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´╗┐Title: Ravenna, a Study
Author: Hutton, Edward, 1875-1969
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ravenna, a Study" ***

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My intention in writing this book has been to demonstrate the unique
importance of Ravenna in the history of Italy and of Europe, especially
during the Dark Age from the time of Alaric's first descent into the
Cisalpine plain to the coming of Charlemagne. That importance, as it seems
to me, has been wholly or almost wholly misunderstood, and certainly, as I
understand it, has never been explained. In this book, which is offered to
the public not without a keen sense of its inadequacy, I have tried to show
in as clear a manner as was at my command, what Ravenna really was in the
political geography of the empire, and to explain the part that position
allowed her to play in the great tragedy of the decline and fall of the
Roman administration. If I have succeeded in this I am amply repaid for all
the labour the book has cost me.

The principal sources, both ancient and modern, which I have consulted in
the preparation of this volume have been cited, but I must here acknowledge
the special debt I owe to the late Dr. Hodgkin, to Professor Diehl, to
Dr. Corrado Ricci, and to the many contributors to the various Italian
Bollettini which I have ransacked.


_March_ 1913.






IV. THE RETREAT UPON RAVENNA Honorius and Galla Placidia



VII. THE RECONQUEST Vitiges, Belisarius, Totila, Narses

VIII. MODICA QUIES The Pragmatic Sanction and the Settlement of Italy


X. THE PAPAL STATE Pepin and Charlemagne

Arcivescovado, S. Agata, S. Pietro Maggiore, S. Giovanni Evangelista, S.
Giovanni Battista, and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

S. Apollinare Nuovo, S. Spirito, S. Maria in Cosmedin, the Mausoleum of

XII. THE BYZANTINE CHURCHES S. Vitale and S. Apollinare in Classe






































THE CATHEDRAL (_Basilica Ursiana_)




















PLAN OF RAVENNA _see front end paper_

[Illustration: Colour Plate S. APOLLINARE NUOVO]





Upon the loneliest and most desolate shore of Italy, where the vast
monotony of the Emilian plain fades away at last, almost
imperceptibly, into the Adrian Sea, there stands, half abandoned in
that soundless place, and often wrapt in a white shroud of mist, a
city like a marvellous reliquary, richly wrought, as is meet,
beautiful with many fading colours, and encrusted with precious
stones: its name is Ravenna.

It stands there laden with the mysterious centuries as with half
barbaric jewels, weighed down with the ornaments of Byzantium, rigid,
hieratic, constrained; and however you come to it, whether from Rimini
by the lost and forgotten towns of Classis and Caesarea, or from
Ferrara through all the bitter desolation of Comacchio, or across the
endless marsh from Bologna or Faenza, its wide and empty horizons, its
astonishing silence, and the difficulty of every approach will seem to
you but a fitting environment for a place so solitary and so

For this city of mute and closed churches, where imperishable mosaics
glisten in the awful damp, and beautiful pillars of most precious
marbles gleam through a humid mist, of mausoleums empty but
indestructible, of tottering _campanili_, of sumptuous splendour and
incredible decay, is the sepulchre of the great civilisation which
Christianity failed to save alive, but to which we owe everything and
out of which we are come; the only monument that remains to us of
those confused and half barbaric centuries which lie between Antiquity
and the Middle Age.

Mysteriously secured by nature and doubly so after the failure of the
Roman administration, Ravenna was the death-bed of the empire and its
tomb. To her the emperor Honorius fled from Milan in the first years
of the fifth century; within her walls Odoacer dethroned the last
emperor of the West, founded a kingdom, and was in his turn supplanted
by Theodoric the Ostrogoth. It was from her almost impregnable
isolation that the attempt was made by Byzantium--it seemed and
perhaps it was our only hope--to reconquer Italy and the West for
civilisation; while her fall before the appalling Lombard onset in the
eighth century brought Pepin into Italy in 754, to lay the foundation
of a new Christendom, to establish the temporal power of the papacy,
and to prophesy of the resurrection of the empire, of the unity of

But though it is as the imperishable monument of those tragic
centuries that we rightly look upon Ravenna: before the empire was
founded she was already famous. It was from her silence that Caesar
emerged to cross the Rubicon and all unknowing to found what, when all
is said, was the most beneficent, as it was the most universal,
government that Europe has ever known. In the first years of that
government Ravenna became, and through the four hundred years of its
unhampered life she remained, one of its greatest bulwarks. While upon
its failure, as I have said, she suddenly assumed a position which for
some three hundred and fifty years was unique not only in Italy but in
Europe. And when with the re-establishment of an universal government
her importance declined and at length passed away, she yet lived on in
the minds and the memory of men as something fabulous and still,
curiously enough, as a refuge, the refuge of the great poet of the new
age; so that to-day, beside the empty tombs of Galla Placidia and
Theodoric, there stands the great sarcophagus which holds the dust of
Dante Alighieri.

We may well ask how it was that a city so solitary, so inaccessible,
and so remote should have played so great a part in the history of
Europe. It is to answer this question that I have set myself to write
this book, which is rather an essay _in memoriam_ of her greatness,
her beauty, and her forlorn hope, than a history properly so called of
Ravenna. But if we are to come to any real understanding of what she
stood for, of what she meant to us once upon a time, we must first of
all decide for ourselves what was the fundamental reason of her great
renown. I shall maintain in this book that the cause of her greatness,
of her opportunity for greatness, was always the same, namely, her
geographical position in relation to the peninsula of Italy, the
Cisalpine plain, and the sea. Let us then consider these things.

Italy, the country we know as Italy, properly understood, is
fundamentally divided into two absolutely different parts by a great
range of mountains, the Apennines, which stretches roughly from sea to
sea, from Genoa almost but not quite to Rimini.

The country which lies to the south of that line of mountains is Italy
proper, and it consists as we know of a long narrow mountainous
peninsula, while its history throughout antiquity may be said to be
altogether Roman.

What lies to the north of the Apennines is not Italy at all, but
Cisalpine Gaul.

In its nature this country is altogether continental. It consists for
the most part of a vast plain divided from west to east by a great
river, the Po, and everywhere it is watered and nourished by its two
hundred tributaries.

Shut off as it is on the south from Italy proper by the Apennines,
this plain is defended from Gaul and the Germanics, on the west and
the north, by the mightiest mountains in Europe, the Alps, which here
enclose it in a vast concave rampart that stretches from the
Mediterranean to the Adriatic. On the east it is contained by the sea.

[Illustration: Sketch Map of northern Italy]

The history of this vast country before the Roman Conquest is, as is
history everywhere in the West before that event, vague and obscure.
But this at least may be said: it was first in the occupation of the
Etruscans, who in time were turned out, destroyed, or enslaved by the
Gauls, those invaders who crossed the Alps from the west and who
during nearly two hundred years, continually, though never with an
enduring success, invaded Italy, and in 388 B.C. actually captured the
City. Rome, however, had by the year 223 B.C. succeeded in planting
her fortresses at Placentia and Cremona and in fortifying Mutina
(Modena), when suddenly in 218 B.C. Hannibal unexpectedly descended
into the Cisalpine plain and destroyed all she had achieved. With his
defeat, however, the conquest of Cisalpine Gaul was undertaken anew,
and at some time after 183 B.C.--we do not know exactly when--the
whole of this vast lowland country passed into Roman administration,
to become the chief province of Caesar's great triple command, and one
of the most valuable parts of the empire.

What, then, is the relation of this vast lowland country between the
Alps and the Apennines to Italy proper? It stands as it has always
stood to her as a great defence. For if, as we must, we consider Italy
as the shrine, the sanctuary, and the citadel of Europe, a place apart
and separate--and because of this she has been able to do her work
both secular and religious--what has secured her but Cisalpine Gaul?
The valley of the Po, all this vast plain, appears in history as the
cockpit of Europe, the battlefield of the Celt, the Phoenician, the
Latin, and the Teuton, of Catholic and Arian, strewn with victories,
littered with defeats, the theatre of those great wars which have
built up Europe and the modern world. If the Gauls had not been broken
by the plain, they would perhaps have overwhelmed Italy and Rome; if
Hannibal had found there enemies instead of friends, the Oriental
would not so nearly have overthrown Europe. It broke the Gothic
invasion, Attila never crossed it, it absorbed the worst of the
appalling Lombard flood; Italy remains to us because of it.

Now since Cisalpine Gaul thus secured Italy, the entry from the one to
the other, the road between them must always have been of an immense
importance. That entry and that road, whenever they were in dispute,
Ravenna commanded, and a good half of her importance lies in this.

I say whenever they were in dispute: in time of peace that road and
that entry were not in the keeping of Ravenna but of Rimini.

A study of the map will show us that though the Apennines shut off
Italy proper from Cisalpine Gaul along a line roughly from Genoa to
Rimini, actually that difficult and barren range just fails to reach
the Adriatic as it curves southward to divide the peninsula in its
entire length into two not unequal parts. This failure of the
mountains quite to reach the sea leaves at this corner a narrow strip
of lowland, of marshy plain in fact, between them. Therefore the
Romans, though they were compelled to cross the Apennines, for Rome
lay upon their western side, were able to do so where they chose and
not of necessity to make the difficult passage at a crucial point.

[Illustration: Sketch Map of Ravenna region]

The road they planned and laid out, the Flaminian Way, the great north
road of the Romans, was built by Caius Flaminius the Censor about 220
B.C.[1], that is to say, immediately after the first subjection of the
Gauls south of the Po which had been largely his achievement, and for
military and political business which that achievement entailed. This
road ran from Rome directly to Ariminum (Rimini) and it crossed the
Apennines near the modern Scheggia and by the great pass of the

[Footnote 1: It is, of course, certain that a road was in existence
long before; but not as a constructed, permanent, and military Way.]

[Footnote 2: The Furlo was to be held in the time of Aurelius Victor,
if not of Vespasian, by the fortress of Petra Pertusa.]

The first act of the Romans after the defeat of Hannibal was the
re-establishment of their fortresses at Placentia, Cremona, and Mutina
(Modena), the second was the construction of a great highway which
connected Placentia through Mutina with the Via Flaminia at Rimini.
This was the work of the Consul Aemilius Lepidus in 187 B.C. and the
road still bears his name.

It is obvious then that the command of the way from Italy into
Cisalpine Gaul, or _vice versa_, lay in the hands of Rimini, and it is
significant that the political boundary between them was here marked
by a little river, the Rubicon, a few miles to the north of that city.
The command which Rimini thus held was purely political; it passed
from her to Ravenna automatically whenever that entry was threatened.

The answer is very simple: because Rimini could not easily be
defended, while Ravenna was impregnable.

Ravenna stood from fifteen to eighteen miles north and east of the
Aemilian Way and some thirty-one miles north and a little west of
Rimini. Its extraordinary situation was almost unique in antiquity and
is only matched by one city of later times--Venice. It was built as
Venice is literally upon the waters. Strabo thus describes it:
"Situated in the marshes is the great Ravenna, built entirely on
piles, and traversed by canals which you cross by bridges or
ferry-boats. At the full tides it is washed by a considerable quantity
of sea water, as well as by the river, and thus the sewage is carried
off and the air purified; in fact, the district is considered so
salubrious that the (Roman) governors have selected it as a spot in
which to bring up and exercise the gladiators. It is a remarkable
peculiarity of this place that, though situated in the midst of a
marsh, the air is perfectly innocuous."[1]

[Footnote 1: Strabo, v. i. 7, tells us Altinum was similarly

[Illustration: Sketch Map or Ravenna region in more detail]

Ravenna must always have been impregnable to any save a modern army,
so long as it was able to hold the road in and out and was not taken
from the sea. The one account we have of an attack upon it before the
fall of the empire is given us by Appian and recounts a raid from the
sea. It is but an incident in the civil wars of Marius and Sulla when
Ravenna, we learn, was occupied for the latter by Metellus his
lieutenant. In the year 82 B.C., says Appian, "Sulla overcame a
detachment of his enemies near Saturnia, and Metellus sailed round
toward Ravenna and took possession of the level wheat-growing country
of Uritanus."

This impregnable city, the most southern of Cisalpine Gaul,
immediately commanded the pass between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy
directly that pass was threatened, and to this I say was due a good
half of its fame. The rest must be equally divided between the fact
that the city was impregnable, and therefore a secure refuge or _point
d'appui_, and its situation upon the sea.

Strabo in his account of Ravenna, which I have quoted above,
emphasises the fact rather of its situation among the marshes than of
its position with regard to the sea. This is perhaps natural. The
society to which he belonged (though indeed he was of Greek descent)
loathed and feared the sea with an unappeasable horror. No journey was
too long to make if thereby the sea passage might be avoided, no road
too rough and rude if to take it was to escape the unstable winds and
waters. That too was a part of Ravenna's strength. She was as much a
city of the sea as Venice is; but of what a sea?

The Adriatic, upon whose western shore she stood at the gate of Italy
and Cisalpine Gaul, was--and this partly because of the Roman horror
of the sea--the fault between Greek and Latin, East and West. To this
great fact she owes much of her later splendour, much of her unique
importance in those centuries we call the Dark Age.

Even to-day as one stands upon the height of the republic of S. Marino
and catches, faintly at dawn, the sunlight upon the Dalmatian hills,
one instinctively feels it is the Orient one sees.

This, then, is the cause of the greatness, of the opportunity for
greatness, of Ravenna: her geographical position in regard to the
peninsula of Italy, the Cisalpine plain, and the sea. Each of these
exalt her in turn and all together give her the unique and almost
fabulous position she holds in the history of Europe.

Because she held the gateway between Italy and the Cisalpine plain,
Caesar repaired to her when he was treating with the Senate for the
consulship, and from her he set out to possess himself of all that
great government.

Because she was impregnable, and held both the plain where the enemy
must be met and the peninsula with Rome within it, Honorius retreated
to her from Milan when Alaric crossed the Alps.

Because she was set upon the sea, and that sea was the fault between
East and West, and because she held the key as it were of all Italy
and through Italy of the West, Justinian there established his
government when the great attempt was made by Byzantium to reconquer
us from the barbarian.

"_Ravenna Felix_" we read on many an old coin of that time, and
whatever we may think of that title or prophecy, which indeed might
seem never to have come true for her, this at least we must
acknowledge, that she was happy in her situation which offered such
opportunities for greatness and so certain an immortality.



When we first come upon Ravenna in the pages of Strabo, its origin is
already obscured; but this at least seems certain, that it was never a
Gaulish city. Strabo tells us that "Ravenna is reputed to have been
founded by Thessalians, who, not being able to sustain the violence of
the Tyrrheni, welcomed into their city some of the Umbri who still
possess it, while they themselves returned home."[1] The Thessalians
were probably Pelasgi, but apart from that Strabo's statement would
seem to be reasonably accurate. At any rate he continually repeats it,
for he goes on to tell us that "Ariminum (Rimini), like Ravenna, is an
ancient colony of the Umbri, but both of them received also Roman
colonies." Again, in the same book of his Geography, he tells us: "The
Umbri lie between the country of the Sabini and the Tyrrheni, but
extend beyond the mountains as far as Ariminum and Ravenna." And again
he says: "Umbria lies along the eastern boundary of Tyrrhenia and
beginning from the Apennines, or rather beyond these mountains
(extends) as far as the Adriatic. For commencing from Ravenna the
Umbri inhabit the neighbouring country ... all allow that Umbria
extends as far as Ravenna, as the inhabitants are Umbri."

[Footnote 1: Strabo _ut supra_.]

We may take it, then, that when Rome annexed Ravenna it was a city of
the Umbri, and we may dismiss Pliny's statement[1] that it was a
Sabine city altogether for it is both improbable and inexplicable.

[Footnote 1: Pliny, III. 15; v. 20.]

When Ravenna received a Roman colony we do not know, for though Strabo
states this fact, he does not tell us when it occurred and we have no
other means of knowing. All we can be reasonably sure of is that this
Umbrian city on the verge of Cisalpine Gaul, hemmed in on the west by
the Lingonian Gauls, received a Roman colony certainly not before 268
B.C. when Ariminum was occupied. The name of Ravenna, however, does
not occur in history till a late period of the Roman republic, and the
first incident in which we hear of Ravenna having any part occurs in
82 B.C., when, as I have already related, Metellus, the lieutenant of
Sulla, landed there or thereabouts from his ships and seems to have
made the city, already a place of some importance, the centre of his

Ravenna really entered history--and surely gloriously enough--when
Julius Caesar chose it, the last great town of his command towards
Italy, as his headquarters while he treated with the senate before he
crossed the Rubicon.

"Caesar," says Appian, "had lately recrossed the straits from Britain,
and, after traversing the Gallic country along the Rhine, had passed
the Alps with 5000 foot and 300 horse, and arrived at Ravenna which
was contiguous to Italy and the last town in his government." This was
in 50 B.C. The state of affairs which that act was meant to elucidate
may be briefly stated as follows.

The Roman republic, still in the midst of the political, social, and
economic revolution whose first phase was the awful civil wars of
Marius and Sulla, had long been at the mercy of Pompey the
opportunist, Crassus the plutocrat, and Julius Caesar--the first
Triumvirate. Crassus had always leaned towards Caesar and the
_entente_ between Caesar and Pompey had been strengthened by the
marriage of the latter with Caesar's daughter Julia, who was to die in
the midst of the crisis 54 B.C. In 58 B.C., the year following this
marriage, Caesar went to take up his great command in the Gauls, but
Pompey remained in Rome, where every day his influence and popularity
were failing while the astonishing successes of Caesar made him the
idol of the populace. In 55 B.C. Pompey was consul for the second time
with Crassus. He received as his provinces the two Spains, but he
governed them by his legates and remained in the neighbourhood of the
City. Crassus received the province of Syria, and the appalling
disasters of the Parthian war, in which he most miserably lost life
and honour, seemed to give Pompey the opportunity for which he had
long been waiting. He encouraged the growing civil discord which was
tearing the state in pieces, and with such success that the senate was
compelled to call for his assistance. In 52 B.C. he became sole
consul, restored order, and placed himself at the head of the
aristocratic party which he had deserted to become the great popular
hero when he was consul with Crassus in 70 B.C.

Now Caesar had long watched the astonishing actions of Pompey, and had
no intention of leaving the fate of the republic to him and the
aristocracy. He does not seem to have wished to break altogether with
Pompey, but only to hold him in check. At his meeting with Pompey at
Luca (Lucca) in 56 B.C. he had been promised the consulship for 48
B.C. when his governorship came to an end, and he now determined to
insure the fulfilment of this promise which would place him upon a
legal equality with his rival. For the rest he knew that he was as
superior to Pompey as a statesman as he was as a soldier, and he did
not apparently anticipate any difficulty in out-manoeuvring him in the
senate and in the forum. Caesar, then, claimed no more than an
equality with Pompey and the fulfilment of his promise; but these he
determined to have. All through the winter of 52-51 B.C. he was
arming. Well served by his friends, among whom were Mark Antony and
Curio the tribunes, in 50 B.C., "having gone the circuit for the
administration of justice," as Suetonius tells us, "he made a halt at
Ravenna resolved to have recourse to arms if the senate should proceed
to extremity against the tribunes of the people, who had espoused his
cause." But first he determined for many reasons to send ambassadors
to Rome, to request the fulfilment of the promise made to him at Luca.
Pompey, who was not yet at open enmity with him, determined, although
he had made the promise, neither to aid him by his influence nor
openly to oppose him on this occasion. But the consuls Lentulus and
Marcellus, who had always been his enemies, resolved to use all means
in their power to prevent him gaining his object.

At this juncture Caius Curio, tribune of the people, came to Caesar in
Ravenna. Curio had made many energetic struggles in behalf of the
republic and Caesar's cause; but at last, when he perceived that all
his efforts were in vain, he fled through fear of his enemies and
Caesar's to Ravenna and told Caesar all that had taken place; and,
seeing that war was openly being prepared against Caesar, advised him
to bring up his army and to rescue the republic.

Now Caesar was not ignorant of the real state of affairs, but he was
perhaps not yet ready to act, or he hoped in fact to save the ancient
state; at any rate, he gave it as his opinion that particular regard
should be had to the tranquillity of the republic, lest any one should
assert that he was the originator of civil war. Therefore he sent
again to his friends, making through them this very moderate request,
that two legions and the provinces of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum
should be left him. No one could openly quarrel with such a reasonable
demand and the patience with which it was more than once put forward;
for when Caesar could not obtain a favourable answer from the consuls,
he wrote a letter to the senate in which he briefly recounted his
exploits and public services, and entreated that he should not be
deprived of the favour of the people who had ordered that he, although
absent, should be considered a candidate for the consulship at the
next election. He stated also that he would disband his army if the
senate and the Roman people desired it, provided that Pompey would do
the same. But he stated also that, as long as Pompey retained the
command of his army, there could be no just reason why Caesar should
disband his troops and expose himself to the power of his enemies.

This was Caesar's third offer to his opponents. He entrusted the
letter to Curio, who travelled one hundred and sixty miles in three
days and reached the City early in January. He did not, however,
deliver the letter until there was a crowded meeting of the senate and
the tribunes of the people were present; for he was afraid lest, if he
gave it up without the utmost publicity, the consuls would suppress
it. A sort of debate followed the reading of the letter, but when
Scipio, Pompey's mouthpiece, spoke and declared, among other things,
that Pompey was resolved to take up the cause of the senate now or
never, and that he would drop it if a decision were delayed, the
majority, overawed, decreed that Caesar should "at a definite and not
distant day give up Transalpine Gaul to Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus,
and Cisalpine Gaul to Marcus Servilius Nonianus and should dismiss his
army, failing which he should be esteemed a traitor. When the
tribunes, of Caesar's party, made use of their right of veto against
this resolution not only were they, as they at least asserted,
threatened in the senate house itself by the swords of Pompeian
soldiers and forced, in order to save their lives, to flee in slaves'
clothing from the capital, but the senate, now sufficiently overawed,
treated their interference as an attempt at revolution, declared the
country in danger, and in the usual form called the burgesses to take
up arms, and all the magistrates faithful to the constitution to place
themselves at the head of the armed."

That was on January 7th. Five days later Caesar was on his way at the
head of his troops to invade Italy and, without knowing it, to found
the empire, that universal government out of which we are come.

It was with one legion[1] that Caesar undertook his great adventure.
That legion, the Thirteenth, had been stationed near Tergeste
(Trieste), but at Caesar's orders it had marched into Ravenna in the
first days of January. Upon the fateful twelfth, with some secrecy,
while Caesar himself attended a public spectacle, examined the model
of a fencing school, which he proposed to build, and, as usual, sat
down to table with a numerous party of friends,[2] the first companies
of this legion left Ravenna by the Rimini gate, to be followed after
sunset by its great commander; still with all possible secrecy it
seems, for mules were put to his carriage, a hired one, at a mill
outside Ravenna and he went almost alone.

[Footnote 1: Plutarch says "Caesar had not then with him more than 300
horse and 5000 foot. The rest of his forces were left on the other
side of the Alps."]

[Footnote 2: So Suetonius; but Plutarch says "As for himself, he spent
the day at a public show of gladiators, and a little before evening
bathed, and then went into the apartment, where he entertained
company. When it was growing dark, he left the company, having desired
them to make merry till his return, which they would not have long to
wait for."]

The road he travelled was not the great way to Rimini, but a by-way
across the marshes, and it would seem to have been in a wretched
state. At any rate Caesar lost his way, the lights of his little
company were extinguished, his carriage had to be abandoned, and it
was only after wandering about for a long time that, with the help of
a peasant whom he found towards daybreak, he was able to get on, afoot
now, and at last to reach the great highway. That night must have
tried even the iron nerves and dauntless courage of the greatest
soldier of all time.

Caesar came up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, the sacred
boundary of Italy and Cisalpine Gaul in the narrow pass between the
mountains and the sea. "There," says Suetonius, whose account I have
followed, "he halted for a while revolving in his mind the importance
of the step he was about to take. At last turning to those about him,
he said: 'We may still retreat; but if we pass this little bridge
nothing is left us but to fight it out in arms.'"

Now while he was thus hesitating, staggered, even he, by the greatness
of what he would attempt, doubtless resolving in silence arguments for
and against it, and, if we may believe Plutarch, "many times changing
his opinion," the following strange incident is said to have happened.

A person, remarkable, says Suetonius, for his noble aspect and
graceful mien, appeared close at hand sitting by the wayside playing
upon a pipe. When not only the shepherds herding their flocks
thereabout, but a number of the legionaries also gathered round to
hear this fellow play, and there happened to be among them some
trumpeters, the piper suddenly snatched a trumpet from one of these,
ran to the river, and, sounding the advance with a piercing blast,
crossed to the other side. Upon which Caesar on a sudden impulse
exclaimed: "Let us go whither the omens of the gods and the iniquity
of our enemies call us. The die is cast." And immediately at the head
of his troops he crossed the river and found awaiting him the tribunes
of the people who, having fled from Rome, had come to meet him. There
in their presence he called upon the troops to pledge him their
fidelity, with tears in his eyes, Suetonius assures us, and his
garments rent from his bosom. And when he had received their oath he
set out, and with his legion marched so fast the rest of the way that
he reached Ariminum before morning and took it.

The fall of Ariminum was but a presage, as we know, of Caesar's
triumph. In three months he was master of all Italy. From Ravenna he
had emerged to seize the lordship of the world, and out of a misery of
chaos to create Europe.



That great revolutionary act of Julius Caesar's may be said to have
made manifest, and for the first time, the unique position of Ravenna
in relation to Italy and Cisalpine Gaul. In the years which followed,
that position remained always unchanged, and is, indeed, more
prominent than ever in the civil wars between Antony and Octavianus
which followed Caesar's murder; but with the establishment of the
empire by Octavianus and the universal peace, the _pax romana_, which
it ensured, this position of Ravenna in relation to Italy and to
Cisalpine Gaul sank into insignificance in comparison with her other
unique advantage, her position upon the sea. For Octavianus, as we
shall see, established her as the great naval port of Italy upon the
east, and as such she chiefly appears to us during all the years of
the unhampered government of the empire.

In the civil wars between Antony and Octavianus, however, she appears
still as the key to the narrow pass between Italy and Cisalpine Gaul.
Let us consider this for a moment.

Antony, as we know, after that great scene in the senate house when
the supporters of Pompey and the aristocrats had succeeded in denying
Caesar everything, had fled to Caesar at Ravenna. In the war which
followed he had been Caesar's chief lieutenant and friend. At the
crucial battle of Pharsalus in 48 B.C. he had commanded, and with
great success, the left wing. In 44 B.C. he had been consul with
Caesar and had then offered him the crown at the festival of the
_Lupercalia_. After Caesar's murder he had attempted, and not without
a sort of right, to succeed to his power. It was he who pronounced the
speech over Caesar's body and read his will to the people. It was he
who obtained Caesar's papers and his private property. It cannot then
have been without resentment and surprise that he found presently a
rival in the young Octavianus, the great-nephew and adopted son of the
dictator, who joined the senate with the express purpose of crushing

Now Antony, perhaps remembering his master, had obtained from the
senate the promise of Cisalpine Gaul, then in the hands of Decimus
Brutus, who, encouraged by Octavianus, refused to surrender it to him.
Antony proceeded to Ariminum (Rimini), but Octavianus seized Ravenna
and supplied it both with stores and money.[1] Antony was beaten and
compelled to retreat across the Alps. In these acts we may see which
of the two rivals understood the reality of things, and from this
alone we might perhaps foresee the victor.

[Footnote 1: Appian, III. 42.]

That was in 44 B.C. A reconciliation between the rivals followed and
the government was vested in them and in Lepidus under the title of
_Triumviri Reipublicae Constituendae_ for five years. In 42 B.C.
Brutus and Cassius and the aristocratic party were crushed by Antony
and Octavianus at Philippi; and Antony received Asia as his share of
the Roman world. Proceeding to his government in Cilicia, Antony met
Cleopatra and followed her to Egypt. Meanwhile Fulvia, his wife, and
L. Antonius, his brother, made war upon Octavianus in Italy, for they
like Antony hoped for the lordship of the world. In the war which
followed, Ravenna played a considerable part. In 41 B.C., for
instance, the year in which the war opened, the Antonine party secured
themselves in Ravenna, not only because of its strategical importance
in regard to Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, but also because as a seaport
it allowed of their communication with Antony in Egypt from whom they
expected support. All this exposed and demonstrated more and more the
importance of Ravenna, and we may be sure that the wise and astute
Octavianus marked it.

But it was the war with Sextus Pompeius which clearly showed what the
future of Ravenna was to be. In that affair we find Ravenna already
established as a naval port apparently subsidiary, on that coast, to
Brundusium, as Misenum was upon the Tyrrhene sea to Puteoli; and there
Octavianus built ships.

It was not, however, till Octavianus, his enemies one and all disposed
of, had made himself emperor at last, that, on the establishment and
general regulation of his great government, he chose Ravenna as the
major naval port of Italy upon the east, even as he chose Misenum upon
the west.

Octavianus had learned two things, certainly, in the wars he had
fought to establish himself in the monarchy his great-uncle had
founded. He had learned the necessity and the value of sea power, and
he had understood the unique position of Ravenna in relation to the
East and the West. That he had been able to appreciate both these
facts is enough to mark him as the great man he was.

Julius Caesar, for all his mighty grasp of reality, had not perceived
the enormous value, nay the necessity, of sea power, and because of
this failure his career had been twice nearly cut short; at Ilerda,
where the naval victory of Decimus Brutus over the Massiliots alone
saved him; and at Alexandria. Both the liberators and Antony had
possessed ships; but both had failed to use them with any real effect.
It was Sextus Pompeius who forced Octavianus to turn to the sea, and
when Octavianus became Augustus he did not forget the lesson. Sole
master of the Mediterranean and of all its ships of war, he understood
at once how great a support sea power offered him and his principate.
Nor was the empire, while it was vigorous, though always fearful of
and averse from the sea, ever to forget the power that lay in that

Thus it was that among the first acts of Augustus was the
establishment of two fleets, as we might say, "in being" in the
Mediterranean; the fleet of Misenum and the fleet of Ravenna; the
latter with stations probably at Aquileia, Brundusium, the Piraeus,
and probably elsewhere.

The fleet of Ravenna was, certainly after A.D. 70, probably about A.D.
127, entitled _Praetoria_. The origin of this title is unknown, but it
was also borne by the fleet of Misenum and it distinguishes the
Italian from the later Provincial fleets, the former being in closer
relation to the emperor, just as the Praetorian cohorts were
distinguished from the legions.

The emperor was, of course, head of all the fleets, which were, each
of them, commanded by a prefect and sub-prefect appointed by him; and
if we may judge from the recorded promotions we have, it would seem
that the Misenate prefect ranked before the Ravennate and both before
the Provincial. But in the general military system the navy stood
lowest in respect of pay and position. The fleets were manned by freed
men and foreigners who could not obtain citizenship until after
twenty-six years' service. We find Claudius employing the marines of
the _Classis Ravennas_ to drain lake Fucinus, and it was probably
Vespasian who formed the Legion II. _Adjutrix_ from the Ravennate,
even as Nero had formed Legion I. _Adjutrix_ from the Misenate

The Ravenna that Augustus thus chose to be the great base and port of
his fleet in the eastern sea was, as we have seen, a place built upon
piles in the midst of the marshes, impregnable from the land, and,
because impregnable, able, whenever it was in dispute, to command the
narrow pass between the mountains and the sea that was the gate of
Italy and Cisalpine Gaul. Such a place, situated as it was upon the
western shore of that sea which was the fault between East and West,
was eminently suitable for the great purpose of the emperor. Pliny[1]
indeed would seem to tell us that from time immemorial Ravenna had
possessed a small port; but such a place, well enough for the small
traders of those days, could not serve usefully the requirements of a
great fleet. Therefore the first act of Augustus, when he had chosen
Ravenna as his naval base, was the construction of a proper port and
harbour, and these came to be named, after the fleet they served and
accommodated, Classis. Classis was situated some two and a half miles
from the town of Ravenna to the east-south-east. We may perhaps have
some idea both of its situation and of its relation to Ravenna if we
say that it was to that city what the Porto di Lido is to Venice.

[Footnote 1: Pliny, iii. 20; cf. also Strabo, v. 7.]

It is very difficult, in looking upon Ravenna as we see it to-day, to
reconstruct it, even in the imagination, as it was when Augustus had
done with it. To begin with, the sea has retreated several miles from
the city, which is no longer within sight of it, while all that is
left of Classis, which is also now out of sight of the sea, is a
single decayed and deserted church, S. Apollinare in Classe. Strabo,
however, who wrote his _Geography_ a few years after Augustus had
chosen Ravenna for his port upon the Adriatic, has left us a
description both of it and the country in which it stood, from which
must be drawn any picture we would possess of so changed a place. He
speaks of it, as we have seen, as "a great city" situated in the
marshes, built entirely upon piles, and traversed by canals which were
everywhere crossed by bridges or ferry-boats. While at the full tide
he tells us it was swept by the sea and always by the river, and thus
the sewage was carried off and the air purified, and this so
thoroughly, that even before its establishment by Augustus the
district was considered so healthy that the Roman governors had chosen
it as a spot in which to train gladiators.[1] That river we know from
Pliny[2] was called the Bedesis; and the same writer tells us that
Augustus built a canal which brought the water of the Po to Ravenna.

[Footnote 1: Strabo, v. 7.]

[Footnote 2: Pliny, iii. 20.]

Tacitus in his _Annals_[1] merely tells us that Italy was guarded on
both sides by fleets at Misenum and Ravenna, and in his _Histories_[2]
speaks of these places as the well known naval stations without
stopping to describe them. While Suetonius,[3] though he mentions the
great achievement of Augustus, does not emphasise it and does not
attempt to tell us what these ports were like.

[Footnote 1: Tacitus, Ann. iv. 5.]

[Footnote 2: Tacitus, Hist. ii. 100; iii. 6, 40.]

[Footnote 3: Suetonius, _Augustus_.]

Perhaps the best description we have of Augustan Ravenna comes to us
from a writer who certainly never saw the port in its great Roman
days, but who probably followed a well established tradition in his
description of it. This is Jornandes, who was born about A.D. 500 and
was first a notary at the Ostrogothic court and later became a monk
and finally bishop of Crotona. In his _De Getarum Origins et Rebus
Gestis_ he thus describes Ravenna:

"This city (says he) between the marshes, the sea, and the Po is only
accessible on one side. Situated beside the Ionian Sea it is
surrounded and almost submerged by lagoons. On the east is the sea, on
the west it is defended by marshes across which there remains a narrow
passage, a kind of gate. The city is encircled on the north by a
branch of the Po, called the Fossa Asconis, and on the south by the Po
itself, which is called the Eridanus, and which is there known as the
King of Rivers. Augustus deepened its bed and made it larger; it
flowed quite through the city, and its mouth formed an excellent port
where once, as Dion reports [this passage of Dion Cassius is lost], a
fleet of 250 ships could be stationed in all security.... The city has
three names with which she glorifies herself and she is divided into
three parts to which they correspond; the first is Ravenna, the last
Classis, that in the midst is Caesarea between Ravenna and the sea.
Built on a sandy soil this quarter is easily approached and is
commodiously situated for trade and transport."

We thus have a picture of Ravenna as a triune city, consisting of
Ravenna proper, the port Classis, and the long suburb between them,
Caesarea, connected by a great causeway and everywhere watered by
canals, the greatest of which was the Fossa Augusta by which a part of
the waters of the Po were carried to Ravenna and thence to Classis and
the sea; a city very much, we may suppose, what we know Venice to be,
if we think of her in connection with the Riva, the great suburb of
the Marina, and the Porto di Lido. At Classis we must understand there
was room for a fleet of two hundred and fifty ships and accommodation
for arsenals, magazines, barracks, and so forth, while there is one
other thing we know of this port, and that from Pliny,[1] who tells us
that it had a Pharos like the famous one of Alexandria. "There is
another building (says he) that is highly celebrated, the tower that
was built by a king of Egypt on the island of Pharos at the entrance
to the harbour of Alexandria.... At present there are similar fires
lighted up in numerous places, Ostia and Ravenna for example. The only
danger is that when these fires are thus kept burning without
intermission they may be mistaken for stars."

[Footnote 1: Pliny xxx. vi. 18]

Such was the splendour of Ravenna in the time of Augustus. His
achievement so far as Ravenna was concerned was to understand her
importance not only in regard to Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, an
importance already discounted by the universal peace he had
established, but in regard to the sea. He turned Ravenna into a
first-class naval port and based his eastern fleet upon her; and this
was so wise an act that, so long as the empire remained strong and
unhampered, Ravenna appears as the great base of its sea power in the

In that long peace which Italy enjoyed under the empire we hear little
of Ravenna. We know Claudius built a great gate called Porta Aurea,
which was only destroyed in 1582; and we know that the great sea port
had one weakness, the scarcity of good water for drinking purposes.
Martial writes

  "I'd rather at Ravenna have a cistern than a vine
  Since I could sell my water there much better than my wine,"

and again:

  "That landlord at Ravenna is plainly but a cheat
  I paid for wine and water, but he served wine to me neat"[1]

[Footnote 1: Martial, _Fp_ iii. 56, 57. Trs Hodgkin]

This weakness would seem, however, to have been overcome by Trajan,
who built an aqueduct nearly twenty miles long, which Theodoric
restored, after the fall of the empire, in 524. This aqueduct, of
which some arches remain in the bed of the Bedesis (Ronco), seems to
have run, following the course of the river, from near Forli, where
there still remains a village called S. Maria in Acquedotto, to


The great city-port thus became one of the most important and
considerable of the cities of Italy, at a time when the whole of the
West was rapidly increasing in wealth and population, and especially
the old province of Cisapline Gaul, which had indeed become, during
the _pax romana_, the richest part of the new Italy. Always an
important military port it was often occupied by the emperors as their
headquarters from which to watch and to oppose the advance of their
enemies into Italy, and the possessor of it, for the reasons I have
set forth, was always in a commanding position. Thus in A.D. 193 it
was the surrender of Ravenna without resistance that gave the empire
to Septimius Severus, when, scarcely allowing himself time for sleep
or food, marching on foot and in complete armour, he crossed the Alps
at the head of his columns to punish the wretched Didius Julianus and
to avenge Pertinax. It was there in 238 that Pupienus was busy
assembling his army to oppose Maximin when he received the news of the
death of his enemy before Aquileia.

And because it was impregnable and secluded it was often chosen too as
a place of imprisonment for important prisoners.

It is true that we know very little, in detail, of the life of any
city other than Rome during those years of the great Peace in which we
see the empire change from a Pagan to a Christian state. Those
centuries which saw Christendom slowly emerge, in which Europe was
founded, still lack a modern historian, and the magnitude and
splendour of their achievement are too generally misconceived or
ignored. We are largely unaware still of what they were in themselves
and of what we owe to them. By reason of the miserable collapse of
Europe, of Christendom, in the sixteenth century and its appalling
results both in thought and in politics, we are led, too often by
prejudices, to regard those mighty years rather as the prelude to the
decline and fall of the empire than as the great and indestructible
foundations of all that is still worth having in the world.

For rightly understood those centuries gave us not only our culture,
our civilisation, and our Faith, but ensured them to us that they
should always endure. They established for ever the great lines upon
which our art was to develop, to change, and yet not to suffer
annihilation or barrenness. They established the supremacy of the
idea, so that it might always renew our lives, our culture, and our
polity, and that we might judge everything by it and fear neither
revolution, defeat, nor decay. They, and they alone, established us in
the secure possession of our own souls so that we alone in the world
might develop from within, to change but never to die, and to be--yes,
alone in the world--Christians.

The almost incredible strength and well being of those years must be
seized also. There was not a town in Italy and the West that did not
expand and increase in a fashion almost miraculous during that period.
It was then the rivers were embanked, the canals made, the great roads
planned and constructed, and our communications established for ever.
There was no industry that did not grow marvellously in strength,
there is not a class that did not increase in wealth and well-being
beyond our dreams of progress. There is scarcely anything that is
really fundamental in our lives that was not then created that it
might endure. It was then our religion, the soul of Europe, was born.

Christianity, the Faith, which, little by little, absorbed the empire,
till it became the energy and the cause of all that undying but
changeful principle of life and freedom which rightly understood is
Europe, is thought to have been brought first to Ravenna by S.
Apollinaris, a disciple as we are told of S. Peter, who made him her
first bishop. So at least his acts assert; and though little credence
may, I fear, be placed in them, that he was the first bishop of
Ravenna, and in the time of S. Peter, is not at variance with what we
know of that age, is attested by the traditions of the city, and is
supported by later authorities. S. Peter Chrysologus (_c_. 440), the
most famous of his successors, for instance, assures us of it. This
great churchman calls S. Apollinaris martyr, and in that there is
nothing strange, but he asserts that though he often spilt his blood
for the Faith, yet God preserved him a long time, not less than twenty
years, to his church, and that his persecution did not take away his

[Footnote 1: His relics lay for many years in the church dedicated in
his honour at Classis; but in 549 they were removed from their great
tomb and placed in a more secret spot in the same church. Cf.
Agnellus. _Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis_ (Ed. Holder--Egger
in _Monumenta Germanicae Historica_) and S. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon
128 in Migne.]

The empire which it had taken more than a millenium to build, which
was the most noble and perhaps the most beneficient experiment in
government that has ever been made, was in obvious economic and
administrative decay by the middle of the fourth century. Christianity
perhaps was already undermining the servile state, which in its effort
of self-preservation adopted an economic system hopelessly at variance
with the facts of the situation; while the weakness of its frontiers
offered a military problem which the empire was unable to face.
Diocletian had attempted to solve it by dividing the empire, but the
division he made was rather racial that strategic, for under it the
two parts of the empire, East and West, met on the Danube. The eastern
part, by force of geography, was inclined to an Asiatic point of view
and to the neglect of the Danube; the western was by no means strong
enough either financially or militarily to hold that tremendous line.

We read, in the letters of S. Ambrose among others, of the decay of
the great cities of Cisalpine Gaul,[1] of the failure of agriculture
in that rich countryside, of the poverty and misery that were
everywhere falling upon that great state. It is possible that in the
general weakening of administrative power even the roads, the canals,
the whole system of communications were allowed to become less perfect
than they had been; everywhere there was a retreat. The frontiers were
no longer inviolate, and it is probable that in the general decay the
port of Classis, the city of Ravenna, suffered not less than their

[Footnote 1: See S. Ambrose, _Ep_. 39, written in 388, quoted by
Muratori, _Dissertazioni_, vol. i. 21. "De Bonomensi veniens Urbe, a
tergo Claternam, ipsam Bononiam, Mutinam, Regium derelinquebas; in
dextera erat Brixillum; a fronte occurrebat Placentia.... Te igitur
semirutarum Urbium cadavera, terrarumque sub eodem conspectu exposita
funera non te admonent...."]

Indeed already in 306 it is rather as a refuge than as a great and
active naval base that Ravenna appears to us, when Severus, destitute
of force, "retired or rather fled" thither from the pursuit of
Maximian. He flung himself into Ravenna because it was impregnable and
because he expected reinforcements from Illyricum and the East, but
though he held the sea with a powerful fleet he made no use of it, and
the emissaries of Maximian easily persuaded him to surrender. Already
perhaps, a century later, when Honorius retired from Milan on the
approach of Alaric and the first of those barbarian invasions which
broke up the decaying western empire had penetrated into Cisalpine
Gaul, the great works of Augustus and Trajan at Ravenna, the canals,
the mighty Fossa, and the port itself had fallen into a sort of decay
which the fifth century was to complete, till that marvellous city,
once the base of the eastern fleet and one of the great naval ports of
the world, became just a decaying citadel engulfed in the marshes,
impregnable it is true, but for barbarian reasons, lost in the fogs
and the miasma of her shallow and undredged lagoons.




When Honorius left Milan on the approach of Alaric he went to Ravenna.

Gibbon, whom every writer since has followed without question, tells
us, in one of his most scornful passages, that "the emperor Honorius
was distinguished, above his subjects, by the pre-eminence of fear, as
well as of rank. The pride and luxury in which he was educated had not
allowed him to suspect that there existed on the earth any power
presumptuous enough to invade the repose of the successor of Augustus.
The acts of flattery concealed the impending danger till Alaric
approached the palace of Milan. But when the sound of war had awakened
the young emperor, instead of flying to arms with the spirit, or even
the rashness, of his age, he eagerly listened to those timid
counsellors who proposed to convey his sacred person and his faithful
attendants to some secure and distant station in the provinces of
Gaul.... The recent danger to which the person of the emperor had been
exposed in the defenceless palace of Milan urged him to seek a retreat
in some inaccessible fortress of Italy, where he might securely remain
while the open country was covered by a deluge of barbarians."

No historian of Ravenna, and certainly no writer upon the fall of the
empire, has cared to understand what Ravenna was. Gibbon complains
that he lacks "a local antiquarian and a good topographical map;" yet
it is not so much the lack of local knowledge that leads him
unreservedly to censure Honorius for his retreat upon Ravenna, as the
fact that he has not perhaps really grasped what Ravenna was, what was
her relation to Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, and especially how she stood
to the sea, and what part that sea played in the geography and
strategy of the empire.

For my part I shall maintain that, whatever may be the truth as to the
private character of Honorius, which would indeed be difficult to
defend, he was wisely advised by those counsellors who conceived his
retreat from Milan to Ravenna; that this retreat was not a mere
flight, but a consummate and well thought out strategical and
political move, and that any other would have been for the worse and
would probably have involved the West in an utter destruction.

Cisalpine Gaul, at this crisis, as always both before and since, was
the great and proper defence of Italy; not the Alps nor the Apennines
but Cisalpine Gaul broke the barbarians, and, in so far as it could be
materially saved, saved Italy and our civilisation, of which Rome was
the soul. There Stilicho met Alaric and broke his first and worst
enthusiasm; there Leo the Great turned back Attila; there the fiercest
terror of the Lombard tide spent itself.

Now, as we have seen, Cisalpine Gaul, in its relation to Italy, was
best held and contained from Ravenna, which commanded, whenever it was
in danger, the narrow pass between them. Therefore the retreat of
Honorius upon Ravenna was a consummate strategical act, well advised
and such as we might expect from "the successor of Augustus." Its
results were momentous and entirely fortunate for Italy, and indeed,
when the truth about Ravenna is once grasped, any other move would
appear to have been craven and ridiculous.

But there is something more that is of an even greater importance.

The best hope of the West in its fight with the barbarian undoubtedly
lay in its own virility and arms, but it had the right to expect that
in such a fight it would not be unaided by the eastern empire and the
great civilisation whose capital was that New Rome upon the Bosphorus.
If it was to receive such assistance, it must receive it at Ravenna,
which held Cisalpine Gaul and was the gate of the eastern sea.

When Honorius then retreated upon Ravenna, he did so, not merely
because Ravenna was impregnable, though that of course weighed too
with his advisers, for the base of any virile and active defence must,
or should, be itself secure; but also because it held the great pass
and the great road into Italy, and as the eastern gate of the West
would receive and thrust forward whatever help and reinforcement the
empire in the East might care or be able to give.


That the defence which was made with Ravenna for its citadel was not
wholly victorious, that the attack which the eastern empire planned
and delivered from Ravenna, perhaps too late, was not completely
successful, were the results of many and various causes, but not of
any want of Judgment in the choice of Ravenna as their base. That base
was rightly and consummately chosen without hesitation and from the
first; and because it was chosen, the hope of the restoration never
quite passed away and seemed to have been realised at last when
Charlemagne, following Pepin into Italy, was crowned emperor in S.
Peter's Church on Christmas Day in the year 800.

It will readily be understood, then, that the most important and the
most interesting part of the history of Ravenna begins when Honorius
retreated upon her before the invasion of Alaric, and not only the
West, but Italy and Rome, the heart and soul of it, seemed about to be
in dispute.

But first amid all the loose thought and confusion of the last three
hundred years let us make sure of fundamentals.

I shall take for granted in this book that Rome accepted the Faith not
because the Roman mind was senile, but because it was mature; that the
failure of the empire is to be regretted; that the barbarians were
barbarians; that not from them but from the new and Christian
civilisation of the empire itself came the strength of the
restoration, the mighty achievements of the Middle Age, of the
Renaissance, of the Modern world. The barbarian, as I understand it,
did nothing. He came in naked and ashamed, without laws or
institutions. To some extent, though even in this he was a failure, he
destroyed; it was his one service. He came and he tried to learn; he
learnt to be a Christian. When the empire re-arose it was Roman not
barbarian, it was Christian not heathen, it was Catholic not
heretical. It owed the barbarian nothing. That it re-arose, and that
as a Roman and a Catholic state, is due largely to the fact that
Honorius retreated upon Ravenna.

If we could depend upon the dates in the Theodosian Code we should be
able to say that Honorius finally retreated upon Ravenna before
December 402;[1] unhappily the dates we find there must not be relied
upon with absolute confidence. We may take it that Alaric entered
Venetia in November 401, and that at the same time Radagaisus invaded
Rhaetia. Stilicho, Honorius' great general and the hero of the whole
defence, advanced against Radagaisus. Upon Easter Day in the following
year, however, he met Alaric at Pollentia and defeated him, but the
Gothic king was allowed to withdraw from that field with the greater
part of his cavalry entire and unbroken. Stilicho hoping to annihilate
him forced him to retreat, overtook him at Asta (Asti), but again
allowed him to escape and this time to retreat into Istria.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Hodgkin, _Italy and her Invaders_, vol. i. pt. 2, p.

In the summer of 403 Alaric again entered Italy and laid siege to
Verona; Stilicho, however, met him and defeated him, but again allowed
him to retreat. Well might Orosius, his contemporary, exclaim that
this king with his Goths, though often hemmed in, often defeated, was
always allowed to escape.

The battle of Verona was followed by a peace of two years duration.
But in 405 the other barbarian Radagaisus came down into Cisalpine
Gaul as Alaric had done, and Stilicho, knowing that the pass through
which the great road entered Italy was secured by Ravenna, assailed
him at Ticinum (Pavia). Radagaisus, however, did a bold and perhaps an
unexpected thing. He attempted to cross the Apennines themselves by
the difficult and neglected route that ran over them and led to
Fiesole.[2] But the Romans had been right in their judgment. That way
was barred by nature. It needed no defence. Before the barbarian had
quite pierced the mountains Stilicho caught him, slew him, and
annihilated his already starving bands at Fiesole. Cisalpine Gaul and
the fortress of Ravenna, its key, still held Italy secure.

[Footnote 2: Livy asserts that C. Flamimus, the colleague of M.
Aemilius Lepidus in B.C. 187, built a road direct from Arezzo to
Bologna across the Tuscan Apennines. This road early fell into disuse
and ruin. We hear nothing of it (but see Cicero, _Phil_. xii. 9) till
this raid of Radagaisus. Later, Totila came this way to besiege Rome.
Cf. Repetti, _Dizionavio della Toscana_, vol. v. 713-715.]

Honorius and his great general and minister now essayed what perhaps
should have been attempted earlier, namely, to employ Alaric in the
service of Rome, as the East had known how to employ him, at a
distance from the capital. He was first offered the province of
Illyricum; but the senate refused to hear of any such treaty, and
though at last it consented to pay the Goth 4000 pounds in gold "to
secure the peace of Italy and conciliate the friendship of the Gothic
king," Lampadius, one of the most illustrious members of that
assembly, asserted that "this is not a treaty of peace but of
servitude." Thus the senate was alienated from Stilicho, and not the
senate only but the army also, which was exasperated by his affection
for the barbarians. Nor was the great general more fortunate with the
emperor, who had come of late under the influence of Olympius, a man
who, Zosimus tells us, under an appearance of Christian piety,
concealed a great deal of rascality. Stilicho had promoted him to a
very honourable place in the household of the emperor; nevertheless he
plotted against him. At his suggestion Honorius proposed to show
himself to the army at Pavia, already at enmity with Stilicho. The
result was disastrous. For the occasion was seized for a revolt in
which the best officers of the empire perished. Stilicho, not daring
to march his barbarians from Bologna upon the Roman army, and by this
refusal incurring their enmity also, flung himself into Ravenna and
took refuge in the great church there. On the following day, however,
he was delivered up by the bishop to Count Heraclian and slain.

Thus perished in the great fortress of the defence the great defender,
leaving the whole of Italy in confusion. He was not long to go

[Illustration: Colour Plate S. AGATA]

Stilicho was slain in Ravenna upon August 23rd, 408. In October of
that year Alaric, who had watched the appalling revolution that
followed his own defeat and the annihilation of Radagaisus, after
fruitless negotiations with Honorius, descended into Italy, passed
Aquileia, and coming into the Aemilian Way at Bologna found the pass
open and without misadventure entered Italy at Rimini, and, without
attacking Ravenna, marched on "to Rome, to make that city desolate."
He besieged Rome three times and pillaged it, taking with him, when he
left it, hostages. As we know he never returned, but died at Cosentia
in southern Italy, and was buried in the bed of the Buxentius, which
had been turned aside, for a moment, by a captive multitude, to give
him sepulture.

Among those hostages which Alaric had claimed from the City and taken
with him southward was the sister of the two emperors, the daughter of
the great Theodosius, Galla Placidia.

