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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

Relations with Italy and western Europe 

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The Italian developments of this period consisted primarily of the successful Arabian campaigns in Sicily and southern Italy. By the middle of the ninth century the republic of St. Mark (Venice) freed itself completely of Byzantine power and became an independent state. The Empire and this new state treated each other like independent governments in all the negotiations which arose later, for example, in the time of Basil I. In the ninth century their interests coincided in many points in so far as the aggressive movement of the western Arabs and the Adriatic Slavs were concerned.

From the time of Basil I an interesting correspondence with Louis II exists. It appears from the letters exchanged by these two rulers that they were engaged in a heated dispute regarding the illegal adoption of the imperial title by Louis II. Thus, even in the second half of the ninth century the results of the coronation of 800 were still in evidence. Although some historians have asserted that the letter of Louis II to Basil is spurious, recent historians do not support this opinion. Basil's attempt to form an alliance with Louis II failed. The Byzantine occupation of Bari and Tarentum and the successful operations of Nicephorus Phocas against the Arabs in southern Italy raised Byzantine influence in Italy toward the end of Basil's reign. The smaller Italian possessions, such as the duchies of Naples, Beneventum, Spoleto, the principality of Salerno, and others, frequently changed their attitude toward the Byzantine Empire in correspondence with the course of the Byzantine campaign against the Arabs. Disregarding the recent break with the eastern church, Pope John VIII began active negotiations with Basil I, for he fully appreciated the extent of the Arabian menace to Rome. In striving to form a political alliance with the Eastern Empire the pope showed his readiness to make many concessions. Some scholars go so far as to attribute the absence of an emperor in the West for three and a half years after the death of Charles the Bold (877) to the fact that John VIII purposely delayed the coronation of a western ruler in order to avoid hurting the feelings of the Byzantine Emperor, whose aid was so much needed by Rome.

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