only a memory, and the ongoing duel between those two towns, which had begun in 1140, was about to reach its gory climax. Near Montaperti (the ‘hill of death’), a handful of houses within sight of Siena, civilians prayed in churches for victory.

The Sienese were the first to attack. Both sides concentrated their efforts on conquering the Carroccio of the enemy–the holy wagon that always accompanied medieval Italian armies, where a priest celebrated mass during the battle.

The battle lasted from dawn until sunset. Although the Ghibellines were not as numerous as the Guelphs, they were more aggressive, and Manfredi’s German knights were selected troops. When sunset came and the last attempt of the Guelphs to conquer the Sienese Carroccio failed, some things occurred that finally decided the battle. First, the Count of Arras, a Ghibelline, launched an attack from Monselvoli. Then, a Florentine Ghibelline named Bocca degli Abati betrayed his own army. With his sword, he cut off the hand of the ensign-bearer of the Florentine cavalry, Jacopo dei Pazzi. The Guelphs were taken aback by that betrayal at the critical point of the battle, and while Abati and his allies (hundreds of whom had been waiting for the right moment) were attacking their former comrades-in-arms, the Ghibellines launched their final offensive.

For Florence and her allies, the Battle of Montaperti turned into a disaster. The Guelphs began to flee, and the Ghibellines, made crazy by their success, killed without restraint, including enemies who were ready to surrender. The Arbia Creek became red with Florentine blood. When night fell, 10,000 men lay dead in the field and 4,000 were missing. The Sienese and their allies took 15,000 prisoners and, of course, the Florentine Carroccio.

More than 700 years later, a cippus (monument) at Montaperti reminds passers-by of the tragedy that took place.

The Battle of Montaperti was a short-lived victory. In the short run, Florence became Ghibelline, and Manfredi’s influence over Tuscany grew. But the new pope, Urban IV, called for help from Charles of Anjou, brother of the king of France, a man thirsty for power. Landing in Italy, Charles became chief of the Guelphs and, after his coronation as king of Sicily, he went from Rome to southern Italy to destroy the Swabian dynasty–once and for all.

The big battle took place at Benevento on February 26, 1266. The Anjou cavalry, helped by traitors among the Swabian troops, destroyed Manfredi’s army. The Swabian regime collapsed within a few days of that defeat. The lords of manors who hitherto had always been pro-Swabian, became, as if by magic, pro-Anjou!

Manfredi was killed during the battle, and to this day the location of his tomb is still a mystery. His wife, Queen Elena, was arrested in Trani and died as a prisoner in a castle in Nocera six years later. Her children, separated from their mother, were swallowed up by the Anjou prisons. A new Pope, Clement IV, had called them ‘progeny of snakes.’

Two years later, in 1268, Conradino, the last of the Swabian family, was taken prisoner by the Anjous and was beheaded in Naples, the new capital of southern Italy. Under the Anjou dynasty, southern Italy sank into the darkest feudalism. There was no place for Swabian allies: 34 years after the Battle of Benevento, the Islamic Republic of Lucera was destroyed.

The pitiless end of the Swabian dynasty had other famous consequences. In Florence and in Siena, the Guelphs regained power and started a fierce persecution of the Ghibellines. Also in Florence, the Guelphs split into Whites and Blacks under the Cerchi and the Donati families, respectively. Supported by Pope Boniface VIII, the extreme faction, the Blacks, under Corso Donati, ultimately won out. Among the Whites who felt Donati’s wrath was the writer Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy. Dante, who hated the Blacks, was condemned to death by burning at the stake on March 10, 1302, but he was later able to escape before the sentence was carried out. It is a small consolation, perhaps, that the casualties in Italy’s shameful era of civil strife did not include the ‘father of the modern Italian language.’

This article was written by Marco Picone-Chiodo and originally published in the June 1996 issue of Military History magazine.

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Famous Men of the Middle Ages By John H. Haaren (John Henry)

After the death of Mohammed the Saracens, as Mohammedans are also called, became great warriors. They conquered many countries and established the Mohammedan religion in them. In 711 the Saracens invaded and conquered a great part of Spain and founded a powerful kingdom there, which lasted about seven hundred years.

They intended to conquer the land of the Franks next, and then all Europe.