This great lady had been born, as is thought, in Rome about 390; she
had, however, spent the first seven years of her life in
Constantinople, but had returned to Italy on the death of Theodosius
with her brother Honorius, in the care of the beautiful Serena, the
wife of Stilicho. She does not seem to have followed her brother
either to Milan or to Ravenna, for indeed his residence in both these
cities was part of the great defence. She remained in Rome, probably
in the house of her kinswoman Laeta, the widow of Gratian. That she
had a grudge against Serena seems certain, though the whole story of
the plot to marry her to Eucherius, Serena's son, would appear
doubtful. That she initiated her murder, as Zosimus[1] asserts, is
extremely improbable and altogether unproven. However that may be,
after one of his three sieges of Rome, Alaric carried Galla Placidia
off as a hostage. He seems, according to Zosimus, to have treated her
with courtesy and even with an exaggerated reverence, as the sister of
the emperor and the daughter of Theodosius, but she was compelled to
follow in his train and to see the ruin of Lucania and Calabria. For,
as a matter of fact and reality, Galla Placidia was the one hope of
the Goths and this became obvious after the death of Alaric.

[Footnote 1: Zosimus, v. 38. Zosimus was a pagan. Placidia was a
devout and enthusiastic Catholic.]

The Gothic army was in a sort of trap; it could not return without the
consent of Ravenna, and if it were compelled to remain in Italy it was
only a question of time till it should be crushed or gradually wasted
away. It is probable that Alaric was aware of this; it is certain that
it was well appreciated by his successor Ataulfus. He saw that his one
chance of coming to terms with the empire lay in his possession of
Galla Placidia. Moreover, Italy and Rome had worked in the mind and
the spirit of this man the extraordinary change that was to declare
itself in the soul of almost every barbarian who came to ravage them.
He began dimly to understand what the empire was. He felt ashamed of
his own rudeness and of the barbarism of his people. Years afterwards
he related to a citizen of Narbonne, who in his turn repeated the
confession to S. Jerome in Palestine in the presence of the historian
Orosius, the curious "conversion" that Italy had worked in his heart.
"In the full confidence of valour and victory," said Ataulfus, "I once
aspired to change the face of the universe; to obliterate the name of
Rome; to erect on its ruins the dominion of the Goths; and to acquire,
like Augustus, the immortal fame of the founder of a new empire. By
repeated experiments I was gradually convinced that laws are
essentially necessary to maintain and regulate a well constituted
state, and that the fierce untractable humour of the Goths was
incapable of bearing the salutary yoke of laws and civil government.
From that moment I proposed to myself a different object of glory and
ambition; and it is now my sincere wish that the gratitude of future
ages should acknowledge the merit of a stranger who employed the sword
of the Goths not to subvert but to restore and maintain the prosperity
of the Roman Empire."[1]

[Footnote 1: Orosius, vii. c. 43. Gibbon, c. xxxi.]

With this change in his heart and the necessity of securing a retreat
upon the best terms he could arrange, Ataulfus looked on Placidia his
captive and found her perhaps fair, certainly a prize almost beyond
the dreams of a barbarian. He aspired to marry her, and she does not
seem to have been unready to grant him her hand. Doubtless she had
been treated by Alaric and his successor with an extraordinary respect
not displeasing to so royal a lady, and Ataulfus, though not so tall
as Alaric, was both shapely and noble.[1] There seems indeed to have
been but one obstacle to this match. This was the ambition of
Constantius, the new minister of Honorius, who wished to make his
position secure by marrying Placidia himself.

[Footnote 1: Jornandes, c. xxxi.]

Italy, however, needed peace as badly as the Goths needed a secure
retreat. And when negotiations were opened it was seen that their
success depended entirely upon this question of Placidia. A treaty was
drawn up of friendship and alliance between the Goths and the empire.
The services of Ataulfus were accepted against the barbarians who were
harrying the provinces beyond the Alps, and the king, with Galla
Placidia a willing captive, began his retreat from Campania into Gaul.
His troops occupied the cities of Narbonne, Toulouse, and Bordeaux,
and in spite of the protests and resistance of the harassed
provincials soon extended their quarters from the Mediterranean to the

To hold the Goth to his friendship and to secure his absence from
Italy nothing remained but to accord him the hand of Placidia; and in
the year 414 at Narbonne their marriage was solemnised.[2]

[Footnote 2: Olympiodorus and Idatius say the marriage took place at
Narbonne, but Jornandes, _op cit_. c. 31, asserts that it took place
at Forli before Ataulfus left Italy. Perhaps there were two
ceremonies, or perhaps the ceremony at Narbonne was but the
celebration of an anniversary.]

With the retreat of the Goth and the treaty sealed by the marriage of
Placidia, the sister of Honorius, and the Gothic king, Italy secured
herself a peace and a repose which endured for some forty-two years,
only broken by the raid of Heraclian from Africa in 413.

But Ataulfus did not long survive his marriage. Having crossed the
Pyrenees and surprised in the name of Honorius the city of Barcelona,
he was assassinated in the palace there, and in the tumult which
followed, Singeric, the brother of his enemy and a stranger to the
royal race, was hailed as king. This revolution made Placidia once
more a fugitive, and we see the daughter of Theodosius "confounded
among a crowd of vulgar captives, compelled to march on foot above
twelve miles before the horse of a barbarian, the assassin of a
husband whom Placidia loved and lamented." On the seventh day of his
reign, however, Singeric was himself assassinated and Wallia, who then
became king of the Goths, after repeated representations backed at
last by the despatch of an army surrendered the princess to her
brother in exchange for 600,000 measures of wheat.

That must have been a strange home-coming for Placidia. Bought and
sold twice over, twice a fugitive, the companion of the rude Goth, she
is the most pathetic figure in all that terrible fifth century, and
never does she appear more pitiful than on her return from the camps
and the triumphs of the barbarians to the decadent splendour and the
corruption of the imperial court of Ravenna, and again as a captive, a
prize, booty.

For the man who had been at the head of that army whose approach, real
or supposed, had decided the Goths to deliver up the sister of the
emperor was Constantius, her old lover, he who had delayed her
marriage with Ataulfus and who now determined to marry her himself.

It was in 416 that Placidia returned to Ravenna. In the following year
Honorius gave her to Constantius, then his colleague in the consular
office for the second time. The marriage ceremony of very great
splendour took place in Ravenna; and in the same year was born of that
marriage Honoria, who was to offer herself to Attila, and in 419
Valentinian, one day to be emperor.

That marriage soon had the result Constantius had intended. In 421
Honorius was compelled to associate him with himself on the imperial
throne and to give to Placidia the title of Augusta. The new emperor,
however, survived his elevation to the throne but seven months and
once more Placidia was a widow. Her life, never a happy one, if we
except the few years in which she was the wife of Ataulfus, whom she
seems really to have loved, became unbearable after the death of
Constantius. At the mercy of her brother who was fast sinking, at the
age of thirty-nine, into a vicious and idiotic senility, she, always a
sincere Catholic in spite of her romantic marriage with the Arian
Ataulfus, seems to have been forced into a horrible intimacy with him;
at least we know that he obliged her to receive his obscene kisses,
even in public, to the scandal and perhaps the amusement of that
corrupt society. And then suddenly her brother's dreadful love seems
to have turned to hate and she is a fugitive again with her two
children at the court of her nephew Theodosius II. at Constantinople.
In the very year of her flight Honorius died and the throne of the
West was vacant.

It was filled by the obscure civil servant Joannes, the chief of the
notaries, the creature of some palace intrigue. But such a choice
could not be tolerated by Theodosius, who immediately confirmed
Placidia in her title of Augusta, which had not before been recognised
at Constantinople, and accepted Valentinian, whose title was
Nobilissimus, as the heir to the western throne, giving him the title
of Caesar. To suppress the usurper Joannes, Theodosius despatched an
army to bring Placidia and her children to Ravenna. After a short
campaign in northern Italy, by a miracle, according to the
contemporary historian Socrates, the troops of Theodosius arrived
before Ravenna. "The prayer of the pious emperor again prevailed. For
an angel of God, under the semblance of a shepherd, undertook the
guidance of Aspar and his troops, and led them through the lake near
Ravenna. Now no one had ever been known to ford that lake before; but
God then caused that to be possible which before had been impossible.
But when they had crossed the lake, as if going over dry land, they
found the gates of the city open and seized the tyrant Joannes."[1]

[Footnote 1: Socrates, vii. 23. Cf. Hodgkin, _op cit_. i. 847.]

So the Augusta with the young Caesar and her daughter Honoria entered
Ravenna, to reign there, first as regent and then as the no less
powerful adviser of her son, for some twenty-five years.

When Ravenna opened its gates some eighteen months had passed since
the death of Honorius. But the appearance of that "angel of God under
the semblance of a shepherd" had not been the only miracle that had
occurred on the return of Placidia to the imperial city by the eastern
sea. For it seems that on her voyage either from Constantinople to
Aquileia, where she remained till Ravenna was taken, or from Aquileia
to Ravenna, Placidia and her children were caught in a great storm at
sea and came near to suffer shipwreck. Then Placidia prayed aloud,
invoking the aid of S. John the Evangelist for deliverance from so
great a peril, and vowing to build a church in his honour in Ravenna
if he would bring them to land. And immediately the winds and the
waves abated and the ship came safely to port.[2] It was in fulfilment
of her vow that Placidia built in Ravenna the Basilica of S. John the

[Footnote 2: The invocation of S. John is curious, and we have not the
key to it. For though he was a fisherman, so was S. Peter for
instance. It is interesting, though not perhaps really significant, to
note that it is only S. John who notes in his Gospel (vi. 21) that,
when the Apostles saw Our Lord walking on the water in the great
storm, and had received Him into their ship, "immediately the ship was
at the land."]

The city of Ravenna at this time would seem to have been full of
churches. Its first bishop, S. Apollinaris, had been the friend of S.
Peter who, as it was believed, had appointed him to the see of
Ravenna. That was in the earliest days of the Christian Church. But we
find the tradition still living in the fourth century when Severus,
bishop of Ravenna, miraculously chosen to fill the see, sat in the
council of Sardica in 344 and refused to make any alteration in the
Nicene Creed. About the end of the century Ursus had been bishop and
had built the great cathedral church, the Basilica Ursiana, dedicated
in honour of the Resurrection, with its five naves and fifty-six
columns of marble, its _schola cantorum_ in the midst, and its
mosaics, all of which were finally and utterly destroyed in 1733.
There was too the baptistery which remains and the church of S. Agata
and many others which have perished.

With the church of S. Agata we connect one of the great bishops of the
fifth century, Joannes Angeloptes, who was there served at Mass by an
angel. While with the beautiful little chapel in the bishop's palace,
which still, in some sort at least, remains to us, we connect perhaps
the greatest bishop Ravenna can boast of, S. Peter Chrysologus, for he
built it.

Nor was Placidia herself slow to add to the ecclesiastical splendour
of her city. We have already seen that she built S. Giovanni
Evangelista, rebuilt in the thirteenth century, in fulfilment of her
vow and in memory of her salvation from shipwreck. Close to her palace
she built another church in honour of the Holy Cross, and attached to
it she erected her mausoleum, which remains perhaps the most precious
monument in the city. The church and the monastery which her niece
Singleida built beside it have perished.

But though during the lifetime of Placidia Italy was free from foreign
invasion, the decay of the western empire, of what had been the
western empire, was by no means arrested; on the contrary, Britain,
Gaul, Spain, and Africa were finally lost. Two appalling catastrophes
mark her reign, the Vandal invasion of the province of Africa and the
ever growing cloud of Huns upon the north-eastern frontiers.


Placidia's two chief ministers were Boniface and Aetius, either of
whom, according to Procopius, "had the other not been his
contemporary, might truly have been called the last of the Romans."
Their simultaneous appearance, however, finally destroyed all hope of
an immediate resurrection of civilisation in the West. For Boniface,
whose "one great object was the deliverance of Africa from all sorts
of barbarians," betrayed Africa to the Vandals, and to this he was led
by the rivalry and intrigue of Aetius who, on the other hand, must
always be remembered for his heroic and glorious victory over Attila
at Chalons which delivered Gaul from the worst deluge of all--that of
the Huns.

The truth would seem to be that while corruption of every sort, and
especially political corruption, was destroying the empire, the
importance of Christianity was vastly increasing. The great quarrel
was really that between Catholicism and heresy. This was a living
issue while the cause of the empire as a political entity was already
dead. Placidia certainly eagerly considered all sorts of
ecclesiastical problems and provided and legislated for their
solution. We do not find her seeking the advice and offensive and
defensive alliance of Constantinople for the restoration of her
provinces. It might seem almost as though the mind of her time was
unable to fix itself upon the vast political and economic problem that
now for many generations had demanded a solution in vain. No one seems
to have cared in any fundamental way, or even to have been aware, that
the empire as a great state was gradually being ruined, was indeed
already in full decadence--a thing to despair of. That is the curious
thing--no one seems to have despaired. On the other hand, every one
was keenly interested in the religious controversy of the time which,
because we cannot fully understand that time, seems to us so futile.
But it is only what is in the mind that is fundamentally important to
man, and that will force him to action. The council of Ephesus which
destroyed Nestorius in 431, the council of Chalcedon which condemned
Dioscorus in 451, seemed to be the important things, and one day we
may come to think again, that on those great decisions, and not on the
material defence, both military and economic, of the West, depended
the future of the world. If this be so, it would at least explain the
hopeless variance of East and West, which, almost equally concerned in
the material problem, were by no means at one in philosophy.


Nevertheless, although Theodosius II. had not trodden "the narrow path
of orthodoxy with reputation unimpaired," as Placidia certainly had,
the material alliance of East and West were seen to be so important
that in 437 Valentinian III., the son of Placidia, and emperor in the
West, was married to Eudoxia, the daughter of Theodosius II., in

Neither the accession of her son nor his marriage seem to have made
any real difference in the power of Placidia who, we may believe, not,
as Procopius asserts, by a cunning system of training by which she had
ruined his character, but rather by reason of her innate virility,
retained the reins of government in her own hands. Certainly she
ruled, the Augusta of the West, during the twelve years that remained
to her after her son's marriage. And when at last she died in Rome in
450, on the 27th November,[1] in the sixtieth year of her age, and a
few months after her nephew Theodosius II., and was borne in a last
triumph along the Via Flaminia, to be laid, seated in a chair of
cedar, in a sarcophagus of alabaster in the gorgeous mausoleum she had
prepared for herself beside the church of S. Croce in Ravenna, she
left Italy at least in a profound peace, so secure, as it seemed, that
the whole court had in that very year removed to Rome. It might appear
as though the barbarian had but awaited her passing to descend once
more upon the citadel of Europe.

[Footnote 1: Agnellus asserts that on the Ides of March in the year
following Placidia's death Ravenna suffered from a great fire, in
which many buildings perished, but he does not tell us what they



For more than ten years before the death of Placidia both East and
West had been aware of a new cloud in the north-east. This darkness
was the vast army of Huns, which, in the exodus from Asia proper,
under Attila, threatened to overrun the empire and to lay it waste. In
447, indeed, Attila fell upon the Adriatic and Aegean provinces of the
eastern empire and ravaged them till he was bought off with a shameful
tribute. His thoughts inevitably turned towards the capital, and it is
said, I know not with how much truth, that in the very year of their
death both Placidia and Theodosius received from this new barbarian an
insolent message which said: "Attila, thy master and mine, bids thee
prepare a palace for him."

Theodosius II., however, was succeeded upon the Eastern throne by his
sister Pulcheria who shared her government with the virile and bold
soldier Marcian. But upon Placidia's death, on the other hand, the
government of the West fell into the hands of her weak and sensual son
Valentinian III.

Placidia's greatest failure, indeed, was in the training and education
of her children. Valentinian was incapable and vicious, while Honoria,
who had inherited much of the romantic temperament of her mother, was
both unscrupulous and irresponsible. Sent to Constantinople on account
of an intrigue with her chamberlain, Honoria, bored by the ascetic
life in which she found herself and furious at her virtual
imprisonment, sent her ring to Attila and besought him to deliver her
and make her his wife as Ataulfus had done Placidia her mother.
Though, it seems, the Hun disdained her, he made this appeal his
excuse. Within a year of the death of Theodosius and Placidia he
decided that the way of least resistance lay westward. If he were
successful he could make his own terms, and, among his spoil, if he
cared, should be the sister of the emperor.

At first it was Gaul that was to be plundered; but there, as we know,
the wild beast was met by Aetius who defeated him at the battle of
Chalons and thus saved the western provinces. But that victory was not
followed up. Attila and his vast army were allowed to retreat; and
though Gaul was saved, Italy lay at their mercy. That was in 451.
Attila retreated into Pannonia, and prepared for a new raid in the
following year.

He came, as Alaric had done, through the Julian Alps; and before
spring had gone Aquileia was not, Concordia was utterly destroyed,
Altinum became nothing. Nor have these cities ever lived again; out of
their ruin Venice sprang in the midst of the lagoons. All the
Cisalpine plain north of the Po was in Attila's hands; Vicenza,
Verona, Brescia, Bergamo, Pavia, even Milan opened their gates. No
defence was offered, they saved themselves alive. And southward, over
the Po, between the mountains and the sea, the gate which Ravenna held
stood open wide. Italy without defence lay at the mercy of the Asiatic

Without defence! Valentinian and his court were in Rome; no one armed
and ready waited in impregnable Ravenna to break the Hun as with a
hammer when he should venture to take the road through the narrow pass
between the mountains and the sea. The great defence was not to be
held; the road, as once before, lay open and unguarded. In this
moment, one of the greatest crises in the history of Europe, suddenly,
and without warning, the reality of that age, which had changed so
imperceptibly, was revealed. The material civilisation and defence of
the empire were, at least as organised things, seen to be dead; its
spiritual virility and splendour were about to be made manifest.

For it was not any emperor or great soldier at the head of an army
that faced Attila by the Mincio on the Cisalpine plain and saved
Italy, but an old and unarmed man, alone and defenceless. Our saviour
was pope Leo the Great; but above him, in the sky, the Hun perceived
the mighty figures, overshadowing all that world, of S. Peter and S.
Paul, and his eyes dazzled, he bowed his head. "What," he asked
himself, "if I conquer like Alaric only to die as he did?" He yielded
and consented to retreat, Italy was saved. The new emperor, the true
head and champion of the new civilisation that was to arise out of all
this confusion, had declared himself. It was the pope.

There, it might seem, we have the truth at last, the explanation,
perhaps, of all the extraordinary ennui and neglect that had made such
an invasion as that of Alaric, as that of Radagaisus, as this of
Attila, possible. For it is only what is in the mind that is of any
importance. The empire rightly understood was not about to die, but to
change into a new spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men; and there,
in the place of the emperor, would sit God's Vicegerent, till in the
fullness of time the material empire should be re-established and that
Vicegerent should place the imperial crown once more upon a merely
royal head. The force of the old empire had always lain in wholly
material things and its excuse had been its material success; but it
was a servile state, and after the advent of Christianity it was
inevitable that it should change or perish. It changed. The force of
the new empire was to be so completely spiritual that to-day we can
scarcely understand it. Upon the banks of the Mincio it declared
itself; and when, twenty-three years later, Odoacer the barbarian
deposed Romulus Augustulus and made himself king of Italy, the true
champion of all that Latin genius had established was already
enthroned in Rome; but the throne was Peter's, and men called him not
Emperor but Father.

Those twenty-three years, so brief a period, are, as we might imagine,
full of confusion and strange barbarian voices.

After Leo had turned him back from Italy there by the Mincio, Attila
retreated again into Pannonia, but he still insisted "on this point
above all, that Honoria, the sister of the emperor and the daughter of
the Augusta Placidia, should be sent to him with the portion of the
royal wealth which was her due; and he threatened that unless this
were done he would lay upon Italy a far heavier punishment than any
which it had yet borne." But within a year Attila was dead in a
barbaric marriage-bed by the Danube, and his empire destroyed. And as
for Honoria we know no more of her, she disappears from history,
though tradition has it that she spent the rest of her life in a
convent in southern Italy.

The two heroes of the Hunnish deluge in the West were Aetius, the
great general who broke Attila upon the plain of Chalons, and Leo the
pope surnamed the Great. Aetius had been unable to persuade his
victorious troops to march to the defence of Italy, and in this again
we see the growing failure of the imperial idea; but he was a great
soldier, and certainly the greatest minister that Valentinian III.
could boast. Nevertheless, after the death of Attila he seemed to the
emperor both dangerous and useless; dangerous because, like Stilicho,
he thought of the empire for his son, and useless because Valentinian
had recently placed his confidence in another, the eunuch Heraclius.
Just as Honorius contrived the murder of Stilicho, so did Valentinian
contrive to rid himself of Aetius, and with his own hand, for
Valentinian stabbed him himself in his palace on the Palatine Hill in
Rome, towards the end of 454. Six months, however, had not gone by
when Aetius was avenged and Valentinian lay dead in the Campus Martius
stabbed by two soldiers of barbarian origin. Beside him, dead too, lay
the eunuch Heraclius. This was the vengeance of the friends of Aetius,
and of him who was to be emperor, Petronius Maximus, whose wife
Valentinian had ravished.

With Valentinian III., who had no children, the great line of
Theodosius came to an end both in the East and in the West, for
Pulcheria had died in 453. In Constantinople Marcian continued to rule
till 457, when he was succeeded by Leo I. the Thracian. In Rome he who
had so signally avenged himself, Petronius Maximus, a senator, sixty
years of age, reigned during seventy days in which he was rather a
prisoner than a monarch. During those seventy days, whether moved by
lust or revenge we know not, he attempted to make the widow of
Valentinian his wife. This brought all down, for Eudoxia, without a
friend in the world, followed the fatal example of Honoria and called
in the Vandal to her assistance. And when Genseric was on his way to
answer her from Carthage, the terrified City, by the hands of the
imperial servants and the soldiers, tore the emperor limb from limb
and flung what remained into the Tiber so that even burial was denied
him. But the Vandal came on, and in spite of Leo, as we know, sacked
the City and departed--to lose the mighty booty in the midst of the

What are we to say of the years which follow, and what are we to say
of those ghostly figures, which hover, always uncertainly and briefly,
about the imperial throne after the assassination of Valentinian III.
and the second sack of the City? There was Avitus the Gaul (455-456),
Majorian (457-461), Libius Severus (461-465), Anthemius (467-472),
Olybrius (472), Glycerius (473-474), Julius Nepos (474-475), and at
last the pitiful boy Romulus Augustulus (475-476). Nothing can be said
of them; they are less than shadows, and their empire, the material
empire they represented, was no longer conscious of itself, was no
longer a reality, but an hallucination, haunting the mind. It is true
that the chief seat of their government, if government it can be
called, was Ravenna, and that the city is concerned with most of the
incidents of those vague and confused years; the proclamations of
Majorian, of Severus, of Glycerius, and of Romulus Augustulus, the
abdication of the last and the fight in the pinewood in which his
uncle Paulus was broken and Odoacer made himself master. But they are,
for the most part, the years of Ricimer the patrician, for they are
full of his puppets.

This man is another Stilicho, another Aetius, a great and heroic
soldier, but of a sinister and subtle policy without loyalty or
scruple. His is a figure that often appears about the death-bed of
dying states, but his genius has not so often been matched. The son of
a Suevic father, his mother the daughter of Wallia, the successor and
avenger of Ataulfus the Visigoth, he was the champion of the empire
against the Vandal, that is to say, against her most relentless foe.
His success in this was the secret of his power. Pondering the fate of
his predecessors he determined he would not end as they did. Therefore
he determined to make whom he would emperor and to depose him when he
had done with him; in a word, he meant to be the master as well as the
saviour of Italy. In this he was successful. He deposed Avitus and
caused him to be consecrated bishop of Placentia. In his place he set
a man of his own choice, Majorian, whom he raised to the empire on
April 1, 457, in the camp at Columellae, at the sixth milestone, it
seems, from Ravenna; and upon August 2,461, he caused him to be put to
death near Tortona.

He chose Libius Severus to fill the place of Majorian and had him
proclaimed in Ravenna upon November 19, 461; and upheld him for nearly
four years till he died in Rome on August 15, 465, poisoned, men said,
by Ricimer. Then the "king-maker" allied himself with Constantinople
and placed Anthemius, son-in-law of Marcian, upon the throne of the
West, in 467, kept him there till 472, and then proclaimed Olybrius,
another Byzantine, emperor; laid siege to Anthemius in Rome, took the
City, slew Anthemius, and forty days later himself died, leaving the
command of his army to his nephew Gundobald, one of the princes of the
Burgundians. Seven months later Olybrius died.

The alliance Ricimer had made with Constantinople, though he repented
it, was the one hope of the future, and as a fact the future belonged
to it. For a moment Gundobald was able to place an obscure soldier
Glycerius upon the throne, but he soon exchanged the purple for the
bishopric of Salona, and the nominee of Constantinople, Julius Nepos,
reigned in Ravenna in his stead. But though the future belonged to
Constantinople, the present did not. The barbarian confederates,
discontented and unwilling to give their allegiance to this Greek,
rebelled and under Orestes their general marched upon Ravenna. Julius
Nepos fled by ship to Dalmatia and Orestes in Ravenna proclaimed his
young son Romulus Augustulus emperor. But those barbarian mercenaries
were not to be so easily satisfied. Of the new emperor they demanded a
third of the lands of all Italy, and when this was refused them they
flocked to the standard of that barbarian general in the Roman service
whom we know as Odoacer. "From all the camps and garrisons of Italy"
the barbarian confederates flocked to the new standard and Orestes was
compelled to shut himself up in Pavia while Paulus, his brother, held
Ravenna for the boy emperor. Upon August 23, 476, Odoacer was raised
like the barbarian he was, upon the shield, as Alaric had been, and
his troops proclaimed him king. Five days later Orestes, who had
escaped from Pavia, was taken and put to death at Placentia, and on
September 4 Paulus his brother was taken in the Pineta outside Classis
by Ravenna and was slain. The gates of Ravenna were open, Romulus
Augustulus, the last emperor in the West, was forced to abdicate and
was sent by Odoacer to the famous villa that Lucullus had built for
himself long and long ago in Campania, and was granted a pension of
six thousand _soldi_, and Odoacer reigned as the first king of Italy;
the western empire, as such, was at an end.

And the senate addressed, by unanimous decree, to the emperor Zeno in
Constantinople an epistle, in which they disclaimed "the necessity, or
even the wish, of continuing any longer the imperial succession in
Italy, since, in their opinion, the majesty of a sole monarch is
sufficient to pervade and protect at the same time both East and West.
In their own name and in the name of the people they consent to the
seat of universal empire being transferred from Rome to
Constantinople, and they renounce the right of choosing their master.
They further state that the republic (they repeat that name without a
blush) might safely confide in the civil and military virtues of
Odoacer; and they humbly request that the emperor would invest him
with the title of patrician and the administration of the _diocese_ of

And Odoacer sent the diadem and the purple robe, the imperial ensigns,
the sacred ornaments of the throne and palace to Byzantium and
received thence the title of patrician.



We may well ask what was the condition of Ravenna when the western
empire fell and Odoacer made himself king of Italy. And by the
greatest of good fortune we can answer that question. For we have a
fairly vivid account of Ravenna from the hand of Sidonius Apollinaris
who passed through the city on his way to Rome in 467.

Ravenna had been the chief city of Italy during the seventy years of
revolution and administrative disaster and decay which had followed
the incursion of Alaric. For the greater part of that period she had
been the seat of the emperors and of their government, and it is
perhaps for reasons such as these that we find, after all, but little
change in her condition. She does not seem to have suffered much decay
since Honorius retreated upon her.

"It is difficult," Sidonius tells us, "to say whether the old city of
Ravenna is separated from the new port or joined to it by the Via
Caesaris which lies between them. Above the town the Po is divided
into two streams, of which one washes its walls and the other passes
through its streets. The whole river has been diverted from its true
channel by means of large mounds thrown across it at the public
expense, and being thus drawn off into channels marked out for it, so
divides its waters, that they offer protection to the walls which they
encompass and bring commerce into the city which they penetrate. By
this route, which is most convenient for the purpose, all kinds of
mechandise arrive, and especially food. But against this must be set
the fact that the supply of drinking water is wretched. On the one
side you have the salt waves of the sea dashing against the gates, on
the other the canals, filled with sewage of the consistency of gruel,
are being constantly churned up by the passage of the barges; and the
river itself, here gliding along with a very slow current, is made
muddy by the poles of the bargemen which are being continually thrust
into its clayey bed. The consequence was that we were thirsty in the
midst of the waves, since no wholesome water was brought to us by the
aqueducts, no cistern was flowing, no well was without its mud."[1]

[Footnote 1: Sidonius Apoll. _Ep_. 1 5. Cf. Hodgkin, _op. cit_. vol.
1. p. 859.]

In another letter we have a rather more fantastic picture. "A pretty
place Cesena must be if Ravenna is better, for there your ears are
pierced by the mosquito of the Po and a talkative mob of frogs is
always croaking round you. Ravenna is a mere marsh where all the
conditions of life are reversed, where walls fall and waters stand,
towers flow down and ships squat, invalids walk about and their
doctors take to bed, baths freeze and houses burn, the living perish
with thirst and the dead swim about on the surface of the water,
thieves watch and magistrates sleep, priests lend at usury and Syrians
sing psalms, merchants shoulder arms and soldiers haggle like
hucksters, greybeards play at ball and striplings at dice, and eunuchs
study the art of war and the barbarian mercenaries study

[Footnote 2: _Idem. Ep_. 1. 8. Cf. Hodgkin, _op cit_ vol. 1. p. 860.]

Such was the Ravenna of the barbarian who called himself king of

We have seen Ravenna since her incorporation into the Roman
administrative system fulfilling the various reasons of her existence;
as the fortress which held the gate into Italy from Cisalpine Gaul, as
the second naval port of the West, and as the great impregnable
fortress of Italy in the barbarian invasions. Odoacer, also, chose it
as his chief seat of government for similar advantages. Ravenna
strongly held gave him, as strongly held she had given every one of
her masters, Italy and Cisalpine Gaul; while as the gate of the
eastern sea, Ravenna was his proper means of communication with his
over-lord and the eastern provinces of what was, rightly understood,
the reunited empire.

That, theoretically at least, is how Odoacer regarded the state in
which, by the good pleasure of the emperor Zeno, he held the title of
patrician. He was an unlettered man, an Arian, as were all the
barbarians, and he held what he held by permission of Constantinople,
though he had won it by his own strength in the weakness and misery of
the time. He never aspired, it would seem, to make himself emperor.
Certainly for the first four years of his rule in Ravenna that great
office was filled by Julius Nepos in exile at Salona, whose deposition
at the hands of Orestes had never been recognised by Constantinople.
Thereafter, the western and the eastern empire were in theory
reunited, with New Rome upon the Bosphorus for their true capital; and
both before and after that event Odoacer ruled in Italy with the title
of patrician conferred upon him by Constantinople. When that consent
was withdrawn, as it was immediately Odoacer showed signs of ambition,
he fell.

Odoacer had ruled in Ravenna from 476 to 493, when he fell in that
city after sustaining a siege of three years. He ruled well and
strongly and by the laws of the empire. He was compelled by the
barbaric confederates, who had placed him where he was, to grant them
a third of the lands, certainly, of the great Italian landowners; but
he created nothing new; like all the barbarians he was sterile, his
only service was a service of destruction. With him even this service
was small.

His fall was curious and is exceedingly significant.

In 481, after the murder of the emperor Julius Nepos in Salona,
Odoacer led an expedition into Dalmatia to chastise the murderers and
seized the opportunity to make himself master of Dalmatia. This action
at once renewed the suspicion of Constantinople; but when in 484
Odoacer entered into negotiations with Illus, the last of the
insurgents who disturbed the reign of Zeno, Constantinople decided
that he must be broken; therefore Feletheus, king of the Rugians upon
the Danube, was stirred up against him, and when that failed, for
Odoacer defeated him, Constantinople sent Theodoric and his
Ostrogothic host into Italy to dispose of Odoacer the patrician[1].

[Footnote 1: Cf. Anon. Valesii, "Missus ab imperatore Zenone de
partibus orientis ad defendendam sibi Italiam...."]

Theodoric, another unlettered barbarian and heretic, but a man of a
great and noble character, set out for Italy from Nova on the southern
bank of the Danube, where he had been a constant danger to the Eastern
provinces, in the autumn of 488. His purpose, set forth in his own
words to the Emperor Zeno, was as follows: "Although your servant is
maintained in affluence by your liberality, graciously listen to the
wishes of my heart. Italy, the inheritance of your predecessors, and
Rome itself, the head and mistress of the world, now fluctuate under
the violence and oppression of Odoacer the mercenary. Direct me with
my national troops to march against this tyrant. If I fall, you will
be delivered from an expensive and troublesome friend; if, with the
Divine permission, I succeed, I shall govern, in your name and to your
glory, the Roman senate and the part of the republic delivered from
slavery by my victorious arms."

That march was an exodus. Procopius tells us that, "with Theodoric
went the people of the Goths, putting their wives and children and as
much of their furniture as they could take with them into their
waggons," and as Ennodius, bishop of Ticinum, asserts, it was "a world
that migrated" with Theodoric into Italy, "a world of which every
member is nevertheless your kinsman." "Waggons," says he, "are made to
do duty as houses, and into these wandering habitations all things
that can minister to the needs of the occupants are poured. Then were
the tools of Ceres, and the stones with which the corn is ground,
dragged along by the labouring oxen. Pregnant mothers, forgetful of
their sex and of the burden which they bore, undertook the toil of
providing food for the families of thy people. Followed the reign of
winter in thy camp. Over the hair of thy men the long frost threw a
veil of snowy white; the icicles hung in a tangle from their beards.
So hard was the frost that the garment which the matron's persevering
toil had woven had to be broken before a man might fit it to his body.
Food for thy marching armies was forced from the grasp of the hostile
nations around, or procured by the cunning of the hunter."[1] It has
been supposed by Mr. Hodgkin that not less than 40,000 fighting men
and some 200,000 souls in all thus entered Italy. To us it might seem
that no such number of people could have lived without commissariat
during that tremendous march of seven hundred miles through some of
the poorest land of Europe in the depth of winter. However that may
be, Theodoric after many an encounter with barbarians wilder than his
own descended from the Julian Alps into Venetia in August 489, after a
march of not less than ten months.

[Footnote 1: Ennodius, _Panegyricus_, p. 173. Trs. by Hodgkin, _op.
cit_. iii. 179-80.]

Odoacer was waiting for him. He met him near the site of the old
fortress of Aquileia, which Attila had annihilated, that once held the
passage of the Sontius (Isonzo). He was defeated and all Venetia fell
into the hands of the Ostrogoth. Odoacer retreated to Verona, that red
fortress on the Adige; once more and more certainly he was beaten. He
retreated to Ravenna,[2] while Theodoric advanced to Milan, to Milan
which now led nowhere.

[Footnote 2: "Et Ravennam cum exercitu fugiens pervenit." Anon.
Valesii, 50.]

After Verona, Theodoric had received the submission of a part of
Odoacer's army under Tufa. When he had possessed himself of Milan, he
sent these renegades and certain nobles with their men from his own
army, apparently under the leadership of Tufa, to besiege Ravenna.
They came down the Aemilian Way as far as Faventia (Faenza). There no
doubt a road left the great highway for the impregnable city of the
marshes. At Faventia, then, Theodoric expected to begin to blockade
Ravenna. In this he was mistaken. Suddenly Tufa deserted his new
master, was joined by Odoacer, who came to Faventia, and certain of
the Ostrogothic nobles, if not all of them, were slaughtered. The
expedition was lost and not the expedition alone: Milan was no longer
safe. Therefore Theodoric evacuated that city, always almost
indefensible, and occupied Ticinum (Pavia), which was naturally
defended by the Ticino and the Po. There he established himself in
winter quarters.

A new diversion from the west, a frustrated attack of Gundobald and
his Burgundians, kept Theodoric busy for a year. Meantime Odoacer
appeared in the plain, retook and held all the country between
Faventia and Cremona and even visited Milan, which he chastised. Then
in August 490 Theodoric met him on the Adda, and again Odoacer was
defeated, and again he fled back to Ravenna. All over Italy his cause
tottered, was betrayed, or failed. A general massacre of the
confederate troops throughout the peninsula seems to have occurred.
And by the end of the year there remained to him but Ravenna, his
fortress, and the two cities that it commanded, Cesena upon the
Aemilian Way and Rimini in the midst of the narrow pass at the head of
the Via Flaminia. Theodoric himself began the siege of Ravenna.

This siege, the first that Ravenna had ever experienced, endured for
near three years, from the autumn of 490 to the spring of 493. "_Et
mox_" says a chronicle of the time, "_subsecutus est eum patricius
Theodoricus veniens in Pineta, et fixit fossatum, obsidiens Odoacrem
clausum per trienum in Ravenna et factus est usque ad sex solidos
modicus tritici_...."[1] Theodoric established himself in a fortified
camp in the Pineta with a view to preventing food or reinforcements
arriving to his enemy from the sea. Ravenna was closed upon all sides
and before the end of the siege corn rose in the beleaguered city to
famine price, some seventy-two shillings of our money per peck, and
the inhabitants were forced to eat the skins of animals and all sorts
of offal, and many died of hunger.

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesii.]

In 491, according to the same chronicler,[1] a sortie was made by
Odoacer and his barbarians, but after a desperate fight in the Pineta
this was repelled by Theodoric. In 492, another chronicle tells us,[2]
Theodoric took Rimini and from thence brought a fleet of ships to the
Porto Leone, some six miles from Ravenna, thus cutting off the city
from the sea. Till at last in the beginning of 493 Odoacer was
compelled to open negotiations for surrender. He gave his son Thelane
as a hostage, and on the 26th February Theodoric entered Classis, and
on the following day the treaty of peace was signed. Upon the 5th
March 493, according to Agnellus, "that most blessed man, the
archbishop John, opened the gates of the city which Odoacer had
closed, and went forth with crosses and thuribles and the Holy Gospels
seeking peace, with the priests and clergy singing psalms, and
prostrating himself upon the ground obtained what he sought. He
welcomed the new king coming from the East and peace was granted to
him, not only with the citizens of Ravenna, but with the other Romans
for whom the blessed John asked it."

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesii.]

[Footnote 2: Agnellus, _Liber Pontificalis Rav_.]

The terms of that treaty are extraordinarily significant of the
importance of Ravenna in the defence of Italy. It would seem that
Theodoric had possessed himself of everything but Ravenna easily
enough, yet without Ravenna everything else was nothing. The city was,
in spite of blockade and famine, impregnable, and it commanded so
much, was still indeed, as always, the key to Italy and the plain and
the very gate of the West, that not to possess it was to lose
everything. Its surrender was necessary and Theodoric offered
extraordinary terms to obtain it. Odoacer was not only to keep his
life but his power. He was to rule as the equal of Theodoric. This
mighty concession shows us at once what Ravenna really was, what part
she played in the government of Italy, and how unique was her position
in the military scheme of that country.

Theodoric had certainly no intention of carrying out the terms of his
treaty. In the very month in which he signed it, he invited Odoacer to
a feast at the Palace "in Lauro" to the south-east of Ravenna. When
the patrician arrived two petitioners knelt before him each clasping
one of his hands, and two of Theodoric's men stepped from hiding to
kill him. Perhaps they were not barbarians: at any rate, they lacked
the courage and the contempt alike of law and of honour necessary to
commit so cold a murder. It was Theodoric himself who lifted his sword
and hewed his enemy in twain from the shoulder to the loins. "Where is
God?" Odoacer, expecting the stroke, had demanded. And Theodoric
answered, "Thus didst thou to my friends." And after he said, "I think
the wretch had no bones in his body."

The barbarian it might seem had certainly nothing to learn from the
worst of the emperors in treachery and dishonour.

Theodoric set up his seat in the city he had so perfidiously won, and
for the next thirty years appears as the governour of Italy. He had
set out, it will be remembered, as the soldier of Constantinople, had
asked for leave to make his expedition, and had protested his
willingness to govern in the name of the emperor and for his glory. It
is not perhaps surprising that a barbarian, and especially Theodoric
who knew so well how to win by treachery what he could not otherwise
obtain, should after his victory forget the promise he had made to his
master. After the battle of the Adda he had the audacity to send an
embassy to the emperor to request that he might be allowed to clothe
himself in the royal mantle. This was of course refused. Nevertheless
the Goths "confirmed Theodoric to themselves as king without waiting
for the order of the new emperor Anastasius."[1] This "confirmation,"
whatever it may have meant to the Goths, meant nothing to the Romans
or to the empire. For some years Constantinople refused all
acknowledgment to Theodoric, till in 497 peace was made and Theodoric
obtained recognition, much it may be thought as Odoacer had done, from
Constantinople; but the ornaments of the palace at Ravenna, which
Odoacer had sent to New Rome, were brought back, and therefore it
would seem that the royalty of Theodoric was acknowledged by the
empire; but we have no authority to see in this more than an
acknowledgment of the king of the Goths, the vicegerent perhaps of the
emperor in Italy. What Theodoric's title may have been we have no
means of knowing: _de jure_ he was the representative of the emperor
in Italy: _de facto_ he was the absolute ruler, the _tyrannus_, as
Odoacer had been, of the country; but he never ventured to coin money
bearing his effigy and superscription and he invariably sent the names
of the consuls, whom he appointed, to Constantinople for confirmation.
He ruled too, as Odoacer had done, by Roman law, and the Arian heresy,
which he and his barbarians professed as their religion, was not till
the very end of his reign permitted precedence over the Catholic
Faith. For the most part too he governed by means of Roman officials,
and to this must be ascribed the enormous success of his long

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesu, 57.]


For that he was successful, that he gave Italy peace during a whole
generation, is undeniable. In all the chronicles there is little but
praise of him. The chief of them[1] says of him: "He was an
illustrious man and full of good-will towards all. He reigned
thirty-three years[2] and during thirty of these years so great was
the happiness of Italy that even the wayfarers were at peace. For he
did nothing evil. He governed the two nations, the Goths and the
Romans, as though they were one people. Belonging himself to the Arian
sect, he yet ordained that the civil administration should remain for
the Romans as it had been under the emperors. He gave presents and
rations to the people, yet though he found the treasury ruined he
brought it by hard work into a flourishing state. He attempted nothing
against the Catholic Faith. He exhibited games in the circus and
amphitheatre, and received from the Romans the names of Trajan and
Valentinian, for the happy days of those most prosperous emperors he
did in truth seek to restore, and at the same time the Goths rendered
true obedience to their valiant king according to the edict which he
had given them.

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesii. This was probably Bishop Maximian, a
Catholic bishop of Ravenna. I follow, with a few changes, Mr.
Hodgkin's translation.]

[Footnote 2: Thirty-two years and a half from the death of Odoacer;
thirty-seven from his descent into Italy.]

"He gave one of his daughters in marriage to the king of the Visigoths
in Gaul, another to the son of the Burgundian king; his sister to the
king of the Vandals and his niece to the king of the Thuringians. Thus
he pleased all the nations round him, for he was a lover of
manufactures and a great restorer of cities. He restored the Aqueduct
of Ravenna which Trajan had built, and again after a long interval
brought water into the city. He completed but did not dedicate the
Palace, and he finished the Porticoes about it. At Verona he erected
Baths and a Palace, and constructed a Portico from the Gate to the
Palace. The Aqueduct, which had been destroyed long since, he renewed,
and brought in water through it. He also surrounded the city with new
walls. At Ticinum (Pavia) too he built a Palace, Baths, and an
Amphitheatre and erected walls round the city. On many other cities he
bestowed similar benefits.

"Thus he so delighted the nations near him that they entered into a
league with him hoping that he would be their king. The merchants,
too, from many provinces flocked to his dominions, for so great was
the order which he maintained, that, if any one wished to keep gold
and silver in the country it was as safe as in a walled city. A proof
of this was that he never made gates for any city of Italy, and the
gates that already existed were never closed. Any one who had business
to do, might go about it as safely by night as by day."

But if such praise sound fulsome, let us hear what the sceptical and
censorious Procopius has to say:

"Theodoric," he tells us, "was an extraordinary lover of justice and
adhered vigorously to the laws. He guarded the country from barbarian
invasions, and displayed the greatest intelligence and prudence. There
was in his government scarcely a trace of injustice towards his
subjects, nor would he permit any of those under him to attempt
anything of the kind except that the Goths divided among themselves
the same proportion of the land of Italy as Odoacer had given to his
confederates. Thus then Theodoric was in name a tyrant, in fact a true
king, not inferior to the best of his predecessors, and his popularity
increased greatly both with the Goths and the Italians, and this was
contrary to the ordinary course of human affairs. For generally as
different classes in the state want different things, the government
which pleases one party incurs the hatred of the other. After a reign
of thirty-seven years he died having been a terror to all his enemies,
but leaving a deep regret for his loss in the hearts of his subjects."

In these panegyrics, which we cannot but accept as sincere, mention is
made of one of the greatest virtues of Theodoric, his reparation of
and care for the great monuments of the empire. In Ravenna we read he
repaired the Aqueduct which Trajan had built and which had long been
out of repair, so that Ravenna always deficient in water had for many
years suffered on this account. In the _Variae_ of Cassiodorus, his
minister and a Roman, we read as follows:--

"_King Theodoric to all Cultivators_.

"The Aqueducts are an object of our special care. We desire you at
once to root up the shrubs growing in the Signine channel, which will
before long become big trees scarcely to be hewn down with an axe and
which interfere with the purity of the water in the Aqueduct of
Ravenna. Vegetation is the peaceable overturner of buildings, the
battering-ram which brings them to the ground, though the trumpets
never sound for siege. Now we shall have Baths again that we may look
upon with pleasure; water which will cleanse not stain[1]; water after
using which we shall not require to wash ourselves again; drinking
water too, such as the mere sight of it will not take away all
appetite for food[2]."

[Footnote 1: Cf. Sidonius Apollinaris above.]

[Footnote 2: Cassiodorus, _Variae_, v. 38. Trs. Hodgkin, _The Letters
of Cassiodorus_ (Oxford, 1886).]

The general restoration of the great material works of the empire was
characteristic of the reign of Theodoric and could only have been
carried out by Roman officials and workmen. It is especially frequent
in Ravenna and in Rome. Theodoric will, if he can help it, have
nothing more destroyed. He is afraid of destruction, and that is a
mark of the barbarian. He wishes, Cassiodorus tells us, "to build new
edifices without despoiling the old. But we are informed that in your
municipality (of Aestunae) there are blocks of masonry and columns,
formerly belonging to some building, now lying absolutely useless and
unhonoured. If this be so, send these slabs of marble and columns by
all means to Ravenna that they may again be made beautiful and take
their place in a building there."[1] And again: "We rely upon your
zeal and prudence to see that the required blocks of marble are
forwarded from Faenza to Ravenna without any extortion from private
persons; so that, on the one hand, our desire for the adornment of
that city may be gratified, and, on the other, there may be no cause
for complaint on the part of our subjects.[2]

His care and adornment of Ravenna are remarkable. It was his capital
and he built there with a truly Roman splendour.  We hear vaguely of a
Basilica of Hercules which was to be adorned with a mosaic, though
what this may have been we do not know; but we still have the
magnificent Arian church of S. Apollinare, which he called S. Martin
_de Coelo Aureo_ because of its beautiful gilded roof; and less
perfectly there remains to us the Arian church he built, called then
S. Theodore and now S. Spirito, and the Arian baptistery beside it;
the ruin, known as his palace, and his mighty tomb.

The government of Theodoric was great and generous, Roman in its
completeness and in its largeness; but he did not succeed in
establishing a new kingdom, a nation of Goths and Romans in Italy.

The answer to that question must be given and it is this: Theodoric
and his Goths were Arians. Much more than race or nationality religion
forms and inspires a people, welds them into one or divides them
asunder. Even though there had been no visible difference in culture
and civilisation between the Goths, when for a generation they had
been settled south of the Alps, and the Romans of the plain and of
Italy, nevertheless they would have remained barbarians, for Arianism
at this time was the certain mark of barbarism.[3] Had the barbarians
not fallen into this strange heresy, had the Goths, above all, been
Catholics, who knows what new nation might have arisen upon the ruin
of the Western empire to create, more than five hundred years before,
as things were, it was to blossom, the rose of the Middle Age?

[Footnote 1: Cassiodorus, op cit. iii. 9. Trs. Hodgkin, op. cit.]

[Footnote 2: Cassiodorus, op. cit. v. 8.]

[Footnote 3: Heathenism even more so of course. It cannot be
altogether a cooincidence that those barbarians which first became
Catholic, though they had been ruder and rougher than the rest, were
destined to re-establish the empire in the West--the Franks.]


[Illustration: Colour Plate THE MAUSOLEUM OF THEODORIC]

But this was not to be. The work of Theodoric, a useful work as we
shall see, was serving quite another purpose than that of establishing
a new Gothic kingdom. As for him and his government, they were utterly
to pass away and by reason of the religion they professed.

The first blow at the endurance and security of the Ostrogothic
hegemony was the conversion of Clovis to Catholicism in 496. This
changed the political relations, not only of every state in Gaul, but
of every state in Europe, and enormously to the disadvantage of the
Arians. The second was the reconciliation, in 519, of the pope and the
emperor, which rightly understood was the death warrant of the Gothic
kingdom. Had the Goths been Catholic, either that reconciliation would
not have taken place, or it would have been without ill results for
them. As it was it was fatal, though not all at once.

The Arian heresy, if we are to understand it aright, must be
recognised as an orientalism having much in common with Judaism and
the later Mahometanism. It denied several of the statements of the
Nicene Creed, those monoliths upon which the new Europe was to be
founded. It maintained that the Father and the Son are distinct
Beings; that the Son though divine is not equal to the Father; that
the Son had a state of existence previous to His appearance upon
earth, but is not from Eternity; that Christ Jesus was not really man
but a divine being in a case of flesh. Already against it the future
frowned dark and enormous as the Alps.

Such was the heresy at the root of the Ostrogothic kingdom, and it is
significant that the cause of the first open alienation between
Theodoric and the Catholics of Italy was concerned with the Jews. It
seems that the Jews, whom Theodoric had always protected, had, during
his absence from Ravenna, mocked the Christian rite of baptism and
made sport of it by throwing one another into one of the two muddy
rivers of that city, and also by some blasphemous foolishness aimed at
the Mass. The Catholic population had naturally retaliated by burning
all the Jewish synagogues to the ground. Theodoric, like all the
Gothic Arians, sided with the Jews and fined the Catholic citizens of
Ravenna, publicly flogging those who could not pay, in order that the
synagogues might be rebuilt. Such was the first open breach between
the king and the Romans, who now began to remind themselves that there
was an Augustus at Constantinople. This memory, which had slumbered
while pope and emperor were in conflict--such is the creative and
formative power of religion--was stirred and strengthened by the
reconciliation between the emperor Justin and the Holy See. It is
curious that the man who was to lead the Catholic party and to suffer
in the national cause had translated thirty books of Aristotle into
Latin; his name was Boethius and he was master of the offices.

This great and pathetic figure had been till the year 523 continually
in the favour of Theodoric. In that year suddenly an accusation was
brought against the patrician Albinus of "sending letters to the
emperor Justin hostile to the royal rule of Theodoric." In the debate
which followed, Boethius claimed to speak and declared that the
accusation was false, "but whatever Albinus did, I and the whole
senate of Rome with one purpose did the same." We may well ask for a
clear statement of what they had done; we shall get no answer.
Boethius himself speaks of "the accusation against me of having hoped
for Roman freedom," and adds: "As for Roman freedom, what hope is left
to us of that? Would that there were any such hope." To the charge of
"hoping for Roman freedom" was added an accusation of sorcery.

Boethius was tried in the senate house in Rome while he was lying in
prison in Pavia. Without being permitted to answer his accusers or to
be heard by his judges he was sentenced to death by the intimidated
senate whose freedom he was accused of seeking to establish. From
Pavia, where in prison awaiting death he had written his _De
Consolatione Philosophiae_ which was so largely to inform the new
Europe, he was carried to "the _ager Calventianus_" a few miles from
Milan; where he was tortured, a cord was twisted round his forehead
till his eyes burst from their sockets, and then he was clubbed to
death. This occurred in 524, and in that same year throughout the
empire we find the great movement against Arianism take on new life.

[Illustration: CAPITAL FROM S. VITALE]

This irresistible attack began in the East and Theodoric seems at once
to have seen in it the culmination of all those dangers he had to
fear. He recognised, too, at last, that it was Catholicism he had to
face. Therefore he sent for pope John I. When the pope, old and
infirm, appeared in Ravenna, Theodoric made the greatest diplomatic
mistake of his life. He bade the pope go to Constantinople to the
emperor and tell him that "he must not in any way attempt to win over
those whom he calls heretics to the Catholic religion."

Apart from the impertinence of this command to the emperor from the
king of the Goths, it was foolish in the extreme. His object should
have been, above all else, to keep the emperor and the pope apart, but
by this act he forced them together; only anger can have suggested
such an impolitic move. "The king," says the chronicler[1], "returning
in great anger [from the murder of Boethius] and unmindful of the
blessings of God, considered that he might frighten Justin by an
embassy. Therefore he sent for John the chief of the Apostolic See to
Ravenna and said to him, 'Go to Justin the emperor and tell him that
among other things he must restore the converted heretics to the
(Arian) faith.' And the pope answered, 'What thou doest do quickly.
Behold here I stand in thy sight. I will not promise to do this thing
for thee nor to say this to the emperor. But in other matters, with
God's help, I may succeed.' Then the king being angered ordered a ship
to be prepared and placed the pope aboard together with other bishops,
namely, Ecclesius of Ravenna, Eusebius of Fano, Sabinus of Campania,
and two others with the following senators, Theodorus, Importunus,
Agapitus, and another Agapitus. But God, who does not forsake those
who are faithful, brought them prosperously to their journey's end.
Then the emperor Justin met the pope on his arrival as though he were
St. Peter himself[2], and when he heard his message promised that he
would comply with all his requests, but _the converts who had given
themselves to the Catholic Faith he could by no means restore to the

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesii, _ut supra_.]

