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Pax Nicephori: Wikis


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Historians have, misleadingly, called by the name Pax Nicephori both a nonexistent 803 peace treaty allegedly concluded between Charlemagne and Nicephorus I, and the outcome of negotiations that took place between the same parties, but were concluded by different Emperors, between 811 and 814. The whole set of negotiations of the years 802–815 has also been referred to by this name.


Failed negotiations of 803

A first treaty was indeed prepared and sent to the East in 803 by Charlemagne, who had started talks with Empress Irene. The text, however, was never ratified by Nicephorus, as the Royal Frankish Annals, and the same Charlemagne in a surviving document, explicitly state.

Further talks between 803 and 806

Though Nicephorus always refused to recognize Charlemagne's imperial title, the Empires made agreements over the possession of disputed Italian territory, namely, the provinces of Venetia and Dalmatia, during the first decade of the ninth century. These seem to have been advantageous to the Venetians and to have guaranteed Byzantine sovereignty over them.

War and peace, 806–814

Temporary shift of Venetian loyalties toward the Franks resulted in somewhat permanent naval conflict in the Adriatic, only interrupted by a truce in 807–808. After Charlemagne's son and king of Italy Pippin's invasion of Dalmatia tension rose between the two Empires. Political and military instability, however, lasted only until the king's death, in July 810. Then a new treaty came under discussion between Charlemagne, temporarily ruling over Italy, and Nicephorus. Thus the name pax Nicephori may be justifiably applied to this second tranche of diplomatic activity. However, only Michael I Rangabe recognized Charlemagne's imperial title and the treaty was not definitely ratified until four years later, and indeed after both Michael's and Charlemagne's death, by Louis the Pious and Leo V. Some amendments, more advantageous to Venice, are thought to have been added then[citation needed].

Venice between Byzantium and the Franks

The common belief that the negotiations between Byzantium and the Franks that were held in the early ninth century made Venice an 'independent polity' is only based on the late, allusive and biased witness of Venetian chroniclers such as John the Deacon and Andrea Dandolo and remains therefore highly questionable.

Sources and documents

No text of either the treaty, its draft or the preceding negotiations is preserved, apart from a handful of alleged quotations in a mid-century deliberation of Emperor Lothar I in favour of one of the earliest certainly attested Dukes of Venice.


  • Roberto CESSI. Pacta Veneta, 1–2. Archivio Veneto 4–5 (1928–1929).
  • John Julius NORWICH. A History of Venice. New York 1982.


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