They thought it would be easy to conquer the Franks, because the Frankish king at that time was a very weak man. He was one of a number of kings who were called the “Do-nothings.” They reigned from about 638 to 751. They spent all their time in amusements and pleasures, leaving the affairs of the government to be managed by persons called MAYORS OF THE PALACE.

The mayors of the palace were officers who at first managed the king’s household. Afterwards they were made guardians of kings who came to the throne when very young. So long as the king was under age the mayor of the palace acted as chief officer of the government in his name. And as several of the young kings, even when they were old enough to rule, gave less attention to business than to pleasure, the mayors continued to do all the business, until at last they did everything that the king ought to have done. They made war, led armies in battle, raised money and spent it, and carried on the government as they pleased, without consulting the king.

The “Do-nothings” had the title of king, but nothing more. In fact, they did not desire to have any business to do. The things they cared for were dogs, horses and sport.

One of the most famous of the mayors was a man named Pepin (Pep’-in). Once a year, it is said, Pepin had the king dressed in his finest clothes and paraded through the city of Paris, where the court was held. A splendid throng of nobles and courtiers accompanied the king, and did him honor as he went along the streets in a gilded chariot drawn by a long line of beautiful horses. The king was cheered by the people, and he acknowledged their greetings most graciously.

After the parade the king was escorted to the great hall of the palace, which was filled with nobles. Seated on a magnificent throne, he saluted the assemblage and made a short speech. The speech was prepared beforehand by Pepin, and committed to memory by the king. At the close of the ceremony the royal “nobody” retired to his country house and was not heard of again for a year.

Pepin died in 714 A.D., and his son Charles, who was twenty-five years old at that time, succeeded him as mayor of the palace. This Charles is known in history as Charles Martel. He was a brave young man. He had fought in many of his father’s battles and so had become a skilled soldier. His men were devoted to him.

While he was mayor of the palace he led armies in several wars against the enemies of the Franks. The most important of his wars was one with the Saracens, who came across the Pyrenees from Spain and invaded the land of the Franks, intending to establish Mohammedanism there. Their army was led by Abd-er-Rahman (Abd-er-Rah’-man), the Saracen governor of Spain.

On his march through the southern districts of the land of the Franks Abd-er-Rahman destroyed many towns and villages, killed a number of the people, and seized all the property he could carry off. He plundered the city of Bordeaux (bor-do’), and, it is said, obtained so many valuable things that every soldier “was loaded with golden vases and cups and emeralds and other precious stones.”

But meanwhile Charles Martel was not idle. As quickly as he could he got together a great army of Franks and Germans and marched against the Saracens. The two armies met between the cities of Tours and Poitiers (pwaw-te-ay) in October, 732. For six days there was nothing but an occasional skirmish between small parties from both sides but on the seventh day a great battle took place.

Both Christians and Mohammedans fought with terrible earnestness. The fight went on all day, and the field was covered with the bodies of the slain. But towards evening, during a resolute charge made by the Franks, Abd-er-Rahman was killed. Then the Saracens gradually retired to their camp.

It was not yet known, however, which side had won and the Franks expected that the fight would be renewed in the morning.

But when Charles Martel, with his Christian warriors, appeared on the field at sunrise there was no enemy to fight. The Mohammedans had fled in the silence and darkness of the night and had left behind them all their valuable spoils. There was now no doubt which side had won.

The battle of Tours, or Poitiers, as it should be called, is regarded as one of the decisive battles of the world. It decided that Christians, and not Moslems, should be the ruling power in Europe.

Charles Martel is especially celebrated as the hero of this battle. It is said that the name MARTEL was given to him because of his bravery during the fight. Marteau (mar-to’) is the French word for hammer, and one of the old French historians says that as a hammer breaks and crushes iron and steel, so Charles broke and crushed the power of his enemies in the battle of Tours.

But though the Saracens fled from the battlefield of Tours, they did not leave the land of the Franks and Charles had to fight other battles with them, before they were finally defeated. At last, however, he drove them across the Pyrenees, and they never again attempted to invade Frankland.

After his defeat of the Saracens Charles Martel was looked upon as the great champion of Christianity and to the day of his death, in 741, he was in reality, though not in name, the king of the Franks.