[Footnote 2: "Prone on the ground the emperor, whom all other men
adored, adored the weary pontiff.... When Easter-day came, the pope,
taking the place of honour at the right hand of the patriarch of
Constantinople, celebrated Mass according to the Latin use in the
great cathedral."--Marcellinus Comes, quoted by Hodgkin, _op. cit_.
iii. p. 463.]

That was a great day not only for the papacy but for Italy. The pope
can never have hoped that Theodoric would open to him so great an
opportunity for confirming the reconciliation between the emperor and
the papacy which was the great need of the Latin cause. There can be
little doubt that pope John used his advantage to the utmost. Early in
526 he returned to Ravenna to find Theodoric beside himself with
anger. The barbarian who had perfidiously murdered Odoacer his rival,
and most foully tortured the old philosopher Boethius to death, was
not likely to shrink from any outrage that he thought might serve him,
even though his victim were the pope. Symmachus, the father-in-law of
Boethius, a venerable and a saintly man, was barbarously done to death
and Pope John and his colleagues were thrown into prison in Ravenna,
where the pope died on May 18 of that same year, and one hundred and
four days later was followed to the grave by the unhappy Gothic king.


Theodoric had utterly failed in everything he had attempted. His
Romano-Gothic kingdom proved to be a hopeless chimaera, and this
because he had not been able to understand the forces with which he
had to deal. Nor was he capable of learning from experience. Even
after the death of Pope John he countersigned the death warrant of his
kingdom by an edict, issued with the signature of a Jewish treasury
clerk, that all the Catholic churches of Italy should be handed over
to the Arians. He had scarcely published this amazing document,
however, when he died after three days of pain on August 30, 526, the
very day the revolution was to have taken place.

The Gothic king was buried outside Ravenna upon the north-east and in
the mighty tomb--a truly Roman work--that the Romans, at his orders,
had prepared for him: a marvellous mausoleum of squared stones in two
stories, the lower a decagon, the upper an octagon covered by a vast
dome hewn out of a single block of Istrian marble. There in a porphyry
vase reposed all that was mortal of the great barbarian who failed to
understand what the Roman empire was, but who almost without knowing
it rendered it, as we shall see, so great a service. But the body of
Theodoric did not long remain in the enormous silence of that
sepulchre. Even in the time of Agnellus (ninth century) the body was
no longer in the mausoleum and what had become of it will always
remain a mystery. A weird and awful legend, in keeping with the
tremendous tragedy that was played out in his time and in which he had
filled the main role, relates how a holy hermit upon the island of
Lipari on the day and in the hour of the great king's death saw him,
his hands and feet bound, his garments all disarrayed, dragged up the
mountain of Stromboli by his two victims, pope John and Symmachus, the
father-in-law of Boethius, and hurled by them into the fiery crater of
the volcano.

Agnellus, of Ravenna, who records that the body of Theodoric was no
longer in the great mausoleum, tells us that as it seems to him it was
cast forth out of that sepulchre. A later suggestion would lead us to
suppose that this was done by the monks of a neighbouring monastery,
who are said to have cast the body in its golden armour into the
Canale Corsini close by[1]. A few pieces of a golden cuirass
discovered there and now in the museum of Ravenna, seem to confirm
this story, which certainly is not unreasonable though of course it is
the merest conjecture. It is possible that the body of Theodoric did
not rest longer in its tomb than the Gothic power remained in Italy.
For already within a year of the death of Theodoric the new saviour
had appeared. Once more a great man sat upon the throne of the empire,
in whose mind and in whose will was set the dream of the reconquest,
of the re-establishment of the empire through the West, of the
promulgation of the great code by which the new Europe was to realise
itself. Justinian reigned in the New Rome upon the Bosphorus.

[Footnote 1: There is apparently no foundation for the assertion of
Fra Salimbene, the thirteenth-century chronicler of Parma (_Cronica_,
ed Holder-Egger, pp 209-210), that it was S. Gregory the Great himself
who ordered the body of Theodoric to be cast forth from its tomb. Cf.
E.G. Gardner _The Dialogues of S. Gregory_ (1911), p 273]




The failure of Theodoric, the failure of barbarism, of Arianism that
is, for barbarism and civilisation were now for all intents and
purposes mere synonyms for heresy and Catholicism, was probably fully
appreciated by the Gothic king, who was, nevertheless, incapable of
mastering his fate. The great lady who succeeded to his power in Italy
as the guardian of her son, his heir, Athalaric, was certainly as
fully aware as Theodoric may have been of the cause of that failure,
and she made the attempt, which he had not wished or dared to make, to
save the kingdom. The value of her heroic effort, which, for all its
courage, utterly failed, lies for us in the confirmation it gives to
our analysis of the causes of the Gothic failure to establish an
enduring government in the West.

That Amalasuntha wished to become a Catholic is probably true enough;
it is certain that she understood from the first that, in such an act,
she would not be able to carry her people with her. Therefore, she did
what she could short of this the only real remedy. She attempted to
educate her little son as a Roman, and hoped thus to insure his power
with the Latin population, trusting that the fact of his birth would
perhaps ensure the loyalty of the Gothic nation. In this she was
wholly to fail, because, as her attempt shows, she had not
fundamentally understood, any more than her father had been able to
do, the realities of the situation in which she found herself.

For all her genuine love for Roman things, her contempt of Gothic
rudeness and barbarism, she failed to see that the one living thing
that impressed the Roman mind, and really differentiated the Latin
from the Goth, was religion, was Catholicism. She remained, possibly
from necessity, but she remained, an Arian, and though she brought
Athalaric up "in all respects after the manner of the Romans," she did
not make him a Catholic, nor did she attempt the certainly hopeless
task of leading the Gothic nation towards the only means of
reconciliation that might have been successful.

The compromise she adopted was useless and futile, and only succeeded
in alienating the Goths, without winning her a single ally among the
Romans. Her own people utterly disapproved of her method of education
for her son, their king, "because they wished him to be trained in
more barbaric style so that they might the more readily oppress their
subjects." Presently they remonstrated with her: "O Lady, you are not
dealing justly with us, nor doing what is best for the nation when you
thus educate your son. Letters and book-learning are different from
courage and fortitude, and to permit a boy to be trained by old men is
the way to make him a coward and a fool. He who is to dare and to win
glory, and fame, must not be subjected to the fear of a pedagogue, but
must spend his time in martial exercise. Your father, Theodoric, would
never suffer his Goths to send their sons to the grammarians, for he
used to say: 'If they fear the teacher's strap they will never look on
sword or javelin without a shudder.' He himself, who won the lordship
of such wide lands and died king of so fair a kingdom, which he had
not inherited from his fathers, knew nothing, even by hearsay, of book
learning. Therefore, lady, you must say 'good-bye' to these
pedagogues, and give Athalaric companions of his own age, who may grow
up with him to manhood, and make him a valiant king after the manner
of the barbarians."[1]

[Footnote 1: Hodgkin, _Theodoric_ (Putnam, 1900), pp. 307-308.]

Amalasuntha was forced to bow to this, the public opinion of her own
people. The result was disastrous; for the young Athalaric, like a
true barbarian, was soon led away into a bestial sensuality which
presently destroyed his health and sent him to an early grave. Seeing
his instability both of body and mind, Amalasuntha entered into secret
communication with Constantinople, where Justinian was now emperor,
and even prepared for a possible flight to that city. Thus in 534,
when she received an ambassador in Ravenna from Justinian who demanded
of her the surrender of Lilybaeum, a barren rock in Sicily which
Theodoric had assigned to Thrasamund on his marriage with his sister
Amalafrida, in public she protested vigorously against the attempt of
the emperor to pick a quarrel with "an orphaned king" too young to
defend himself; but in private she assured the imperial ambassador of
her readiness "to transfer to the emperor the whole of Italy."

Italy was in this unstable state when, on the 2nd October 534,
Athalaric died in his eighteenth year. This apparently upset
Amalasuntha's plans. At any rate, we see her suddenly face quite about
and sending for Theodahad, the son of Amalafrida, upon whom she had
but lately pronounced a humiliating sentence, she offered to make him
her official colleague upon the Gothic throne. This man was an
ambitious villain. Of course he accepted Amalasuntha's foolish offer
and swore to observe the agreement made between them. But before many
weeks had passed he had made her a prisoner and had her securely
hidden upon an island in the Lake of Bolsena in Umbria. But Theodahad
appears to have been a fool as well as a villain. Having disposed of
Amalasuntha, he sent an embassy to Constantinople to explain his
conduct and to attempt to come to terms with Caesar. For his
ambassadors he chose not Gothic nobles, who might have found his
actions to their advantage, but Roman senators all but one of whom
told a plain tale. Justinian immediately despatched his ambassador
Peter to reassure Amalasuntha of his protection and to threaten
Theodahad that if she were hurt it would be at the price of his own
head. Peter however, had scarcely landed in Italy when he had news of
Amalasuntha's murder in her island prison. He continued at once on his
way to Ravenna, and there in the court before all the Gothic nobles
not only denounced the murderer, but declared "truceless war" upon the

[Footnote 1: Cf. Procopius, _De Bello Gotico_, 25. The murder of
Amalasuntha served the interests of the imperialists so well that
public opinion at Constantinople attributed it to Peter the ambassador
and to Theodora, the wife of Justinian. It remains, however, extremely
doubtful whether there is any truth in this accusation, although it is
certain that Theodora was in communication with Theodahad.]

The truth was that Justinian was ready, the hour had struck, and with
the hour had appeared the man who with his great master was ready to
attempt the reconquest of the West for civilisation.

We shall see the true state of affairs from the point of view of
Constantinople if we retrace our steps a little.

Justinian had succeeded Justin upon the imperial throne in 527. This
great man had early set before himself the real recovery of the West
for the empire. Circumstances, which he was not slow to use, caused
him to attempt first the reconquest of Africa from the Vandals, and
the true state of affairs is disclosed by the causes which brought
about this great campaign.

Hilderic, who had succeeded Thrasamund on the Vandal throne in Africa,
had put Amalafrida, the queen dowager, the sister of Theodoric, to
death. In June 531, he was deposed. Now Hilderic favoured the
Catholics, was the ally of the empire, and was descended on his
mother's side from the great Theodosius. Justinian determined to
avenge him, and in avenging him to reconquer Africa for the empire.
The hour had struck as I say, and the man had appeared with the hour.
That man was the great soldier Belisarius, the instrument of Justinian
in all his heroic design.

Belisarius was entirely successful in his African campaign. On 15th
September 533, he entered Carthage, and "was received by the majority
of the citizens who spoke the Latin tongue and professed the Catholic
Faith with unconcealed rejoicing." And as it happened he entered
Carthage only to hear of Hilderic's murder. Before the end of the year
the reconquest was complete. Africa was once more and in reality a
province of the empire, and offered an excellent base of operations
for the conquest of Italy, now to be undertaken.

In the summer of 535, eighteen months later, Justinian began the great
war against the Goths, the opportunity for which was offered him by
the murder of Amalasuntha, and the result of which was to be the
re-establishment of the empire in Italy. Rightly understood the true
service of Theodoric--and it was a real and a precious service--was
that the thirty years of settled government and peace which he had
given Italy had prepared the way for the reconquest.

That reconquest occupied five years. It was begun with an attack upon
Sicily and proceeded northward by way of Naples and Rome to Ravenna,
with the fall of which it was achieved. From a purely strategical
point of view Belisarius was wrong to attack Sicily first and to carry
the campaign from south to north; he should have attacked Ravenna
first, and from the sea, and thus possessed himself of the key of
Italy, and this especially as his base was Constantinople. But
politically he was absolutely right. Sicily was almost empty of Gothic
troops and the provincials were eagerly Catholic and only too willing
to make a real part of the Roman empire. Thus the campaign opened with
surrender after surrender, was indeed almost a procession; only
Palermo offered resistance, and this because it was held by a garrison
of Goths; but before the end of 535 the whole island was once more
subject to the empire.

Early in 536 a rebellion in Africa, which proved to be little more
than a mutiny in Carthage, took Belisarius away; but he was back in
Sicily before the end of the spring, and in the early summer was
marching through southern Italy almost unresisted, welcomed everywhere
with joy and thanksgiving till he came to the fortress of Naples,
which was held by a Gothic garrison. Here the people wished to welcome
him and surrender the city, but were prevented by the garrison, which,
however, was soon cleverly outwitted and taken prisoner, and by the
end of November all southern Italy was in Belisarius' hands.

The fall of Naples brought Theodahad to the ground. The Goths deposed
him and raised upon their shields Vitiges the soldier. As for
Theodahad he was overtaken on the road to Ravenna, whither he was
flying, and his throat was cut as he lay on the pavement of the way,
"as a priest cuts the throat of his victim."

If Theodahad was a villain as well as a fool, perhaps Vitiges was only
the latter. At any rate, he is generally considered to have acted with
criminal folly, when, as the first act of his reign, he abandoned Rome
and fell back upon Ravenna, determined to make his great defence in
northern Italy. But I think, if we consider the position more closely,
we shall see that Vitiges was not such a fool as he looks. He had seen
the two great fortresses of Palermo and Naples fall, and mainly for
the same reason, the fact that the whole of their populations except
the Gothic garrisons were eagerly on the side of the enemy. The
situation of Rome, its great size, made it difficult to defend except
with a very great army, and this would become a hundred times more
difficult, if not impossible, if the population were to side with the
attack. Yet not only was that already certain, but the sympathies of
the citizens there might be expected to be even more passionately
Roman than others had been elsewhere; for Rome was the capital of
Catholicism, the throne of the Church, the seat of Peter. The Goth had
to face the fact that, while he was perhaps hardly holding his own in
Rome, Belisarius might stealthily pass on to overthrow the Gothic
citadel at Ravenna. He had to ask himself whether he could expect to
defend both Rome and Ravenna, for if Ravenna were to fall the whole
kingdom was lost, since now, not less but rather more than before,
Ravenna was the key to Italy.

There is this also; Justinian had in the summer of 535 despatched two
armies from Constantinople. One of these was that which Belisarius had
disembarked in Sicily, and which till now had been so uniformly and so
easily victorious. The other under Mundus had entered Dalmatia which
it had completely wrested from the Goths by the middle of 536. It is
probable that Vitiges expected to be attacked in the rear and from the
north by this victorious army. If that should fall upon Ravenna while
the Gothic strength was engaged in the defence of Rome, what would be
the fate of that principal city, and with that lost, what would become
of him in the Catholic capital?

Of course Vitiges ought to have met the imperial army in the field and
given battle. That was the true solution. But no Gothic army ever
dared to face Belisarius in the open, for though the Goths enormously
outnumbered his small force of some 8000 men, they feared him as the
possessor of a superior arm in the _Hippotoxotai_, mounted troops
armed with the bow, and above all they feared his genius.

But Vitiges was no fool; his cause was hopeless from the first. He
abandoned Rome and fell back upon Ravenna, because that was the best
thing to be done in the circumstances in which he found himself. Among
these must be reckoned the newness of his authority and the necessity
of consolidating it by a marriage with a princess of the blood of
Theodoric. As it happened, this retreat enabled him to prolong a war
that at first looked like coming to an end in a few months for four
more years.

Vitiges then abandoned Rome, but it seems not altogether. What he may
be supposed to have imagined Belisarius doing to his disadvantage,
that he himself did. He left in Rome a garrison of four thousand men
under a veteran general Leudaris, while he himself with the Gothic
army fell back upon Ravenna. No sooner was he gone than the surrender
of the City was offered to Belisarius by pope Silverius who spoke for
the citizens and the Roman people. This was the reality of the
situation. Then indeed an almost incredible blunder was committed, but
not by Vitiges. The four thousand Goths whom he had left to hold the
City, and at least to delay and waste the imperialists, marched out of
Rome along the Flaminian Way as Belisarius entered from the south by
the Via Latina. Leudaris alone refused to quit this post. He was taken
prisoner, and sent with the keys of the Eternal City to Justinian.

Belisarius established himself upon the Pincian Hill, and his first
act after his occupation of the City is significant both of his
profound knowledge of the barbarians and of the immutable
characteristics of a Latin people.

It is possible that the Romans, seeing the fall of Palermo and Naples
and the occupation of Rome itself obtained so easily, believed that
the Goths were finally disposed of. But Belisarius' vast experience of
the character of the barbarians taught him otherwise. He immediately
began to provision Rome from Sicily as fast as he could, and he at
once undertook the fortification of the City, the repair of the
Aurelian Wall. In these acts of Belisarius two things become evident.
We see that he expected the return of the Goths, and we are made aware
of the fact that they had neglected to fortify the City.

It must be well seized by the reader, that the Gothic armies very
greatly outnumbered the imperial troops, who were but a small
expedition of not more than eight thousand men face to face with an
immense horde of barbarians. The great advantage of the imperialists
was that they were fighting in a friendly country, and they had too
certain superiorities of armament which civilisation may always depend
upon having at its command as against barbarians. Nevertheless,
Belisarius knew that his end would be more securely won if he could
wear down the barbarians, always impatient of so slow a business as a
siege, from behind fortifications. He expected the barbarians,
unstable in judgment and impatient of any but the simplest strategy
and tactics, to swarm again and again about the City, and he was
right: what he expected came to pass.

On the other hand, we see in the neglect on the part of the Goths of
all fortification of the City a neglect instantly repaired by
Belisarius, a characteristic persistent and perhaps ineradicable in
the Teutonic mind from the days of Tacitus to our own time. The Romans
had always asserted, and those nations to-day who are of their
tradition still assert, that the spade is the indispensable weapon of
the soldier. But the barbarians and those nations to-day who are of
their tradition, while they have not been so foolish as to refuse the
spade altogether, have always fortified reluctantly. You see these two
characteristics at work to-day in the opposite methods of the French
and the Germans, just as you see them at work in the sixth century
when Belisarius rebuilt the fortifications of the City which the Goths
had neglected.

And if we have praised Vitiges for his retreat upon Ravenna, how much
more must we praise Belisarius for the fortification of Rome. For if
the one had for its result the prolongation of the war for some four
years, the other determined what the end of that war should be.

Let us once more consider the military situation. It is evident that
Vitiges evacuated Rome because he was afraid of losing Ravenna, his
base, by an outflanking movement on the part of Belisarius and perhaps
by a new attack from Dalmatia.[1]

[Footnote 1: My theory of the strategy of Vitiges and of his purpose
is perhaps unorthodox; the orthodox theory being that he was a fool
and the abandonment of Rome a mere blunder. But my theory would seem
to be accurate enough, for Vitiges's first act from Ravenna was to
despatch an army into Dalmatia.]

In leaving a garrison within the City of some four thousand men--say
half as many as the whole imperialist army--he at least hoped to delay
the enemy till he had secured himself in the north and to waste him. I
do not think he expected to hold the city for any length of time, for
the whole country was spiritually with the enemy.

What he hoped to gain by his retreat was, however, not merely the
security of the north. He hoped also to lure Belisarius thither after
him where, in a country less wholly Latin and imperialist, he would
have a better chance of annihilating him by mere numbers once and for
all. To this supreme hope and expectation of the Goth's, the
refortification of Rome by Belisarius finally put an end. It was a
countermove worthy of such a master and entirely in keeping with the
Roman tradition.

At first it must have appeared to Vitiges that the course he had
expected Belisarius to pursue was actually being followed; for
presently the imperialists began to move up the Flaminian Way. But it
was soon evident that this was no advance in force, but rather a part
of the fortification of the City. All the places occupied were
fortresses and all were with one exception upon the Via Flaminia which
they commanded. The first of these strong places was Narni, which held
the great bridge over the Nera at the southern exit of the passes
between the valley of Spoleto and the lower Tiber valley, where the
two roads over the mountains, one by Todi, the other by Spoleto, met.
The second place occupied was Spoleto at the head, and the third was
Perugia at the foot, of the great valley of Spoleto, from which the
Via Flaminia rose to cross the central Apennines. The three places
were occupied without much trouble, and it was thus attempted to make
the great road from the north impassable.

If Vitiges, as I believe, thought the imperialists would immediately
follow him northward he was no more deceived than the Romans
themselves. They had surrendered the City to Belisarius to save it
from attack and the last thing they desired was to suffer a siege. A
feeling of resentment, the old jealousy of Constantinople, seems to
have appeared, and in this Vitiges thought he saw his opportunity.
With 150,000 men, according to Procopius, he issued from Ravenna and
marched upon Rome, avoiding apparently the three forts held by the
imperialists, for he came, again according to Procopius, through
Sabine territory and therefore his advance was upon the eastern bank
of the Tiber. However that may be, he got without being attacked as
far as the bridge over the Anio on the Via Salaria, or as the Milvian
Bridge over the Tiber where the Via Cassia and the Via Flaminia meet
to enter the City.[1] This bridge, whichever it was, Belisarius had
determined to hold, but without his knowledge it was deserted. The
Goths were crossing unopposed when the general himself appeared with
1000 horse. A tremendous fight followed in which, such was his rage
and astonishment, Belisarius bore himself rather like a brave soldier
than a wise general. Unhurt in spite of the _melee_ he fell back
either upon the Porta Salaria[2] or upon the Porta Flaminia (del
Popolo), which he found closed against him, for the City believed him
dead. Almost in despair he rallied his men and made a desperate
charge, which, such was the number of the Goths in the road and the
confusion of their advance, was successful. The barbarians fled and
Belisarius and his gallant troopers entered the City at nightfall.

[Footnote 1: Procopius tells us both that Vitiges advanced through the
Sabine country and that he crossed the Tiber--an impossible thing.
Gibbon and Hodgkin refuse the former, Gregorovius the latter
statement. I agree with Gregorovius, for Procopius confuses the Tiber
and Anio elsewhere, notably iii. 10.]

[Footnote 2: Possibly the Porta Pinciana.]

[Illustration: Sketch Map of VITIGES, MARCH]

All through that night the walls of Rome were aflame with watchfires
and disastrous tidings, happily false; and when the dawn rose out of
the Campagna, Rome was still inviolate.

Thus began the first siege of Rome in the early days of March 537. It
lasted for three hundred and seventy-four days and ended in the sullen
retreat of the barbarians to save Ravenna, which as Vitiges had at
first foreseen would happen was threatened with attack. But as so
often in later times, those three hundred and seventy-four days had
dealt incomparably more hardly with the besiegers than with the
besieged. The Campagna had done its work, and it has been calculated
that of the 150,000 men that are said to have marched with Vitiges to
attack the city, not more than 10,000 returned to Ravenna.

Meanwhile during the great siege Belisarius, by means of his
subordinate general, John, had carried on a campaign in Picenum and
had been able to send assistance to the people of Milan, eagerly Roman
as they were.

In Picenum, John had perhaps rashly pushed forward from Ancona to
Rimini; which he held precariously and to the danger of Ancona. The
first act of Belisarius after the raising of the siege of the City was
to despatch troops post haste to Rimini. He sent Ildiger and Martin
with a thousand horse to fight their way if necessary to Rimini to
withdraw John and his two thousand horse. He purposed to hold Rimini
only with the tips of his fingers, for his determination was to secure
all he held before he entered upon a final and a real advance

The position of Belisarius seemed more insecure than in fact it was.
If we consider the great artery of his advance northward, the Via
Flaminia, we shall find that he held everything to the east of the
road between Rome and Ancona save one fortress, Osimo above Ancona,
which was held by four thousand of the enemy. But all was or seemed to
be insecure because he held nothing to the west of the great road save
Perugia: Orvieto, Todi, Chiusi, Urbino were all in Gothic hands, while
the Furlo Pass over the Apennines was also held by the enemy.

Well might Belisarius desire the cavalry of John, useless in Rimini,
for the direct road to that city was still in the hands of the enemy.
But when John got his orders he refused to obey them and Ildiger and
Martin returned without him. What excuse is possible for this refusal
of obedience on the part of a subordinate which might well have
imperilled the whole campaign? This only: that he had orders from one
superior even to Belisarius. It is probable that John in Rimini and
Ancona was aware that he might expect reinforcement from
Constantinople and that Belisarius knew nothing of them. These
reinforcements arrived under Narses, the great and famous chamberlain
of Justinian, not long after Rimini had begun to suffer the memorable
siege that followed the departure of Ildiger and Martin, and Ancona
had only just been saved. The presence of Narses in Italy changed the
whole aspect of the campaign, and whatever motives Justinian may have
had for sending him thither, the effect of his landing at Ancona with
great reinforcements can have had only a good effect upon the war.


Belisarius had now secured himself to this extent that Todi and Chiusi
were in his hands, and he hastened to meet Narses at Fermo forty miles
south of Ancona. There a council of war was held in which Belisarius
maintained his plan, namely, that Rimini should be abandoned because
Osimo, very strongly held over Ancona, was in the hands of the Goths.
Narses, on the contrary, looked only to the spiritual side of war. He
maintained that if a city once recovered for the empire was abandoned
the moral result would be disastrous. At any cost he was for the
relief of Rimini. Somewhat reluctantly, realising the danger,
Belisarius consented to try. A screen of a thousand men was placed
before Osimo, an army was embarked for Rimini and another was sent out
by the coast road, while Belisarius himself and Narses with a column
of cavalry set out from Fermo westward, crossed the Apennines above
Spoleto, struck into the Flaminian Way, recrossed the Apennines by the
Furlo, and had come within a day's journey of Rimini when they came
upon a party of Goths, who fled and gave the alarm to Vitiges. But
before the Goth could decide what to do, Ildiger was upon him from the
sea, Martin was upon him with a great army from the south, and
Belisarius and Narses came down from the mountains in time to rejoice
at the delivery of the city.

That deliverance but disclosed the two parties that divided the
imperial army. When John refused obedience to Belisarius we may be
sure he was not acting wholly without encouragement, and this at once
became obvious after the deliverance of Rimini which Belisarius had
carried out but which had been conceived by Narses. It will be
remembered that Milan was by the act of Belisarius in the hands of the
Romans; it was, however, now besieged even as Rimini had been by a
very redoubtable Gothic leader, Uraius. Orvieto and Osimo also were
still in barbarian hands. Belisarius now proposed to employ the army
in the relief of the one and the capture of the others. Narses, on the
other hand, proposed to take his part of the army and with it to
reoccupy the province of Aemilia between the Apennines and the Po.
These rivalries and differences were to cost the life of a great city,
Milan. For since Narses would not consent to the plan of Belisarius,
only what seemed most urgent was done; Orvieto was taken, Urbino too,
and the energy of the imperial army and its purpose, also, was
expended upon many unimportant things, an attempt upon Cesena, the
reduction of Imola, which involved a hopeless dispersal of forces upon
no great end. Belisarius, warned of the danger, ordered John to the
relief of Milan; again that creature of Narses refused. And down came
Milan before Uraius the Goth, who fell upon the helpless citizens and
massacred three hundred thousand of them, being all the men of the
city; and the women he gave as payment to his Burgundian ally; and of
Milan he left not one stone upon another. But when Justinian read the
despatch of Belisarius, he recalled Narses, for if the fall of Rimini
would have injured so sorely the imperial cause, what of the fall of
Milan, the massacre of its inhabitants, the utter destruction of the
city? So great was its effect that we read even Justinian thought of
treating with the Goths; for he was haunted by the weakness of his
Persian frontier, and he had soon to look to the western Alps.

Not so Belisarius. He went on his way and first he reduced two
fortresses that had long threatened him, Osimo and Fiesole, and then
and at long last he began the great advance upon Ravenna.

In this he was attempting with a small and weary force what had never
before been accomplished. Theodoric, it is true, had entered Ravenna
as a conqueror, but only by stratagem and deceptive promises after a
siege of three years. Belisarius, none knew it better than he, had
neither the time nor the forces that were at the disposal of the great
Gothic king. He must act quickly if at all, and nowhere and on no
occasion does this great and resourceful man appear to better
advantage than in his achievement at Ravenna, which should have been
the last military action of the reconquest.

Procopius, who was perhaps an eye-witness of the whole business of the
siege and certainly entered Ravenna in triumph with Belisarius, tells
us that, after the fall of Osimo, Belisarius made haste to Ravenna
with his whole army. He sent one of his generals, Magnus, before him
with a sufficient force, to march along the Po and to prevent
provisions being taken into the impregnable city from the Aemilian
Way; while another general, Vitalius, he called out of Dalmatia with
his forces to hold the northern bank of the river. When this was done
a most extraordinary accident occurred which it seems impossible to
explain. "An accident then befell," says Procopius, "which clearly
shows that Fortuna determines even yet every struggle. For the Goths
had brought down the Po many barges from Liguria[1] laden with corn,
bound for Ravenna; but the water suddenly grew so low in the river
that they could not row on; and the Romans coming upon them took them
and all their lading. Soon after the river had again its wonted stream
and was navigable as before. This scarcity of water had never till
then occurred so far as we could hear."

[Footnote 1: Cf. Cassiodorus, _Variae_, II. 20, where we read of
Theodoric in a time of scarcity supplying Liguria with food from
Ravenna. "Let any provision ships which may be now lying at Ravenna be
ordered round to Liguna, which in ordinary times supplies the needs of
Ravenna herself."]

Owing to this accident and the closeness of the investment the Goths
began to be short of provisions, for they could import nothing from
the sea, since the Romans were masters there. In their need, however,
the King of the Franks, knowing how things were, sent ambassadors to
Vitiges in Ravenna, and so did Belisarius. The Franks offered to lead
an army of five hundred thousand men over the Alps and to bury the
Romans in utter ruin if the Goths would consent to share Italy with
them. But the Goths feared the Franks, and the ambassadors of
Belisarius were able to persuade them to reject their offers. From
this time forward negotiations went on without ceasing between
Belisarius and the Goths, for the one was short of time, the other of
food. Nevertheless, the Romans did not relax their investment of the
city in any way. Indeed, Belisarius chose this moment for his
shrewdest and cruellest blow. "For hearing how there was much corn in
the public magazines of Ravenna, he won a citizen with money to set
them afire; which loss, some say, happened by Matasuntha's advice, the
wife of Vitiges. It was so suddenly done that some thought it was by
lightning, as others by design, and Vitiges and the Goths, taking it
in either kind, fell into more irresolution, mistrusting one another,
and thinking that God himself made war against them."

At this misfortune Uraius, the destroyer of Milan, proposed to attempt
to relieve Ravenna, but Belisarius easily outwitted him and his
intervention came to nothing.

Nevertheless time, so scarce with the Romans, was running short.
Justinian was impatient to have done with the Italian war, for the
general situation was extremely grave; upon the Danube an invasion of
Slavs was gathering; in Asia, Persia threatened the empire. It is not
altogether surprising then that Justinian now made an attempt to come
to terms with Vitiges behind the back of Belisarius. He sent two
ambassadors to offer peace upon the following really amazing terms,
namely, that the Goths were to have half the royal treasure and the
dominion of the country beyond the Po, that is to say, to the north of
the Po; the other half of the revenues and the rest of Italy with
Sicily were to be the emperor's. The ambassadors showed their
instructions to Belisarius, who had them conducted into Ravenna, where
Vitiges and the Goths gladly consented to make peace and to accept
these conditions. But both sides had reckoned without Belisarius, who
doubtless saw that such a peace could not endure and that all his
labour, if such terms were to be made, had gone for nothing. Nothing
would satisfy his ideas of security save the absolute defeat of the
Goths with its natural sequel, the bringing of Vitiges to
Constantinople as a prisoner. He, therefore, refused to sign the
treaty, leaving it to be established by the ambassadors alone. But
when the Goths saw this they thought that the Romans cozened them, and
refused to conclude anything without the signature and oath of

That Belisarius was right we cannot doubt; but his action naturally
laid him open to be accused of a design, against the emperor's
intentions, to prolong the war for his own glory. Nor were certain of
his generals slow to make such an accusation. When he heard of it, he
(who had suffered more than enough from the disloyalty of
subordinates) called them all together, and in the presence of the
ambassadors confessed that Fortune was the great decider of war, and
that a good opportunity for peace should ever be seized. Then he bade
them speak their minds in the present case. They declared then, one
and all, that it were best to follow the instructions of the emperor.
When Belisarius heard them speak thus he was glad and bade them put
their opinions in writing, that neither he nor they might afterwards
deny their confession that they were not able to subdue the enemy by

But Belisarius was sure of his ground. The Goths pressed by famine
could hold out no longer, and weary of Vitiges, who had given them no
success, yet afraid of yielding to the emperor lest he should remove
them out of Italy to Constantinople and thereabout, they resolved, of
all things, to declare Belisarius emperor in the West. Secretly they
sent to entreat him to accept the empire, professing to be most
willing to obey him. Such an astonishing proposal must have filled
Belisarius with delight. He, indeed, had no intention of receiving
from such hands a gift so fantastic, for he hated the name of usurper;
but he saw at once how this proposal might help his ends. He
immediately called his generals and the ambassadors together and asked
them if they did not think it a matter of importance to make all the
Goths and Vitiges the emperor's captives, to capture their wealth, and
to recover all Italy to the Romans. They answered it would be an
extreme high fortune and bade him effect it if he could. Then
Belisarius sent to the Goths and bade them perform what they had
offered. And they, for the famine was too hard to bear, agreed and
sent ambassadors to take the oath of the great Roman for their
indemnity and that he would be King of Italy, and when they had it, to
return into Ravenna with the Roman army. Now as to their indemnity
Belisarius bound himself, but touching the kingdom he said he would
swear it to Vitiges himself and the Gothic commanders. And the
ambassadors, not thinking he would forego the kingdom, but that he
desired it above all things, prayed him forthwith to march into
Ravenna. And he himself with his army and the Gothic ambassadors
entered Ravenna; and he commanded also ships to be laden with corn and
to come into Classis.

"When I saw," says Procopius, whose account of the siege and fall of
Ravenna I have followed so far, "when I saw the entrance of their army
into Ravenna, I considered how actions are not concluded by valour,
multitudes, or human virtue, but by some Divinity that steers the acts
and judgements of men. The Goths had much the advantage in numbers and
power, and since they came to Ravenna no defeat there had overthrown
them, yet they became prisoners and thought it no shame to be slaves
to fewer in number. The women (who had heard from their husbands that
the enemy were tall and gallant men and not to be numbered) looked
with contempt upon the Roman soldiers when they saw them in the city,
and spat in the faces of their husbands, reviling them with cowardice,
pointing at their conquerors."

Thus Ravenna, the impregnable city, was taken by stratagem and
willingly; never again to pass out of Roman hands till Aistulf the
Lombard in 752 seized it for a few years and thus caused Pepin to
cross the Alps to vindicate the Roman name.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first Gothic war, against Vitiges, (536-540) had thus for its
crown and end, the capture of Ravenna; the second, against Totila
(541-553), proceeded from Ravenna for the reconquest, yet once again,
of Italy.

In 540, after Ravenna had been occupied, Belisarius recalled, and
Vitiges taken as a captive to Constantinople, the Romans held all
Italy except the city of Pavia. In 544, when Belisarius returned, they
held only Ravenna, Rome, Spoleto, and a few other strongholds such as
Perugia and Piacenza. Nor was this all. In this second war all Italy
was laid waste and ruined, Rome was twice besieged and occupied by the
Goths, and in 546, when Totila had done with her, during a space of
forty days the City remained utterly desolate, without a single
inhabitant. How had such a miserable and unexpected catastrophe
befallen the Catholic cause?

In the first place it must be admitted that the capture of Ravenna by
stratagem was not the final catastrophe it appeared for the Goths. It
is true that that triumph seemed to give, and indeed did give, all
Italy into the hands of the Romans, but that gift was never secured.
Belisarius, partly from necessity, partly on account of the suspicious
jealousy of the emperor, was withdrawn from Italy too soon. He was
victorious, but he was not given time to secure his victories. The
extraordinary incompetence and rivalries of the committee of generals
which succeeded him let the opportunity for securing and establishing
an enduring peace slip through its fingers; the inevitable reaction
that followed the departure of Belisarius was not met at all, the
whole situation that then developed was misunderstood, with the result
that the Goths were soon able to find a leader, perhaps the most
formidable, and certainly the most destructive, that they had ever

The cause of the imperial incompetence and failure would appear to
have been financial. The empire had been perhaps always, certainly for
two hundred years, bankrupt. Its administration and above all its
defence were beyond its means. The Gothic war had been a tremendous
strain upon the imperial finances already incredibly involved in the
defence of the East. It was necessary to find in Italy the money for
that war and for the future defence of that country; but Italy had
been ruined by the Gothic war and above all things needed capital and
a period of reproductive repose. These Justinian was unable to give
her. His necessities forced him to cover the peninsula with tax
gatherers, to bleed an already ruined country of the little that
remained to her. If the result was a reaction, in the north actively
Gothic, in the centre and south certainly indifferent to the imperial
cause, we cannot wonder at it. The spiritual situation and the
economic or material would not chime. The result was the appalling
confusion we know as the second Gothic war.

[Illustration: Colour Plate S. VITALE: THE GALLERY]

I say it was a confusion. No clear issue seems to present itself from
beginning to end; the old democratic cause, the Catholicism of the
people rising in rage and fury against the Arianism of the courts,
burnt low for a moment, and was indeed in part extinguished by the
appalling misery of the material situation of Italy. Upon this
materialism, the material benefits that Theodoric had undoubtedly
conferred upon the Italian people, Totila, that formidable chieftain
who now came to the front as the Gothic leader, based his appeal and
his hope of victory. "Surely," he says to the Roman senate, "you must
remember sometimes in these evil days the benefits which you received
not so very long ago at the hands of Theodoric and Amalasuntha." And
again: "What harm did the Goths ever do you? And tell me then what
good you received from Justinian the emperor?... Has he not compelled
you to give an account of every _solidus_ which you received from the
public funds even under the Gothic kings? All harassed and
impoverished as you are by the war, has he not compelled you to pay to
the Greeks the full taxes which could be levied in a time of
profoundest peace?" Totila based his appeal upon the material
well-being of the people. It was a formidable appeal; it nearly
succeeded. That it did not succeed, though it had so much in its
favour, is the best testimony we could have to the real nature of the
war, which was not a struggle between two races or even primarily, at
any rate, between barbarism and civilisation, but something greater
and more fundamental, a fight to the death between two religions
Arianism and Catholicism, upon the result of which the whole future of
Europe depended.

The confusion of the second Gothic war, in which the future of the
world and the major interests of man were in jeopardy, may be divided
into three parts. The first of these is that in which the whole
administration precariously established by Belisarius fell to pieces
before the earthquake that was Totila, who, never systematically met
and opposed, by the year 544 held all Italy with the exception, as I
have said, of Ravenna, Rome, Spoleto, Perugia, Piacenza, and a few
other strongholds. The second is that in which Belisarius again
appears, and from the citadel of Ravenna, without ceasing or rest, but
without much success, opposes him everywhere. In this period Rome was
occupied and reoccupied no less than four times, and, as I have said,
in 546 was left utterly desolate. Nevertheless, when for the second
time Belisarius was recalled, in 548, he left things much as he had
found them. He had at least--and with what scarcity of men and money
we may see in his letters to the emperor--opposed and perhaps stemmed
the overwhelming Gothic advance. At his departure the imperialists
held Ravenna, Rome (but after the sack of 546), Rimini, Spoleto,
Ancona, and Perugia. But before he arrived in Constantinople, Perugia
had fallen; in the same year, 549, a mutiny in Rome gave the City to
the Goths and Rimini was betrayed. In the year 551, the year of
Narses' appointment as general-in-chief in Italy and the opening of
the third period, only Ravenna and Ancona, with Hydruntum (Otranto)
and Crotona in southern Italy, remained to the empire.

In that year, 551, however, everywhere the Gothic cause began to fail.
In a sea-fight off Sinigaglia the imperial forces disposed of the
Gothic sea power and relieved Ancona, which was in grave danger. About
the same time Sicily was delivered from the Gothic yoke, and in the
spring of 552 Crotona was relieved. Meanwhile, in Illyricum, Narses
gathered his army, in which Ardoin, King of the Lombards, rode at the
head of two thousand of his people, and prepared for the great march
into Italy.

He came through Venetia round the head of the Adriatic, close to the
sea (for a formidable Frankish host held the great roads), crossing
with what anxiety we may guess, the mouths of the Piave, the Brenta,
the Adige, and the Po by means of his ships, and having thus turned
the flank of the Frankish armies he triumphantly marched into Ravenna.
There he remained for nine days, as it were another Caesar about to
cross the Rubicon.

While he waited in Ravenna an insulting challenge reached him from the
barbarian Usdrilas who held Rimini. "After your boasted preparations,
which have kept all Italy in a ferment, and after striking terror into
our hearts by knitting your brows and looking more awful than mortal
men, you have crept into Ravenna and are skulking there afraid of the
very name of the Goths. Come out with all that mongrel host of
barbarians to whom you want to deliver Italy and let us behold you,
for the eyes of the Goths hunger for the sight of you."[1] And Narses
laughed at the insolence of the barbarian, and presently he set
forward with the army he had made, upon the great road through Classis
for Rimini, till he came to the bridge over the Marecchia, there which
Augustus had built and which was held by the enemy. There in the fight
which followed--little more than a skirmish--the barbarian Usdrilas
came by his end, and Narses ignoring Rimini marched on, his great
object before him, Totila and his army, which he meant, before all
things else, to seek out and to destroy. So he went down the Flaminian
Way to Fano and there presently left it for a by-way upon the left,
rejoining the great highway some miles beyond the fortress of Petra
Pertusa, which he disregarded as he had done that of Rimini. He
marched on till he came to the very crest of the Apennines, over which
he passed and camped upon the west under the great heights, at a place
then called Ad Ensem and to-day Scheggia.

[Footnote 1: Hodgkin's free translation of Procopius, _op. cit_. iv.

[Illustration: Sketch Map NARSES' MARCH FROM RAVENNA _To Meet_ TOTILA]

Meanwhile Totila had come to meet him from Rome, and had managed to
reach Tadinum, the modern Gualdo Tadino, when he found Narses,
unexpectedly, for he must have thought the way over the mountains
securely barred by the fortress of Petra Pertusa, upon the great road
before him.

Narses sent an embassy to Totila to offer, "not peace, but pardon;"
this the barbarian refused. Asked when he would fight Totila answered,
"In eight days from this day." But Narses, knowing what manner of man
his enemy was, made all ready for the morrow, and at once occupied the
great hill upon his left which overlooked both camps. In this he was
right, for no sooner had he seized this advantage than Totila
attempted to do the same, but without any success.

Then on the morrow Totila, having meanwhile been reinforced with two
thousand men, rode forth before the two armies and "exhibited in a
narrow space the strength and agility of a warrior. His armour was
enchased with gold; his purple banner floated with the wind; he cast
his lance into the air; caught himself backwards; recovered his seat
and managed a fiery steed in all the paces and evolutions of the
equestrian school."[1] No doubt Narses the eunuch smiled. The
barbarians were all the same, and they remain unaltered. Totila's
theatrical antics are but the prototype to those amazing cavalry
charges, excellently stage-managed, that may be seen almost any autumn
during the German manoeuvres, a new Totila at their head.

[Footnote 1: Gibbon's free translation of Procopius, iv. 31.]

When Totila had finished his display the two armies faced one another,
the imperialists with Narses and John upon the left, the Lombards in
the centre, and Valerian upon the right with John the Glutton; the
Goths in what order of battle we do not know. At length at noon the
battle was joined. The Gothic charge failed, Narses drew his straight
line of troops into a crescent, and the short battle ended in the
utter rout of the Goths, Totila flying from the field. In that flight
one Asbad a Gepid struck at him and fatally wounded him. He was borne
by his companions to the village of Caprae, more than twelve miles
away, and there he died.

Thus ended Totila the Goth and with him the Gothic cause in Italy. A
remnant of his army made its way to Pavia, where it was contained by
Valerian; and all over Italy the Gothic fortresses hastened to
surrender, Perugia, Spoleto, Narni, all opened their gates, and Narses
marched on to occupy Rome which he did without much difficulty. All
Italy lay open to the imperialists, and when Totila's successor Teias
was slain all hope of recovery was gone. The Goths offered to leave
Italy, and their offer was accepted. For a year longer a desultory
war, the reduction of Cumae and Lucca, occupied Narses; but by 554
this too was brought to an end, and unhappy Italy was once more
gathered into the government of the empire.




Such was the inevitable end of the Gothic war in Italy. The issue thus
decided was, as I have tried to show, something much more tremendous
than the mere supremacy of a race. Nothing less than the future of the
world was assured upon those stricken fields and about those ruined
fortresses, the supremacy of the Catholic religion in which was
involved the whole destiny of Europe, the continuance of our
civilisation and culture. For let it be said again: these wars of the
sixth century were not a struggle to the death between two races, but
between two religions; the opponents were not really Roman and Goth,
but Catholic and Arian, and in the victory of the former was involved
the major interest of mankind. The whole energy of that age was
devoted to the final establishment of what for a thousand years was to
be the universal religion of Europe, the source of all her greatness
and the reason of her being. What was saved in those unhappy campaigns
was not Italy, but the soul of Europe.

Certainly it was not Italy. Materially the result of those eighteen
years of war, which began with the invasion of Italy by Belisarius in
536, reached their crisis in 540 with the capture of Ravenna, and were
finally decided by Narses in 552-554, was the ruin of Italy.
Exhausted, devastated, and unfilled, the prey, for half a generation,
of a fundamental war, Italy was materially ruined by Justinian's
Gothic campaigns, and so hopelessly that, when in 568 the Lombards
fell upon her, she was almost unable to defend herself, to offer any
resistance to what proved--and in part for this reason--the only
barbaric invasion which had upon her any enduring consequences.
Visigoths, Huns, Vandals, Ostrogoths, all poured over her, and
presently, like winter floods, retreated and subsided, leaving nothing
to remind us of their fear and devastation; the Lombards remained.

I say this was largely due to the appalling exhaustion and ruin of
Italy in the Gothic war; but there was something else which we must
not forget. The Gothic war was a religious war. The Arianism of the
Goths had really threatened our civilisation. But the Lombards were
largely mere heathens. Their heathenism was not at all dangerous to us
as a heresy must always be.[1] Therefore Italy never roused herself
from her exhaustion, one might almost say her indifference. It was
only her material well-being that was at stake, her future was safe.
Her great attempt against the Lombards was a spiritual effort, was an
effort for their conversion, and their final discomfiture, wrought not
from within the peninsula, but from over the Alps, did not involve
their expulsion from Italy, but was seized upon as the opportunity for
the re-establishment in name and in fact of the Western Empire, and
for the great crowning of Charlemagne by the pope in S. Peter's

[Footnote 1: It was not the paganism of the Italian Renaissance but
the heresy of the Teutons which destroyed the unity of Europe in the
sixteenth century.]

Italy, and with Italy Europe, were, then, saved from nothing less than
death when Narses finally disposed of Totila in the Apennines in 552;
but that war which had a result so very glorious had materially ruined
the country.

From this general bankruptcy one city certainly escaped; that city was
Ravenna, which since the year 540, when she had opened her gates to
Belisarius, had been free from attack, and had more than ever been
established as the capital of the West. That position was secured to
her, as I have already said, by her geographical position, which now
that Constantinople had reasserted the claim of the empire to Italy
established her more than at any time in her history as the necessary
seat of military and administrative power; and from Ravenna as from
the citadel the whole of the second part of the Gothic war was waged
by the imperialists. As we might expect the true nature of that war is
immediately manifested in her history at this time.

It would seem that very shortly after the occupation of Ravenna by the
imperialists in 540, the re-edification of the city and its splendid
embellishment was begun. The church of S. Vitalis begun by S.
Ecclesius (_c_. 521-532) was finished and gloriously adorned with
mosaics by S. Maximianus (_c_ 546-556), and not long after S.
Apollonaris in Classe begun by S. Ursicinus (532-536) was completed
and adorned by the same great bishop.

But this eagerness to mark and to express in such glorious monuments
as these the great victory for Catholicism and civilisation that was
then in the winning becomes even more manifest after the death of
Totila and the end of the war. To the S. Agnellus and to the Church of
Ravenna Justinian "_rectae fidei Augustus_" gave all the substance of
the Goths, according to the _Liber Pontificalis_,[1] "not only in
Ravenna itself, but in the suburban towns and in the villages, both
sanctuaries and altars, slaves and maidens, whatever was theirs. _S.
Mater Ecclesia Ravennas, vera mater, vera orthodoxa nam ceterae multae
Ecclesiae falsam propter metum et terrores Principum superinduxere
doctrinam; haec vero et veram et unicam Sanctam Catholicam tenuit
Fidem, nunquam mutavit fluctuationem sustinuit, a tempestate quassata
immobilis permansit_. Therefore S. Agnellus the archbishop reconciled
all the churches of the Goths, which in their time or in that of King
Theodoric had been built or had been occupied by the false doctrines
of the Arians.... He thus reconciled the church of S. Eusebius which
Unimundus the (Arian) bishop had built in the twenty-third year of
King Theodoric. In the same year he reconciled the church of S.
Georgius (S. Giorgio ad Tabulam fuori delle Mura) ... the church of S.
Sergius which is in Classis and of S. Zenone which is in Caesarea." In
Ravenna itself he reconciled the churches of S. Theodorus (S.
Spirito), S. Maria in Cosmedin (the Arian Baptistery), the church of
S. Martin (S. Apollinare Nuovo) which Theodoric had built, which was
called _Caelum Aureum_ and which Agnellus re-decorated with the
mosaics of the Martyrs and Virgins we see and the effigies of
Justinian and himself.

[Footnote 1: Agnellus, _Liber Pontificalis_ (ed. Holder-Egger. P. 334)
_ad vitam Sancti Agnelli_.]

Such was the work achieved in the fortunate capital. But ruined Italy
awaited a more necessary, if less splendid, labour. This can have been
nothing less than the resurrection of the country, which, in those
eighteen years of war, can have become little less than a desert; and,
as we might expect, all Italy desolate and depopulated looked to
Justinian to succour her in her misery if she was not to perish under
her ruins and her debts. The first step in that work was undertaken in
the very year of the peace, in the August of the year 554, and it took
the form of a solemn "Pragmatic Sanction" addressed to Narses and to
Antiochus, the Prefect of Italy,[1] in Ravenna. It had for its object
the social peace of Italy, the re-establishment of order out of the
chaos of the Ostrogothic war; and it is significant of the true
position of affairs that this decree asserts that it is issued by the
emperor in reply to the petition of the pope.

[Footnote 1: The fact that it was addressed to both surely seems to
show that Narses at this time only held a military power in Italy.
This is interesting as touching the discussion later on of the genesis
of the exarchate.]

It consists of twenty-seven articles, and first establishes what is to
be considered as still having authority in that tempestuous past; what
part of it is to remain and to be confirmed and what is to be utterly
swept away. Thus the emperor confirms all dispositions made by
Amalasuntha, Athalaric, and Theodahad, as well as all his own
acts--and these would include Theodoric's--and those of Theodora. But
everything done by "the most wicked tyrant Totila" is null and void,
"for we will not allow these law-abiding days of ours to take any
account of what was done by him in the time of his tyranny."[1] Totila
had indeed most cruelly attacked the great landed proprietors whom he
suspected of too great an attachment for Constantinople; he had
attacked them in their persons and in their wealth. With a single
stroke of the pen Justinian, as it were, effaced all the ordinances of
the tyrant and rendered again to their legitimate masters, as far as
it could be done, their lands, their flocks, their peasants, and their
slaves which had been taken from them, or which fear had caused them
to alienate.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Hodgkin, _op. cit_. vi. pp. 519-520.]

Such were the political achievements of the decree. Nor were its
financial provisions less far-reaching. Something had to be done to
meet the crisis resulting from the enormous quantity of debt.
Everywhere Justinian undertook great public works, and tried to repair
the destruction caused by the war; but it is probable that in reality
he achieved very little. He had enriched the Church; he had
re-established the great proprietors in their lands and their rights,
but the industry and commerce of Italy, save perhaps at Ravenna and at
Naples, he could not restore. And we seem to understand that the mere
lack of men left whole districts of Italy uncultivated and desert.

As for the administrative and legal clauses of the decree, they gave
the Italian--the Roman as he is called--the right to have his suit
heard by a civil judge instead of a military official. This
established the security of the Italian against the barbaric hosts the
imperial armies had brought into the country. But perhaps more
important, and certainly more significant, is the twelfth clause of
the decree which relates to the way in which the _Judices
Provinciarum_ are to be appointed. "We order," says Justinian, "that
only fit and proper persons able to administer the local government
shall be chosen, and this by the bishops and chief persons of each
province from the inhabitants of that province." This clause was soon
proved to contain so much wisdom that in 569 by Justinian's successor
it was extended to the provinces of the Eastern empire.

