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Otto II.

Otto II (955 – December 7, 983, Rome), called the Red, was the third ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty, the son of Otto the Great and Adelaide of Italy.

Contents

Biography

Education, first years of reign

He received a good education under the care of his uncle, Bruno, archbishop of Cologne, and his illegitimate half-brother, William, archbishop of Mainz. At first only co-reigning with his father, he was chosen German king at Worms in 961, crowned at Aachen Cathedral on May 26, 961, and on December 25, 967 was crowned joint emperor at Rome by Pope John XIII.

He married Theophanu, niece of the Eastern Roman Emperor John I Tzimisces, on April 14, 972. After participating in his father's campaigns in Italy, he returned to Germany and became sole emperor on the death of his father in May 973, without meeting any opposition.

Otto spent his reign continuing his father's policy of strengthening imperial rule in Germany and extending it deeper into Italy.

Germany

After suppressing a rising in Lorraine, difficulties arose in southern Germany, probably owing to Otto's refusal to grant the duchy of Swabia to Henry II of Bavaria. In 974 Henry's mother, Judith, set up a conspiracy against the emperor, which included Henry, Bishop Abraham of Freising, the dukes of Bohemia and Poland, and several members of the clergy and the nobility who were discontented by the previous emperor's policies. The plan was discovered and easily suppressed, however. In the same year, Otto's forces successfully opposed an attempt by Harald I of Denmark to throw off the German yoke; however, his expedition against the Bohemians in 975 was a partial failure owing to the outbreak of further trouble in Bavaria. The following year he restored order for the second time in Lorraine and forced Henry II to flee from Regensburg to Bohemia, Bavaria being assigned to his relative Otto of Bavaria. In 977 the king made another expedition into Bohemia, where King Boleslaus II promised to return to his earlier allegiance. Also Mieszko I of Poland submitted. (See also War of the Three Henries).

Otto II and Theophano: Byzantine ivory plaque (Musée de Cluny)

After Otto had crushed an attempt by Henry to regain Bavaria, King Lothair of France invaded Lorraine with an army of 20,000 and occupied the capital Aachen for five days. Otto retired first to Cologne and then to Saxony. His mother, who was of French origin, sided with Lothair and moved to Bourgogne. In September 978, having mustered 30,000 men, Otto retaliated by invading France. He met with little resistance, but sickness among his troops compelled him to raise the siege of Paris, and on the return journey the rearguard of his army was destroyed and the baggage seized by the French. An expedition against the Poles was followed by peace with France: Lothair renounced his claim on Lorraine (980), and in exchange Otto recognized the rights of Lothair's son Louis.

Italy

Otto therefore felt himself free to travel to Italy. The government of Germany was left to arch-chancellor Willigis and to duke Bernard I of Saxony. He was accompanied by his wife, his son, Otto of Bavaria, the bishops of Worms, Metz and Merseburg and numerous other counts and barons. Crossing the Alps in what is today Switzerland, he reconciled with his mother at Pavia and then celebrated the Christmas of 980 in Ravenna.

Pope Benedict VI, elected by his father, had been imprisoned by the Romans in Castel Sant'Angelo, where he had died in 974. His successor Boniface VII had fled to Constantinople and Benedict VII, former bishop of Sutri, was now pope. Preceded by Benedict, Otto ceremoniously entered Rome on Easter day of 981.

Otto held in the city a splendid court, attended by princes and nobles from all parts of western Europe. He was next required to punish inroads of the Saracens on the Italian mainland and, most of all, the aggressive policy of the Sicilian emir Abu al-Qasim, whose fleet was harassing Apulia and whose troops had invaded Calabria. In September 981 Otto marched into southern Italy. He was first entangled in the quarrels between the local Lombard princes who had divided the area after Pandulf Ironhead's death. Otto unsuccessfully besieged Manso I of Amalfi in Salerno, but in the end obtained the recognition of his authority from all the Lombard principalities. In January 982 the German troops marched towards the Byzantine Apulia to annex this region as well to the Western Empire.

When Otto moved from Taranto, he met with a severe defeat near Stilo in July 982 (in which, among the others, al-Qasim was killed). Without revealing his identity, the emperor escaped on a Greek vessel to Rossano. He returned to Rome on November 12, 982.

At a diet held at Verona in June 983, largely attended by German and Italian princes, he had Otto III confirmed as king of Germany and prepared a new campaign against the Saracens. He also obtained a settlement with the Republic of Venice, whose help was much needed after the defeat of Stilo. Proceeding to Rome, Otto secured the election of Peter of Pavia as Pope John XIV.

Just as the news reached him of a general rising of the Slav tribes on the eastern frontier of Germany, he died in his palace in Rome on December 7, 983. He was survived by the future emperor Otto III and three daughters. He was buried in the atrium of St. Peter's Basilica, and when the church was rebuilt his remains were removed to the crypt, where his tomb can still be seen.

Otto, who is sometimes called the "Red", was a man of small stature, by nature brave and impulsive, and by training an accomplished knight. He was generous to the church and aided the spread of Christianity in many ways.

References

See also

External links

Ancestry

Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 955 Died: 983
German royalty
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Otto I
King of Germany
961–983
Succeeded by
Otto III
Holy Roman Emperor
967–983
King of Italy
973–983








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