Charles Martel had two sons, Pepin and Carloman. For a time they ruled together, but Carloman wished to lead a religious life, so he went to a monastery and became a monk. Then Pepin was sole ruler.

Pepin was quite low in stature, and therefore was called Pepin the Short. But he had great strength and courage. A story is told of him, which shows how fearless he was.

One day he went with a few of his nobles to a circus to see a fight between a lion and a bull. Soon after the fight began, it looked as though the bull was getting the worst of it. Pepin cried out to his companions:

“Will one of you separate the beasts?”

But there was no answer. None of them had the courage to make the attempt. Then Pepin jumped from his seat, rushed into the arena, and with a thrust of his sword killed the lion.

In the early years of Pepin’s rule as mayor of the palace the throne was occupied by a king named Childeric (Chil’-der-ic) III. Like his father and the other “do-nothing” kings, Childeric cared more for pleasures and amusements than for affairs of government. Pepin was the real ruler, and after a while he began to think that he ought to have the title of king, as he had all the power and did all the work of governing and defending the kingdom.

So he sent some friends to Rome to consult the Pope. They said to His Holiness:

“Holy father, who ought to be the king of France—the man who has the title, or the man who has the power and does all the duties of king?”

“Certainly,” replied the Pope, “the man who has the power and does the duties.”

“Then, surely,” said they, “Pepin ought to be the king of the Franks for he has all the power.”

The Pope gave his consent, and Pepin was crowned king of the Franks and thus the reign of Childeric ended and that of Pepin began.

During nearly his whole reign Pepin was engaged in war. Several times he went to Italy to defend the Pope against the Lombards. These people occupied certain parts of Italy, including the province still called Lombardy.

Pepin conquered them and gave as a present to the Pope that part of their possessions which extended for some distance around Rome. This was called “Pepin’s Donation.” It was the beginning of what is known as the “temporal power” of the Popes, that is, their power as rulers of part of Italy.

This complete text of Famous Men of the Middle Ages by John Henry Haaren, LL.D., District Superintendent of Schools The City of New York, and A. B. Poland, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools Newark N.J., is in the public domain.
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The rise of law and the nation-state

Yet even at their height the military aristocrats never had it all their own way. Strong monarchies gradually developed in England, France, and, a little later, in the Iberian Peninsula. During the most vigorous period of the papacy (c. 1050–1300) the Roman Catholic Church was able to modify, if not control, baronial behaviour. Trade gradually revived and brought with it a revitalization not only of the city but also of the city-state in Italy, the Rhineland, and the Low Countries, for the newly prosperous burghers could now afford to build stout walls around their towns, and it was difficult for the nobility to muster sufficient force to besiege them successfully. Even the peasants from time to time made themselves felt in bloody uprisings, and the nobility itself was far from being a homogeneous or united class.

Medieval Europe, in fact, was a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of political arrangements to the extent that it ever settled down, it did so on the principle that because everybody’s claim to power and property was fragile and inconsistent with everybody else’s, a certain degree of mutual forbearance was necessary. This explains the great importance attached to custom, or (as it was called in England) common law. Disputes were still often settled by force, especially when kings were the disputants, but the medieval European became almost as fond of law as of battle. Every great estate was hung about with quasi-permanent lawsuits over ownership of land and the rights and privileges that went with it, and the centralization of the church on the papal court at Rome ensured yet more work for lawyers, the greatest of whom began to merge with the military nobility into an aristocracy of a new kind. Rights, titles, and privileges were forever being granted, revoked, and reaffirmed. Parchment deeds (of which Magna Carta, exacted from King John of England by his subjects in 1215, was perhaps the most famous) came to regulate political, social, and economic relationships at least as much as the sword did. In those ways the idea of the rule of law was reborn. By the beginning of the early modern period legally demonstrable privileges had become the universal cement of European society. The weak were thus enabled to survive alongside the strong, as everybody in Europe knew to which order of society they belonged.

However, there was a dynamism in European society that prevented it from setting permanently into any pattern. The evolving Europe of privileged orders was also the Europe of rising monarchies. With many setbacks the kings clawed power to themselves by 1500 most of them presided over bureaucracies (initially staffed by clerics) that would have impressed any Roman emperor. But universal empire was still impossible. The foundations of the new monarchies were purely territorial. The kings of England, France, and Spain had enough to do to enforce their authority within the lands they had inherited or seized and to hammer their realms into some sort of uniformity. That impulse explains the wars of the English against the Welsh, Scots, and Irish the drive of the French kings toward the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Rhine and the rigour of the Spanish kings in forcing Catholicism on their Jewish and Moorish subjects. Uniformity paved the way for the most characteristic governmental form of the modern world, the nation-state.