In all this we recognise the work of the great reformer who had
already produced the _Corpus Juris Civilis_, consisting of the
Institutes, Digest, Code, and Novellae, which more than anything else
he did--and he did everything--determined that Europe, which he had
secured for ever, should be a Roman thing established upon Roman Law.
But are we also to see in this great man the creator of the exarchate,
that citadel of the empire in Italy which was to endure, though almost
all else perished, till Charlemagne appeared and the empire itself
suddenly re-arose, armed at all points and ready for battle? It might
seem that we are not to attribute that great scheme to Justinian, but
rather to a later recognition of the force and reality of the
disasters that so few years after his death descended once more upon

When Narses at the head of the armies of Justinian had in 554
conquered the Goths and possessed Italy, the administrative divisions
of the peninsula would seem to have remained almost the same as they
had been in the time of Honorius. Indeed the re-entry of Italy within
the empire was accompanied by no important change in the provincial
divisions of the peninsular because there was no necessity for it.
Narses, who ruled just eleven years in Ravenna, was never known by the
title of exarch. On the contrary, Procopius and Agathias call him
simply the general-in-chief of the Roman army [Greek: o Romaion
strataegos], and pope Pelagius calls him _Patricius et Dux in Italia_,
and others, among them Gregory the Great and Agnellus, simply
_Patricius_. But it is obvious that there was something new in the
official situation and that certain extraordinary powers were
conferred upon Narses. And it is the same with his successor Longinus.
All the texts that mention him, including the _Liber Pontificalis_,
call him _Praefectus_. But the transformation from which the exarchate
arose was more obscure and far more slow than any official reform of
Justinian's could have been. It is in part the result of the new
condition of the country, which Justinian had had to take into
account, but it is much more the result of the progress of the Lombard
conquest and the new necessities of defence, which not one of the
three great men who had restored Italy to the empire lived to see.

For Belisarius and Justinian both died in 565, and Narses, who was
recalled in that year by the foolish and insolent Sophia, the wife of
the new emperor Justin II., seems to have died about 572.

It is difficult to determine to which of these three great and heroic
figures Italy, and through Italy, Europe, owes most, but since it was
Justinian who chose and employed them we must, I think, accord him,
here too, the first place in our remembrance.

Belisarius, who had fought the first great war so gloriously against
Vitiges, and for so long and with so little encouragement had opposed
Totila in the second, is of course one of the great soldiers of the
world and perhaps the greatest the empire ever employed. His capture
of Ravenna, by stratagem it is true, but against time and, as it were,
in spite of the emperor, brought the first Gothic war to an end, and
would, had he been left in Italy a few months longer, have prevented
all the long drawn out agony of the second. As it was his achievement,
and his achievement alone, made that second war something better than
the hopeless affair it seemed for so long, and though he himself to
all appearances made little headway against Totila, it was his series
of heroic campaigns, in which he refused despair, that made the ever
glorious march of Narses possible, and the final crushing of the
barbarian in the Apennines after all but the crown of his endeavour.

Of his master, the great emperor, it is not for me to speak since to
this day his works speak for him. The thirty-eight years of his reign
are the most brilliant period of the later Roman empire, and if the
military triumphs he conceived were the work of Belisarius and Narses
we must attribute to him alone the magnificent conception, the
tireless energy, and the heroic purpose which established the great
pillars of the _Corpus Juris Civilis_ which is the legal foundation of
mediaeval and of modern Europe, the basis of all Canon Law and of all
Civil Law in every civilised country. Of his great ecclesiastical
polity perhaps we must speak with less enthusiasm, though not with
less wonder; while his glorious buildings remain only less enduring
than his codification of the laws. If in Ravenna we are most nearly
and splendidly reminded of him in S. Vitale, we do not forget that he
was the creator of perhaps the greatest ecclesiastical building left
to us, the mighty church--lost to us now for near five hundred
years--of S. Sophia in Constantinople. On the whole we see in
Justinian the greatest of all the emperors save Augustus, and perhaps
Constantine. Nor can any later state show us so great a ruler.

Justinian in his Italian designs had been very well served by
Belisarius, nor were his ideas less splendidly carried out by Narses.
Indeed, in many ways the eunuch was the better instrument and
especially in administration. He ruled in peace in Ravenna as I have
said for eleven years, devoting himself to the resurrection of unhappy
Italy. In this we may think he was as successful as the shortness of
the time of his rule would allow. The catastrophe that put an end
alike to his work and to the regeneration of Italy was the death of
Justinian. In that very year, 565, the great eunuch was deposed, an
insulting recall reached him from the empress Sophia, and he retired
to Rome, where he passed the few years that remained to him in
retirement, and died there, it is thought, in 572.

A curious and certainly an unproved accusation hangs over his name. It
seems that his government of Italy was not wholly grateful to the
Italians, who it must be remembered were ruined and whom many years of
eager self-denial would hardly render solvent again. Now the business
of Narses was to achieve this solvency and to pay out of Italy some
sort of interest upon the enormous sums Justinian had disbursed for
the great war. If he incurred the hatred of the Italians it would not
be surprising, nor would it lead us to accuse him of tyranny. "Where
Narses the eunuch rules," they said, "he makes us slaves." This cry
came to the ears of the emperor for whom it was meant. No doubt, being
a fool, he was anxious to be rid of Justinian's pro-consul. However
that may be, Narses was recalled, the empress, it is said, sending him
a message to the effect that as he was a eunuch she would appoint him
to apportion the spinning to the women of her household. To this
Narses is reported to have replied, doubtless with much the same smile
as that with which he had greeted the equestrian display of Totila,
that he would spin her a thread of which neither she nor the emperor
Justin would be able to find the end. In the course of time this
mysterious threat, which was probably never uttered, was said to refer
to the enormous catastrophe which within three years of Narses' recall
fell upon Italy--the Lombard invasion. And Narses, who had employed
the Lombards in the last campaign against Totila, was said to have
revenged himself by inviting them into Italy to possess it.

The accusation rests upon no good authority, and is altogether
unlikely when we remember how great a part of his life had been
devoted to the incorportion of Italy within the empire. But there is
this much truth in it we may perhaps think; that had the great eunuch
been left in command, Alboin would not have dared to come on, and if
he had dared, would have found an army and an Italy ready to fling him
back into his darkness.




It was upon the second day of April 568, upon the Monday within the
octave of Easter, that Alboin set out to cross the Julian Alps, to
descend upon an Italy which even the great Narses had not been able,
in the short sixteen years of peace he had secured her, to recover
from the utter exhaustion of a generation of war. No army awaited him,
no attempt was made to crush his rude and barbarous army in the
marches, he was unopposed, save that the bishop of Treviso begged him
to spare the property of his church, and presently the whole province
of Venetia, with the exception of Padua, Mantua, and Monselice, was in
his hands. Those who could, doubtless fled away, for the most part to
that new settlement in the Venetian lagoons which was presently to
give birth to Venice and which had been founded by those who had fled
from Attila; but there were many who could not flee. These came under
the cruel yoke of the invader. Perhaps Alboin spent the winter in
Verona, perhaps in Friuli; wherever it was, he but prepared his
advance and still no one appeared to say him nay. By the end of 569
all Cisalpine Gaul with Liguria and Milan, except Pavia, the coast,
Cremona, Piacenza, and a few smaller places, were in his hands.
Indeed, in all that terrible flood of disasters we hear of but one
great city which offered even for a time a successful resistance. This
was Pavia, naturally so strongly defended by the Po and the Ticino.
Alboin established an army about it, and swore to massacre all its
inhabitants since it alone had dared to resist him. Pavia fell to the
Lombard, after a three years' siege, in 572; but Alboin was prevented
from carrying out his vow, and not long after Pavia became the capital
of the Lombard power in Italy.

Meantime, those three years, during which Pavia held her own, had not
been wasted by the barbarian. He crossed the Apennines, we may believe
as Totila had done, by the old deserted way to Fiesole, brought all
Tuscany under his yoke and a great part both of central and of
southern Italy, establishing there two "duchies" as the centres of his
power at Spoleto and Benevento. Then he returned to take Pavia, all
this time besieged, and in the same year, 572, it is probable that
Piacenza fell also, and Mantua. All Italy was in confusion, the system
of government re-established by Narses broken; the work of Justinian's
reconquest seemed all undone. That it was not wholly undone, that it
lived on and was at last re-established, we owe to two great facts:
the conversion of the Lombards to Catholicism by Gregory the Great and
the establishment of the exarchate, the entrenchment of Roman power
and civilisation in Ravenna. Let us consider these things.

The Lombards were barbarians and therefore pagans or Arians, but their
Arianism was of a different kind from that of the Huns, different even
from that of the Ostrogoths. Indeed, though the Lombards may be called
Arian, for indeed such Christianity as they possessed was wholly
Arian, they were but little removed from mere heathenism. It is true
that they sacked churches, slaughtered priests, and carried off the
holy vessels everywhere as they came into Italy; but they did this, it
would seem, not from a sectarian hatred of the Catholic Faith, but
from mere heathenism. As pagans, heathen or semi-heathen, they might
be converted, and thus their advent was ultimately less dangerous to
our civilisation than the conquest of the Ostrogoths threatened to be.
I do not mean to suggest that that advent was without danger. It was
of course full of dreadful peril, but that peril was chiefly material
and not spiritual; it could destroy, but not create; moreover, since
in the main it was pagan, it could only destroy material things.

It is unthinkable that the Italy of the sixth century was for a moment
in danger of losing its Faith, of being dechristianised. That, all
things considered, in the third fourth and fifth centuries there had
more than once been a real danger of the victory of some heresy, and
especially of that subtle Arianism, the forerunner of Mahometanism,
which all the invaders professed, and most of them so bitterly, we
know; as we know that with the hard won victory of the Catholic Faith
the whole of the future was safe; but that in the Italy of the sixth
century the Faith was in danger from a horde of semi-pagan barbarians
is not to be thought of. To this extent, and it is three parts at
least of the whole, the Lombard invasion was less perilous than those
which had come and passed away before it. Once more, the Catholic
church was to be victorious, but in a different fashion. It cast out
the Visigoths, the Huns, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths from Italy,
for it could not convert them; the Lombards it converted and they
remained. It converted them because they were rather heathen than
Arian, and the victory was won by that great Gregory who, seeing our
forefathers in the Forum of Rome, and loving them for their bright
hair and open faces--_non Angli sed Angeli si Christiani_--sent S.
Austin to turn them too from their pagan rites and gather them into
the fold of Christ.

But there was something else beside the fact that the Lombards were
pagan, and therefore to be converted, which was a part of the
salvation of Italy.

It is possible that the Lombards might have been as Catholic as the
Franks and yet, barbarians as they were, have destroyed civilisation
in Italy, have broken the continuity of Europe, have obliterated all
our traditions, and altogether undone the great work of Justinian. It
is possible, but it is highly improbable; that it was impossible we
owe to Ravenna.

Ravenna was impregnable and her seaward gate was always open. During
all the years of the Lombard domination she was the citadel of the
empire in Italy, the seat of the prefect and the exarch, the imperial

It must be grasped that even after the fall of Ticinum in 572, as the
Byzantine historian tells us, perhaps no one, and certainly no one in
Ravenna, regarded the invasion as anything but a passing evil like all
the other barbarian incursions. No one believed Italy to be
irrevocably lost; on the contrary, everyone was assured that the lost
provinces could soon be delivered again.

This may explain, though perhaps it cannot excuse, the passive
attitude of Longinus, the successor of Narses, who in Ravenna
represented the emperor in Italy, perhaps till the year 584. We know
nothing of any attempts he may have made to stem the barbarian flood,
and indeed the only incident in his career with which we are
acquainted is romantic rather than military or political. For when
Rosamond, the queen of the Lombards, murdered her husband Alboin in
his palace at Verona, because he had forced her to pledge him in a
goblet fashioned from the skull of her father, she fled away with her
stepdaughter Albswinda, the great Lombard spoil, and her two
accomplices, Helmichis her lover and Peredeus the chamberlain, and
came to seek shelter in Ravenna. It seems she had written to Longinus
and he, perhaps, hoping for some political advantage, and certainly
full of the tales of her beauty, sent a ship up the Po to bring her to
him with her two companions. When he saw her he found that rumour had
not lied, and longing for her, suggested that she should kill
Helmichis and marry himself. Whether from fear or ambition she did
this thing, and slew her lover with a cup of poison as he came from
the bath. But he, even as he drank understanding all, suddenly forced
the same cup upon her, and standing over her with a naked sword forced
her to drink; so that they both lay dead upon the pavement.

Albswinda and the Lombard treasure, the spoil of the cities of Italy,
were sent with Peredeus to Constantinople. And it may be that it was
in them Longinus hoped to find his political advantage; in this,
however, he was deceived. It is true that a pause in the Lombard
advance followed the death of Alboin, and that Cleph, his successor,
was soon murdered. But the pause in the advance, though, through it
all, Rome was blockaded, was due to the fact that Authari, the heir to
the Lombard throne, was but a boy. Nevertheless, this interval was
used by Constantinople to despatch Baduarius, the son-in-law of the
emperor Justin, to Italy with an army, but without success; and in
578, the year in which Justin died, the Lombards were bought off from
Rome with imperial gold, only to turn upon the very citadel of the
empire in Italy, Ravenna itself. In the year 579 Faroald, duke of
Spoleto, fell upon Classis, and took it and spoiled it.

This, however, was but an isolated effort, and though the Lombards
held Classis, they achieved little else in Italy till after Authari
was chosen king in 584.

In the following year Smaragdus, as we may think, was appointed to
succeed Longinus and apparently with new powers, and three years
later, in the very year that the heroic Insula Comacina was taken by
the Lombards, Classis was recovered for the empire.

The Lombards had then been ravaging Italy for twenty years, an
extraordinary change had come over the provinces that Justinian had so
hardly recovered, and this change is at once visible in the imperial
administration in Italy. The exarchate appears.

It has been maintained by many historians that the great reform of
which the establishment of the exarch and the exarchate is the result
was the work of that very great reformer Justinian. It was worthy of
him; but the Italy he knew and saved was not in need of any change in
her administrative divisions which, as I have said, remained under
Narses almost the same as they had been in the last days of the
Western empire.[1]

[Footnote 1: For what follows cf. Diehl, _Etudes sur l'administration
Byzantine dans l'Exarchat de Ravenne_ (1888).]

The transformation out of which the exarchate arose was slow and
obscure, not the work of a great creative mind, but of necessity. It
was the result of many causes which it is not difficult to name; they
were the progress of the Lombard conquest, the condition imposed upon
the unconquered parts of Italy by that conquest, and especially the
new necessity for defence imposed on the imperial power.

It is obvious that the result of the first ten years of that conquest
was a complete destruction of the limits of the old Roman provinces of
Italy. A new grouping of territories was not only necessary but was
already forming itself under the pressure of the conquest and its
terror. The regions which had escaped the barbarians were drawing
together without any regard for the ancient provincial divisions and
were grouping themselves about the cities, where the resistance, such
as it was, was concentrating itself, and where the imperial
administration had taken refuge.

If we confine ourselves for the moment to Italy north of the
Apennines, we shall find that in the old province of Liguria the vicar
of the prefect of the praetorium had fled from Milan to Genoa, and
that about that city the debris of the old province was slowly
re-assembling itself. In Venetia we shall find that the governor had
departed to Grado, and about this town as a centre the eastern part of
the old province was gathered. The western part of that province, cut
off from its capital, attached itself by force of circumstances to
what remained of Aemilia and of Flaminia, whose neighbour she was, and
these fragments of the ancient provinces all together grouped
themselves about, or found their centre in, Ravenna, the capital of
Flaminia and the residence of the prefect of Italy.

In these new groupings the great pre-occupation and the supreme
interest are defence--the defence of civilisation against the

Now, it was to regulate this new state of affairs that the exarchate
was created; or rather the exarchate was the official acknowledgment
of a state of affairs that the disastrous invasion of the Lombards had
brought about. The new order was established at the end of the reign
of Justin II. (565-578) under a new and supreme official. Without
doing away with the prefect of Italy the emperor placed over him as
supreme head of the new administration the exarch[1] who was both the
military commander-in-chief and the governor-general of Italy; and,
since the chief need of Italy was defence, without entirely
suppressing the civil administration, he placed at the head of each of
the re-organised provinces a certain military officer--the duke.

[Footnote 1: For the discussion of the derivation of the title
"Exarch," _see_ Diehl, _op. cit_. pp. 15-16.]

The earliest document that remains to us in which we find definite
mention of the exarch is the famous letter, dated October 4, 584, of
pope Pelagius II. to the deacon Gregory, his nuncio in Constantinople.
It is probable that the exarch at this time was Smaragdus, but it is
extremely improbable that he was the first to bear the new title. This
it would seem was a much nobler and more notable person.

It will be remembered that in the year 575 Baduarius, the son-in-law
of the emperor, had appeared in Italy at the head of an army, had been
beaten by the Lombards, and a little later had died, probably in
575.[1] This man was not only a great Byzantine official, but the
destined successor of Justin and one of the first personages of the
empire. It is obvious, if at such a moment he commanded the imperial
armies in Italy, he was supreme governor of the province And it seems
certain that it was to mark the amalgamation in him of the two
offices, military and civil, that the new title of exarch was

[Footnote 1: Migne, lxxii. 865; Joannes Biclarensis, _s.a_. 575; cf.
Hodgkin, _op. cit_. v. p. 195, and Diehl, _u.s_.]

[Footnote 2: "It is only an hypothesis," says M. Charles Diehl, the
originator of this theory, "but it explains how, between the prefect
Longinus (569-572) and the exarch Smaragdus (584) was produced in the
years 572-576 the administrative transformation out of which rose the

At the same time as the central government took on a new form the
provincial administration was re-organised. Before the year 590, this
had been certainly achieved. Istria, as we have seen, was divided from
Venetia and formed a new and a special government. In Flaminia Rimini,
which till now had been a part of the same province as Ravenna, was
detached and became the capital of a new government in which a part of
the Picenum, Ancona, and Osimo were involved. While the exarchate
properly so called, that is the region of Ravenna from which Rimini
and Picenum were now separate, formed a new province under the direct
authority of the governors-general of Italy, that is to say, of the
exarch of Ravenna. By the year 590, then, we see Italy thus divided
into seven districts or governments: (1) the Duchy of Istria, (2) the
Duchy of Venetia, (3) the Exarchate to which Calabria is attached, (4)
the Duchy of Pentapolis, (5) the Duchy of Rome, (6) the Duchy of
Naples, (7) Liguria.

Geographically the exarchate of Ravenna was bounded on the north by
the Adige, the Tartaro, and the principal branch of the Po as far as
its confluence with the Panaro. Hadria and Gabellum were its most
northern towns in the hands of the imperialists. The western frontier
is more difficult to determine with exactitude; it may be said to have
run between Modena and Bologna. On the south the Marecchia divided the
exarchate from the duchy of Pentapolis whose capital was Rimini. The
Pentapolis consisted of Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia, and Ancona
upon the sea and of the five inland cities of Urbino, Fossombrone,
Jesi, Cagli, and Gubbio; while the great towns of the exarchate were
set along the Via Aemilia and were Bologna, Imola (Forum Cornelii),
Faenza, Forli, Forlimpopoli, and Cesena.

Such then, before the year 590, was the new imperial administration in
the Italy formed by the Lombard invasion.

[Illustration: SKETCH MAP]

In the year after the recapture of Classis from the Lombards, that is
to say, in 589, the exarch Smaragdus was recalled. He had apparently
become insane and had been guilty of extraordinary violence towards
the patriarch of Aquileia and three other bishops whom he dragged to
Ravenna. His successor was Romanus who held office till 597. In the
same year, 589, Authari was married at Pavia to Theodelinda, who was
to be so potent an instrument in the conversion of the Lombards and
therefore in the salvation of Italy. And in the following year, 590,
pope Pelagius II. died, and Gregory the Great was chosen to succeed

With the advent of the new exarch a brighter prospect seemed for a
moment to open for Italy. In the first year of Romanus's appointment
the imperialists regained the greater part of the cities of the plain;
they re-occupied Modena, Reggio, Parma, Piacenza, Altinum, and Mantua.
But the strength of the Latin position in Italy lay, and continued to
lie, in the two great imperial cities, Ravenna and Rome. Little by
little this position had crystallised and now a new state appeared, a
state which in one way or another was to endure till our day and which
our fathers knew as the States of the Church. With the two cities of
Ravenna and Rome as _nuclei_, this state formed itself in the very
heart of Italy along the Via Flaminia which connected them. It cut,
and effectually, the Lombard kingdom in two, and isolated the duchies
of Spoleto and Benevento from the real Lombard power in Cisalpine
Gaul, with its great capital at Pavia; and indestructible as it was,
it absolutely insured the final success of the Catholic Faith, the
Latin nationality, and the imperial power, the three necessities for
the resurrection of Europe.

This achievement was in the first place due to three great
personalities: to Justinian who had succeeded in establishing the
imperial power with its capital at Ravenna, and whose work had such
life in it that, in spite of every adverse circumstance, it was able
to develop and to maintain itself during more than two hundred years
and uphold the imperial idea in Italy until the pope was able to
re-establish the empire in the West as a self-supporting state; to
Gregory the Great in whom we see personified the hope and strength of
the papacy and the Latin idea which it was to uphold and to glorify;
and to Theodelinda, that passionately Catholic Lombard queen, who was
able to lead her Lombards into the fold of the Roman church, and who
in her son Adalwald by her second husband Agilulf, whom she had raised
to the throne, presented the Lombard kingdom with its first Catholic
king, and had thus done her part to secure the future.

Of these three powers those of Ravenna and Rome were, of course, by
far the more important; for indeed the conversion of the Lombards was,
rightly understood, but a part of the work of Gregory. Yet though both
were working for the same end they did not always propose to march by
the same road. In 592, for instance, the pope, seeing Naples the
capital of the little isolated duchy upon his southern flank very hard
pressed, proposed at all costs to relieve it; but the exarch Romanus,
perhaps seeing further, was not to be moved to the assistance of the
peasants of Campania from the all-important business of the defence of
central Italy and the Flaminian Way, the line of communication between
Ravenna and Rome. He proposed to let Naples look after itself and at
all costs to hold Perugia. Gregory, however, who claimed in an
indignant letter of this date (592) to be "far superior in place and
dignity" to the exarch, proceeded to save Naples by making a sort of
peace with the Lombard duchy of Spoleto. It is possible that this
peace saw the Lombard established in Perugia, which was the Roman key,
till now always in Roman hands, of the great line of communication
between Rome and Ravenna. However that may be, Gregory's peace not
only aroused great anger in Constantinople, but brought Romanus
quickly south with an army to re-occupy Perugia, Orte, Todi, Ameria,
and various other cities of Umbria. But Romanus had been right. His
movement southward alarmed Agilulf, who immediately left Pavia, and
crossing the Apennines, we may suppose,[1] as Totila had done,
threatened Rome itself. Then, however, he had to face something more
formidable than an imperial army. Upon the steps of S. Peter's church
stood the Vicegerent of God, great S. Gregory, who alone turned him
back and saved the city.

[Footnote 1: All that Paulus Diaconus, _Hist. Lang_. lib. iv. cap. 8,
says is: "Hac etiam tempestate Romanus Patricius et Exarchus Ravennae
Romam properavit. Qui dum Ravennam revertitur retenuit civitates, quae
a Langobardis tenebantur, quarum ista sunt nomma: Sutrium, Polimartium
Hortas, Tuder, Ameria, Perusia, Luceolis et alias quasdam civitates.
Quod factum cum regi Agilulfo nunciatum esset statim Ticino egressus
cum valido exercitu civitatem Perusium petiit ..."]

The truth of all this would appear to be that Gregory was really
working for peace. The Lombards were in a fair way to becoming
Catholic, and as such they were no longer really dangerous to Italy.
The real danger was, as the pope saw, the prolongation of a useless
war. Two years later, in 595, we find Gregory writing to the
"assessor" of the exarch enjoining peace. "Know then that Agilulf,
king of the Lombards, is not unwilling to make a general peace, if my
lord the patrician is of the same mood.... How necessary such a peace
is to all of us you know well. Act therefore with your usual wisdom,
that the most excellent exarch may be induced to come in to this
proposal without delay, and may not prove himself to be the one
obstacle to a peace so expedient for the state. If he will not
consent, Agilulf again promises to make a separate peace with us; but
we know that in that case several islands and other places will
necessarily be lost. Let the exarch then consider these points, and
hasten to make peace, that we may at least have a little interval in
which we may enjoy a moderate amount of rest, and with the Lord's help
may recruit the strength of the republic for future resistance."[1]

[Footnote 1: Gregory, _Ep_. v. 36 (34), trs. Hodgkin, _op. cit_. v. p.

It is obvious from this letter that the pope and the emperor no longer
understood one another, and it is not surprising that the one thought
the other a fool and told him so. Doubtless the emperor recalled the
long and finally successful war against the Ostrogoths, in which
Belisarius had always refused, not only terms of peace other than
unconditional surrender, but even to treat. That policy had been, at
least from the point of view of Constantinople, successful. From the
point of view of the papacy and of Italy, it had had a more doubtful
result, but the fact that the Ostrogoths were Arians had satisfied
perhaps both, and certainly the papacy, that a truce could not be
thought of.

From the imperial point of view things remained much the same in the
Lombard war as they had been in the war with the Ostrogoths. From the
papal and Italian point of view they were very different. To begin
with, the Lombards were fast accepting the Catholic Faith, and then if
Italy had suffered in the Ostrogothic wars, which were everywhere
eagerly contested by Constantinople, what was she suffering now when
the greater part of the country was open to a continual and an almost
unopposed attack? "You think me a fool," the pope wrote to the
emperor. In Ravenna the papal envoy was lampooned and laughed at. Then
in the end of 596 the exarch Romanus died.

Romanus was succeeded by Callinicus (Gallicinus) in whom the pope
found a more congenial and perhaps a more reasonable spirit. By 598 an
armistice had been officially concluded between the imperialists and
the Lombards, and at length in 599, after some foolish delays in which
it would appear that the pope was not without blame, a peace was
concluded. Gregory, however, for all his reluctance at the last, had
won his way. Henceforth it would be impossible to regard the Lombards
as mere invaders after the pattern of their predecessors, Visigoths,
Vandals, Huns, and Ostrogoths. They were, or would shortly be, a
Catholic people; they held a very great part of Italy; they had
entered into a treaty with the emperor not as _foederati_ but as
equals and conquerors. Gregory the Great had permanently established
the barbarians in Italy, and in his act, the act be it remembered of
the apostle of the English, of the apostle of the Lombards, we seem to
see the shadowy power that had been Leo's by the Mincio suddenly
appear, a new glory in the world. The new power in the West, the
papacy, which thus shines forth really for the first time in the acts
of Gregory, unlike the empire, whether Roman or Byzantine, will know
no frontiers, but will go into all the world and compel men to come in
as its divine commission ordained.

In Italy from the time of the peace with the Lombards (599) onwards
what we see is the decline of the imperial power of Constantinople and
the rise of the papacy. And this was brought about not only by the
circumstances in which Italy and the West found themselves, but also
by the character of the imperial government.

When Justin II. disappeared in 578, and made way for Tiberius II., he
was already a madman, and though Tiberius was renowned for his
virtues, he reigned but four years, and in 582 Maurice the Cappadocian
sat upon the throne of Justinian and ruled for twenty years not
unwisely, but, so far as Italy was concerned, without success. It was
he who was at last brought to make peace with the Lombards and thus
for the first time to acknowledge a barbarian state independent of the
empire in Italy. He and his children were all murdered in 602 by
Phocas, a centurion, whose shame and crimes and cruelties doubtless
did much to weaken the moral power of the empire face to face with the

The peace of 599, the usurpation of Phocas in 602, and the death of
Gregory the Great in 604, close a great period and stamp the seventh
century in its very beginning with a new character.

That character is in a sense almost wholly disastrous. Those vague and
gloomy years, of which we know so little, are almost unrelieved in
their hopeless confusion. It is true that Italy had found a champion
in the papacy which would one day restore the empire in the West, as
Justinian himself had not been able to do; it is true that already
Arianism was defeated if not stamped out. But it is in the seventh
century that Mahometanism, the greater successor of the Arian heresy,
first appears; and it is in the seventh century that it first becomes
certain that East and West are philosophically and politically
different and irreconcilable. The whole period is full of disasters,
and is as we may think the darkest hour before the dawn.

As I have said, the history of those disastrous years is everywhere in
the West vague and confused, and this is not least so in Italy and

Ravenna as always remains the citadel of the imperialists in Italy and
the West, and as such we must regard her, passing in review as well as
we may those miserable years in which she played so great and so
difficult a part.

When the Emperor Maurice was assassinated with his family in the year
602, Callinicus was, as we have seen, exarch in Ravenna, but with the
usurpation of Phocas that Smaragdus who had already been exarch and
had been recalled, perhaps for his too great violence, in 589, was
again appointed. He seems to have ruled from 602 to 611. In the last
year of the government of Callinicus an attempt had been made by the
exarch to force the Lombards to renew the two years' peace established
in 599, and on better terms, by the seizure of a daughter of
Agilulf's, then in Parma, with her husband. They were carried off to
Ravenna. But the imperialists got nothing by their treachery. Agilulf
at once moved against Padua and took it and rased it to the ground. In
the following year Monselice also fell to his arms, and though after
the murder of the emperor Maurice in 602 the exarch Callinicus, the
author of the abduction, fell, and Smaragdus was appointed by Phocas,
the hostages were not returned, and in July 603, Agilulf, after a
campaign of less than three months, had possessed himself of Cremona,
Mantua, and Vulturina, and probably of most of those places which the
imperialists had re-occupied in Cisalpine Gaul in 590. Smaragdus was
forced to make peace and to give up his hostages. The peace he made,
which left Agilulf in possession of all the cities he had taken, was
to endure for eighteen months, but it seems to have been renewed from
year to year, and when in 610 Phocas was assassinated and with the
accession of Heraclius (610-641) Smaragdus was again recalled and
Joannes appointed to Ravenna, the same policy seems to have been

Joannes Lemigius Thrax, as Rubeus, the sixteenth-century historian of
Ravenna, calls him, ruled in Ravenna from 611 to 615, and in the
latter year was assassinated there apparently in the midst of a
popular rising, though what this really was we do not know. His
successor, the eunuch Eleutherius (616-620), seems to have found the
now fragmentary imperial state in Italy in utter confusion, and indeed
on the verge of dissolution. Naples had been usurped by a certain
Joannes of Compsa, perhaps "a wealthy Samnite landowner," who
proclaimed himself lord there, and it is obvious that even in Ravenna
there was grave discontent. Eleutherius soon disposed of the usurper
of Naples, but only to find himself faced by a renewal of the Lombard
war, which he seems to have prevented by consenting to pay the yearly
tribute which perhaps Gregory the Great had promised when he made a
separate peace with the Lombard in 593, when Rome was practically in
the hands of the barbarian. It was obvious that the imperial cause was
failing. That the exarch thought so is obvious from the fact that in
619 he actually assumed the diadem and proclaimed himself emperor in
Ravenna, and set out with an army along the Flaminian Way for Rome to
get himself crowned by the pope Boniface V. But the eunuch was before
his time; moreover, he was a defeated and not a victorious general. At
Luceoli upon the Flaminian Way, not far from Gualdo Tadino where
Narses had broken Totila, in that glorious place his own soldiers slew
him and sent his head to Heraclius.

Of his immediate successor we know nothing--not even his name,[1] but
in or about 625 Isaac the Armenian was appointed and he ruled, as his
epitaph tells us, for eighteen years (625-644). Isaac's rule was not
fortunate for the imperialists. He is probably to be acquitted of the
murder of Taso, Lombard duke of Tuscia, but it is certain that
Rothari, the Lombard king in his time, "took all the cities of the
Romans which are situated on the sea-coast from Luna in Tuscany to the
boundary of the Franks; also he took and destroyed Opitergium, a city
between Treviso and Friuli, and with the Romans of Ravenna he fought
at the river of Aemilia which is called Scultenna (Panaro). In this
fight 8000 fell on the Roman side, the rest fleeing away."[2]

[Footnote 1: Mr. Hodgkin (_op. cit_. vi. 157) suggests that the
predecessor of Isaac was that Euselnus who, as ambassador for
Constantinople, persuaded, or is said to have persuaded, Adalwald,
King of the Lombards since the death of his father, Agilulf (615), to
slay all his chief men and nobles, and to hand over the Lombard
kingdom to the empire; but was poisoned, it is suggested, by Isaac in
Ravenna, whither he had fled when he had killed twelve among them.
Ariwald succeeded him (625).]

[Footnote 2: Paulus Diaconus, cf. Hodgkin, vi. 168.]


Nor was this all. It is in Isaac's time that the growing jealousy of
the empire in regard to the papacy for the first time breaks into
flame. Isaac, who as exarch had the right to "approve" the election of
the pope, on the accession of Severinus (638) sent Maurice his
_chartularius_ to Rome as his ambassador. This Maurice it seems was
eager against the papal power, and finding an opportunity in Rome
suddenly seized the Lateran and its wealth at the head of "the Roman
army," and wrote to Isaac that he might come and enjoy the spoil. The
exarch presently arrived in Rome, resided in the Lateran during eight
days, banished the cardinals, and proceeded to steal everything he
could lay his hands on in the name of the emperor, to whom he sent a
part of the booty. A little later Maurice attempted to repeat his
rape, but doubtless hoping to enrich himself he began by repudiating
Isaac, who then dealt with him, had him brought northward, and
beheaded at a place called Ficulae, twelve miles from Ravenna; but
before he could decide what punishment to mete out to Maurice's
accomplices the exarch himself died, "smitten," as it was said, "by
God," and the exarchate was filled apparently by Theodore Calliopas

Theodore Calliopas was twice exarch. Of his first administration we
know nothing at all; but in 646 he was succeeded by Plato (646-649),
whose name we learn from a letter of the emperor Constans II. to his
successor Olympius (649-652), who had been imperial chamberlain in
Constantinople. Theodore Calliopas was then again appointed and ruled
in Ravenna for eleven years (653-664).

We have seen the empire and the papacy politically at enmity and
certainly bent on attaining different political ends in Italy and the
West, and this is emphasised by the economic condition of Italy which
the empire taxed heavily. Philosophically Constantinople had never
perhaps been very eagerly Catholic--or must one say papal? But now at
this dangerous moment a doctrine definitely heretical was to be
officially adopted there and supported by emperor and patriarch with
insistance and perhaps enthusiasm. Heraclius, the grandfather of
Constans II., had asserted the Monothelete heresy which maintained
that although Christ had two distinct natures yet He had but one
_Will_--his human will being merged in the divine. The patriarch of
Constantinople, always jealous of the popes, eagerly upheld this
doctrine which the papacy continually and consistently denounced. Now
Constans II. cared for none of these things. He refused to allow that
either pope or patriarch was right, but as though he had been living
in the sixteenth instead of the seventh century gravely announced that
"the sacred Scriptures, the works of the Fathers, the Decrees of the
five General Councils are enough for us;" and asked: "Why should men
seek to go beyond these?" Roundly he refused to allow the question to
be either supported or attacked.

Now the whole of the West was very heartily with the pope in
sentiment; but save for the bishops of Italy he stood alone against
the great patriarchates of the East. Nevertheless, he refused to be
silent and to obey the emperor. Therefore Olympius, Constans'
chamberlain in 649, came to Italy as exarch with orders to arrest the
pope and bring him to Constantinople: this it seemed to him a prudent
thing to do; he was to judge for himself. Olympius decided it was not
a prudent thing to do. He found the Italian bishops and the people
eagerly Catholic. There is a story that he attempted instead to take
the pope's life as he said Mass, but this is probably untrue, for we
find pope and exarch presently excellent friends. He went on into
Sicily to meet the first invasion of the Saracens in that island, and
died there of the pestilence.

Theodore Calliopas was appointed exarch for the second time as his
successor in 652. He had either less sagacity or less scruple than his
predecessor, for in the following year he appeared with an army in
Rome. He found the pope ill and in bed before the high altar of S.
John Lateran. He surrounded the church and entered it with his men,
who were guilty of violence and desecration. But the pope, to save
bloodshed, surrendered himself to the exarch, shouting as he emerged
from the church, "Anathema to all who say that Martin has changed a
jot or tittle of the Faith Anathema to all who do not remain in his
orthodox Faith even to the death." Through the tumultuous and weeping
city the pope passed to the palace of the exarch upon the Palatine
Hill. He entered it a prisoner and was presently smuggled away on
board ship to Constantinople, where he was examined and condemned to
death, insulted in the Hippodrome, and his sentence commuted to
imprisonment and exile to Cherson, where he died in 655.

The controversy slumbered. Before long, surely to the amazement of the
West, the emperor landed in Italy at Tarentum with the object of
finally dealing with the Lombards, for Rothari was dead. It is said he
asked some hermit there in the south: "Shall I vanquish and hold down
the nation of the Lombards which now dwelleth in Italy?" The answer
was as follows, and, rightly understood, contained at least the
fundamental part of the truth: "The nation of the Lombards," said the
hermit after a night of prayer, "cannot be overcome because a pious
queen coming from a foreign land has built a church in honour of S.
John Baptist who therefore pleads without ceasing for that people. But
a time will come when that sanctuary will be held in contempt, and
then the nation shall perish."[1]

[Footnote 1: Diaconus. v. 6; cf. Hodgkin, _op. cit_. vi. 272. Paulus
adds that the prophecy was fulfilled when adulterous and vile priests
were ordained in the church at Monza and the Lombards fell before

That prophecy contained the fundamental truth that since the Lombards
were Catholic it was not possible to turn them out of Italy. But
Constans heeded it not. He marched on, besieged Beneventum, was not
successful, and went on to Rome, and himself spoiled the City. From
Rome he returned southward to Naples and Sicily, where in 668 he died.

All that time Gregory was exarch. He had succeeded Theodore Calliopas
in 664, and he ruled till 677. We know little of him save that he
appears to have attempted to confirm Maurus, archbishop of Ravenna, in
his "independence" of the Papal See.[1] This Maurus was undoubtedly a
schismatic and Agnellus tells us that he had many troubles with the
Holy See and many altercations. Indeed the position of the archbishop
of Ravenna can never have been a very enviable one and especially at
this time when the breach between pope and emperor, papacy and empire,
was continually widening. Always the archbishop of Ravenna, as the
bishop of the imperial citadel in Italy, must have been tempted to
follow the emperor rather than the pope, and more especially since,
personally, he might expect to gain both in power and wealth that way.

[Footnote 1: That was the "Privilegium," whatever it was worth and
whatever exactly it meant, conferred by Constans II. Constantine
Pogonatus, the successor of Constans, is still to be seen in S.
Apollinare in Classe the "Privilegium" in his hands in mosaic. See
_infra_, p. 208.]

The exarch Gregory was succeeded apparently by a certain Theodore
whose contemporary archbishop in Ravenna was also a Theodore. He ruled
it seems for ten years, 677-687, and built near his palace an oratory,
or a monastery, not far from the church of S. Martin (S. Apollinare
Nuovo), and was, according to Agnellus, a pious man, presenting three
golden chalices to the church in Ravenna and composing the differences
of his namesake the archbishop and his clergy.

Theodore in his turn was succeeded by Joannes Platyn (687-701). Two
years before his appointment in 685 Justinian II. (685-695) had
succeeded to the imperial throne, and in that same year pope Benedict
II. died. John V. succeeded him and reigned for a few months, when
there followed two disputed elections, those of Conon and of Sergius.
In the latter Joannes Platyn the exarch played a miserable and
disastrous part. For he suddenly appeared in Rome as the partisan of
Paschal, the rival of Sergius, who had obtained his support by a
promise of one hundred pounds of gold if he would help him to the
papal throne. On his advent in Rome, however, the exarch found that he
must abandon Paschal and consent to the election of Sergius, in which
all concurred. He refused, however, to abandon his bribe which he now
demanded of the new pope. Sergius replied that he had never promised
anything to the exarch and that he could not pay the sum demanded. And
he brought forth in the sight of the people the holy vessels of S.
Peter, saying these were all he had. As the pope doubtless intended,
the Romans were enraged against the exarch, the money was scraped
together, and the holy vessels rescued.

In all this we see the growing distrust and hatred of Constantinople,
which the taxation had first aroused on the part of the Italian people
and their champion the papacy. These feelings were to be crystallised
by the extraordinary and tactless council that the emperor convened in
691, in which the empire attempted to avenge the defeat it had
sustained at the hands of the papacy in regard to the Monothelete
heresy. The council, which was mainly concerned with discipline,
altogether disregarded Western custom and the See of Rome, and
especially asserted that "the patriarchal throne of Constantinople
should enjoy the same privileges as that of Old Rome, and in all
ecclesiastical matters should be entitled to the same pre-eminence and
should count as second after it." The pope promptly forbade the
publication of the decrees of this council which he had refused to
sign. Then the emperor sent a truculent soldier, one Zacharias, to
Rome with orders to seize Sergius and bring him to Constantinople as
Martin had been arrested and dragged away. It only needed this to make
the whole situation clear once and for all.

For it was not only the people of Rome who rose to prevent this
outrageous act. When Zacharias landed in Ravenna, the citadel of the
empire in Italy, the "army of Ravenna," no longer perhaps Byzantine
mercenaries, but Italians, mutinied and determined to march to Rome to
defend the pope. As they marched down the Flaminian Way, the soldiers
of the Pentapolis joined them, a Holy War, a revolution, declared
itself, and for this end: "We will not suffer the Pontiff of the
Apostolic See to be carried to Constantinople." This curious mob of
soldiers, gathering force and recruits as it marched with songs and
shouting down the Way, hurled itself against the walls of the Eternal
City, battered down the gate of S. Peter which Zacharias, afraid and
in tears, had ordered to be closed, and demanded to see the pope who
was believed to have been spirited away in the night on board a
Byzantine ship like his predecessor Martin. Zacharias took refuge
under the pope's bed, and Sergius showed himself upon the balcony of
the Lateran and was received with the wildest enthusiasm.

In that revolution was destroyed all hope of the Byzantine empire in
Italy. A new vision had suddenly appeared to those whom we may call,
and rightly now, the Italian people. The long resurrection of the
West, the greatest miracle of the papacy, was upon that day secured
for the future. And henceforth the mere appearance of the exarch in
Rome was regarded as an insult and a declaration of war.

In the year 695 Justinian II. was deposed and mutilated by Leontius,
but he was to appear again as emperor ten years later when Sergius was
dead and John VII. sat on the throne of Peter. Pope John reigned but
for three years, in which he was successfully bullied by Justinian. He
was then succeeded by Sisinnius, who reigned for a few months, and
then by Constantine who ruled for seven years (708-715). The
archbishops of Ravenna had certainly not dared openly to side with the
imperial party and the exarch during the revolution, but, with the
restoration of Justinian, archbishop Felix (708-724) felt himself
strong enough to oppose the pope when he categorically required of him
an oath "to do nothing contrary to the unity of the Church and the
safety of the empire." He had, however, chosen a bad time to set
himself against his superior, who in the minds of all was the champion
of Italy.

Justinian II. had by no means forgotten the injuries he had received
at the hands of the Ravennati: "_ad Ravennam_," says Agnellus, "_corda
revolvens retorsit, et per noctem plurima volvens, infra se taliter
agens; heu quid agam et contra Ravennam quae exordia sumam_?" "What
can I do against Ravenna?" What he did was this. Theodore the
patrician, one of his generals, was despatched with a fleet to Ravenna
by way of Sicily. He proceeded up the Adriatic and when far off he saw
the great imperial city, he first, according to Agnellus, lamented its
fate, "for she shall be levelled with the ground which lifted her head
to the clouds;" and then having landed and been greeted with due
ceremony, set his camp on the banks of the Po a few hundred yards
outside the city walls. There he invited all the chief men of the
Ravennati to a banquet in the open air. As two by two they entered his
tent to be presented to their host they were bound and gagged and put
aboard ship. Thus all the nobles and Felix the archbishop were taken
and the soldiers of Theodore entered Ravenna and burned their houses
to the ground.

Theodore took his captives to Constantinople where they were all slain
save Felix, who, however, was blinded. Later he returned to Ravenna,
was reconciled with the Holy See, and died archbishop in 725.

It would appear that all this happened when Theophylact (702-709) was
exarch, though Theodore the patrician may have superseded him for a
moment on his arrival. The exarch in 710 was Joannes Rizocopus, and in
that year pope Constantine visited Constantinople with the future pope
Gregory II. in his train. They met in Rome, the pope about to set
sail, the exarch on his way to Ravenna, where he was apparently
assassinated in a popular tumult, "the just reward of his wickedness."
The people of Ravenna then elected a certain Giorgius as their
captain, and all the neighbouring cities, Cervia, Forli, Forlimpopoli,
and others, placed themselves under his government and turned upon the
imperial troops. We know very little of this revolution, what directly
was the cause of it, or how it was suppressed; but it is clear that
the exarchate, if it did not actually perish, was from this time forth
for all intents and purposes dead. Three more exarchs were to reign in
Ravenna, but not to govern. In 713, Scholasticus was appointed and
remained till 726. He was followed by Paulus (726-727) who attempted
to arrest Leo III., was prevented by the joint action of the Romans
and the Lombards, and met his death at the hands of the people of
Ravenna; and by Eutychius (727-752) who it seems saw the fall of
Ravenna before the assault of the Lombard Aistulf. He was the last
representative of the Byzantine empire to govern in Ravenna or in

But the fall of the imperial power in Italy was not the work of the
Romans or of the Lombards. It fell because it had ceased to be

We have seen the invasions of the Visigoths and the Huns fade away
into nothing; we have seen the greater attempt of the Ostrogoths to
found a kingdom in Italy brought to nought. One and all they failed
for this fundamental reason, that they were not Catholic. The future
belonged to Catholicism, and since it is only what is in the mind and
the soul that is of any profound and lasting effect, to be Arian, to
be heretic, was to fail. The great attempt, the noble attempt of
Justinian to refound the empire in the West, to gather Italy
especially once more into a universal government, succeeded, in so far
as it did succeed, because the circumstances of the time in Italy
forced it to be a pre-eminently Catholic movement. When that movement
ceased to be Catholic it failed.

Let us be sure of this, for our whole understanding of the Dark Age
depends upon it. Justinian's success in Italy was a Catholic success.
What had always differentiated the imperialists from the barbarians
since the fall of the old empire was their Catholicism. Justinian, a
great Catholic emperor, perhaps the greatest, faced and outfaced the
Arian Goths. He succeeded because his cause was the Catholic cause.
But when his successors had to meet the Lombards they soon found that,
for all they could do, they had no success. The Lombards, never very
eagerly Arian, were open to conversion, slowly they became Catholic,
and from the day they became Catholic there was no longer any hope of
turning them out of Italy. It is only what is in the mind that is of
any fundamental account. Face to face with such a thing as religion,
race is as a tale that is told. But though all hope of turning the
Lombards out of Italy ceased with their conversion, and the plan of
Justinian, with nothing as it were to kick against, was thus rendered
a thousand times more difficult, it did not become utterly hopeless
and impossible till the empire, the East, that is, Constantinople,
fell into heresy and ceased itself to be Catholic. It was the gradual
failure of Constantinople in Catholicism that disclosed the pope to
the Italians as their champion. It was this failure that raised up
even in the imperial citadel, even in Ravenna, men and armies
passionately antagonistic to the emperor, passionately papal too.
During a hundred years this movement grew till, in the eight century,
the _coup de grace_, as we might say, was given to the Justinian plan
by the Iconoclastic heresy.

The Iconoclastic decrees of the emperor Leo are said to have appeared
in Italy in the year 726. Leo was an adventurer from the mountains of
Isauria. He was, so Gibbon tells us, "ignorant of sacred and profane
letters; but his education, his reason, perhaps his intercourse with
the Jews and the Arabs, had inspired the martial peasant with an
hatred of images." It was his design to pronounce the condemnation of
images as an article of faith by the authority of a general council.
This, however, he was not able to do, for he was at once met and his
iconoclasm pronounced heretical by the greatest of all opponents, the
pope--Gregory II.

Gregory had been elected to the papacy in 715 upon the death of
Constantine. He was a man of great strength of purpose and nobility of
character. Upon the Lombard throne sat Liutprand whose boast it was
that "his nation was Catholic and beloved of God," and who
acknowledged the pope as "the head of all the churches and priests of
God through the world." These three men were the great protagonists
who decided the fate of the empire in Italy.

The Lombards though they were thus Catholic had certainly not ceased
to make war upon the empire. In this ceaseless quarrel, for instance,
they had, perhaps about 720, possessed themselves of Classis, the
seaport of Ravenna, and not long after of the fortress of Narni upon
the Flaminian Way, and a little later, about 752, Liutprand himself
laid siege to Ravenna, apparently without much result, though Classis
seems to have suffered pillage. But if Ravenna did not then fall it
was because the emperor's Iconoclastic decrees had not then reached
Italy. They appear to have arrived in the following year and
immediately the whole peninsula was aflame. "No image of any saint,
martyr, or angel shall be retained in the churches," said Leo, "for
all such things are accursed." The pope was told to acquiesce or to
prepare to endure degradation and exile. Then, says Gibbon, surely
here an unbiassed authority, "without depending on prayers or
miracles, Gregory II. boldly armed against the public enemy and his
pastoral letters admonished the Italians of their danger and their
duty. At this signal Ravenna, Venice, and the cities of the Exarchate
and Pentapolis adhered to the cause of religion; their military force
by sea and land consisted for the most part of the natives; and the
spirit of patriotism and zeal was transfused into the mercenary
strangers. The Italians swore to live and die in the defence of the
pope and the holy images; the Roman people were devoted to their
Father and even the Lombards were ambitious to share the merit and
advantage of this holy war. The most treasonable act, but the most
obvious revenge, was the destruction of the statues of Leo himself;
the most effectual and most pleasing measure of rebellion was the
withholding of the tribute of Italy and depriving him of a power which
he had recently abused by the imposition of a new duty."

The life of the pope was attempted by the imperial officials and the
exarch appears to have been privy to the plot. The Romans rose and
prevented the murder by slaying two of the conspirators, and when the
exarch attempted to arrest the pope the very Lombards "flocked from
all quarters" to defend him. In Ravenna itself there was revolution;
Paulus the exarch was slain it seems in 727, and Ravenna apparently
swore allegiance to the Holy See. Leo sent a fleet and an army to
chastise her; "after suffering," says Gibbon, "from the wind and wave
much loss and delay, the Greeks made their descent in the
neighbourhood of Ravenna; they threatened to depopulate the guilty
capital and to imitate, perhaps to surpass, the example of Justinian
II. who had chastised a former rebellion by the choice and execution
of fifty of the principal inhabitants. The women and clergy in
sackcloth and ashes lay prostrate in prayer; the men were in arms for
the defence of their country; the common danger had united the
factions, and the event of a battle was preferred to the slow miseries
of a siege. In a hard-fought day, as the two armies alternately
yielded and advanced, a phantom was seen, a voice was heard, and
Ravenna was victorious by the assurance of victory. The strangers
retreated to their ships, but the populous sea-coast poured forth a
multitude of boats; the waters of the Po were so deeply infected with
blood that during six years the public prejudice abstained from the
fish of the river; and the institution of an annual feast perpetuated
the worship of images and the abhorrence of the Greek tyrant."

So Gibbon, following Agnellus whose account is obscure and perhaps
altogether untrustworthy. What is certain is that Liutprand was
advancing against the empire in war; that he took Bologna and without
difficulty made himself master of the whole of the Pentapolis.

Yet the emperor took no heed. The eunuch Eutychius was appointed as
exarch. He appeared in Naples and sent orders to Rome to have the pope
murdered; but again the Roman people saved their champion and swore to
him a new allegiance. Then Eutychius turned to the Lombards.

He attempted to bribe both Liutprand and the dukes. At first he was
unsuccessful, but presently they began to listen to him. Liutprand
certainly hoped to make himself king of Italy, and it may be that it
was this which Eutychius offered him under the emperor. Moreover, he
was jealous, and not without cause, of the dukes of Spoleto and
Benevento, who had rallied to the pope, and was anxious to have them
under his feet. This, too, he may have hoped to attain as King of
Italy and the emperor's representative in Italy.

When the pope saw Liutprand march southward with the exarch he must
have known that the whole of the future depended upon the outcome of
this act. Liutprand presently encamped with his army in the plain of
Nero between the Vatican and Monte Mario. There the pope met him and,
even as Leo the Great had done upon the banks of the Mincio, and as
Gregory the Great had done upon the steps of S. Peter's, overawed the
barbarian. Liutprand laid his crown and his sword at the pope's feet
and begged, not only for his own forgiveness, but for that of the
exarch his ally. The moment of enormous danger passed, the pope
received both his enemies; but from that moment it was evident that
the Lombards were not to be trusted and must one day feel the weight
of the papal arm.

Gregory died in February 731, and was succeeded by Gregory III. who
continued his predecessor's Italian policy. The great and terrible
danger which had suddenly threatened the whole of papal policy when
Liutprand and the exarch approached one another seems to have haunted
the third Gregory. His obvious defence was to support the dukes
against Liutprand, and this he did. Liutprand marched down against him
and seized several towns in the duchy of Rome. It is now that the
future begins to declare itself. The pope in his peril, a peril that
would presently increase, made an appeal to the great Christian
champion, Charles Martel; he appealed to the Franks; in the event, as
we know, it was the Franks who saved the situation. In 740, however,
Charles Martel refused to interfere; he was the kinsman of Liutprand
and his son was a guest at the court of Pavia; that son was to be king
Pepin the Deliverer--the father of Charlemagne, the first emperor of
the restored West.

