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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Frederick answered by capturing Arnold of Brescia



Frederick first assured to the German princes the rights which they already possessed as the rulers of States, coupled with the declaration that he meant to exact the full and strict performance of their duties to him, as King. On his first royal journey, he arbitrated between Swen and Canute, rival claimants to the throne of Denmark, conferred on the Duke of Bohemia the title of king, and took measures to settle the quarrel between Henry the Lion of Saxony, and Henry of Austria, for the possession of Bavaria. In all these matters he showed the will, the decision and the imposing personal bearing of one who felt that he was born to rule; and had he remained in Germany, he might have consolidated the States into one Nation. But the phantom of a Roman Empire beckoned him to Italy. The invitation held out to Konrad was not renewed, for Pope Eugene III. was dead, and his successor, Adrian IV. (an Englishman, by the name of Breakspeare), rejected Arnold of Brescia's doctrines. It was in Frederick's power to secure the success of either side; but his first aim was the Imperial crown, and he could only gain it without delay by assisting the Pope.

In 1154 Frederick, accompanied by Henry the Lion and many other princes, and a large army, crossed the Brenner Pass, in the Tyrol, and descended into Italy. According to old custom, the first camp was pitched on the Roncalian fields, near

Piacenza, and the royal shield was set up as a sign that the chief ruler was present and ready to act as judge in all political troubles. Many complaints were brought to him against the City of Milan, which had become a haughty and despotic Republic, and began to oppress Lodi, Como, and other neighboring cities. Frederick saw plainly the trouble which this independent movement in Lombardy would give to him or his successors; but after losing two months and many troops in besieging and destroying Tortona, one of the towns friendly to Milan, he was not strong enough to attack the latter city: so, having been crowned King of Lombardy at Pavia, he marched, in 1155, towards Rome.

[Sidenote: 1154.]

At Viterbo he met Pope Adrian IV., and negotiations commenced in regard to his coronation as Emperor, which, it seems, was not to be had for nothing. Adrian's first demand was the suppression of the Roman Republic, which had driven him from the city. Frederick answered by capturing Arnold of Brescia, who was then in Tuscany, and delivering him into the Pope's hands. The latter then demanded that Frederick should hold his stirrup when he mounted his mule. This humiliation, second only to that which Henry IV. endured at Canossa, was accepted by the proud Hohenstaufen in his ambitious haste to be crowned; but even then Rome had to be first taken from the Republicans. By some means an entrance was forced into that part of the city on the right bank of the Tiber; Frederick was crowned in all haste and immediately retreated, but not before he and his escort were furiously attacked in the streets by the Roman people. Henry the Lion, by his bravery and presence of mind, saved the new Emperor from being slain. The same night, Arnold of Brescia was burned to death by the Pope's order. (Since 1870, his bust has been placed upon the Pincian Hill, in Rome, among those of the other great men who gave their lives for Italian freedom.)

The news of the Pope's barbarous revenge drove the Romans to madness. They rushed forth by thousands, threw themselves upon the Emperor's camp, and fought until the next night with such desperation that Frederick deemed it prudent to retreat to Tivoli. The heats of summer and the fevers they brought soon compelled him to leave for Germany; the glory of his coming was already exhausted. He fought his way through Spoleto; Verona shut its gates upon him, and one robber-castle in the Alps held the whole army at bay, until it was taken by Otto of Wittelsbach. The unnatural composition of the later "Roman Empire" was again demonstrated. If, during the four centuries which had elapsed since Charlemagne's accession to power, the German rule was the curse of Italy, Italy (or the fancied necessity of ruling Italy) was no less a curse to Germany. The strength of the German people, for hundreds of years, was exhausted in endeavoring to keep up a high-sounding sovereignty, which they could not truly possess, and--in the best interests of the two countries--_ought not_ to have possessed.

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