This entity, like the city-state that it superseded, had and has a double aspect. A nation or people can exist without taking the form of a state: physical geography, economic interest, language, religion, and history, all together or in ones and twos, can create a generally accepted and recognized identity without a political organization. The Kurds are an example of such a nation. But such an identity can, in the right circumstances, provide a solid foundation for government, and the territorial monarchies’ quest for external aggrandizement and administrative uniformity soon began, half deliberately, to exploit that possibility.


Top 10 Truly Insane Rulers

History is rife with tales of monarchs and royalty who suffered from insanity. Although it may be more appropriate to say that their people suffered from their insanity. In some cases it is difficult to tell if these leaders&rsquo actions were truly the result of insanity, or if events were sensationalized. It also seems that accusations of insanity were often used to overthrow royalty. Nonetheless, there are cases in which a member of a royal family has been irrefutably insane. The following men represent very different examples of insanity. Some were cruel and vicious, while others were frightened shut ins. The matter of their insanity really depends on how you define insanity. Why so many royal men of old went insane is anybody&rsquos guess. It could have been the pressure of being forced into being a king. Maybe it was incest or poor medical care. Whatever the cause of their insanity, it is certain that a number of nations have been ruled by madmen.

Anna, who ruled as Empress of Russia from 1730 &ndash 1740, was not born to the throne &ndash she was made Empress by the Supreme Privy Council of Russia. The council had hoped that she would feel indebted to them for her position and act as a puppet ruler &ndash but, little did they know, Anna had other plans in mind. One of her first acts was to restore the secret police, to do her bidding. Finding favor with the Royal Guards, her power became uncontrollable, and she began a ten year reign tormenting the aristocrats who made her ruler. In the most famous example of her insanity, Anna hooked up one of the old princes with her maid, because she had discovered that his, now dead, wife had been Catholic. This seems rather innocuous, but what happened next is not: Anna organized the wedding and had a special palace made of ice for the occasion. She made the wedding party dress as clowns and spend the night in the ice-palace&hellip in the middle of one of the harshest winters Russia had seen in years. Fortunately for Russia, her reign was cut short by her death at the age of 47.

George III of England is probably the second most well known insane ruler in history (second to item 1 on this list), largely due to the famous movie, &ldquoThe Madness of King George.&rdquo King George III sat on the throne of England from 1760-1820, and it was on his watch that the American colonies were lost &ndash perhaps his greatest legacy. He most likely suffered from the hereditary disease of porphyria, which also afflicted Mary, Queen of Scots. The monarch&rsquos illness presented England with a difficult problem: What do you do when a ruler becomes irrational? When the king became ill in 1788, his prime minister, William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), and the queen ran the government on his behalf &ndash and, later, his son ruled as regent. In his later years, as his insanity grew, he spent his time in isolation, and was often kept in straight jackets and behind bars in his private apartments at Windsor Castle. In recent times there has been some speculation that King George was driven insane by the treatments he received for his alleged insanity.

King Charles VI was crowned King of France in 1380, when he was only eleven years old. Apparently, he was a good king before insanity took over, because he was originally known as Charles the Well-Loved. It later became evident that he was insane, so his moniker was changed to Charles the Mad.

Accounts of the king&rsquos first fit of madness state that King Charles VI became agitated at the sound of a dropped spear, while traveling with his men. He then murdered one of his own knights and, reportedly, a few other men, though accounts vary. After this incident the king fell into a coma.

The symptoms of the king&rsquos insanity progressed in later years and were much varied. There were times when King Charles VI did not know who he was, and could not recognize his wife and children. Several months of his life were marked by his refusal to bathe. He even spent some time under the impression that he was made of glass. King Charles VI of France died, a madman, in 1422.