That appeal for help was in all probability not made only on account
of the threat of Liutprand against Rome. It was obvious and more and
more obvious that the imperial power in Italy was about to dissolve.
What was to take its place? The papacy? Yes, but the state of Italy,
the hostility of Liutprand, the whole attitude and condition of the
Lombards, forced upon the papacy the necessity of finding a champion,
a soldier and an army. That champion Gregory hoped to find in Charles
Martel; his successors found him in Charles's son Pepin and in

I say the appeal of the pope for help was not made only on account of
the Lombard threat against Rome. It was the sudden dissolution of the
imperial power that called it forth. In or about 737, the city of
Ravenna, as we may believe, was besieged and taken by Liutprand and
for some three years remained in his hands, till at the united prayers
of exarch and pope the Venetians fitted out a fleet and recaptured it
for the empire as we may think in 740.[1]

[Footnote 1: I follow Hodgkin, vi. p. 482 _et seq_., and Appendix F.
Cf. also for discussion as to the date, Pinton in _Archivio Veneto_
(1889), pp. 368-384, and Monticolo in _Archivio della R. S. Romana di
St. Pat_. (1892), pp. 321-365.]

We know nothing of that siege and capture and practically nothing of
the splendid victory of the Venetians. But the tremendous significance
of the fall of Ravenna, which had been the impregnable seat of the
empire in Italy since Belisarius entered it in 540, must not escape
us. Rightly understood it made necessary all that followed.

At this dramatic moment the Emperor Leo died, to be followed in 741 by
Pope Gregory and Charles Martel. Gregory was succeeded by Pope
Zacharias, who in the year of his election met Liutprand at Narni and
obtained from him the restoration of the four frontier towns he had
taken two years before. But though Rome was thus secured Ravenna was
in worse danger than ever, for Liutprand now renewed his attack upon
it and it was only the intervention of the pope in person at Pavia
that saved the city. Zacharias set forth along the Flaminian Way; at
Aquila perhaps near Rimini the exarch met him, and he entered Ravenna
in triumph, the whole city coming out to meet him. In spite of the
opposition of Liutprand he made his way to Pavia, and was successful
in persuading him to give up his attempt to take the once impregnable
city and to restore much he had captured. Liutprand was an old man;
perhaps he was not hard to persuade, for he was on the eve of his
death, which came to him in 744. His successor Hildeprand reigned for
six months and was deposed. Ratchis became king, a pious man who made
truce with the pope, and in 749 abdicated and entered a monastery.
Aistulf was chosen king, and at once turned his thoughts to Ravenna.
The crisis so long foreseen, so often prevented by the papacy, came at
last with great suddenness. In 751 Ravenna fell and the Byzantine
empire in Italy thereby came to an end.

We know nothing of this tremendous affair; we do not know whether the
great imperial city, full of all the strange wonder of Byzantium, and
heavy with the destiny of Europe, was taken suddenly by assault or
after a long siege. We know only that it fell, and that Aistulf was
master there in the year of our Lord 751.

A sort of silence followed that fall. In 752 Pope Zacharias died. His
successor was never consecrated, but died within three days of his
election and made way for Pope Stephen. In the confusion of all things
it is said that a party in Rome urged Aistulf to usurp the empire.
This was enough; it might have been, and perhaps was, expected. The
pope had his answer ready. The heir of the empire in Italy was not the
Lombard but the Holy See. Aistulf threatened to invade Roman
territory, and, indeed, occupied Ceccano in the duchy of Rome. Again
the pope had his answer. That answer was the appeal to Pepin and his
Franks. The papacy had found a champion.




The appeal of Stephen, which was to have for its result the
resurrection of the empire in the West and the establishment of the
papacy as a temporal power and sovereignty, was made in a letter now
lost to us, which a pilgrim on his way back to France from Rome
carried to Pepin the king of the Franks. In reply to it, the abbot of
Jumieges appeared in Rome as Pepin's ambassador to invite the pope
himself to cross the Alps.

Meantime two events occurred, which cannot but have hardened the
resolve of the pope to find a champion. These events were the
occupation of Ceccano in the duchy of Rome by Aistulf and the appeal
of the emperor to the pope that he should go to Pavia and attempt to
persuade the Lombard king to give up Ravenna and the cities he had
lately taken. The appeal of the emperor must have assured the pope, if
indeed he had any doubt about it, that the emperor, so far as Italy
was concerned, was helpless; while the occupation of Ceccano made it
doubly obvious that the Lombard intended, now that the empire was
helpless, to be absolute master throughout the peninsula.

[Illustration: Colour Plate S. GlOVANNI EVANGELISTA]

Stephen considered what course he should pursue, received two other
Prankish envoys in Rome, consented to go to Pavia on behalf of the
emperor, and determined at the same time to visit Pepin in the north.
He set out for Pavia upon October 13, 753, leaving Rome with a vast
concourse of people, which accompanied him some distance along the
Way, out of the Flaminian Gate. His mission on behalf of the empire
was naturally entirely fruitless, and early in November the pope left
Pavia with the hardly won consent of Aistulf to cross the Alps by the
Great S. Bernard--a difficult and dangerous business at that time of
year--and to meet the Frankish king at S. Maurice in the valley of the
Rhone. In the latter he was disappointed. Pepin had been called away
to deal with an incursion of the Saxons, and now awaited his amazing
visitor at Ponthion in Champagne, but he sent his son Charles,
destined to be the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, a hundred
miles down the long roads to meet the pope, and it was in the company
of this youthful hero that upon the Feast of the Epiphany 754 Stephen
entered Ponthion at last, and was greeted by Pepin, who cast himself
upon the ground before him and walked as his lackey beside him as he

The result of their interview is given in the _Liber Pontificalis_:
"The most blessed pope tearfully besought the said most Christian king
that by means of a treaty of peace (? with him the pope) he would
dispose of the cause of the blessed Peter and the republic of the
Romans, who by an oath there and then (de praesenti) satisfied the
most blessed pope that he would obey all his commands and admonitions
with all his strength and that it pleased him to restore by every
means the exarchate of Ravenna and the rights and territories of the

[Footnote 1: As this is very important I give the original Latin
"Ibidem beatissmus Papa praefatum Christianissimum regem
lacrimabiliter deprecatus est ut per pacis foedera causam beati Petri
et reipublicarae Romanorum disponeret. Qui de praesenti jurejurando
eundem beatissimum Papam satisfecit omnibus ejus mandatis et
ammonitionibus sese totis nisibus obedire, et ut illi placitum fuerit
Exarchatum Ravennae et reipublicae jura seu loca reddere modis

That winter the pope spent at S. Denis, where he solemnly crowned
Pepin and his queen, and Charles and Carloman their children,
pronouncing an anathema upon all or any who should ever attempt to
elect a king not of their house. Upon Pepin too he conferred the title
of patrician. Can it be that by this he intended the king of the
Franks to be his executor in the exarchate as the exarch had been the
executor of the emperor?[1] We do not know; but a little later a
document was drawn up in which Pepin declared and enumerated the
territories he was ready to secure for the pope. This document, the
Donation of Pepin, would seem to have confirmed in detail and in
writing the oath he had sworn to the pope at Ponthion. Unhappily the
document has disappeared, and we can only judge of its contents by
what actually happened.

[Footnote 1: The title patrician was not exclusively borne by the
exarch, the Dux Romae, for instance, bore that title in 743.]

The adventure into Italy to which the pope had persuaded Pepin was not
universally popular with the Frankish nobles. We find Pepin attempting
to gain his end by negotiation with Aistulf, but all to no purpose,
and probably in March 755 the Franks set out with the pope at their
head to march into Italy to curb and chastise the Lombard.

The great army of Pepin crossed the Alps by the Mont Cenis, and in
what was little more than a skirmish upon the northern side of the
pass defeated the Lombard army and proceeded to invest Pavia and
ravish the country round about. Aistulf, who was rather an impetuous
than a great soldier, had soon had enough and was ready to entertain
proposals for peace. A treaty was made in which he agreed "to restore"
Ravenna and divers other cities, and to attempt nothing in the future
against Rome and the Holy See. This having been decided, the pope took
leave of Pepin, who returned to France, and went on his way to Rome.

The pope had won and had really established the Holy See as the heir
of the empire; but Aistulf was by no means done with. He forgot alike
his treaty and his promises. "Ever since the day when we parted," the
pope writes to Pepin and the young kings, his sons Charles and
Carloman, "he has striven to put upon us such afflictions and on the
Holy Church of God such insults as the tongue of man cannot
declare.... You have made peace too easily, you have taken no
sufficient security for the fulfilment of the promises you have made
to S. Peter, which you yourselves guaranteed by writing under your
hand and seal...."

But the Franks were deaf. An expedition to crush the Lombards was a
laborious and an expensive business, and Pepin had much to occupy him
at home.

In January 756, however, Aistulf, mad from the start, laid siege to
Rome, and for three months laid waste the farms of the Campagna, S.
Peter's patrimony. Narni was taken and indeed all seemed as hopeless
as ever. Then the pope took up his pen and as the successor of the
Prince of the Apostles wrote a letter as from S. Peter himself and
sent it to the three kings, Pepin, Charles, and Carloman, to the
bishops, abbots, priests and monks, the dukes, counts, armies, and
people of Francia. Gibbon thus summarises this extraordinary and
dramatic epistle: "The apostle assures his adoptive sons the king, the
clergy, and the nobles of France that dead in the flesh, he is still
alive in the spirit; that they now hear and must obey the voice of the
founder and guardian of the Roman Church; that the Virgin, the angels,
the saints, and the martyrs, and all the host of heaven unanimously
urge the request, and will confess the obligation; that riches,
victory, and paradise will crown their pious enterprise; and that
eternal damnation will be the penalty of their neglect, if they suffer
his tomb, his temple, and his people to fall into the hands of the
perfidious Lombards."

Pepin could not be deaf to such an appeal. He again crossed the Mont
Cenis, and again the Lombards were as chaff before him. On his march
to Pavia he was met by two envoys from Constantinople who had
ill-treated, detained, and outstripped the papal ambassador. They
besought Pepin to restore Ravenna and the exarchate to the empire, but
he denied them and declared roundly that "on no account whatsoever
should those cities be alienated from the power of the blessed Peter
and the jurisdiction of the Roman Church and the Apostolic See,
affirming too with an oath that for no man's favour had he given
himself once again to this conflict, but only for love of S. Peter and
for the pardon of his sins; asserting, also, that no abundance of
treasure would bribe him to take away what he had once offered for S.
Peter's acceptance."[1]

[Footnote 1: Cf. Hodgkin, _op, cit_. vii. p. 217.]

Pepin marched on; Pavia was besieged, Aistulf was beaten to the dust.
A treaty was drawn up in which the Lombard gave to "S. Peter, the Holy
Roman Church, and all the popes of the Apostolic See forever" the
Exarchate, the Pentapolis, and Comacchio. An officer was commissioned
to receive the submission of every city, and their keys and the deed
of Pepin's donation were placed upon the tomb of S. Peter in Rome. The
papal state was founded; where the empire had ruled so long there
appeared the heir of the empire, the papacy "sitting crowned upon the
grave thereof."

The cities that with their _contadi_ and dependencies thus formed the
temporal dominion of the pope were, according to the papal biographer,
twenty-three in number; Ravenna first and foremost, then Rimini,
Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia (but not Ancona) that had formed the old
Pentapolis. To them was added La Cattolica. The whole of the inland
Pentapolis--though Fossombrone is not mentioned--Urbino, Jesi, Cagli,
Gubbio--passed to the pope as well as the following places: Cesena and
the Mons Lucatium, Forlimpopoli, Forli, Castro, Caro, S. Leo, Arcevia,
Serra dei Conti, the Republic of S. Marino, Sarsina, and Cantiano
together with Comacchio and Narni. A few months after all this was
accomplished, in December 756, Aistulf, "that follower of the devil,"
as the pope called him, died.

Every state that is nearing dissolution is the prey of civil discord.
So it was with the Lombards. Ratchis, who had more than seven years
before become a monk, claimed the throne; so did Desiderius, "mildest
of men." Pope Stephen supported the latter on condition that Ancona,
that last city of the Pentapolis, Osimo which dominated it, and Umana,
together with Faenza, Imola, and Ferrara, were "restored" to the
papacy. Desiderius agreed and became king, but failed, as the Lombards
always failed, to keep his promise, for though he handed over Faenza,
Bagnacavallo, and Gavello, he withheld Imola, Bologna, Ancona, Osimo,
and Umana; this was in 757, the year of Stephen's death.

In the same year Pope Paul I. seems to have visited the chief city of
his new state, Ravenna, mainly perhaps on ecclesiastical business, for
the archbishop Sergius was by no means a loyal subject and had only
been brought to heel when nothing but submission was left open to him.
He had then, according to Agnellus, promised to deliver to the pope
all the "gold, silver, vessels of price, hoards of money," and so
forth stored up in Ravenna. Agnellus tells a long and incoherent tale
of the way the pope obtained this treasure and of certain plots to
murder him therefor. All that seems fairly certain is that in the
first year of his reign pope Paul I. visited Ravenna. Indeed the chief
difficulty of the papacy at this time must have been the occupation of
the state it had won so consummately. How were the popes to make good
their somewhat shadowy hold upon Ravenna, and the Pentapolis, and
those other strongholds in central Italy and Aemilia?

That they were not to hold them easily was soon evident. The empire
was plotting to win Pepin to its side, and when that failed again,
rumours of an imperial invasion reached Rome. Politically all
relations ceased between Constantinople and Rome about this time; for
though the pope in reality had long ceased to be a subject of the
emperor, when he had possessed himself of the exarchate even theory
had to give way to fact. Nor was the papacy more fortunate in its
relations with Desiderius. The pope's object was doubtless to keep the
Lombard kingdom weak, if not to destroy it. The first step to that end
was obviously to encourage the achievement of a real independence by
the duchies of Spoleto and Benevento, which, again, bordering as they
did upon the duchy of Rome, would be easier to deal with if they stood
alone. There can be little doubt that the pope fostered the sleepless
disaffection of the dukes, but when their revolt matured Desiderius
was able to crush it, laying waste the Pentapolis on his way. He was
then wise enough to visit Rome and to arrange a peace which was only
once broken during pope Paul's pontificate: in 761 when Desiderius
attacked Sinigaglia.

It was easier, however, for the pope to arrange successfully a foreign
policy than to administer his new state. No machinery existed for the
secular government by the Holy See of a country so considerable; nor
was this easy to invent. The pope was forced to fall back upon his
representative in Ravenna, namely, the archbishop. Now the archbishops
of Ravenna had always been lacking in loyalty. Ravenna and the
exarchate were governed in the name of the pope by the archbishop,
assisted by three tribunes who were elected by the people. This
government was never very successful, for at every opportunity, and
especially after the resurrection of the empire in the West, the
archbishops were eager to consider themselves as feudatories of the
empire. This was natural and it may be worth while briefly to inquire

Because Ravenna had for so long, ever since the year 404, been the
seat of the empire in Italy, the bishops of that city had acquired
extraordinary privileges and even a unique position among the bishops
of the West. As early as the time of Galla Placidia, the bishop of
Ravenna had obtained from the Augusta the title and rights of
metropolitan of the fourteen cities of Aemilia and Flaminia. It is
true that the bishop continued to be confirmed and consecrated by the
pope--S. Peter Chrysologus was so confirmed and consecrated--but the
presence of the imperial court and later of the exarch encouraged in
the minds of the bishops a sense of their unique importance and a
certain spirit of independence in regard to Rome. Of course the Holy
See was not prepared to cede any of its rights; but the spirit of
disloyalty remained, and presently the bishop of Ravenna at the time
of his consecration was forced to sign a declaration of loyalty, in
which was set forth his chief duties and a definition of his rights.

After the Byzantine conquest the church of Ravenna, which the empire
regarded as a bulwark against the papal claims, received important
privileges and its importance in the ecclesiastical hierarchy was
greatly increased. Like the bishop of Rome, the bishop of Ravenna had
a special envoy at Constantinople and was represented, again like
Rome, in a special manner in the councils of the Orient. In religions
ceremonies the bishops of Ravenna took a place immediately behind the
pope, and in ecclesiastical assemblies they sat at the right hand of
the pontiff. There can be little doubt indeed of the Erastianism of
Justinian nor of his encouragement of the bishop of Ravenna.

The declaration that the bishops were forced to sign upon their
consecration by the pope by no means settled matters. In 648 this
declaration itself was in dispute as to its interpretation, for
Constans II. had conferred upon the See of Ravenna the privilege of
autonomy, and at this time the bishop did not go to Rome for
consecration. The Iconoclastic heresy of Constantinople, however,
indirectly brought about peace between the pope and his suffragan, for
Ravenna was in this whole heartedly Roman.

It was then, by means of an instrument still very uncertain, that the
papacy was forced to govern its new state, and in these circumstances,
friendly relationship with Constantinople daily becoming more
impossible, it is not surprising that we see the pope making an
attempt to come to some sort of permanent reconciliation with
Desiderius; and indeed when pope Paul died in 767 undoubtedly a peace
had been arranged.

All might have been well if pope Paul's successor had been regularly
chosen; but a layman Constantine was elected by a rabble at the
instigation of his brother Toto of Nepi. Christopher and his son
Sergius, who held two of the greatest offices in the papal chancery,
decided to call in the aid of the duke of Spoleto to attack
Constantine, Rome was entered, and in the appalling confusion the
Lombards elected a certain priest named Philip to be pope. Christopher
appeared, Philip was turned out, and Stephen III., a Sicilian, was
regularly chosen. That was in 768, and in the same year king Pepin
died and was succeeded by his two sons, Charles to whom apparently
fell Austrasia and Neustria, and Carloman who took Burgundy, Provence,
and Swabia.

The death of Pepin left the papacy without a champion. Nor was this
all, as soon appeared. Charles and Carloman began to quarrel and to
effect their reconciliation, or to avert its consequences, Bertrada,
their mother, counselled and succeeded in forcing upon them a
friendship and an alliance with the Lombards which meant the complete
abandonment of Italy upon the part of the Franks. This alliance was to
be secured by a double marriage. Charles was to marry Desiderata, the
daughter of the Lombard king, while Gisila, Bertrada's daughter, was
to marry Desiderius' heir. It is obvious that S. Peter was in peril,
nor was pope Stephen slow to denounce the whole arrangement. His
remonstrance, however, was ineffectual and there remained to him but
one thing to do: to arrange himself with the now uncurbed Lombard
king. This was exceedingly difficult, because his own election had
been achieved only by the humiliation of the Lombards. However, he
managed it at the price of civil war. Desiderius and his army entered
Rome at the behest of the pope, who celebrated Mass before the king in
S. Peter's. The Franks were checkmated.

It was not long before Charles saw that he had been outwitted. An
immediate change of his policy was necessary. In 771 it came with the
repudiation of Desiderata, who was sent back to her father's court at
Pavia. Henceforth Charles and Desiderius were implacable enemies. And
now everything went in favour of the papal policy, just as before
everything had seemed to cross it. Carloman, who had not quarrelled
with Desiderius, and might have opposed Charles and changed all the
future, suddenly died in December of the year of the quarrel. Charles
became thus sole king of the Frankish nation. When pope Stephen came
to die in February 772 he must have laid him down with a quiet mind.

In Stephen's stead there was elected as pope a pure Roman, born in the
Via Lata of the nobility of the City; he took the famous name of
Hadrian I. Desiderius, who had watched with a growing anxiety the
amazing policy of Stephen, now turned to his successor, and both
demanded and begged a renewal of friendship. Hadrian answered his
ambassador at last with the mere truth. "How can I trust your king
when I recall what my predecessor Lord Stephen of pious memory told me
in confidence of his perfidy? He told me that he had lied to him in
everything as to the rights of Holy Church, though he swore upon the
body of the Blessed Peter.... Look you, such is the honour of king
Desiderius and the measure of the confidence I may repose in him."

Desiderius' answer was not to the point. He seized the cities of
Faenza, Ferrara, and Comacchio and ravaged the territory about
Ravenna, burned the farms and carried off the cattle. Then he fell
upon the Pentapolis, seized Sinigaglia, Jesi, Urbino, Gubbio, S. Leo,
and other "Roman" cities, and indeed possessed himself of everything
save only Ravenna and Rimini, and proceeded upon a raid into the duchy
of Rome.

The answer of the pope was mild but firm: mild, for the hour was not
yet come; firm, for it would strike ere long. "Tell your king," said
he, "that I swear in the presence of God that if he choose to restore
those cities which in my time he has taken from S. Peter, I will
hasten into his presence wherever he may appoint a meeting place, at
Pavia, Ravenna, Perugia, or here in Rome, that we may confer
together.... But if he does not restore what he has taken away he
shall never see my face."

The hour was not come. Charles was busy with the Saxon hordes upon the
north and east of his kingdom. It was not till the beginning of
January 773 that the pope sent his messenger Peter to summon him to
his aid. Meanwhile, Desiderius marched on Rome. But even without
Charles the pope was not defenceless. The Vicegerent of God who had
without a soldier turned back Attila on the Mincio and had thrust back
Liutprand from Rome was not to be at the mercy of such a king as
Desiderius. At Viterbo his messengers, the three bishops of Albano,
Palestrina, and Tivoli, met the Lombard king and gave him the pope's
last word: "Anathema." Desiderius shrank back. In that moment as it
seems the ambassadors of Charles arrived in Rome, satisfied themselves
of the justice of the papal summons, and carried back to the great
Frank the prayer of the pope that he would "redeem the Church of God."
In the late summer of that year the Frankish host was assembled at
Geneva and was already beginning to cross the mountains in two mighty
commands by the Great S. Bernard and the Mont Cenis; in October the
siege of Pavia was begun.

That siege endured for more than eight months. Meanwhile Charles had
made himself master of Verona and of many of the cities of the plain.
The men of Spoleto hastened to "commend" themselves to the pope and
the citizens of Fermo, Osimo, and Ancona, and of Citta di Castello, we
read, followed their example, and for the feast of Easter 774, Charles
appeared in Rome, and was greeted and embraced by the pope at S.
Peter's. On Easter Day Charles heard Mass in S. Maria Maggiore, on
Easter Monday in S. Peter's, on Easter Tuesday in S. Paul's. On the
Wednesday in that Easter week, according to Hadrian's biographer, he
made that great Donation to the papacy which confirmed and extended
and secured the gift of Pepin his father. The duchies of Spoleto and
Benevento, and much else, were added to the exarchate "as it was of
old" and given to the pope. Then in June Pavia, the Lombard capital,
fell and Desiderius and his wife were sent by Charles as prisoners to
a convent in Picardy where it is said they ended their lives.


The Donation of Pepin, confirmed, renewed, and enlarged by Charles,
may, of course, be understood in various ways; at any rate it has been
so understood; but it is certain that the pope saw in it both the
fulfilment of his hopes and the final establishment of the papal
monarchy. Yet while he utterly refused, and rightly, to admit the
claim of Charles--not yet emperor--to interfere in the election of the
archbishop of Ravenna, the head of his new dominion, he graciously
permitted the king to take away certain mosaics from the old imperial
city to adorn his palace at Aix; and that in the following letter,
which Dr. Hodgkin translates: "We have received your bright and
honeysweet letters brought us by Duke Arwin. In these you expressed
your desire that we should grant you the mosaics and marbles of the
palace in the city of Ravenna, as well as other specimens to be found
both in the pavement and on the walls. We willingly grant your request
because by your royal struggles the Church of your patron S. Peter
daily enjoys many benefits, for which great will be your reward in
heaven...." On no theory yet put forward can the pope be considered as
the subject of the king of the Franks. That he had been and was to be
the subject of the emperor can be defended, but when has S. Peter been
the creature of a king?

It was not Hadrian as we know but Leo who was destined to crown what
pope Stephen had begun, and to re-establish the empire in the West,
and as he thought to create for S. Peter not an occasional but a
permanent champion.

Twenty-five years after that great Easter in Rome, pope Leo, who
succeeded Hadrian, whose long pontificate lasted for twenty-three
years, was attacked in the streets of Rome and thrown to the ground in
the Corso by two nephews of Hadrian's. Exactly what was the nature of
their quarrel with Leo we do not know, but they managed to imprison
the pope, who presently escaped and, assisted by Winichis, duke of
Spoleto, made his way to the court of Charles. During the summer of
799 the pope remained in France, and probably in October returned to
Rome with a Frankish guard of honour. In the following autumn Charles
set out on his fourth journey to Rome. It was now that he visited
Ravenna, as he had already done in 787, and remained for seven days.
On the 24th November he arrived in Rome. A month later upon Christmas
Day the great king, attended by his nobles, amid a vast multitude,
went to S. Peter's to hear Mass. It was there in the midst of that
great basilica, before the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, that
upon the birthday of Christ the empire re-arose; the pope placed upon
the head of Charlemagne the golden diadem and the Roman people cried
aloud, "_Carolo Piissimo Augusta Deo, Coronato Magno a Pacifico
Imperatori Vita et Victoria_," Three times that great acclamation
echoed over the tomb of the Fisherman. Once more there was an emperor
in the West, a champion of the Faith and defender of the Holy See.

It has been asserted, and is still I believe maintained, that that
coronation was a surprise to Charles. But such things do not come
unforeseen, nor was Charlemagne the man to permit or to tolerate so
amazing an astonishment. All Rome knew what was about to be
accomplished and had gathered in the ancient basilica to await it and
complete it.

Such a question, however, concerns us but little. For us it remains to
note that with the re-creation of the empire, and the appearance of
the Holy See as a great temporal sovereignty in Italy, the historical
importance of Ravenna comes to an end. We have seen that in the autumn
of the most famous year save that of the birth of Our Lord,
Charlemagne had visited Ravenna and had spent seven days in the city.
Once more he was to visit it, and that upon his return journey
northward in May 801. From this time Ravenna ceases to be of any
significance in the history of Europe. The pass it held was no longer
of importance, for the barbarian invasions were at an end, and a new
road into Italy over the Apennines was coming into use, the Via
Francigena, the way of the Franks. As the port upon the sea which was
the fault between East and West it, too, ceased to exist; for East and
West were no longer of any real importance the one to the other, and
already the alteration of the coast line, which was one day to leave
the old seaport some miles from the shore, had begun.

The history of Ravenna, her importance in the history of Europe and
Italy, thus comes to an end with the appearance of Charlemagne and the
resurrection of the West. The ancient and beautiful city which had
played so great a part in the fortunes of the empire, which had, as it
were, twice been its birthplace and twice its tomb, herself passes
into oblivion when that empire, Holy now and Roman still, rises again
and in the West with the crowning of Charlemagne in S. Peter's Church
upon Christmas Day in the year of Our Lord 800. With her subsequent
story, interesting to us mainly in two of its episodes--the apparition
of Dante and the incident of 1512--I shall deal when I come to
consider the Mediaeval and Renaissance city.

But in fact we always think of Ravenna as a city of the Dark Age, and
in that we are right. She is a tomb, the tomb of the old empire, and
like the sepulchre outside the gates of Jerusalem, that was Arimathean
Joseph's, she held during an appalling interval of terror and doubt
the most precious thing in the world, to be herself utterly forgotten
in the morning of the resurrection. And surely to one who had
approached her in the dawn, while it was yet dark, of the ninth
century, of mediaeval Europe that is, her words would have been those
of the angels so long ago: _Non est hic; sed surrexit_. While to us
to-day she would say: _Venite et videte locum ubi positus erat




Ravenna, as we see her to-day, is like no other city in Italy. As in
her geography and in her history, so in her aspect, she is a place
apart, a place very distinctive and special, and with a physiognomy
and appearance all her own. What we see in her is still really the
city of Honorius, of Galla Placidia, of Theodoric, of Belisarius and
Narses, of the exarchate, in a word, of the mighty revolution in which
Europe, all we mean by Europe, so nearly foundered, and which here
alone is still splendidly visible to us in the great Roman and
Byzantine works of that time.

For the age, the Dark Age, of her glory is illumined by no other city
in Italy or indeed in the world. She was the splendour of that age, a
lonely splendour. And because, when that age came to an end, she was
practically abandoned--abandoned, that is, by the great world--just as
about the same time she was abandoned by the sea, much of her ancient
beauty has remained to her through all the centuries since, even down
to our own day, when, lovelier than ever in her lonely marsh, she is a
place so lugubrious, so infinitely still and sad, full of the autumn
wind and the rumours of silence of the tomb, of the most reverent of
all tombs--the tomb of the empire.

We shall not find in Ravenna anything at all, any building, that is,
or work of art, of classical antiquity; all she was, all she did, all
she possessed in the great years of the empire has perished. Nor shall
we find much that may have been hers in the smaller life that came to
her in the beginning of the Middle Age, or that was hers in the time
of the Renaissance; the memory and the dust of Dante, a few churches,
a few frescoes, a few pictures, a few palaces; nothing beside. For all
these we must go to Pompeii and to Rome, or to Florence, Siena,
Assisi, and Venice; in Ravenna we shall find something more rare, but
not these. She remains a city of the Dark Age, of the fifth, sixth,
seventh, and eighth centuries, and she is full of the churches, the
tombs, and the art of that time, early Christian and Byzantine things
that we shall not find elsewhere, or, at any rate, not in the same
abundance, perfection, and beauty.

And yet though so much remains, her story since the time of
Charlemagne might seem to be little else but a long catalogue of
pillage and destruction. Charlemagne himself began this cruel work
when he carried off the mosaics and the marbles, the ornaments of the
imperial palace, to adorn Aix-la-Chapelle, and since his day not a
century has passed without adding to this vandalism; the worst
offenders being the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth,
eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, which by rebuilding, by frank
pillage, by mere destruction, by earthquakes, by contempt, and worst
of all by restoration have utterly destroyed much that should have
remained for ever, and have altogether spoilt and transformed most of
that which, almost by chance it might seem, remains.

And so it comes to pass that the oldest buildings remaining to us
to-day in Ravenna are to be found in the baptistery, the cathedral,
the arcivescovado, and the mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the oldest
complete building being the last. Let us then first consider these.

The first bishop, the "Apostle" of Ravenna, according to Agnellus, was
S. Apollinaris, a Syrian of Antioch, the friend and disciple of S.
Peter, who, as we know, had been bishop of Antioch for seven years
before he went to Rome. Apollinaris followed S. Peter to the Eternal
City and was appointed by him bishop of Ravenna, whither he came to
establish the church. There might seem to be some doubt as to his
martyrdom; but, according to Agnellus, he was succeeded by his
disciple S. Aderitus, and he in his turn by S. Eleucadius, a
theologian, who is said to have written commentaries upon the books of
the Old and New Testaments, and to have been followed as bishop by S.
Martianus, a noble whom S. Apollinaris had ordained deacon. There
follows in the _Liber Pontificalis_ of Agnellus a list of twelve
bishops, S. Calocerus, S. Proculus, S. Probus, S. Datus, S. Liberius,
S. Agapetus, S. Marcellinus, S. Severus (c. 344), S. Liberius II., S.
Probus II., S. Florentius, and S. Liberius III., who occupy the see
before we come to S. Ursus, who "first began to build a Temple to God,
so that the Christians previously scattered about in huts should be
collected into one sheepfold."[1] S. Ursus, according to Dr.
Holder-Egger, ruled in Ravenna from 370 to 396, and his church was
dedicated in 385; but a later authority[2] would seem to place his
pontificate later, and to argue that it immediately preceded that of
S. Peter Chrysologus, who, the same authority asserts, was elected in
429. All agree that S. Ursus reigned for twenty-six years, and
therefore, if he immediately preceded S. Peter Chrysologus, he was
elected not in 370, but in 403; that is to say, in or about the same
time as Honorius took up his residence in Ravenna.

[Footnote 1: "Iste piimus hic initiavit Templum construere Dei, ut
plebes Christianorum quae in singulis tuguriis vagabant in unum ovile
piissimus collegeret Pastor ... Igitur aedificavit iste Beatissimus
Praesul infra hanc Civitatem Ravennam Sanctam Ecclesiam Catholicam,
quo omnes assidue concurremus, quam de suo nomine Ursianam nominavit
... "]

[Footnote 2: A Testi Rasponi, _Note Marginali al Liber Pontificalis di
Agnello Ravennate_ in _Atti e Memorie della R. Dep. di St. Pat. per la
Romagna_, iii. 27 (Bologna, 1909-10).]

However that may be, we must attribute the foundation of a new
cathedral church in Ravenna to S. Ursus, for till this day it bears
his name, Ecclesia Ursiana, though it appears to have been dedicated
in honour of the Resurrection (Anastasis.)

[Illustration: THE CATHEDRAL (_Basilica Ursiana_)]

Agnellus gives us a fairly full account of this church, which
consisted of five naves divided and upheld by four rows of
fifty-six[1] columns of precious marble from the temple of Jupiter.
That the church was approached by steps we learn from Agnellus in his
life of S. Exuperantius, for he there tells us that Felix the
patrician was killed "on the steps of the Ecclesia Ursiana." Both the
vault and the walls were adorned with mosaics,[2] which Agnellus
describes and which would seem to have covered then or later the whole
of the interior; the wall on the women's side of the church being
decorated with a figure of S. Anastasia, while over all was a dome
"adorned with various coloured tiles representing different figures."
When Agnellus wrote (ninth century) this great church was of course
standing, but doubtless it had been added to and adorned from century
to century, and it is impossible to learn from his description, or
indeed any other that we have, what was due therein to S. Ursus and
what to his successors. One of the most splendid ornaments the church
possessed would seem to have been a ciborium of silver, borne by
columns which stood over the high altar also of silver. This is said
by Agnellus to have been placed there by the bishop S. Victor, who
seems to have ruled in Ravenna from about 537 to 544. It is said to
have cost, with the consent of Justinian, the whole revenue of Italy
for a year and to have weighed some one hundred and twenty pounds. The
whole stood in the midst of a circular choir of marble, itself covered
with silver it might seem, if we may believe a chronicler of Vicenza
of the fifteenth century, quoted by Zirardini,[3] who says: "In the
great church of Ravenna all the choir, the altar, and the great
tabernacle over the altar are of silver." Before the altar was the
_Schola Caniorum_.

[Footnote 1: Fabri, however, in his _Sacre Memorie_, says there were
forty-nine columns.]

[Footnote 2: Agnellus gives the names of the mosaicists Euserius or
Cuserius, Paulus, Agatho, Satius, and Stephanus.]

[Footnote 3: Zirardini, _De Antiquis Sacris Ravennae Aedificiis_.]

Agnellus tells us further in his life of S. Felix (_c_. 693) that that
bishop built a _Salutatorium_ (? Sacristy), "whence the bishop and his
assistants proceeded at the Introit of the Mass into the presence of
the people." But the Epigram which Agnellus quotes from this building
would seem to suggest that the _salutatorium_ was rather then rebuilt
than added for the first time to the church.

The magnificent basilica, one of the most splendid in Italy, was
sacked by the French in April 1512, but, as Dr. Corrado Ricci says, it
was not they who destroyed the church itself, but the _accademici_ of
the eighteenth century, who, instead of conserving the glorious
building, then some thirteen hundred years old, began in 1733 to pull
it down, to break up the beautiful capitals and columns of precious
marbles, and to make out of the fragments the pavement of the new
church we still see, begun in 1734 by Gian Francesco Buonamici da
Rimini. Only the apse with its beautiful great mosaic remained for a
few years till at last it too was destroyed.

Thus the church we have in place of the old Basilica Ursiana is a
building of the eighteenth century, and all that we care for in it is
the fragments that are to be found there of its glorious predecessor.

These are few in number and of little account. Supporting the central
arch of the portico are two marble columns which belonged to the old
basilica, and by the main door are two others of granite which came
perhaps from the old nave.

Entering the church we find ourselves in a cruciform building
consisting of three naves, divided by twenty-four columns of marble,
transept, and apse, with a dome over the crossing. In the second
chapel on the right is an ancient marble sarcophagus said to be that
of S. Exuperantius, bishop of Ravenna about 470. The magnificent tomb
carved in high relief did not, however, belong to the old cathedral,
but was brought here when the church of S. Agnese was destroyed. In
the south transept is the chapel of the Madonna del Sudore, where on
either side are two other sarcophagi of marble adorned with figures
and symbols. That on the right is said to be the tomb of S.
Barbatianus, confessor of Galla Placidia, and was originally in the
church of S. Lorenzo in Caesarea, whence it was brought to the
cathedral in the thirteenth century by the archbishop Bonifazio de'
Fieschi, whom Dante found in Purgatory among the gluttons:

  che pasturo col rocco molte genti..."

He brought the sarcophagus to the cathedral for his own tomb and there
I suppose he was buried. The sarcophagus upon the left was likewise
used in 1321 as a tomb for himself by the archbishop, Rainaldo
Concoreggio. This, too, is sculptured with a bas-relief of Christ, a
nimbus round His head, a book in His hand, seated on a throne set on a
rock, out of which four rivers flow. With outstretched hand He gives a
crown to S. Paul, while S. Peter bearing a cross holds a crown, just
received, in his hand. The sculpture on the sarcophagus of S.
Barbatianus is ruder.

The high altar is of course modern, but within it is an ancient marble
sarcophagus of the sixth century, in which it is said the dust of nine
bishops of about that time lies.

But one noble thing remains here among all the modern trash to remind
us of all we have lost: the glorious processional cross of silver
called of S. Agnello. Yet even this, noble as it is, does not come to
us from Roman or Byzantine times it seems, but is rather a work of the
eleventh century.

In the midst of this great cross, upon one side, is the Blessed Virgin
praying, and upon the other Christ rising from the tomb. Upon the arms
of the cross, and the uprights, are forty medallions of saints, of
which three would seem to be archbishops. I say this beautiful and
precious thing comes to us from the eleventh century; but it has been
very much restored at various times and is now largely a work of the
sixteenth century. Dr. Ricci tells us that on the side where we see
the Madonna only the five medallions on the lower upright and the two
last of the upper are original; while upon that of the Risen Christ,
only the five medallions on the lower upright are untouched, all the
rest is restoration.

Beneath the eighteenth-century apse of the cathedral is the ancient
crypt, no longer to be seen; it does not, according to Dr. Ricci, date
earlier than the ninth century nor do any of the other crypts in the

In the left aisle a few fragments from the old church remain
recognisable. They are the marble slabs of an _ambo_ erected by S.
Agnellus, archbishop of Ravenna in the middle of the sixth century.
There we read: _Servus Christi Agnellus Episcopus hunc pyrgum fecit_.
Among these are some earlier panels of the fifth century. In the
treasury, again, we find two other panels from the _ambo_ of S.
Agnellus, and a strange calendar carved upon a slab of marble to
enable one to find the feast of Easter in any year from 532 to 626;
this is certainly of the sixth century.

A certain number of Mediaeval and Renaissance things are also to be
seen in the church. Here in the treasury we have a cross of silver
gilt, with reliefs of the Crucifixion, God the Father, the Blessed
Virgin, S. John Baptist, and S. Mary Magdalen, dating from the middle
of the fourteenth century (1366). Over the entrance to the sacristy is
a fresco by Guido Reni of Elijah the prophet fed by an angel. Within,
is a good picture by Marco Palmezzano: a Pieta with S. John Baptist;
while the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament is decorated by him and his

It is obvious, then, that very little remains to us of the original
Basilica Ursiana; nor can we reckon among that little the beautiful
round and isolated campanile. This is not older than the ninth
century, and has been much tampered with, especially in the sixteenth
century, after an earthquake, and in the seventeenth century after
both earthquake and fire. Indeed, the upper storey dates entirely from

As it is with the cathedral, so it is with the _Arcivescovado_. Of the
old palace of the Bishops of Ravenna only a few walls, a tower, and a
wonderful little chapel remain. What we see now is work of the
sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries after a restoration at the end
of the nineteenth. The old vast palace which has been destroyed was
the work of many archbishops, achieved during many centuries. It
consisted of a series of buildings grouped about the palace which the
archbishop S. Peter Chrysologus built in the fifth century, and its
most magnificent part was due to S. Maximian, archbishop of Ravenna in
the time of Justinian. All their work, which we would so gladly see,
is gone except the little chapel of S. Peter Chrysologus, which he
built and signed in one of the arches in the fifth century.[1]

[Footnote 1: According to Rasponi the chapel was dedicated originally
to S. Andrea and is to be identified with the Monasterium di S.
Andrea, which was not built by S. Peter Chrysologus (429-_c_. 449),
but by Peter II. (494-_c_. 519). Cf. Rasponi, _Note Marginali al Liber
Pontificalis di Agnello Ravennate_ (Atti e Memorie della R. Dep. di
Stor. Pat. per la Romagna, iii. 27), Bologna, 1909-1910.]

Of this great man Agnellus records: "He was beautiful in appearance,
lovely in aspect; before him there was no bishop like him in wisdom,
nor any other after him." He was a native of Imola, then called Forum
Cornelii, and was ordained deacon by the bishop of that city, one
Cornelius, of whom he always speaks with affection and gratitude. When
the bishop of Ravenna died, it is said the clergy of the cathedral,
then just built or building, with the people, chose a successor, and
besought the bishop of Imola to go to Rome to obtain the confirmation
of the pope. Cornelius took with him his deacon Peter, and the pope,
who had been commanded so to do by the Prince of the Apostles in a
dream, refused to ratify the election already made, but proposed Peter
the deacon as the bishop chosen by S. Peter himself. Peter was there
and then consecrated bishop, was conducted to Ravenna, and received
with acclamation. He is said to have found a certain amount of
paganism still remaining in his diocese, and to have completely
extirpated it. He often preached before the Augusta Galla Placidia and
her son Valentinian III., and he was perhaps the first archbishop of
the see, Ravenna till his time having been suffragan to Milan. He
seems to have died about 450 in Imola. Among his many buildings, which
included the monastery of S. Andrea at Classis, is the little chapel
now dedicated in his honour in the _Arcivescovado_ of Ravenna. It is
perhaps the only one of his works which remains. The little square
chamber, out of which the sanctuary opens, is upheld by four arches,
which are covered, as is the vaulting, with most precious mosaics,
still of the fifth century, though they have been and are still being
much restored. On the angles of the vaulting, on a gold ground, we see
four glorious white angels holding aloft in their upraised hands the
symbol of Our Lord. Between them are the mighty signs of the Four
Evangelists, the angel, the lion, the ox, and the eagle. In the key,
as it were, of the arches east and west is a medallion of Our Lord,
and three by three under the arch on either side the eleven Apostles
and S. Paul, who takes the place of Judas instead of Matthias. In the
key of the arches north and south is a medallion of the symbol of
Christ, and three by three under the arch on either side six saints,
the men to the right SS. Damian, Fabian, Sebastian, Chrysanthus,
Chrysologus, and Cassianus; the women to the left SS. Cecilia,
Eugenia, Eufemia, Felicitas, Perpetua, and Daria. Here the SS. Fabian,
Sebastian, and Damian, Dr. Ricci tells us, are altogether
restorations. For the rest, these mosaics have suffered much, both
from restoration, properly so called, and from painting.

The pavement is old and beautiful, as I think are the walls, but the
frescoes, once by Luca Longhi, are most unworthy and out of place. The
recess which now contains the altar might seem not to have made a part
of the original chapel or oratory; it appears it was only in the
eighteenth century that the two were thrown into one. At that time the
mosaics of the Blessed Virgin and of S. Apollinaris and S. Vitalis
were brought here from the old cathedral.

Just outside this wonderful little chapel in the _Arcivescovado_ there
is an apartment devoted to Roman and other remains found from time to
time in Ravenna: a torso of a statue, a work of Roman antiquity,
should be noted, as should certain fragments of a frieze, also an
antique Roman work. Here, too, is preserved the splendid cope of S.
Giovanni Angeloptes who was archbishop from 477 to 494[1] when he

[Footnote 1: Cf. A. Testi Rasponi, _op. cit. supra_.]

In another apartment of the _Arcivescovado_ is preserved a relic of
another great archbishop of Ravenna: the ivory throne of S.
Maximianus. This is a magnificent work of the early part of the sixth
century, and is one of the most splendid works known to us of its
kind. It was made for the cathedral of Ravenna, but in or about the
year 1001 it was carried off by the Venetians and given by doge Pietro
Orseolo II. to the emperor Otto III., who left it to the church of
Ravenna on his death. It is entirely formed of ivory leaves, most of
them carved sumptuously in relief. In front we see the monogram of
_Maximianus Episcopus_ and under it are carvings of S. John Baptist
between the Four Evangelists; all these between elaborately carved
decorative panels. About the throne to right and left is the story of
Joseph in ten panels, and upon the back in the seven panels that
remain[2] the miracles of Our Lord. Altogether it is a work of the
most lovely kind, and certainly Byzantine.

[Footnote 2: Four of those missing, Dr. Ricci tells us, have of late
years been discovered, one in the Naples Museum (1893), one in the
collection of Count Stroganoff (1903), one at Pesaro (1894), and
another in the Archaeological Museum at Milan (1905).]

We shall come upon S. Maximianus again in S. Vitale, where something
must be said of him. He lies, as has already been noted, in one of the
great sarcophagi in the second chapel on the right in the cathedral.

From the _Arcivescovado_ we pass to what is now the most remarkable
building of the group--the Baptistery.

Dr. Ricci tells us that it was originally one of the halls of the
baths that were near the present cathedral. But it was converted into
a baptistery and ornamented with mosaics by the archbishop Neon of
Ravenna (_c_. 449-459) as its inscriptions tell us and is signed with
his monogram. The original floor is three metres below that we see,
and a second floor about a metre and a half above the original floor
has been discovered; this it would seem is that made by Neon, while a
third remains about half a metre under the pavement we use, and upon
this are set the eight columns, with their capitals, two of them
Byzantine and the rest Roman, which uphold the arches of the upper
arcade upon which is set the great drum of the dome. The plan is a
simple octagon, bare brick without, covered with a "tent" roof of
amphorae under the tiles; but within, everywhere encrusted with
glorious marbles and mosaics.

It is to the mosaic of the cupola that we instinctively turn first,
for it is, perhaps, the finest left to us in Ravenna. It is divided
into three parts. In the midst is the Baptism of Our Lord on a gold
ground. Christ stands up to His waist in the clear waters of the
Jordan, the god of which river waits upon Him. S. John high up on the
bank, his staff, topped with a cross, in his hand, pours the water
from a shell upon Our Lord's head while the Dove, an almost heraldic
figure, is seen above About this circular mosaic is set a greater
circle in which we see, upon a blue ground, the twelve Apostles in
procession, each bearing his crown. Nothing left to us of that age is
finer or more gravely splendid than these mosaics, they seem to be the
highest expression of a great art which has known how to reject the
brutal realism of an earlier time and to seize perfectly the secret of
decoration. Nothing of the kind more masterly remains to us in Europe.

Beneath these two circles another is set in which are eight panels,
each of three parts, where are represented eight temples, four of them
with thrones signed with the Cross, and four of them with altars upon
which the book of the Gospel is open.


The whole cupola is borne by the upper arcade, where we see sixteen
figures of the Prophets in stucco. The upper arcade is in its turn
borne by the lower, which is everywhere encrusted with mosaics,
restorations of our own time. The walls are panelled with various
marbles. In the midst of the building is a huge octagonal font with
its _ambo_, and in one of the wall niches is an ancient altar, and in
another a vase of marble.

The effect of all this splendour is even to-day very lovely and
glorious; what it might have been if it had been properly cared for
instead of "restored" we can only guess. Unhappily the "restoration"
has been very radical. Even in the central Baptism, the head and
shoulders and right arm of the figure of the Saviour, the head and
shoulders and right arm, the right leg and foot of the Baptist and the
cross in his his left hand have been destroyed and the whole dimmed
and even spoiled. Such as it is, however, where shall we find its
equal or anything to compare with it?

From the cathedral group we now turn to the other churches which were
built in the time of the old empire in Ravenna for the most part, in
the days, that is, of Galla Placidia and her son Valentinian III.

Among these is the church of S. Agata (entrance Via Mazzini 46), which
though entirely rebuilt, with its campanile, in the later part of the
fifteenth century is since the "restoration" of 1893 interesting, if
at all, because the church dates originally from the fifth century. It
would seem indeed that it was founded in the time of the Augusta, and
to this the walls of part of the nave bear witness, but it was
continued later perhaps by the archbishop Exuperantius (_c_. 470)
whose monogram appears upon the second column to the left in the nave,
and finally completed or in part rebuilt in the sixth century. In the
fifteenth century (1476-94), the church was largely rebuilt again, but
its tribune with its great mosaic remained till 1688 when it fell. In
the sixth century it would seem to have had an atrium or narthex. Its
main interest for us to-day lies in the beauty of its columns of bigio
antico, cipollino, porphyry, granite, and other marbles belonging to
the original church, with their Roman and Byzantine capitals. Also to
the right of the nave we see a curious _ambone_ hollowed out of a
fragment of a gigantic column of Greek marble. The altar, too, is
formed from an ancient sarcophagus which is said to hold the dust of
the two archbishops, Sergius, with whom the pope had so much trouble,
and Agnellus. According to Agnellus the chronicler there was a
portrait of the archbishop S. John Angeloptes in the apse, but this
like the great mosaic of the tribune is gone. It was here, however,
that S. John got that strange surname of his--Angeloptes. He and his
predecessor S. Peter Chrysologus with S. Maximian and Sergius were the
great archbishops of this great see. We hear that the emperor
Valentinian III., according to Agnellus--but we should place the
bishopric of S. John Angeloptes 477-494--"was so much affected by the
preaching of this holy man that he took off his imperial crown and
humbly on his knees begged his blessing.... Not long after he gave him
fourteen cities with their churches to be governed by him
_Archieratica potestate_. And even to this day (ninth century), these
fourteen cities with their bishops are subject to the church of
Ravenna.[1] This bishop first received from the emperor a _Pallium_ of
white wool, just such as it is the custom for the pope to wear over
the _Duplum_; and he and his successors have used such a vestment even
to the present day."

[Footnote 1: The Archbishop of Ravenna at the present day has seven
suffragans, Bertinoro, Cervia, Cesena, Comacchio, Forli, Rimini,
Sarsina. It is hard to decide whether this man or Peter Chrysologus
was the first archbishop of Ravenna.]

This passage of Agnellus is important, but does not seem, on
examination, to have any real bearing upon the question of the
dependence of the See of Ravenna upon Rome. The Pallium was originally
an imperial gift to the popes, probably in the fourth century. And the
fact that it is the emperor and not the pope who bestowes it upon the
archbishop of Ravenna in the fifth century, if it be true, can have no
meaning at all in the question of papal supremacy.

Agnellus, whom I have quoted, goes on to tell us of that miracle which
gave S. John, archbishop of Ravenna, his surname of Angeloptes or
Angel-seer. "When the said John," he tells us, "was singing Mass in
the Basilica of S. Agata and had accomplished all things according to
the pontifical rite, after the reading of the Gospel, after the
Protestation (? the Credo), the catechumens to whom it was given to
see saw marvellous things. For when that most blessed man began the
Canon, and made the sign of the Cross over the sacrifice, suddenly an
angel from heaven came and stood on the other side of the altar in
sight of the bishop. And when after finishing the consecration he had
received the Body of the Lord, the assisting deacon who wished to
fulfil his ministry could not see the chalice which he had to hand to
him. Suddenly he was moved aside by the angel who offered the holy
chalice to the bishop in his place. Then all the priests and people
began to shake and to tremble beholding the holy chalice self-moved,
inclined to the bishop's mouth, and again lifted into the air, and
laid upon the holy altar. A strange thrill passed through the waiting
multitude. Some said: 'The deacon is unworthy;' others affirmed, 'Not
so, but it is a heavenly visitation.' And so long did the angel stand
by the holy man until all the solemnities of the Mass were ended."

Soon after this strange miracle S. John Angeloptes died and was buried
in the basilica of S. Agata behind the altar in the place where he saw
the angel standing.

Nothing seems to remain of his tomb or his grave; but the church is
full of curious fragments, broken pillars, bits of mosaic, ancient
marble panels, beautifully carved, and more than one old sarcophagus.
Somewhere there no doubt the dust of S. John Angeloptes awaits the

From S. Agata we pass to S. Francesco. This church was founded by S.
Peter Chrysologus (429-_c_. 449) and was completed by S. Peter
Chrysologus' successor, the archbishop S. Neon (_c_. 459). Its first
title would seem to have been that of S. Peter Major; we hear, too,
that it was called SS. Peter and Paul, and Agnellus in his life of S.
Neon calls the church Basilica Apostolorum. The region of the city in
which it stands would seem to have borne also the name _Regio Aposto
lorum_, though whether it got the name from the church or the church
from it is impossible to decide.[1]

[Footnote 1: The Franciscans conventuals would seem to have possessed
the church from 1261 to 1810.]

Unhappily the church has been entirely rebuilt in the eighteenth
century, and our interest in it is confined for the most part to the
tower, the crypt, the twenty-two columns of Greek marble which uphold
the nave, two of which are signed 'P. E.' and four others 'E. V. G.,'
and the tombs. The tall square tower dates, perhaps, from the tenth
century, the crypt from the ninth, but the columns are of the fifth
century. Perhaps the oldest thing in the church is the sarcophagus on
the right of the main door which has on its front Pagan sculptures and
on its sides Christian. Close to the holy water stoup is a very lovely
sarcophagus of the fourth century with reliefs of Our Lord and eight
Apostles. The ribs of the cover have as finials the heads of lions;
altogether this is a very splendid and noble tomb. In the last chapel
upon the right we find the great sarcophagus, still used as an altar,
of S. Liberius, bishop of Ravenna (_c_. 375), "a great man, a
never-failing fountain of charity; who brought much honour to the
church," according to Agnellus. The sarcophagus dates from the end of
the fourth century and is sculptured in high relief.

