The Ostrogothic Papacy was a period from 493 to 537 where the papacy was strongly influenced by the Ostrogothic Kingdom, if the pope was not outright appointed by the Ostrogothic King. The selection and administration of popes during this period was strongly influenced by Theodoric the Great and his successors Athalaric and Theodahad. This period terminated with Justinian I's (re)conquest of Rome during the Gothic War (535–554), inaugurating the Byzantine Papacy (537-752).
According to Howorth, "while they were not much interfered with in their administrative work, so long as they did not themselves interfere with politics, the Gothic kings meddled considerably in the selection of the new popes and largely dominated their election. Simony prevailed to a scandalous extent, as did intrigues of a discreditable kind, and the quality and endowments of the candidates became of secondary importance in their chances of being elected, compared with their skill in corrupting the officials of the foreign kings and in their powers of chicane."According to the Catholic Encyclopedia , "[Theodoric] was tolerant towards the Catholic Church and did not interfere in dogmatic matters. He remained as neutral as possible towards the pope, though he exercised a preponderant influence in the affairs of the papacy."
Ten popes reigned between 493 and 537:
During this period, there were four Ostrogothic kings:
During this period there were three Byzantine emperors:
Pope Simplicius (468-483) was the pope who witnessed the final overthrow of the Western Roman Empire, and fell ill in 483.The papal election of March 483 was the first to take place without the existence of a Western Roman emperor. While Simplicius still lived, the praetorian prefect, Caecina Decius Maximus Basilius, called together the Roman Senate, Roman clergy, and the leading local bishops in the Imperial Mausoleum. Simplicius had issued an admonitio declaring that no election of his successor should be valid without the consent of Basilius. Basilius was both the leader of the Roman aristocracy and the Chief Minister of Odoacer, the "king of Italy." Simplicius was succeeded by Pope Felix III (483-492), Pope Gelasius I (492-496), and Pope Anastasius II (496-498).
The role of the Ostrogoths became clear in the first schism. On November 22, 498, both Pope Symmachus and Antipope Laurentius were elected pope.Symmachus was approved by the Roman Senate, but both Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I and the Gothic King Theodoric the Great originally supported Laurentius, who was installed in the Lateran Palace.
Symmachus and Laurentius resorted to bribing Theodoric for his support, with funds from the Roman aristocrats who supported them.This is the first documented case of papal simony, wherein both candidates attempted to bribe the royal councilors, if not Theodoric himself, to influence his choice. According to DeCormenin and de Lahaye, also influencing Theodoric to side with Symmachus and expel Laurentius from Rome was his fear that the latter was too influenced by the Byzantine ruler, but according to Richards this is "simply not borne out by the evidence." In announcing his decision, Theodoric cited the majority of clerical support and the fact of prior ordination.
On March 1, 499, Symmachus declared to a synod in Old Saint Peter's Basilica his plan for campaign finance reform in future sede vacantes.Laurentius was among those who signed his statute, having been appointed as Bishop of Nuceria in consolation for having lost his claim to the papacy. Symmachus decreed that reigning bishops would be able to designate their own successors, ending the participation of the laity for at least a half-century.
When the supporters of Laurentius tried to depose Symmachus for having celebrated Easter according to the wrong calendar, Theodoric called the pope before him in Ariminum to resolve the matter.When Symmachus arrived, he discovered that the charges against him included unchastity and maladministration of church property, and fled back to Rome. His flight bolstered the Laurentian party, who succeeded in persuading Theodoric to send a visitor to Rome to have Easter celebrated according to the Greek calendar and to convene a synod to consider the charges against Symmachus. Peter of Altinum, the bishop of Istria, came to Rome to oversee the new Easter celebration and took over the administration of the Holy See pending the outcome of the synod.
In the first two sessions, the assembled Italian bishops were unable to agree on the appropriate procedures to settle the matter, but the third session acquitted Symmachus.Theodoric took a rather hands-off approach to the synod, refusing repeated requests for him to travel to Rome and resolve the matter personally. According to Richards:
Despite the synod, Laurentius was able to return to Rome, take over much of the papal patrimony and churches of the city, and rule from the Lateran Palace while Symmachus remained in St. Peter's.
According to Richards, "the death of Pope Symmachus in July 514 was a crucial test for the election regulations after nearly sixteen controversial years of Symmachian rule."However, the "Symmachian old guard" controlled a supermajority of the priests and deacons and thus were able to elect Pope Hormisdas (514-523) after only seven days. Hormisdas was likely appointed by Symmachus himself, "a procedure which was implicit in the electoral regulations." Hormisdas had prepared complicated written instructions for his envoys to the East long before his election and kept Theodoric well apprised of his negotiations with the Byzantines.
