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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Had the assistance of Willigis


981 Otto II. went to Italy. His mother, Adelheid, came to Pavia to meet him, and a complete reconciliation took place between them. Then he advanced to Rome, quieted the dissensions in the government of the city, and received as his guests Konrad, king of Burgundy, and Hugh Capet, destined to be the ancestor of a long line of French kings. At this time both the Byzantine Greeks and the Saracens were ravaging Southern Italy, and it was Otto II.'s duty, as Roman Emperor, to drive them from the land. The two bitterly hostile races became allies, in order to resist him, and the war was carried on fiercely until the summer of 982 without any result; then, on the 13th of July, on the coast of Calabria, the Imperial army was literally cut to pieces by the Saracens. The Emperor escaped capture by riding into the Mediterranean and swimming to a ship which lay near. When he was taken on board he found it to be a Greek vessel; but whether he was recognized or not (for the accounts vary), he prevailed upon the captain to set him ashore at Rossano, where the Empress Theophania was awaiting his return from battle.

This was a severe blow, but it aroused the national spirit of Germany. Otto II., having returned to Northern Italy, summoned a general Diet of the Empire to meet at Verona in the summer of 983. All the subject Dukes and Princes attended, even the kings of Burgundy and Bohemia. Here, for the first time, the Lombard Italians appeared on equal footing

with the Saxons, Franks and Bavarians, acknowledged the authority of the Empire, and elected Otto II.'s son, another Otto, only three years old, as his successor. Preparations were made for a grand war against the Saracens and the Eastern Empire, but before they were completed Otto II. died, at the age of twenty-eight, in Rome. He was buried in St. Peter's.

[Sidenote: 991.]

The news of his death reached Aix-la-Chapelle at the very time when his infant son was crowned king as Otto III., in accordance with the decree of the Diet of Verona. A dispute now arose as to the guardianship of the child, between the widowed Empress Theophania and Henry II. of Bavaria, who at once returned from his exile in Holland. The latter aimed at usurping the Imperial throne, but he was incautious enough to betray his design too soon, and met with such opposition that he was lucky in being allowed to retain his former place as Duke of Bavaria. The Empress Theophania reigned in Germany in her son's name, while Adelheid, widow of Otto the Great, reigned in Italy. The former, however, had the assistance of Willigis, Archbishop of Mayence, a man of great wisdom and integrity. He was the son of a poor Saxon wheelwright, and chose for his coat-of-arms as an Archbishop, a wheel, with the words: "Willigis, forget not thine origin." When Theophania died, in 991, her place was taken by Otto III.'s grandmother, Adelheid, who chose the Dukes of Saxony, Suabia, Bavaria and Tuscany as her councillors.

During this time the Wends in Prussia again arose, and after a long and wasting war, in which the German settlements beyond the Elbe received little help from the Imperial government, the latter were either conquered or driven back. The relations between Germany and France were also actually those of war, although there were no open hostilities. The struggle for the throne of France, between Duke Charles, the last of the Carolingian line, and Hugh Capet, which ended in the triumph of the latter, broke the last link of blood and tradition connecting the two countries. They had been jealous relatives hitherto; now they became strangers, and it is not long until History records them as enemies.

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