I shall return to S. Francesco when I consider Mediaeval Ravenna.[2]
At present I would direct the reader's attention to S. Giovanni

[Footnote 2: See _infra_, p. 245 _et seq_.]

This church was originally founded by Galla Placidia herself, in
fulfilment of a vow made by her to S. John Evangelist, when, on her
way from Constantinople to Ravenna, she was in danger of shipwreck.[3]
Agnellus tells us that of old the church bore an inscription to this
effect, and he gives it to us: _Sancto ac Beatissimo Apostolo Johanni
Evangelistae Galla Placidia Augusta cum filio suo Placidio
Valentiniano Augusta et filia sua Justa Grata Honoria Augusta,
Liberationis penculum marts votum solmentes_. The mosaic of the apse
of old represented the incident. Unhappily the church was almost
entirely rebuilt in 1747, only the tower of the eleventh century and
the portico of the fourteenth being left as they had been. The
beautiful fourteenth-century door, however, bears above it a relief of
that time in which we see Our Lord, S. John Evangelist, Valentinian
III., Galla Placidia with her soldiers and her confessor, S.
Barbatian, with priests. Below this on either side of the arch of the
doorway is a representation of the Annunciation and within the arch
itself a relief which recounts the miracle which attended the
consecration of the church. For the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista
was not only founded in recompense for a miracle, but a miracle
attended its consecration. It seems that when the church was to be
consecrated no relic of S. John Evangelist was to be had. Therefore
the Augusta and her confessor gave themselves a whole night to prayer,
and suddenly there appeared to them S. John himself, vested like a
bishop with a thurible in his hand, with which he incensed the church.
Then when he came to the altar to incense it, and they would have
venerated him, he suddenly vanished, only leaving in the hand of the
Augusta one of his shoes. This legend, which is represented in relief
in the fourteenth-century doorway of S. Giovanni Evangelista, is also
the subject of a picture by Rondinelli of Ravenna in the Brera at

[Footnote 3: See _supra_, p. 41.]

The church has, as I have said, been ruined by the rebuilding of 1747;
but there still remain the twenty-four columns of bigio antico with
their Roman capitals, which upheld the old basilica, and in the crypt
is the ancient high altar of the fifth century. Something, too, of the
old church would seem to remain in the much repaired walls of the apse


The frescoes by Giotto, sadly repainted, in the fourth chapel on the
left, must be noted. They represent the four Evangelists with their
symbols over them, and the four Latin fathers of the Church, S.
Jerome, S. Ambrose, S. Austin, and S. Gregory. Certain fragments of a
thirteenth-century mosaic pavement are to be seen in the chapel of S.
Bartholomew, which is itself perhaps the oldest part of the church.

We turn now to the church of S. Giovanni Battista which was founded by
a certain Baduarius, according to Agnellus, and consecrated by S.
Peter Chrysologus. It is possible that Baduarius was the mere builder,
and that he built by order of Galla Placidia. Nothing, however, is
left of the old church, which was entirely rebuilt in 1683, except the
apse as it is seen from the outside, the round campanile in its first
story and the beautiful columns sixteen in number, four of bigio
antico, two of pavonazzetto, one of cipollino, and the rest of greco
venato, according to Dr. Ricci.

       *       *       *       *       *

There remains to be considered what is, when all is said, I suppose
the noblest monument of the fifth century left to us in Italy or in
Europe--the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

Agnellus tells us that the Augusta built close to her palace a great
church in the shape of a Latin cross. This she dedicated in honour of
the Holy Cross which it will be remembered her predecessor S. Helena
had discovered in Jerusalem. Of this church, though it has long since
disappeared--the "western" part of it having been destroyed in 1602
and what remained restored out of all recognition in 1716--we know a
good deal. According to Agnellus it was covered with most precious
stones (? marbles) and apparently with mosaics and was full of
splendid ornaments. It had, too, a great narthex, and at the end of
this Galla Placidia presently built a cruciform oratory for her own
mausoleum, where she was to lie between her brother Honorius and her
son Valentinian.

[Illustration: Colour Plate THE MAUSOLEUM OF GALLA PLACIDIA]

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is the oldest complete building left
to us in Ravenna, for it dates from well within the first half of the
fifth century, whereas the baptistery, altered and transformed as it
was by S. Neon, is as we see it a work of the first years of the
second half of that century. Simple as it is, without, a cruciform
building of plain brick, within it is so sumptuously and splendidly
adorned that not an inch anywhere remains that is not encrusted with
mosaic or precious marbles. These mosaics were, before their radical
"restoration," perhaps finer and more classical than those of the
baptistery. It might seem, indeed, that they were perhaps the finest
and subtlest work done in the Roman realistic tradition, nor was there
perhaps anywhere to be found so noble a representation of the Good
Shepherd as that which adorned this great monument. It is, however,
impossible to speak with any confidence of what we see there now, for
all has been restored again and again, and is now little better than a
_rifacimento_ of our own time, a copy, faithful perhaps, but still a
copy, of the work of the fifth century.

Nevertheless, the impression of the whole is very splendid and solemn.
The roofs and dome are covered with mosaics of a wonderful and
indescribable night blue, powdered with stars. In the cupola is a
cross and at the four angles are set the symbols of the four
Evangelists, glorious heraldic figures.

Above the door we see Christ the Good Shepherd, youthful, classic in
form and repose, very noble and Roman, seated on a rock in a broken
hilly landscape, a cross in His left hand, caressing His sheep with
His right. This figure even after "restoration" gives us more than a
glimpse of what it once was. Nowhere had Christian art produced so
majestic a representation of its Lord; nor had the subject of the Good
Shepherd been anywhere more splendidly treated than here.

Over the great sarcophagus, opposite the entrance, we see a very
different scene. Here is no longer a youthful Christ, with the hair
and the noble aspect of Apollo, but a bearded and majestic figure in
the fullness of manhood, His eyes full of anger, His draperies flying
about Him, moving swiftly, the cross on His shoulders, in His left
hand an heretical, probably Arian, book which he is about to cast into
the furnace in the midst. Upon the extreme left is a case or cupboard
in which we see the books of the four Gospels. In the other lunettes
we see very gorgeous decorative work of arabesques and stags at a
fountain and two doves drinking from a vase. Above in the spandrils of
the arches are figures of apostles or saints. Nothing in the world is
more solemnly gorgeous in effect than this beautiful rich interior.
The pavement is composed of fragments of the same precious marbles as
those which line the lower parts of the walls.

Under the mosaic of the burning of the heretical books we see the
mighty sarcophagus of plain Greek marble which once held the body of
the Augusta. This, of old, was richly adorned with carved marbles and
perhaps with silver or mosaic; and we know that in the fourteenth
century certainly it was possible to see within the figure of a woman
richly dressed seated in a chair of cedar and this was believed to be
the mummy of the Augusta Galla Placidia. However, we hear nothing of
it before the fourteenth century, and Dr. Ricci suggests that it may
have been an imposture of about that time. It is possible, but perhaps
unlikely, for the Augusta was not a saint, and what reason could men
have in the thirteenth century, when the very meaning of the empire
was about to be forgotten, for such an imposture? However this may be,
the figure remained there seated in its chair during the fourteenth,
fifteenth, and the greater part of the sixteenth centuries. And
indeed, it might have been there still but that in 1577 some children,
curious about it and anxious to see a thing so wonderful, thrust a
lighted taper into the tomb through one of the holes in the marble,
when mummy, vestments, chair and all were consumed, and in a moment
nothing remained but a handful of dust.

The sarcophagi under the arches on either side, according to various
authorities, hold the dust of the emperor Honorius, the brother of the
Augusta, and of Constantius her husband, or of the emperor Valentinian
III. her son. It is impossible to decide at this late day exactly who
does and who does not lie in these great Christian tombs.

The Mausoleum of the Augusta was long known, though not from its
origin, as the sanctuary of SS. Nazaro e Celso. When it was so
dedicated I am ignorant, but it was not in the time of the Augusta.
Then, in the fifteenth century, when so much was remembered and so
much more was forgotten, it bore the title of SS. Gervasio e Protasio,
and this name remained to it till the seventeenth century, when the
old title was revived. To-day although it retains its name of SS.
Nazaro and Celso, it is more rightly and universally known as the
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.




It was, as we have seen, upon March 5, 493, that Theodoric, king of
the Ostrogoths, entered Ravenna as the representative of the emperor
at Constantinople. One of his first acts seems to have been the
erection of a palace designed for his habitation and that of his
successors. Why this should have been so we do not know. It might seem
more reasonable to find the Gothic king taking possession of the
imperial palace, close to which the Augusta Galla Placidia had erected
the church of S. Croce and her tomb. Perhaps this had been destroyed
in the revolution or series of revolutions in which the empire in the
West had fallen, perhaps it had been ruined in the Gothic siege which
endured for some three years. Whatever had befallen it, it was not
occupied, restored, or rebuilt by Theodoric. He chose a situation upon
the other side of the city and there he built a new palace and beside
it a great Arian church, for both he and his Goths were of that sect.
We call the church to-day S. Apollinare Nuovo.

The palace, of which nothing actually remains to us, though certain
additions made to it during the exarchate are still standing, was,
according to the various chroniclers whose works remain to us,
surrounded by porticoes, such as Theodoric built in many places, and
was carved with precious marbles and mosaics. It was of considerable
size, set in the midst of a park or gardens. Something of what it was
we may gather from the mosaics of S. Apollinare Nuovo in which it is
conventionally represented. It came to owe much to Amalasuntha who
lived there during her brief reign, and more to the exarchs who made
it their official residence.

In 751 when Ravenna fell into the hands of the Lombards Aistulf
established himself there, but it might seem that the place had
suffered grievously in the wars, and it was probably little more than
a mighty ruin when, in 784, Charlemagne obtained permission from the
pope to strip it of its marbles and its ornaments and to carry them
off to Aix-la-Chapelle. Among these was an equestrian statue in gilded
bronze, according to Agnellus a portrait of the great Gothic king, but
as Dr Ricci suggests a statue of the Emperor Zeno. This too in the
time of Leo III. Charlemagne carried away. According to the same
authority the back of the palace was not then very far from the sea,
and this was so even in 1098. Nothing I think can give us a better
idea of the change that has come over the _contado_ of Ravenna than an
examination of its situation to-day, more than four miles from the sea

The only memorial we have left to us _in situ_ of that palace of the
Gothic king is a half-ruined building, really a mere facade with
round-arched blind arcades and a central niche in the upper story, a
colonnade in two stories, and the bases of two round towers with a
vast debris of ruined foundations, walls, and brickwork, scarcely
anything of which, in so far as it may be said to be still standing,
would seem to have been a part of the palace Theodoric built. Indeed
the ruined facade would seem to belong to a guard house built in the
time of the exarchs in the seventh or eighth century. If we seek then
for some memory of Theodoric in this place we shall be disappointed.

Far otherwise is it with the great church, the noblest in Ravenna, of
S. Apollinare Nuovo. This was built about the same time as the palace,
in the first twenty years of the sixth century, as the Arian cathedral
by the Gothic king. It was the chief temple in Ravenna of that heresy,
and it remained in Arian hands till with the re-establishment of the
imperial power in Italy it was consecrated, in 560, for Catholic use
by the archbishop S. Agnellus. It consists of a basilica divided into
three naves by twenty-four columns of Greek marble with
Romano-Byzantine capitals. Of old it had an atrium, but this was
removed in the sixteenth century, as was the ancient apse in the
eighteenth. The original apse, however, was ruined in an earthquake,
as Agnellus tells in his life of S. Agnellus, in the sixth century,
and of the atrium only a single column remains _in situ_ before the
church. The campanile, a noble great round tower, dates from the ninth
century for the most part, its base is, however, new. The portico
before the church is a work of the sixteenth century, as is the
facade, which nevertheless contains certain ancient marbles, among
which are two inscribed stones, one of the fourth century and the
other of the eleventh.

When Theodoric built this great and glorious church he dedicated it to
Jesus Christ. It seems to have been dedicated in honour of S. Martin
in 560 by the archbishop S. Agnellus who consecrated it for Catholic
worship, and finally in the middle of the ninth century to have been
given the title of S. Apollinare by the archbishop John, who asserted
that he had brought hither the relics of the first archbishop of the
see from S. Apollinare in Classe when that church was threatened by
the Saracens.

The oldest name by which the church was generally known, however, is
that of _Coelum Aureum_. Agnellus in his life of the archbishop S.
Agnellus says, speaking of the Catholic consecration of the church,
"Then the most blessed Agnellus the bishop reconciled within this city
the church of S. Martin Confessor, which Theodoric the king founded,
and which was called _Coelum Aureum_...." And he goes on to say that
it was found from an inscription that "King Theodoric made this church
from its foundations in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ."[1] It got
the name of _Coelum Aureum_ perhaps from its glorious roof of gold.
This, however, was destroyed in 1611.

[Footnote 1: Cf. also Agnellus, _Liber Pontificalis_, Vita Theodori,
cap. n.]

The church has indeed suffered very much in the course of the fourteen
hundred years of its existence, and yet in many ways it is the best
preserved church in Ravenna. In the sixteenth century, for instance,
it was fast sinking into ruin; the floor of the church and the bases
of the columns were then more than a metre and a half beneath the
level of the soil, and it was decided that something must be done if
the building was to be saved. In 1514 this work was undertaken; the
columns were raised and the arches cut and thus the church and its
great mosaics were preserved. It is, however, still sinking; the new
pavement of the sixteenth century has disappeared, and that of 1873
which was brought from the suppressed church of S. Niccolo covers the
bases of the columns.

If S. Apollinare Nuovo had been allowed to fall, nothing that we
possess in the world would have compensated us for its loss. For not
only have we here a beautiful interior very largely of the sixth
century, but the great mosaics of the nave which cover the walls above
the arcade under the windows are, I suppose, at once the largest and
the most remarkable works of that time which ever existed. They are
also of an extraordinary and exceptional beauty. They represent upon
both sides, through the whole length of the nave, as it were two long
processions of saints. Upon the Epistle side are the martyrs issuing
out of the city of Ravenna to lay their crowns at the feet of Our Lord
on His throne, guarded by four angels. Upon the Gospel side are the
virgins headed by the three kings, who offer gifts to Our Lord in his
Mother's arms enthroned between four angels. There is nothing in
Christendom to compare with these mosaics. They are unique and, as I
like to think, in their wonderful significance are the key to a
mystery that has for long remained unsolved. For these long
processions of saints, representing that great crowd of witnesses of
which S. Paul speaks, stand there above the arcade and under the
clerestory where in a Gothic church the triforium is set. But the
triforium is the one inexplicable and seemingly useless feature of a
Gothic building. It seems to us, in our ignorance of the mind of the
Middle Age, of what it took for granted, to be there simply for the
sake of beauty, to have no use at all. But what if this church in
Ravenna, the work indeed of a very different school and time, but
springing out of the same spiritual tradition, should hold the key?
What if the triforium of a Gothic church should have been built as it
were for a great crowd of witnesses--the invisible witnesses of the
Everlasting Sacrifice, the sacrifice of Calvary, the sacrifice of the
Mass? It is not only in the presence of the living, devout or half
indifferent, that that great sacrifice is offered through the world,
yesterday, to-day, and for ever, but be sure in the midst of the
chivalry of heaven, a multitude that no man can number, none the less
real because invisible, among whom one day we too are to be numbered.
Not for the living only, but for the whole Church men offer that
sacrifice _pro redemptione animarum suarum, pro spe salutis et
incolumitatis suae. Memento etiam Domine famulorum famularumque tuarum
qui nos praecesserunt cum signo fidei et dormiunt in somno pacis_....
Here in S. Apollinare at any rate for ever they await the renewal of
that moment.

Those marvellous figures that appear in ghostly procession upon the
walls of S. Apollinare here in Ravenna are really indescribable, they
must be seen if the lovely significance of their beauty is to be
understood. What can one say of them?

Upon the Epistle side we see as it were a procession of twenty-five
figures all in white with palms in the right hands and crowns in their
left. They are the martyrs SS. Clement, Sixtus, Laurence, Cyprian,
Paul, Vitalis, Gervasius, Protasius, Hippolytus, Cornelius, Cassianus,
John, Ursinus, Namor, Felix, Apollinaris, Demetrius, Polycarp,
Vincent, Pancras, Chrysogonus, Protus, Jovenius, and Sabinus, and
their names are written in a long line over them; each is aureoled,
and each upon his white robe bears a letter the significance of which
is hidden from us. This procession comes out of the city of Ravenna
which is magnificently represented, occupying indeed a fifth of the
whole length of the mosaic.

In the foreground is the palace of Theodoric, the whole facade of it,
the triple arched peristyle in the midst flanked on either side by two
triple arched loggias, each having a second story of five arches. In
the spandrils of the arches are figures of Victories, and of old in
the tympanum we might have seen Theodoric on horseback. Within, the
arches are hung with curtains. On the extreme right is the great gate
of the palace in the wall of the city, flanked on either side by
towers. In the lunette over the gateway we see three small figures of
Christ with the cross between two Apostles, and within the gate, I
think, a great figure, seated. Over the facade of the palace we look
into the city and see four churches, which Dr. Ricci suggests may be,
on the right, this very church with its baptistery, now destroyed,
together with the church of S. Teodoro (now S. Spirito) and the Arian
baptistery: they are altogether Byzantine in type. Out of this city
come the martyrs; there are twenty-five of them all in white, as I
have said, and they are led by S. Martin Confessor, who bears of
course no palm, is robed in purple, and bears his crown in both his
hands. He leads the procession along a way strewn with flowers to the
throne where Christ sits guarded by four angels.

Above this great scene, between the windows, above each of which there
is an ornamental mosaic, we see sixteen figures of Prophets or perhaps
Fathers. Over these are twenty-seven compartments each filled with a
mosaic. Those over the heads of the prophets are, except in the case
of him who stands, at each end, last but one, filled with a sort of
recessed throne in mosaic, over which in each case are set two doors.
But the eleven compartments over the windows and the two over the two
figures last but one at either end are filled with thirteen scenes
from the New Testament, beginning on the left as follows: (1) The Last
Supper, (2) The Agony in the Garden, (3) The Kiss of Judas, (4) Christ
taken, (5) Christ before the High Priest, (6) Christ before Herod, (7)
The Denial of Peter, (8) Judas trying to restore the money to the
priests, (9) Christ before Pilate, (10) The Via Crucis, (n) The Maries
at the Sepulchre, (12) The way to Emmaus, (13) The Incredulity of S.

Turning now to the Gospel side of the church, we find a similar
procession over the arcade, but of twenty-one virgin martyrs bearing
palms and crowns richly dressed with precious ornaments and jewels.
They bear the following names: SS. Pelagia, Agatha, Eulalia, Cecilia,
Lucia, Crispina, Valeria, Vincentia, Agnes with her lamb, Perpetua,
Felicitas, Justina, Anastasia, Daria, Paulina, Victoria, Anatolia,
Christina, Savona, Eugenia. They issue out of the towered gate of the
Castello of Classis, whose wall stretches before us to the great sea
gate through which we look upon the port with three ships on the
water, one of which is sailing in or out. Within the castello over the
wall of it we see buildings of a distinctly Roman type.

The procession of virgins which issues forth from this castello is led
by S Eufemia, who does not bear a palm, but carries her crown in her
two hands. Before her go the three Magi, Balthassar, Melchior, and
Caspar, bearing their gold, frankincense, and myrrh under the palms of
the long way, guided by the star to where Madonna sits enthroned with
her little Son between four angels.

Above between the windows, as on the Epistle side, are sixteen figures
in mosaic of the Prophets or Fathers; and over them again, as before,
are thirteen scenes from the life of Our Lord: (1) The Healing of the
cripple at Capernaum, (2) The Herd of Swine, (3) The Healing of the
paralytic who was let down in a bed to Jesus, (4) The Parable of the
sheep and the goats, (5) The Widow's mite, (6) The Pharisee and the
Publican, (7) The Raising of Lazarus, (8) The Woman of Samaria at the
well, (9) The Healing of the woman with an issue of blood, (10) The
Healing of the two blind men, (11) The Miraculous draught of fishes,
(12) The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, (13) The Water turned into

And what are we to say of these marvellous things? This first of all,
that for the most part they are not of the time of Theodoric, but
rather of that S. Agnellus who consecrated the church for Catholic
use. This is not to deny that there were always in the church mosaics
occupying the place which these we see fill; on the contrary. But the
processions of the martyrs and of the virgins with the three Magi are
certainly Catholic works, and of the middle or end of the sixth
century; they obviously took the place of certain mosaics perhaps full
of Arian doctrines which then stood there. On the other hand, the
castello of Classis, the Christ enthroned with angels, the Virgin
enthroned with angels, the Prophets or Fathers, and the scenes of Our
Lord's life and teaching, above them, are of Theodoric's time. The
city of Ravenna I am perhaps alone in attributing to the later period.
Dr. Ricci--and he is of course an almost infallible
authority--attributes it to the time of Theodoric. It does not seem to
me to be so. All this, however, must be understood to refer to such
parts of these mosaics as have not suffered restoration, which,
however, has not often been as drastic as that which has befallen the
figures of the Magi; of which the upper parts are new, as are the
figures of the two outer angels.

We have here then under our eyes the two schools of mosaics, that of
Rome and that of Constantinople. It is easy to see that the Roman
work, the original work that is, is more classical and realistic than
the rich and glorious figures of the processions; but it is not
decoratively so successful. Indeed I know of nothing anywhere that is
more artistically, dramatically, and as it were liturgically
satisfying than these long processions on either side of S. Apollinare

Little else remains in the church worth notice except an ancient ambo
under the arcade in the nave and the chapel of the Relics at the top
of the left aisle. This was largely built of ancient fragments in the
sixteenth century. We see there two beautiful alabaster columns with
capitals of serpentine with two small columns of verde antico also
with ancient capitals. The screen is Byzantine. The walls are
ornamented with bas-reliefs and paintings, but above all these we see
there a marvellous portrait in mosaic of the emperor Justinian as an
old man, unhappily restored in 1863. The altar is ancient and above it
is a marble coffer with Renaissance ornaments, upheld by four columns
of porphyry, having two Byzantine and two Roman capitals. On the
Epistle side of the altar here is a marble chair--a Roman thing.

From that splendid and well-preserved church we pass to that of the
Spirito Santo. Unhappily this once glorious building has suffered as
much as any church left to us in Ravenna, for it was almost entirely
rebuilt in 1543 when the portico we see was added to it, and in 1627
was restored and adorned, as it was in 1854 and 1896. That it was
founded and built by the Goths and reconciled later for Catholic use
appears in Agnellus' life of the archbishop S. Agnellus, where we read
that of old the Arian Episcopio stood near by, together with a bath
and a _monastero_ of S. Apollinare. What the _monastero_ may have been
we do not know, but the bath was perhaps the Arian baptistery known as
S. Maria in Cosmedin.

The church of the Spirito Santo was not in Arian times known under
that dedication, but was called of S. Theodore. It owes the pleasing
portico it now possesses, as I have said, to the sixteenth century,
but that portico is itself largely constructed of old materials, being
upheld by eight antique columns, of which six are of Greek marble.
These originally supported the baldacchino over the high altar.
Within, the church is divided into three naves by fourteen columns,
thirteen of which are of bigio antico, and the other, the last on the
Epistle side towards the altar, of a rare and curious marble known as
verde sanguigno. The capitals are of Theodoric's time, late Roman

Very little remains in the church that is of any interest to us. In
the sacristy, however, we may see in the present lavabo some fragments
of the ancient ciborio. And in the nave at the western end on the
Gospel side is an ancient sarcophagus of Greek marble which was carved
in the Renaissance and in the seventeenth century became the sepulchre
of one of the Pasolini family. In the first chapel on this side of the
church is the ancient _ambone_ removed from the nave in the sixteenth
century, and in the second are two columns of pavonazzetto marble.

Something better is to be had in the utterly desolate baptistery close
by known as S. Maria in Cosmedin. This was originally, as we may
think, the ancient bath of which Agnellus speaks, and it was converted
into a baptistery by the Arians, and later consecrated for Catholic
uses under the title of S. Maria in Cosmedin and used as an oratory.
It is an octagonal building whose walls support a cupola which is
covered with mosaics in circles like that of the original baptistery
of the city. In the midst we see Christ almost a youth standing naked
in Jordan immersed to his waist. Upon His left, S. John stands upon a
rock, his staff in his left hand, while his right rests upon the head
of Our Lord. Opposite to him sits enthroned the old god of Jordan, a
reed in his hand, listening, perhaps, to the words of the Father:
"This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Over Christ's head
the Dove is displayed in the golden heaven.

About the central mosaic is set a band of palm leaves, while on the
outer circle we see the twelve Apostles very much like the martyrs of
S. Apollinare standing dressed in white, their crowns in their hands
between palms. Only S. Peter and another, perhaps S. John or S. Paul,
do not bear crowns, but S. Peter his keys and the other a book.
Between them is set a throne on which stands a jewelled cross.

It is exceedingly difficult to say when these mosaics were executed,
for they have been so entirely restored that very little of the
original work is left to us. They are certainly very early for work of
the Catholic restoration; and yet they remind one strongly of the
processions of S. Apollinare Nuovo. If as a whole the design of these
mosaics is of the time of the archbishop S. Agnellus, it is curious
that the subject of the Baptism should have been used for a church
which by his act had ceased to be a baptistery. The most reasonable
hypothesis would seem to be that the design and choice of subject is
in the main due to the Arians; that the central disc remains late work
of their time in so far as it is original at all. While the apostles
may be in the main the work of the Catholic restoration.

Theodoric was, as these works serve to show, a great builder of
churches in his capital. Not all of them have remained to our day. Dr.
Ricci has thought that we see something of one of them in the Portico
Antico of the Piazza Maggiore where there are eight columns of granite
upon the left of the Palazzo del Comune with late Roman capitals, four
of which have the monogram of the Gothic king. The church of S.
Andrea,[1] according to Dr Ricci, stood by the city wall, near where
the Venetians in the fifteenth century built their Rocca, destroying
the church to make room for it. Dr. Ricci suggests that when they
began to construct the Portico of the Piazza they used, as indeed they
more than any other people were wont to do, the material of the
demolished church in their new building and among it these great
columns with their Roman capitals and strange monograms.

[Footnote 1: S. Andrea was, according to Rasponi, _op. cit. ut supra_,
the same as the chapel of the Arcivescovado called S, Pier Crisologo.]

But astonishing though these churches are which Theodoric built by the
art and hands of the Italians during the generation of his rule in
Ravenna, they would not impress us with the strength and importance of
his personality and government, as undoubtedly they do, if we had not
in his mausoleum perhaps the most impressive late Roman building left
to us practically intact in all Italy, a thing which, quite as much as
the mightier tomb of Hadrian, assures us of the enormous vitality of
Roman civilisation, its weight, endurance, and unfailing continuance
through every sort of disaster and misgovernment.

This mighty monument is situated upon the north-east of the city,
perhaps upon the old Roman road the Via Popilia. That it was built by
Theodoric himself might seem certain. For though it has been said that
it was erected by Amalasuntha the Anonymus Valesii tells us that
Theodoric built it before he died. "While yet he lived he made a
monument of squared stone, a work of marvellous greatness, covered
with a single stone." It is perhaps of little consequence to whom we
owe this mighty tomb, for it is absolutely, and in any case, Roman
work, and might seem to have been modelled upon the far larger and
more tremendous mausoleum of Hadrian.[1]

[Footnote 1: Choisy points out that the mausoleum of Theodoric has
stylistic affinities with Syrian work, and Strzygowski, who reminds us
that several bishops of Ravenna were Syrians, thinks that Ravenna in
much derived from Syria especially from Antioch.]

The mausoleum is built in two stories of block after block of hewn and
squared stone. The lower of the two stories is decagonal and has in
every side a vast archway or niche, one of which forms the gateway.
Within we find a huge cruciform chamber lighted by six square
openings. The upper story, now reached by two stairways, built with
ancient materials in 1774, is circular, having about it eighteen blind
arches and over it a vast circular roof hewn out of a single block of
Istrian stone that weighs, it is said, two hundred tons. It may be
that this upper story, smaller as it is than the lower, was of old
surrounded by a colonnade, and it may be that the twelve projections
upon the vast monolith of the roof once upheld statutes of the twelve
Apostles. We do not know.[1]

[Footnote 1: On the other hand, these projections are thought by many
to have been used as rings for the ropes by which the roof was hauled
up an inclined bank of earth into place They each bear the name of an
Apostle, and are similar to the small abutting arches round the dome
of S. Sophia at Salonica]

Here in this mighty tomb, which is known in Ravenna as _La Rotonda_,
abandoned now in an unkempt garden, Theodoric, who expected to found a
line of kings who would one day lie beside him; as long as he lay
there at all, lay there alone. Not for long, however, did he enjoy
that solitude. Already, when Agnellus wrote his _Liber Pontificalis_,
the tomb was empty. He tells us that the porphyry urn, which had
served as sepulchre for the Gothic king, then stood at the door of the
Benedictine monastery close by, and that it was empty. And it seemed
to him, he says, that the body of the king had been thrown out of the
mausoleum because a heretic and a barbarian, as we may suppose, was
not worthy of it. At any rate the body of Theodoric was no longer in
the mausoleum in the beginning of the ninth century, and it is certain
that it had been ejected thence many years before. In the year 1854 a
gang of navvies who were excavating a dock between the railway station
and the Corsini Canal, some two hundred yards perhaps from the
mausoleum, and on the site of an old cemetery, came upon a skeleton
"armed with a golden cuirass, a sword by its side, and a golden helmet
upon its head. In the hilt of the sword and in the helmet large jewels
were blazing." Most of this booty they disposed of, but a few pieces
were recovered and these are now in the Museo. It might seem that this
can have been none other than the body of the great Gothic king.
Indeed Dr. Ricci finds the ornament upon the armour to be similar to
the decoration upon the cornice of the mausoleum. If this be so it
puts the matter almost beyond doubt.

Theodoric was not allowed to rest in the mighty tomb that Latin genius
had built for him; but for ages many, famous and distinguished in
their day, sought to lie under a monument so splendid. The place
became a sort of pantheon. Long before then, however, it had been
consecrated as a church, S. Maria della Rotonda, and a Benedictine
monastery had been founded close by whose monks served it. To-day that
monastery has utterly disappeared, and there are no signs of a church
in the _Rotonda_. Only the mausoleum remains in a tangled garden, far
from any road, empty and deserted.




When Belisarius entered Ravenna in 540, he apparently found more than
one new building begun but not finished; of these the chief was the
church of S. Vitale. This magnificent octagonal building with its
narthex and atrium had, according to Agnellus, been founded by the
Archbishop S. Ecclesius, that is to say, between 521 and 534. It was
apparently finished and decorated later by Julius Argentarius, and was
consecrated by the archbishop S. Maximianus in 547. In plan it
resembles very closely the church of SS. Sergius and Bacchus in
Constantinople built by Justinian about 527. As we know both Justinian
and Theodora, his empress, contributed largely to the perfecting of S.
Vitale, which remains certainly his most glorious monument in the

The plan of the church, as I have said, is octagonal, surmounted by a
dome octagonal without but circular within. From one of these eight
sides the sanctuary is thrust out, flanked on either side by a
circular chapel with a rectangular presbytery. Standing obliquely
across one of the two angles of the octagon, directly opposite this
sanctuary, stretched the narthex flanked by circular towers. The great
octagon is divided into two stories, each of which has three windows
upon each of the eight sides, the octagonal dome being lighted by
eight single windows.

[Illustration: S. VITALE]

Within the great octagon formed by the walls is a smaller octagon
formed by an arcade of mighty piers which upholds the cupola. This
arcade contains a double loggia which thus runs round the whole church
with the exception of the presbytery, where it ends in lofty tribunes.
It is upheld between the piers by columns of precious marble having
capitals of the most marvellous beauty.

The space within this inner octagon is covered with a pavement laid
down in the sixteenth century, consisting of all sorts of fragments of
mosaics and marbles which that century destroyed. The upper loggia was
of old the _gyneceo_, the place of the women. Nothing I think left to
us in the world is more sumptuous and gorgeous than this interior.
Everywhere are glittering mosaics, precious slabs of marble, priceless
columns of beautiful marble. And where the mosaics have been destroyed
or left unfinished, as in the cupola and the body of the church,
baroque artists have filled the place with their paintings, paintings
which in their own style are matchless and which it is now foolishly
proposed should be destroyed.[1]

[Footnote 1: We know nothing of any mosaics other than those in the
presbytery and the tribunes, it may be that the church was covered
with mosaic or was painted by the Byzantine artists, and this as well
where the marble slabs now cover the piers as elsewhere. If so it must
have been glorious indeed. Nothing that we can do can restore this
work to us, and we achieve nothing but destruction by destroying the
work that is now there.]

In our examination of the church we turn first to the presbytery,
which is entirely encrusted with most precious marbles and mosaics. In
the midst of it stands the altar consisting of slabs of
semi-transparent alabaster, within which of old lights were set. The
marvellously lovely piece which serves for the altar stone itself is
supported by four columns, and that piece which serves for frontal is
carved with a great cross between two sheep. This altar had long
disappeared, but piece by piece it was recovered; the beautiful altar
stone itself was found behind an altar in a chapel now destroyed in
this church, and was re-erected as we see it in 1899.

[Illustration: Colour Plate S. VITALE: THE PRESBYTERY]

In the same chapel stood till then the beautiful low fretted screens
that now are set across the apse behind the altar, where indeed they
remained till 1700, according to Dr. Ricci. The lower part of the apse
and the piers of the presbytery have been covered with fine marbles,
some of which are ancient, but the vault, the lunettes, and the walls
are entirely encrusted with gorgeous mosaics.

The presbytery is approached from the inner octagon of the church
under a triumphal arch. In the curve of this we see amid much
decorative ornament fifteen circular discs containing the head of Our
Lord, the twelve Apostles, S. Gervasius, and S. Protasius. Beneath
these are two monuments variously formed, Dr. Ricci tells us, in the
sixteenth century. The four columns which they contain originally
supported the baldacchino over the high altar here; three of them are
of verde antico. Framed by these columns are two Roman reliefs from a
frieze originally in the Temple of Neptune, other parts of which are
in the Sala Lapidaria in the Arcivescovado here, in the Louvre, in the
Uffizi, in the Castello of Milan, and in the Museo Archeologico at
Venice. They are indubitably of course the oldest things in the

Within this triumphal arch upon either side rise the tribunes in which
the upper loggia of the church itself comes to an end. These tribunes,
which are exceedingly beautiful, consist of two triple arches, one
above the other on either side, and the columns which support them,
with their marvellous capitals, are I suppose among the most glorious
left in Christendom. The arches themselves and the lunettes upon
either side are encrusted with mosaics. In the lunette upon the right
on either side an altar gorgeously draped, Abel offers to God the
firstling of his flock and Melchizedek Bread and Wine. Upon the face
of the arch we see Moses tending the sheep of Jethro, Moses upon Mount
Hebron, and Moses before the burning bush. In the lunette upon the
left we have the sacrifice of Abraham of his only son, and the visit
of the three angels to Abraham and Sara. Upon the face of the arch we
see Jeremiah the Prophet and Moses upon Mount Sinai. Above, upon the
balustrades, as it were, of the upper loggia we see angels upholding a
circle in which is the sign of the Cross, and above again upon the
face of the arches on either side the four Evangelists and their
symbols. The vault is entirely covered with ornaments in mosaic, amid
which three angels rise and support with uplifted hands the central
disc in which is represented the Agnus Dei.

Though these mosaics have suffered much from unforeseen disaster and
from restoration they still delight us with their richness and
splendour, and nothing I think can well be finer than their effect,
their decorative effect as a whole. They seem to hang there like some
gorgeous Eastern tapestry of Persian stuff, as Dr. Ricci says, some
unfading and indestructible tapestry of the Orient left by chance or
forgetfulness in the old capital of the West.

We now turn to the apse, which we enter under a second triumphal arch
upon the face of which we see upon the left the city of Hierusalem and
upon the left Bethlehem. A cypress stands at the gate of each, and
between them two angels in flight uphold a discus or aureole having
within it eight rays. Above this again are three windows about which
is spread a gorgeous decoration in mosaic.

Beneath within the tribune of the apse we see Our Lord, "beautiful as
Apollo," enthroned upon the orb of the world, an angel upon either
hand, while to his right stands S. Vitalis to whom He hands a crown,
to His left S. Ecclesius bearing the model of this church in his hand.

Beneath upon either side stand the two great mosaic pictures, the most
marvellous works of the sixth century that have come down to us and
perhaps the most glorious and splendid works of art which that age was
able to achieve, and it is needless to say that there is nothing like
them anywhere in the world.

Upon the left we see the great emperor, perhaps the greatest of all
the Caesars, Justinian, bearing in his hands a golden dish; beside him
stands the archbishop of Ravenna, S. Maximianus. A little behind these
two figures and on either side stand five attendant priests, and on
the extreme left of the picture is a group of soldiers.

[Illustration: Capital from S. Vitale]

In the mosaic upon the right we see the empress Theodora, straight
browed, most gorgeously arrayed, very beautiful and a little sinister,
bearing a golden chalice, attended by her splendid ladies and two
priests. Upon the extreme left of the picture stands a little fountain
before an open doorway hung with a curtain.

What can be said of these gorgeous and astonishingly lovely works?
Nothing. They speak too eloquently for themselves. Not there do we see
the mere realism of Rome, the careful and often too careful
arrangement that Roman art, able to speak but incapable of song,
always gives us. Here we have something at once more gorgeous and more
mysterious and more artistic, a symbolical and hieratic art, the gift
of the Orient, of Byzantium. In the best Roman art of the best period
there is always something of the street, something too close to life,
too mere a transcription and a copy of actual things, a mere imitation
without life of its own. But here is something outside the classical
tradition, outside what imperial Rome with its philistinism and its
puritanism has made of the art of Greece and thrust perhaps for ever
upon Europe. Here we are free from the overwhelming common-place of
Roman art, its mediocrity and respectable endeavour.

It is, however, not in the gorgeous mosaics alone that we find the
delight and originality of S. Vitale. The whole church is amazingly
different from anything else to be seen in Italy, for it is altogether
outside the Roman tradition, an absolutely Byzantine building as well
in its construction as in its decoration. It must be compared with the
later S. Sophia and SS Sergius and Bacchus of Constantinople. These,
however, are works more assured and more gracious than S. Vitale, and
yet in its plan at least S. Vitale is a masterpiece, and altogether
the one great sanctuary of Byzantine art of the time of Justinian that
we have in the West. Every part of it is worthy of the strictest and
most eager attention, from the ambulatory, which was covered in 1902
with old marble slabs and where there are two early Christian
sarcophagi, to the restored Cappella Sancta Sanctorum with its
fifth-century sarcophagus, the tomb of the exarch Isaac, and the lofty
_Matronaeum_, the women's gallery, from which the best view of the
mosaics and the marvellously carved Byzantine capitals may be had. Nor
should the narthex be forgotten, mere skeleton though it be. It is
characteristic of such a church as this, and set as it is obliquely to
it, is original in conception and curious.

When we have finished with S. Vitale it is well to leave Ravenna and
to drive by the lofty road over the marshes to the solitary church of
S. Apollinare in Classe which was built also by Giuliano Argentario
for archbishop Ursicinus (535-538) and was consecrated by archbishop
Maximianus in 549.

Classis, Classe, as we know, was the station or port of the Roman
fleet, established and built by Augustus Caesar. It was doubtless a
great place enjoying the busy and noisy life of a great port and
arsenal and possessed vast barracks for the soldiers and sailors of
the imperial fleet. Later even when disasters had fallen upon that
great civilisation it maintained itself, and from the fifth to the
seventh centuries we hear of its churches, S. Apollinare, S. Severo,
S. Probo, S. Raffaele, S. Agnese, S. Giovanni "ad Titum," S. Sergio
_juxta viridarium_, and the great Basilica Petriana.

It was joined to the city of Ravenna by the long suburb of the Via
Caesarea, much I suppose as the Porto di Lido is joined to Venice by
the Riva or as Rovezzano is joined to Florence by the Via Aretina. Of
all the buildings that together made up the Castello of Classe and the
suburb of Caesarea nothing remains to us but the mighty church of S.
Apollinare and its great and now tottering campanile. For Classe and
Cassarea seem to have been finally destroyed in the long Lombard wars,
either as a precautionary measure by the people of Ravenna and the
imperialists or by the attacking Lombards, while the sea which once
washed the walls of Classe has retreated so far that it is only from
the top of her last watch tower it may now be seen.

Nothing can be more desolate and sad than the miserable road across
the empty country between Ravenna and that lonely church of S.
Apollinare. In summer deep in dust that rises, under the heavy tread
of the great oxen which draw the curiously painted carts of the
countryside, in great clouds into the sky; in winter and after the
autumn rains lost in the white curtain of mist that so often surrounds
Ravenna, it is an almost impassable morass of mud and misery. Even at
its best in spring time it is melancholy and curiously mean without
any beauty or nobility of its own, though it commands so much of those
vast spaces of flat and half desolate country which the sea has
destroyed, on the verge of which stands the lonely church.

One comes to this great basilica always I think as to a ruin, to find
without surprise the doors closed and only to be opened after long
knocking. The round campanile that towers and seems to totter in its
strange dilapidation beside the church is so beautiful that it
surprises one at once by its melancholy nobility in the midst of so
much meanness and desolation. It is a building of the ninth century,
and may well have been used as much as a watch tower as a bell tower.
Till recently it had at its base a sacristy, but this has been swept
away. Of old the church too had before it a great narthex of which
certain ruins are left, among them a little tower on the left.

Within we find ourselves in a vast basilica divided into three naves
upheld by twenty-four marvellous columns of great size and beauty, of
Greek marble, with beautiful Byzantine bases and capitals. The central
nave is closed by a curved apse set high over a great crypt thrust out
beyond the rest of the church. Beyond the two aisles are two chapels
each with its little curved apse. The walls of the church and the
walls above the arcade were undoubtedly originally covered, in the one
case with splendid marbles, in the other with mosaics. The walls of
the church were, however, stripped in 1449 by Sigismondo Malatesta of
Rimini when he was building, or rather encasing, the church of S.
Francesco in Rimini with marbles, and turning what had been a Gothic
church of brick into what we know as the Tempio Malatestiano, by the
hands of Alberti. We know that a great quantity of marble of different
kinds was gathered by Sigismondo from all parts of Italy, not only to
furnish the interior of his _Tempio_, but to cover the exterior also
according to the design of Leon Alberti. Even the sepulchral stones
from the old Franciscan convent of S. Francesco in Rimini were used
and the blocks which the people of Fano had collected for their
church. S. Apollinare in Classe was then in Benedictine hands. With
the consent of the Abate there, very many ancient and valuable marbles
were torn from the walls and carried off by Sigismondo to Rimini; so
many in fact that the people of Ravenna complained to the Venetian
doge Francesco Foscari, saying that Sigismondo had despoiled the
church. The doge, however, seems to have cared nothing about it and
Sigismondo sent to Ravenna and to the Abate two hundred gold florins,
so that both declared themselves satisfied. Then the church passed to
me, these three sheep belong rather to the upper part of the mosaic
which, with the Cross in the midst, bearing the face of Our Lord, and
on either side Moses and Elias, symbolises the Transfiguration. These
three sheep would thus represent S. Peter, S. James and S. John.


[Illustration: CAPITAL FROM S. VITALE]

Beneath between the windows we see represented four Bishops of
Ravenna, S. Ursinus, S. Ursus, S. Severus, and S. Ecclesius. To the
right are the sacrifices of Abel, Melchizedek, and Abraham. To the
left the privileges of the church of Ravenna. In the midst we see an
archbishop and the emperor who hands him a scroll on which is written
_privilegia_. To the left are three priests bearing fire, incense, and
a thurible. To the right are three other figures supporting the
emperor as the three priests support the archbishop. Doubtless this
mosaic records the privileges granted to the church of Ravenna by
Constantinople. The archbishop is probably Reparatus who received so
much from the Emperor Constantinus IV. Two of the figures who attend
the emperor represent Heraclius and Tiberius. This mosaic is the
latest in the church, dating from 668.

Over the arch of the tribune is a medallion bust of the Saviour
holding a book in His left hand and blessing us with His right. Upon
either side are symbols of the four Evangelists in the clouds of the
sky. Beneath we see on either side the cities of Bethlehem and
Hierusalem, from each of which issue six sheep--perhaps the twelve
apostles. Beneath again are two palm trees and again the archangels
Gabriel and Michael and S. Luke and S. Matthew.

These mosaics have often been remade and repaired. When Crowe and
Cavalcaselle examined them before 1860 they found that the whole tunic
of the Moses had been repainted and half the face of the Elias had
been restored. They proceed: "The head of S. Apollinare is in part
damaged, the left hand and lower part of the figure destroyed. The
sheep beside S. Apollinare, but particularly those on the right of
that figure, are almost completely modern. A large part of the left
side of the apsis is repainted, of the four bishops between the
windows of the tribune the head of Ecclesius is preserved, the lower
part repainted. The head of S. Ursinus is a new mosaic, and the lower
half of the figure is restored. In the mosaic of the sacrifice half
the head from the eyes upwards and part of the arms of Abel are
repainted, the legs have become dropsical under repair. The figures of
Abraham and Isaac are almost completely repainted, and the hands and
feet are formless for that reason. This mosaic is repaired in two
different ways with white cubes coloured over and with painted stucco.
In the mosaic representing the tender of privileges the nimbi as
already stated are new, but besides, the lower part of all the figures
is repainted in stucco and the heads are all more or less repaired. Of
the figures in the arch that of the archangel Gabriel is half ruined
and half restored, and part of S. Matthew and S. Luke are new."

Since Crowe and Cavalcaselle wrote a vast restoration has been
undertaken, and this was finished in 1908. It was very carefully
carried out and it is to be believed that the work as we see it is now

There is much else of interest in the church: the beautiful crypt with
its ancient sarcophagus of S. Apollinare and its columns; the ten
great sarcophagi which stand about the church, three of which contain
the relics of archbishops of Ravenna; the curious tabernacle at the
end of the north aisle. But a whole morning, or for that matter a
whole day, is not too much to spend in this beautiful and deserted
sanctuary which bridges for us so many centuries and in which we are
made one with those who helped to establish the foundations of Europe.



The last great original work to be undertaken in Ravenna as the
capital of the empire in the West was the building and decoration of
the churches of S. Vitale and S. Apollinare in Classe. All the
Byzantine work that was done later in Ravenna is merely imitative, an
expression of failing power under the crushing disaster of the Lombard
invasion. When at last Aistulf in 751 made himself master of the
impregnable city, it ceased, and suddenly, to be a capital, and though
in 754 Pepin "restored" it to the papacy and established the pope
throughout the Exarchate and the Pentapolis, he by that act founded
the Papal States, whose capital of necessity was Rome. Thus Ravenna
found herself when Charlemagne had been crowned emperor in 800 little
more than a decaying provincial city, without authority or hope of
resurrection, and it is as a city of the provinces full only of
gigantic memories that she appears in the Middle Age and the
Renaissance and remains to our own day.

The appearance of Charlemagne, the resurrection of the empire in the
West, confirm and consolidate the misfortune of 751 in which indeed
she lost everything. But when we see the great Frank strip the
imperial palace of its marbles and mosaics it is as though the fate of
Ravenna had been expressed in some great ceremony and not by unworthy
hands. An emperor had set her up so high, an emperor had kept her
there so long; it was an emperor who, as in a last great rite, stript
her of her apparel and left her naked with her memories.

[Illustration: The Campanile of S. Apollinare]

Those memories, not only splendid and glorious, but gaunt and terrible
too, smoulder in her ruined heart as the fire may do in the ashes when
all that was living and glorious has been consumed. Almost nothing as
she became when Charlemagne left her, a mere body still wrapt in
gorgeous raiment stiff with gold, but without a soul, she still dreamt
of dominion, of empire, and of power. Governed by her archbishops, she
rebelled against Rome, struggled for a secular and sometimes a
religious autonomy, and came at last, as surely might have been
prophesied, to consider herself as a feudatory of the Empire, not of
the Church.

But though this struggle might have been foreseen it is futile, it has
no life in it, it is without any real importance, it leads nowhere and
fails to interest us. All that really concerns us in the confused
story of Ravenna from the time of the resurrection of the empire till
our own day are two strange incidents that have nothing fundamentally
to do with her, that befell her by chance; I mean the apparition of
Dante, when we see the most eager mediaeval apologist of the imperial
idea fortunately and rightly find in her a refuge and a tomb; and the
battle of 1512 in which fell Gaston de Foix and which cost the lives
of twelve thousand men and achieved nothing.

Nevertheless Ravenna, for so long the citadel of the empire in the
West, of all the cities of Italy was least likely to forget her origin
or to forsake her memories, and it is both curious and interesting to
watch her entry, little splendid though that entry be, into the
marvellously vital world of the Middle Age in Italy.

The slow re-establishment of Latin power which followed the crowning
of Charlemagne, and which the Church secured by that act, first began
to come to its own with the rise of the bishops to civil power in the
cities of Italy. Now Ravenna had certainly been governed by her
archbishop ever since Pepin in 754 had forced Aistulf to place the
keys of the city upon the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. If
nowhere else in the Cisalpine plain, Latin civilisation and law, then,
never failed in Ravenna, and whatever may have happened elsewhere it
might seem certain that here in Ravenna and probably throughout the
exarchate the curia existed and endured throughout the barbarian

This would explain the early and extraordinary development of communal
institutions in Ravenna. And since, one may believe, the Roman legions
were replaced throughout the empire by the religious orders, it is
interesting to know that in the tenth century her Latin energy is
borne witness to by the fact that in 956 she produced S. Romuald of
the Onesti family of Ravenna, who was educated in the Benedictine
monastery of Classe and who founded the Order of Camaldoli, and toward
the end of the same century, in 988, she produced S. Peter Damian, the
brother of the arch-priest of Ravenna, cardinal-bishop of Ostia and
papal legate in Milan.

Nor with the rise of the "spirito italico" everywhere in Italy do we
find Ravenna exhausted. Far from it, she is as ardent as any other
city of the peninsula whatsoever. Only always she is anti-papal, as
though, living in her memories, as she could not but do, and this was
her greatest strength, she remembered her old allegiance to the
emperor and could not forget that when the pope became his heir in
Italy she had fallen from her old eminence. Thus as early as the first
years of the eleventh century her archbishop obtains confirmation from
the emperor of his temporal powers, in which confirmation no
recognition of the sovereignty of the pope appears at all. This act of
allegiance to the emperor was repeated when Barbarossa appeared, and
indeed the archbishops of Ravenna soon became the most eager if not
most the serious supporters of the emperors in all the great plain and
perhaps in all Italy. Ravenna, once the imperial capital, though
fallen was imperial still. She was haunted, haunted by ghosts that
were restless in those marvellous tombs, that litter her churches,
loom out of the grey curtain of mist like a fortress, or shine and
glitter with imperishable colours and are full of memories as
imperishable as themselves.

Yet though it was to her the emperors so often looked for aid and
succour and rest, it was not always so. The present, even with her,
was more than the past. With the great development of communal
institutions which marked especially the twelfth century, compelled
too to face, though never with success, the increasing state of
Venice, which, indeed, and successfully, had usurped her place in the
world and had realised what she had failed to achieve, she was ready
and able in 1198 to place herself at the head of the league of the
cities of the Romagna and the Marches against the imperial power then
both oppressive and feeble; so that pope Innocent III. found it easy
to restore the unforgotten rights of the Holy See there and these were
ratified by Otto IV. and by Frederick II. as the price of papal

It will thus be readily understood that if, at the opening of the
thirteenth century, there was one city in Italy more certain than
another to be at the mercy of the universal quarrel of Guelf and
Ghibelline, that city was Ravenna. In its larger sense that quarrel
was her inheritance. It was the one thought which filled her mind. But
here, as elsewhere, the great quarrel was insoluble or at any rate not
to be solved. It merely bred faction and divided the city against
itself. Guelf and Ghibelline tore Ravenna as they tore Florence and
Siena in pieces.

The two great Ghibelline families were the Ubertini and the Mainardi
and these at first gained the mastery of the city; but in 1218 Pietro
Traversari with the aid of the Mainardi turned the Ubertini out and,
what is more, made himself master.

Pietro Traversari was succeeded as Podesta in 1225 by his son Paolo,
who became Guelf and fought in Innocent IV.'s quarrel against the
emperor Frederick II.; Frederick was able to turn the Traversari out
of Ravenna in 1240 and to hold the city for eight years, but in 1248
the pope retook it and the Traversari were restored though not I think
to the chief power. They remained in power till in the last year of
the reign of Gregory X., 1275, Guido da Polenta appears.

