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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

Relations with Italy and western Europe 


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In the time of Leo VI, Byzantine possessions in Italy were divided into two themes: Calabria and Longobardia. The Calabrian theme was all that was left of the vast Sicilian theme because, through the fall of Syracuse and Taormina, Sicily was entirely in the hands of the Arabs. As a result of the success of Byzantine arms in Italy Leo VI definitely separated Longobardia from the theme of Kephallenia, or the Ionian Islands, and made it an independent theme with its own strategus. Because of the incessant warfare, during which Byzantine forces were not always victorious, the borders of Calabria and Longobardia changed frequently. With the increase of Byzantine influence in southern Italy in the tenth century there was also a noticeable growth in the number of Greek monasteries and churches, some of which later became important cultural centers.

In the same century the Byzantine Empire and Italy witnessed the rise of a strong rival in the person of the German ruler, Otto I, crowned with the imperial crown in Rome by Pope John XII in 962. He is known in history as the founder of The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Upon assuming the imperial title, Otto strove to become master of all Italy. This was, of course, a direct infringement upon Byzantine interests, especially in Longobardia. Negotiations between Otto and the eastern Emperor, Nicephorus Phocas, who was at this time probably dreaming of an offensive alliance with the German ruler against the Muslims, progressed very slowly, and Otto suddenly made an unsuccessful inroad into the Byzantine provinces of southern Italy.

For new negotiations with the eastern Emperor the German ruler sent to Constantinople his legate, Liudprand, the bishop of Cremona, who had been once before ambassador to the Byzantine court in the time of Constantine Porphyrogenitus. The population on the shores of the Bosporus did not greet him with due respect, and he was exposed to great humiliation and many insults. He later wrote an account of his second sojourn at the Constantinopolitan court in the form of a malicious libel, which was in sharp contrast to his reverent description of his first visit to the eastern capital. From this second account, usually known as the Relation on the Constantinopolitan Legation (Relatio de legatione constantinopolitana), it appears that the Byzantine Empire continued the old disputes about the title of basileus assumed by the western ruler. Liudprand accused the Byzantines of being weak and inactive, and justified the claims of his sovereign. In one part of this work he wrote, Whom does Rome serve, about whose liberation you make so much noise? To whom does the city pay taxes? And did not this ancient city formerly serve courtesans? And then, in a time when all men were asleep and even in a state of impotence, my sovereign, the most august emperor, freed Rome of that shameful servitude. When Liudprand became aware of the fact that the Greeks were prolonging the negotiations intentionally in order to gain time for the organization of an Italian campaign, forbidding him meanwhile to hold any communications with his Emperor, he made every effort to depart from Constantinople, succeeding only after much trouble and prolonged delay.

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