Hormisdas was succeeded by Pope John I (523-526). Theodoric married his daughters to the kings of Burgundy, the Visigoths, and Vandals, fellow adherents of Arianism.However, Clovis, king of the Franks, renounced Arianism in 506, as did Sigismund of Burgundy in 516; acts that could possibly describe the act of having "converted to Catholicism." In 523, Eutharic, king of the Visigoths, ceased persecuting non-Arians, around the same time that the Eastern Church began its persecution of Arians. Theodoric created an Ostrogothic navy and sent an emissary to the East, head by Pope John I himself in 526.
John I was succeeded by Pope Felix IV (526-530). Felix IV was the recommendation of Theodoric and his election was confirmed by Athalaric.He was thus appointed "for all practical purposes" by Theodoric. The process of predecessor appointment was used without serious issue until the death of Felix IV, who had given his pallium to Pope Boniface II on his deathbed in 530 and decreed excommunication of any who refused to accept the succession. The Roman Senate disliked the lack of election and denounced Felix, affirming a decree of Pope Anastasius II, which had prohibited the practice of a pope designating a successor. Boniface II was supported only by a minority of the clergy, with the larger share supporting Dioscorus, with only Dioscorus's death halting the schism.
Boniface II attempted to re-entrench the practice of appointing his successor, but the public outcry was too great, resulting in a highly disputed election in 532 characterized by widespread accounts of bribery and coercion, which resulted in Pope John II (the first to take a papal name).Pope John was chosen by Athalaric to avoid a split between the Byzantine and Gothic factions. Athalaric, the Ostrogoth king, forced John II to approve decrees that banned any private agreements to elect a pope and enacting limits on the amount of money that could be spent during a papal election (an early example of campaign finance reform). In fact, Athalaric himself was able to engineer the election of Pope Silverius, the son of Pope Hormisdas, upon John II's death.
Theodahad threw his support behind Pope Agapetus I and was thus "well placed to coerce the new pope Agapetus, for he had been elected with his support."Theodahad also played a decisive role in the selection of Pope Silverius (536-537), the legitimate son of Hormisdas.
After Justinian I retook Rome in the Gothic War (535–554), "to interfere in the papacy had been one of the first things Justinian had done as soon as his armies got a foothold in Italy."Long before he had completed his victory over the Ostrogoths, Justinian I had his commander Belisarius depose the pro-Gothic Pope Silverius (536–537), and install Pope Vigilius (537–555), the former papal apocrisiarius to Constantinople, in his place. Silverius died and Vigilius was ordained in 537, while the Goths rallied and laid siege to Rome. In 542, King Totila recaptured Rome and by the time Justinian's new general Narses recaptured the city in 552, Vigilius was no longer in Rome.
The Ostrogoths were the eastern branch of the older Goths. The Ostrogoths traced their origins to the Greutungi – a branch of the Goths who had migrated southward from the Baltic Sea and established a kingdom north of the Black Sea, during the 3rd and 4th centuries. They built an empire stretching from the Black Sea to the Baltic. The Ostrogoths were probably literate in the 3rd century, and their trade with the Romans was highly developed. Their Danubian kingdom reached its zenith under King Ermanaric, who is said to have committed suicide at an old age when the Huns attacked his people and subjugated them in about 370.
Pope John II was Bishop of Rome from 2 January 533 to his death in 535.
Pope Silverius ruled the Holy See from 8 June 536 to his deposition in 537, a few months before his death. His rapid rise to prominence from a deacon to the papacy coincided the efforts of Ostrogothic king Theodahad, who intended to install a pro-Gothic candidate just before the Gothic War. Later deposed by Byzantine general Belisarius, he was tried and sent to exile on the desolated island of Palmarola, where he starved to death in 537.
Theodoric the Great, also spelled Theoderic or called Theodoric the Amal, was king of the Ostrogoths (471–526), and ruler of the independent Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy between 493–526, regent of the Visigoths (511–526), and a patrician of the Roman Empire. As ruler of the combined Gothic realms, Theodoric controlled an empire stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Adriatic Sea. He kept good relations between Ostrogoths and Romans, maintained a Roman legal administration and oversaw a flourishing scholarly culture as well as overseeing a significant building program across Italy.
Year 526 (DXXVI) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Olybrius without colleague. The denomination 526 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.
Year 536 was a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the "Year after the Consulship of Belisarius". The denomination 536 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.