Rudolph of Hapsburg was now king--not emperor, for he was never
crowned by the pope. He had been a partisan of the second Frederick's,
but pope Nicholas III. did not find in the founder of the Hapsburg
dynasty the stuff of the Hohenstaufen. In 1278 he forced Rudolph to
secure to him by an "irrevocable decree" all that the papacy had ever
claimed in the Exarchate and the Pentapolis. The empire renounced all
its claims in the Romagna and the Marches; the confines of the states
of the Church were defined anew, and the cities of which the pope was
absolute lord were named one by one. Of course among these was

The Polentani appear first in the story of Ravenna in or about the
year 1167, when we find them acting as vicars for the archbishops. We
next hear of them as Podesta, their long rule really beginning, as I
have said, in 1275, when Guido il Vecchio, a rather formidable
soldier, appears as captain of the people and victor over Cervia,
whose territory he added to the dominion of Ravenna. It was indeed
this man who first in the Ravenna of the Middle Ages attempted to
establish an independent or semi-independent state, by adding
territory to territory and thus creating a lordship. For this end he
allied himself with the Malatesta of Rimini--a master stroke, for the
Polentani of Ravenna and the Malatesta of Rimini had long been bitter

The alliance was cemented by a marriage which all the world knows as
an immortal tragedy. Guido Vecchio had a beautiful daughter,
Francesca. Malatesta had two sons, the elder Giovanni called, for he
was a cripple, _lo Sciancato_, the younger, for he was very fair,
known as Paolo _il Bello_. To secure their alliance Polenta married
his daughter Francesca to Malatesta's elder son Giovanni; but she had
already learned to love, or she soon came to love, his brother Paolo
il Bella. Giovanni came upon them one night in Rimini and killed them
both with one thrust of his sword. The tragedy, however, should only
be told in the immortal words of Dante, who recounts the tale
Francesca told him in the second circle of the Inferno. For seeing
Francesca and her lover floating for ever in each other arms "light
before the wind," as the wind swayed them towards Virgil and himself
the Florentine addressed them:

  "O wearied spirits come, and hold discourse
  With us, if by none else restrained.' As doves
  By fond desire invited, on wide wings
  And firm, to their sweet nest returning home,
  Cleave the air, wafted by their will along,
  Thus issued, from that troop where Dido ranks,
  They, through the ill air speeding, with such force
  My cry prevailed, by strong affection urged.
  'O gracious creature and benign! who go'st
  Visiting, through this element obscure,
  Us, who the world with bloody stain imbrued,
  If, for a friend, the King of all, we own'd,
  Our prayer to him should for thy peace arise,
  Since thou hast pity on our evil plight
  Of whatsoe'er to hear or to discourse
  It pleases thee, that will we hear, of that
  Freely with thee discourse, while e'er the wind
  As now is mute  The land that gave me birth
  Is situate on the coast, where Po descends
  To rest in ocean with his sequent streams
  'Love that in gentle heart is quickly learnt
  Entangled him by that fair form, from me
  Ta'en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still,
  Love that denial takes from none beloved
  Caught me with pleasing him so passing well
  That as thou seest, he yet deserts me not
  'Love brought us to one death, Caina waits
  The soul who spilt our life' Such were their words,
  At hearing which downward I bent my looks
  And held them there so long that the bard cried
  'What art thou pondering?' I in answer thus
  'Alas' by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire
  Must they at length to that ill pass have reached'
  Then turning, I to them my speech address'd,
  And thus began 'Francesca! your sad fate
  Even to tears my grief and pity moves
  But tell me, in the time of your sweet sighs,
  By what, and how Love granted, that ye knew
  Your yet uncertain wishes?' She replied
  'No greater grief then to remember days
  Of joy when misery is at hand  That kens
  Thy learn'd instructor  Yet so eagerly
  If thou art bent to know the primal root
  From whence our love gat being, I will do
  As one who weeps and tells his tale  One day
  For our delight we read of Lancelot,
  How him love thrall'd  Alone we were and no
  Suspicion near us  Oft-times by that reading
  Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
  Fled from our altered cheek  But at one point
  Alone we fell  When of that smile we read,
  That wished smile, so rapturously kissed
  By one so deep in love, then he, who ne'er
  From me shall separate, at once my lips
  All trembling kissed  The book and writer both
  Were love's purveyors  In its leaves that day
  We read no more'  While thus one spirit spake
  The other wailed so sorely, that heart-struck
  I, through compassion fainting, seem'd not far
  From death and like a corse fell to the ground"

With the name of Dante we come to the real importance Ravenna has for
us in the Middle Age. Dante, however, was not the guest of Guido
Vecchio. That great lord ruled in Ravenna as perpetual captain till
his death in 1310, when he was succeeded by his son Lamberto who had
for some time been the leading spirit in the city. He altogether
abolished the so-called democratic government, that is to say, the
consulship which was filled in turn by two consuls, the one succeeding
the other every fifteen days. Lamberto made himself lord and reigned
till 1316, when he was succeeded by his nephew Guido Novello, the
consul of Cesena, who thus brought Cesena into the lordship. It is
with this man that a universal interest in Ravenna may be said for a
moment to revive, for it was he who had the honour to be the host of
Dante Alighieri.

Guido Novello was not a mere adventurer like Guido Vecchio, he was a
man of considerable culture, with a love of learning and of the arts.
It was, as we shall see, at his earnest solicitation that Dante came
to visit him, and if we may believe Vasari it was at the poet's
suggestion he invited Giotto to his court. "As it had come to the ears
of Dante that Giotto was in Ferrara, he so contrived that the latter
was induced to visit Ravenna, where the poet was then in exile, and
where Giotto painted some frescoes which are moderately good ... for
the Signori da Polenta."

Dante as we may think spent the last four years of his life in
Ravenna. Those four years we shall consider presently. Here it will be
enough to note that he met his death at last in the service of his
host and benefactor Guido Novello. The most disastrous action of his
life was, it will be remembered, the embassy he made on behalf of his
own city of Florence to pope Boniface VIII. That business cost him his
home and the city he loved with so cruel a passion; it made him an
exile. It was upon the longest journey of all that his last embassy
sent him. He set out it seems as ambassador of Guido Novello for
Venice, which so far as the sea and all its business are concerned had
long replaced Ravenna as mistress of the Adriatic. The recent
acquisition of the city and the salt flats of Cervia by Ravenna had
become a grievance with the Venetians who desired that monopoly for
themselves. It seems that in some local quarrel at Cervia certain
Venetian sailors had been killed and Dante went on Guide's behalf to
clear the matter up. He was to be as it happened as unsuccessful in
his last embassy as he had been in his first. The old doge, according
to the legend which I am bound to say is now generally regarded as a
fable, received him coldly and, so the tale runs, invited him to
dinner upon a fast day. "In front of the envoys of other princes who
were of greater account than the Polentani of Ravenna, and were served
before Dante, the larger fish were placed, while in front of Dante was
placed the smallest. This difference of treatment nettled Dante who
took up one of the little fish in his hand and held it to his ear as
though expecting it to say something. The doge observing this asked
him what his strange behaviour meant. To which Dante replied: 'As I
knew that the father of this fish met his death in these waters I was
asking him news of his father.'

"'Well,' said the doge, 'and what did he answer?' Dante replied: 'He
told me that he and his companions were too little to remember much
about him; but that I might learn what I wanted to know from the older
fish, who would be able to give me the news I asked for.'

"Thereupon the doge at once ordered Dante to be served with a fine
large fish."

[Illustration: Colour Plate S. GIOVANNI BATTISTA]

Thus Dante called attention to his great achievement, by which I
suppose he hoped at once to vindicate his dignity as a great man,
certainly greater than any one present, and by this means to lend
importance to his mission. Whatever may have been the personal result
of his sally, it did his mission no good at all. When the official
interview took place Dante, if we may believe something of the
apocryphal "Letter of Dante to Guido da Polenta," began to address the
doge in Latin and was bidden to speak in Italian or to obtain an
interpreter. His mission was a failure and Venice, who in the person
of her doge did her best to show either her ignorance of the great
poet who did her the honour of crossing her Piazza or of her
philistine contempt of him, lives in the _Divine Comedy_ only as an
illustration of Hell.

  "Thus we from bridge to bridge ...
  Pass'd on, and to the summit reaching, stood
  To view another gap, within the round
  Of Malebolge, other bootless pangs.
  Marvellous darkness shadow'd o'er the place.
  In the Venetian arsenal as boils
  Through wintry months tenacious pitch, to smear
  Their unbound vessels ...
  So not by force of fire but art divine
  Boiled here a glutinous thick mass, that round
  Limed all the shore."

On his way back to Ravenna by land, for the Venetians added to their
shame by refusing him the sea passage, he caught a fever in the
marshes and returned to Ravenna only to die: the mightiest of all
those--emperors and kings--who lie in that "_generale sepolcro di
santissimi corpi_."

That was in 1321; and with the death of Dante our interest in Ravenna
again becomes cold. Guido Novello soon fell, driven out of Ravenna,
never to return, by Ostasio who had assassinated Guide's brother the
archbishop-elect Rinaldo. Ostasio ruled with the title of vicar which
he received both from Lewis the Bavarian and from pope Benedict XII.
This vicious and cruel despot was succeeded by his equally cruel son
Bernardino. He ruled for fourteen years, 1345-1359, not, however,
without mishap, for his brothers conspired against him and flung him
into prison at Cervia. He contrived, however, to turn the tables upon
them and to hold them in the same dungeon where he himself had been
their prisoner. He was succeeded at last by Guido Lucio, a man of some
integrity; but he too was the victim of his family, his own sons
rising up against him in his old age and in 1389 flinging him into
prison where he died.

He was followed in the lordship of Ravenna by his son Ostasio. This
man died in 1431, that is to say, in the midst of all the confusion,
here in Romagna and the Marches, of the fifteenth century, when the
condottieri were one and all looking for thrones and such ambitions as
those of the Visconti, of Francesco Sforza, of Sigismondo Malatesta,
of Federigo of Urbino and of a host of _parvenus_ were struggling for
dominion and mastery. Thus it was that Ostasio's successor, Ostasio,
in 1438 was compelled to make alliance with duke Filippo Maria of
Milan. Venice, ever watchful, saw Visconti's game, remembered Cervia,
and insisted upon Ostasio coming to Venice. While there he learned
that Venice had annexed his dominion. Nor are we surprised to learn
that he ended his days in a Franciscan convent, where he was
mysteriously assassinated, probably by order of Venice. But with the
entry of Venice into Ravenna the Middle Age, even in that far place,
comes to an end. The Polentani were done with. A new and vigorous
government ushered the old imperial city into the Renaissance.



Before following the fortunes of Ravenna under that new and alien
government into the Renaissance and the modern world, it will be well
if we turn to examine more closely her one great moment in the Middle
Age, the moment in which Dante found in her a last refuge, and then
linger a little among such of her mediaeval buildings as the modern
world has left her.

In any attempt to deal, however briefly, with Dante's sojourn in
Ravenna we must first find out what we really know concerning it and
distinguish this from what is mere conjecture or deduction. Now the
first authority for Dante's life generally, is undoubtedly Boccaccio,
and as it happens he was in Ravenna, where he had relations, certainly
in 1350 and perhaps in 1346. In 1350 he was the envoy of the Or San
Michele Society, who by his hand sent Beatrice, the daughter of Dante,
then a nun in the convent of S. Stefano dell' Uliva in Ravenna, ten
gold florins He was thus in communication with Dante's daughter so
that when he came to write the Vita di Dante, probably in 1356-1357,
he was certainly in possession of facts. It will be well then if we
state to begin with in his own words what he has told us of the years
Dante spent in Ravenna.

But first as to the date of Dante's coming to Ravenna. Boccaccio would
seem to place it immediately after the death of Henry VII. in 1313. To
modern scholarship this has seemed incredible for various reasons, and
it prefers to allow Dante to visit Verona first and to come to Ravenna
in 1317. Yet let us hear Boccaccio.

He begins by telling us that the too early death of the emperor, who
was poisoned, as is thought, at Buonconvento in southern Tuscany on S.
Bartholomew's day in 1313, cast every one of his faction into despair
"and Dante most of all; wherefore no longer going about to seek his
own return from exile he passed the heights of the Apennines and
departed to Romagna where his last day, that was to put an end to all
his toils, awaited him.

"In those times was Lord of Ravenna (a famous and ancient city of
Romagna) a noble cavalier whose name was Guido Novello da Polenta; he
was well skilled in the liberal arts and held men of worth in the
highest honour, especially such as excelled others in knowledge. And
when it came to his ears that Dante, beyond all expectation, was now
in Romagna and in such desperate plight, he, who had long time before
known his worth by fame, resolved to receive him and do him honour.
Nor did he wait to be requested by him to do this, but considering
with how great shame men of worth ask such favours, with liberal mind
and with free proffers he approached him, requesting from Dante of
special grace that which he knew Dante must needs have begged of him,
to wit, that it might please him to abide with him. The two wills,
therefore, of him who received and of him who made the request thus
uniting on one same end, Dante, being highly pleased by the liberality
of the noble cavalier, and on the other side constrained by his
necessities, awaited no further invitation but the first, and took his
way to Ravenna, where he was honourably received by the lord thereof,
who revived his fallen hope by kindly festerings; and giving him
abundantly such things as were fitting, he kept him with him there for
many years, yea, even to the last year of his life.

"Never had his amorous longings, nor his grieving tears, nor his
domestic anxieties, nor the seducing glory of public offices, nor his
miserable exile, nor his unendurable poverty, been able with all their
force to turn Dante aside from his main intent, to wit, from sacred
studies; for as will be seen hereafter, when mention shall be made
severally of the works that he composed, he will be found to have
exercised himself in writing in the midst of all that is fiercest
among these passions. And if in the teeth of such and so many
adversaries as have been set forth above, he became by force of genius
and of perseverance so illustrious as we see, what may we suppose he
would have been if, like many another, he had had even as many
supports; or, at least, had had no foes; or but few? Indeed I know
not. But were it lawful so to say, I would declare that he had surely
become a God upon the earth.

[Illustration: Casa Polentana]

"Dante then, having lost all hope of a return to Florence, though he
retained the longing for it, dwelt in Ravenna for a number of years,
under the protection of its gracious lord. And here by his teachings
he trained many scholars in poetry, especially in the vernacular,
which vernacular to my thinking he first exalted and brought into
repute amongst us Italians no otherwise than did Homer his amongst the
Greeks or Virgil his amongst the Latins. Before him, though it is
supposed that it had already been practised some short space of years,
yet was there none who by the numbering of the syllables and by the
consonance of the terminal parts had the feeling or the courage to
make it the instrument of any matter dealt with by the rules of art;
or rather it was only in the lightest of love poems that they
exercised themselves therein. But he showed by the effect that every
lofty matter may be treated in it; and made our vernacular glorious
above every other.

"But since his hour is assigned to every man, Dante when already in
the middle or thereabout of his fifty-sixth year fell sick and in
accordance with the Christian religion received every Sacrament of the
Church humbly, and devoutly, and reconciled himself with God by
contrition for everything, that, being but man, he had done against
His pleasure; and in the month of September in the year of Christ one
thousand three hundred and twenty-one, on the day whereon the
Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated by the Church, not without
greatest grief on the part of the aforesaid Guido and generally all
the other Ravennese citizens, he rendered up to his Creator his
toil-worn spirit, the which I doubt not was received into the arms of
his most noble Beatrice, with whom, in the sight of Him who is the
supreme good, the miseries of this present life left behind, he now
lives most joyously in that life the felicity of which expects no end.

"The magnanimous cavalier placed the dead body of Dante, adorned with
poetic insignia, upon a funeral bier, and had it borne on the
shoulders of his most distinguished citizens to the place of the Minor
Friars in Ravenna, with such honour as he deemed worthy of such a
corpse And here, public lamentations as it were having followed him so
far, he had him placed in a stone chest, wherein he still lieth. And
returning to the house in which Dante lately lived, according to the
Ravennese custom he himself delivered an ornate and long discourse
both in commendation of the profound knowledge and the virtue of the
deceased, and in consolation of his friends whom he had left in
bitterest grief. He purposed, had his estate and his life endured, to
honour him with so choice a tomb that if never another merit of his
had made him memorable to those to come, this tomb should have
accomplished it.

"This laudable intent was in brief space of time made known to certain
who in those days were most famous for poetry in Ravenna; whereon each
one for himself, to show his own power and to bear witness to the
goodwill he had to the dead poet, and to win the grace and love of the
signore, who was known to have it at heart, made verses which, if
placed as epitaph on the tomb that was to be, should with due praises
teach posterity who lay therein. And these verses they sent to the
glorious signore, who, by great guilt of Fortune, in short space of
time lost his estate, and died at Bologna; wherefore the making of the
tomb and the placing of the verses thereon were left undone. Now when
these verses were shown to me long afterward, perceiving that they had
never been put in their place, by reason of the chance already spoken
of, and pondering on the present work that I am writing, how that it
is not indeed a material tomb, but is none the less--as that was to
have been--a perpetual preserver of his memory, I imagined that it
would not be unfitting to add them to this work. But in as much as no
more than the words of some one of them (for there were several) would
have been cut upon the marble, so I held that only the words of one
should be written here; wherefore on examining them all I judged that
the most worthy for art and for matter were fourteen verses made by
Messer Giovanni del Virgilio the Bolognese, a most illustrious and
great poet of those days, and one who had been a most especial friend
of Dante. And the verses are these hereafter written:

  "'Theologus Dantes, nullius dogmatis expers,
  Quod foveat claro philosophia sinu,
  Gloria musarum, vulgo gratissimus auctor,
  Hic iacet, et fama pulsat utrumque polum,
  Qui loca defunctis, gladiis regnumque gemellis,
  Distribuit, laicis rhetoricisque modis.
  Pascua Pieriis demum resonabat avenis,
  Atropos heu letum livida rupit opus
  Huic ingrata tulit tristem Florentia fructum,
  Exilium, vati patria cruda suo.
  Quem pia Guidonis gremio Ravenna Novelli
  Gaudet honorati continuisse ducis.
  Mille trecentenis ter septem Numinis annis,
  Ad sua septembris idibus astra redit.'"[1]

[Footnote 1: The translation is Mr. Wicksteed's The Early Lives of
Dante. He adds a translation of the verses "Theologic Dante, a
stranger to no teaching that philosophy may cherish in her illustrious
bosom; glory of the Muses, author most acceptable to the commonalty,
lieth here and smiteth either pole with his fame, who assigned their
places to the dead, and their jurisdictions to the twin swords, in
laic and rhetoric modes. And lastly, with Pierian pipe he was making
the pasture lands resound, black Atropos, alas, broke off the work of
joy. For him ungrateful Florence bore the dismal fruit of exile, harsh
fatherland to her own bard. But Ravenna's piety rejoices to have
gathered him into the bosom of Guido Novello, her illustrious chief.
In one thousand three hundred and three times seven years of the
Deity, he went back on September's Ides to his own stars."]

So far Boccaccio. Though his account tells us much it certainly does
not permit us to make many definite statements as to Dante's life in
Ravenna. One of the first things, for instance, that any modern
biographer would have noted with accuracy would have been the house in
which Dante lived. Something definite, too, we might have expected as
to his friends and correspondents, as to his occupations and habits.
Of all this there is almost nothing. It will, however, especially be
noted that Boccaccio speaks of Dante as "training many scholars in
poetry especially in the vernacular." What can this mean?

It has been suggested and with some authority that Dante was not
entirely dependent upon his host Guido Novello, that he was able to
gain a livelihood, at least, by lectures either in his own house or in
some public place, and that it is even probable that he occupied an
official position in Ravenna of a very honourable sort, that he was,
in fact, professor of Rhetoric in that city. There is no evidence to
support such a theory. It is true that though we know the names of the
professors of Grammar or Rhetoric in the very ancient schools of
Ravenna, schools which date from the time of Theodosius the Great, we
do not find the name of him who filled that chair during the time of
Dante's sojourn in Ravenna. In 1268 Pasio della Noce was lecturing on
Jurisprudence in Ravenna; in 1298 Ugo di Riccio was professor of Civil
Law there; in 1304 Leone da Verona is teaching Grammar and Logic in
the city. Then we hear no more till we come to the year 1333, when a
certain Giovanni Giacomo del Bando is professor.[1] The mere absence
of names--a silence which does not coincide in any way with Dante's
advent or with Dante's death--is, certainly, not enough to allow us to
assert the probability of the great poet's having filled the office of
lecturer or professor of Civil Law in the school of Ravenna. It is
true that Saviozzo da Siena tells us:

  "Qui comincio a leggere Dante in pria
  Retorica vulgare e molti aperti
  Fece di sua Poetica armonia"

and that Manetti, an early biographer, seems to support the theory.
But the best evidence, if evidence it can be called, which we have for
this theory is to be found in a codex in the Laurentian Library,
quoted by Bandini and cited by Dr. Ricci, which says: "It is commonly
reported that Dante, being in Ravenna, studying and giving lectures as
a doctor to his pupils upon various works, the schools became the
resort of many learned men." This statement upon hearsay, however,
does little more than confirm the definite assertion of Boccaccio that
Dante "trained many scholars," not in civil law, but in "poetry,
especially in the vernacular."

[Footnote 1: For a full discussion of all that may be known of Dante
at the Poleata court see Dr. Ricci's large work, _L'Ultimo Rifugio di
Dante_ (1891). A charming book in English, _Dante in Ravenna_ (1898),
by Catherine Mary Phillimore, is to a great extent based upon Dr.
Ricci's work. A valuable book that should be consulted is the more
recent volume by P.H. Wicksteed and E.G. Gardner, _Dante and Giovanni
del Virgilio_ (1902).]

It is quite unproved then that Dante lectured in Ravenna as a
professor of Civil Law. It might seem equally certain that he did
lecture upon Poetry and the vulgar tongue, and it seems likely that we
have the text of his lectures in the latter if not in the earlier part
of the _De Vulgari Eloquentia_ "in which in masterly and polished
Latin he reproves all the vulgar dialects of Italy." Boccaccio tells
us he composed this when he was "already nigh his death," and though
modern criticism seems inclined to date its composition not later than
1306 the evidence of Boccaccio is not lightly to be set aside[1].

[Footnote 1: The first part of this work was certainly not written
later than 1306 the second part may well have been later.]

Lonely as he doubtless was in Ravenna he was not alone there. With him
it would seem was his daughter Beatrice, who became a nun in S.
Stefano dell' Uliva, and his sons Pietro and Jacopo. The latter,
though a lawyer and not in holy orders, held two benefices in Ravenna,
but most of his time seems to have been spent in Verona where Jacopo,
his brother, later held a canonry. And then there were his friends.

In his lectures upon Poetry one of his most eager pupils would seem to
have been his best friend and host, Guido Novello, who evidently knew
well at least those parts of the _Divine Comedy_, chiefly the
_Inferno_ be it noted, which deal with his ancestors, for he quotes
one of the most famous of them--an unforgettable line spoken by his
aunt Francesca da Rimini:

  "Questi che mai da me non fia diviso."

in a sonnet of his own[2].

[Footnote 2: Cf. _Ultimo Rifugio_, p. 384, where the sonnet is given
in full.]

After the lord Guido Novello, we must name the archbishop of Ravenna,
Rainaldo Concorreggio, as among Dante's friends. It is possible that
he had known Dante at the University of Bologna and he had been a
chaplain of Boniface VIII. He was a brave man, learned in theology,
law, and music, and devoted to his religion, an eager student, and he
had composed a treatise which has come down to us upon Galla Placidia
and her church.

And then there was Giotto who came to paint if not in S. Maria in
Porto fuori, certainly in S. Giovanni Evangelista. He was Dante's dear
friend and it was probably at the poet's suggestion he had been
invited to Ravenna. We do not know whether these two men attended
Dante's lectures. But the true audience there which came simply to
hear was probably various, consisting of poets, notaries, and all
sorts of men, some of whom were Dante's friends and companions. There
was Ser Dino Perini, Ser Pietro di Messer Giardino--he was a
notary--and Fiduccio dei Milotti, who walked with Dante in the Pineta.
All these names have come down to us in the Latin eclogues written by
Dante while in Ravenna to his friend Giovanni del Virgilio--del
Virgilio because he could so well imitate Virgil.

These eclogues are full of shrewd and curious thought, a real
correspondence, and they help us to see the men who surrounded the
poet in Ravenna. They do not, however, give us so extraordinary an
impression of the strength and keenness of Dante's powers of
observation as many a passage in the _Divine Comedy_ in which Ravenna
and the rude and fierce world of the Romagna of that day live for
ever. It is in answer to the inquiries of the great _Guido of
Montefeltro_ that Dante speaks of Romagna in the _Inferno_. Feeble and
anaemic though the great lines become in any translation, even so all
their virtue is not lost:

  "Never was thy Romagna without war
  In her proud tyrants' bosoms, nor is now;
  But open war there left I none. The state
  Ravenna hath maintained this many a year
  Is steadfast. There Polenta's eagle[1] broods,
  And in his broad circumference of plume
  O'ershadows Cervia[2]. The green talons[3] grasp
  The land, that stood e'erwhile the proof so long
  And piled in bloody heap the host of France.
  The old mastiff of Verrucchio and the young[4]
  That tore Montagna[5] in their wrath still make
  Where they are wont, an augre of their fangs,
  Lamone's[6] city and Santerno's[7] range
  Under the lion of the snowy lair[8],
  Inconstant partisan, that changeth sides
  Or ever summer yields to winter's frost.
  And she whose flank is washed of Savio's wave[9]
  As 'twixt the level and the steep she lies,
  Lives so 'twixt tyrant power and liberty."

[Footnote 1: The coat of the Polenta.]

[Footnote 2: Cervia, the least secure of the Polenta possessions.]

[Footnote 3: The green lion of the Ordelaffi of Forli.]

[Footnote 4: Malatesta and Malatestino, lords of Rimini, deriving from
Verrucchio, a castle in the hills.]

[Footnote 5: The Malatesta were Guelfs, Montagna de' Parcitati, whom
they murdered, was the leader of the Ghibelline party in Rimini.]

[Footnote 6: Faenza.]

[Footnote 7: Imola.]

[Footnote 8: Maghinardo Pagano, whose arms were a blue lion in a white

[Footnote 9: Cesena.]

All Romagna with its untamable fierceness and confusion lies in these
lines which, as Dante wrote them, seem as unalterable as those in
which the creation of the world is described.

Nor is Dante forgetful of the great destiny that had been Ravenna's.
In the sixth canto of the _Paradiso_ it is Justinian himself, "_Cesare
fui e son Giustiniano_" who recounts to Dante the victories of the
Roman eagle:

  "When from Ravenna it came forth and leap'd
  The Rubicon,"

or when

  "with Belisarius
  Heaven's high hand was linked,"

or when

  "The Lombard tooth with fang impure
  Did gore the bosom of the Holy Church
  Under its wings, victorious, Charlemagne
  Sped to her rescue."

Nor is Dante forgetful of Ravenna's other claims to glory. In the
seventh heaven, which is the planet Saturn, led by Beatrice, he finds
S. Romualdo, and speaks of S. Peter Damiano, and blessed Peter _Il
Peccatore_, the founder of the church of S. Maria in Porto fuori, two
of them of the Onesti house of Ravenna.

  "In that place was I Peter Damiano
  And Peter the sinner dwelt in the house
  Of our blest Lady on the Adriatic shore."

Of the earlier Podesta, too, he is not unmindful:

  "Arrigo Mainardi, Pier Traversaro,...
  Wonder not, Tuscan, if thou seest me weep
  When I recall those once loved names ...
  With Traversaro's house and Anastagio's,
  Each race disinherited."

With the pitiful story of Francesca da Polenta we have seen how he
dealt and how he spoke of Guido Vecchio. These people live because of
him, and Ravenna in the Middle Age still holds our interest and our
love because he dwelt there and she harboured him.

It was in her service, too, he met his death as we have seen, and in
her church of the Friars Minor that he was laid to rest by Guido

Nine months later the lord of Ravenna received the first complete copy
of the _Divina Commedia_, made by Jacopo Alighieri from his father's
autograph. A very curious incident is related by Boccaccio in
connection with this. It was Dante's custom, Boccaccio tell us,
"whenever he had done six or eight cantos, more or less, to send them
from whatever place he was in before any other had seen them to Messer
Cane della Scala, whom he held in reverence above all other men; and
when he had seen them, Dante gave access to them to whoso desired. And
having sent to him in this fashion all save the last thirteen cantos,
which he had finished, but had not yet sent him, it came to pass that,
without bearing it in his mind that he was abandoning them, he died.
And when they who were left behind, children and disciples, had
searched many times, in the course of many months, amongst all his
papers, if haply he had composed a conclusion to his work, and could
by no means find the remaining cantos; and when every admirer of his
in general was enraged that God had not at least lent him to the world
so long that he might have had opportunity to finish what little
remained of his work; they had abandoned further search in despair
since they could by no means find them.

[Illustration: DANTE'S TOMB]

"So Jacopo and Piero, sons of Dante, both of them poets in rhyme,
moved thereto by certain of their friends, had taken it into their
minds to attempt to supplement the parental work, as far as in them
lay, that it might not remain imperfect, when to Jacopo, who was far
more zealous than the other in this work, there appeared a wondrous
vision, which not only checked his foolish presumption but showed him
where were the thirteen cantos which were wanting to this Divine
Comedy and which they had not known where to find. A worthy man of
Ravenna whose name was Piero Giardino, long time a disciple of
Dante's, related how, when eight months had passed after the death of
his master, the aforesaid Jacopo came to him one night near to the
hour that we call matins, and told him that that same night a little
before that hour he, in his sleep, had seen his father, Dante,
approach him, clad in whitest garment, and his face shining with an
unwonted light; whom he seemed to ask if he were yet living, and to
hear in reply that he was, but in the true life, not in ours. Whereon
he seemed further to ask him if he had finished his work or ever he
passed to that true life; and if he had finished it, where was the
missing part, which they had never been able to find. To this he
seemed to hear again in answer, 'Yea! I finished it.' Whereon it
seemed that he took him by the hand and led him to that chamber where
he was wont to sleep when he was living in this life; and touching a
certain spot said, 'Here is that which ye so long have sought.' And no
sooner was uttered that word than it seemed that both Dante and sleep
departed from him at the same moment. Wherefore he averred that he
could not hold but come and signify what he had seen, that they might
go together and search in the place indicated to him, which he held
most perfectly stamped in his memory, to see whether a true spirit or
a false delusion had shown it him. Wherefore since a great piece of
the night still remained, they departed together and went to the place
indicated, and there found a mat fixed to the wall, which they lightly
raised and found a recess in the wall which neither of them had ever
seen, nor knew that it was there; and there they found certain
writings all mouldy with the damp of the wall and ready to rot had
they stayed there much longer; and when they had carefully removed the
mould and read, they saw that they contained the thirteen cantos so
long sought by them. Wherefore, in great joy, they copied them out,
and after the author's wont sent them first to Messer Cane and then
joined them on, as was meet, to the imperfect work. In such a manner
did the work of so many years see its completion."

As Boccaccio tells us, Guido Novello had scarce buried Dante in that
temporary tomb in the church of the Friars Minor when he lost his
lordship. On April 1, 1322, he was elected captain of the people in
Bologna, and when he was about to return to Ravenna he suddenly heard
that the archbishop had been murdered and that the city was in the
hands of his enemies. Do what he would he never returned to his own
city, and thus his intentions with regard to the tomb of the poet were
never carried out. The noble sepulchre which Guido had planned was not
built and the body of Dante reposed in the ancient sarcophagus in
which it had been first placed. There it remained when Boccaccio came
to Ravenna, probably in 1346 and certainly in 1350, as the bearer of a
gift from the Or San Michele Society to Beatrice di Dante, then a nun
in S. Stefano dell' Uliva.

Boccaccio, it will be remembered, had in his life of Dante bitterly
upbraided Florence for her treatment of her greatest son, and to his
blame had added a prophecy that she would soon repent of her shameful
ingratitude and would envy Ravenna "the body of him whose works have
held the admiration of the whole world." This prophecy fulfilled
itself many times and first in 1396. In that year, upon December 22,
Florence made the first of her many demands for the body of Dante,
which she now wished to bury in S. Maria del Fiore. The demand, as
Boccaccio had foreseen, was refused. It was repeated in 1429 and again
refused. By 1476, when her next attempt was made, Ravenna had passed
into the power of the Venetian Republic. It was therefore to Venice
that Florence now turned through the Venetian ambassador, who is said
to have been none other than Bernardo Bembo.

Bembo's request on behalf of Florence was, of course, a failure, but
he seems to have himself repaired the tomb and to have placed upon it
an epitaph.

  "Exigua tumuli Dantes hic sorte jacebas
  Squallenti nulli cognite pene situ.
  At nunc marmoreo subnixus conderis arcu
  Omnibus et cultu splendidiore nites
  Nimirum Bembus musis incensus ethruscis
  Hoc tibi quem in primis hoc coluere dedit.

  Ann Sal. mcccclxxxiii. vi. Kal. Jvn.
  Bernardus Bemb. Praet. aere suo Posuit."

His work of reparation and of adornment was carried out by Pietro
Lombardo who was already at work in Ravenna for the Venetian republic,
the sculptured effigy of Dante in relief being also from his hand.

But Florence was by no means at the end of her resources. In 1509
Ravenna had passed into the hands of the pope. In 1519 Leo X., a
Medici, being on the throne of Peter, the Accademia Medicea of
Florence petitioned the pope (among the signatories of the petition
was Michelangelo, who offered to "make a worthy sepulchre for the
divine poet in an honoured place" in Florence), to be allowed to carry
away the bones of Dante from Ravenna to the City of Flowers. The pope
gave the Florentine envoys the permission they required as was
expected. They proceeded to Ravenna and opened the sarcophagus; but
when they lifted the lid, they found it empty, save for "a fragment of
bone and a few withered leaves of the laurel which had adorned the
poet's head." From that time till our own day the resting place of
Dante's bones has been a complete mystery.

It is recorded that in the middle of the seventeenth century the
Franciscans rebuilt and repaired the so-called chapel of Braccioforte
at S. Francesco, which till then had been joined by a portico to the
tomb of Dante. In 1658 this portico among other alterations was
removed, and the exterior of the tomb itself was reconstructed with an
entrance into the Piazza, as we see it. The interior of the tomb was,
however, left in some confusion so that the papal legate determined
himself to repair it. In this he met with much opposition from the
friars who claimed, as of old, jurisdiction over the sepulchre.
Nevertheless he completed the work, and in 1692 placed the following
upon the tomb:

  Exulem a Florentia Dantem Liberalissime
  Excepit Ravenna.
  Vivo fruens Mortuum colens
  Magnis cineribus licet in parvo magnifici parentarunt
  Polentani Principes erigendo
  Bembus Praetor Luculentissime extruendo
  Praetiosum Musis et Apollini Mausoleum
  Quod injuria temporum pene squallens
  E. mo Dominico Maria Cursio Legato
  Joanne Salviato Prolegato
  Magni civis cineres Patriae reconciliare
  Cultus perpetuitate curantibus
  S. P. Q. R.
  Jure Ac Aere suo
  Tanquam Thesaurum suum munivit
  Instauravit ornavit

Outside the tomb he placed his coat-of-arms, and on either side that
of the legate of the province and that of the Franciscan Order. In
1760 the third restoration was undertaken and the tomb assumed the
form we now see and was given yet another inscription:

  Danti Aleghiero
  Poetae sui temporis primo
  Politioris humanitatis
  Guido et Hostasius Polentiani
  clienti et hospiti peregre defuncto
  monumentum fecerunt
  Bernardus Bembus Praetor Venet. Ravenn.
  Pro meritis eius ornatu excoluit.
  Aloysius Valentius Gonzaga Card.
  Leg. prov. Aemil.
  Superiorum Temporum negligentia corruptum
  Operibus ampliatis
  Munificentia sua restituendum
  Anno M DCC LXXX.

At the same time the tomb was opened again and was found to be empty.
In spite of this fact in 1864 the municipal authorities in Florence
wrote to Ravenna again demanding the body of the poet, only to be
again refused. This, however, was the sixth centenary of Dante's birth
and the sarcophagus was again to be opened to "verify the remains."
The workmen were indeed at work upon some necessary repairs and
draining, when it was found that a part of the wall of the
Braccioforte chapel would have to be removed. In setting to work upon
this--little more than the removal of a few stones--the pickaxe of one
of the workmen struck against wood, and presently a wooden box
appeared which partly fell to pieces, revealing a human skeleton.
Within the box was found this inscription:

  Dantis ossa
  Denuper revisa die 3 Junu

  Dantis ossa
  A me Fre Antonio Santi
  hic posita
  Ano 1677 die 18 Octobris

Medical experts were summoned. They made, Miss Phillimore tells us, "a
careful examination of the bones, and proceeded to reconstruct the
skeleton.... The stature answered to that of the poet as nearly as the
measurement of a skeleton can represent the living form, and the skull
found in the chest corresponded exactly with the mask taken from
Dante's face immediately after his death, which was brought from
Florence for the purpose of making this comparison."

What seems to have happened has been made clear for us by Dr. Ricci.
Between 1483, when Bembo reconstructed the tomb, and 1520, when the
Florentines again claimed the body, and for the first time with a
certainty of success, the body of Dante disappeared. It seems that in
1520 the Franciscans entered the mausoleum, abstracted the body, and
hid it to save it for Ravenna. In June 1677 Fra Antonio visited the
bones in their hiding place and verified them. In October of the same
year they were built into the new wall where the old entrance to the
Braccioforte chapel had been; to be discovered by chance in 1865.

It is curious that even as the last cantos of the _Divine Comedy_ were
discovered by means of a dream, so a dream went before the discovery
of the bones of Dante.

"The sacristan of the Franciscan confraternity," we read, "called La
Confraternita della Mercede, was wont to sleep in the damp recesses of
the ancient chapel of Braccioforte." His name was Angelo Grillo ...
This sacristan declared himself to have seen in a dream a shade issue
from the spot where the body was found, clad in red, that it passed
through the chapel into the adjoining cemetery. It approached him, and
on being asked who it was, replied, 'I am Dante.' The sacristan died
in May 1865, a few days before the discovery of the bones on the 27th
of that month. Upon June 26, 1865, the bones of Dante were replaced in
their original sarcophagus, ornamented by Pietro Lombardi, after
having lain in state for three days, during which thousands from all
over Italy passed before them. There it is to be hoped they will





When we come to examine what is left to us of mediaeval Ravenna, of
the buildings which were erected there during the Middle Age, we shall
find, as we might expect, very little that is either great or
splendid, for, as we have seen, after the first year of the ninth
century Ravenna fell from her great position and became nothing more
than a provincial city, perhaps more inaccessible than any other in
the peninsula. Her achievement such as it was in the earlier mediaeval
period consisted in the production of three men of real importance, S.
Romuald of the Onesti family of Ravenna, who was born in the city
about the year 956 and who founded, as we know, the Order of
Camaldoli; S. Peter Damian, who was born there about 988; and Blessed
Peter of Ravenna, Pietro degli Onesti, called _Il Peccatore_, of the
same stock as S. Romuald.

The work of S. Romuald was a reform of the Benedictine Order. The
Order of Camaldoli which he founded was the second reform which had
come out of the great brotherhood of S. Benedict; it was younger than
the Cluniac but older than the Cistercian reform, and it was begun in
1012. In that year S. Romuald, who was a Benedictine abbot, having
been dismissed by all the houses over which he had successively ruled,
for they would not bear the penitential strictness of his government,
founded a hermitage at Camaldoli above the upper valley of the Arno
called the Casentino. There each monk lived in a separate dwelling,
all being enclosed in a great wall some five hundred and thirty yards
about, beyond which the monks were forbidden to go. They followed the
Rule of S. Benedict, kept two Lents in the year, and never tasted
meat. They had, of course, a church in common where they were bound to
recite the divine office, for this is of the essence of the Rule of S.
Benedict, but certain among them--and this is the essence of the
reform of Camaldoli--never quitted their cells, their food being
brought to them in their huts, where, if the lecluse were a priest, he
said his Mass, assisted by some one close by but not in the same room.
Thus we see the monks and the hermits living side by side, but
scarcely together, and so they continued from the year 1012 till our
own day, which has seen the great Camaldoli suppressed. The device of
the order was a cup or chalice out of which two doves drank,
representing thus the two classes of hermits and monks, the
contemplative and the active life.

[Illustration: Colour Plate S. MARIA IN PORTO]

The second great Ravennese of the Middle Age, S. Peter Damian, who was
born about 988 in Ravenna, of a good but at that time poor family, was
the youngest of many children. He was early left an orphan, and living
in his brother's house was treated, it would appear, rather as a beast
than a man. Presently, however, another brother, then archpriest of
Ravenna, took pity on him and had him educated, first at Faenza but
after at Parma, where he studied under a famous master. Here he became
immersed in the religious life so that when two monks belonging to
Fonte Avellana, "a desert at the foot of the Apennines in Umbria,"
happened to call at the place of his abode he followed them. After a
life of penitence and hardship, in 1057 pope Stephen IX. prevailed
upon him to quit his desert and made him cardinal-bishop of Ostia, and
later pope Nicholas II. sent him to Milan as his legate, till in 1062
the successor of Nicholas allowed him to return to his solitude; but
in 1063 he was sent to France as papal legate. Later we find him as
papal ambassador in Ravenna--this in 1072. He was then a very old man,
and on his way back to Rome he died at Faenza.

This famous saint has often been confused with the third great
Ravennese of this time, Pietro degli Onesti, called Pietro _Il
Peccatore_[1] This confusion, which Dante disposes of in the
well-known passage of the _Paradiso_:

  "In quel loco fui 10, Pier Damiano,
  e Pietro Peccator fu nella casa
  Di nostra Donna in sul lito Adriano,"[2]

is commented upon in one of Boccaccio's letters to his friend
Petrarch.[3] It is true both Peters were of Ravenna, but whereas
Blessed Pietro _Il Peccatore_ was of the Onesti family, as was S.
Romuald, S. Pietro Damiano was not; the last died in 1072 at Faenza as
we have seen, the first as we may think in 1119.

[Footnote 1: It is I confess doubtful whether Pietro degli Onesti was
ever called _Il Peccatore_ till a later epoch. The authenticity of the
letters in which he so styles himself is open to question and the
inscription on his tomb is it seems of the fifteenth century.]

[Footnote 2: _Paradiso_, xxi. 121-123. "In quel loco" refers to Fonte

[Footnote 3: Cf. Corazzini, _Lettere edite ed inedite di Giovanni
Boccaccio_ (Firenze, 1877), p. 307.]

Now though all were famous and all were of Ravenna it is the last and
I suppose the least of them who is most closely connected with the
city. The others went away and won, not only great place in the world,
but an everlasting fame. Blessed Pietro _Il Peccatore_ stayed in
Ravenna and built there outside the walls in the marsh between Ravenna
and Classe the great home of Our Lady, S. Maria in Porto fuori. About
the middle of the eleventh century, Dr Ricci tells us, certain
religious retired into the solitude by the shore of the Adriatic and
there built a little church or oratory that was called S. Maria _in
fossula_. In this act we may certainly see the example of S. Romuald.
But about 1096 there joined himself to them Pietro degli Onesti called
_Il Peccatore_, and perhaps because he was of the Onesti he built
there a new and a larger church, it is said in fulfilment of a vow
made, as was Galla Placidia's, in a storm at sea. It is this church
which in great part we still see, with additions of the thirteenth
century, a lonely and beautiful thing in the emptiness of the sodden
fields to the south-east of Ravenna between the Canale del Molino and
the Fiumi Uniti.

The lonely and melancholy church of S. Maria in Porto fuori is a
basilica consisting of three naves which formed a part of the original
church of the Blessed Pietro, and a presbytery, apse, and chapels
which are of the thirteenth century. There we see some frescoes of a
very beautiful and early character which have been erroneously
attributed to Giotto, and as erroneously it might seem to Peter of


They were the gift of a certain Graziadeo, a notary who in 1246
provided the cost of the work, which was carried out it would seem by
Maso da Faenza (1314), Rastello da Forll (1350-60), Giovanni da
Ravenna (1368-96), and other painters of the Romagnuol school.[1]
These works, which are among the loveliest we have of the school, may
be noted as follows: in the nave to the left we see the Madonna and
Child with four saints; here, too, is S. Julian. Upon the triumphal
arch we see in the midst the Saviour and on the one side Antichrist
and the martyrdom of the saints, on the other the defeat and end of
Antichrist who is beheaded by angels. Beneath are scenes of Paradise
and Hell. On the roof of the choir we see the Evangelists with their
symbols and the Doctors of the Church. Upon the right the Death,
Assumption, and Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, together with the
Massacre of the Innocents and the Last Supper and perhaps S. Francis
and S. Clare. Upon the left we have the Birth and Presentation of the
Blessed Virgin in the Temple. The last two figures upon the right here
are said to be portraits of Giotto and Guido da Polenta by those who
attribute these works to the Florentine master. In the chapel on the
left we see pope John I. before Theodoric, pope John in prison, and in
the lunette the martyrdom of a saint. Close by are other frescoes
repainted of S. Apollinaris and S. Antony Abbot. In the chapel on the
right we see perhaps S. John baptising a king, S. John preaching, and
Blessed Pietro _Il Peccatore_ healing the blind and sick. Here too
would appear to be scenes from the life of S. Matthew, but unhappily
the subjects are all of them obscure and difficult to interpret. At
the end of the apse we see the three Maries at the Sepulchre and the
Incredulity of S. Thomas.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Dr. Ricci, _Guida di Ravenna_ (Bologna, fourth
edition), and see Anselmi, _Memorie del Pittore Trecentista Petrus da
Rimini_ in _La Romagna_ (1906), vol. III. fasc. Settembre.]

Of these majestic but spoilt works undoubtedly the noblest in design
is that of the Death of the Blessed Virgin. The Last Supper is also
exceedingly beautiful, and the Incredulity of S. Thomas is a splendid
piece of work. But in the course of ages these latter works especially
have suffered grievously, as of course has the whole church.

Built in the marsh it has sunk so deeply into it that its pillars are
covered half way up, and the church seems always about to be wholly
engulfed. It was called S. Maria in Porto because it was originally
built near to the famous Port that Augustus Casar had established and
which for so long was the headquarters of the eastern fleet. In the
sixteenth century when the Canons Regular of the Lateran, who then
served it, were compelled to abandon it, they built within the city of
Ravenna another church which they named after that they had left, S.
Maria in Porto. Thereafter the old church without the walls was known
as S. Maria in Porto fuori.

The mighty tower which rises beside S. Maria in Porto fuori has been
thought to be in part the famous Pharos of which Pliny speaks.[1] It
is almost certainly founded upon it, but the lower part in its huge
strength is, as we see it, a work of the end of the twelfth century,
as is the lofty campanile which rises from it.

[Footnote 1: See _supra_, p. 24.]

S. Maria in Porto fuori is undoubtedly the greatest monument that
remains to Ravenna of the Middle Age; nothing really comparable with
it is to be found in the city itself.

The earliest of the friars' churches, those great monuments of the
Middle Age in Italy, is S. Chiara which with its convent is now
suppressed and lost in the Recovero di Mendicita (Corso Garibaldi,
19). This convent, which dates certainly from 1255, was founded by
Chiara da Polenta and was rebuilt in 1794. It is from its garden that
we get our best idea of the church which within possesses frescoes of
the Romagnuol school, where in the vault we see the four Evangelists
with their symbols and the four Doctors of the Church. Upon the walls
we see a spoiled fresco of the Presepio, that peculiarly Franciscan
subject, and again the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, the
Baptism of Our Lord, Christ in the Garden, the Crucifixion, and
various saints. These frescoes are the work of the men who painted in
S. Maria in Porto fuori.

It cannot have been much later that the church of S. Pier Maggiore, of
which I have already spoken,[2] came into Franciscan hands, and
certainly from 1261 it was called S. Francesco, when the archbishop
Filippo Fontana handed it over to the Conventuals who held it till
1810. Its chief mediseval interest lies for us of course in the fact
that Dante was buried, probably at his own desire, within its
precincts. But there are other things too. Close to the entrance door
is a slab of red Verona marble dated 1396, which is the tomb of
Ostasio da Polenta who was a Tertiary of the Franciscan Order, and was
therefore buried in the habit of the friars. The figure carved there
in relief to represent Ostasio is evidently a portrait and a very fine
and noble piece of work. To the left, again, is another slab of red
Verona marble which marks the tomb of the General of the Franciscan
Order, Padre Enrico Alfieri, who died of fever in Ravenna in 1405. The
fine Renaissance pilasters in the Cappella del Crocefisso should be
noted, and the beautiful sixteenth-century monument of Luffo Numai by
Tommaso Flamberti at the end of the left aisle.

[Footnote 2: See _supra_, pp. 174 _et seq_.]

The Dominicans have not been more fortunate than the Franciscans.
Somewhat to the north of the Piazza Venti Settembre in the Via Cavour
we find their church S. Domenico. It is said that originally there
stood here a Byzantine church dedicated in honour of S. Maria
Callopes, but this Dr. Ricci denies. S. Domenico was built from its
foundations it seems in October 1269 for the Dominicans and was
enlarged in 1374 according to an inscription in the sacristy; but it
was almost entirely rebuilt in the beginning of the eighteenth
century. The facade and the side portico are perhaps now the most
genuine parts of the church. The chief treasure is, however, not of
the Middle Age at all, but of the Renaissance, and consists of four
large pictures painted in tempera, probably organ shutters,
representing the Annunciation, S. Peter Martyr, and S. Dominic. They
are the excellent work of Niccold Rondinelli the pupil of Giovanni

[Footnote 1: See _infra_, pp. 267 _et seq_.]

[Illustration: TORRE DEL COMUNE]

From S. Domenico we pass again to S. Giovanni Evangelista if only to
note the beautiful Gothic portal of the fourteenth century, of which I
have already spoken,[2] and the spoiled frescoes by Giotto in the
vaulting of the fourth chapel on the left. Giotto, according to
Vasari, came to Ravenna at the instigation of Dante and painted in S.
Francesco, but whatever he may have done there has utterly perished,
and there only remains in Ravenna his spoilt work in this little
chapel in S. Giovanni Evangelista. Here we see in a ceiling divided by
two diagonals, at the centre of which the Lamb and Cross are painted
on a medallion, the four Evangelists enthroned with their symbols and
the four Doctors of the Church, a subject common everywhere and
especially so in Ravenna. These works have suffered very greatly from
restoration, but they seem indeed to be the work of the master in so
far as the design is concerned, all surely that is left after the
repaintings that have befallen them.

[Footnote 2: See _supra_, pp. 175 _et seq_.]

The mosaic pavements of 1213, representing scenes from the third
crusade, in the chapel to the left of the choir should be noted.

We must not leave S. Giovanni Evangelista without a look at the great
tower of the eleventh century which overshadows it. It might seem to
be contemporary with the greater Torre Comunale in the Via Tredici
Giugno as the street is now absurdly named. Nor should any one omit to
visit the Casa Polentana near Porta Ursicina and the Casa Traversari
in the Via S. Vitale, grand old thirteenth-century houses that speak
to us, not certainly of Ravenna's great days, but of a greater day
than ours, and one, too, in which the most tragic of Italians wandered
up and down these windy ways eating his heart out for Florence. Indeed
Dante consumes all our thoughts in mediaeval Ravenna.

There is a tale told by Franco Sacchetti that I will set down here,
for it expresses what in part we must all feel, and what in the
confusion of philosophy at the end of the Middle Age was felt far more
keenly by men who visited this strange city.

"Maestro Antonio of Ferrara was a man of very great parts, almost a
poet, and as entertaining as a jester, but he was very vicious and
sinful. Being in Ravenna during the time that Messer Bernardino of
Polenta held the lordship, it chanced that this Messer Antonio, who
was a very great gambler, had been gambling one day and had lost
nearly all he possessed. Being in despair, he entered the church of
the Friars Minor, where there is the tomb which holds the body of the
Florentine poet Dante, and having seen an antique Crucifix half-burned
and smoked by the great number of lights placed around it, and finding
just then many candles lighted there, he immediately went and took all
the tapers and candles which were burning there and going to the tomb
of Dante he placed them before it saying, 'Take them, for thou art far
more worthy of them than it is.' The people beholding this and
marvelling greatly said, 'What doth this man?' And they all looked at
one another...."


Sacchetti does not answer the question asked by the astonished people
of Ravenna, but goes on to tell us of the lord "who delighted in such
things as do all lords." He could not have answered it for he did not
know himself what it meant. We are in better case, I think, and know
that what that wild and half--blasphemous act meant was that the
Renaissance had made an end of the Middle Age here in Ravenna as




When in the year 1438 duke Filippo Maria Visconti of Milan forced
Ostasio da Polenta, the fifth of that name, into an alliance and the
Venetians thereupon invited him to visit them, Venice had decided for
her own safety to annex Ravenna and Ostasio soon learned that the new
government had proclaimed itself in his old capital. He, as I have
said, presently disappeared, the victim of a mysterious assassination;
and Venice governed Ravenna by _provveditori_ and _podesta_, as
happily and successfully, it might seem, as she governed Venetia and a
part of Lombardy. For her doubtless the acquisition of Ravenna was not
a very great thing, nor does it seem to have changed in any very great
degree the half-stagnant life of the city itself, which, as we may
suppose, had for so long ceased to play any great part in the life of
Italy, that a change of government there was not of much importance to
any one except the Holy See, the true over-lord.

The Holy See, however, had no intention of submitting to the incursion
of the republic into its long established territories without a
protest. In the war of Ferrara, Venice had come into collision with
the pope and had in reality been worsted, though the peace of Bagnolo
(1484) gave her Rovigo, the Polesine, and Ravenna. But she had adopted
a fatal policy in appealing to the French, a policy which led straight
on to Cambray, which, as we may think, so unfortunately crippled her
for ever.

