Episode 1 – Broken Kingdom

In the fall of 476, an honored prisoner arrived at a seaside fortress on the Bay of Naples, today called the Castel del’Ouvo, or in English, Egg Castle. The prisoner is well guarded, even though he’s only 16 years old, and he may have walked into his new home while dressed in silk robes. What he felt in that moment, we cannot say.

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Maybe he felt something like grieving or rage against his captives, or some mixture of both. Personally, though, I would guess that he felt overwhelming relief. In any case, the Castel del’Uovo was built in the first century BC, which were much better times for the Romans than the era the teenager found himself born into. Originally, it was intended to serve as a luxurious vacation villa right in the heart of the Roman Republic’s hottest vacation spot, the region of Campagno, right on the Bay of Naples. Since then, much like the declining empire of the Romans itself, the Vila became much less like a pleasant beach house and much more like a military barracks.

Allegedly, the synad’s reply was, “We always thought, or rather believe, that two negatives made an affirmative if your authority did not weaken that of the ancient authors.” Anyway, the Synod, under pressure from the
Emperor, made the superintendent of Rome’s scribal schools Pope Leo
VIII. Despite the problems with John XII, the new pope, Leo VIII, was a
layperson who had to be fast tracked to the ranks of the Church before he could be invested with papal authority.

Meanwhile, in probably the biggest indication that Liutprand’s biography of the young pope is perhaps a tad skewed. Local resistance rallied around Pope John XII, and against Leo. Otto couldn’t even press the point and protect his own nominee. His troops were restless, and it was politically dangerous for him to stay away from Germany for too long. Still, though, Pope John may have escaped both holy and imperial justice,
but he could not escape Liutprand’s acid pen. Certainly he didn’t come to a good end either, if you can believe Liutprand at all.
Supposedly, he died at the age of 27, either because he had a stroke while
having sex with a married woman or because her husband caught him and beat him to death. What we can say without any doubt about Pope John is that he signed the death warrants of the Kingdom of Italy when he
crowned Otto king and emperor. From that point on, the title of King of
Italy became inexorably linked with the Holy Roman emperors until, in theearly 16th century, emperor Ferdinand I stopped officially using it. The oldtitle of King of Italy wouldn’t even see the light of day again until the
meteoric rise of a French general named Napoleon Bonaparte.
]But now we’re really jumping ahead of where we’re supposed to go. The
point is, the royal title and a dollar would just get you a Coke if you don’t
actually have the territorial control to back it up. Otto already got a taste of his lesson when he found he couldn’t risk an extended Italian workation
to force the pope back in line. His successors would also learn that it’s hardto keep steady control over an entire region when every time there’s a
serious problem, you have to cross the Alps with an entire army and trust
you won’t have invaders attacking or treacherous nobles and bishops undermining your regime back north.

Thanks for listening and buona note.