Pope Symmachus was Pope from 22 November 498 to his death in 514. His tenure was marked by a serious schism over who was legitimately elected pope by the citizens of Rome.
Saint Hormisdas was Pope from 20 July 514 to his death in 523. His papacy was dominated by the Acacian schism, started in 484 by Acacius of Constantinople's efforts to placate the Monophysites. His efforts to resolve this schism were successful, and on 28 March 519, the reunion between Constantinople and Rome was ratified in the cathedral of Constantinople before a large crowd.
Pope Vigilius was Pope from 29 March 537 to his death in 555. He is considered the first pope of the Byzantine Papacy.
Dioscorus was a deacon of the Alexandrian and the Roman church from 506. In a disputed election following the death of Pope Felix IV, the majority of electors picked him to be Pope, in spite of Pope Felix's wishes that Boniface II should succeed him. However, Dioscurus died less than a month after the election, allowing Boniface to be consecrated Pope and Dioscurus to be branded an Antipope.
Laurentius was Archpriest of Santa Prassede and later antipope of the Roman Catholic Church. Elected in 498 at the Basilica Saint Mariae with the support of a dissenting faction with Byzantine sympathies, who were supported by Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus, in opposition to Pope Symmachus, the division between the two opposing factions split not only the church, but the senate and the people of Rome. However, Laurentius remained in Rome as Pope until 506.
The Ostrogothic Kingdom, officially the Kingdom of Italy, was established by the Ostrogoths in Italy and neighbouring areas from 493 to 553.
The history of the papacy, the office held by the pope as head of the Catholic Church, according to Catholic doctrine, spans from the time of Peter to the present day.
Struggle for Rome is a historical novel written by Felix Dahn. The late nineteenth century English novelist George Gissing "glanced through" the 1878 translation in July 1897 whilst researching the Ostrogoths in Rome for his own novel Veranilda which remained unfinished at his death. He wrote in his diary that Dahn's novel was "a poor, unprofitable book. Can do better than that".
There was no uniform procedure for papal selection before AD 1059. The bishops of Rome and supreme pontiffs (popes) of the Catholic Church were often appointed by their predecessors or by political rulers. While some kind of election often characterized the procedure, an election that included meaningful participation of the laity was rare, especially as the popes' claims to temporal power solidified into the Papal States. The practice of papal appointment during this period would later result in the jus exclusivae, i. e., a right to veto the selection that Catholic monarchs exercised into the twentieth century.
Eutharic Cilliga was an Ostrogothic prince from Iberia who, during the early 6th century, served as Roman Consul and "son in arms" alongside the Byzantine emperor Justin I. He was the son-in-law and presumptive heir of the Ostrogoth king Theoderic the Great but died in AD 522 at the age of 42 before he could inherit Theoderic's title. Theoderic claimed that Eutharic was a descendant of the Gothic royal house of Amali and it was intended that his marriage to Theoderic's daughter Amalasuintha would unite the Gothic kingdoms, establish Theoderic's dynasty and further strengthen the Gothic hold over Italy.
The Symmachian forgeries are a sheaf of forged documents produced in the papal curia of Pope Symmachus (498–514) in the beginning of the sixth century, in the same cycle that produced the Liber Pontificalis. In the context of the conflict between partisans of Symmachus and Antipope Laurentius the purpose of these libelli was to further papal pretensions of the independence of the Bishops of Rome from criticisms and judgment of any ecclesiastical tribunal, putting them above law clerical and secular by supplying spurious documents supposedly of an earlier age. "During the dispute between Pope St. Symmachus and the anti-pope Laurentius," the Catholic Encyclopedia reports, "the adherents of Symmachus drew up four apocryphal writings called the 'Symmachian Forgeries'. ... The object of these forgeries was to produce alleged instances from earlier times to support the whole procedure of the adherents of Symmachus, and, in particular, the position that the Roman bishop could not be judged by any court composed of other bishops."
Rufius Petronius Nicomachus Cethegus was a politician of Ostrogothic Italy and the Eastern Roman Empire. He was appointed consul for 504, and held the post without a colleague. His father was Petronius Probinus, the consul for 489 and prominent supporter of Antipope Laurentius.
Caecina Decius Maximus Basilius, was a Roman politician. He was the first consul appointed under Odoacer's rule (480), and afterwards was Praetorian prefect of Italy. He is best known for presiding over the papal election of Pope Felix III.
Rufius Postumius Festus was a Roman aristocrat who lived during the Late Roman Empire. Festus was the last consul appointed by an Emperor in the West. The next consul appointed in the West was Caecina Decius Maximus Basilius, whom king Odoacer appointed in 480, eight years after Festus.