The descent of the French was successful at least in this, that it
aroused the cupidity and ambition of the king of Spain and of the
emperor. Italy was proved to be any one's prize at Fornovo, and when
Louis XII. succeeded Charles VIII. in 1498 and combined in his own
person the claim of the French crown to Naples and to Genoa and the
Orleans claim to Milan, Venice, instead of being doubly on guard,
thought she saw a chance of extending her Lombard dominions. She
refused the alliance Sforza offered and promised to assist Louis in
return for Cremona and its _contado_. In other words, she committed
treason to Italy and thus justified, if anything could justify, the
League of Cambray.

Sforza's first act was to urge the Turk, who needed no invitation, to
attack the republic, whose fleet in 1499 was utterly defeated at sea
by the Orientals, who presently raided into Friuli. Venice was forced
to accept a humiliating peace. It was in these circumstances that,
with all Italy alienated from her, the papacy began to act against

Its first and most splendid effort to create a reality out of the
fiction of the States of the Church was the attempt of Cesare Borgia,
who actually made himself master of the whole of the Romagna. Venice
watched him with the greatest alarm, but chance saved her, for with
the death of Alexander VI., Cesare and his dream came to nothing.
Venice acted at once, for indeed even in her decline she was the most
splendid force in Italy. She induced by a most swift and masterly
stroke the leading cities of the Romagna to place themselves under her
protection. It was a great stroke, the last blow of a great and
desperate man; that it failed does not make it less to be admired.

The rock which broke the stroke as it fell and shattered the sword
which dealt it was Pope Julius II.

Louis and the emperor had come together, and when in June 1508 a truce
was made they would have been content to leave Venice alone; it was
the pope who refused, and by the end of the year had formed the
European League for the purpose of "putting a stop to losses,
injuries, rapine, and damage which Venice had inflicted not merely on
the Holy See, but also on the Holy Roman Empire, the House of Austria,
the Duchy of Milan, the King of Naples and other princes, seizing and
tyrannically occupying their territories, cities, and castles as
though she were conspiring to the common ill...." So ran the preamble
of the League of Cambray. It contemplated among other things the
return of Ravenna, Faenza, Rimini, and the rest of the Romagna to the
Holy See; Istria, Fruili, Treviso, Padua, Vicenza, and Verona being
handed to the emperor; Brescia, Bergamo, Crema, and Cremona passing to
France, and the sea-coast towns in Apulia to the king of Spain;
Dalmatia was to go to the king of Hungary and Cyprus to the duke of

[Illustration: ROCCA VENIZIANA]

In the spring of 1507, Julius launched his bull of excommunication
against Venice; Ravenna, which was held by the podesta Marcello and by
Zeno, was attacked by the pope's general, the duke of Urbino, and
after the disastrous defeat of the Venetians by the French and
Milanese, at Aguadello, on the Adda, the republic ordered the
restoration of Ravenna to the Holy See, together with the other cities
of the Romagna.

The pope was now content, but France and the emperor were not, and
Venice was forced to ally herself first with one side and then with
the other.

In the brutal struggle of the foreigner for Cisalpine Gaul there were
two desperate battles, that of Ravenna in 1512, in which the French,
though victorious, lost their best leader, Gaston de Foix, and that of
Novara in 1513, which induced the French to leave Italy. As the first
of these battles concerns Ravenna we must consider it more closely.

At this time Venice was in alliance with Spain and the pope against
the French, who were commanded by Gaston de Foix, Duke of Nemours, a
nephew of the French king. The combined Spanish and papal troops,
about 20,000 strong, were led by Raimondo da Cardona. The French were
south of the Apennines when the Papal-Spanish force swung round from
Milan into the Ferrarese, seized the territory south of the Po, and
laid siege to Bologna. A Venetian force was hurrying to aid them.

Gaston de Foix did not hesitate. On February 5, he flung himself over
the ice-bound Apennine and hastened to relieve Bologna. Cardona
retreated before him down the Aemilian Way; but Brescia opened its
gates to the Venetians, and this, which hindered Gaston, so enraged
him that when he had taken the city he gave it up to a pillage in
which more than eight thousand were slain and his men "were so laden
with spoil that they returned to France forthwith to enjoy it."

Gaston was compelled to return to Milan to re-form his troops, for he
was determined both by necessity and by his own nature, which loved
decision, to force a battle with the allies. The truth was that the
position of France was precarious, her career in Italy was deeply
threatened by the allies, Henry VIII. of England contemplated a
descent upon Normandy, and until the enemy in Italy was disposed of
her way was barred to Naples.

So Gaston set out with some 7000 cavalry and 17,000 infantry, French,
Italian, German, to pursue and to defeat Cardona, who did not wish to
fight. The army of the allies was chiefly Spanish and it numbered some
6000 cavalry and 16,000 infantry of most excellent fighting quality.

As the French advanced along the Via Aemilia, Cardona withdrew to
Faenza. Gaston went on to Ravenna, which he besieged. Cardona was
forced to intervene and try to save the city. He, too, approached
Ravenna. Upon Easter Day, 1512, the two armies met in the marsh
between Ravenna and the sea; and, in the words of Guicciardini, "there
then began a very great battle, without doubt one of the greatest that
Italy had seen for these many years.... All the troops were
intermingled in a battle fought thus on a plain without impediments
such as water or banks, and where both armies fought, each obstinately
bent on death or victory, and inflamed not only with danger, glory,
and hope, but also with the hatred of nation against nation. It was a
memorable spectacle in the hot engagement between the German and
Spanish infantry to see two very noted officers, Jacopo Empser, a
German, and Zamudio, a Spaniard, advance before their battalions and
encounter one another as if it were by challenge, in which combat the
Spaniard went off conqueror by killing his adversary. The cavalry of
the army of the League was not at best equal to that of the French,
and having been shattered and torn by the artillery was become much
inferior. Wherefore after they had sustained for some time, more by
stoutness of heart than by strength of arms, the fury of the enemy,
Yves d'Allegre with the rearguard and a thousand foot that were left
at the Montone under Paliose and now recalled charging them in flank,
and Fabrizio Colonna, fighting valiantly, being taken prisoner by the
soldiers of the Duke of Ferrara, they turned their backs, in which
they did no more than follow the example of their generals; for the
Viceroy and Carvagiale, without making the utmost proof of the valour
of their troops, betook themselves to flight, carrying off with them
the third division or rearguard almost entire with Antonio da Leva, a
man of that time of low rank though afterwards by a continual exercise
of arms for many years, rising through all the military degrees, he
became a very famous general. The whole body of light horse had been
already broken, and the Marchese di Pescara, their commander, taken
prisoner, covered with blood and wounds. And the Marchese della
Palude, who had led up the second division, or main battle, through a
field full of ditches and brambles in great disorder to the fight, was
also taken. The ground was covered with dead men and horses, and yet
the Spanish infantry, though abandoned by the horse, continued
fighting with incredible fierceness; and though, at the first
encounter with the German foot, they had received some damage from the
firm and close order of the pikes, yet afterwards getting their
enemies within the length of their swords, and many of them, covered
with targets, pushing with daggers between the legs of the Germans,
they had penetrated with very great slaughter almost to the centre of
their battalions. The Gascon foot who were posted by the Germans on
the ground between the river and a rising bank had attacked the
Italian infantry, which, though they had greatly suffered by the
artillery, would have repulsed them highly to their honour, had not
Yves d'Allegre entered among them with a squadron of horse. But the
fortune of that general did not answer his valour, for his son
Viverais being almost immediately killed before his eyes, the father,
unwilling to survive so great a loss, threw himself with his horse
into the thickest of the enemies, where, fighting like a most valiant
captain and killing several, he was at last cut to pieces. The Italian
foot, unable to resist so great a multitude, gave way; but part of the
Spanish infantry hastening to support them, they rallied. On the other
side, the German infantry, being sorely pressed by the other part of
the Spaniards, were hardly capable of making any resistance; but the
cavalry of the confederates being all fled out of the field, Foix with
a great body of horse turned to fall upon them. The Spaniards,
therefore, rather retiring than driven out of the field, without the
least disorder in their ranks, took their way between the river and
the bank, marching slowly and with a close front, by the strength of
which they beat off the French and began to disengage themselves; at
which time Navarre, choosing rather to die than to save himself, and
therefore refusing to leave the field, was made a prisoner. But Foix,
thinking it intolerable that this Spanish infantry should march off in
battle array like conquerors and knowing that the victory was not
perfect if these were not broken and dispersed like the rest, went
furiously to attack them with a squadron of horse and did execution
upon the hindmost; but being surrounded and thrown from his horse, or,
as some say, his horse falling upon him, while he was fighting, he
received a mortal thrust with a pike in his side. And if it be
desirable, as it is believed, for a man to die in the height of his
prosperity, it is certain that he met with a most happy death in dying
after he had obtained so great a victory. He died very young, but
famous through the world, having in less than three months, and being
a general almost before he was a soldier, with incredible ardour and
expedition obtained so many victories. Near him lay on the ground for
dead Lautrec, having received twenty wounds; but being carried to
Ferrara he was by diligent care of the surgeons recovered.

"By the death of Foix, the Spanish infantry were suffered to pass off
unmolested, the remainder of the army being already dispersed and put
to flight, and the baggage, colours, and cannons taken. The pope's
legate was also taken by the Stradiotti and carried to Federigo da
Bozzolo, who made a present of him to the legate of the council. There
were taken also Fabrizio Colonna, Pietro Navarra, the Marchese della
Palude, the Marchese di Bitonto, and the Marchese di Pescara, with
many other lords, barons, and honourable gentlemen, Spaniards and
Neapolitans. Nothing is more uncertain than the number of the killed
in battles; but amidst the variety of accounts it is the most common
opinion that there died of both armies at least 10,000, of which a
third was of the French and two-thirds of their enemies: some talk of
many more, but they were without question almost all of them of the
most valiant and choice soldiers, among whom, belonging to the papal
forces, was Raffaello de' Pazzi, an officer of high reputation; and
great numbers were wounded. But in this respect the loss of the
conqueror was without comparison much the greater by the death of
Foix, Yves d'Allegre, and many of the French nobility, and many other
brave officers of the German infantry, by whose valour, though at vast
expense of their blood, the victory was in a great measure acquired.
Molard also fell with many other officers of the Gascons and Picards,
which nation lost all their glory that day among the French. But their
loss was exceeded by the death of Foix, with whom perished the very
sinews and spirits of that army. Of the vanquished that escaped out of
the field of battle the greater part fled towards Cesena, whence they
continued their flight to more distant places; nor did the Viceroy
stop till he came to Ancona where he arrived with a very few horse.
Many were stripped and murdered in their flight; for the peasants
scoured all the roads and the Duke of Urbino, who from his sending
some time before Baldassare da Castiglione to the King of France, and
employing some trusty persons as his agents with Foix, was supposed to
have entered into a private agreement against his uncle, not only
raised the country against those that fled, but sent his soldiers to
intercept them in the territories of Pesaro; so that only those who
took their flight through the dominions of the Florentines were by
orders of the magistrates, confirmed by the republic, suffered to pass

"The victorious army was no sooner returned to camp than the people of
Ravenna sent deputies to treat of surrendering their city; but when
they had agreed or were upon the point of agreement, and the
inhabitants being employed in preparing provisions to be sent to the
camp were negligent in guarding the walls, the German and Gascon foot
entered through the breach that had been made and plundered the town
in a most barbarous manner, their cruelty being exasperated not only
by their natural hatred to the name of the Italians, but by a spirit
of revenge for the loss they had sustained in the battle. On the
fourth day after this, Marcantonio Colonna gave up the citadel, into
which he had retired, on condition of safety to their persons and
effects, but obliging himself on the other hand, together with the
rest of the officers, not to bear arms against the King of France nor
the Pisan Council till the next festival of S. Mary Magdalen; and not
many days after, Bishop Vitello, who commanded in the castle with a
hundred and fifty men, agreed to surrender it on terms of safety for
life and goods. The cities of Imola, Forli, Cesena, and Rimini, and
all the castles of the Romagna, except those of Forli and Imola,
followed the fortune of the victory and were received by the legate in
the name of the council."

The site of this great battle is marked by a monument, a square
pilaster of marble, called the Colonna dei Francesi, adorned with
bas-reliefs and inscriptions, raised in 1557 by the President of the
Romagna, Pier Donato Cesi, on the right bank of the Ronco, some three
miles from the city. We may recall Ariosto's verses:

  "Io venni dove le campagne rosse
  eran del sangue barbaro e latino
  che fiera stella dianzi a furor mosse.

  "E vidi un morto all' altro si vicino
  che, senza premer lor, quasi il terreno
  a molte miglia non dava il cammino.

  "E da chi alberga fra Garonna e Reno
  vidi uscir crudelta, che ne dovria
  tutto il mondo d'orror rimaner pieno."

The League of Cambray had succeeded in breaking the real security and
confidence of Venice; the death of Gaston de Foix, "the hero boy who
died too soon," destroyed the energy of her ally, the French army, in
Italy; and the battle of Novara, as I have said, in 1513, inducing
that ally to withdraw from the peninsula, left the republic to be
menaced by Cardona, who failed only to take Venice itself.

Nor was that great government more fortunate in the long struggles
which followed between Francis I. and Charles V. In 1523, seeing that
the French were failing, Venice came to terms with the emperor, by
that time the real arbiter of Italy. In 1527, though then in alliance
with pope Clement VII, she seized once more Ravenna and the Romagna,
but the emperor intervened, and by the peace of Cambray in 1529, which
on payment of a fine confirmed Venice in her Lombard possessions as
far as the Adda, she was compelled to restore Ravenna and the Romagna
to the pope.

The treaty of Cambray had so far as Ravenna was concerned a certain
finality about it. Thenceforth the popes ruled the city through a
cardinal legate, and an era of a certain social and artistic splendour
began; the city was adorned with at least one new church, S. Maria in
Porto, with many monuments and palaces, and some great public works
were undertaken.

So Ravenna in the arms of the Church slumbered till, in 1797, the
great soldier of the Revolution descended upon Italy in that
marvellous campaign which so closely recalls the achievement of
Caesar. Ravenna then became a part first of the Cispadan and later of
the Cisalpine republic. Then, as we know, came the Austrians who took
Ravenna from the French, but were in their turn expelled in 1800, when
the city was incorporated into the short-lived kingdom of Italy. But
it was again attacked by the Austrians, and later restored once again
to the pope. A period of uncertainty and confusion followed in which
various provisional governments were established for Ravenna, but at
last in 1860 the city and its province were, by a vote of the people,
included in the kingdom of United Italy.





The period of the Renaissance which saw the papal government
re-established in Ravenna in 1529, has left its mark upon the city in
many a fine monument, indelibly stamped with the style of that
fruitful period. Among such monuments we must note the beautiful tombs
of Guidarello Guidarelli, by Tullio Lombardi, erected in 1557, now in
the Accademia, and of Luffo Numai by Tommaso Flamberti in S.
Francesco, erected about fifty years earlier (1509). Above all,
however, must be named the great church of S. Maria in Porto (1553)
and the palaces of Minzoni, Graziani, and others, with the Loggia del
Giardino at S. Maria in Porto. And there is, too, the work of the
painters Niccolo Rondinelli, Cotignola, Luca Longhi and his sons,
Guido Reni, and others.

Later the papal government undertook many great public works. The
Venetians had, as we shall see, re-fortified Ravenna; these
fortifications the papal government enlarged, and in the middle of the
seventeenth century undertook the digging and construction of the
Canale Pamfilio, so named in honour of Innocent X., and in the
following century of the Canale Corsini. These works were necessary,
it is said, not only for the maritime commerce of the city, which one
may think was scarcely large enough to have excused them, but for the
preservation of Ravenna from inundation consequent upon the silting up
of the rivers.

But the earliest work done in Ravenna after the close of the Middle
Age was that undertaken by the Venetians. It was in 1457 that they
began to build the really tremendous fortification or Rocca, the ruins
of which we may still see. They were engaged during some ten years
upon this great fortress, the master of the works being Giovanni
Francesco da Massa. They employed as material the ruins of the church
of S. Andrea dei Goti, built by Theodoric, which they had been
compelled to destroy to make room for the fortress, as well as the
materials of a palace of the Polentani. The Rocca with its great
citadel played a considerable part in the battle of 1512, and the
subsequent sack of the city. But when Ravenna came again into the
government of the Holy See, though the fortifications of the city as a
whole were enlarged, the Rocca itself soon fell into a decay and was
indeed in great part destroyed in the middle of the seventeenth
century, the monastery and the church of Classe being repaired and
enlarged with its ruins and the Ponte Nuovo over the Fiumi Uniti,
according to Dr. Ricci, being also constructed from its remains, as
were other buildings in Ravenna. Then like the Rocca Malatestiana at
Rimini it came to be used as a mere prison, and when it failed to
prove useful for that purpose it was allowed to become the picturesque
ruin we see.

Upon the Torre del Ponte of old were set two great reliefs; on high
the Madonna and Child and beneath the Lion of S. Mark. The Madonna and
Child, a mediocre work, remains, but when Venice was turned out of
Ravenna the Lion was taken down and behind it were carved the papal
arms. Both Madonna and Lion would seem to have been the work of Marino
di Marco Ceprini.

Another work undertaken and achieved by the Venetians was the
enlargement and the adornment of the Piazza Maggiore. There in 1483,
when their work was finished, they raised two columns which still
stand before the Palazzo del Comune. They stand upon circular bases in
three tiers, sculptured in relief by Pietro Lombardi with the signs of
the Zodiac and other symbols and ornaments. The capitals of both the
columns are beautiful. Upon the northern column of old stood a statue
of S. Apollinaris, the true patron of the city, while upon the
southern column stood the Lion of S. Mark. But when in 1509 Ravenna
came into the hands of Julius II. the Lion was removed and in 1640 the
statue of S. Apollinaris from the northern column took its place,
while there, where of old S. Apollinaris had stood, a statue of S.
Vitalis was set as we see to-day. The Palazzo del Comune was entirely
reconstructed in 1681, while the Palazzo Governativo was built in 1696
by the Cardinal Legate Francesco Barberini and the Orologio Pubblico,
originally dating from 1483, was transformed, as we see it, in 1785 Of
the Portico Antico I have already spoken.[1]

[Footnote 1: See _supra_, p. 192.]

One of the most interesting and accessible fifteenth-century houses in
Ravenna is to be found in the Albergo del Cappello, with its fine
original windows in the Via Rattazzi, not far from S. Domenico; it may
stand as an example of many other old houses in the Via Arcivescovado,
but I must especially name that beautiful Venetian house in the Via
Ponte Marino--it is No. 15--the Casa Graziani with its lovely balcony,
the Casa Baldim (Via Mazzini, 31) with its double loggia in the
_cortile_, the Casa Fabbri next door (No. 33), the Casa Zirardini (Via
Belle Arti, No. i), the Casa Baromo (Via Romolo Gessi, Nos. 6 and 16),
and the Casa Ghigi with its lovely door and portico (No. 7 of the same


Undoubtedly the greatest monument which the sixteenth century has left
us in Ravenna is the church of S. Maria in Porto. This was built by
the Canons Regular of the Lateran, the most ancient community of
canons still extant, in the year 1553, when for about fifty years they
had been compelled to abandon the church of S. Maria in Porto fuori
outside the city, in the marsh. They not only furnished their new
church, but to a considerable extent built it, out of the materials of
S. Lorenzo in Cesarea, which they thus destroyed.

[Illustration: Colour Plate PORTA SERRATA]

S. Maria in Porto as we see it has suffered from restoration, and the
facade is a work of the eighteenth century, but the church itself
remains a noble sixteenth-century building divided within into three
naves by huge pilasters and columns and covered at the crossing with a
great octagonal cupola. There is, however, little that is very
precious to be seen, a few fine marbles and the beautiful marble
relief of the Madonna in prayer in the transept, called the Madonna
Greca, a Byzantine work probably brought to Ravenna, according to Dr.
Ricci, at the time of the crusades. It was originally in S. Maria in
Porto fuori. The noble choir should also be noticed and the beautiful

Close by the church is the Monastero of the Canons, within which there
remains the lovely cloister which should be compared with those at S.
Vitale and S. Giovanni Evangelista of the same period. This of S.
Maria in Porto, however, is the finest, having doubled storied logge.
Above all the exquisite Loggia del Giardino should not be missed. It
was built in 1508, and looks on to a piece of the sixth-century wall
of Ravenna.

Not far away in the Via Girotto Guaccimanni near the Hotel Byron is
the church of S. Maria delle Croci, founded in the tenth century, but
entirely rebuilt in the sixteenth. The rose in terracotta of the
facade is a work of this time, as is the exquisite baldacchino over
the high altar within, upheld by two pilasters and two columns of
Greek marble. The picture, too, of the Assumption over the altar is by
a master, perhaps Gaspare Sacch' of Imola, of the sixteenth century.
Of the same period is the massive Porta Serrata at the north end of
the Corso Garibaldi.

The best monument of later times left in Ravenna is the fine Palazzo
Rasponi in Via S. Agnese (No. 2) built in or about 1700.



Ravenna isolated in her marsh and altogether, both geographically and
politically, out of the Italian world that began to flower so
wonderfully in Tuscany, then in Umbria, and later still in Venice in
the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, is the last city
in which to look for pictures. Nevertheless a few delightful pieces
among much that is negligible are to be found in the Accademia delle
Belle Arti in the Via Alfredo Baccarini. The collection was begun
about 1827, and though what is to be seen there is never of the first
importance it is certainly more than we had the right to expect.

The first two rooms upon the upper floor are devoted to the Romagnuol
and Bolognese painters, the best of them here pupils or disciples of
the one master Ravenna can boast, Niccolo Rondinelli.

We have seen Rondinelli's organ shutters in S. Domenico, here we have
something better. This really fine pupil of Giovanni Bellini was born
it seems in Ravenna in the middle of the fifteenth century. Vasari
tells us that "there also flourished in Romagna an excellent painter
called Rondinello.... Giovanni Bellini, whose disciple he had been,
had availed himself to a considerable extent of his services in
various works. But after Rondinello had left Giovanni Bellini he
continued to practise his art and in such a manner that, being
exceedingly diligent, he produced numerous works which are highly
deserving of and have obtained considerable praise.... For the altar
of S. Maria Maddalena in the cathedral of Ravenna this master painted
a picture in oil, wherein he portrayed the figure of that saint only;
but in the predella he executed three stories, the small figures of
which are very gracefully depicted. In one of these is our Saviour
Christ appearing to Mary Magdalen in the form of the gardener; another
shows S. Peter leaving the ship and walking upon the waves of the sea,
and between them is the Baptism of Christ. All these representations
are executed in an exceedingly beautiful manner.[1] Rondinello
likewise painted two pictures in the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista
in the same city. One of these portrays the Consecration of the church
by S. Giovanni[2] and the other exhibits three martyrs, S. Cancio, S.
Canciano, and S. Cancianilla, all very beautiful figures.[3] For the
church of S. Apollinare also in Ravenna this master painted two
pictures, each containing a single figure, S. Giovanni Battista and S.
Sebastiano, namely, both highly extolled.[4] There is a picture by the
hand of Rondinello in the church of S. Spirito likewise; the subject,
Our Lady between S. Jerome and the virgin martyr S. Catherine.[5] In
S. Francesco, Rondinello painted two pictures, in one of which are S.
Catherine and S. Francesco; while in the other our artist depicted the
Madonna accompanied by many figures, as well as by the apostle S.
James and by S. Francesco.[6] For the church of S. Domenico,
Rondinello painted two pictures; one is to the left of the high altar
and exhibits Our Lady with numerous figures; the other is on the
fagade of the church and is very beautiful.[7] In the church of S.
Niccolo, a monastery of Augustinians, this master painted a picture
with S. Lorenzo and S. Francesco, a work which was most highly
commended, in so much that it caused Rondinello to be held in the
utmost esteem for the remainder of his life, not in Ravenna only, but
in all Romagna.[8] The painter here in question lived to the age of
sixty years, and was buried in S. Francesco at Ravenna."[9]

[Footnote 1: This picture would seem to be lost.]

[Footnote 2: This picture is now in the Brera at Milan, No. 452.]

[Footnote 3: This picture would seem to be lost. Milanesi says it was
taken to Milan. _Vas_. v. 254, n. 2.]

[Footnote 4: There is a Sebastian by this master in the Duomo at
Forli; the S. Giovanni panel seems to be lost.]

[Footnote 5: This is now in the Accademia of Ravenna, No. 6.]

[Footnote 6: This would seem to have disappeared; but cf. Brera, 455.]

[Footnote 7: The first of these remains in S. Domenico, the other is,
I think, now in the Accademia, No. 7.]

[Footnote 8: This picture, too, seems to be lost.]

[Footnote 9: Vasari (trs. Foster), vol. III. pp 382-384.]

In another place, Vasari tells us that the pupil who copied Giovanni
Bellini most closely and did him most honour was "Rondinello of
Ravenna, of whose aid the master availed himself much in all his
works.... Rondinello painted his best work for the church of S.
Giovanni Battista in Ravenna. The church belongs to the Carmelite
Friars and in the painting, besides a figure of Our Lady, Rondinello
depicted that of S. Alberto, a brother of their order;[10] the head of
the saint is extremely beautiful, and the whole work very highly

[Footnote 10: Now in the Accademia, unnumbered; it represents the
Madonna between S. Alberto and S. Sebastian.]

[Footnote 11: Vasari (trs. Foster), vol. II. pp. 171-172.]

Of all the works thus named by Vasari as painted by Rondinelli in
Ravenna only four remain, three in the Accademia and one in S.
Domenico. I have already spoken of the tempera pieces in S.
Domenico.[12] Of the three pieces in the Accademia, the Madonna and
Child between S. Catherine and S. Jerome (No. 6) comes from S.
Spirito; the Madonna and Child between SS. Catherine, Mary Magdalen,
John Baptist, and Thomas Aquinas comes from S. Domenico, and is, I am
convinced, the picture spoken of by Vasari rather than the
sixteenth-century work that still hangs there, which is, according to
Dr. Ricci, perhaps the mediocre work of Ragazzini. The third picture
by Rondinelli in the Accademia, the Madonna and Child between S.
Alberto and S. Sebastian, comes from the church of the Carmelites, S.
Giovanni Battista.

[Footnote 12: See _supra_, p. 246.]

Beside these three fine works of Rondinelli hangs the work of a man he
strongly influenced, Francesco Zaganelli da Cotignola. When Vasari
tells us that Rondinelli was buried in S. Francesco at Ravenna, he
goes on to say that "after him came Francesco da Cotignola, who was
also greatly esteemed in that city and painted numerous pictures
there. On the high altar of the church which belongs to the Abbey of
Classe, for example, there is one from his hand of tolerably large
size, representing the Raising of Lazarus with many figures[1].
Opposite to this work in the year 1548 Giorgio Vasari painted another
for Don Romualdo da Verona, the abbot of that place. This represents a
Deposition of Christ from the Cross, and has also a large number of
figures[2]. Francesco Cotignola painted a picture in S. Niccolo,
likewise a very large one, the subject of which is the Birth of
Christ, with two in S. Sebastiano exhibiting numerous figures[3]. For
the hospital of S. Caterina, Francesco painted a picture of Our Lady,
S. Caterina, and many other figures[4]; and in S. Agata, he painted a
figure of our Saviour Christ on the Cross, the Madonna being at the
foot thereof, with a considerable number of other figures; this work
also has received commendation[5]. In the church of S. Apollinare in
the same city are three pictures by this artist, one at the high altar
with Our Lady, S. Giovanni Battista, S. Apollinare, S. Jerome, and
other saints; in the second is also the Madonna with S. Peter and S.
Catherine[6]; and in the third and last is Jesus Christ bearing his
Cross, but this Francesco could not finish having been overtaken by
death before its completion[7]. Francesco coloured in a very pleasing
manner, but had not such power of design as Rondinello; he was
nevertheless held in great account by the people of Ravenna. It was
his desire to be buried in S. Apollinare, where he had painted certain
figures, as we have said, wishing that in the place where he had lived
and laboured his remains might find their repose after his death."

[Footnote 1: This is in the ex-church of S. Romuald in Classe in the
sacristy, now part of the Museo]

[Footnote 2: This is now in the Accademia, No 40]

[Footnote 3: The first of these is in the Accademia (No. 10), as I
suppose are the two other undescribed pictures]

[Footnote 4: Is this a Marriage of S. Catherine in S. Girolamo in

[Footnote 5: Now in the Accademia, No 13.]

[Footnote 6: Of these I know nothing]

[Footnote 7: Now in the canonica of S. Croce in Ravenna]

To-day in Ravenna there remain the three works described by Vasari,
one in the ex-church S. Romualdo di Classe, the other, as I think,
once in the Hospital of S. Catherine and now in S. Girolamo, and
another at S. Croce. In the Accademia there are nine of his works, of
which the S. Niccolo Presepio (No. 10) and the S. Agata Crucifixion
(No. 13) are the better. A S. Sebastian (No. 12) and a S. Catherine
(No. 11) should also be noticed. By his brother and assistant,
Bernardino, there is one picture in the Accademia, the Agony in the
Garden (No. 194).

Another master of the Romagnuol school, Marco Palmezzano, the pupil of
Melozza da Forli, a contemporary of Rondinelli, who influenced him to
some small extent, is represented in the Accademia by two works in
Sala II., the Nativity and the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin
(Nos. 189 and 190); in the Vescovado there is a Madonna and Child with
four saints from his hand. Vasari says nothing of him, but only
mentions his name, yet he has a good deal to tell us of perhaps a
lesser man, Luca Longhi (1507-1580), who was born in Ravenna.

"Maestro Luca de' Longhi of Ravenna," he says, "a man of studious
habits and quiet reserved character, has painted many beautiful
pictures in oil, with numerous portraits from the life in his native
city and its neighbourhood. Among other productions of Longhi are two
sufficiently graceful little pictures which the reverend Don Antonio
da Pisa, then abbot of the monastery, caused him to paint no long time
since for the monks of Classe; many other works have also been
executed by this painter. It is certain that Luca Longhi, being
studious, diligent, and of admirable judgment as he is, would have
become an excellent master had he not always confined himself to
Ravenna where he still remains with his family; his works are
accomplished with much patience and study; and of this I can bear
testimony since I know the progress which he made during the time of
my stay in Ravenna both in the practise and comprehension of art. Nor
will I omit to mention that a daughter of his, called Barbara, still
but a little child, draws very well and has begun to paint also in a
very good manner and with much grace."

There are five pictures by Luca Longhi in the Accademia besides three
portraits. In Sala I. we have an early work painted at the age of
twenty-two, the Marriage of S. Catherine (No. 14); a Madonna and Child
with S. Benedict, S. Apollinaris, S. Barbara, and S. Paul (No. 23). In
Sala II. the Dead Christ between S. Bartholomew and Don Antonio da
Pisa, abbot of the monastery of Classe (No. 17), and two pictures of
the Adoration of the Shepherds (Nos. 15, 16). Here, too, are the three
portraits from his hand which represent Raffaele Rasponi (No. 22),
Giovanni Arrigoni (No. 21), and Girolamo Rossi (No. 20). By Luca's son
Francesco there is a feeble Crucifixion (No. 29) in Sala I.;[1] and
happily in Sala II. three pictures by Barbara, Luca's daughter, of
whom Vasari speaks; a S. Catherine, which is really a portrait of the
painter (No. 81), a Madonna and Child (No. 27), and a Judith (No.

[Footnote 1: There is another work, an Annunciation, by Francesco
Longhi in S. Croce.]

[Footnote 2: Another work by Barbara Longhi, S. Peter visiting S.
Agata in Prison, may be seen in S. Maria Maggiore.]

Only one picture by a Bolognese master is really worthy of much notice
here; I mean the S. Romuald of Guercino (No. 33) in Sala I. In the
floor of this first room there is set a fine mosaic from S. Apollinare
in Classe which should be noted.

The third room in the Accademia, filled with various works of little
merit of the sundry schools of Italy, may be neglected. The fourth
room, however, is devoted to the beautiful tomb of Guidarello
Guidarelli, the very glorious work of Tullio Lombardi. Of old this
exquisite tomb stood in the Cappella Braccioforte at S. Francesco.
Guidarello of Ravenna was killed in battle at Imola in 1501, and
Tullio Lombardi, the son of Pietro, was employed to make his tomb. "I
doubt," says M. de Vogue, "whether, apart from the work of Donatello,
the early Renaissance produced anything more beautiful." Guidarello
the knight is represented in marble, a life-size figure, lying on his
back, his body encased in armour, his helmet on his head, his visor
raised, his gloved hands crossed over his sword which lies along his
body. He seems, weary of fighting at last, to be sleeping, but the
sweet expression upon the tired face makes us think rather of a monk
than a soldier. In truth he was a knight of the olden time.

We leave the room in which he sleeps for ever in his marble,
reluctantly, and, passing Sala V., which is full of late pictures of
no interest, come to Sala VI. where there are several delightful early
Italian works. One would not certainly expect to find in Ravenna a
picture of the most exquisite school in Tuscany, the school of Siena.
Yet here is a delightful Madonna and Child with S. Peter and S.
Barbara (No. 191) by Matteo di Giovanni (1435-1495); and a
fourteenth-century Annunciation (No. 176) from Tuscany. In the
Crucifixion (No. 225) we seem to have an early Venetian work, and
another Crucifixion (No. 181) might almost be from the hand of Lorenzo
Monaco. It is probable that we see a work of Antonio da Fabriano in
the S. Peter Damiano (No. 188), and certainly an Umbrian work in the
S. Francis receiving the Stigmata (216). But the most remarkable
Umbrian picture here is the Christ with the Cross between two angels
(No. 202), the work of Niccolo da Foligno. A few early works by the
mediocre masters of the Romagnuol school (Nos. 174, 171, 172, 182) are
to be seen here also.

Sala VI. is entirely devoted to an immense number of pictures in the
Byzantine manner, of considerable interest and much beauty, but not
yet to be discussed.

We leave the Accademia for the Museo close by. The building in which
the collections are housed is the old Camaldulensian monastery of
Classe built in 1515 by the monks of S. Apollinare in Classe, and
since S. Romuald, the founder of the order, was a Ravennese one may
think the monastery might have been left in the hands of the monks.
Even as it is it has considerably more interest for us than the
collections gathered within it. The beautiful seventeenth-century
cloisters, the old convent church of S. Romualdo in the baroque style
of 1630, and the convent itself are delightful. The collections are
mediocre. But here we may see all that is to be seen of the Ravenna of
Augustus and of the great years of the empire, fragments and
inscriptions and reliefs now and then of real interest, as in the
relief representing the Apotheosis of Augustus, in the eastern walk of
the cloisters, and in the remains of that suit of gold armour thought
to be Theodoric's in the old sacristy. But for the most part the
collection is without much attraction, yet certainly not to remain

[Illustration: THE PINETA]



Ravenna has so much that is rare and precious to show us that few
among the many who spend a day or two within her walls have the
inclination to explore the melancholy marshes in which she stands. No
doubt most of us drive out to S. Apollinare in Classe, but the road
thither does not encourage a further journey, for it is rude and rough
and the country over which it passes is among the most featureless in
Italy. Nevertheless he does himself a wrong who leaves Ravenna for
good without having spent one day at any rate in the Pineta which,
ruined though it now be, is still one of the loveliest and most
mysterious places in the Romagna.

But lovely though it is, and full of memories, what can be said of
this vast ruined forest of stone pines with its mystery of mere and
fen, its coolness and shadow, its astonishing silence? Only this I
think, that if once you find it, nothing else in Ravenna will seem
half so precious as this green wood. You will love it always and for
its own sake more than anything else in Ravenna, and in this you will
not be alone; every one who has come to it these thousand years has
felt the same, Dante, Boccaccio, Byron, Carducci, the Pineta knows the
footsteps of them all and they seem to haunt it still.

Dante would seem to have loved it best in the morning; out of it he
conjures his _Paradiso Terrestre_ in the twenty-eighth canto of the

  "Through that celestial forest, whose thick shade
  With lively greenness the new-springing day
  Attemper'd, eager now to roam, and search
  Its limits round, forthwith I left the bank;
  Along the champain leisurely my way
  Pursuing, o'er the ground, that on all sides
  Delicious odour breathed. A pleasant air
  That intermitted never, never veer'd,
  Smote on my temples, gently as a wind
  Of softest influence, at which the sprays,
  Obedient all, lean'd trembling to that part
  Where first the holy mountain casts his shade,
  Yet were not so disordered, but that still
  Upon their top the feathered quiristers
  Applied their wonted art, and with full joy
  Welcomed those hours of prime, and warbled shrill
  Amid the leaves that to their jocund lays
  Kept tenour; even as from branch to branch
  Along the piny forests on the shore
  Of Chiassi rolls the gathering melody
  When Eolus hath from his cavern loosed
  The dripping south. Already had my steps,
  Though slow, so far into that ancient wood
  Transported me, I could not ken the place
  Where I had entered; when, behold, my path
  Was bounded by a rill which to the left
  With little rippling waters bent the grass
  That issued from its brink. On earth no wave
  How clear so'er that would not seem to have
  Some mixture in itself, compared with this
  Transpicuous clear; yet darkly on it rolled,
  Darkly beneath perpetual gloom, which ne'er
  Admits or sun or moon-light there to shine."

Well, is not it the very place? And did not Dante, who knew Italy as
few have known it, do well to remember it when he would describe for
us the Earthly Paradise? In the forest the morning is sacred to him
and there one should turn, with less misunderstanding than anywhere
else, the precious pages of that poem which is in itself a universe.

But if the clear morning there is Dante's, when we may still hear the
voice he heard pass by there, in the stillness, singing, _Beati quorum
tecta sunt peccata_, the long noon belongs to Boccaccio, for it is
full of the most tragic and pitiful of his tales.

[Illustration: THE PINETA]

"Ravenna being a very ancient City in Romania, there dwelt sometime a
great number of worthy Gentlemen, among whom I am to speake of one
more especially, named Anastasio, descended from the Family of the
Honesti, who by the death of his Father, and an Unckle of his, was
left extraordinarily abounding in riches, and growing to yeares
fitting for marriage, (as young Gallants are easily apt enough to do)
he became enamored of a very bountifull Gentlewoman, who was Daughter
to Signior Paulo Traversario, one of the most ancient and noble
Families in all the Countrey. Nor made he any doubt, but by his meanes
and industrious endeavour, to derive affection from her againe; for he
carried himselfe like a brave-minded Gentleman, liberall in his
expences, honest and affable in all his actions, which commonly are
the true notes of a good nature, and highly to be commended in any
man. But, howsoever Fortune became his enemy, these laudable parts of
manhood did not any way friend him, but rather appeared hurtfull to
himselfe: so cruell, unkind, and almost meerely savage did she shew
her self to him; perhaps in pride of her singular beauty, or presuming
on her nobility by birth, both which are rather blemishes, then
ornaments in a woman, especially when they be abused.

"The harsh and uncivill usage in her, grew very distastefull to
Anastasio, and so unsufferable, that after a long time of fruitlesse
service, requited still with nothing but coy disdaine; desperate
resolutions entred into his brain, and often he was minded to kill
himselfe. But better thoughts supplanting those furious passions, he
abstained from any such violent act; and governed by more manly
consideration, determined, that as shee hated him, he would requite
her with the like, if he could: wherein he became altogether deceived,
because as his hopes grew to a dayly decaying, yet his love enlarged
it selfe more and more.

"Thus Anastasio persevering still in his bootlesse affection, and his
expences not limited within any compasse; it appeared in the judgement
of his Kindred and Friends, that he was falne into a mighty
consumption, both of his body and meanes. In which respect, many times
they advised him to leave the City of Ravenna, and live in some other
place for such a while; as might set a more moderate stint upon his
spendings, and bridle the indiscreete course of his love, the onely
fuell which fed this furious fire.

"Anastasio held out thus a long time, without lending an eare to such
friendly counsell: but in the end, he was so neerely followed by them,
as being no longer able to deny them, he promised to accomplish their
request. Whereupon, making such extraordinary preparation, as if he
were to set thence for France or Spaine, or else into some further
distant countrey: he mounted on horsebacke, and accompanied with some
few of his familiar friends, departed from Ravenna, and rode to a
countrey dwelling house of his owne, about three or foure miles
distant from the Cittie, which was called Chiasso, and there (upon a
very goodly greene) erecting divers Tents and Pavillions, such as
great persons make use of in the time of a Progresse: he said to his
friends, which came with him thither, that there he determined to make
his abiding, they all returning backe unto Ravenna, and might come to
visite him againe so often as they pleased.

"Now, it came to passe, that about the beginning of May, it being then
a very milde and serrene season, and he leading there a much more
magnificent life, then ever hee had done before, inviting divers to
dine with him this day, and as many to morrow, and not to leave him
till after supper: upon the sodaine, falling into remembrance of his
cruell Mistris, hee commanded all his servants to forbeare his
company, and suffer him to walke alone by himselfe awhile, because he
had occasion of private meditations, wherein he would not (by any
meanes) be troubled. It was then about the ninth houre of the day, and
he walking on solitary all alone, having gone some halfe miles
distance from his Tents, entred into a Grove of Pine-trees, never
minding dinner time, or any thing else, but onely the unkind requitall
of his love.

"Sodainly he heard the voice of a woman, seeming to make most
mournfull complaints, which breaking off his silent considerations,
made him to lift up his head, to know the reason of this noise. When
he saw himselfe so farre entred into the Grove, before he could
imagine where he was; hee looked amazedly round about him, and out of
a little thicket of bushes and briars, round engirt with spreading
trees, hee espyed a young Damosell come running towards him, naked
from the middle upward, her haire dishevelled on her shoulders, and
her faire skinne rent and torne with the briars and brambles, so that
the blood ran trickling downe mainely; she weeping, wringing her
hands, and crying out for mercy so lowde as she could. Two fierce
Blood-hounds also followed swiftly after, and where their teeth tooke
hold, did most cruelly bite her. Last of all (mounted on a lusty
blacke Courser) came galloping a Knight, with a very sterne and angry
countenance, holding a drawne short Sword in his hand, giving her very
vile and dreadful speeches, and threatning every minute to kill her.

"This strange and uncouth sight, bred in him no meane admiration, as
also kinde compassion to the unfortunate woman; out of which
compassion, sprung an earnest desire, to deliver her (if he could)
from a death so full of anguish and horror: but seeing himselfe to be
without Armes, he ran and pluckt up the plant of a Tree, which
handling as if it had bene a staffe, he opposed himselfe against the
Dogges and the Knight, who seeing him comming, cryed out in this
manner to him. Anastasio, put not thy selfe in any opposition, but
referre to my Hounds and me, to punish this wicked woman as she hath
justly deserved. And in speaking these words, the Hounds tooke fast
hold on her body, so staying her, untill the Knight was come neerer to
her, and alighted from his horse: when Anastasio (after some other
angry speeches) spake thus unto him: I cannot tell what or who thou
art, albeit thou takest such knowledge of me, yet I must say, that it
is meere cowardize in a Knight, being armed as thou art, to offer to
kill a naked woman, and make thy dogges thus to seize on her, as if
she were a savage beast; therefore beleeve me, I will defend her so
farre as I am able.

"Anastasio, answered the Knight, I am of the same City as thou art,
and do well remember, that thou wast a little Ladde, when I (who was
then named Guido Anastasio, and thine Unckle) became as intirely in
love with this woman, as now thou art of Paulo Traversarioes daughter.
But through her coy disdaine and cruelty, such was my heavy fate, that
desperately I slew my selfe with this short sword which thou beholdest
in mine hand: for which rash sinfull deede, I was, and am condemned to
eternall punishment. This wicked woman, rejoycing immeasurably in mine
unhappy death, remained no long time alive after me, and for her
mercilesse sinne of cruelty, and taking pleasure in my oppressing
torments; dying unrepentant, and in pride of her scorne, she had the
like sentence of condemnation pronounced on her, and sent to the same
place where I was tormented.

"There the three impartiall Judges, imposed this further infliction on
us both; namely, that she should flye in this manner before me, and I
(who loved her so deerely while I lived) must pursue her as my deadly
enemy, not like a woman that had a taste of love in her. And so often
as I can overtake her, I am to kill her with this sword, the same
Weapon wherewith I slew my selfe. Then am I enjoyned, therewith to
open her accursed body, and teare out her hard and frozen heart, with
her other inwards, as now thou seest me doe, which I give unto my
Hounds to feede on. Afterward, such is the appointment of the supreame
powers, that she reassumeth life againe, even as if she had not bene
dead at all, and falling to the same kinde of flight, I with my Hounds
am still to follow her; without any respite or intermission. Every
Friday, and just at this houre, our course is this way, where she
suffereth the just punishment inflicted on her. Nor do we rest any of
the other dayes, but are appointed unto other places, where she
cruelly executed her malice against me, being now (of her deare
affectionate friend) ordained to be her endlesse enemy, and to pursue
her in this manner for so many yeares, as she exercised moneths of
cruelty towards me. Hinder me not then, in being the executioner of
divine justice; for all thy interposition is but in vaine, in seeking
to crosse the appointment of supreame powers.

"Anastasio having attentively heard all this discourse, his haire
stood upright like Porcupines quils, and his soule was so shaken with
the terror, that he stept backe to suffer the Knight to do what he was
enjoyned, looking yet with milde commisseration on the poore woman.
Who kneeling most humbly before the Knight, and stearnely seized on by
the two blood-hounds, he opened her brest with his weapon, drawing
foorth her heart and bowels, which instantly he threw to the dogges,
and they devoured them very greedily. Soone after, the Damosell (as if
none of this punishment had bene inflicted on her) started up
sodainly, running amaine towards the Sea shore, and the Hounds swiftly
following her, as the Knight did the like, after he had taken his
sword, and was mounted on horse-backe; so that Anastasio had soone
lost all sight of them, and could not gesse what was become of them.

"After he had heard and observed all these things, he stoode a while
as confounded with feare and pitty, like a simple silly man, hoodwinkt
with his owne passions, not knowing the subtle enemies cunning
illusions in offering false suggestions to the sight, to worke his
owne ends thereby, and encrease the number of his deceived servants.
Forthwith he perswaded himselfe, that he might make good use of this
womans tormenting, so justly imposed on the Knight to prosecute, if
thus it should continue still every Friday. Wherefore, setting a good
note or marke upon the place, he returned backe to his owne people,
and at such time as he thought convenient, sent for divers of his
kindred and friends from Ravenna, who being present with him, thus he
spake to them.

"Deare Kinsmen and Friends, ye have a long while importuned me, to
discontinue my over-doating love to her, whom you all thinke, and I
find to be my mortall enemy: as also, to give over my lavish expences,
wherein I confesse my selfe too prodigall; both which requests of
yours, I will condiscend to, provided, that you will performe one
gracious favour for me; Namely, that on Friday next, Signior Paulo
Traversario, his wife, daughter, with all other women linked in linage
to them, and such beside onely as you shall please to appoint, will
vouchsafe to accept a dinner heere with me; as for the reason thereto
mooving me, you shall then more at large be acquainted withall. This
appeared no difficult matter for them to accomplish: wherefore, being
returned to Ravenna, and as they found the time answerable to their
purpose, they invited such as Anastasio had appointed them. And
although they found it some-what an hard matter, to gaine her company
whom he so deerely affected; yet notwithstanding, the other women won
her along with them.

"A most magnificent dinner had Anastasio provided, and the tables were
covered under the Pine-trees, where he saw the cruell Lady so pursued
and slaine: directing the guests so in their seating, that the yong
Gentlewoman his unkinde Mistresse, sate with her face opposite unto
the place, where the dismall spectacle was to be seen. About the
closing up of dinner, they beganne to heare the noise of the poore
prosecuted Woman, which drove them all to much admiration; desiring to
know what it was, and no one resolving them, they arose from the
Tables, and looking directly as the noise came to them, they espyed
the wofull Woman, the Dogges eagerly pursuing her; and the armed
Knight on horsebacke, gallopping fiercely after them with his drawne
weapon, and came very nere unto the company, who cryed out with lowd
exclaimes against the dogs and the Knight, stepping forth in
assistance of the injured woman.

"The Knight spake unto them, as formerly he had done to Anastasio,
(which made them draw backe, possessed with feare and admiration)
acting the same cruelty as he did the Friday before, not differing in
the least degree. Most of the Gentlewomen there present, being neere
allyed to the unfortunate Woman, and likewise to the Knight,
remembring well both his love and death, did shed teares as
plentifully, as if it had bin to the very persons themselves, in
usuall performance of the action indeede. Which tragicall Scoene being
passed over, and the Woman and Knight gone out of their sight: all
that had seene this straunge accident, fell into diversity of confused
opinions, yet not daring to disclose them, as doubting some further
danger to ensue thereon.

"But beyond all the rest, none could compare in feare and astonishment
with the cruell yong Maide affected by Anastasio, who both saw and
observed all with a more inward apprehension, knowing very well, that
the morall of this dismall spectacle, carried a much neerer
application to her then any other in all the company. For now she
could call to mind, how unkinde and cruell she had shewne her selfe to
Anastasio, even as the other Gentlewoman formerly did to her Lover,
still flying from him in great contempt and scorne: for which, she
thought the Blood-hounds also pursued her at the heeles already, and a
sword of vengeance to mangle her body. This feare grew so powerfull in
her, that to prevent the like heavy doome from falling on her, she
studied (by all her best and commendable meanes, and therein bestowed
all the night season) how to change her hatred into kinde love, which
at the length she fully obtained, and then purposed to prosecute in
this manner.

"Secretly she sent a faithfull Chamber-maide of her owne, to greete
Anastasio on her behalfe; humbly entreating him to come see her:
because now she was absolutely determined, to give him satisfaction in
all which (with honour) he could request of her. Whereto Anastasio
answered, that he accepted her message thankfully, and desired no
other favour at her hand, but that which stood with her owne offer,
namely, to be his Wife in honourable marriage. The Maide knowing
sufficiently, that he could not be more desirous of the match, then
her Mistresse shewed her selfe to be, made answer in her name, that
this motion would be most welcome to her.

"Heereupon, the Gentlewoman her selfe, became the solicitour to her
Father and Mother, telling them plainly, that she was willing to be
the Wife of Anastasio: which newes did so highly content them, that
upon the Sunday next following, the marriage was very worthily
solemnized, and they lived and loved together very kindly. Thus the
divine bounty, out of the malignant enemies secret machinations, can
cause good effects to arise and succeede. For, from this conceite of
fearfull imagination in her, not onely happened this long desired
conversion, of a Maide so obstinately scornfull and proud; but
likewise all the women of Ravenna (being admonished by her example)
grew afterward more kind and tractable to mens honest motions, then
ever they shewed themselves before. And let me make some use hereof
(faire Ladies) to you, not to stand over-nicely conceited of your
beauty and good parts, when men (growing enamored of you by them)
solicite you with their best and humblest services. Remember then this
disdainfull Gentlewoman, but more especially her, who being the death
of so kinde a Lover, was therefore condemned to perpetuall punishment,
and he made the minister thereof, whom she had cast off with coy
disdaine, from which I wish your minds to be as free, as mine is ready
to do you any acceptable service."[1]

[Footnote 1: This translation is from the English version of _The
Decameron_, first published in 1620, but in 1569 had appeared _A
Notable Historye of Nastagto and Traversan_, or rhymed version of
Boccaccio's tale, by C.T., usually supposed to be Christopher Tye the
musician. Dryden used this story for his fable _Theodore and Honoria_.
It is curious to note that Anita, Garibaldi's wife, was actually
hunted to death here in the Pineta by the Austrians.]

To Dante and to Boccaccio belong of right morning and noon in the
Pineta; but the evening is ours for it belongs to Byron:

  "Sweet hour of twilight' in the solitude
  Of the pine forest, and the silent shore
  Which bounds Ravenna's immemorial wood,
  Rooted where once the Adrian wave flowed o'er,
  To where the last Caesarean fortress stood,
  Evergreen forest I which Boccaccio's lore
  And Dryden's lay made haunted ground to me
  How have I loved the twilight hour and thee;

  "The shrill cicalas, people of the pine,
  Making their summer lives one ceaseless song,
  Were the sole echoes, save my steed's and mine,
  And vesper bells that rose the boughs along,
  The spectre huntsman of Onesti's line,
  His hell-dogs, and their chase, and the fair throng
  Which learn'd from this example not to fly
  From a true lover--shadow'd my mind's eye

  "Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart
  Of those who sail the seas, on the first day
  When they from their sweet friends are torn apart.
  Or fills with love the pilgrim on his way
  As the far bell of vesper makes him start,
  Seeming to weep the dying day's decay,
  Is this a fancy which our reason scorns?
  Ah, surely nothing dies but something mourns!"

That "sweet hour of twilight" in the Pineta is the most precious hour
of the day, when far off across the marsh softly, softly comes the Ave

  "_O tu rinnovellata
  itala gente da le molte vite
  rendi la voce

  "de ta preghiera, la campana squilli
  ammonitrice, il campanil risorto
  canti di clivo in clivo a la campagna
  Ave Maria.

  "Ave Maria! Quando su l'aure corre
  l'umil saluto, i piccioh mortali
  scovrono il capo, curvano la fronte
  Dante ed Aroldo_"

[Illustration: TO PORTO CORSINI]

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