Justin II was Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor from 565 to 578. His reign included war with Persia and the loss of large parts of Italy. After two disastrous campaigns, in which the Persians overran Syria and captured the strategically important fortress of Dara (Mesopotamia), Justin reportedly lost his mind. The temporary fits of insanity into which he fell warned him to name a successor &ndash Tiberius II Constantine. According to John of Ephesus, as Justin II slipped into the unbridled madness of his final days, he was pulled through the palace on a wheeled throne, biting attendants as he passed. He reportedly ordered organ music to be played constantly throughout the palace in an attempt to soothe his frenzied mind, and it was rumored that his taste for attendants extended as far as eating a number of them during his reign.

Ludwig II became king of Bavaria, in 1864. During his reign, Ludwig II spent all of his personal funds on the construction of fairy tale castles. He was painfully shy, and ill-equipped for his duties as king. He spent hardly any time governing his people, and had a strong aversion to public appearances.

In 1866, Ludwig was accused of being insane. Whether his eccentric behaviors were caused by insanity is unknown. The man who declared him insane had never examined him. He was deposed on the grounds of insanity at the request of his uncle, who may have wanted control of the government. The day after the king&rsquos deposition, he was found dead in a pond, along with the very doctor who had declared him insane.

One of the most famous Ottoman Sultans, Ibrahim was released from the Kafes (a special prison for potential heirs to the throne), and succeeded his brother, Murad IV (1623&ndash40), in 1640, though this was against the wishes of Murad IV, who had ordered him killed upon his own death. Ibrahim I was allowed to live because he was too mad to be a threat. Ibrahim brought the empire almost to collapse in a very short space of time. He is known to have had an obsession with obese women, urging his agents to find the fattest woman possible. A candidate was tracked down in Georgia, or Armenia, who weighed over 330 pounds, and was given the pet name Sheker Pare (literally, &ldquopiece of sugar&rdquo). Ibrahim was so pleased with her that he gave her a government pension, and the title of Governor General of Damascus. When he heard a rumor that his concubines were compromised by another man, he had 280 members of his harem drowned in the Bosporus Sea. He was seen feeding coins to fish living in the palace&rsquos pool. These feats earned him the nickname &ldquomad&rdquo &ndash for rather obvious reasons.

Ivan IV, or Ivan the Terrible, had a childhood that was scarred by the loss of both of his parents, and abuse at the hands of the Russian government. After the death of his mother, when Ivan was seven, he was left to be tormented by the elite members of the Russian government. He was severely abused and mistreated by them in the very palace that was rightfully his. Abuse gave way to insanity, and Ivan began venting his frustrations by torturing small animals.

In 1544, when Ivan IV was fourteen, he seized control of Russia by feeding the head of the government to a pack of dogs. After that it seemed that Ivan IV had changed his ways. He made a public confession of his cruel acts to his people by way of an apology. It only later became clear that he was dangerously insane.

Ivan IV was a very good Tsar in many ways. He created laws that were aimed toward class equality. However, when he began massacring his people, he showed the same ignorance of class distinction. Ivan IV was also guilty of killing his oldest, and most beloved, son by his own hand. You may or may not believe that acts of cruelty constitute insanity, but if you consider the likes of Hitler and Hussein to have been insane, then Ivan the Terrible certainly was as well.

Maria&rsquos madness was first officially noticed in 1786, when she had to be carried back to her apartments in a state of delirium. The queen&rsquos mental state became increasingly worse. The year of 1786 saw her husband lose his life, in May. Maria was devastated and forbade any court entertainments and, according to a contemporary, the state festivities resembled religious ceremonies. Her state worsened after the death of her eldest son, aged 27, from smallpox, and of her confessor, in 1791. After the end of 1791, her mental state seemed to be becoming even worse. In February, 1792, she was deemed mentally insane, and was treated by John Willis, the same physician that attended George III of the United Kingdom (note the final sentence of item 9). He wanted to take her to England, but that was refused by the Portuguese court. The young prince John took over the government in her name, even though he only took the title of Prince Regent in 1799. When the Real Barraca de Ajuda burnt down, in 1794, the court was forced to move to Queluz where the ill queen would lie in her apartments all day, and visitors would complain of terrible screams that would echo throughout the palace. Maria died at a Carmelite convent in Rio de Janeiro in 1816.

Prince Sado was born in 1735, and was married nine years later. It is said that his father, the king of Korea, began hating his son when Sado was very young. Sado had a son of his own when he was seventeen. After the birth of his son, Sado became sick with the measles. He recovered from his illness, but it seemed to have triggered a deep-seated insanity that lurked within the prince. The king became even more disgusted with his son. The king was said to have washed out his mouth, cleaned his ears and changed his clothes whenever Sado talked to him.

Prince Sado&rsquos insanity first presented itself as nightmares and delusions. These episodes were soon followed by violent attacks. By 1757, Sado was physically abusing his servants, and raping any woman who denied him. Sado murdered and raped on a whim. He even took to stalking his own sister.

The king eventually tired of the terror his son inflicted. The king ordered Sado into a rice chest, and the prince complied. The king then had the rice chest nailed shut. Sado spent eight days in it before he finally died. Perhaps the king&rsquos hatred contributed to Sado&rsquos insanity. Either way, the cruel prince died a cruel death and, in the king&rsquos eyes, justice was served.

Caligula has appeared on Listverse before, but he certainly needs to be on this list and deserves number one spot. Here is a summary of some of the many activities in his life as ruler of arguably the greatest empire in history:

He attempted to instate his favorite horse, Incitatus (&ldquoGalloper&rdquo), as a priest and consul, and ordered a beautiful marble stable built for him, complete with chairs and couches, on which Incitatus never sat.

Once, at the Circus Maximus, the games ran out of criminals, and the next event was the lions, his favorite. He ordered his Guards to drag the first five rows of spectators into the arena, which they did. These hundreds of people were all devoured for his amusement.

A citizen once insulted him to his face, in a fit of rage, and Caligula responded by having him tied down and beaten with heavy chains. He made this last for 3 months, having the man brought out from a dungeon and beaten, until Caligula, and the whole crowd that gathered, were too offended by the smell of the man&rsquos gangrenous brain, whereupon he was beheaded.

Caligula&rsquos favorite torture was sawing, which topped another list on this site. The sawblade filleted the spine and spinal cord, from crotch down to chest, and the victim was unable to pass out due to excess blood to the brain.

He also relished chewing up the testicles of victims, without biting them off, while they were restrained, upside down, before him.

He had another insulter, and his entire family, publicly executed, one after another, in front of a crowd. The man and wife were first, followed by the oldest child and so on. The crowd became outraged and began to disperse, but many stayed in morbid fascination. The last of the family was a 12 year old girl, who was sobbing hysterically at what she had been forced to watch. A member of the crowd shouted that she was exempt from execution as a virgin. Caligula smiled and ordered the executioner to rape her, then strangle her, which he did.

He publicly had sex with his three sisters at banquets and games, sometimes on the table, amid the food. He was finally murdered by the Praetorian Guard and some senators, leaving the Circus Maximus after the games. His body was left in the street to rot, and dogs finally ate it. He had ruled for 4 years.

Portions of this text are available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License additional terms may apply. Portions of text are derived from Wikipedia.


Xerxes the Great, r. 485-465 BCE

The son of Darius the Great, and the grandson of Cyrus through his mother, Xerxes completed the conquest of Egypt and the reconquest of Babylon. His heavy-handed treatment of Babylonian religious beliefs led to two major revolts, in 484 and 482 BCE. Xerxes was assassinated in 465 by the commander of his royal bodyguard.


Guido de Arezzo (ca 995–1050)

Italian composer Guide de Arezzo also known as Guido Aretinus, was a Benedictine monk, choirmaster, and music educator, known for his inventions to greatly help choirs to sing in harmony and to sight-sing: the placement of staff lines to signify intervals of thirds, and the use of instruments and the hand as for visualizing, hearing and singing the distances between consecutive pitches. He also wrote the Micrologus or "little discourse" on music theory practices of his day and developed an "improvisational method" to teach original composition to the very young.

  • Miller SD. 1973. Guido d'Arezzo: Medieval Musician and Educator. Journal of Research in Music Education 21(3):239–245.

Resources

Mr. Donn has an excellent website that includes a section on the Renaissance.

Farinata degli Uberti (died 1264), was an Italian aristocrat and military leader. He appears as a character in Dante Alighieri 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. The Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice. Today it is a museum. Baldassare Castiglione (1478 – 1529), count of Casatico, was an Italian noble and the author of The Book of the Courtier.

Life in Italy During the Dark Ages

The Western Roman Empire was in deep disarray by the 5 th century AD. The last centuries of the Western Empire encompass what is known as Late Antiquity. Later on, after the fall of Rome are often known as the Dark Ages. After the 5th century, the Roman Empire would continue in the East. Italy however was occupied by barbarian tribes like the Goths and the Lombards. Let’s see the history of Italy during the Dark Ages.

Theodoric’s Mausoleum, in Ravenna (by Sebastià Girait at www.flickr.com)

5th century in Italy

What happened in the dark ages in Italy (Roman Empire)? How long did the dark ages last? Let’s see some bits of the history of Italy and the Roman Empire.

Alaric I of the Goths famously sacked Rome in 410: the city would never fully recover from the shameful act. Romulus Augustus, also known as Augustulus, was the last Roman Emperor in the West. He was deposed in 476 by Germanic general Odoacer. Odoacer actually was already ruling Italy, with Romulus Augustulus acting as a puppet Emperor and. Then he was ruling by himself for more than seventeen years under the title of rex gentium. This literally means the king of the people.

Theodoric the Great became king of the Ostrogoths on February 25, 493 after defeating Odoacer. Theodoric’s reign was very much a continuation of the old Roman ways. Both because Theodoric had embraced Roman culture and habits, and because most of the bureaucratic and institutional staff at court was of Roman extraction.

Theodoric’s time saw many improvements taking place: infrastructures were improved, frontiers were expanded and secured, the economy strengthened. However, this period of prosperity did not last much longer than Theodoric himself, as weaker Goth rulers followed.

History of Dark Ages years in the 6th century & 7th century of the Roman Empire

The Roman Empire of the East under Justinian: in red, possessions at the beginning of his reign, in orange, at his death (by neuceu at www.wikimedia.org)

The beginning of the 6 th century witnessed a comeback of the Eastern Roman Empire. Emperor Justinian, the last Emperor of the Roman Empire lineage and education, sought to regain the lost lands in the West.

From Constantinople, Justinian sent his generals, Narses and Belisarius, to conquer Italy. They succeeded in destroying the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths in 552, after many years of war. The Gothic Wars have been a true scourge for the people of Italy and their land. The famine, violence, and epidemics ensued the battle and it was to take centuries for the country to resurrect from such destruction.

Also because of such a gruesome situation, the level of urbanization in Italy diminished in the Dark Ages. The Italian towns did not completely vanish but they were significantly smaller. They also became much more primitive compared to the Late Roman times. Italy as a whole became more rural, agriculture returning to be the main occupation for most of the local population.

End of the Gothic Wars

The Byzantine forces were not strong enough to defend the country against a new wave of invasions from the Lombards. The Lombards quickly carved out a kingdom for themselves, their rulers wearing the famous Iron Crown of Lombardy. Byzantine possessions were reduced to the coastal areas of the country, most famously the Exarchate of Ravenna. In the meantime, the Lombards would eventually spread even to the South of Italy.

In the wake of all this destruction and uncertainty, it was the Church to step in and take greater authority over the country. Not only did the Catholic Church hold spiritual power, but the need for knowledgeable men for administration ensured a greater temporal power as well. The Bishop of Rome, the Pope, became a ruler in his own right. Especially once the Byzantine Emperor’s forces could no longer protect Italy from new threats.

The 8th century – the Dark Ages in Italy

By the middle of the eighth century, the Lombards had taken over Byzantine Ravenna and the Pope was in need of protection. The Lombards were a threat to the Pope since many of them were still pagan. Though, a majority of Christian Lombards were Arians, hence considered heretics.

The Church looked for help and found it in another Germanic tribe known as the Franks. The Franks were fervent Catholic Christians. In exchange for protection from the Lombards, Pope bestowed upon the Carolingians, one of the main Frankish families the spiritual authority to overthrow the Merovingians. The Merovingians were ruling the Franks at the time.

Charlemagne confirms his father’s, Pepin the Short, donation to Pope Adrian (public domain www.wikimedia.org)

After defeating the Lombards in 756, the Frankish King Pepin promulgated the Donation of Pepin, which created the Church-ruled kingdom of the Papal State. The new Papal State separated what was left of the Italian Lombard lands in the North and South.

In 774, the Frankish ruler Charlemagne got support from the Pope to invade Italy and annex the Lombard lands of Northern Italy. Shortly after this on the 25th of December 800, Charlemagne was crowned by the Pope as the first Holy Roman Emperor.

However, this caused a problem with the Byzantines, who still considered themselves as the real heirs of Imperial Rome and still had possessions in Southern Italy. A brief war was settled in 812 with the Byzantines acknowledging the Holy Roman Empire, as long as Byzantine lands in Italy remain uncontested.

9th and 10th century in Italy – The Roman Empire in the Dark Ages

Under the rule of Charlemagne, Northern Italy knew years of relative peace and rebirth. A period in fact known as the Carolingian Renaissance. As major military and political events were taking place on the fringes of the Roman Empire, Italy was able to recuperate from previous centuries of invasion and strife. However, the South had been already experiencing the menacing raids of the Arabs and the golden age of Charlemagne was not to survive his death.

Issues for the Holy Roman Empire began after the death of Charlemagne, in 814. Especially during the years of his son’s ruling. Louis the Pious began a decades-long diatribe with his sons over the ruling of the Empire. This was to end only after his death and the Treaty of Verdun in 843. This treaty gave each of Louis’ children a part of the empire. The Central Frankish realm was ruled by Emperor Lothair I. Then, Northern Italy became the Kingdom of Italy, ruled by Louis II, who also became Emperor in 855.

After the birth of the Holy Roman Empire and Papal State

After the creation of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papal State, Southern Italy consisted of the remaining two Lombard territories of Benevento and Spoleto, which accepted Charlemagne’s suverainty only nominally. These Lombard lands would eventually declare de facto independence and start a war between them until Emperor Louis II imposed his will and separated the entities.

The Byzantine Empire still had a few possessions on the coasts, but cities like Naples, Gaeta, Amalfi, and Venice were gradually becoming free from the Byzantium’s influence. At the same time, Amalfi and Venice began to prosper due to an increase in trade, especially salt and silk. Sea trade was revived and Italian merchants were trading with all major Mediterranean ports.

The Arabic conquests

The early years of the 9 th century witnessed the conquest of Sicily by Muslim Arabs known as Aghlabids. The island was a Byzantine possession, but could not be heavily defended.

The invaders took Palermo in 831, and eventually occupied the entire island. The Muslim threat, however, was not confined to Sicily! In 846 a Muslim force attacked Rome and even St. Peter’s Basilica was not spared from looting.

In response to this attack, Pope Leo IV ordered the construction of the Leonine walls around Vatican City, completed in the year 853. After the Saracens occupied Bari in 852, Emperor Louis II, Adelchis of Benevento, and the Byzantines announced a joint operation. All this served against the Arabs in Southern Italy and drew to succeeding in recapturing Bari.

In a power play for independence, Adelchis imprisoned Emperor Louis II, all while the Byzantines attempted to make some territorial gains in the region. Gains were entirely offset by the definitive loss of Sicily in 902.

The thrones of Germany and Italy were united in 951 with the crowning of Otto I as Holy Roman Emperor. Otto the 1st claimed the union would revive the empire of Charlemagne. The Byzantine Empire created the Catepanate of Italy to administer the newly acquired regions of the South. The other Italian cities of Southern Italy still remained divided among the Lombard kings but paid nominal alliance to the Byzantine Emperor.

Italy during the Dark Ages had a great transoformation. This was followed by the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.


Middle Ages Doctors

Middle Ages Doctors - Life in the Middle Ages - History of Middle Ages Doctors - Information about Middle Ages Doctors - Middle Ages Doctors Facts - Middle Ages Doctors Info - Middle Ages era - Middle Ages Life - Middle Ages Times - Life - Middle Ages Doctors - Medieval - Mideval - Middle Ages Doctors History - Information about Middle Ages Doctors - Middle Ages Doctors Facts - Middle Ages Doctors Info - Middle Ages era - Middle Ages Life - Middle Ages Times - Information - Facts - Dark Ages - Medieval - Mideval - Feudal system - Manors - Middle Ages Times - Information - Facts - Dark Ages - Medieval - Mideval - Feudal system - Manors - Middle Ages Doctors - Written By Linda Alchin


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